Reviews for ‘Within Us All’
New Age Music Review by BT Fasmer
In our busy and hectic lives, it is so easy to get “lost” and forget who we really are. Monica Williams’ new album “Within Us All” is a welcome reminder of the powers that we all possess, but somehow lose track of. Each of the ten songs has a title that guides us along the path of rediscovery – for instance, “You are Resilience” and “You are Forgiving”. “Within Us All” is a heartwarming, healing, and well-balanced release that fits well in any relaxation playlist. It is a proof that Monica Williams is one of the most promising stars on the New Age music scene today.
“Within Us All” will be released tomorrow, 15 November 2019.
Monica Williams is classically trained and a graduate of the Eastman School of Music. She co-founded the ensemble Phoenix Rising. “Within Us All” is the follow-up to Monica Williams highly successful and award-winning album “Journey of Tears” (2018). Monica shares her love of music with the next generation at Civic Arts Education in Walnut Creek, CA where she teaches 35 students and is the director of Flock of Flutes. Some very talented artists contribute to “Within Us All”; Lynn Tredeau (piano), Sherry Finzer (bass flute), Michael Kent Smith (guitar), Will Clipman (percussion), and John Herrera (synths, creative, mixing and mastering).
You are Compassionate
The album opener is called “You are Compassionate”. It is a remarkable piece in many ways. Firstly, the sound design is sublime, perfect. Herrera’s synth is a mesmerizing backdrop to Monica’s flute. The heart-like rhythm and textures are beautiful beyond words, and the melody is fantastic. I also like the fact that the first “you are” is associated with something as unselfish as being compassionate. There is a lot of wisdom in that.
Speaking about unselfish behavior; The next piece is called “You are Forgiving”. Tredeau’s piano is a nice contrast to the previous song. There’s a simple elegance to the melody that beautifully illustrates the process of forgiving. It is about letting go and moving on. It is never easy, but necessary. Here we also get to hear Finzer on bass flute. Already at this stage, the listener will notice the variation in sound, which gives the album high replay value.
You are Memorable
It is a distinctly human need to be remembered after we are gone. It is the reason why pyramids were built. “You are Memorable” is a slow and kind of dark piece. Perhaps the deep rumble we hear can be interpreted as time, while the flute is the very act of remembering? It is deep, that’s for sure.
The mood changes totally with “You are Happiness”. Notice the change of flutes, and how we can sense how the feeling of joy increases throughout the song. There’s not a cloud in the sky, and everything is going your way. Smith’s guitar accompanies the flutes wonderfully.
You are Adventure
At this stage, we leave the feeling of safety and comfort behind. We are going on a grand adventure to somewhere far East, to a place filled with mystique and intrigues. Clipman’s percussion, and the beautiful selection of effects in the background, make this into something truly spectacular. It is an adventure you don’t want to miss.
As if underlining the endless possibilities that we all possess, the next piece is called “You are Free as a Child”. It is one of the most excellent songs on the album, featuring Tredeau on piano. It has a playful edge, making us reflect on freedom and how to rediscover our inner child.
You are Resilience
I must take a moment to mention Michael Rogers’ incredible and very colorful cover artwork. It shows how all these super-human powers can be found within. The song “You are Resilience” focuses on these powers. There seems to be a fight between good and evil, showing resilience on a massive scale. It is a courageous, fiery sound. “You are Integrity” continues in the same atmosphere, albeit a bit more graceful and elegant.
The ending is quite meditative. I like the soundscape on “You are Not Alone”; it is a space, almost a vacuum, where the only clear sound is the flute. It is a song about breaking free and realizing that you don’t have to carry all the weight yourself. “You are Enough” is the inspired album closer. It has a nice touch of improvisation, emphasizing on the freedom that comes with being in total harmony with your surroundings. Everything you need is already inside you. It is the most essential message of all.
In conclusion: Monica Williams’ “Within Us All” is a superb meditation and relaxation album. I especially enjoy the variation in sound, which gives it broad appeal. The combination of flute, piano, and synth is inspired, much thanks to Williams’ talented friends. It is a release you will find yourself coming back to, again and again.
We all need a pep talk from time to time, someone saying, “You are enough”. There’s a lot of healing in that, more than you think.
Score: 95/100 – See our scoring policy
Review by JW Vibe Jonathan Widran
In my earlier review of multi-flutist Monica Williams’ stirring debut album Journey of Tears, I complimented her for blissfully blending “her gorgeous flute melodies and deeply textured production with compelling storytelling throughout.”
I referred to her narrative style for the simple reason that quite often with new age instrumental music, the artist leaves all interpretive activity to the heart and soul of the listener, leaving minimal clues as to the inspiration for the journey they’re taking us on, or what sparked it.” On that album – her first solo work after five dual projects with pianist Wendy Loomis under the name Phoenix Rising – she perfectly matched her titles to the vibe and energies of the individual pieces to create a fascinating arc from “Raining Tears” to “The Great Beyond.”
From a purely musical standpoint, Williams’ new album Within Us All weaves another dynamic globally conscious blend of her multitude of flutes (a dreamy arsenal including the C-flute, bamboo, Native American, pan, alto and bass), and colorful melodic and harmonic textures created in ensemble with pianist Lynn Trudeau, bass flutist Sherry Finzer, guitarist Michael Kent Smith, percussionist Will Clipman and synthesist and creative director John Herrera. A listener with no insight into Williams’ soul intentions here could still enjoy a blissful immersion into pieces that are alternately, or all at once, lush, ambient, seductive, visceral and exotic.
Yet while Journey of Tears could be interpreted as literal or metaphorical, inward our outer adventure, Within Us All comes from a very different place – one of deeper affirmations for herself and for all those who listen. Collectively, these serve to create a rich tapestry of inviting melodies around the concept of an uplifting sense of community. The quest this time is all inner workings – but once taken to heart, those qualities will manifest in ways that will impact each human being we encounter and thus the planet in general.
Most albums of this nature are best experienced in meditative silence, but for these affirmations to take root, it might be best to fill your subconscious mind with a repetition of her titles as you listen. Over the mystical, easily grooving ambient flow she creates with Herrera, for instance, try saying out loud, “I am Compassionate.” Take to heart the fact that “You are Forgiving” as Williams weaves her soft spellbinding swirls around Finzer’s rich bass flute and Tredeau’s eloquent piano. With the echoing ambiences and haunting heartbeat percussion, you might feel an earthen native vibe as you proclaim to yourself, “You Are Memorable.”
A folksy joy may overcome you while declaring “You are Happiness” over the intricately soulful interactions between Williams’ higher octave excitement and the tender acoustic guitar of Michael Kent Smith. And the mystical, desert-y mood she and Clipman will make you feel like you’re tracking some amazing miles across the spiritual sand as you declare and embody the reality that “You are Adventure.”
Another interesting title concept not usually part of typical spiritual affirmations to the universe is “You Are Free as a Child,” which features whimsical flute textures floating carefree above Tredeau’s hypnotic, introspective piano. Williams goes on to encourage even more positive thinking via the hypno-synth tribal “You Are Determined” (think graceful music for the warrior soul), “You Are Integrity” (a sweeping, symphonic piano-flute duet) and two gems that will make us feel that all is well and we are of divine nature despite the human created chaos constantly swirling around us: “You Are Not Alone” and “You Are Enough.”
Album Review by Dick Matcalk from Contemporary Fusion Magazine
Happy adventurous compassionate world flute Monica Williams – WITHIN US ALL: Monica’s happy, adventurous and compassionate flute compositions are complemented wonderfully by guest players Lynn Tredeau – piano; Sherry Finzer – bass flute; Michael Kent Smith – guitar; Will Clipman – percussion, and John Herrera – synths & creative… I reviewed her breathtaking “Journey Of Tears” album last year, and was totally impressed with her powerful playing. The best way (always) to get a taste of her power, watch the YouTube trailer for the opening track, “You Are Compassionate“…
…a truly impressive video; I particularly enjoyed the sequence with the homeless gent… if you SUBSCRIBE to Monica’s topic channel on YouTube, you’ll find many of her previous albums available for your aural enjoyment.
Monica’s students at Civic Arts Education (Walnut Creek, CA) are lucky to have a masterful player like her sharing skills with them… if we had more music like “You Are Happiness” piped into our schools, the world would be a much better place… I just loved the guitar/flute interaction on this quite calming performance, and have no doubt you will, too!
The synth-washes on the introduction to the 5:40 “You Are Memorable” make you feel like you are moving through a stellar light show… the flutes and percussion will totally engage your ears… be SURE to listen to this one with your headphones on, so you can catch all the little nuances.
I mentioned the projection of POWER through music, a skill that many other player will envy in Monica’s playing… that is perfectly illustrated on my selection for personal favorite of the nine (long) performances she offers up for your sonic journey… “You Are Resilience” will (definitely) help you overcome any feelings of powerlessness, and help you rise to new heights… I believe this piece will be recommended for an award – and WIN it!
I give Monica and her exquisite players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.99 for this breathtaking album. Get more information at Monica’s website.
“Journey of Tears“ is the first solo album by San Francisco based flutist, composer, performer, and music teacher, Monica Williams, but not her first album. And it’s not her first foray into New Age music.
With Wendy Loomis, she co-founded the Bay area flute/piano ensemble, Phoenix Rising. Phoenix Rising’s music is heard on SiriusXM and Soundscapes cable TV music channel (Music Choice), among others. They’ve also been nominated for various awards, including a Hollywood Music in Media Award.
Classically trained, Monica attended the Eastman School of Music. She became attracted to the Native American flute at a music convention in 2005 in San Diego. Since then she has gathered a collection of ninety — yes, ninety — flutes from different parts of the world, made from different materials such as silver, bamboo, and various woods.
A new addition to her collection is a hybrid flute head-joint extension called the “Zi Fi,” or “Zi Flute,” which with its special patented membrane (designed and patented by flautist and composer Giancarlo Parisi and manufactured and marketed by Briccialdi Flutes, Italy), transforms the sound of a traditional flute into one that sounds like a Dizi (Chinese bamboo flute). It’s an “East meets West” kind of a thing, and is highlighted on three tracks on “Journey of Tears.
Monica says, “Each flute has a different story to tell.” And they do, indeed. A total of fourteen of those flutes tell their stories quite beautifully on “Journey of Tears.” Along with those, guest artists on the album include fingerstyle guitarist Darin Mahoney, New Age flutist Sherry Finzer, of Heart Dance Records, and vocalist Alexa Nadramia.
“Journey of Tears” is ten tracks and fifty minutes of relaxation, and I do mean relaxation. Peaceful and inspiring, the emotional essence of healing shines through as well as the theme of a life’s journey filled with, well. . .life. Although the title “Journey of Tears” might imply otherwise, this is completely soul-soothing, uplifting, optimistic, and deeply spiritual throughout.
The album opens with the soulful, “Raining Tears.” Resplendent with thunder and rain, this speaks directly to the heart and is like a call, a beckoning, that invites us more deeply into the journey that leads to “Conversations Within,” which follows. This is upbeat, melodic, and flowing, with a nice tabla beat underneath and the guitar a lovely accompaniment. We should all have this kind of conversation with ourselves. It’s a favorite.
“New Horizons” is gentle and expressive, again with a nice beat, great guitar, and a haunting flute melody. Very pleasant. Track 4, “Unconditional Love,” is really pretty. Flowing, sensuous, and relaxing, the love pours out of this one and onto us. Beautiful.
There is so much to love in between with “On The Edge,” “Finding Peace,” and “Constant Change.” But I feel like the other significant standouts on “Journey of Tears,” are the mesmerizing, meditative, “Wandering” on track 8, “Love From A Distance,” following that, and closing with the absolutely spectacular, “The Great Beyond.”
“Wandering” is played on the Egyptian flute, which gives it a haunting air of mystery and intrigue. This is truly transportive. “Love at a Distance” is profoundly peaceful and emotionally heart-stirring. The flute goes it alone here with just a bit of shimmery texture underneath. The right amount of everything, this is super soulful and relaxing to the spirit. “The Great Beyond” brings in the outstanding, ethereal vocal of Alexa Nadramia. In combination with the guitar artistry of Darin Mahoney, the flute artistry of Sherry Finzer here on bass flute, along with the flute artistry of Monica Williams, this is an unforgettable song. And it’s the perfect ending to a gorgeous album as we sort of float out and into the great beyond. Exquisite bliss.
For all flute lovers, this is the quintessential flute experience.
Review by Simon Barrett
The flute is a clomplex instrument.It can be happy and sad, it comes in many incarnations, it is my understanding that Monica Williams owns more than 70 styles.
Journey of Tears is a collection of original works by flutist/composer Monica Williams” being released Sept 21st on Heart Dance Records. Guest artists on the album include fingerstyle guitarist Darin Mahoney, New Age flutist Sherry Finzer, and vocalist Alexa Nodromia.
I will be sitting down with Monica and asking her about her new album Journey Of Tears. OH and I will be playing a couple of tracks from this most spendid work, ahead of the September 21 release date
Review by Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck for New Age Music Reviews
Journey of Tears is a collection of original works by flutist/composer Monica Williams with guest artists on the album including fingerstyle guitarist Darin Mahoney, New Age flutist Sherry Finzer, and vocalist Alexa Nadramia.
There are 10 tracks to absorb on Journey of Tears. It reflects humanity, our daily struggles, our victories, our pleasure, and our pain. It is all about the growth one can experience through all the human emotions. This how Monica Williams relates to her listeners through her music. Hopefully, after we listen our realizations and experiences become clearer and more purposeful.
Monica’s love for the flute started while attending Eastman School of Music. The worldly colors and textures the instrument could produce with calming soundscapes were what attracted her. I was never a real big fan of the flute, sometimes in the context of rock music it sounded good but then I started hearing it in a different way.
This type of world music is sprouting and growing via the new age genre and culture and it has opened many doors for me. To put it in an all-inclusive perspective, the way I usually do is to say it touches my mind, body, and spirit. This is the quintessential triangle of life. It is through recordings like Journey of Tears where I discover and rediscover new realities and levels of spiritualism.
Monica plays beautifully throughout all the tracks and it reaches an apex on the curtain closer “The Great Beyond.” It is gorgeous flute solo with the angelic voicings of Alexa Nadramia. The vocals add another element that is not found in the previous tracks and it is an amazing way to end the musical journey that this talented lady offers. The tracks run is over eight minutes, and every second of it is pure new age world music heaven. If this music does not give you a glimpse of a way to get closer to your higher power then I do not know what would.
Monica Williams is a multi-talented individual that has so much to offer in her music. She is also an accomplished teacher with 35 students currently. So not only is she sharing the sounds of various hybrid flutes, she is sharing her knowledge with others. That is the true meaning of passing the torch to the next generation of musicians.
Journey of Tears is an enormous success and although I am setting the bar high for folks that have not heard the album yet, I am certain that you will not be disappointed in any way. If you happen to enjoy earthy textured flute music, you will think your nirvana has finally arrived.
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
September 14, 2018
Very recently, I was watching a movie on my computer while the subtitles attracted my focus–there was no dialogue and I felt intrigued what they want to tell. The phrase read: ‘Suspense Music.’ I knew that music has the power to create a situation or arouse various kinds of moods in the listener’s mind, but that pinpointing by the subtitles made me think how easily discernible it is–the effect of music. Without appropriate music, a movie would appear totally bland, no?
While listening to new music, I am always looking for such effects and being a lover of flutes, I picked Monica Williams debut album with great expectations. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that it has a great variety and texture of the music. She definitely chose a very difficult theme and something that only a few would like to pick for their debut album, and it definitely shows the confidence she has in herself, the grounding that she has in her education, and also the daring quality of a seasoned artist who is not afraid of exploring roads less traveled.
Judging from the name of the album and the artwork, one would guess that the album is going to be a deep on, touching the esoteric subjects of philosophic understanding of life and the reason of one’s existence. Well, you will find that philosophic or rather poetic side shown the names of the songs itself. Every name or theme of the song reads like a title of a poem. (!)
Album Name: Journey of Tears
Artist Name: Monica Williams
Total Time: 50:07
‘Raining Tears’ is a great opening for an album given that it combines natural elements like thunder and sound of rain with the vibrating sound of the flute.
‘Conversations Within’ is the track that shows the true colors of a flute–a deep and far-reaching voice.
‘New Horizons’ has that Native American Touch in its sounds and is an excellent mixture of different octaves played on different flutes.
‘Unconditional Love’ happens to be the smallest song on the album, but I found it fulfilling its purpose–short and sweet!
One of the great points of this album is the prominence of rhythm in various songs, which is often missing in the debut solo albums of various artists but Monica has done well as a composer. ‘On the Edge’ gives you a glimpse of a journey that has an element of excitement with placid layers of flute music. A great piece, indeed!
‘Finding Peace’ is soothing just like ‘Unconditional Love’ because it represents the basic values of our existence.
My favorite track of the album is ‘Constant Change.’ It does so much justice to the poetically paradoxical name that is given to it. The flute, the drums, the guitar–everything sounds so amazing in this track.
Being an Indian and knowing that Monica has a bamboo flute in her collection, I was waiting for its sound and my mind was almost ‘Wandering’ when I heard the song. Ah, it has that native sound and she played it so beautifully. It felt like someone sitting on the Ghats of Varanasi is playing it and calling to the Mother Ganges. A great rendition!
The last track ‘The Great Beyond’–the longest on the album–has an angelic touch to it and constitutes parallel vocals to the sound of the flute. True to its name, it tries to depict something that is beyond this world.
It is needless to say that a listener will find a spiritual calling while listening to this album, which means the album will benefit you greatly if you are already doing some spiritual practice like meditation or chanting etc.
More often than not, when you pick up a solo album of a flutist, you expect a collection of different melodies and tunes played on a particular flute, which the artist feels most comfortable with. However, what is great in this album is that Monica has shown a glimpse of almost every possibility that flutes can have when it comes to creating different textures of music, and the listener is left wanting more, which is obviously a great win for a debut album. Well done, Monica!
Review by Jonathan Widran
MONICA WILLIAMS, Journey of Tears
August 22, 2018
Check into Pandora’s Indian Flute Radio any time of day, flip from track to track, and you’ll be met with some lovely sparsely arranged meditational music – with not much more going on besides the primary instrument and some nature sounds. It’s relaxing and mediational, sure, but those passionate about these instruments – and as Monica Williams’ lengthy career and impressive collection testifies, there are quite a few variations – deserve something deeper, more emotional and musical than just the same simple soft blowing wind all the time.
On her long-awaited solo debut Journey of Tears, Williams – an Eastman School of Music alum and longtime half of the popular flute/piano duo Phoenix Rising with Wendy Loomis – transcends the usual genre fare with a keen sense of harmonics, subtle and dramatic atmospheres and brilliant ensemble work with various musical guests, including fingerstyle guitarist Darin Mahoney, New Age flutist Sherry Finzer and vocalist Alexa Nodromia.
Despite its title, which implies sadness, melancholy and may provoke thoughts about America’s dark “Trail of Tears” period from 1831-1850, this powerful 10-track collection includes many uplifting, aspirational moments, the sense that the artist – and the collective “we” along with her – are on a road fraught with ups and downs, but on a quest for something more, something transcendent.
In a bit of irony, the liner notes to Ascension, the second of five acclaimed Phoenix Rising albums, begin, “We are living in a time of stress and struggle. There’s still hunger, hatred and sickness in the world that is also filled with such beauty, generosity and harmony.” Sounds like it’s speaking to our moment a decade later, doesn’t it?
It’s clear that as she embarks on what promises to be an exciting solo career, William is still on the journey, keeping it real by lamenting and feeling helpless over loss but also full of unbridled optimism that as long as she has breath to animate her flutes, all is not lost. She has a great arsenal to draw from, including the C flute, bamboo, Native American, pan, alto and bass. Her newest addition, prominently featured on Journey of Tears, is a hybrid flute extension called the “Zi Fi,” which is a fusion between a traditional flute and a Chinese Dizi and a reed like instrument.
Perhaps only listeners who have mastered the possibilities of flute like Williams will be able to pick out what she’s playing where, but the key here is not to dwell on the technical brilliance of the production, but the emotional storytelling going on. She starts the journey in the midst of a storm (literally, with thunder and rain in the hypnotic ambience) as she laments on “Raining Tears” but it’s clear she knows where the answer lies. It’s there if you just engage in some “Conversations Within” – a lighthearted meditational tune that conveys a joyful spirit through a higher range flute melody interacting with Mahoney’s lush string harmony. Mahoney also appears, with a more subtle, hypnotic harmony line on “New Horizons,” a song whose haunting moods remind us that seeking out a new place in life can sometimes be a struggle.
Williams uses different flutes and lead melodic tones to convey different frames of mind along the journey, from the wistful sorrow on the symphonic “Unconditional Love” and the cautious, tribal percussion enhanced venture “On the Edge” to her mystical declaration (with dark piano undercurrents) that we should always expect “Constant Change.” After a bit more “Wandering,” Williams learns to appreciate “Love From a Distance” (essentially a solo meditation) and ascends into “The Great Beyond,” called by the angelic voice of Nodromia as she emotes powerfully over an intense mystical synth wash.
Many new age artists just use pretty titles as afterthoughts but Williams blissfully blends her gorgeous flute melodies and deeply textured production with compelling storytelling throughout. It’s called Journey of Tears, but you will feel cleansed, no more crying to be done after you listen.
In an album hard to define, flautist Monica Williams combines her life experience with immense skill on flute to present her first solo album, Journey of Tears.
The work is in entirety a complex and yet emotionally refreshing collection of compositions, ranging from melancholic through to vibrant, thoughtful, reflective and joyful, as she reaches out with her music to create soundscapes that transport, refresh and offer solace in difficult times.
Sherry Finzer, Darin Mahoney, Michael Selig and Alexa Nodromia join her on this work, bringing with them immense talent and skill in the New Age genre, adding a lovely tonal variety to four of the songs, which adds yet another dimension, another layer, to the melodies.
The inside cover of the album contains the emotions behind each of the pieces allowing a snap shot of what is encapsulated within each piece. Beginning with a lovely little offering of Reflecting on Life’s Challenges Monica Williams shares her philosophy on life and living in words, before the songs commence.
Raining Tears, the introductory song was written after a major loss and reflects this in the melancholy created by the flute as she works through the sadness. Shery Finzer on bass flute and Darin Mahoney on guitar join her on New Horizons, created after attending her first Zone Music Reporter Awards, an event that offered her a raft of new beginnings, new collaborations and inspiration.
Conversations Within is a piece easily able to connect to as each person has conversations with themselves to help sort out conflict, become comfortable with change and accept the so many things which simply can not be changed in life. Michael Selig on guitar adds a lovely balance to this intriguing composition
Reflecting on change saw the birth of Constant Change as Williams pondered on the continuous changes in life and the art of letting go. Using a range of Native American Flutes to create the many layers of change ever present has allowed this piece evolved into an intricate and beautiful song of moving forward.
The Great Beyond draws this emotional and very beautiful journey to a fitting conclusion as it is a hauntingly delicate piece. The evocative vocals of Alex Nodromia carry the melody with the flutes weaving throughout the vocalisation. Mahoney once again adds a subtle contribution on guitar.
Journey of Tears is essentially a narrative told in music and one that is filled with acceptance, renewal and hope.
Review by RJ. Lannan