A new “Awakening” has begun

0a58a-10494853_10201201010827628_2705648538131479816_n255b1255dJackie Evancho has just released her 6th CD titled “Awakening.”  I had the privilege of receiving my copy of the CD a little over a week before the September 23rd release date.  I had pre-ordered my copy of the CD from Jackie Evancho’s website when the CD release date was announced.  I was pleasantly surprised when I received the e-mail notification that my CD had shipped and would arrive by September 15th.  Turns out, the shipping of the CD was more timely than the shipping tracking-number had indicated.  Instead of receiving the CD on the 15th, I actually received it on the 12th.  Needless to say, I was very excited that this highly anticipated CD was now in my possession.  I couldn’t wait to play it.

Keep in mind, that I had heard the songs on “Awakening” when I attended the Longwood Gardens live PBS filming back on August 21st.  However, after the concert, the only way I could hear the music again was in my mind.  I would have to wait for the CD in order to listen to the music again.  As of September 12th, the wait was over.

Once I started listening to the CD, I was immediately transported back to Longwood.  The memories of the emotions that swept over me the first time I heard this music all came back to life once again.  This time though, I could listen to the music as often as I wanted, and believe me…, I am listening often!

When listening to Awakening I would suggest using a good quality audio system to get the full impact of all the lush accompaniment that is combined with Jackie’s exquisite vocals.  Jackie’s voice has a very pure and rounded sound that is magnificently complimented by the orchestral and electronic accompaniment that is part of each track.  Both Jackie and the accompaniments combine for a truly breathtaking listening experience.  Awakening is of the utmost quality and is definitely worth purchasing.  I would even go so far as to say it is probably the best album that Jackie Evancho has put out, and that is saying a lot considering how high the bar was raised with her previous albums.

My overall impression of the CD is that it is masterfully done.  The quality of the audio, the orchestration, and of course Jackie’s singing are superb!  You can tell that a lot of work went into its production.  One key point is that the Awakening CD was NOT produced using Auto-Tune –  meaning that what you hear on the CD is Jackie’s pure voice unaltered by digital tuning to correct for pitch, which is commonly used in the music recording industry.  Keeping that in mind, if someone was unaware that auto-tune wasn’t used, you would never suspect it because Jackie’s pitches are spot on target.

Looking beyond the technical aspects of the CD, I cannot help but write about the emotional impact that this music has on me.  Jackie’s music on her previous CDs has had a reputation of causing grown adults to shed tears (myself included) because it can have such an emotional impact (Sometimes referred to as “The Jackie Effect”).  I find myself almost unexpectedly getting misty-eyed without warning at random times when I listen to various songs.  Each song has a way of touching on various emotions that lie within me that get “awakened” when I hear certain lyrics or melodies that trigger these reactions.  The emotional tug is overwhelming at times and it causes me at times to let out a big sigh after hearing a song – almost as if my breath has literally been taken away.  Jackie’s music is not something I just listen to, it is something that I experience on a personal and emotional level.  That should be what music does to a person.  It should be more than just listening to a catchy tune that sounds appealing; It should take hold of us, causing moments to pause and reflect on how it affects us on a personal level.  I believe that Awakening does that!  I find myself yearning to hear it again and again, almost as if it touches a part of my soul that needs it – sort of like a warm security blanket on a cold winter night.  No other singer has ever had this type of impact on me before.  I wrestle with it at times, wondering why… why does Jackie’s music do this to me?  I thought maybe Awakening wouldn’t have this effect on me and yet there it is again – that indescribable feeling of knowing that there is something good that is coming out of Jackie.  Because of my faith, I know that it is the presence of God answering Jackie’s prayers to lovingly sing with her because she has asked Him to do so.

At this time I will give my impressions for each song on the CD.  I know that everyone has different musical tastes and I am sure that my impressions of each song may not be the same as what others may think.  All of the songs on the CD are very appealing to me, but I will admit that I do have some favorites that I prefer.  I will not attempt to order the songs by preference because my favorites change quite often each time I listen to the CD.  Instead, I will list them in the order that they appear on the CD along with my personal impressions of each song.

Think of Me (from The Phantom of the Opera)  – This song was released as a single before the Awakening CD was released.  It has been promoted quite a bit and even has a music video associated with it..  Jackie Evancho has always tried to feature a song from “Phantom of the Opera” on each of her CDs because the musical contains many of her favorite songs and is the influence behind why she started singing.  Jackie is tremendous on this track and the cadenza that she does at the end is a fabulous climax to the piece.

Your Love (from Once Upon a Time in the West) – One of my favorite songs on the CD.  The song itself is hauntingly beautiful.  Jackie has an astonishing way of incorporating her soothing voice to the demanding range that is required to sing this song.  I find myself getting misty-eyed many times when I hear it.  The emotional tug of the music can be overwhelming at times!   Although the lyrics are somewhat of a love song, I’ve thought that they could also be interpreted as expressing one’s love of God too.  Perhaps that is why it affects me in such an emotional way.

Je t’aime (from Pure) – When I saw the track list before I received the CD, this song is one that I wasn’t very excited about until I heard Jackie’s version of it (Jackie has a way of doing that to me).  Although the English translation of the French lyrics are a bit odd, I find myself liking this song a lot because it is so masterfully done.  The rich accompaniment coupled with Jackie’s outstanding way she sings in French is very impressive.  I would have to say that this song ranks as one of my top favorites on the CD.

Take Me There – An original song that was specifically written for Jackie Evancho by Johan Oberholzer. The song has an upbeat accompaniment that has somewhat of a Pop sound to it.  The song starts out slow and eventually builds to a moving beat that rhythmically pulses with Jackie’s exquisitely smooth vocals.  This is one song that I would hope would be a candidate for radio air-play on a Soft Rock or Pop station.

Open Fields of Grace – This song has hints of a Scottish or Irish ballad.  It has a certain graceful feel to it (as is indicated by the title).  The song has a deep meaning of longing to be with a lost loved-one who has passed from this world into the “Open Fields of Grace.”  Some would label this song as a “dirge” but I feel that term doesn’t give this song justice.  Instead, I would refer to it as a spiritual walk in paradise when our time on this world has passed to the next, leaving behind all of our suffering and troubles.

Ave Maria  (attributed to Giulio Caccini, music by Vladimir Vavilov) – I admire this song choice for the CD because of my faith.    It is one of my top favorites on the CD.  The song is  heavenly not only for the Blessed Virgin Mother for whom the song is titled, but for the beautiful way that Jackie sings it.

Memories (from The Silent Force) – This song has somewhat of a Celtic sound to it at times.  It has a flowing rhythmic beat to it.  The song somewhat reminds me of  the style of music that is commonly sung by Sarah Brightman, although it was originally sung by the Dutch symphonic metal/rock band Within Temptation.  Jackie does a marvelous rendition of this song and stays true to the original style of the song.

The Rains of Castamere (from Game of Thrones) – I will admit that I am somewhat unfamiliar with the TV show “Game of Thrones” in which the song is associated.  It is my understanding that this is a very popular TV series on HBO.  I sense some varied deep emotions in this song.   It starts out with a mysterious overtone – sort of like it is pulling you in and you cannot resist its spell.  Next, there is a sense of sadness to the music – such as if it is a portraying a tragedy of sorts.  Then, there are glimpses of hope, that are countered by the shadows of distress.  This is how I hear the story that the music conveys to me.  If I were to just read the lyrics I wouldn’t have those emotional connections.  To me, that is the true essence of a good quality musical performance – something that touches me deeply where I am emotionally mesmerized with what I am hearing.  THAT is what I get from Jackie’s voice.  Her voice is so pure, it is almost scary as to how much it reaches into my soul.  It is quite bewildering to say the least!

Dormi Jesu – One of my favorite songs on the CD being more on the classical side.  It is sung in Latin.  I believe this particular song highly showcases Jackie’s musical talent.  She sings the song so fluently with gorgeous nuances in vocal and lyrical interpretation.  If I were to “show off” Jackie to my friends, I would probably start with this piece.

Vocalise (from “Fourteen Songs”, Op. 34 – Sergei Rachmaninoff ) – For those unfamiliar with this song or the title it is a term for a song without lyrics.  One might think that a song without lyrics should be easy, but this song is far from easy.  Clearly this has to be one of the most difficult and challenging pieces for Jackie to sing.    When I hear this song I am amazed at the difficulty level that would be required to sing it.  The scoring of the orchestral accompaniment must present many challenges for a singer to find reference pitches for all of the complex interval changes that occur within the music.  It really is astonishing how well Jackie (who was 13 at the time of the recording) was able to absolutely nail this song like a seasoned adult pro with years of vocal experience.  It shows just how much Jackie has matured and grown as a musician.

With or Without You (from The Joshua Tree, music by U2) –  A song originally made famous by the rock band U2.  Although Jackie does a wonderful job singing this song and that she has indicated that it is one of her favorites to sing, I will admit that I am not as emotionally connected to this song as some of the others.  It isn’t that I don’t care for the song, I just don’t feel like it showcases Jackie’s talents as well as the other songs on the CD.  A lot of it probably boils down to personal taste.  I have heard some fans say that it is at the top of their favorites list.  If you are more inclined to lean more on the Pop side of Classical Crossover (CC) music, then this song will likely appeal to you as well.  I tend to lean more towards the classical side of the CC genre.

Made to Dream (music and lyrics by Jean-Pierre Steyn) – An original song written specifically for Jackie.  The lyrics to this song seem like they tell Jackie’s story.  I usually pay more attention to the music than the lyrics of songs (it’s how I’m wired), but in the case of Made To Dream, the lyrics are almost as if Jackie is revealing her inner-self.  Jackie has conveyed her ambition of living out her dream to sing for the enjoyment of others.  This song tenderly conveys the fruition of her dreams taking flight and that she was made to dream.  Perhaps that is how Jackie is wired.

In conclusion:

Jackie has referred to the title of her Awakening CD as a reflection of her “awakening” as an artist and person.  I believe that she certainly has done that.  Although Jackie’s prior CDs are outstanding, it is clear that her new CD is indeed a reflection of Jackie taking her artistic talents to a whole new level.  I encourage anyone reading this blog to get yourself a copy of this CD and hear it for yourself, for my words in this blog cannot possibly give this music the justice that it deserves.

Awakening is now available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon, as well as other retail stores.

Note that a bonus Christmas CD with Awakening is also available exclusively at Wal-Mart.  Stay tuned to this blog for an addendum to this review when we get closer to the Christmas season.

Finally, here are some video clips to whet your appetite for Awakening:

To view more of my favorite Jackie Evancho videos, check out my YouTube playlist.

Keep in mind that I am NOT a paid promoter of Jackie Evancho..  The opinions expressed in this review are my own personal thoughts and expressions regarding Jackie and her music.  I have made every attempt to post accurate information whenever possible.
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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bill Yadon
    Sep 25, 2014 @ 23:37:21

    Ken, I feel you were spot on with your reviews. I can’t remember any album with the the utter strength of all 12 tracks. And ending it with “Jackie’s Song” (Made to Dream) was a piece of genius.

    Reply

  2. Catherine Novak
    Sep 26, 2014 @ 00:00:28

    Wow, you sure captured the essence of the delectable flavor of this magnificent production. Jackie’s most beautiful voice has become so much more lush and rich in such a short time. She is beyond compare in my opinion. Thank you for this most wonderful review.

    Reply

  3. Steven K. Carter
    Sep 26, 2014 @ 00:56:57

    Well written as usual Ken. As Jackie continues to mature into a young woman so too does her music. Her voice is now much fuller and the edges are rounded, for lack of a better term, that produces a sound that is both hypnotic and mesmerizing. There’s no doubt that Jackie continues to learn how to use her voice to express exactly what is coming through her. Her interpretations and nuances never cease to amaze me. Its true what you say Ken about having good audio equipment upon which to play and listen to Jackie’s music. Its not just the orchestral renderings that are heard better, its all that Jackie can do with her voice. I think this is one of the reasons that Jackie’s concerts are so appealing. Her voice is so pure that hearing it in person is even more compelling. Am definitely looking forward to attending her concerts once she’s on tour again. In the mean time I will enjoy listening to this latest CD and awaiting the PBS concert at Longwood Gardens. I too had ordered CD’s from Jackie’s website and received them well in advance so have had the opportunity to hear it many times. It seems each time I do it gets better and better. I bought a bunch of the Walmart version of the CD with the added Christmas selections and they too are great. Will gift my family and friends with it during the upcoming holiday season.

    Reply

  4. Alec Ludlow
    Sep 26, 2014 @ 06:05:53

    Ken, thanks for your review. Its an enjoyable read and you’ve clearly expressed the emotions that you go through listening to Jackie sing. While I’m still waiting for my copies to arrive, I have been able to hear all the tracks already and its clear that Awakening is another masterpiece from Jackie.
    I was particularly interested in noting your choice of favourites on the CD. I think this topic will be very widely discussed in the coming few weeks among her fans. Its an almost impossible job but for me I can’t split With Or Without You and Your Love as my #1 choice, whilst also admitting Je t’aime is the only track I can’t yet get into. Almost the opposite of your choices!
    However, I’m reminded of the DWM album. To begin with I almost always skipped Ombra Mai Fu when playing DWM in the car. Jackie slowly won me around though!

    I’ll tell you this, there isn’t a single track on Awakening that will be skipped. Dormi Jesu and Ave Maria are superb.

    Thanks once again for your excellent review.

    Alec.

    Reply

  5. Don Prados
    Sep 26, 2014 @ 15:03:55

    Great review, Ken!

    Erion

    Reply

  6. billkazan
    Sep 27, 2014 @ 14:46:49

    Very much enjoyed reading you review of Awakening. It seems everyone has different favorites on this CD- I think that’s a good thing, and shows what a diverse album this is. My favorite is Made to Dream, wonderful music and lyrics, and it just seems to fit her so well.

    Reply

  7. Felix
    Oct 05, 2014 @ 00:57:27

    Great review. Not much for me to add, only two points on ‘highest order’:
    1) Vocalise. Rachmaninoff, the classical pianist and compositional ultra-genius of the 20th century, wrote Vocalise. This 34th work is his simplest, most emotional, yet most difficult, to play and to sing. In a century, few dared to tackle the vocal yet Jackie dared. Where did she get such courage? Even Sissel did not dare. She sings it better than anyone else has done. I consider this piece by Jackie an achievement of the highest order in classical vocal. Yes, the original orchestra score is also quite amazing.
    2) The overall production and technical quality of the Awakening CD is also of the highest order, as I listened long and hard on my high-end sound system. Congratulations to the Sony team, especially to Nick Patrick and the engineers.

    Reply

    • varnk
      Oct 05, 2014 @ 19:14:13

      I totally agree Felix! Rachmaninoff is one of my favorite composers. I love his piano concertos. I wasn’t really familiar with his vocal works until Vocalise. It is an interesting style compared to his piano concertos. In Vocalise, I recognize some of the familiar melodic passages that Rachmaninoff is know for. Vocalise does indeed sound like a very demanding work to perform. Jackie does a tremendous job singing it!

      Reply

      • Felix
        Oct 06, 2014 @ 03:37:35

        While there are quite a few Vocalise instrumental recordings, vocal is quite rare and getting rarer. The difficulty is extreme due to the many semitones and long sustain. For vocal without words, Sissel recorded Bachinnas Brasileiras in ‘Into Paradise’ CD, while Katherine Jenkins recorded Vide Cor Meum in ‘Music From The Movies’ CD.

        Since you like Rachmaninoff piano concerto much, I do suggest you check out classical pianist ultra-virtuoso Yuja Wang, if you don’t know her already. You will find her stuff in CD, DVD and YouTube. She plays Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev concerto compositions like a Siberian wild cat. She is another of my ‘highest order’.

      • varnk
        Oct 06, 2014 @ 21:24:27

        Felix. Thanks for the info about Yuja Wang. She is every bit as good as you indicated! Another pianist that is quite remarkable and only 13 years-old, is Emily Bear. She has been playing piano and composing since she was 5 years old. She is truly a prodigy on the piano and quite amazing. Emily is currently playing both jazz and classical piano. So far she has not played any of the Rachmaninoff concertos to my knowledge, but it is only a matter of time.

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