Monday, December 13, 2021

Album Review: Bella by Rick Sparks

Review by Lissette Cascante

Hailing from Greenville, South Carolina, ASCAP pianist and composer Rick Sparks’ soft music albums are heard worldwide on hundreds of radio stations, streaming channels, broadcast and online radio outlets.

Rick’s latest release Bella, his 7th album since 2014, was inspired by a 19th century painting (featured on the cover art) of a little girl looking up in prayerful expectation by Italian artist Roberto Ferruzzi who lived from 1853 to 1934.

The title track opens this exquisite listening experience, successfully capturing the essence of the painter’s intention in his portrait of beautiful Bella, as synth sounds of wordless angelic voices, and a soft piano are wrapped up in a dreamy melody, evoking a childlike innocence. Rick Sparks says “I am thankful to have found such a lovely inspiration for Bella's music. I very much desired that the album would reflect her transcendent beauty and the hope contained in her prayers.”

The album contains 7 new originals plus clever arrangements of three other songs such as Paul McCartney’s “My Valentine” which Rick interprets with crystal clear finesse and tenderness as flute and piano carry this unique melody. In “Smiling” taken from a current Omega watch TV commercial jingle, Rick pairs his piano magic with angelic synth voices adding a sweet softness, like the joy in a child’s smile. And in classical composer Antonin Dvorak’s poignant “Going Home” (from his New World Symphony No 9) Rick’s maestro arrangement for synthesizer and piano exudes a message of hope and reunion so many hearts yearn for in today’s world. This is one of my favorites in the album.

“Twilight Dreams” features pan flute, bells, and angelic voices. A dreamy composition envisions for me the beauty of a child in blissful slumber.

“Autumn Rain” speaks of a quiet, reflective moment in the decaying season of a year nearing its end. Beautiful yet melancholy, inviting a walk in the rain or gazing out of a window watching the leaves fall softly in the autumn wind.

“Highland Road” is a lovely Scottish flavored tune with pan flute, wordless voices and strings, piano, trumpet, transporting the listener to the scenic hills, open skies, and centuries old castles full of mystery, history and tales of a majestic land.

“Last Goodbye” with its ethereal synth sequence is a song for pondering on life’s losses, parting physically or in spirit, hopefully keeping the flame alive, as “A New World” melody takes you safely to your destination moving onward to uncharted territories.

With a clear, serene piano melody, Bella beckons us again in “Her Prayer”. It’s as if Rick pulled Bella out of her silence to utter her prayer, words of reassurance and serenity exquisitely expressed through musical interpretation.

Bella is a musical and spiritual experience which invites us to seek a strength beyond our physical confines and reach for that peace which passes all understanding, empowering us to remain content, resilient, and hopeful even in the midst of trials, losses and hardship.

~Lissette Cascante for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit Rick Sparks' website. Bella is also available at Amazon, Apple Music and more.