Various Artists

A Winter's Solstice II

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Depending on the mood you're in, this compilation album will make you dream, smile, or cry a nostalgic tear. It is a typical Windham Hill sampler: wistful, joyful, lush, and lovely. Most songs stick with piano or string instrumentation, and none of them could ever be classified as up-tempo. A few of the tracks, including "The Gift" and "Sung to Sleep," sound like Windham Hill's famous pianist George Winston, but they are actually performed by lesser-known artists. The selections are an interesting combination of classical pieces ("Chorale #220," J.S. Bach), traditional melodies ("Come Life Shaker Life"), and original compositions ("By the Fireside," written and performed by William Allaudin Mathieu). There are almost no vocals in the compilation, although a boy's choir adds an ethereal quality to the end of "Salve Regina." Windham Hill co-founder William Ackerman proves that he's an artist as well as a label exec with his moving, poignant performance of the original composition "Abide the Winter." All in all, this is another success for the label and its talented bunch of artists. It isn't edgy or dramatic or hooky, but it's not intended to be. However, each song in the collection is beautiful, atmospheric, and timeless.

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