(01 August 2010) Angelfire (Radiant Records (USA) 2010) is tte name of this tremendous new album certain to appeal to female music lovers and also the name of the new project featuring Steve Morse and Sarah Spencer. The duo have been working together the past six years. Angelfire is the first fruit of their collaboration. In addition to his role as the primary engineer, Morse also contributes guitars and is the mastermind behind the instrumental and vocal arrangements. Sarah contributes the majority of the lyrics and her voice shines across the album's eleven pop-accented tracks.
Sarah says that she doesn't remember a time in her life without music. Born in the Ocala, Florida countryside, her family noticed her musical inclination and enrolled her in piano lessons at the age of six. She soon began writing original music and discovered a love of singing. Her experimentation with recording began at eleven. She became excited by the possibilities of simultaneous musical parts, and experimented with different genres, including orchestral music. This new direction was encouraged by lessons with classical vocal trainer, Shannon Riley.
Over the next two years, Sarah was on stage and in the studio with increasing frequency. She collaborated with other musicians from around the world, singing and co-writing with established artists such as Nigel Jenkins ("Bakerís Street"), David Ricard ("Zoom Zoom") and regular collaborator, Paul Weston ("We Are the Future", "My Desire", "Shine").
At fourteen, Sarah caught the attention of vocal coach Louise Ryan (Charlotte Church) who began collaborating with her on vocal arrangements. Later that year, she recorded "Fatherís Song" for Cinderella, The Movie with songwriter/producer Al Steele. Sarah also began appearing in local magazines, television shows and amongst the winners of state competitions. The media focus led to her being cast in a VH1 reality show following the lives of musical teen prodigies.
Sarah's next professional leap came at age sixteen. Legendary guitarist/composer Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs) was well known as an instrumentalist, but not as a collaborator with vocalists. All this changed when the two artists met. Sarah and Steve took Angelfire to the stage in January of 2010, with a preview edition of the album available for concert-goers. Sarah is also writing and recording her solo material with producer Bill Evans. This year, audiences will be introduced to several sides of Sarah's music.
Read more about Sarah Spencer in our exclusive interview.
The eleven tracks comprising Angelfire have an incredible consistency. Acoustic guitar gives the material a folky edge while the gentle rhythm section of Dave LaRue (bass) and Van Romaine (drums and percussion) contribute to the accessibility of the collection. The album is foremost a female vocals album with Sarah's lead often backed with many layers of harmony. We appreciated Morse's electric guitar work which initially appears at the conclusion of "Far Gone Now." Sarah's solo lead is crystalline and contrasts the backing harmonies delightfully in "Everything To Live For." A recurring acoustic guitar theme runs through the album often emerging during instrumental breaks and during introductions. Listen for the theme in "Pleasant Surprise" beneath Sarah's crystalline lead vocal.
The album's two standouts are "Omnis Morse Aequat" and "Take It Or Leave It." The former is an Enya-esque style track that opens with a delecate acoustic guitar melody that builds with additional layers joining Sarah's lovely crystalline choir with parts sung at the upper end of her range. The interplay between the vocal and acoustic guitar has been extremely well produced and delivered on this recording. "Take It Or Leave It" is the rockingest number on the Angelfire album. Sarah's vocal layers are extremely reminscent of Yes harmonies, and the whole track has a Going For The One-era sound. The robust arrangement, especially in the vocal bridge and electric guitar solo during the latter half of the song, provides insight into the exciting place that this project could go.
The album is also graced with a variety of singer-songwriter pop-styled ballads such as "Feelings are Overrated," the very gentle "What Made You Think?" and the subtle closing tune "Urban Decay." Upbeat song-verse styled numbers include electric guitar-based arrangements and are intoxicating. "Here Today" is a delightful example certain to please a wide range of audiences. And "Terrible Thing To Lose," while less upbeat, is a tremdous mix of electric and acoustic guitar backing Sarah's soaring vocal work. The bluesy "Get Away" illustrates yet another dimension of the duo's work together. Listen for the rich guitar-based arrangement and the power in Sarah's voice.
The Angelfire album clearly shows another side of Steve Morse's virtuosity, this time working with a stunning female vocalist. The duo are certain to pique the interest of a wide range of enthusiasts and have lots of runway left working together. Sarah Spencer is a promising female singer whose work on Angelfire and with other producers will draw her much attention.
Her collaboration with Steve Morse has turned out extremely well and is certain to bring the duo much notariety going forward.