(I was honored to have Dreams of Peace chosen by Kathy Parsons as a "Kathy's Pick" album at MainlyPiano.com!) Dreams of Peace: The Very Best of Rick Sparks Rick Sparks 2019 / Rick Sparks Music 61 minutes Review by Kathy Parsons Dreams of Peace: The Very Best of Rick Sparks is one of the most relaxing and soothing albums you are likely to hear anytime soon! It is a collection of fourteen of Sparks’ most peaceful pieces from his five “quiet-music” albums released since 2014 (all five are reviewed on MainlyPiano.com!). Sparks’ music is often heard on “Sleep Radio” in New Zealand, which should be a helpful point of reference. With the motto of “Music to replenish your spirit,” Sparks has created a body of work that is more melodic than ambient, but still has that easy flow and beauty that uplifts the soul and provides a respite from some of the harsh realities of life around us - at least temporarily. In addition to original compositions and occasional covers, Sparks often includes familiar hymns on his albums, as he does on this one. “Brian [Wilson] always said that God gave him his songs - I feel the same about my music. My ultimate goal is to glorify Jesus Christ in everything I do. He's a big part of my music helping to 'replenish your spirit.'" Dr. Rick Sparks (Ph.D.) also serves as professor of mass communication at North Greenville University South Carolina and plays keyboards in his church worship band near Spartanburg, SC. The album begins with Sparks’ beautiful arrangement of Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” one of my favorite pop songs. Performed on keyboards, the instrumentation includes flutes, strings and vibes as well as the sounds of rain and thunder. I have heard a lot of great arrangements of this classic, but this is one of the most peaceful. “Little Flower” is serene and soothing with piano, strings, wordless vocals - profound in its simplicity. “No Greater Love” was one of my favorites on Hushabye from earlier this year, and it’s a favorite on this album as well. “Sand and Stars,” for piano, wordless vocals, strings and guitar, could be the musical definition of “peaceful” - so smooth and tranquil. “And She Dreams” is almost magical with its slow, simple piano melody, angelic voices and strings. “Be Still, My Soul” seems to be one of the favorite hymns among pianists and this is one of a few piano solos on the album - simple, direct and sincere, it’s a lovely arrangement. The title track also comes from Hushabye with shimmering flutes and ethereal strings providing an extended intro before the piano enters with the melody - both dreamy and peaceful! “Tokyo Rain” has a very quiet Japanese sound and is another piano solo - gentleness set to music! “Memories of Her” reminds me a bit of Kevin Kern - always a compliment! - with piano and strings and an unforgettable melody. Sparks’ instrumental arrangement of the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” brings the album to a sweet and sentimental close. If you are new to Rick Sparks’ music or if you’d like a compilation of his best music, Dreams of Peace: The Very Best of Rick Sparks is a must-have! It is available from RickSparksMusic.net, Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and many streaming sites. December 3, 2019  ” - Kathy Parsons


DREAMS OF PEACE: THE VERY BEST OF RICK SPARKS REVIEW BY STEVE SHEPPARD, ONE WORLD MUSIC RADIO Rick Sparks has pulled off something of a master stroke here on this his greatest hits album Dreams of Peace; it’s a release perfect for the holiday season and for any time of year, it is jam packed with loving and warm compositions from his albums over the years. Each piece has been throughout time lovingly put together, and with such a thoughtful mind and heart, like this new version of Sting's Fields of Gold, a piece I know very well, as it was part of my singing course a few years back. Here the keyboards of Sparks create one of the mellowest moods you are ever likely to hear in a recreation of this ballad. With offerings like Little Flower the keys are stroked with a tenderness that is sublime, and come from his last soothing collection of great music Hushabye, then onto Dream Angus, a composition that originally takes us back to 2014 and his album Endless, and as if you may have guessed by the title, it has a sumptuous Celtic refrain to its energies. The exciting but mellow First Love, through to the more recent No Greater Love, both contain such an emotive signature to them and hold a sensitive angelic repose with ease. For our next offering we return to Half Moon Bay with the piece Sand and Stars, an album of outstanding natural beauty, the perfect track, for the perfect album, one which floats with a translucent beauty into the arms of this next pleasurable sojourn in music called And She Dreams. There can be no doubt, that by the time you reach here, your mood will be totally chilled. The second half of this 14 track collection of greatest hits gives us offerings like Be Still My Soul, the last track off the 2014 album Endless, and the inspiring Dreams of Peace, from the last album Hushabye, both tracks are bathed in the perceptive and delicate time signatures of classic new age music from the decades. Tokyo Rain is one of those tracks you just can’t stop listening to, it’s eastern styled melody and tones make a wonderful juxtaposition to the following composition entitled In the Bleak Midwinter, this connection of moods gives us our first Christmas classic as well, and in my view, one of the most relaxing versions I have ever heard. We can drift back to Sparks quite moving release from 2016 called Matilda’s Flowers, through this next song called Memories of Her, a personal favourite of mine, it’s warm structures and keyboards manifest a song that should be used in a movie romance scene. Our last two magical compositions comprise of When the Stars Come Out, a track to ease the soul and soothe the mind, and our final opus of grandeur in the ever young Auld Lang Syne, a piece of music that is usually the very last one to be played at the end of each year; the performance on this arrangement is as it should be, uplifting and thoroughly connective. Rick Sparks has done it again, it’s the end of the year, but he has graced the musical airwaves with something so beautiful and tranquil it’s the perfect Christmas gift. Sparks is one of those artists who will always manifest something special, warm and all-encompassing, and an album that contains such tender loving warm compositions on it like this, must always be completely recommended.  ” - Steve Sheppard

One World Music Radio

Hushabye by Rick Sparks (Self-released) www.ricksparksmusic.net On the cover, keyboardist/pianist Sparks' latest release is subtitled "Sail away to dreamland," and he's not kidding. These 11 tracks, centered round serene, minimalist piano melodies, framed by orchestral strings and angelic choirs, will almost certainly guide the most irrepressible and rambunctious young 'uns to the land of Wynken, Blynken and Nod. Soothing in the extreme, with nary a moment of drama to distract from the flowing sensation of peace and contentment, these melodies could also serve well as massage music for us "old-timers" or as a way to help the parents of the aforementioned children to relax and de-stress after a busy day. Low volume playback is advisable, of course.  ” - Bill Binkelman

Retailing Insight

Hushabye (2019) - Rick Sparks Review by Steve Sheppard (online review & albums features HERE) Rick Sparks has sealed an everlasting legacy as a musician who can soothe and calm his listeners with the first few bars of any song he has recorded, his crafted approach is a gift that many just hope to find, and it is this genius we discover on this his latest release called Hushabye. At many times in our lives, we will require places of peace, moments of solitude and sanctuaries of the soul, this album can create all three, simply put meditative relaxing music has never been in such safe hands. "This is a beautiful moving album, filled full of tones that touch with ease the hem of the neo classical genre, and moments of magic like the tracks Love Can Make You Happy and Dreams of Peace, are but two fine examples of this soothing narrative of calm. "The softness and tender performance that Sparks gives is a delight to listen to on its own, especially on one of my favourite tracks entitled When The Stars Came Out, the angelic harmonies and flute just add a further layer of tranquillity to the proceedings. Then we can then simply float on offerings like the soft and serene tones of And She Dreams, and be completely lulled to a faraway land with the composition We Are Loved, the track that ends this stunning album. "Hushabye is an album that children will adore falling asleep to, it is a release that anyone of any age at all, would love to just have playing around them, for it is from these very peaceful arrangements that each of us will find those moments of calming grace and perhaps even a sojourn into a world of restful slumber. Hushabye is another loving creation manifested by Rick Sparks, it is the musical equivalent of having a loved one put an arm around you and tell you everything is going to be alright, an absolute meditative must for all serious music lovers.” - Steve Sheppard

One World Music Radio

(Special thanks to Kathy Parsons for making Hushabye a "Kathy's Pick" album on MainlyPiano.com!) Hushabye Rick Sparks 2019 / Rick Sparks Music 43 minutes Review by Kathy Parsons Hushabye is the sixth album from pianist/composer/keyboardist Rick Sparks. Widely-known for his peaceful, melodic music that often layers strings and ethereal voices over the piano, Sparks created this album specifically to help listeners with relaxation, meditation and sleep. He explains: “I wanted to record an album of soothing music that both adults and children could relax with. I wanted the songs on this album to feel like a favorite soft pillow.” In this case, I have to assume that referring to this album as “a real snooze” would actually be very positive - and it is intended to be! Subtitled “Sail away to dreamland,” this gorgeous album contains nine new original tracks and two covers: Sparks’ instrumental arrangement of the 1969 pop hit, “Love Can Make You Happy” and the classic children’s hymn “Jesus Loves Me.” I really wish this album had been around when I was having problems sleeping a few years ago, but I know what I’m getting for several friends for Christmas! I really can’t imagine a more pleasant way to induce sleep or for easing away the stresses of a hectic day.  Hushabye begins with a short prelude called “My Soul To Keep,” which was inspired by the prayer so many of us recited as children. Performed a cappella by angelic choir voices, it’s a beautiful start! “Love Can Make You Happy” was originally recorded by the group Mercy, and Sparks’ blissful arrangement is a bit slower and features, piano, strings and wordless vocals. The title for “Dreams of Peace” could refer to dreaming of peace or peaceful dreams, and it really doesn’t matter which way you interpret it - just sit back and enjoy the soothing massage for the mind and soul. The gentle and very delicate “Little Flower” is piano, strings and wordless vocals and has a somewhat Asian feel. Very open and uncluttered, the simple melody is hypnotic. “No Greater Love” refers to Jesus’ teaching and shimmers with a peaceful, magical glow - I love this one! “When the Stars Come Out” adds flute to the mix of voices, piano and strings and casts a rapturous spell. “Jesus Loves Me” is the first hymn many of us learned as kids and the warm reassurance of eternal love flows from each note. More ambient than most of the rest of the album, “Cloud Pillow” floats effortlessly on a gentle breeze of sound. “And She Dreams” is also quite ambient (and VERY peaceful!), but the “angel voices” make it a bit more melodic while expressing innocence and tranquility. Inspired by the music of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, “Angel Song” returns to the a cappella choir’s vocalizations (no lyrics). “We Are Loved” closes the album with “a great sentiment that I hope fills both our dreams and our waking hours” (quoting Rick Sparks). If you haven’t melted into a happy puddle yet, just hit the “replay” button and drift off to a very happy Dreamland! Rick Sparks has created another wonderful album with Hushabye! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, and many streaming sites. July 23, 2019  ” - Kathy Parsons


(Following is Steve Sheppard's review of our 2018 end-of-year single, Auld Lang Syne. Steve is the programmer for Europe's largest online radio station, One World Music Radio.) REVIEW OF RICK SPARKS' AULD LANG SYNE "I had been listening to some extremely chilled classical music whilst reading my book over this festive period, when suddenly the opportunity came up to write a review for Rick Spark’s latest single, his version of the classic Auld Lang Syne. Quite appropriately for this time of year. I was still in a place of bliss thanks to his Half Moon Bay album and here we have more of the same beauty in music, the same wonderful floating and angelic narrative is given to this endless piece of peace. Sparks has really done this famous opus justice and created for us probably the most uplifting and soulful version ever of this composition. The style is a real mixture of classical, new age and a little Celtic, all masterfully arranged and gifted to us the ever eager listener. If you would really like a warm and loving version of this song, then without a doubt I can recommend this version by Rick Sparks. It’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and a hug to your heart, and of course simply the best musical way to end the year." -Steve Sheppard, One World Music Radio. ” - Steve Sheppard

One World Music Radio

Half Moon Bay REVIEW BY JANET MAWDESLEY OCTOBER 8, 2018, 12:50 PM Dreamy and refreshing, this peaceful collection Half Moon Bay from the piano of Rick Sparks is an absolute delight, inspired by his love of the ocean and the love and enjoyment of the peace, relaxation and beauty there to be found and enjoyed. A lover of the Beach Boys music of the ‘60s and their brilliance at being able to capture the very essence of the beat, the vibe and the spiritual nature of the ocean, Sparks has used the legacy Brian Wilson created and his love of the ocean as inspiration. The track Half Moon Bay composed by Brian Wilson is a slightly softer version of the original but has that unmistakable finger picking style of acoustic guitar added to the piano melody to tweak the memory. This tribute is shown throughout the album with the Lonely Sea a slow, moody rendition introduced with the sound of surf breaking and Summers Gone, an iconic Beach Boys tracks, offered with a gentle reverence to create an ethereal and introspective piece. Penned as Wilson looks back over the halcyon days of his life, accepting that summer and indeed gone and the days of peace and acceptance are a beautiful reward, Summers Gone was the last song on their final album recorded in 2012. First Light is introduced as synthesiser song, solemn and peaceful, it has been written in tribute to the morning rays of the sun slowly climbing over the horizon to grace the ocean with it glorious colour just for that one, perfect moment in time. The refreshing and often longed for fresh summer sea breeze on a day of intense heat, has been captured in Whisper in the Wind, an evocative piece with a lovely addition of flute and vocals. Sunset Dreams is as it is titled, a tribute to the slow and often spectacular drawing on of the day by the ocean regardless of the time of year. Following on from his last release (Nightfall London), this album has the same trademark magic created by Rick Sparks as he pays tribute to the ocean and the peace and tranquility that can be discovered there. Once again, an inspired and talented album. ” - Janet Mawdesley

Blue Wolf Reviews

HALF MOON BAY - Profile & artist interview by Robert Silverstein.  With a timely dose of sonic brain relief, Rick Sparks channels the music gods on his 2018 CD, Half Moon Bay. A fine follow up to Rick’s 2017 CD Nightfall London, the ten track Half Moon Bay features a wealth of new original music along with a decidedly Southern California influence, especially when you consider there’s several Brian Wilson classics, redone here in Rick’s New Age / contemporary instrumental music style. Fascinating to note here is the album title track, Half Moon Bay, itself a cover of a Brian Wilson instrumental from 2015’s No Pier Pressure.  Rick adds, “How natural that Brian titled his song “Half Moon Bay” after a little surfing community on the California coast. That song was the perfect choice to be the title cut on my new album.” Rick cites his strong religious beliefs as the foundation for his spiritual approach to music to which he adds, "I can’t imagine not having the inner peace and assurance that comes from my Christian faith. It’s so natural that whatever is in the heart of an artist will be evident in his or her music. In a world that is increasingly dark and worrisome to all of us, producing music that helps the hearer experience peace and beauty is such a privilege for me… it’s basically an outgrowth of the peace that comes from my faith in Jesus Christ. He created the universe, He gave us the priceless gift of music, and He proved His love for us a long time ago on an old rugged cross."  A gifted musician who grew up in the heartland of the American south, Rick Sparks transcends musical borders on the brilliant and soothing instrumental sound of Half Moon Bay, an album that, as Rick appropriately states, “feeds the soul, inspires and uplifts.” (Read Robert Silverstein's 2018 interview w. Rick at www.mwe3.com/reviews/RickSparks2018) ” - Robert Silverstein


(Half Moon Bay is a "Kathy's Pick" album by Kathy Parsons of MainlyPiano.com - "highly recommended.") Half Moon Bay Rick Sparks 2018 / Rick Sparks Music 48 minutes Review by Kathy Parsons Half Moon Bay is pianist/keyboardist Rick Sparks’ fifth album to date and is a combination of seven original compositions that celebrate the peaceful nature of being by the ocean plus three instrumental arrangements of songs by Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys). Right upfront, I want to stay that there are no toe-tappers on this album - Wilson’s pieces are quiet and serene - no “I Get Around” or “Little Deuce Coupe” (although that could have been interesting with strings and “angel voices.” But I digress!). To quote Sparks: “There’s something special about the ocean. The beach is a great place to relax, meditate, commune with nature, fall in love, nurture love or just escape from the pressures of everyday life.” There are so many different moods and colors of the ocean, but Sparks keeps this album centered on the tranquility of calm seas and gentle breezes. As a result, the tone of the album stays very even throughout - no storm warnings or pounding surf. So, if you are looking for a real stress-buster to unwind with or to set a warm and cozy mood, Half Moon Bay should do that for you!Half Moon Bay begins with “Sand and Stars,” a piece for piano, strings, guitar and wordless vocals. This piece could be used to define the word “peaceful” with its slow graceful flow and sense of complete calm. Images come to mind of a night with a full moon and brightly sparkling stars reflecting off of the water as it gently laps at the shore. The title track is the first of Wilson’s songs on the album. Named for a small coastal town on the central California coast, the piece first appeared on one of Wilson’s more recent albums (2015) and reflects on the inner peace that Wilson found later in life. Guitar, flute, layered voices and synth strings are the primary instrumentation in this beautiful piece. The title for “Sunlight In Her Hair” comes from a line in The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and is mostly acoustic finger-style guitar and synth strings - slow, melodic and smooth as glass. “You’re So Nice” is the only piano solo and captures the sweet innocence of first love - a favorite! Much more ambient, “First Light” was inspired by the peace and solitude of an early-morning sunrise over the ocean. Piano, layered voices, and synth effects evoke gentle pastel images and soothe the soul - also a favorite. “Lonely Sea” was originally recorded in 1962, early in The Beach Boys’ career. It begins with the sound of crashing waves before strings, flute, guitar and voices express the deeply poignant nature of this beautiful song. “Summer’s Gone” was on The Beach Boys’ final album in 2012. Piano, strings and voices create feelings of longing and nostalgia while reflecting on the warmth and beauty of past memories. I think I’ve turned into one big puddle, but it sure feels good!Half Moon Bay is one of the most relaxing albums I’ve heard in a while, so if you need a little calm in your life or know someone who does, this is an excellent choice! It is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. October 6, 2018” - Kathy Parsons


Half Moon BayRick Sparkswww.ricksparksmusic.net.Privately Published. $9.99 CD / $8.99 download at Amazon.com. The fifth album by new age keyboardist Rick Sparks, Half Moon Bay is a blissful soundscape that encapsulates the leisurely splendor of a summer beach. Serene and drifting, Half Moon Bay includes one solo piano piece ("You're So Nice") as well as contributions from electric guitar, fingerstyle guitar, flute medley, and more in tribute to the sounds of nature. A blend of original music and selected covers, Half Moon Bay is a treasure for relaxation, meditation, or inspiration, highly recommended. The tracks are "Sand and Stars", "Half Moon Bay", "Sunlight In Her Hair", "You're So Nice", "Ocean Blue", "First Light", "Lonely Sea", "Whisper In the Wind", "Sunset Dreams", and "Summer's Gone".  -James Cox, managing editor, Midwest Book Review” - James Cox, editor-in-chief

Midwest Book Review - Library CD shelf

RICK SPARKS/ Half Moon Bay: So when was the last time you heard a new age piano record that had several Beach Boys tunes on it? The vet piano man loves the ocean and fondly recalls his days on the Carolina coast as a rejuvenating experience that he now wants to share. A delicate set that eases you into things, this is a fine soundtrack for clearing the mental palette of the dross of the day. Check it out. -Midwest Record, 9/1/18” - Chris Spector

Midwest Record