As any album proudly bearing labels such as relaxation and meditation hoves into view, I have a tendency to brace for a salvo of head shop, whale noise nonsense and wind chime cacophony. But if more people working in such a broad and often misrepresented genre made music like Christopher Rapkin’s Release, then there would be nothing to worry about. It is an album which goes beyond the mere label of mood music and wanders through more exciting musical territory, well if exciting is not quite the right word…maybe worthy, clever and unique are better fits. It skirts the realms of minimal, Vangelis soundscapes, of progressive rock interludes, of futuristic dreams and galactic visions. But the purpose here is not the outward journey that some of the track titles might suggest, but an inner voyage, one built of meditation, calmness and introspection.
And again, unlike many working in similar fields, this record goes beyond a collection of pleasing sounds or creative expression, though it obviously encapsulates that as well, but instead is composed of carefully selected sonics, of precise combinations of rhythm and musical vibration to create this Zen bubble that the music is helping you to attain. And even coming, as I do, from a more cynical place, away from such transcendental arguments, it is still quite simply a beautiful collection of music. Perfect for repeat play at low volume throughout the house or as the back drop to a chilled gathering or late supper. And even by admitting as much I guess that is the argument won on the behalf of the artist, even without delving too knowingly into the neurological reasoning behind the music I’m happy to admit that it enhances the room, chills the atmosphere and calms the soul. Damnit, I was determined to stay detached and just review, well, that’s the power of music I guess…who knew? Well, Mr Rapkin for one!
Dave Franklin- theswindonian.co.uk
During September, Rapkin released his 10 track heavy guitar album, entitled “Focus In”. Listening to Rapkin on this album, it also becomes clear that he could be known as a great guitar virtuoso and a perfectionist. Christopher is the guitarist who sings and he does it quite well, in my opinion even better than Steve Vai. Also he is a good composer, all of his albums are full of songs of different styles. So he’s the man whose albums are full of songs of different tones and textures. As for his guitar playing, he is unlike Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, in that is less frenetic technically, and more concentrated on thick and heavy rhythm structures, at least on “Focus In”.
Christopher Rapkin does not chase the shredding ghost, searching rather for the melody in his solos. He has a powerful raw vibe in his style, which he sometimes polishes up with astute studio production and tasteful playing, or he may just leave it at that if he chooses. He also makes his music interesting by deciding to sing over it. Let’s face it, instrumental guitar music can sometimes be boring over many subsequent tracks. So you’ll find Rapkin throwing his Bob Seeger- styled vocal cords into the mix, on tracks like “Go To Hell Adele”, “Just Beginning”, and “Take You Away”.
You have the ultimate, overdriven, down and dirty rock n’ roll guitar songs in, “Dirty Smile”, “Monstre”, “Sustain” and “Mad Summer”. But almost every track has a hook or guitar riff that immediately grabs your attention. You’re guaranteed to find something interesting or suited to your tastes on this album.
You get a couple of excellent ballads, as well as some bluesy riffs, and an acoustic guitar dominated track with a hip-hop beat, moreover Christopher Rapkin is an expert at combining multiple styles into just one song. And as mentioned previously, he doesn’t just play guitar solos like other shredders; he writes actually songs and selects his note choices wisely.
Artists who show more style over substance (Steve Vai) to those who play the same notes over and over again (Yngwie Malmsteen) are a completely different kettle of fish compared to Rapkin, so don’t get these mixed up. What I really liked about the album is that it is very easy to listen to.
Rapkin’s guitar playing is just perfect, very little pyrotechnics, plenty of visceral power. It’s obviously a personal point of view, as I know many of you like the pyrotechnical stuff – I do too, but not an entire album’s worth…(get it Yngwie?)
Overall “Focus In” is a fine and extremely likeable addition to the Christopher Rapkin catalogue, which manages to avoid the all too common guitarist’s pitfall of sounding like they’re trying too hard too impress. I’m sure Rapkin and his fans are clearly aware that he has nothing to prove and this album sounds like a passionate artist having a good time with his favorite guitars – a combination of several Gibson Les Paul’s, a Fender Custom Shop Strat, and a 1966 Fender Jazzmaster – Lovely stuff!
"Take You Away” is the fourth track from multi-instrumentalist and recording artist Christopher Rapkin’s album “Focus In.” This piece is a lovely ballad, opening with a single melancholy piano and Peter Gabriel-tinged vocals. The introduction of cello brings a warm and welcome note to the song, and it showcases the power of simplicity when lyrical content is delivered well and with true emotion.
-Diva Taunia- Los Angeles, CA United States
After his debut album "Choices", in which there are sounds and feelings to choose from, from R&B and Bluegrass to Folk and Rock, and his album "Release", created and based upon the psychology of sound and neuroscience, comes "Focus In", the latest album, a guitar-driven journey through different sounds and concepts.
"Uncorked" is a very interesting song, with a very catchy beat and subtle layers of detail here and there. The strings on this song are what makes it interesting, they start appearing and you almost feel like you don't understand them right away, but somehow they all melt together throughout the song.
It's an unpredictable piece, it insinuates darkness before introducing light, and afterwards you can't quite pinpoint the feeling of the song, you just know it works very well.
There's something I really like about "Mad Summer", and that is how nostalgic it makes me feel. It is impossible to ignore how grungy and 90s the riffs sound. It's like a familiar song, in a way that it takes you some place or to some scene in your life that just sounded or rebellion, carelessness and youth.
"En la Costa" is a relaxing, paradisiac song that makes you feel like you are somewhere else right away. When a song tells a story, creates a scene and evokes feelings you know that it doesn't have to be a stand-out to work. "En la Costa" is no explosive track, because it doesn't need to be, it does its job on transporting you without you moving anywhere.
"Take you Away", the first song in the album that features vocals, is a heartfelt and straightforward song with simple and relatable lyrics. Easy to listen to and easy to like. Rapkin is very good at creating a feeling of familiarity that continues along with "Sustain", with its sound of movie action scene, its feeling of mischief and its heavier guitars. Definitely on the same line of "Mad Summer", almost as if they were two parts of the same concept.
"Just Beginning" is crafted in such a way that it captures a feeling of old-school music so perfectly, it could easily pass of as a song from the late 80s, on the opening of a TV show. Now that you have that image in mind, it is simply incredibly how well it fits, and how good was the whole production to
get that level of style fidelity. It even has the distinct sound of music recorded on cassettes. It is too short to properly relish in the nostalgia.
I particularly chose "Bugs in The Bed" as my favorite track. It is deliciously simple, ragged and rough on the edges in a great way, it carries no pretensions and it does just what it needs to do, set up a chill, yet defiant mood. This is a song for the cinematic bad boys and girls. A song that is up to no good, followed by "Dirty Smile", its more sorrowful and angry companion. It drips with defiance and it sounds like being misunderstood by the world. It is astonishing the way Rapkin captures the sound of youth in such a perfect way. Dirty Smile is my second favorite, and it has very little to envy to "Bugs in the Bed".
"Go to Hell Adele" is a fun rock song, with country-like vocals and a certain disdain that is simply charming and light-hearted, good to sing along, just perfect for a karaoke moment. "Monstre" is the guitar powerhouse of the bunch. Heavy riffs and an aggressive tone that goes a mile further from the rest of the guitars on the album. Simple drums give way for the guitars to fill up every space.
Christopher Rapkin is a musician that has very clear the sound of every feeling and situation, every track evokes a scene, a sensation, a memory, a sort of nostalgia that you just cannot ignore. Every song is special and some of them even tie together as parts of the same idea. The absolute highlights would have to be "Bugs in the Bed" and "Dirty Smile", yet the whole album shines on its own.
-Laura Pérez -Moonsail Review
His music is really kaleidoscopic and hard to predict, defying genre categorizations and definition, in favor of a more open approach. Christopher recently released his highly anticipated album, ‘Focus In’.
This release is a 10-track album that feels like an innovative musical journey, showcasing Rapkin’s talent, compositional prowess, and eclectic skills.
The first track, ‘Uncorked’ is full of rich and complex synth arrangements, and Rapkin seamlessly interweaves classical music and folk guitar melodies, into a song that is truly unique and unorthodox. ‘Take You Away’ couldn’t be more different; this true ballad is reminiscent of early Elton John and Billy Joel, with expressive pianos and emotionally fluid lyrics that are heart-wrenching to listen to, and deeply emotional. ‘Monstre’ is the final song on this eclectic album, and it a real rock anthem - a perfect ending to such a complex and accomplished record.
Christoper Rapkin truly has a deep understanding of all music genres, which he has carefully tapped into in order to craft a distinctive and remarkable collection of songs. There is something for everyone on this album, no matter what your music taste is. Listeners with a deep passion and respect for music will definitely enjoy this record from start to finish.