album, Open Secret, was released by New World
Music under the name of Denis Quinn in September,1987. This was
produced by his friend and mentor Anthony Phillips (Ant), co-founder of
progressive-rock band Genesis, at Anthony's home studio in Clapham,
London. Having tried and failed to secure any kind of recording or
publishing contract between 1981-1986 (he received 167 rejections),
Asher set about investing in recording some of his classical and
pastoral instrumental pieces with the idea of making a cassette, and
simply selling it to friends, family and any other interested parties.
He borrowed from the bank and from his Godfather, and made half the
album. Being purely a creative artist, at the time, he knew nothing of
the music industry, found no manager or agent who understood his
esoteric music which seemed to have no recognisable genre to abide
by... there were elements of classical, folk, pop even, film-score type
stuff, and mystical, lyrical poetry from a seemingly different age...
and no record or publishing company who understood it, either.
Then, by chance, he
heard some new age music that sounded a little like his own
instrumental pieces in an esoteric bookshop (Dawn Horse in Poland St.
Soho), took down the details of the company who made the cassette (New
World Cassettes), and sent off the half finished album to the New World
directors Colin and Carmen Willcox. By return of post they offered him
a long-awaited contract, and an advance to complete the album. Asher
mentions that he took some comfort from the fact that he was about the
same age as Leonard Cohen was when his first album came out, ie of
Biblical age, given that he was not now going to pass muster as a
teeny-bop idol after so long.
Secret was named after a book of
poems by the classical Persian Sufi poet, Rumi, the Sufi way being a
mystical path that Asher first embraced in 1979, through
Adnan-el-Sarhan, a spiritual teacher from Baghdad, up in the 'Boorscht
Belt'... the Catskill Mountains of New York State. Guest musicians
included guitarist Andy Latimer of another progressive-rock band Camel
(a footballing & cricketing buddy) who played the soaring lead
guitar on one of Asher's most enduring and celebrated instrumental
tracks of all, 'Soldier of love'; oboist Tony Freer of the
strangely-named esoteric outfit The Enid; and young music student
friends Cynthia Robertson on flute, Ivor McGregor (Igor) on violin,
Asher's former girlfriend Jemma Siddel on cello and her new boyfriend,
French percussionist Tristan Maillot.
New age music in
those days consisted principally of Wyndham Hill's ambient piano music
in the USA, the more mainstream work of Mike Oldfield and Jean-Michel
Jarre, the filmic pieces by Vangelis, Ennio Morricone and Hans Zimmer
and the more complex modernist music of Phillip Glass. The roots of new
age music as a genre was probably in the more progressive psychedelia
of the 1960's & 1970's, the folk traditions of various world
cultures, and in visionary, idealistic, relaxing, instrumental
'alternative' music to chillout to.
Partly from within
the new age genre itself, world music reached the mainstream western
market in a big way, as did ambient 'lounge' music, techno trance and
spiritual, meditative, ethnic chants and sacred songs. The unifying
principle being a kind of one-world, healing, altered-state musical
contribution to this genre is the synthesis of several different
musical elements... classical, folk, pop, rock, ethnic, filmic and
mantra-like compositions... bound together invariably by sacred,
shamanic, poetic lyrics delivered disarmingly in a gentle, ballad form.
He is credited as being the inventor and pioneer of the contemporary
spiritual love-song, and was amongst the first to record new age vocal
as Love & Mystic Heart (1988-1989), and the story behind
Asher's different names
largely instrumental Open Secret
was a great
global success, and is now re-issued with several bonus tracks and new
artwork on Asher's own label, Singing Stone Music. This debut album was
followed in 1988 by Single as Love
, a collection
of lightly orchestrated piano pieces, and then in 1989 by the
pioneering best-seller Mystic Heart
was an attempt by techno-phobe Asher to master
recording on his own, but the intricacies of the on/off button proved
rather too complex, and producer James Morgan stepped in, manfully, to
complete the project. James had gone to the same school as Ant which
qualified him to wear a flying helmet at all times during the recording
(public school, it is to be supposed), and lent the album a certain
By the time Mystic
Heart was composed, the Denis Quinn who had recorded Open
Secret and Single as Love had had a
significant dream, in which a figure with the name of 'Asha' had
appeared. Upon investigation, Asha revealed itself to have several
mythological meanings; it is a Sanskrit word for 'hope', and also the
name of a sun-angel in the Zoroastrian tradition (the Zoroastrianism
being a sun-worshipping faith which preceded Islaam in Persia). Denis
Quinn took on the name Asha, professionally, and changed it legally,
As an adopted
child, Asher (aka Denis & Asha), had had several different
surnames; firstly Traininovitch through his biological mother, a young
Russian Jewess; secondly Hale after his biological father, a singer;
and thirdly Marks, his adoptive Jewish family name. Quinn was a name
that was taken by Asher intuitively, in 1979, when he found the Sufi
path. Quinn means, mythologically, 'the one who soars', in the Celtic
New World Cassettes
(later New World Music) were reluctant to change Denis Quinn into Asha
as a brand name because of the possible marketing muddle that might
ensue. Between 1987-1999, Asher released thirteen original titles for
New World, most of them bearing the name 'Asha (Denis Quinn)', as a
compromise. In the last decade he has settled upon Asher Quinn as an
integrated personal and professional identity.
Heart introduced sacred vocal
tracks expressly against the wishes of New World Cassettes, who... for
cautious marketing reasons... believed that their audience at the time
only wanted relaxing, background, instrumental music. Asher's
insistence on the artistic principle of free expression won the day
here, and his musical 'heresy' paved the way for a whole musical
sub-genre to organically evolve. Certainly he was not the only new age
artist who wanted to include vocals, but he was probably one of the
first. Mystic Heart went on to become an even
bigger 'hit' and, like Open Secret, has a timeless, enduring quality.
Both albums continue to sell well today, after more than twenty years.
consciously sought after spiritual experiences found artistic
expression in the tracks that constituted the album Mystic
, notably the Orthodox Greek Mass entitled 'Missa Greca'
and the Italianate
'Canzone Angelica'... both amongst the most cherished of Asher's many
and varied compositions. Greek born Sufi scholar Aziz Dikeulias sings
the Doxastikon on 'Missa Greca', and former girlfriend Sharon Sage
shares the vocals on this track too. Asher spent the summer of 1988 in
Thessalonica, and derived inspiration for 'Missa Greca' there, as well
as from hearing the Slavonic liturgies for the first time.
again played percussion, and Phil Thornton... another New World
artist... was invited to play lead guitar, paving the way for an
enduring professional and personal relationship. Phil went on to
co-produce eleven future Asher Quinn albums, at his Expandibubble
Studio (essentially a garden shed that became a Dr. Who-like tardis
upon entering) in Bexhill, on England's south coast.
of Fire, Amadora & Fiery Moon (1990-1992)
Fire, with its epic 15-minute title track, was Asher's first
recording at Phil Thornton's studio. Having seen Phil in concert at a
well-known alternative London venue, St. James Church in Piccadilly,
the deal was sealed. An historical point of interest was that the old
eight-track machine used to record Wings of Fire,
was the same one used by producer Tom Newman to record Mike Oldfield's Tubular
Bells. In those days, music was still committed to actual
tape, and the producer could use a scalpel, if necessary, to cut the
tape and make an edit. Multi-tracking was achieved by the laborious
process of 'bouncing down' different parts together, from several
tracks onto one.
Phil seemed to have
over 700 children, in a Biblical way, and successful recording was
somehow achieved around nappy-changing, school runs and endless
mischief. The track 'Wings of fire' was inspired by a long, snaking
train journey through Mexico, and by reading the thrilling, shamanic
books of Carlos Castaneda, also set in Mexico. Another celebrated track
from this album is the spiritual ballad 'This love', still used today
by various humanitarian organisations as a one-world anthem.
was the last of the three albums Asher recorded with Anthony Phillips,
in the snowy January of 1991. The title was culled intuitively from a
kind of mythical, inner landscape, although some years later a fan
wrote from the town of Amadora just outside
Lisbon, asking if there was any connection. One of the tracks,
'Rashani' was written in an intuitive, spirit language that sounds like
a cross between French, Persian, Slav and Romany. Amadora,
also including the enduringly popular, gentle, poetic love-song 'Gypsy
Madonna', named after a painting by Titian, is a particularly 'inner'
kind of album... the artistic expression of a deeply personal spiritual
journey, and a blend of instrumental pieces and vocal ballads.
That same January,
Asher met Kit, the woman he was to marry and have a family with. Fiery
Moon, an album which followed Amadora,
was clearly devoted to this relationship, and the music very much
reflects a move away from the intensely esoteric spiritual path that
had marked his first five recordings, and more towards a love affair in
the conventional sense. Side one consisted mainly of an 18-minute
romantic love song entitled 'Come away, come away,' which wove its way
round a theme found in the ancient Hebrew text 'The Song of Solomon'...
the refrain 'O rise up my love, my darling, and come away.'
There is a track
entitled 'Kitiana' set in the old Devon fishing village of Appledore, a
favourite haunt with ghostly, pagan smuggling legends never far from
the surface. The title track was originally vocal, set in Crete, where
Asher and his future wife spent the summer of 1991, but New World
Cassettes 'banned' the lyrics, so the song was released as an
instrumental track only. The words were considered to be too erotic,
and the directive from New World was 'we don't think our listeners are
quite ready for this'. Actually, the lyrics were spiritual metaphors
couched in romantic verse, as so much classical Sufi poetry was... the
offending line was: 'My beloved, I can feel you inside, like a
fireburst of flowers, swaying, swaying to the moon... the fiery moon.'
Asher remarked at the time: "I was reminded of Rik Mayall in The Young
Ones proclaiming defiantly that it was as if Cliff Richard had never
written 'Devil Woman'... banned! How very punk!" The original song
complete with lyrics was restored when Asher launched his own company,
and appears both on the album High Planes Music
and the compilation This Love.
Fire, Amadora and Fiery Moon were
eventually deleted by New World in the mid-2000's, after selling well,
and the various tracks now appear on different compilations in Asher's
Singing Stone Music catalogue.
of Angels, Art of Love & Field of Stars (1993-1994)
A 'pilgrimage' to
Santiago de Compostella (St. James of the Field of Stars) in 1992
provided inspiration for these three albums. Journeying through Wessex,
Brittany, the Loire and the Dordogne in an old jalopy, Asher and
girlfriend Kit became aware that they were synchronously following a
holy pilgrimage route, which they completed by ploughing on through the
Basque country and into Galicia to reach Santiago. Beyond that they
journeyed further still, into Portugal.
of Angels and Art of Love were largely
improvised instrumental albums, with Art of Love
simply being a collection of playful piano vignetttes. The piano parts
for both of these albums were recorded in just one afternoon on the
grand piano in the drawing room of Anthony Phillips's house, along with
re-recorded versions of the tracks from Single as Love
(originally recorded in 1988) for good measure. The piano pieces were
then taken later that week to Phil Thornton's studio and orchestrated,
where appropriate. In this way, three spontaneous instrumental albums
were completed within a week!
consisted of two collections of pieces... one set in
romantic, aromatic, elemental Crete (recalling the summer of 1991), and
the other in fertile, fragrant, humid France on the route to Santiago.
The idea of creating piano vignettes like this came from hearing Suite
Menorcan by Corrado Bennett, who composed a similar celebration of, and
tribute to, the island of Menorca. Art of Love
Single as Love
condensed into one compilation CD entitled Sketches of
of Angels contains tracks... like the thrilling,
adventurous, evocative 'Santiago' ... inspired entirely by the journey
to, and experience of, Santiago... a splendidly Gothic outpost of
Christendom, in Spain's drizzly, foggy, north western, Atlantean
corner, with its swirling, towering spires, incense-strewn medieval
alleyways and Celtic street minstrels. The album also pays homage to
Asher's God-father, Lionel, who died that year, and who had partly
provided the funding for his first album.
Stars is devoted exclusively to this pilgrimage experience,
and contains more strongly orchestrated vocal and instrumental tracks,
including Asher's version of 'Greensleeves', the hymn-like 'My
redeemer' and the haunting, ocharina led, cathedral-esque etude 'House
of spirits' (named after Isabel Allende's novel The House of
the Spirits. A line from that book, 'Sailing on the silk
blue sea' became the title of a very popular track from Concert
of Angels, too). Field of Stars is by
turns joyous and melancholy, Concert of Angels
sublime and Art of Love innocent and playful.
Whilst Concert of Angels, Asher's best-selling
album to date, is still retained in its original integrity albeit with
updated artwork in the Singing Stone Music catalogue, the wonderful
tracks from Field of Stars have mostly now found
a home in the recent Singing Stone compilations Stardance
and This Love, released in 2005.
of the sun and moon (1995)
This album was the final
project in this period (1990-1995) with Phil Thornton. The title is
culled from alchemical texts which describe the journey of the human
soul towards completion, the idea being that there is an inner marriage
that beckons... a kind of union of opposites. Asher was also (and still
is) a practicing transpersonal psychotherapist, having trained and
qualified during approximately the same period as the recording of his
first few albums (1987-1991), and in his training alchemy was used as a
template to try to understand the human condition.
psychotherapy, derived from Carl Jung, incorporates alchemy and
shamanism from various global cultures as well as the central European
intellectual approach to psychology, and equips the scholar much as the
mythical Hogwarts might... it teaches the student how to operate in
different psychic dimensions, how to defend against the dark arts, how
to work with energy and not just mental constructs and so on. This
engagement with the matrix of human complexity as a psychological
discipline perfectly complements a mystical path of spirituality, and
for Asher this was principally the Sufi path. Much of Asher's
heart-centered music is transpersonal, one might say, in that it seems
to come from beyond the personal... from archetypal or mythic
reality... from the collective... mined by the poet from an inner
heart-land, as Sufi poetry is.
A distinctive track from this album is
'Hallelujah sunshine', essentially the melody of Pachelbel's
hypnotically enchanting Canon, with a hallelujah
chorus set to a very joyous, reggae-style backing. 'Hallelujah
sunshine' celebrates the birth of Asher's first son, Theo, in 1994.
When originally released by New World Music, two different artworked
front covers for Marriage of the Sun and Moon
were tried... the second more successfully matching the concept, as it
was from an alchemical engraving. The tracks from Marriage
of the Sun and Moon can now be found on the compilations Stardance
and This Love, and on the album High
Planes Music, in the Singing Stone catalogue.
Love is the Only Prayer & Music for Love (1996-1999)
New World Music changed
hands during these years, and Colin and Carmen Willcox sold a very
successful multi-million pound company to Jeff Stewart and Neil Worgan.
Starting much as Richard Branson had with Virgin, Colin and Carmen
began New World with just a cardboard box of cassettes in 1982. Jeff
and Neil commissioned three further albums from Asher, who now needed
to record nearer his London home, following the birth of his first son.
New age composer
and successful library musician James Asher was recruited to co-produce
these three albums at his Starfield Studios in west London. The largely
instrumental Resurrection contained an
improvised, orchestral track called 'Promised land' which managed to
conjure up images of something ancient and Hebrew, as well as recalling
the spirited yet melancholy themes of composers such as Dvorak or
Brahms. Many of the other tracks are instrumental vignettes recalling
Asher's own childhood experiences, and the early life of his firstborn,
Theo. Most of these tracks can now be found on Singing Stone's Songs
of Asher Quinn.
is the Only Prayer, by contrast,
is a grander project, featuring tenor Phillip Ball, and classically
trained chanteuse Susanna. The tracks are an exotic blend of Sufi and
alchemically inspired instrumental and vocal themes, containing some
vintage Asher 'hits' such as the delicate 'Prayer for the world' and
the more robust 'Hymn of the universe'... a 4-minute dance/trance
pop-song that begins as if it were re-telling the Book of
Revelations. Arguably the most noteworthy piece is the
16-minute title track, another from the reservoir of Asher epics that
begins life as a simple repeated instrumental hook, and gradually
builds, falls and builds again until the sustained crescendo, which is
a swirling, swaying Dervish dance. The album ambitiously embraces hints
of Shakespeare and the Gayan (a Sufi holy book),
and includes a semi-operatic, magical mystery tour predominantly in
Italian, entitled 'Love's philosophy' (after a poem by Shelley). This
kaleidoscopic new age album is retained in its original form in the
Singing Stone Music catalogue, but with new artwork.
In 1997, Asher was
invited to give three concerts in Copenhagen by the Theosophical
Foundation, headed by Tara Ananada Shah. These were his first public
appearances as a performer, save from guest slots at the end of year
parties held by his therapy training establishment, where he now
lectured... the unglamourously named Centre for Counselling and
Psychotherapy Education (CCPE), in London (unglamourous when one
considers that it was actually Hogwarts). At the CCPE Asher once sang
the Verve's 'The drugs don't work', and delivered an impromptu stand-up
comic routine about the various merits of psychotherapy and the
attendant hazards of medication. In Copenhagen, he began to work out
how to reduce his songs from heavily orchestrated, complicated studio
pieces into simplified acoustic renditions, so he could perform them as
a solo artist. Asher likened this process to trying to make his songs
into Picasso line-drawings.
In 1998, Asher's second son, Isaac, was
born, and what proved to be his final album for New World Music was
completed with James Asher, again featuring Susanna, and entitled Music
for Love. There are lilting Madonna-esque songs given
Susanna's vocals in 'Heal your heart' and 'Free yourself', and a
classic, hypnotic, trance-like epic track called 'Return to your soul'
which accumulates within a mandala of sound, Phil Spector style, until
the sustained crescendo. Music for Love, like Love
is the Only Prayer, is retained in its original form in the
Singing Stone catalogue, but with different artwork.
'wilderness years' (2000-2003)
This section is
entitled 'The wilderness years' only because every artist, poet or
musician should have one on their CV. Actually, Asher stopped composing
and recording during these years because his children were very small.
Also, the music industry was beginning to morph into the download era,
which changed the way popular music could be marketed and presented,
and the economic and political climate changed dramatically after 9/11.
Asher felt it was hard to justify relatively lavish studio outlay with
the way things were shaping up, globally, and withdrew from the
perceived excess of the music culture.
During these years,
Asher set about collating as many of his favourite songs as he could
find, intuitively... songs from childhood, pop songs, folk songs and
traditional songs... simply to come to learn how to play and sing them
acoustically, for his own enjoyment, and to come to know all the
lyrics. It was a kind of 'back to basics' time, fuelled by a romantic
notion that he might come to sing these songs for his children. It was
during this time that he developed an ability to pare a song down to
its bare essentials, not just these songs that had inspired him, but
also his own songs. Any future recordings would be simpler, more
acoustic affairs, and this took him away from the construction of epic,
new age mantra-style pieces, and more towards the folk-ballad or
minstrel song. Effectively this spelled the end of his long association
with New World Music, as their market was more instrumental and
ambient, and Asher was re-defining himself as a troubador and balladeer.
In the autumn of
2003, Asher received an invitation to record in Cornwall from former
New World colleague Medwyn Goodall, who had now set up his own company
called MGMusic. He also gave his first ever solo, acoustic London
concert in February 2004. Both these events were followed by dreams
indicating that Asher's psyche viewed these new developments
favourably, the first dream being a long, happy, free-spirited bicycle
ride to Cornwall in bright sunshine. The deep, infinite truths about
dreams had been initially taught at 'Hogwarts'. To begin with, Asher
recorded three songs with Med, the traditional 'Silent night' and
'Swing lo, sweet chariot', plus a new version of one of his older songs
'My redeemer'. New World put these three new tracks together with a
collection of other Asher back catalogue songs, and released a
Christmas compilation CD called Silent Night.
Previously, New World had released two successful back catalogue Asher
compilations, Celestine and Prophecy,
though neither of these albums were authorised by Asher, either the
choice of tracks or the album titles.
From January-June 2004, Asher recorded six
new tracks with Medwyn, the journeys to magical Cornwall flooded with
moonlight, as was much of the music, staying in a little B&B in
Lamorna Cove on the weekends when he journeyed down. Events overtook
Med, however, and Asher sought to complete this new album elsewhere,
turning first to Phil Thornton with whom he recorded a further three
tracks, and then being invited by a Dutch company to complete the album
in the Netherlands, where three final tracks were added. The dream of
the bicycle ride to Cornwall took an unexpected detour through Holland!
of East, Songs of Love and Chains & High Planes Music
This album that had
been conceived in Cornwall and given birth to in the Netherlands was
called East of East. As such it was more of a
singer-songwriter album than a new age offering, more acoustic and
direct, though still with trademark gentle and plaintive heart-centered
melodies, and spiritually-themed lyrics. Particularly notable is the
guitar-based opening track 'Bow down', and also the visionary,
piano-based, prayer-like 'Tomorrow's God'. Singing cover versions and
traditional songs too, Asher delivered splendid renditions of 'The
first time ever I saw your face' and 'Sometimes I feel like a
established in Holland to take over from New World and distribute
Asher's new music was called Goodheart Records, established by Winfried
Derks, a new age enthusiast with his own retail set-up. Goodheart was a
little top-heavy with idealism, however, and short on finance, at which
point Roland van Steijn, who produced the last three tracks on East
of East at his Art of Sound Studios in Leiden, stepped in
and created Wolfeye Records as a vehicle to distribute Asher's music.
Asher set about recording a new album with Roland co-producing, which
was to become Serpent in Paradise, and also
completed a triple album of acoustic cover versions called Songs
of Love and Chains, as well as High Planes Music
with Phil Thornton, back in the UK. All of these titles, plus
compilations of songs that Asher had regained rights to from New World,
went onto the Wolfeye record label.
Songs of Love and
was recorded to sound like a concert in a cathedral,
indeed the versions of songs by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bruce
Springsteen and the like, have a simplified, ethereal, acoustic feel,
and doubled as rehearsals for a series of concerts in the Netherlands.
Bridging many different worlds, Asher somehow manages to imbue songs by
the Stranglers, the Smiths, the above named and many more with a
distinctly sacred quality as he re-interprets known and less well known
ballads. This recording is now available as a slightly modified double
album through this site's own Singing Stone Music.
Planes Music was also an ethereal re-interpretation, but
this time of some of Asher's own best-loved spiritual love-ballads,
entirely re-recorded using acoustic guitar, piano, cello, bass and the
other-worldly voice of Hungarian gypsy singer Lila Mayi. This period
was a very prolific one for Asher as he created much new music, began
to give more concerts and looked for suitable distribution outlets for
his back catalogue titles and his new albums. The seeds sewn in the
'wilderness years' were now bearing fruit, as Asher had found a way to
simplify his own style, ethically sounder in such difficult economic
and political times, and take a more minimalist, 'Zen' approach to
music. He also now had a vast repertoire not only of his own songs but
of others as well, to record and take out onto the road, troubador
An identity was emerging here of a figure
who was a kind of story-teller in song, using certain musical
vibrations and shamanically retrieved images to convey archetypal heart
centred messages depicting arguably broader truths. There is a Sufi
quote from the Gayan of Hazrat Inayat Khan: "What
science cannot declare, art can suggest. What art suggests silently,
poetry speaks out. But what poetry fails to explain in words is
expressed by music," and this describes Asher's raison
d'etre very well.
This Love & Sketches of Innocence
Goodheart and then
Wolfeye put out these three compilations (named above) of the back
catalogue former New World tracks that Asher had the rights to at the
time, as well as a re-released Open Secret, which
had a couple of bonus tracks on it. Stardance was
purely instrumental, This Love vocal and Sketches
of Innocence largely piano-based. These titles are now
available on the Singing Stone Music label.
in Paradise, Forgotten Language of the Heart & Violet Hill
Serpent in Paradise
was co-produced by Roland van Steijn, in the Netherlands, who also
played various guitars on the album, and was a collection of new Asher
ballads, traditional songs and cover versions. The style was more
piano-based than on East of East,
and the tone
reflective. Proving to be particularly popular are the dreamy 'Silently
spinning', the earthy 'All my fathers' and the emotive 'If you believed
and logistical difficulties arose with Roland's Wolfeye Records, Asher
secured a deal with Rob Ayling's Voiceprint Records in the UK. A
concert was filmed in London and a CD/DVD emerged from that, entitled Asher
Quinn 'Live' at Violet Hill. Also, a double CD compilation
was released called Forgotten Language of the Heart,
a kind of 'Essential Asher Quinn' album, with all his different styles
represented... tender spiritual love ballads; thrilling, evocative
instrumental pieces; piano sketches; cover versions; folk rock songs;
traditional songs; neo-classical etudes and 'live' performances. The
Violet Hill album contains an interview with music journalist John
Kirkman on the DVD, and the intimate, acoustic concert contains moments
of gentle, surreal humour as Asher banters with the audience about
sharing a pizza with Leonard Cohen, and about the merits of females
emailing their knickers instead of throwing them at him, a la Tom
Jones... to make it easier for the cleaners.
These three albums were released by
Voiceprint Records, and Serpent in Paradise acquired
new, more descriptive artwork, too... the image of the fiery serpent
from Mount Nebo in Jordan, reputedly where Moses lay down his staff in
sight of the promised land. At around this time Asher finally secured
the rights to all his songs from New World Music and gained some stock
from them, too. Open Secret was re-released for a second time, by
Voiceprint, and a further three bonus tracks were added from way
back... unearthed by archivist Jonathan Dann in Anthony Phillips's
attic. Jonathan is Anthony's web designer, and he also designed a
spiffing inter-active website for Asher during this time. The three
tracks were vocal ballads not considered suitable by New World at the
time of Open Secret's original release in 1987, and are amongst the
first serious songs Asher ever composed in 1979, inspired by the Sufi
way of life.
Stone Music and the albums Falling Through Time, O Great
Spirit and Sacred Songs (2010 - 2012)
With the latest recession
wreaking havoc on the music industry, as on every other commercial walk
of life, Voiceprint modified their ambitions to re-release all of
Asher's back catalogue as well as provide a platform for his new work.
Voiceprint was neither new age nor mainstream, but an admirable
collection of independent artists across the musical spectrum, brought
together by Rob Ayling... it was an idiosyncratic outfit perfectly
suited to Asher's hard-to-define genre identity. But with stock gained
as a settlement both from New World and from Voiceprint, Asher finally
established his own company, Singing Stone Music.
The name comes from
the native American Grail legend of the Singing Stone, and the logo...
the heart with wings... from the Sufi tradition. Singing Stone now
distributes eighteen of Asher's old and new titles, and has an in-house
graphic artist and website designer, Emoke Labancz, who created this
site and has designed or re-designed all of the artwork in the
catalogue, and a resident sound engineer Shaun Britton, who co-produced
the album Falling Through Time in 2010.
Shaun is a young
music masters graduate who, as a fan, came to an Asher concert in
Stroud, Gloucestershire, in 2009, gave him a demo of his stuff, and was
recruited as co-producer of his next album on the strength of that! The
music is recorded very simply on a MacBook Pro in Shaun's front room.
Emoke is involved with an anthroposophical organisation in Budapest,
where she edits an esoteric magazine, and Asher contacted her first
simply through MySpace!
Through Time is a generous collection of new compositions,
traditional ballads and cover versions (over seventy minutes of music),
as has been more typical of Asher's recent releases. This again has a
folky, acoustic feel to it, with a strongly spiritual flavour, and is
both intense and joyful on the one hand, and full of longing and beauty
on the other. 'Song of the blue lotus', the opening track, was created
during a deep, altered-state sleep after inhaling the oil of the blue
lotus, said to be an ancient Egyptian spiritual aphrodisiac. 'Visions'
has a startling, prophetic quality to it, and the two most popular
tracks, the deeply loving 'Falling through time' and sweetly playful
'Blessings on your soul' were both written in the same four-day
sequence as 'Visions'... a purple patch of creativity in July 2010,
halfway through the recording.
Spirit is also recorded with Shaun, and features ten new
tracks, plus two re-mixes of 'Falling though time' and 'Blessings on
your soul' from the album Falling Through Time.
Here, Asher's purple patch of creativity yielded the startling 'Half
past ten', the tenderly lovely 'Thanksgiving', the dramatic 'God's
perfect circle' and the joyously nutty 'All over the world' during two
artistically volcanic weeks in September, prior to his 23rd birthday
(when one is falling through time, birthdays do not necessarily fall
sequentially!) The album is a powerful celebration of Spirit, composed
and recorded with a strong one-world feel as the much heralded year
2012 approached, most notably in the irresistibly mesmeric 'We are
one', and also in the re-make of Curtis Mayfield's 'People get ready'
which morphs into a one-world spiritual mantra.
The third album recorded with
Shaun is the delicate and powerfully poignant Sacred Songs, composed
just a few months after O Great Spirit, and completed only six months
later, effectively meaning that Asher released two collections of new
songs well within a calendar year. Once again, several of the songs
seemed to 'burst through' unexpectedly, demanding to be brought to
life! One time four new songs of great and mythic intensity were
composed in a single weekend, the unifying theme being an interwoven
Grail story of love, sacrifice, illusion and awakening. 'Heaven on
earth', which opens the album, moves in a way from the Old Testament to
the New in the course of the song… from truth to love, and from
melancholy to rapture; 'You are loved' speaks of a Higher wisdom loving
our innocent ignorance, through the experience of Self, and 'One more
hour' which closes the album, is another rapture celebrating the love
affair between God and man, between immortality and mortality, and the
Divine and the human.
With Asher now
running his own company and on-line shop as well as continuing to
compose and record current material, there is a new, vibrant,
integrated feel to his music, with original projects on the go, and
re-mastered and re-artworked back catalogue titles being given new
life, as well. Singing Stone Music has a catalogue of nineteen titles
available in the on-line shop, and in certain high street shops, and
also a full downloads section of all previously released albums,
including deleted New World titles.
State of Grace, Myristica and Kerani Music, 2013
In late 2012, however, with trusted lieutenant and muse-figure Emoke falling seriously ill, and Shaun branching out and diversifying, Singing Stone Music needed a helping hand. The cavalry arrived in the form of music producer and video editor Arno op Den Camp, from Limburg in the Netherlands.
During 2012, Asher had come across the music of two females… Mei-Ling Grey in the UK, and Erika Kele in the Netherlands. Mei-Ling recorded as Myristica, and Erika as Kerani. Striking up firm friendships with both these women, it was Erika who led Asher to her partner, Arno, and it was he who then produced a new Asher album, State of Grace… which contained three collaborations with Mei-Ling.
Myristica's music is pure, natural and almost child-like, but deceptively complex… wistful and other-worldly. Erika's is more classical and triumphant… memorably melodic! Mei-Ling has a Malaysian mother, and Erika's parentage is Hungarian.
Arno firstly edited some videos for Asher, and then produced State of Grace, at his studio in Limburg… now called Kerani Music. Erika also sang backing vocals on this album. If the album Sacred Songs had partly lamented the loss of Emoke's spiritual and creative presence in Asher's life due to illness, then State of Grace celebrates her return! This is most keenly expressed in the intensely poignant tracks 'A friend like you', and the magical 'Holy sparks'. The three collaborations with Myristica are 'Stella Maris', 'Thank you' and the spine-tingling 'Inspirit'. There are also grail-inspired tracks like 'Maryam & Eliador' and the Kabbalistic 'The golden thread', plus the anthemic offerings 'Footsteps' and 'Love will always heal your heart', amongst others.
Whilst Emoke convalesced, a fan, Pete Meredith, formed the UK cavalry and took over the temporary running of Asher's inter-active website. As 2013 progressed, Asher gave several concerts in Europe, and started making song videos again with Emoke, who also resumed stewardship of the website. Looking forward to 2014, several projects are in the pipeline with Arno and Kerani Music, and Myristica is a guest artist on this site (see here). A Dutch/Hungarian theme has emerged, and Asher's music and world-view is increasingly influenced by the incredible spiritual visions of Rudolf Steiner.
Heal Your Heart, & Sun, Sorrow, Flowers, Moon, 2014
During October and November, 2013, Asher recorded Heal Your Heart, which is a second volume in his High Planes Music series, with Arno, at Kerani Music in Limburg, the Netherlands. The original volume, recorded in 2007, consisted of 15 of Asher's best-loved earlier tracks, entirely re-recorded and re-interpreted, and featured Hungarian singer Lila Mayi (aka Laura Riz) as an accompanyingg female vocalist. Heal Your Heart repeats this basic recipe, this time re-interpreting 16 popular tracks mostly made originally since 2007, but featuring Kerani's female vocal accompaniment, instead of Lila's. Some of these re-interpretations are dramatically different… 'Heal your heart', the song, takes on an extra lilt, and now features Mongolian female vocals; 'Morning sun' shifts from delicate piano in, for example the original, to hoe-down dance, and 'Return to your soul' is re-invented as a Dylan-esque folk song, for example! The album cover features a painting by French Canadian artist Johane Amirault, called 'The Unrestricted Heart'.
From June-September, 2014, Asher recorded a third volume of his reinterpreted cover
versions of great songs by other artists. The series is called Songs of Love and Chains,
and this third volume is entitled Sun, Sorrow, Flowers, Moon. Developing the rapidly
blossoming creative partnership with Arno op Den Camp and Erika Kele (Kerani) at
Kerani Music, this album contains eighteen versions of delightful songs well-known and
less well-known... from the delicate ‘Scarborough fair’ to the sexy ’Stir it up,’ and from the
atoning ‘Bird on the wire’ to the bootylicious, lambada flavoured ‘Llorande se fue’! It is a
very cheerful, uplifting, sunny album, but there is also poignant moon magic and fragrant
flower essence in it! Asher sings three songs in French, Hungarian & Spanish, for good
Comments about Asher