Monday, June 14, 2021
These days it seems nothing shocks us anymore. Still, good surprises are always welcome. Seasoned recording artist Michael Whalen’s newly released album of all original compositions is like opening a box of good and fun surprises.
Michael’s impressive, time-tested, and multi-faceted career in music, and his impactful contribution to the industry as composer, producer, Emmy Award winner, pianist extraordinaire including but not limited to his early new age compositions for labels such as Narada and Windham Hill are extensively and favorably written about in countless outlets and websites of many reviewers and publications. His music and interviews are featured on a wide variety of platforms.
In his latest recording creatively titled Future Shock, perhaps his most ambitious project to date, Michael pushes the boundaries of musical experimentation and challenges us to expand our vision beyond the confines of genre classification taking us into many spherical directions.
Future Shock is an energetic and uplifting wild menagerie of funk, jazz fusion, world, techno, instrumental jazz and nu-jazz with transitional elements of 70’s progressive rock. The album has an edgy, celebratory feel throughout, like a live outdoor festival concert.
For the project’s synergistic style and sound, Michael, who plays all keyboards, synthesizers, and electronic percussion on the album, assembled a fantastic team of incredibly talented and accomplished musicians, such as Bob Magnuson who lends his unique expressions on Saxophones, flute and shehnai, Simon Phillips, with incredible performances on drums and additional percussion, and Tony Levin sharing his outstanding talents on guitar, electric and upright Bases and Chapman Stick. Michael composed, arranged, programmed, and mixed all the tracks on the album.
The album kicks off with a blast as Michael takes the listener on a time-warp through musical styles. Starting the title track, he cleverly weaves a neon tapestry of psychedelic synth sounds and futuristic rhythms against a fluorescent backdrop of explosive drum work and base creating a blend of psychedelia elements reminiscent of the 60’-70’s rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer whose influence Michael credits with inspiration. For me it also recalled the sound of Metro, an early 1990’s jazz-fusion band co-founded by the late great Chuck Loeb, one of my favorite jazz artists who incidentally was also a member of the 80’s group Steps Ahead which Michael mentions in his overview of the album as being an influence in his love of fusion.
The party continues with a funky rhythm in “Hop, Skip and Jump” as Whalen’s “groove-based” synth arrangements, Magnuson’s saxophone versatility and Phillips’ drum intensity masterfully conspire to blur the line between jazz and rock.
You will want to move to the breezy Latin rhythm of “La Hermosa Noche” the album’s third track, a very warm and spicy improvisation with a festive, bohemian feel. I found this cut as well as the fifth track “Memories of You” incredibly beautiful and almost reminiscent of some of The Rippingtons’ Latin-infused songs like “One Summer Night in Brazil.”
“Lights of Home” creates a sense of yearning for the familiar. This beautiful gem seems to emphasize lyrics are not needed as its slow, emotive saxophone-encased ballad and exquisite crystal-clear piano brilliance allow the melody to carry the imagination to its desired destination.
The pace heats up again as “Poly Jam” transports us back to the “trippy” side of things with its seemingly, disparate elements of sound, synthesizers, and deep-toned bass. Heavy drums drive the piece as a mystifying, sultry saxophone introduced at the end brings a sort of down-tempo calm to the finale.
Other positive mood-enhancers on the album are “Miracle Mile” with its lively tropical, smooth jazz vibes, and “Morning Song” with its cheerful tune creates a bright place of contentment, while “Wanderlust” is enjoyably fast-paced and dynamic, with elaborate chord progressions and full of fantastic busy rhythms that will have you toe-tapping in no time.
Beautiful saxophone and piano come together in the album’s last song “Your Eyes, Your Touch, Your Kiss” breathing romance and desire into its powerfully seductive, sexy, and hypnotic melody. It features repetitive notes throughout sprinkled with spicy saxophone segments, while a sublimely played, multi-layered bluesy piano builds climactic impetus then politely allows the sax to lead us softly to our reverie’s end with a feeling of sweet surrender.
Future Shock is like a time-warp of musical styles and sound; a surefire way to uplift your day no matter what may be happening around you.
If you are new to Michael’s music, I would like to recommend you go to his website where you can find more information on his background, recordings, and projects.
~Lissette Cascante for Journeyscapes Radio
Future Shock is also available at Amazon, iTunes and more.
Thursday, June 3, 2021
Acclaimed composer and recording artist Kelly Andrew has received world-wide recognition and prestigious awards for his numerous compositions in various genres and styles ranging from EDM, world, pop, jazz, contemporary instrumental, to epic orchestral music for TV and Film movie trailers. It is obvious that Andrew enjoys influencing listeners around the world with his musical creations. His previous 5 albums Olympus, Reflections, Epoch Dawn, Journey, and Rendezvous showcased his musicianship and elicited rave reviews from listeners of many backgrounds.
With great anticipation I awaited the release of his new album Revelation which was several years in the making. The album release was worth the wait as the music captivated and engaged me from the start. For me, the listening experience took me to worlds within our world.
Revelation is like watching a movie, except in this movie you get to be the star. It is an expedition of the senses and the soul to a place or places you imagine, with the composer, Andrew, as our guide and director. The purpose of the journey is unique to each individual.
“Revelation” opens slowly, as if preparing the listener for the story that is about to unfold; building intensity as the listener’s journey begins. Symphonic orchestrations and strong vocals throughout allow the listener to create their own experience. The clever song titles reveal clues of what we might encounter along the way. The third track “Spark of Life” offers a fantasy-like scene infused with dramatic sequences while the fourth track exudes compassion for “Humanity” and all its complexities. A flute comes in unexpectedly, drums and percussion convey a sense of wonder and discovery as indigenous sounds and vocals interspersed serve to bring our picture into focus.
Dramatic and suspenseful scenes unfold in tracks like “Escape”, “Manifesto”, “Material Sons”, “Sage of Salem”, and "Rebellion" with its defiant electronic infused sounds, conjure up images of dangerous encounters, battles for survival, enduring hardships, strange lands, friendship and larger than life beings.
“Onagar”, with its beautiful introduction, has an almost ambient-like, world sensation. Native flute and drums transport us to faraway lands, as we trace the footsteps of past civilizations. While “Arrival” implied for me a sort of cave-like environment with its mysterious echoes and vibrations which lead to a more aggressive and excited crescendo of wind and stringed instruments, powerful drums, and a dramatic, “cliffhanger” ending.
Flute, harp, cello, quiet strings, and soft waltz rhythms in "Days of Van", invite us to rest after the battle, and regain our strength. As we continue our solitary sojourn we discover “The Garden”; an exquisite blend of vocals and orchestral instruments creates a magical moment where light and hope meet and kiss.
“Regret” begins with a haunting, sprinting piano melody which builds up powerfully with choirs and strings. High-pitched vocals convey inner torment with strings and drums supporting the emotions giving way to ultimate surrender. “Veil of Tears” is a short but sad, slow piano melody, enhanced by beautiful string arrangements as symbolic piano “tears” heal the soul.
“Samaria” is my favorite track on the album. This magnificent piece begins with an ethereal but earthy sound experience as a transporting, melancholy, duduk-led melody challenges our emotions and speaks to our innermost passions.
We arrive at our final destination with “Divine Embrace”. Reconciling with the past present and future. Discovering the truth of our existence, embracing the Divine and finding true peace.
A musical masterpiece for the inquisitive and adventurous imagination…
~Lissette Cascante for Journeyscapes Radio