New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Review by THE GROUCH
If you have been reading my reviews you may remember a review I did for Reflections of Love which is a single by Les Fradkin. If you do, you remember that Reflections of Love is the first 'New Age' track I have reviewed. You may also remember that I would not consider myself a New Age type of guy, although the idea of space creatures coming to earth and visiting us does sound pretty cool. (Well, the hot alien chicks Kirk was always making out with on the original Star Trek would be cool, I have no desire to meet a giant space roach.) I digress...I was ADHD back when teachers just called you a pain in the neck.
You may also recall that once upon a time I turned my punk rock nose up at Country music. T for Texas, T for Turn It Off was my mantra. Then I heard Hank 3. The bottom line is Hank changed my mind about Country music. When taken on its own terms, Country can actually rock, albeit in a hillbilly sort of way. The same can be said for Les Fradkin. Les turned me on to the idea that New Age music isn't just about poor personal hygiene and eating hummus, it is, well, music and some of it is quite good.
With that in mind, when the good folks at Bongo Boy asked me if I would review a new compilation New Age album of theirs entitled Escape The Mind, I said "Yes, as long as I don't have to eat any funky organic bean spreads on some equally funky whole grain unleavened bread." They assured me that the bean spread and bread was optional.
Track 1 - Healing Temple - Robert Slap 6:02 - This track starts out like the beginning of a 3D space movie at Disney world. In other words, it gets my attention. I liked the drone in the background and the little crystal like sounds seem to be put there to amuse the...altered. Now, I can't say that I feel like I have visited a Healing Temple, but what I can say it that this track provides enough unexpected twists and turns that my constantly racing mind is forced to slow down. Well done Robert, you have not only acquired and managed to keep my attention, you have done so in a very enjoyable way
Track 2 - Traces - Deborah Henriksson 2:27 - The first thing I noticed about this track was the deep bottom that kicks off the song. Then just as I was trying to figure out where the track was going Deborah came in with the vocals. Folks, I am a sucker for a really good voice and Deborah has a really good voice! It is a pity this track is only 2:27 long, as I would really like to have heard more of her voice.
Track 3 - Sanctuary For The Soul - Janice Lacy Project 3:47 - The first thing that hits the listener is the piano. The a violin (or perhaps a viola?) comes in. Man, I love stringed instruments. This track starts to groove. The piano and the strings play back and fourth in what I can only describe as a battle for the listener's emotions. Just when the piano has your full attention, the violin comes back as if to say "Not so fast Jack, dig this!" The emotion and raw power in this tune could tame a crowd of wild bikers. I really like this song!
Track 4 - Wings Of Grace
- Tom Baker 4:49 - Tom starts off with what, to me, sounds like an attempt to contact extraterrestrial life forms. Then a string like sound gets my attention while a harp like sound bounces around. (I am not sure, but I have the suspicion that these sounds are made on a synthesizer.) The end result of all of this is that I find myself wondering what sound is going to pop out next. I then start thinking what I would add to the song. I have been told I tend to be on the silly side sometimes, so I start thinking a dog bark would be really cool in this song. A new sound pops up and I am back to paying attention to Tom's music. All in all, I enjoyed this song. It makes me feel so...creative.
Track 5 - Bloom - Matthew Mayer 3:26 - Matthew starts out with some very pretty keyboards. I like keyboards, so I am pretty content. This is the kind of music I would like to listen to if I had to travel over a steep mountain pass in the winter - that is, this music is serene. (Having traveled over a steep mountain pass in the dead of winter, I can tell you the Pixies
are not a good musical choice for driving in such hazardous conditions.) For the record, Matthew, next winter when I am forced to traverse Teton Pass in blizzard like conditions, you music is going with me!
Track 6 - Soulscape -Deborah Henriksson 3:14 - Deborah is back with another track. This track has a heavy jazz vibe. I hate all Jazz players. No, no, not really I simply envy them because every jazz musician I can think of is, at least technically, a much better musician than I am. I say technically because being able to switch time signatures on a dime does not account for some of the more difficult to measure aspects of music, for example soul. That folks, is where Deborah's vocals come in. Simply put she puts the Soul in Soulscape. Without her pipes, this would be just another jazz track, impressive as that might be, with her vocals however, this track morphs into something that will make your spine tingle. Deborah, I am becoming a fan!
Track 7 - Sahara
- Robert Slap 4:09 - The Slap attack is back, this time the listener is hit with some energetic keyboards which are soon joined by a funky beat. While the frenzy is going on a soothing long note or two from a synthesizer come over the top. This is interrupted by a short guitar like squeal which is in turn interrupted by the calming whole notes from the synthesizer. Then for a brief moment a synth bass pops in. Oh time for the guitar like sound again and a tambourine? Robert, you definitely hold my attention and that is not easy! What is even better than holding my attention is that you manage to do so in a way that is pleasing to the ear.
Track 8 - Maroon Highlands - Charles Brown - I like the way this song begins with the guitar and odd percussion. The intro gives way to some pretty quick chords backed by the clack clack of some sticks. This is all the background for some horn like sounds that dance to and fro over the top while some keyboard sounds soothingly glide underneath. Charles has managed to create a very pretty song.
Track 9 - Finding You - Lynn Yew Evers 3:50 - Lynn starts out with some nice piano. I am enjoying this. I am feeling the emotion. There is sadness in this song. Just when I thought the entire track was going to be a piano solo, I hear a haunting voice come in. The voice is followed by an equally melancholy horn. Of course, emotions are in the ear of the listener, so it could be that to Lynn this is a song of joy. Personally, I am not picking up on anything other than despair.
In any case, I must say well done! Any time music can pull as much emotion out of a listener as this track pulled out of me, the artist has created something extraordinary.
Track 10 - No Secrets
- Rob Mullins 4:23 - Rob, too, starts off with some piano. Unlike the previous track this song seems joyful, almost playful. I find myself smiling. I can almost hear the smile on Rob's face as I notice some notes that tell me he could easily let rip with a blues based jam if he so chose. Rob is just having a lot of fun and I am glad to be along for the ride. Rob, I admire your skills and have enjoyed your music.
Track 11 - Full Moon - Janice Lacy Project 3:23 - The listener is hit with a blast of soft yet soulful keys. There is a little sparkle that pops in and out on top of the keyboard as the drums come in and pick up an intense minimalistic beat. There is a bass here too. The bass and the drums lock in and go on what I like to think of as a George
Benson Jam, that is they are rocking in a very laid back yet solid way. The star of this track is beyond a doubt the piano, which is played very well.
Track 12 - Yangon ft. DJ K-LA - STEEL 3:50 - This track is different! I like it. The guitar in the beginning is interesting and the funky beat has my attention. What really makes me sit up and listen is the hissing vocals that whisper something that sounds like "You're gone." When I say hissing that is what I mean, it sounds to me like the snake from the second Harry Potter movie, the one only Harry could hear. (I have nine year old twins and Harry is big in our house.)
Aside from the somewhat evil sounding vocals I am impressed by the runs that come around every few bars. This man can play guitar! This track seems to represent the Dark Side of New Age, and I think it rocks! I have to say this is my favorite track on the album. Well done guys!
Track 13 - New Horizons - Pamela
Davis 4:24 - We are back in the white light with a cheery track from Pamela
Davis. The music is just so joyful. I find myself grooving with the bass as the other guitars pluck away at high notes in what comes together as a waterfall of happiness.
All in all this is a very enjoyable song.
So folks, what is the bottom line? The bottom line is if you are in to New Age, you will enjoy this album. If you like me, had always scoffed at New Age, give this album a listen, it just may change your mind. This album is filled with good music that does indeed provide an escape for your mind.
The Grouch from Sweden
Artist Web Site: https://bongoboyrecords.com/escape-the-mind/
Label Web Site: http://www.bongoboyrecords.com/
Like: Yanni, Enya, Jean Michel Jarre