Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Grand Piano

Various Narada Artists

Narada Records

  1997

 

 

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There is much to be said about these Narada Compilation CDs. They represent excellent value for money, and this product contains no fewer than twenty-two tracks on two CDs. Together with its companion CD, "20 Years of Narada Piano", this CD showcases some of the finest music that Narada has produced over the past twenty-five years or so. It amply demonstrates what a force it once was in the New Age piano world. Thank goodness for memories like these.

Indeed, there is an argument for snapping up this album while you can as, due to the cruel world of economics and shifting changes of taste, Narada as we remember it is no more. CDs like this one are a thing of the past, which make the contents even more special to the discerning listener.

The first CD opens with the very beautiful "Prelude: First Snow" from popular label member Michael Gettel. It is an unusually restrained piece from Michael- successfully capturing the softness of early snowfall. The notes twinkle like stars. Track 2 is an offering from the extremely popular David Lanz. "Summer's Child" is taken from his much acclaimed "Cristofori's Dream" album. It borders on soft jazz in parts, but is a pretty piece nevertheless. I think an English Horn is used in parts. Spencer Brewer's "Portraits" from the album of the same name, has a catchy melody, and is very easy-going- perfect for late-night listening. A personal favourite, "Song for Eia" by Michael Jones is the first CD's fourth track. At 8 minutes and 49 seconds, this is some five minutes shorter than its original incarnation. A pity that Narada decided to edit this piece, as one cannot help but feel the Canadian's pianist's full story has not been told fully here. The track itself is tremendous (see the Sunscapes CD Review for a detailed analysis and history of this particular track). Wayne Gratz tracks are normally very easy to listen to, and this sixth track is no exception. "A Gift From the Sea"-from the album of the same name- is very beautiful and relaxing in equal measure. Another favourite! It also features cello.

Michael Gettel can do no wrong in my book, and he makes his second appearance in the album's sixth track, with "Gentle Earth and Sky". As soothing as the title suggests, this is one to lie back, close your eyes and slowly drift away to. "Heartsounds", from the album of the same name, is an excellent and joyful piece of music by David Lanz. It has the "feel-good" factor written all over it. Track 8, "For You", by Russian pianist Kostia (from the album 10 Pebbles), is another piece that is incredibly relaxing. Kostia's work has a classical feel to it, and one cannot help but admire his considerable technique.

The CD's penultimate track, "The Teacher", by Brian Mann, is taken from an earlier compilation, also reviewed on these pages- "Piano Solos". Very popular on its original release in 1992, this track slowly builds up until the teacher finally snaps and blows his or her top! Very melodic, and the "explosion" of keys is a real surprise! Pity the poor child!!! The suitably titled "Farewell", another offering from Kostia, closes the first CD, and is yet another highlight on a CD brimming with magical tracks. Quiet and reflective- almost mournful at its opening, the piece becomes more positive and "happier" as it develops. A lovely way to close the CD.

On the CD's second disc, Michael Jones opens up proceedings with the very lovely "Mexican Memories". I read somewhere that Michael had never actually been to Mexico, but the inspiration came from what he envisaged the country to actually be like. This piece follows Michael's tried and tested formula of twinkling solo-piano, guaranteed to leave the listener relaxed and rejuvenated. Another piece I enjoy is the third track, "Courage of the Wind" by David Lanz. David is extremely popular in the United States, and his piano solos are very easy to listen to. Undemanding and perfect chill-out music. The excellent run continues with the next track, "Blue Ridge, Part 2". This is not solo-piano, and features a number of different instruments, principally guitar with the piano. But what a lovely melody from Wayne Gratz, and it is easy to see why this is regarded as one of Wayne's best pieces. "The Lost Roundup" (Track 6) by Richard Souther, has grown on me over time. The synth washes, which I disliked at first, probably do add that extra little something to this very short track.

If there was any doubt about the popularity of Michael Jones, it must be dispelled with the third appearance from the Canadian pianist on this compilation CD. Here the offering is "Aspen Summer" from the highly regarded "After the Rain" album. The combination of piano and David Darling's cello works beautifully.

With twenty-two tracks, totaling almost two hours' worth of piano music, this double CD really does represent excellent value for money. Very highly recommended!

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Piano: Narada Anniversary ...

Grand Piano

Narada Anniversary Collection

Various Narada Artists

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narada Records