Label: Michael Whalen Music
I have covered my share of Michael Whalen’s work but I was in no way prepared to hear Future Shock. This is because everything I have heard to date was new age flavored instrumental music. I took one look at the lineup on this recording and I knew it was going to be entirely different. It is the rhythm section that told the tale, Tony Levin (electric & upright basses, Chapman stick) and Simon Phillips (drums & additional percussion). This is a combination that stands with any of the best in the world. Then you have Bob Magnuson (saxophones, flute & shehnai) for that jazz fusion touch and of course Michael leading the way with a multitude of synthesizers, keyboards, electronic percussion & programming. I have to give the nod to Tom Eaton for another brilliant job with the mastering. What do you have at the end without that meticulous mastering process to show the music in its proper light to be enjoyed fully by a listening audience? That is the final touch that is always needed to solidify the tracks and make the flow cohesive, crisp, and perfect on the EQ.
The title track kicks things into high gear right out of the gate with Michael coming at you full blast and some high-energy gyrations on the keys. It is the perfect way to open the album and sets a high standard moving forward, which by the way I had all the confidence the excellence would continue.
“La Hermosa Noche” is a Latin-flavored track that gave me some memories of Chick Corea (who passed recently) and Al DiMeola’s earlier solo work. That is the highest compliment I could give to Michael. This is jazz fusion at its very best and I loved it. I especially appreciate the Latin influence that gives the number some extra spice and flavor which in turn gets smoothed out with some nice flute from Magnuson. All of it intermingles for an eclectic mix of stylings and it is all done very tastefully.
That track gets your juices and energy flowing as your invited to slip into the easy chair of some smooth jazz on “Lights Of Home.” This is the quiet storm that soothes the soul where you can find all kinds of gems all over the track. Short interjections of synths, smooth as silk sax, and an in-sync rhythm section that sets the foundation so all of it can just glide seamlessly over the top and evolve as the track continues. It’s time to indulge in the sounds like you would savor a delicious piece of chocolate you have been craving all day. It does the trick, sets you straight, and gets you primed for the next track.
“Memories Of You” gives more of a role to the sax and yet another nice lead-in. It picks up the groove and ebbs and tides like the seas that surround our lands. It can be the nature of flowing waters or the human condition that it pays homage to. Whatever and wherever it fits, this music can mold and shape your feelings and thoughts as you jump in and go for a ride into some more contemporary sounds with Levin’s bass laying down a funky groove for all to follow. The track does go through several changes and that is what makes it so good, with all its various colors and energies coalescing into one functional breathing musical being. Did hear some David Sanborn or Tom Scott on that sax in the back of my mind? So again, I get some great memories of the jazz giants at work shaping my tastes and opening my musical vistas back in the 80s. It’s always fun when you have those triggers deeply embedded in your soul and great music flips that switch and makes you smile inside.
Now for another complete step away from the last track comes “Poly Jam.” It starts like a real prog rocker, something that Rick Wakeman or Jordan Rudess would come up with. The keyboards are magnificent on this piece. I know Keith Emerson is smiling in heaven now after hearing this. There are some slower interludes where the rhythm section is clear and crisp and the sax gets introduced once again. Altogether this was a jazz-rock-fusion home run from start to finish. Similarly, “Wanderlust” rocks with some outstanding keyboards and overall contributions of sounds and textures. Those are my two favorite tracks. While they are all good, I found my senses aroused and my energy restored to the level I am accustomed to after hearing those two tracks.
Those kinds of changes and different styles, paces, and approaches are commonplace amongst the ten tracks offered on Future Shock. After grooving to all the music, you are left with some of the cover art and the title of the album. You go from smooth jazz, fusion, rock, Latin, or all of the above coming together in one track. The creativity is at a very high level on every track and Michael composed arranged produced and mixed it all. I love the originality and energy that went into this project and he could not have chosen better partners to compliment all of his songs.
Michael Whalen has created an excellent album and it will come as no shock (no pun intended) to his listeners that Future Shock will be one of the best releases you hear in 2021. This is our healing year people and music will once again lead the way and bring some normalcy back into our lives.
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-MuzikMan.net Founder
April 23, 2021
01. Future Shock
02. Hop, Skip And Jump
03. La Hermosa Noche
04. Lights Of Home
05. Memories Of You
06. Poly Jam
07. MIracle Mile
08. Morning Song
10. Your Eyes, Your Touch, Your Kiss