Showing posts with label Michael Whalen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Whalen. Show all posts

4/23/2021

Fusion/Contemporary Jazz Review: Michael Whalen-Future Shock

Release Date:
April 23, 2021

Label: Michael Whalen Music

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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

Tracks:

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
09. Wanderlust
10. Your Eyes, Your Touch, Your Kiss

7/07/2019

Instrumental Piano/New Age Review: Michael Whalen-Cupid Blindfolded

Release Date: July 12, 2019
Label: Real Music

There is nothing better than an instrumental piano recording when you need to relax. I hear a lot of this music all year long and never tire of it because of the multitude of value it provides. It can offer total relaxation during a quiet time you have every day or evening, or provide beneficial focus and help you clear a cluttered mind, or simply invite you into a meditative state.

My introduction to Michael’s music was the 2018 release Kiss The Quiet. I thought that was an ingenious title for the recording and it fit the music like well-worn jeans. I think we have the same instance with the newest edition to his catalog, Cupid Blindfolded.

An artist like Michael Whalen is at the forefront of the Instrumental New Age/Piano genre. You have to be on top of your game to compete with similar artists and capture the imagination of the listeners.

For me, the first thing I take a good look at is the album cover. With the title being Cupid Blindfolded, that is the first thing you see. It is nothing that makes you think too hard or plays tricks on your eyes. Sometimes that is appropriate and is just right for the music, in this case, that is a perfect match.

Cupid may be blindfolded but if she opens her eyes, she can see through the thin red veil that is wrapped around her head. That is a clue as far as I am concerned. People, in general, may have a “veil” of some sort over their eyes but all it takes is for them to open their eyes to see right through it, right? This is a conceptual frame of mind I am coming from. Music and images tell a story and I have found that if there are no words set to the music, it can still relay a powerful message. As I always say, it is up to each listener to decide what the music means to them or could mean to them at first glance of the image.

Cupid Blindfolded is 10 tracks of exceptional solo instrumental piano music. The album has a steady flow to it, like a river after it rains, it moves right along with that sort of momentum. Each melody intrinsically connects to the next one, like mother nature at work in a musical sense of the word.

Talented ivory ticklers like Michael Whalen should have ample opportunities to license their music for a multitude of areas including soundtracks for commercials, documentaries, etc. I do want to stress that this music is first and foremost for a listener to enjoy any time of day or evening, and course the previously mentioned uses it can afford.

Cupid Blindfolded is an excellent group of tracks and it went by much too fast for me. When an album is really good and it catches my ear, it has a strong meaning for me personally. And that is the way it works and that’s a good thing!

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
July 5, 2019
 
Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks: 
01. Cupid Blindfolded
02. All of My Heart All of My Soul
03. Reflection of My Affection
04. Sunrise in the Desert
05. The Muse
06. At the Touch of a Lover
07. Standing in the Rain
08. Serendipity
09. Isle of Skye
10. City of Lights




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