The Journey Continues
2003 / Robbins Island Music
Review by Michael Debbage
The magical world of movies has a knack [for] exploring sequels. There is the beauty and beast effect when taking this pathway. The creative beauty allows the viewers to see the continued growth of its characters. The beastly aspect of this exploration is the Hollywood exploitation of an almost guaranteed return on its investment with no regard for its creative progression that usually sees diminishing returns. Bradley Joseph has decided to walk this tightrope by following up with Solo Journey that was released back in 2000. I am glad to report that The Journey Continues is entrenched in beauty, holding up well to its predecessor.
It was the year 1997 and New Age music had already peaked commercially as the interest and exposure seemed to lag. The genres main labels - Narada, Windham Music and Higher Octave - were beginning to explore worldly themes versus the warm, earthly, acoustic themes that prior artists had established. It appeared that the abundance of new artists was becoming a dying breed. An exception to the rule was Bradley Joseph, who released his first mainstream album The Rapture to glorious reviews, and to this day [it] remains his tour de force. Combining smooth jazz with contemporary instrumental themes The Rapture was my introduction to Bradley Joseph. Six years later, Rapture continues to be one of my favorite instrumental albums.
Since then, Bradley Joseph has released several interesting projects. They have included the well received dreamy One Deep Breath as well as the ambitious yet mixed results of Christmas Around The World. The bookends to these projects would be the Journey saga. Though stripped back and basic, the key to the success of both Solo Journey and The Journey Continues is the propensity Joseph has in composing fine melodies. Both albums have irrefutable relaxing values, which is the goal of the artist. But this does not come at the expense of the songs being plain and boring. There is color in the songs via their understated melodies.
Simple and classy, this album features Joseph and his piano with no additional clutter. And the journey begins with "The Road Ahead." Joseph uses a chord progression that translates into a strolling rhythm. It sent me off to a meandering countryside road bordered with luscious stately oak trees, shading the road but allowing the golden sun to flicker through. One strength of Bradley Joseph as an artist has been his keen ability to write inspiring music with appropriately titled songs that express that thought non-verbally. Don't believe me yet? Skip forward to "An Ocean Above" where Joseph once again uses a slower cadence that brings to mind a dancing but gentle ocean washing over your skin.
One thing I noticed about the album was the heavy use of the upper register of the piano. Thus it was great to hear a richer more robust sound on "In The Heart Of Everyone" that used the lower keys of the ivory. "The Stranger Within" also presented a nice variety. The lengthiest track on the album, the seven-minute track allows for a greater search of more melancholy and moody themes. Nevertheless, a solid musical exploration.
Quite the opposite can be heard via the optimistic and light hearted "A Light From Home." More the same can be heard courtesy of "Away From The World" which I am sure is the desire of many of us when our lives are so chaotic. The confidant "Within A Painting" has Joseph fluttering on the piano improvising much like his peer Michael Jones.
There is no doubting that Bradley Joseph holds up the legacy of Solo Journey in fine fashion. There are no diminishing returns here, just attributes of elegance, grace and beauty. That said, The Journey Continues has a wonderfully calming effect that will blissfully wash away your cares and concerns.
December 15, 2003