Brian Crain and The BC String Ensemble
2004 / Crain Records
Review by Michael Debbage
One of the surprises of 2003 as a reviewer was the first exposure to the piano work of Brian Crain and his graceful release Sienna. With a total of nine available albums to his name it appeared that now was a good time to reflect on his catalog. Rather than just cut and paste the compilation together, Crain decided to re-record his compositions and add a string quartet along with some very nominal percussion embellishments.
The album clocks in close to one hour with a total of 17 tracks with the lion share spotlighting the most recent recording Sienna with a total of six tracks. Considering the previous work of Sienna all the tracks representing this album are a wonderful addition here. To avoid replication the Brian Crain Live is not represented and nor is the thematic A Traditional Christmas. Oddly enough, the same is said for A Change of Seasons and Morning Light. But to counteract that oversight the compilation features the tracks "Sunrise" and "Gentle Rain" that were previously featured on the now out of print album A Light In The Trees. In fact "Sunrise" is strong enough to open the album and if this reflects the overall quality of A Light In The Trees then perhaps a revisit to the "print room" may be in line to make this album available once more.
Meanwhile, the remaining albums are given equal billing with an emphasis of the strings being found on the passionate tracks "Moonrise", "Flight of the Eagle", "White Dove" and the fluid finale "Fly Away". But then again this is just indicative of most of Crain's compositional talents one that in general has been mysteriously overlooked by the music industry to date.
This album is not only a wonderful addition to Crain's long term fans but it is also an excellent introduction for newcomers to check out this palatable piano man. While Crain's keyboard embellished string arrangements have always been warm; the classy and cozy use of a string quartet only intensifies the beauty of Crain's compositions. Based on the evidence here, this an avenue that should be seriously continued.
January 1, 2004
Review by Kathy Parsons