2003 / Crain Records
Review by Michael Debbage
One of the benefits of reviewing is that you are exposed to artists that you may have never heard of. And every now and then they turn out to be a hidden treasure. Brian Crain is one of those gems. Simple, sweet, serene and yet seductive, the music of Brian Crane is the perfect synonym for the word romance. Built around soothing melodic piano instrumentation colored with just the right balance of synthesized string arrangements the music is more than just memorable.
Crain is a native Californian who has released a total of 8 albums that also include a live and Christmas project. His website states that he has sold over 100,000 copies, which would not surprise me considering the level of quality heard here. Unfortunately, the way the music business is set up many viable musical outlets such as gift stores are not monitored by Soundscan. In fact, the reason that this reviewer found out about this artist was courtesy of a fellow reviewer's website. Yes, the Internet can be a wonderful place.
Apparently this disc was recorded around the inspiration of a trip to Italy and there is no doubting the compositions mirror the beauty of the country. Comparable is the level of workmanship with Crain completing all the composing, producing and even the artwork on the front cover. Okay, so the latter is not inspirational but quite the contrary when it comes to the moving musical experience.
Most of the songs fall in the vernacular of Yanni's "unplugged" project In My Time that was released back in 1993. With a total of 13 tracks, they average around 3 to 4 minutes each, largely revolving around an inspiring chorus. Though the greater focus is pure piano instrumentation, the songs are countered and colored with keyboard based string arrangements giving it a quartet quality.
Strangely, Crain avoids the perils of making the string arrangements sound manufactured and is even successful in creating some grand orchestration. This is best found on "Crimson Sky," which opens with some very mild ivory tinkering. But do not let the introduction fool you as Crain builds progressively with repeated visits to the chorus adding mild string arrangements and eventually bold orchestration without overwhelming the listener. We even hear hints of percussion though this is largely avoided throughout the project allowing Crain to focus more on the serene than the bombastic.
Equally as dramatic is "The Garden Gate," which follows a similar progression as does "Eclipse Of The Moon." However, even during the more peaceful moments, the reflective approach is just as inspiring. Best example of such is "The Secret Letter" that has a more classical approach along with a very effective use of minor chords bringing to mind fellow pianist Craig Urquhart. Or perhaps the melancholy "After Sunset" that concludes the album. Otherwise, the songs fall somewhere in between, such as the waltzing opening track "Song For Sienna," "Midnight Blue," or the inspirational "At First Light" which reflects the stirrings of a new day.
Brian Crain’s two prior projects A Simple Life and Inside The Melody confirm that Crain is a viable artist very capable of consistent compositions that are both moving and reflective. However, of the three heard, Sienna is no doubt his most adventurous project to date. Via Italia!
January 1, 2003
Review by Kathy Parsons