East of the Moon
1999 / Decca Records/Universal Classics
Review by Kathy Parsons
This long-awaited new release from pianist David Lanz is a delight from start to finish. From the opening strains of the exuberant “The Green Man” to the pure poetry of the closing track, “The Visitor”, East of the Moon features a full spectrum of Lanz’ playing and composing styles - and what a wonderful ride it is! The first seven tracks of the album are based on mythology and personal experiences, and have a more pop/rock feel than the six-part “World at Peace” which is more of a concerto for piano and orchestra. Producer Hugh Padgham suggested recording the album live rather than in layers, a proposal that was both daunting and exciting for Lanz. The resulting recording very successfully captures the freshness and spontaneity of a concert performance with the polish of a studio recording. Recorded in Great Britain in early 1999, Lanz included some great English studio musicians, and his frequent guest artist, Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum, appears on three tracks. Dave Heath’s flute and piccolo add ebullience, as do Gerald Fahy’s Ullieann pipes.
I absolutely love “The Green Man”, a tribute to an ancient pagan symbol of birth and creativity. This joyful piece all but bubbles over. Dave Heath’s piccolo adds a sprightly buoyance, and it’s impossible to sit still while listening to this piece. “Dancing With Dionysos” is also an intoxicating romp (the mischievous glissando in the middle is a great touch!), full of fun and life. Lanz’ original work hasn’t been this upbeat since Skyline Firedance, and I welcome back this energetic side of his creativity.“Chasing Aphrodite” is classic Lanz with mostly live musicians (as opposed to synth only), giving a warmth and richness often missing in sythnthesized accompaniments. The title cut has a somewhat otherworldly feeling, describing the place where The Green Man lives (“just west of the stars and east of the moon”). “On the Edge of a Dream” quiets the mood to a peaceful state between waking and dreaming, not quite sure of where we are. “And Time Stood Still” is one of my favorites - a reflective and pensive piece created in the mental state where the passage of time is unconscious. Matthew Fisher’s Hammond organ adds interesting color to this mostly piano piece.
“World at Peace” is the “soundtrack to David’s vision of our planet. In development for a number of years, it opens with the “Declaration Overture”, where an imagined historic gathering of world leaders has taken place to sign “The Declaration of World Peace”. The grandeur and majesty of this piece reflects how momentous such an event would be. My favorite part of this work is the second movement, “Prayer for Peace”, with its lyrical bass arpeggios and gentle melody. All six parts of “World at Peace” are very classical and fully orchestrated. Each section moves through time, welcoming “a new universal spirit of cooperation” and the resulting advancements and improvements in the environment and society as a whole. “World at Peace” was a huge project, and the results are breathtaking.
The final track, “The Visitor” is another favorite. Its simplicity and grace are at once touching and haunting, telling the story of an unseen “visitor” gently coaxing it into being. This is a truly peaceful close to an exceptional work.
Along with the universal themes running through this album, David Lanz successfully breaks down the artificial boundaries that pigeon-hole music into “types”. There are elements of rock in the rhythms and energy of several of the pieces, classical forms in the construction and scale of others, folk traditions, new age characteristics (whatever they are), and good old story-telling all blended together to make a warm and cohesive whole that should speak to a universal audience, an artistic goal that Lanz expressed when we did an interview in ‘98. I hope the world is ready to listen!
September 9, 1999