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Album Review: Mandala
Eric Bikales
Cover image of the album Mandala by Eric Bikales
Eric Bikales
2020 / Libido Music
46 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Mandala is an inspiring 12-track instrumental album by pianist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Eric Bikales. Each piece was titled for its namesake truth and each is a lesson in humanity and love. Eric explains it best: “This record is my response to the state we are now in, with a universal message that defies politics and all else, I hope. It's a non-denominational, non-political reminder of who we all are and what hopefully, is a collection of our better qualities.” One of the surprising things about this album is that Eric plays all of the instruments except drums on one track. Those instruments include bass, alto and C flutes, melodica, sound design, B3 organ, and an impressive assortment of synthesizers and electric pianos. The album was recorded in Eric’s home studio in Tennessee with the hope that “Mandala will be your companion for meditation, spiritual guidance, and love.” (quoted from the liner notes of the album.)

Eric Bikales has toured, recorded and composed for a jaw-dropping list of A-list performers and groups, and has developed a very eclectic composing style. He spent more than 30 years in Los Angeles, composing music for television and films as well as touring and doing session work, all the while studying and practicing. He moved to Nashville in 2006 to finish his composition degree at Belmont University and refocused on the piano. He is also an online instructor for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and has authored several courses on music theory, arranging and film scoring.

The twelve truths that became the titles of the pieces are Generosity, Kindness, Honesty, Love, Compassion, Charity, Forgiveness, Devotion, Resourcefulness, Humility, Respect and Serenity. It is interesting to think about what those qualities would sound like and Bikales’ interpretations feel very comfortable and fitting. “Generosity” opens the album with a very light and open jazz style. “Kindness” is slower and very graceful with piano, keyboard and strings - very easy-going and welcoming. “Honesty” features bass and alto flutes, light jazzy percussion, strings and other background instruments. The melody is simple and pure, creating a feeling of openness and transparency. The happy and lighthearted “Love” has flute in the lead with keyboards, strings and percussion backing it - very smooth and gentle. “Compassion” also features flute and keyboards, adding a catchy rhythm track near the middle - expansive and easy-going. “Charity” is piano-centered with some beautiful acoustic guitar and synth accompaniment - a favorite! “Resourcefulness” is more orchestrated behind flute, melodica, organ and an easy, swaying jazz rhythm. As its title suggests, “Humility” is not showy or flashy. Guitar, piano/keyboards and some light accompaniment create a beautifully simple piece that warms the heart. “Respect” is one of the more up-tempo pieces, but has no relation (other than the title) to the Aretha Franklin classic. A strong jazz rhythm and catchy organ and piano mix with background instrumentation to create a lively toe-tapper sure to bring a smile. “Serenity” closes the album with piano, organ and guitar, and features Lang Bliss on drums. The piece has a wonderful country/gospel feeling that makes me smile every time I hear it - my favorite track on the album.

Mandala is available from Eric’s website, Amazon, and Apple Music/iTunes as well as streaming sites like Spotify. It’s a beautiful and very uplifting album that is sure to raise your spirits! Don’t miss it!
December 13, 2020