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Album Review: Blue Dream - Solo Piano
Fiona Joy Hawkins
Cover image of the album Blue Dream - Solo Piano by Fiona Joy Hawkins
Blue Dream - Solo Piano
Fiona Joy Hawkins
2023 / Little Hartley Music
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Blue Dream - Solo Piano is the solo piano version of Fiona Joy Hawkins' 2008 album, Blue Dream, an album that was on my "Top 40 Favorite Albums for the Decade - 2000-2009" list and is still one of my all-time favorite albums. The original album was produced and recorded by Will Ackerman and Corin Nelsen (Corin mastered this version, too), and features a group of incredible supporting artists. It went on to win many awards including the Zone Music Reporter 2009 "Album of the Year," "Best Contemporary Instrumental Album," and "Best Instrumental Album - Piano." Despite all of that success, it has been a longtime dream of Fiona's to re-do the album as solo piano. She composed the pieces in such a way that they could tell their stories as effectively as solos as they do with the ensemble of artists she worked with originally. The music is very autobiographical and obviously very personal. Quoting Fiona: "I chose the main themes, took out the repetitive piano sections set up for instrumental solos, and Corin mastered it a little more softly to suit a solo piano release....  It's a totally different album without the instrumentation." And indeed it is! The original album was 72 minutes and the solo piano version is 48 minutes, so Fiona obviously did a brilliant job of editing without disturbing the flow and beauty of the music. I'm not going to compare the two albums in my review, but here is the link to my review of the first album.

The tracks on the first album flowed from one to the next with a series of "interludes" that brought the track count up to twenty-two, while the solo piano album has a total of thirteen individual tracks without the interludes. Some of the pieces are a little shorter and some are a little longer, so this really is a different album from the first one! It begins with "Freedom," one of my favorites, and a piece that flows like a gentle breeze - unrestricted but with a purpose. "Feeling Sunshine" ups the energy level a bit for a joyful dance in the sun. "Standing Up" is tinged with mystery as it expresses a feeling of moving forward, gaining strength and resolve as it unfolds. I think this solo version really conveys the feeling of a solitary struggle. The title track is very dreamy, indeed, flowing gently with a very fluid tempo that is in no rush to get anywhere - love it! "Contemplating" very beautifully expresses the feeling of being lost in thought as time moves forward at varying speeds and intensity. "The Void" starts out conveying a sense of being lost, but not necessarily of being afraid. The various themes that weave in and out of the piece express several different emotions before it trails off at the end. The mysterious "Voice of Angels" is played mainly in the sparkling upper octaves of the piano and is soothing and reassuring. The term "Moving On" can mean a number of things, but the piece with that title feels positive and resolved that it's time to go forward and leave the past behind. "Somewhere" brings this excellent album to an emotional and introspective close, perhaps asking questions that had no answers at the time the music was created.

So, does the solo piano version of Blue Dream hold up fifteen years after the original ensemble album? I give that a resounding "YES!" Whether or not you've heard or have the first version, treat yourself to this very personal solo piano version. It IS very different from the first album even if the music is familiar. Blue Dream - Solo Piano is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and various streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended!
September 9, 2023
More reviews of Fiona Joy Hawkins albums
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Cover image of the album Sensual Journeys by Fiona Joy Hawkins
(as Fiona Joy Hawkins)