Earthsong & Stardance
2011 / Real Music
Review by Michael Debbage
Gandalf is one of the pioneers of the New Age movement quite capable of migrating from ambient to electronic to the meditative sub genres with no loss of credibility. Despite the exceptional standard of his last 3 recordings, the musical wizard’s wanderlust approach has somehow been thwarted via these semi-meditative gems. However, Earthsong & Stardance breaks this contemplative streak as Gandalf presents his listeners with one of his most progressive recordings in years.
There is a significant musical transformation as Gandalf arrangements are notably fleshed out with embellishments courtesy of orchestration, percussion and even choral arrangements. But the music does not have to be heard to recognize that you are about to hear something different. The track listing is divided into 5 movements that include anywhere from 2 to 5 parts in each song. Each movement lasts from 8 to 18 minutes allowing Gandalf, the Corso Wien Orchestra and the Sanskrit Choir room to breathe and let go.
The opening movement “The Unfolding Of The Worlds” opens with an almost monk style chant that borders on eerie versus heavenly but nevertheless flows effortlessly into Gandalf’s progressive yet melodic first movement. Part 1 is broad in its arrangement while Part 2 focuses on more specific instrumentation including some bold yet tasteful electric guitar work concluding with the chants that began the movement. Immediately you will realize that while very different to Gandalf’s prior recordings, you as the listener are being introduced to a very special recording event.
While the second movement “About The Miracle Of Life” follows a similar pattern as the first, the third movement, “ About The Beauty Of Being” is the shortest of the five and allows the listener to find a more reflective Gandalf especially Part 1 that flows and builds in Part 2. The Corso Wien Orchestra is featured here and they are clearly on their symphonic game as they interact with Gandalf. In contrast, the album closes out with “The Great Ceremony” that begins in an almost reflective mood but by Part 2 the percussion and Sanskrit Choir dominate as does the upbeat blissful tone concluding Earthsong & Stardance in a grand epilogue style without repeating its prior movements.
Gandalf’s music has always been much grounded yet with the strong ability to reach for the sky. Perfectly titled, the musical wizard has created a tribute to both Mother Earth and the infinite universe that surrounds her. Though quite a different jewel to his prior 3 recordings, Earthsong & Stardance is yet another perfect addition to the artists recording portfolio that began over 30 years ago. Despite taking this artistic and bold chance, this has not stopped the wonderful winning streak as Gandalf continues to astonish his listeners.
August 27, 2011
Review by Kathy Parsons