2006 / Real Music
Review by Michael Debbage
A pioneer of the New Age movement, Gandalf has brought to the musical table experience, insight and wisdom. Though Gandalf has been in a creative existence for what appears to be an eternity, Sacred River only represents his third installment with his new label Real Music. While the other projects were inventive and successful, there is no meandering around the fact that this is his most commercial and endearing recording with his new found musical home.
Consisting of ten tracks that are intertwined by natures soft and pleasant nuances, the compositions of Sacred River are in complete unity with its interludes, making for a musical escape that is as refreshing as a naked dip in an deserted unpolluted mountain stream. The theme of the album is also made clear in the title of the songs with eight of the ten tracks referring to water themes.
The album opens with soft birds chirping that sing their way into the opening track “Morning At The River Bench”. Gandalf’s soft nylon guitar strings along with his supple keyboards sets the entire tone of Sacred River. The second interlude includes the sound of small pebbles dropping into a body of water which continues to draw the listener into Gandalf’s visionary album of restoration. The title track includes light percussion that does not distract from the pastoral theme that Gandalf has in mind.
The majority of the tracks clock in at five to seven minutes which allow the artist to draw the listeners into the structure and theme of the songs and, for that matter, the entire water theme of the album. This is most obvious courtesy of the song “Blossoms Falling Like Snow”. It is not until well into the third minute that Gandalf brings the song into focus courtesy of the melody, yet without boring his listeners and at the same without overburdening the ears, keeping close to the refined and elegant theme.
Also, of interest, is Gandalf’s total comfort level and execution on both the guitar and keyboard that are seamlessly interwoven in utter harmony. That does not prevent Gandalf from featuring one over the other. His guitar work is best heard on “The Ferryman’s Tale” or on the brief and simplistic “Confidently Floating Seawards”. In contrast, there is the haunting melancholy piano melody found on “A Visionary Passage”. The keyboards are more dominant but the guitar strings still sneak their way into the structure of the song.
Gandalf concludes the disc with an overture appropriately titled “Where The River Joins The Ocean” ending the life of the river in its current form, only to be reborn in Mother Earth’s eternal water cycle. That said, the musical gratification from this essentially perfect disc will only prompt a similar cycle courtesy of the recurrent repeat button.
March 3, 2006