Pianoscapes - The Deluxe Edition
2002 / Narada
Review by Michael Debbage
While Michael Jones took a huge leap of faith and established his own recording label aptly named Pianoscapes, his former label Narada was left with a gaping hole in their artist roster. This was a wonderful gesture to reissue the classic Pianoscapes in its entire original form and appropriately sub-titled as The Deluxe Edition.
Though Narada's decision was also probably one of economics, this album does deserve a make over. This is not because the 1985 condensed version was lacking anything. Quite the contrary, as this project quickly became one of the finer solo piano recording of its day and stands alongside many classic George Winston albums. And even today it continues to be a good standard by which other artists can compare and contrast themselves to a true impressionist. But the very true original form was recorded in one take at the home studio of Jones clocking in at 87 minutes. Thus the initial formal release was a single disc requiring significant editing. No more.
The initial thought was that the Deluxe Edition would have some variations in form but it is easy to forget that we were discussing the irrefutable man of improvisation. Thus the versions are significantly different and present a noteworthy twist in its arrangements. For instance, the wandering "Tapestry" that clocked in at close to 11 minutes is even further extended to over 17 minutes and also renamed "Tapestries," and still there is never a dull moment. Or for that matter the title track that has now been expanded from less than 10 minutes to over 20 minutes.
While the other adjustments are not as significant, it is a treat to be exposed to 2 more minutes of "Daybreak" that lives up to its title. The song, much like the day, slowly stirs and awakens to a brand new start and as the day begins to live and breathe so does the song. You can even hear remnants of the Carpenters' song "Goodbye To Love." Never heard a song be so unassuming yet breathe such life into the listeners ears.
To add to our listening pleasure we are also given the unreleased versions of "Echoes," "Sun Showers," and "Song For Eia" that were featured on the enjoyable album Sunscapes. It appears the latter two songs were initially entitled "On The Road" and "Night Wind."
Production wise the CD is re-mastered under the meticulous care that has become synonymous with Narada but it is still a home studio recording. Thus some of the high-end frequency is lost when compared with the 1985 release but this version seems more true and robust and is equally pleasing. The only disappointment is that the CD booklet could have been more generously supplemented with significant narrative and/or photographs.
Initially pessimistic that this edition was a compilation in sheep's clothing, that analysis was wrong. For those of you who have had similar perceptions, rethink that thought and let the master of improvisation sit you down with a familiar and comfortable but new friend. Just as wonderful the second time around but this time in full bloom and allowed to breathe in its complete form.
February 2, 2022
Review by Kathy Parsons