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Album Review: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light
Michael Stribling
Cover image of the album Out of the Darkness, Into the Light by Michael Stribling
Out of the Darkness, Into the Light
Michael Stribling
2007 / Leela Music
63 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Out of the Darkness, Into the Light is multi-instrumentalist Michael Stribling’s follow-up to 2006’s chart-topping Songs of Hope and Healing. I haven’t heard Stribling’s earlier work, but I sure like this CD! Most of the ten tracks are ambient and spacious, but there are a couple of very rhythmic, uptempo pieces that make you sit up and take notice. The piano appears in several of the pieces, but this is much more of an electronic CD. Stribling’s mission is “to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit” (from his website). Stribling calls his label “Leela Music,” and “leela” means “divine play,” so this music obviously comes from a rich variety of sources. Stribling has been playing the piano since he was seven, and was a percussionist for Johnny Mathis early in his career. After several years working as a studio musician, playing in musical theater, and radio announcing, Stribling went back to graduate school in 1981 and became a marriage and family therapist. After working in that field for many years, life changes brought him back to music in 2005. Lucky us!

The CD opens with “Driven,” a piece whose pounding beat and intoxicating rhythm I find completely addicting. In the car, I had the volume up to the point of being almost painful and kept hitting the “repeat” button on the CD player. My piano students could probably hear me coming from several blocks away! Sure to bring a smile and more than a few head bobs! From there, we get down to more serious business. The title track takes us on a journey that begins with the feeling of dark mystery that is non-threatening, but not entirely comfortable. As the piece unfolds, it explores several themes, gradually brightening until it breaks into the light as the darker theme fades out. “Northern Lights” gives the feeling of floating in darkness that is deep, but also very peaceful and beautiful. Various sounds suggest the changing colors of the Northern Lights as they melt from one breathtaking hue to another. Gorgeous! “Letting Go/Afterthought” is much more introspective and melancholy. The middle section of the piece is solo piano, personalizing it even more. One of my favorite tracks is “Longing,” which begins with a very simple but compelling rhythmic theme that suggests a plucked stringed instrument. That theme continues throughout the piece as string washes add fullness and color. Becoming more orchestrated as it evolves, the simple theme comes to the forefront from time to time. As feelings of longing are, the piece is tinged with sadness and loss, but is not without hope. Very effective! “Glory and Honor / A Glimpse Beyond” begins on a jaunty, upbeat note. More melodic than most of the works, it also has an infectious rhythm and a playful spirit that segues later to the ambient feeling of crystalline open space and of floating peacefully on air.

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light is a fascinating musical journey and one that I really enjoyed. It is available from leela-music.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Recommended!
January 17, 2007