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Album Review: Paradise Lost
Michael Stribling
Cover image of the album Paradise Lost by Michael Stribling
Paradise Lost
Michael Stribling
2010 / Leela Music
59 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Paradise Lost is award-winning composer Michael Stribling’s seventh album and is perhaps his most ambitious project to date. His Songs of Hope and Healing was named Best Electronic Album in the 2006 New Age Reporter Lifestyle Music Awards, and each subsequent release has garnered similar accolades. Stribling’s albums often tell wordless stories or depict spiritual journeys and experiences, and this one solemnly commemorates the displacement of the Native American peoples at the hands of the Europeans who traveled to North America and laid claim to the land, often without regard for the lives of the people who were here first. The twelve original compositions are divided into three acts or movements: paradise in the “before” days; the coming of the white man and the resulting conflict and tragedy; and lament, requiem, and resolution. The music is often very symphonic even though it is electronic, and nature sounds are effectively placed throughout the album. Although much of the story being told is full of heartbreak and tragedy, the music does not become overly dark or violent. I have enjoyed all of Stribling’s music, but I think this is my favorite of his albums so far. Few artists are as adept as Stribling in successfully combining ambient and melodic music, and his recordings are always a pleasure to listen to.

Paradise Lost begins with “Prairie Dawn,” a piece that depicts wide open spaces and an endless sky. Peaceful and serene, we hear the quiet world as it gradually awakens. “Guardian of the Plains” suggests the majesty of vast open plains, conveying a sense of solitude and calm. “Forest Heart” is very light and gentle, blending acoustic guitar with flutes, then adding French horn and other orchestral instruments. The results are gorgeous and incredibly tranquil. “Hunting Party” is a favorite. Rhythmic and intense, it conveys focus and energy. “March of Destiny” signals major changes and the resulting confusion. The latter part of the piece has a military march sound, but it is more melancholy than triumphant. “Approaching Storm” is ambient and becomes darker as it evolves. “Vision Quest” tells of the people seeking the wisdom to guide them. Also very ambient, turmoil and confusion seem to give way to a sense of direction. The title track includes the sounds of battle behind an intense rhythm that builds as the piece develops. “Hymn For the Fallen” is solemn and reverent, allowing time for reflection and remembrance. The final track, “Return To the Spirit World” is an almost eleven minute meditation on the return to the spirit world “from whence we all come and to which we all return”(quoted from the liner notes). The music is soothing and gently reassuring about the spiritual home all souls return to at the end of this earthly life.

Paradise Lost is certain to return Michael Stribling to the top of the new age/adult contemporary charts. It is available from leela-music.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Highly recommended!
August 20, 2010