2019 / Solace/Real Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Cupid Blindfolded is Michael Whalen’s first purely acoustic solo piano album since 1999. Returning to his “unplugged” roots and pouring his heart into every note, Whalen recorded the album on Will Ackerman’s Steinway grand piano at Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont. Whalen claims that Ackerman’s piano has “magic infused into it,” and, in his hands, I think it does. Tom Eaton engineered the album and Whalen produced it. The title of the album comes from a sonnet by Shakespeare and means, essentially, that love is blind. It is interesting to note that the album was recorded live in the studio with six video cameras rolling and that there are NO piano edits.
Michael Whalen has released 32 albums under his own name and has produced recordings for many other artists. He has also spent more than 30 years working in advertising, television, film and video games. He has received two Emmy Awards and has been nominated eight times. I’ll be very surprised if Cupid Blindfolded doesn’t add a number of awards to his collection. Fellow pianists will be happy to know that there will be a companion solo piano songbook released at about the same time as the recorded album.
Cupid Blindfolded opens with the title track, a beautiful piece that sets the tender yet passionate tone of the album. “All of My Heart. All of My Soul” expresses deep emotion with love and a generous amount grace. “Reflection of My Affection” is a favorite. Very free, dramatic and from the heart, it says so much without the use of any verbiage. Love it! I also really like “Sunrise in the Desert,” which was inspired by time spent in Arizona a couple of years ago. Whalen loved waking up before sunrise and watching the desert transform from night to day while experiencing the intense silence. “The Muse” has a somewhat more exotic flavor and feels like it could be an improvisation (it is not). “At the Touch of a Lover” feels very free and relaxed with an emotional intensity that says so much with so little. The piano is especially effective for describing rain, and “Standing in the Rain” is a beautiful example of that. In this piece, the rain ranges from a gentle drizzle to more of a heavy shower - gorgeous! “Serendipity” is the only fully-improvised piece on the album and is more playful than most of the other tracks. “Isle of Skye” has a very cinematic sweep, creating images in the listener’s mind. “City of Lights” brings the album to a very quiet, peaceful close.
Cupid Blindfolded will certainly stand as one of the best albums of the year as well as one of the best piano albums of the decade. It is available from RealMusic.com, Amazon and iTunes as well as many retail outlets and streaming sites. Don’t miss it!
July 12, 2019