2021 / Spout/MWM
Review by Kathy Parsons
When Michael Whalen approached me about reviewing Future Shock, he made it a point to emphasize that this isn't new age or solo piano music. That's a real understatement, but, man, is this a good album!!! Known for his beautiful piano music since the early days of the Narada and Windham Hill labels, Whalen has released at least 35 solo and soundtrack recordings. He has been nominated for eight Emmy Awards for his music for television and has won two. He has worked in advertising, television, film and video games for more than 30 years and has also produced and executive produced more than 100 albums by other artists. The list goes on, but you get the idea: Michael Whalen is an artist who can do it all and do it all well.
Using some quotes from Future Shock's overview on his website, Whalen explains the inspiration for the album: "Creating an album with the combination of jazz, rock, global music and techno has been something I have been wanting to make for decades....As an artist, there is so much freedom in not worrying about whether I am 'following the rules' or expectations of a musical style or genre....Future Shock while being a 'jazz/fusion' record is also heavily influenced by my life-long love of progressive rock. So, the album has some edge and a very different approach than anything else I have ever done."
Also appearing Future Shock are Whalen's "perfect band": Simon Phillips (drums/additional percussion), Tony Levin (bass and Chapman stick) and Bob Magnuson (sax, flute and shehnai), three artists who have "spent their careers blurring stylistic lines and pulling influences from one musical genre to another" (quoting Whalen). Whalen performs on keyboards, synths, electronic percussion and programming along with composing, arranging, producing and mixing the music.
Future Shock begins with the title track, a hard-rocker that will have your toes tapping in no time. "Hop, Skip and Jump" has a jazzier vibe with a techo edge and lots of great sax. "La Hermosa Noche" spices it up with a breezy tropical flavor. Both smooth and invigorating, it's a favorite! "Lights of Home" juxtaposes smooth, beautiful sax and piano with a feeling of rapid movement and swirling motion that is sometimes in the foreground and is sometimes a subtle rhythm in the background. "Memories Of You" is a happy dance with a great big grin - just try to sit still while listening to this one! It's impossible to classify "Poly Jam," but it's sure fun to listen to with its driving beat and keyboard magic! "Miracle Mile" evokes images of a sun-drenched island where life moves more slowly and no one has a care in the world. What a breath of fresh air "Morning Song" is! Relaxed and brightly optimistic, it's going to be a really good day if it starts out like this! "Wanderlust" cranks up the energy level to the max. The amazing electric guitar on this one is actually Whalen on synth "using distortion to create a guitar-like searing lead sound which is a blast to play and is very effective in context." Wow!!! "Your Eyes, Your Touch, Your Kiss," brings the album to a smooth and sultry close - unless, like me, you have the album ready to repeat!
My one-word evaluation of Future Shock is a very enthusiastic "WOW!!!" It is available on Amazon, AppleMusic/ iTunes and many streaming sites.
April 2, 2021