You Are My Home
2015 / Michael Whalen Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
You Are My Home is Michael Whalen’s most personal collection of solo piano music to date. His intention with this album was to create a recording that gave him an opportunity to really play the piano without atmospheric effects or the synthesized “extras” of some of his previous work (although a couple of tracks do have additional keyboard instrumentation). For this album, the two-time Emmy winner wanted to access the vocabulary of his soundtrack work and classical compositions as well as his love for melody. Like many soundtrack albums, the variety in the eleven tracks is remarkable, but the playing order is arranged in such a way that the album flows beautifully. In a recent interview, Whalen said of this new album: “I wanted to make music that was JUST for me. I wasn’t thinking about what other people would say or even worrying about it being accepted or popular. I believe that the most personal music is the most universal. If that’s the case, this should be my most popular album - ever! (laughs).”
With about thirty albums to his credit (including a number of releases on Narada in its heyday), Whalen brings a lifetime of experience as well a very colorful musical palette to his compositions. He has also been adjunct professor at the Berklee College of Music, The City College of New York and NYU, and a media analyst on the Fox Business Channel.
You Are My Home opens with “Ridge Running,” a piece that begins calmly with a sense of anticipation, gradually picking up the pace to a very energetic tempo that overflows with joy and excitement - a great start! “Big Ears, Big Nose, Big Heart (A Puppy Ballad)” is a total delight! Anyone who has ever had a puppy will be able to picture the ungainly romps and clumsy roll-overs depicted in this wonderful piece. Kinda jazzy, kinda bluesy, and about as much fun as you can have while just sitting and listening, I LOVE THIS PIECE!!! (Sheet music???) “Compared to a Summer’s Day” goes in an entirely different direction with a graceful, open melody that conveys a sense of longing and beauty with simplicity and deep emotion. “For the Blue Dream of Sky” adds orchestration while allowing the piano to soar in and out of the forefront. At seven minutes, this piece weaves together a number of themes into a gorgeous whole - another favorite. “Winter Blues” goes very dark and dramatic. Less structured and not as melodic as most of the other pieces, this atmospheric tone poem vividly explores the depths of winter’s chill. “No Matter How Many Skies Have Fallen” is a lovely song without words that expresses tenderness and encouragement - simple and heartfelt. Living close to the ocean, I love being able to experience the volatile nature of the ocean - sometimes so serene and peaceful and sometimes downright dangerous and deadly - and “Silver Shores” captures some of those ever-changing moods. The title track closes the album with a beautiful love song that needs no words. A gentle passion runs through every note and says far more than lyrics ever could.
What a great album! Longtime fans of Michael Whalen as well as those who are new to his music will find much to love about You Are My Home. It is available from Amazon and iTunes and I very highly recommend it!
October 24, 2015