2017 / Michele McLaughlin
Review by Kathy Parsons
Life is made up of highs and lows, joys and sorrows, memories, discoveries, choices, growth and even some crazy weather. Michele McLaughlin’s new album, Life, expresses it all beautifully with her inspiring positivity, resilience - AND her phenomenal piano! Life is her seventeenth solo piano album (not counting compilations), and I think it’s one of her best. To quote the liner notes of the CD, “Life is beautiful and colorful and full of diversity, but it is also messy and chaotic and full of imperfection.” The thirteen pieces on the album reflect on a broad range of experiences and moods, but even the darkest pieces carry a message of hope. McLaughlin always composes with honesty and a depth of emotion that make the music easily accessible to a broad range of listeners. The CD also contains a four-page booklet with the stories behind all of the pieces as well as credits. Life was recorded in McLaughlin’s home studio on her Fazioli grand piano, and was recorded and mastered by Joe Bongiorno from Piano Haven. A companion sheet music book is also available.
Life begins with “The Gift,” a gently energetic piece that suggests that if we see life and everything in it as gifts, we will begin to appreciate and cherish everyone and everything. Fingers dance on the piano keyboard expressing joy and a lightness of being. “The Storm” is one of my favorites. It begins in the upper half of the piano with a poignant, melancholy melody front and center. As the piece evolves, it moves around the piano, becoming more dramatic and then subsides. “At Home” is a love song paying homage to the feeling of being held by someone who loves you and makes you feel at home. Very relaxed and often very tender, it is an excellent example of what I was referring to about the emotional content of the music and how personal yet universal it is. The title track is very lively and in constant motion - another favorite. “Belonging” is very open and spare, with a simple, heartfelt melody and an even simpler accompaniment - a great example of “less is more” and how effective it can be. “Drifting Through a Dream” is also very minimalist and another favorite. The quietly rolling left hand pattern is hypnotic while the melody draws you in. “Stronger” is about getting knocked down, bouncing back and emerging stronger than ever. The piece starts out slowly, feeling very sad, and gradually lightens as it develops, expressing hope and healing. I also really like “Crossroads,” which makes the point that life is a series of decisions and choices and that we are in a constant state of crossroads. A variety of themes are woven together to depict life’s ups and downs as well as the choices we make. “Give It Time” is the closing track and it’s my favorite on the album. The piece is about the healing power of time. Very dark and passionate at the beginning, it picks up energy as it evolves and ends with a powerful bang.
Fans of Michele McLaughlin have a good reason to rejoice with the release of Life! If you are new to her music, this is a great place to start! Life is available on Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby as well as Michele’s site. Highly recommended!
February 5, 2017