The Spectrum of Life
2023 / Spectrum of Life Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Spectrum of Life is the debut album by Paul Long, a self-taught pianist/composer and multi-instrumentalist from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The twelve original tracks on the album were created over the past 30 years or so and commemorate moments that impacted Paul's life. Quoting Paul Long: "All of my songs are conversations with myself, stories and memories conveyed in the quiet space where only the sound of music can be heard." Citing a diverse list of influences that include David Arkenstone, Pink Floyd, David Lanz, Claude Debussy and Lorena McKennitt, it isn't surprising that the tracks are quite varied and express a range of emotions and experiences. Some are solo piano, some are more orchestrated, and one is a classical guitar duet - all but two include the piano. It's a very impressive first album!
The Spectrum of Life begins with "Out My Window," a relaxing piano solo that is both soothing and reflective - perhaps a daydream set to music. "Everything Is Going To Be Alright" is also a piano solo, and was inspired by Paul's father's words of encouragement and reassurance when he was a child - a tender lullaby for kids of any age! "Rain Falling Down" goes in a much different direction and is darker and more intense. Piano, cello, flute, contrabass, oboe and strings (along with the sound of rain) provide a musical shelter until the storm passes. "Danser Avec Le Temps (Dancing With Time)" picks up the tempo to express the feeling of time passing too quickly and a sense of urgency to get everything done. "Dancing Sally's Jig" is quite different and is one of the two pieces that don't include piano. Traditional Celtic instrumentation brings vivid images of a lively dance, perhaps in a village square somewhere. "Moonlight Lullaby" is a lovely, peaceful nod to Beethoven without imitating the original "Moonlight Sonata." (The similarity is the slow broken chords on the left hand throughout the piece.) "The Courage of Despair" is a heartfelt solo piano tribute to the people of Ukraine. An orchestrated single of this beautiful piece will be released soon. "Life's Answer" is a soothing ensemble piece for piano, flute, choir, strings and acoustic bass. Very flowing and free, it's a favorite! "Highway 1" is a musical tribute to California's coastal highway. The piece is so smooth, graceful and relaxed that I have to wonder what part of Highway 1 inspired the music! (It's a wonderful two-lane highway when you have it to yourself, but those peaceful feelings fly out the window with a logging truck or a Winnebago in a hurry on your tail!) The piece makes me think of the beauty and serenity of driving on the coast near sunset when everything becomes magical - as long as there isn't any traffic! It's my favorite piece on the album! The album closes with a classical guitar duet called "La Dolce Romanza." It tells a story of romance and intrigue, beautifully and very simply - another favorite!
As I said earlier, The Spectrum of Life is a very impressive debut! It is available from Apple Music/iTunes and many streaming platforms including Spotify and YouTube. It is well worth a listen (or two or three!).
September 17, 2023