Beyond Cloud Nine
2016 / Autumn Music Productions
Review by Michael Debbage
Excluding his Christmas album Comfort & Joy and his compilation Heart To Hands, Beyond Cloud Nine will represent Philip Wesley’s sixth recording of original material. Philip Wesley’s recordings are always solid, stripped down original piano compositions that at times can be very melancholy. Dispose of those preconceptions on how a Wesley recording should sound as Philip focuses on major keys, melodies and gasp, light orchestration and embellishments making Beyond Cloud Nine instantaneously memorable.
You do not have to even press play on your turntable of choice to be prepared for something slightly different from this pianist. One look at the pastel soft colors of the artwork as well as song titles such as “Falling For You”, “Sweetest Dream” or “Dreaming In Color” would strongly suggest that Wesley is recording from a completely different place and time. Whether his art is reflecting his life or not, musically Beyond Cloud Nine is his most accessible and mainstream recording to date however this by no means reflects sellout or simplicity.
For those who have enjoyed his more reflective and ominous recordings that element is still present. Check out “Love’s Crush” that as the title reflects is more melancholy with his piano work countered by light cello arrangements. However, “Love’s Crush” and its focus on melancholy is the exception not the rule for Beyond Cloud Nine. More in line with this particular project look for the simply stunning “Beneath The Same Sky” where Wesley’s piano flirts with Doug Hammer’s orchestration that also produced the album. While the arrangements bring immediately satisfaction and goose bumps it still avoids the high calorie sweet approach avoiding the sell out label. Similar results can be found on the “Day We Met” as well as the smooth flowing “Summer Fields”. So smooth that it could transport you to a country field with you lying lazily on your back focused on the white cotton clouds dancing on the backdrop of a light blue sky as you take in the wonders of its Creator.
Philip Wesley’s collaboration with fellow pianist Doug Hammer, as producer and orchestrator has resulted in Beyond Cloud Nine being without a doubt his best recording to date. And borrowing from his own liner notes Wesley states that the instrumentation is “…..Nothing too over the top, but rather a beautiful dialog with the piano". Needless the say Beyond Cloud Nine is beyond a shadow of a doubt Wesley’s most rewarding recording to date.
December 12, 2016
Review by Kathy Parsons