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Album Review: Ethnicity
Cover image of the album Ethnicity by Yanni
2003 / Virgin Records
52 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Ethnicity is Yanni’s first album of new material in several years, and I think it’s the best album he’s done since Dare To Dream. I was a big fan up to that point, and then he seemed to kind of turn to mush. If I Could Tell You (2000) was too reminiscent of his earlier work - I kept hearing themes I recognized. Ethnicity is full of the life and vibrancy of Yanni’s first several albums, and he seems to have regained his unique vision and voice. Yanni’s early work was primarily all him on synth. With this new work, he plays piano and keyboards, and there are many other instrumentalists involved, giving a sound closer to Yanni’s concerts. Another new development is the extensive use of vocals - with and without lyrics. Two of the songs are older instrumentals with lyrics by Pamela McNeill - “Secret Vows” from 1987’s Out of Silence has evolved into “The Promise,” and “Almost a Whisper” first appeared on 1990’s Reflections of Passion, the album that brought Yanni into the mainstream. I groaned when I saw there were vocals on the CD, but the songs are very effective, and the lyrics suit the melodies beautifully. It’s the upbeat instrumentals that really soar on this album, though. Yanni sounds excited about his music again, and it’s hard to keep the toes from tapping. “For All Seasons” has an almost operatic vocal, a strong beat, and a beautiful melody - somewhat similar to “Aria” from awhile back, but not a clone. The jazzy flutes and other reed instruments give it a very exotic flavor. “Rainmaker” is another exotic piece with a Greek spirit mixed with didgeridoo and a driving rhythm. This is classic Yanni with a new twist. His goal with this album was to blend a wide variety of ethnic styles to demonstrate that cultures from all parts of the world can blend and work together successfully. It certainly works with the music! “Written on the Wind” also has a driving rhythm, but is more bittersweet. Wordless vocals become another instrument in the band and keep the piece soaring. “Tribal Dream” is one of the few tracks that I don’t really like, and it is the vocals that are a bit annoying. “Play Time” is another great track - full of energy and fun. This is one of the most carefree pieces I’ve heard from Yanni. Fun is a word that comes to mind often while listening to Ethnicity. It has its serious moments, but is mostly upbeat, full of joy, and invigorating. Welcome back, Mr. Chryssolmalis - I’ve missed you!
June 20, 2003
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