Borg & Vella,
Colours of the Spirit
(self-produced, 1999)

Sometimes, you just can't predict what a CD will be like by looking at the packaging. Colours of the Spirit by Borg & Vella looked as if it would be ethereal instrumental music providing a tranquil background. That perception went the way of the four winds with the spirited opening chords of "Nueva Vida," the first track.

According to the liner notes, Richard Borg can be heard on the right channel and Kenneth Vella is on the left channel, but their guitars blend seamlessly into clean, crisp, driving harmonies underscored with congas and other percussion. "Nueva Vida" has a very definite Latin flair but retains a unique sound of its own. "Snow in Spain" is equally dramatic, with the guitarists alternating in a kind of instrumental conversation that combines unison playing and more silken harmony as well.

"B Mine" is slower and moodier, in a minor key with a heavy percussion line that adds an unexpectedly sensuous element to the music. The pace picks up with "Let Your Heart Decide," a piece with an urgent Latin-rock beat. The next track, "Promises and Decisions," conveys a similar mood. "Colours" carries on in the same vein, although the melody has more continuity, more like a song melody.

Of all the tracks, the least successful is the instrumental cover of Lennon & McCartney's "And I Love Her." It's pretty and competently performed, but after the fresh sound of the earlier tracks, it comes across as better quality elevator music. Happily for the listener, the remaining tracks revert to the previous style.

"Urban Eyes/Sambini" again pits a fine and melodious guitar against a heavy percussion background. It suggests dark nights, hot lights and a hint of seduction. The music pauses, then drives into the second part, a whirlwind of sound at a near breakneck speed. The last track, "To Be With Friends," has a warm majesty that brings closure to the CD.

Polished without being slick, Borg & Vella's Colours of the Spirit features crisp meticulous musicianship and impeccably produced arrangements, resulting in a bracing musical experience.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]