Before I even begin to write this review, I think that it is prudent to make the reader aware of two facts: First, this new album from Meadowlark was my first foray into new age music, and second, I don't really think that it's my thing. Notwithstanding these little items, Freefall is an excellent album and will surely be enjoyed by fans of their work and by those who enjoy this type of music.
Purely instrumental, Meadowlark's style includes Celtic, African and Mediterranean influences and features talented artists Lynn Trombetta and Rick Cyge on flute, pennywhistles and guitar. The majority of tunes on the album are composed by Cyge and have been augmented by guest musicians on a variety of instruments.
This recording is filled with good stuff. The finger-style guitar playing of Cyge is impeccable. Trombetta absolutely glows on the flute. And when you put the two of them together, you get a seamless performance. The music flows together as if it's meant to be -- gentle, soothing and melodious, with intricate layers of instrumentation. Meadowlark has selected some wonderful musicians to contribute to the album as well, adding violin, percussion and keyboards, among other things.
The majority of tunes on the album are of a medium tempo, with interesting rhythms and harmonies. The title track, "Freefall," contains some magnificent flute playing and beautiful harmonies with the violin. The piano adds a nice rhythmic sound as well. "Serengeti" flows with hints of African rhythms and although not a high-speed tempo, manages to be quite upbeat.
In "Prairie Serenade," guitar, flute and soprano sax meld together with a pleasing melody and graceful harmonies, while "Tan Man Dance" has a little more energy to it, and a slightly jazzy sound. "Arizona Highway" is an excellent tune, featuring Cyge's genius at solo finger style guitar. Rick proves himself to be an excellent pianist as well with "Grattitude," a slow piece. This one has lovely flute harmonies, and the throaty sound of the violira made an interesting addition.
"After the Fleah" had me anticipating a nice, zippy Irish reel, but I was a little disappointed. Not in the playing of the tune itself -- it was an excellent arrangement, and Trombetta's flute was very expressive -- I was just expecting something a little more uptempo, that's all.
Having said all of these well-deserved good things about this recording, I'm afraid the fact remains that I just didn't like it. It's just not energetic enough for my tastes. It reminds me too much of something I'd hear in an elevator or while having a massage ... or while on hold, waiting to speak to a real person. I just wouldn't listen to it for pleasure -- unless, perhaps I was trying to sleep.
But that is not to say that it isn't a good recording. Au contraire -- this album is simply wonderful -- but you'd have to be a fan of new age music to truly enjoy and appreciate it.
[ by Cheryl Turner ]