Big Hairy Monster!
(All Album Reviews by Big Hairy Monster!)
It really irks me that the man who has single-handedly recreated the way a harp can (and should) be played doesn't get more respect. Andreas Vollenweider (AV) is probably the greatest (and most popular) harp player since Harpo Marx...yes, Harpo was a hell of a harp player!
AV has done with the harp what Bela Fleck has done with the banjo...he has made it an instrument that is once again musically interesting, something many musicians dream of. Not only has AV electrified his harp, he has messed with effects and tunings, and incorporates his instrument into a variety of musical settings where a harp may not normally seem to fit...but his talents go way beyond that.
The Book Of Roses disk features AV performing on accoustic and electric 6 & 12 string guitar, assorted flutes, bassoon, kora (african harp guitar), piano, synths, dulcimer, crumhorn, and peculiar things like "skin percussion" and "crayon". A host of other performers also contribute.
Typically, AV gets unfairly lumped in to the New Age genre. This is a shame, because his canvas is so much bigger. I have never heard a harpist do some of the things AV does here...like playing harmonics. He seems to be attempting to play the instrument like a guitar at times. And when he plays guitar, he is very good, almost in a Steve Howe kind of way. In short, a very talented man.
Book Of Roses is divided into chapters, and the story behind this mostly instrumental recording is anyone’s guess. Chapter One for example moves from lushly orchestrated opening themes to eastern influenced folk dance music, to rhythmic "harp-swing-jazz"--if such a thing exists. Other pieces range from moody harp pieces and classical piano exercises to flamenco, African, and eastern European stylings. The African stone percussion in "Passage To Promise" alone is worth the price of the disk to me--especially when I listen with headphones on.
I would say that this album fits somewhere in between Jon Anderson's Olias Of Sunhillow (for it's new age-ness), Mannheim Steamroller (for it's recording quality), Pink Floyd (for it's moodiness and use of unusual sound and instrumental effects), and soundtrack music (for its ability to create mental images). And this description doesn't even begin to capture the classical or world beat influences.
Hopefully, this review will open this interesting artist up to a few PE'ers that want to explore progressive world music...or maybe those that just want to see what is new in the world of harpists. I would say that he is easily that instruments most progressive artist.
AV has a large catalog of material, but this is perhaps his most eclectic, and a good starting point. In my mind, I have yet to hear a bad AV disc. Get this one, then Cosmopoly or Caverna Magica.
(All Album Reviews by Hippy Pants)
I agree with the former review. I think a lot of folks overlook Vollenweider due to the fact that he is often found in the New Age section in most music stores. That's a shame as his music is first rate, and deserves a wider audience.
Book Of Roses does have a certain fantasy feel to it. So if the Lord of the Rings soundtrack fell short for you, or you enjoyed the movie, check out this CD. But it is way more than that. It is also majestic, incorporating ethnic music from various corners of the globe: from France to Africa, to jazz and folk to orchestration.
I'd think those prog fans interested in, say, The Moody Blues Days Of Future Past or fans of symphonic music in general would really enjoy this music. I first picked up Vollenweider's Caverna Magica CD back in 1983, and have been hooked since. Check out Dancing With The Lion and his newest Cosmopoly as well, they are all wide in scope and very entertaining.