David & Steve Gordon,
Earth Drum: The 25th Anniversary Collection, Vol. 1
(Sequoia, 2008)

There's a key difference between Native American music that gets filed in the world section and Native American music that gets filed in new age. As long as you don't mind that David and Steve Gordon's Earth Drum falls squarely in the latter category, it's an engaging showcase of 25 years of rhythm and melody.

There are just eight tracks on the recording, each long enough to develop a slightly hypnotic quality. Deep-throated Native American drums are at the forefront; accompanying them is an eclectic assortment of other instruments, including pan flutes, keyboards and electric guitars. Hence the "new age" label. Fortunately, the synthesizers and nature sounds rarely eclipse the intricate rhythms at the music's core.

The mixture of contemporary and ancient elements works particularly well on the opening track, "Ancient Way," a solitary, contemplative outing on wooden flutes and tribal drums. Halfway through, the electric guitar slips in unobtrusively to re-interpret the flute melody. Best when least (over)produced, Earth Drum offers such gems as "Sun Blessing" with its intricate 9/8 rhythm, and the solemn and atmospheric "South Wind Meeting" with its audacious but successful combination of Lakota and Tibetan chant.

A few tracks, having aged less gracefully, recall exercise video music from the 1980s. "Dancing for a Vision" has a thudding beat and heavy synthesizers that even a delicate flute melody can't salvage; "Power Animals" is similarly clunky. However, that still leaves you with a good 40 minutes of interesting rhythms and melodies.

Detailed liner notes provide information on the Gordon Brothers' inspiration and instrumentation. As a bonus, the CD includes a DVD that sets the music to images of serene landscapes, making it even more ideal for yoga or breathing exercises.

Although the CD is too multicultural to be Native American music and too new-agey to have wide appeal, Earth Drum is perfect for people who do yoga and breathing exercises. You know who you are.

review by
Jennifer Mo

6 September 2008

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new