Richard Isen,
Let It Fall
(Clearsong, 2000)

Richard Isen has been writing and performing music since the '70s. He started out playing jazz piano and acoustic folk-rock when disco was in style. After all this time, and thanks to the Internet age, he has been able to release Let It Fall on his own Clearsong Records. Richard spent 15 years in New York City working in experimental theatre and dance. He is now one of four webmasters responsible for Cityspan, the website for the city of San Francisco.

Let It Fall is dominated by Richard's piano playing. Richard's sad, but strong voice adds a lot of emotion to the ten selections offered here. "While Isen denies the suggestion that there is melancholy in his voice, he admits to an underlying blue, dreamy quality in his music," his promotional packet reads. Other than the cover of Joni Mitchell's "Willie," this CD consists entirely of Isen originals.

"Blue Window" is about losing the connection to the child inside. I find myself following the rise and fall of the tumultuous melody more than listening to the lyrics. Richard has a voice similar to Christopher Cross. It has an echo-like, but not quite new-age quality about it. "A Street You'll Never Know" is another melancholy song. This is one of those great, depressing tunes that yearns to be listened to.

The title track, "Let It Fall," starts out similarly to Howard Jones' "No One Is To Blame." Other than an almost identical background riff, these two songs are very different. But I can easily imagine hearing HoJo sing this ballad (and making it a little more pop-radio friendly). I'm not sure what the story is with "The Only Thing," but this song has a very dramatic feel to it. I keep picturing it being sung on stage in front of an audience. The singer has background dancers interpreting the emotions. It almost sounds like a song of despair and inspiration. I have trouble hearing the lyrics (which are available for your perusal at www.clearsong.com), but I prefer to let the music talk to me more than the lyrics.

When I first heard "Willie," I thought "Hey! This sounds like that lady my old supervisor used to play a lot. What was her name? Oh yeah. Joni Mitchell. This sounds like something Joni Mitchell would play." Well, it turns out that this is a Joni Mitchell tune. Isen does not change the lyrics, so if you are squeamish about one man singing a love song to another, this might not be a CD for you. But if you are a fan of the original version, Richard does a beautiful job with this rendition.

Richard has a pleasant singing voice. It has the type of quality that you would expect to hear on a Broadway stage. His voice is projected and has that warble that many theatre performers have when they sing. This is a pretty CD if you enjoy adult contemporary type music. It is very reminiscent of both Joni Mitchell and Christopher Cross. If you like musicians known for their skill on the piano -- such as Bruce Hornsby or Howard Jones -- you will also probably like Richard's music.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 10 August 2001



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