Michael Jones,
Echoes of Childhood
(Narada, 2003)

Pianist Michael Jones was one of the first to record in the new age genre back in the 1980s; his albums were a cornerstone of Narada's catalogue during the label's early days. His solo piano work is frequently likened to that of musical compatriots such as Philip Aaberg and George Winston. The pianist I found myself thinking of while listening to this album is Margie Adam; there is a direct sincerity that Jones' and Adam's music shares.

On this album (his 13th), Jones tells a story in music. The story is simple enough: innocence lost and regained. Each end of the album is anchored by a long piece. "Call to the Dance" is an invitation to engage with the world while "New Born Day" depicts the reawakening that comes about when one recognizes one's gifts. This is new age music in agenda as well as sound, but its plotline sets it apart from much of the genre. A paraphrase of William Wordsworth's Recollections of Early Childhood in the liner notes makes the plot explicit, but the music alone tells its story well enough. This is essentially a solo piano recording; producer Lance Anderson adds background synthesizer orchestration but it is so unobtrusive as to be easily overlooked.

Echoes of Childhood is not likely to convert people who have already decided they don't like new age music. A case in point is "Dream of the World." With its combination of high notes scattered over portentous bass chords, new age fans will find it stirring and idealistic while non-fans will find it overly dramatic and earnest. "Call to the Dance," which is over 16 minutes long, gets a little too repetitive as it develops. Those looking for background music should also look elsewhere, because this is not an album that fades inconspicuously into the air. The central tracks in particular, which depict the dark night of the soul, are not music to zone out by -- nor should they be. This CD most resembles a tone poem or a musical cycle that one might hear at a classical concert. Those familiar with the Paul Winter Consort's winter solstice performances will recognize the progression of moods, though Jones never gets as dissonant and chaotic as the darkest parts of the "Turning Point Suite."

As a cycle of musical pieces setting forth a story, Echoes of Childhood succeeds. Jones has done something different from the typical instrumental album comprising a collection of unrelated tracks. The theme is clearly one that Jones finds important. Whether this CD resonates with listeners will depend on whether the listener in question appreciates new age music and its values or dismisses them.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 9 August 2003

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