Andreas VOLLENWEIDER (harp
- with Carly Simon and various vocalists and instrumentalists)
Cosmopoly SONY SK
Roll up, roll up; get your tickets here for the round-the-world
musical tour with your guide, harpist Andreas Vollenweider. In
Cosmopoly `World Music' meets `Easy Listening' in an appealing
blend that can be tasted as foreground or background listening.
Lest Carly Simon fans get too excited, I have to say that she
appears on one short track only, `Your Silver Key' in which she is multi-tracked
so that we have a number of Carlys sometimes quite disconcertingly echoing
each other. Nevertheless, it is nicely romantic and ephemeral. Another vocal
number `Cor Do Amor' impresses more, with Milton Nascimento singing most
expressively, in Portuguese the lovely sensual song `Openhearted' (words
in English are included in the booklet).
The seventeen numbers on this album are supposed to fall into
three groups as shown in what is called `The Loop Map' on the back cover
(see the illustration) - although the album omits any explanation of this
map. Two songs are omitted from it - `Peachtree Valley' and `Bright Moon
Still Shining' - both with pronounced Chinese inflections. On the other hand,
two songs, `Capriccio' and `Vals Del Sur' appear in two loops; presumably
forming some kind of link? There seem to be some puzzling anomalies. Why,
for instance, should `Morning Poem' a nice misty evocation, for Celtic harp
and low whistle, appear in the Sunset-Road-Loop?
Andreas Vollenweider, playing various harps, performs on every
track supported by varying groups of vocalists and instrumentalists. In three
breezy jazzy numbers numbers: `Elle Chelle' (in which far Eastern styles
mingle with Afro music), `Capriccio' and the wonderfully evocative `The
Fishbirdtree', there are the vocal gymnastics of Bobby McFerrin supported
by harp and double-fish-clay-flute.
`Hush, My Heart, Be still' introduces a Duduk which is an Armenian
wind instrument which produces a sort of hypnotic sentimental wailing. This
number sounds very Middle Eastern and the vocals add considerably to its
The aforementioned Chinese style numbers are equally beguiling.
`Peachtree Valley' has traditional Chinese forms played by Chinese nationals
on Chinese instruments and `Bright Moon Be Still' is a very brief number
with a chanting of a Zen poem.
The trombone is starred in a highly effective and somewhat
witty and lugubrious way in a very imaginative jazzy number `Will-O-the Wisp.'
More unusual, is the inclusion of the bagpipes to give a flavour of Scotland
in `At the Forest Fountain' which begins as though it were in Tennessee before
settling firmly in Scotland and Ireland with the usual associated figures
subtly syncopated. `Under One Moon' is another interesting fusion of Celtic,
American country and Far Eastern styles and includes various guitars, fiddle,
bask accordion and whistles and pipes.
`Vals Del Sur' bows in the direction of the old fashioned waltz.
But its elegance is lampooned by the string quartet and the ocarina (Italian
clay flute) and even Vollenweider's harp glissandis sometimes verge on musical
raspberries. Similarly the same instrumentalists' popular ballad style in
`Long Road to You' has a biting sardonic edge. In contrast the bright and
bouncy `Petit Smile' is fresh youthful innocence.
Finally the amorphous `Ancient Pulse' allows amiable piano
meandering over a stricter, yet varied harp pulse while `Stella' has an engaging
melody and breezy rhythms with Far East meeting the Afro style again in this
glittering jazzy number.
The lavish booklet has illustrations of the instrumentalists
associated with the numbers as shown here.