The album that precedes the masterpiece that is Presence is named Presence. It was recorded by Joanna Newsom and performed by the band called Palace. This album contains some of her finest work, some of which will be familiar to you. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is a beautiful, heartfelt number with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Other gems on this album are “Falling Slowly” and “Haitian Divorce” – the second track on the disc.
After the album” Presence”, Joanna Newsom went on to create a solo career that would solidify her reputation as one of the world’s greatest female piano players. Her piano music for this record was so impressive, in fact, that she reached the third round of the US presidential race. She was thirty years old. This is one of the great musical careers in the history of Western music.
It was apparent from the beginning that the album was to be a classic. There were certain elements that immediately jumped out at me. Frontman John Butler’s voice oozed classical beauty. Frontman Alex Van der Wee was an unforgettable presence on the album. He wowed us with his falsetto and double bass lines on the title track, “Ocean”, and once again proved himself an important member of the band.
Frontman Alex Van Der Wee is a master at melodious vocal harmonies and his piano playing is equally impressive. On “Ocean” he also plays his beautiful keyboard lead for what may be the only time in Pink Floyd’s catalog that has piano and vocal components. But there are other gems on the album as well. Starting off with “Wish You Were Here” with its gentle acoustic melody and gentle piano chords, the rest of the songs are sung in a similar, loving manner – charming, intimate, and deeply moving.
Just when you think you’ve heard it all on this masterpiece, the band takes another brilliant turn with the opening “Echoes”. One of my favorite songs from the album, “Echoes” is a beautiful and haunting rendition of Wagner’s “La belle aux bleu”. The piano notes, played by Butler and the rest of the band, are simply exquisite. And just when you think that you’ve heard it all, they throw in another masterpiece with “The Great Curve”. A massive, epic closer.
After this lengthy and satisfying concert experience, I crave the opportunity to hear the rest of the album played again. In reviewing this CD, there is one track that I would really like to hear again. It’s called “Echoes” and it features a wonderful acoustic piece performed by Butler and the rest of the band. This piece is performed entirely in French. It is just such a nice addition to the album that it deserves a listen to by any lover of fine music.
As an opera fan, I was thoroughly impressed with ARIES. The lush quality of this recording is something that I wish I had been able to hear during the original performance. The piano performances are truly remarkable. I’m also quite confident that if I hadn’t seen the original performance, I could very well understand the storyline and feel for the characters since there are some very touching parts to this song as well. Add to that, the original singer, Paul Butler, does an amazing job of bringing out the character of Jean Luc Goodheart, and it is a real treat to hear his gorgeous voice.
Overall, this album is truly one of a kind. It takes you into the fantasy world of Arleux with its beautiful songs and unforgettable piano performances. With so many memorable tunes on this album, there is no doubt that this collection will become a favorite of many lovers of fine music. My final thought for this album is that this is a must-buy for all collectors of classical piano music, not only because of the quality of the music but for the beautiful story that the album tells us.