Review of the Album “Barcelona Nights” by David Arkenstone

September 25, 2015 by Admin

imageBorn in Chicago in 1952, David Arkenstone developed a strong love of music at a very early age. He grew up listening to bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple and Yes, as well as listening to classical music. He moved to California at age 10 and later played guitar and keyboards in various high school bands and performance groups, while playing baseball in his spare time. He eventually studied music in college and started a progressive rock band named after himself. Then he discovered the music of Kitaro, and was heavily influenced by it. While in his twenties, he criss-crossed the country playing popular music with various bands and on his own. However, in the early eighties, he settled down to concentrate on developing his own sound.

He broke onto the contemporary instrumental music scene in 1987 with his debut album “Valley In The Clouds.” This album has been described by one reviewer as “one of the most exquisite electronic recordings ever produced.” Since then, David has recorded over forty studio albums, as well as one live album and at least two soundtrack albums.

He has also earned three Grammy nominations (“In the Wake of the Wind” in 1992, “Citizen of the World” in 2000, and “Atlantis” in 2004), twenty Billboard hits, and two #1 albums – “Citizen of Time” (1990) and “In the Wake of the Wind” (1991).

imageHe has also released an additional four albums with his trio, Troika, and his music has been included on numerous compilation albums.

His much celebrated “Celtic Book of Days” (1998) remains one of his most popular recordings ever. Released in 2000, “Caravan of Light” was honored as Best Album of the Year by New Age Voice, and “Sketches From an American Journey” made Soundscan’s list of top ten New Age Albums in 2002. Acclaimed music critic Michael Debbage listed three of David’s albums – “Sketches From an American Journey, ” “Atlantis,” and “Myths & Legends” – in his Top 30 Of The Decade (2001-2010).

David has also toured extensively including performances at many Renaissance Festivals around the country, New York’s Radio City Music Hall, and the Hollywood Bowl. And he has scored dozens of films and documentaries, composed music and filmed a video for the wedding of Princess Lamia of Saudi Arabia, and composed music for the Olympics that is still used to this day.

David has also composed music for the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, NHK Japan, and NBC Sports, as well as for numerous computer game soundtracks such as Lands of Lore 2 and 3, Earth and Beyond, Emperor: Battle for Dune, and Starlight Inception. David was also a member of the composing team (along with Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, and Neal Acree) who developed the music for Blizzard Activision’s World of Warcraft video games Taverns of Azeroth and Cataclysm Expansion.

David and his ex-wife, Diane (Arkenstone), also created their own record label called Neo Pacifica. In addition to releasing their own music on the label, they included and contributed music to other bands such as Ah Nee Mah, Earth Trybe, Enaid and Einalem, and the Marquis Ensemble.

imageWhile he is primarily a keyboardist, David has learned to play a large variety of musical instruments including the bouzouki, mandolin, guitar, bass guitar, harp, cello, flute, Turkish saz, pennywhistle, melodica and pan pipes. He also plays drums and percussion and has performed some vocalizations on his albums.

His distinctive musical style reflects both his fascination with “the process of blending technology and music to create a multimedia fusion for producing amazing sounds” (which he does exceptionally well), and his unique approach to storytelling. He once stated in a Windham Hill publicity release, “I’m usually identified as a musician, and that’s a very logical, practical definition of my role in the arts. On a more intuitive level, though, I believe a lot of people think of me as a storyteller. And that’s the picture I have of myself — a person who invites people to explore the back roads of their imaginations — only I use notes and textured sounds in place of printed words or dialogue…”

NBC Producer David Michaels, who makes frequent use of David’s music, says, “David writes with fire, passion and emotion, all at once simple and complex. He’s an artist capable of constant inspiration.”

With millions of fans worldwide, David has certainly established himself as one of the greatest instrumental musicians of our time. That is why we have chosen to make him one the Featured Artists on GAIA Prime Radio.

David’s most recent album, “Barcelona Nights,” gets back to purely instrumental music, and presents a musical tribute to the “romance and passion” of Spanish guitar. While featuring a nice blending of acoustic (guitar, percussion, violins) and electronic instrumentation (guitar, keyboards), and a decidedly “nouveau flamenco” style, there are also elements of Caribbean Calypso, and a “chill” influenced vibe. And the music is at once original, distinctive, melodic, fun, beautiful, complex, and sophisticated in the way we have come to expect from David.

The opening track, “Fire in the Heart” is a snappy, cheerful, upbeat, melodic, acoustic guitar driven, nouveau flamenco inspired work, with hints of “bossa nova” style rhythms. It quickly catches you up in the lively, fun loving spirit, and it is easily one of our favorite tracks on the album. The title track “Barcelona Nights” is similar in that it has a fun, up tempo “flamenco style” that is largely driven by acoustic guitar, and with a similar melody, but with hints of Caribbean Calypso, and soaring violin toward the end providing a nice counterpoint.

“Island Dance,” another of our favorites, presents as an even faster paced and “electric guitar” focused, Calypso infused “dance” complete with marimbas, maracas, castanets, and other Caribbean percussion elements. It is also a lot of fun. “Journey of the Soul” has a similar Calypso influenced style, but is a bit slower, and with stronger acoustic guitar and more evident keyboards.

“Fuego en la Noche” is also slower in tempo than most of the selections on the album, with more obvious Spanish guitar influence, lighter percussion with a simple “conga” style, and strong flamenco dance overtones. While listening to this song, we were reminded of the Fire Dance song from Riverdance.

imagePerhaps the most outstanding song on the album, and the one that most reminds of some of the past “classic” works from David Arkenstone, is “Moving as One.” With a stunning acoustic guitar opening and light percussion, supporting an electric guitar as the primary voice, it is one of the more melodic and beautiful songs on the album. It also is perhaps more emotionally reflective, with gentle, swaying and sultry qualities. It really pulls at the listener and gets you humming along, and definitely ends with you wanting to hear more. Existing fans of David Arkenstone music will love this one.

Similarly, “Night of Passion” features a much more down tempo, melodic, romantic, sultry, and seductive style with whining electric guitar and light keyboard backup. One really “feels” the beauty and emotional power of romantic Spanish guitar on this song. This is another of our particular favorites.

“Waves of Joy” is similar to, and perhaps a variation on, “Island Dance,” with similar instrumentation, similar transitions, and a Caribbean Calypso infused style. The major difference is perhaps a heavier use of electric guitar.

In summary, Barcelona Nights is yet another outstanding album from a true master of contemporary instrumental music. Even if you are unfamiliar with and/or not already a fan of Spanish influenced, guitar driven music, the creative and rich melodies, the fun, upbeat, positive, and joy inducing rhythms, and the stylish, complex, and “chill” influenced vibe are guaranteed to hook you and reel you in. At the very least, the music will certainly provide a calming influence after a particularly stressful day. Highly recommended.

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