In 2014 I noticed a lot of promotion on Facebook about a certain album made by Laura Casale, an American composer and musician who took eleven years to write, record and to produce her debut solo album Now Is Where You Are. Strangely enough, in early 2015 I received an email from Laura asking if I was willing to review her solo debut as well. Of course I couldn't refuse this nice gesture and was looking forward to hearing what she achieved on her first musical effort.
Well the CD I received in the mail looked very good-the artwork done by the well known Ed Unitsky. The 24 page booklet included images made by him for every track included on the album. Some of them have pictures of the performing artist as well. Moreover can you read all of the lyrics which are sung by Laura herself. So a show of hands for the package is in place.
Well this goes for the music as well. Right from the start it was obvious that Now Is Where You Are is a very keyboard-orientated album which is not so strange if you do know that her main instrument is the piano. However, don't expect it to be in the style of the solo albums released by keyboard wizards such as Rick Wakeman or Keith Emerson. Although Laura also plays on the synthesizers next to the piano, the songs-most of all-are more singer-songwriter orientated. This way she could even better show her vocal capacities, which are certainly worth listening to. Furthermore the use of guest musicians Daniel Reeves (bass), Paul Brannon (lead guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bass), Frank Basile (drums), Van Hunsberger (drums, percussion) and Jørgen Stougaard (guitar) gives the album from time to time a certain feeling that the album sounds like a band effort-a band effort in which Laura's vocals and piano parts are most of the time in the spotlight.
The thirteen tracks on this album tell many stories of the journey of Laura's life experiences, both physical and spiritual, with lyrics that offer hope of renewed love, life and peace. The compositions she wrote have certainly a certain sound of their own, even if you hear a wide range of different styles. These styles go from mainstream radio friendly tunes to more ambient atmospheric sounding pieces of music, from progressive rock tunes to piano ballads. The way Laura makes them sound with her voice and almost classical playing on the keyboards and piano give her compositions an original flavour. While listening a lot of musical influences, which might have inspired her, came to my mind several times. I guess she must have listened to acts as Jon &Vangelis, Tori Amos, Jon Anderson, Vangelis and Kate Bush through the years.
Although the album was recorded mainly on her own, it has to be said that she managed to come up with a very professional sounding album. The process of self-education, learning to work with Pro Tools on an iMac in her home studio (where the album was constructed from start to finish) and investing in the equipment needed and to hire some of the finest studio musicians to create the sounds needed to express the musical landscapes she heard in her mind's eye really showed off on the entire album. So you could really say the eleven years working on her debut were well spent.
Does this mean everything can be seen as very positive concerning this album? Well almost. The only remark which might be understood in a negative way is that the album is way too long. It should have been one hour long instead of 74 minutes. The total time of music on a compact disc can reach eighty minutes as far as I know, but that does not mean we should use it every time an album is released. Sometimes “less is more” as they say, and that seems to be the case here. With music that sounds similar, it is wise not to go over the one hour limit.
To end this review I can only say that Laura can be proud of what she accomplished on Now Is Where You Are. She made a very mature sounding album which most fans of Jon &Vangelis, Tori Amos, Jon Anderson, Vangelis and Kate Bush will enjoy. So well done and thumbs up for the music and art work!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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