Berry, Robert - A Soundtrack For The Wheel Of Time


Year of Release: 2001
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9052-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 50:38:00

I am reader of fantasy -- at least when I can -- having been drawn to it from reading The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science-Fiction for many years (and still) and the first few Dragonlance novels. This lead me to the Realms Of Fantasy magazine (I'm a charter subscriber). However, though I am familiar with the fiction of Robert Jordan by reputation, I have not read Jordan's The Wheel Of Time series. So I can't tell you how closely this reflects the tone of the novels, but I am familiar enough with the genre to tell you if this sets the right kind of mood for this type of fiction -- and I think it does. From a strictly musical perspective, the sonic textures on this album are varied enough to appeal to progressive music fans of almost any stripe. Robert Berry has gathered together a few guests to present his A Soundtrack For The Wheel Of Time, including Tempest's Leif Sorbye on mandolin and Mike Mullen on violin; Lisa Bouchelle (Mastermind) on vocals, and, on one track, Andy Frazier on guitar and vocals . Even if you weren't familiar with Jordan's fantasy series, you would guess this to be the case from the artwork of Darrell K Sweet, whose work has graced the covers of all nine novels.

The album doesn't tell the story of the whole series -- that is, we don't have a string of vocal tracks acting out each chapter, as if it were an opera. It's more a series of vignettes, perhaps told in some sort of sequence relating to the novels, most of them moody instrumental pieces. It is composed to be listened to as one piece, however, as the music segues from one track to the next. There are some wonderfully majestic moments here, and some very sparse and delicate moments as well. Really, it's quite an extraordinary body of work.

Stylistically, the music is mostly Celtic-based, which will certainly appeal to Tempest fans. The sound is far more acoustic based than Tempest. Robert Berry is an able vocalist and has the right type of voice for this style of music. While the album starts out light, and upbeat, track four, "Traveling The Ways" is very dark and moody, with heavy bass and percussion pulsing slowly beneath guitar. The leads into the equally dark, but more classically arranged "Spears And Buckler," and then the equally dark "Dream Walker." This latter track has a drum rhythm that seems to be influenced by Native American music more than by Celtic, though it also has a militaristic cast to it. As you might expect, "The Winespring Reel" is a knees-up and danceable track, characteristic of Tempest, but with the addition of keyboards, taken in a different direction. As with most of the tracks here, this is an instrumental; and, as with most of the tracks here, is very good. There is a lot of energy being unleashed here, and there comes a point toward the end where I thought to myself, "this music is perfect for this genre of fiction." The mandolin sounds a bit tinny to me, however.

Lisa Bouchelle proves herself again to be a great vocalist, here giving voice to "Ladies Of The Tower," a muscular, percussion heavy track, that doesn't lack for warmth because of it. Percussion also drives "Voyage Of The Seafolk" with slow and steady beats, that halfway through picks up the pace, enjoining the other instruments to a dance. This track also includes a bagpipe solo, though I suspect it is synthesized as none are credited...or Berry truly is a multi-instrumentalist. This is followed by the regal, heroic "Heart Of The Wolf," a track that brings to mind Simon Rattle's soundtrack to Henry V (though not of that movie's title theme). Andy Frazier sings on the monastic "The Aiel Approach [Dahl Of A Chant]" which very easily could be a Yes track, as Frazier has a voice that is reminiscent of Anderson's. This ends the album, and yet, you find yourself wanting more. Frazier penned this track, the remainder being penned by Berry. Sorbye has co-writer credit on two, "Song For Moiraine" and "The Game Of Houses," and co-executive producer Peter Morticelli co-wrote "Ladies Of The Tower."

With 19 tracks, most lasting in the three-minute range or less, there are numerous highlights. I have to tell you that I love this album, that Berry has composed a wonderful suite of music that really will appeal not only to progressive rock and Celtic music fans, but also fans of classical music. It bridges that line between the three. This is a very strong contender for my top picks list, and is certainly a jewel in the Magna Carta catalog.


Tracklisting:
A Theme For The Wheel Of Time (3:35) / Return To Emonds Field (3:55) / Song For Moiraine (3:34) / Travelling The Ways (3:05) / Spears And Buckler (1:22) / Dream Walker (2:04) / The Knowledge Of The Wise Ones (1:09) / The Winespring Reel (4:32) / The Halls Of Tar Valon (0:57) / Search For The Black Ajah (5:06) / Ladies Of The Tower (3:12) / The Game Of Houses (3:44) / Voyage Of The Sea Folk (3:45) / Heart Of The Wolf (1:09) / Journey Through The Waste (0:57) / Lan The Warder (1:16) / March Of The Trollocs (3:15) / Rand's Theme (Fanfare For The Dragon Reborn) (4:31) / The Aiel Approach (Dahl Of A Chant) (2:10)

Musicians:
Robert Berry - almost everything

Guests

Lief Sorbye - mandolin
Andy Frazier - vocals, guitar
Lisa Bouchelle - vocals
Michael Mullen - violin

Discography:
Selected

Hush (1976) (never released)
Hush '79 (1979, released 1997)
Hush - Hot Tonight (~1982)
Back To Back (1985)
3 - The Power Of Three (1988)
Pilgrammage To A Point (1992)
In These Eyes (1995) (South Africa only release)
Takin' It Back (1996)
Alliance - Bond Of?Union (1996) (Japan only)
Alliance - Alliance (~1996) (Europe only)
Alliance - Missing Piece (1999)
A Soundtrack For The Wheel Of Time (2001)
The December People - Sounds Like Christmas (2001)
Prime Cuts (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 26th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.robertberry.com
Hits: 671
Language: english

  

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