Lanz, David - Songs From An English Garden

Year of Release: 1998
Label: Narada
Catalog Number: 72438 454472
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:56:00

I first became aware of David Lanz via his collaboration with Paul Speer on tracks featured on a Narada compilation disc - Narada Equinox Sampler One. That led to buying the entire album Desert Vision (and later Natural States), and led to me exploring each artist's solo work. Lanz is stunning pianist who never seizes to amaze me and grab my attention. His "Leaves On The Seine" is one of my favourite pieces.

He's not a showy player like ? oh, say, Jerry Lee Lewis. Lanz's chops are shown in more subtle ways, which is why he's a contemporary instrumental (new age) artist and not a rock 'n roll artist. It is often those who can play with subtly, texture, and contrast that are the better pianists than those that bang away ferociously on the keys.

Nevertheless, it is here, on Songs From An English Garden, that rock n' roll meets contemporary instrumental. Lanz takes well-known songs from the likes of the Rolling Stones ("As Tears Go By/Ruby Tuesday"), the Hollies ("Bus Stop"), the Kinks ("Sunny Afternoon") and others and creates piano-led instrumentals out of them. And this is a far cry from the staid and dry Muzak of old. And, he does it with an all-star cast that includes Herb Alpert, Tony Levin, and Dave Koz, to name but three of the dozen or so guests here.

Lanz writes: "Music is one of the greatest tools we have for the rediscovery of our past ? the mid-to late 1960's were exciting and revolutionary years in the history of pop music. The impact of 'The British Invasion' on me?was immeasurable ? I hope that my reminiscing has honored those artists who came before, and created a musical thread that connects yesterday and today."

This album is successful because Lanz is able to imbue each of these songs with the warmth of reflection. None of these songs were "balls out" rockers, of course, as evidenced by the two Stones ballads. Each track lends itself to this laid back, easy going format. And not all are simply mellow instrumental versions - "Tuesday Afternoon" has been re-imagined, given an even more uptempo, jazzy, arrangement?or as Lanz writes: "?played with a sense of humor and features our 'groovy' seven-piece horn section." The core of the original track is still there, but is given a new direction. Along with that horn section (Allen Vizzutti, Jeff Hay, Gary Shutes, Bruce Wilson, Robert Jordan, Richard Cole, and John Goforth), this track includes Tony Levin on bass, Matt Chamberlain on drums, Tim Pierce on guitars, and Luis Peralta and James Reynolds on percussion. Tony Levin I know from his work with King Crimson and Liquid Tension Experiment (an instrumental progressive metal quartet with three members of Dream Theater, which only goes to show Levin's versatility). James Reynolds is the man behind the music of the first in the Mind's Eye video series (Jan Hammer and Thomas Dolby did the music for volumes 2 and 3, respectively).

In addition to all that, many of the tracks feature a 19-piece orchestra (referred to as The Orchestra), The String Quartet, and a seven-piece horn section (The Horns).

I have to admit that some of my favourite tracks from this period are here: "Conquistador" by Procol Harum, "Ferry Across The Mersey" by Gerry and the Pacemakers, as well as the above mentioned "Bus Stop" (and a few others). Unfortunately, the one track that doesn't work as successfully for me is "Conquistador," where the piano seems labored and doesn't flow smoothly as elsewhere on the album, perhaps because the vocals are trying to be matched too closely. It's not a bad track, not just as successfully transposed to this format. Lanz is joined by Procol Harum's Hammond organist, Matthew Fisher, who also joined Lanz for his rendition of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (which made the transition much more successfully) and also appears on this album's "English Garden." However, the emotion of the original is here, and there are a couple of nice interludes, the first of which is a guitar, piano, castanets, and percussion tango that evokes the setting for the track. The second is Fisher's Hammond organ solo (opened with a brief by nice guitar solo by Tim Pierce).

The added warm and subtle trumpet tones that Herb Alpert adds to "Ferry" gives this the feeling of twilight (where as the original evoked full day), that magical hour when the horizon is filled with an orange glow beneath deep blue sky. Dave Koz adds the same kind of warmth (without the same imagery) to "As Tears Go By/Ruby Tuesday" with his soprano sax.

"I'll Follow The Sun" has an almost country feel to it, with its easy arrangement. The drums, percussion and Lanz piano are the most up front in the mix and Gary Lanz's guitar has a slight twang to it that is so characteristic of country music. It is a nice, a close to faithful, rendition of the Beatles classic - an adaptation the band would be proud of.

Chad and Jeremy's "A Summer Song" sounds quite a bit like "Bus Stop" here, though I know the originals don't, but that's more observation than criticism.

Two Lanz originals are also featured here, the scene-setting "Sitting In An English Garden" (from a line in the Beatles' "I Am The Walrus") and "London Blue." "English Garden" is expansive, open ? imagine an aerial sequence over the English countryside - green, rolling hills, farms dotted by sheep and sectioned off by hedges, and a slightly overcast sky. "London Blue" sounds to me like ... we'll I'm not sure of the title, but the chorus is something like "God bless you, you make me feel brand new..." It was written in a "blue" moment "one rainy Monday morning in Seattle" but "recalls the time [Lanz] spent in London..."

Those who have been impressed by the full and rich sound Lanz charms from his piano will find more of the same here. Even in sparse arrangements, his piano is able to fill the space without crowding it. If you like both 60's British rock and contemporary instrumental, you can't go wrong by getting this beautiful disc by David Lanz.

Sitting In An English Garden (3:44) / As Tears Go By/ruby Tuesday (4:02) / Bus Stop (4:57) / Ferry Across The Mersey (3:51) / Tuesday Afternoon (6:24) / I'll Follow The Sun (3:16) / Conquistador (4:07) / A Summer Song (3:25) / London Blue (3:30) / Girl (3:46) / Sunny Afternoon (4:54) / Strawberry Fields Forever (3:55)

David Lanz - pianos, vibraphone, percussion, organ, Perlata bells, marimba, and harpsichord
Tony Levin - basses
Matt Chamberlain - drums, cymbals (10)
Tim Pierce - guitars
Luis Peralta - percussion, waterphone, and bongos
James Reynolds - sound effects (1, 4), castanets (7), percussion (5, 7), programming (8)
Jean Wells-Yablonsky - violin (1, 3)
Dave Koz - soprano sax (2)
Herb Alpert - trumpet (4)
Gary Lanz - guitars (6, 8) and autoharp (11)
Matthew Fisher - Hammond Organ (1, 7)
Eugene Friesen - cello (10)
Glen Velez - drums and percussion (10, 11)
Roy Bittan - accordian (11)
The Orchestra (1, 3, 5, 7)
The String Quartet (1, 7)
The Horns (5)

Woodlands (1987)*
Natural States (w/Paul Speer) (1987)
Desert Vision (w/Speer) (1987)
Heartsounds (1987)
Nightfall (1987)
Cristofori's Dream (1988)
Skyline Firedance: Orchestral Works & Solo Works (1990)
Return To The Heart (1991)
Solstice (Piano Solos) (w/Michael Jones) (1992)
Bridge Of Dreams (w/Speer) (1993)
Beloved: A David Lanz Collection (1995)
Convergence (w/David Arkenstone) (1996)
Sacred Road (1996)
Christmas Eve (1997)
Songs From An English Garden (1998)
Cristofori's Dream (remaster) (1999)
An Evening With David Lanz (1999)
The Christmas Album (1999)
East Of The Moon (2000)
Love Songs (2001)
Finding Paradise (2002)
Romantic: The Ultimate David Lanz Narada Collection (2002)
Symphonic Sessions (2003)
Nightfall/Heartsounds (2CD remastered reissue) (2003)
The Good Life (2004)
Angel In My Stocking (2004)
Spirit Romance (w/Gary Stroutsos) (2005)
* compilation of artists

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: December 13th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 925
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]