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Track List: 1. Eclipse 7:26 2. Circle of Fire 8:31 3. Outback 3:03 4. Wings of a Thousand Moths 6:25 5. Tahitian Wave 5:19 6. Rush Hour In Dakar 5:54 7. Seven In Senegal 2:12 8. Back In Dakar 1:38 9. Realm of Neptune 6:57 10. Under the Spell 5:30 All tracks: by Benjy Wertheimer. Line-up: Benjy Wertheimer - - various hand percussion instruments; keyboards; - Esraj; guitar; vocals; programming, looping, & - sampling Tim Ellis - - electric, acoustic, & e-bow guitars, electric Sitar; - Turkish Cumbus Randy Mead - - flute & bass flute; alto & soprano sax; Bansuri Jeff Leonard - - basses Jim Walker - - vocals Heather Wertheimer - - vocals Produced & engineered by B. Wertheimer. Mixed by B. & H. Wertheimers at "Wolf Cub" studios. Mastered by Ryan Foster at "Freq Mastering", Portland, OR.
Preamble. "Circle of Fire" is the brand new album by Benjy Wertheimer. If you haven't heard of this great artist and his creation before, I'd recommend you to read first the review of his previous album, > "Soul of the Esraj".
The Album. Originality, innovation, exotics, and magic are the key aspects of "Circle of Fire", though, of course, these words sound equally topical with regard to Benjy's previous album as well. Here however, all of this is raised to the power of hypnotism and, sometimes, a real transcendence (trance-and-dance). Unlike "Soul of the Esraj", there are only elements of India's Classical Music on "Circle of Fire", which, moreover, is stylistically a rather motley album. But then, as I have implied above, everything here is just filled with a wonderful hypnotism and (sometimes) some marvelous magic. Only the first three compositions on the album: Eclipse, Circle of Fire, and Outback, are filled with flavors of the music of the East. Stylistically however, all of them represent a unique Progressive Rock where all of the main soloing parts - those of Cumbus, Sitar, Esraj, flute, saxophone, and a wide variety of hand percussion instruments (including marimba-like ones) - are definitely of an Eastern origin. (Cumbus ['kam:buz] is one of the guitar-like stringed instruments that, apart from Turkey, are widespread in most of the Turkic countries, including Uzbekistan and all of the other former USSR republics, except Tadjikistan.) The contents of Wings of a Thousand Moths and Realm of Neptune (tracks 4 & 9) are about a real New Music where textures that are typical for the music of the East are wonderfully interwoven with those of Classic Progressive Rock. Respectively, the arrangements that are featured there consist of the parts of eastern instruments (Cumbus, Esraj, and percussion), along with the solos of flute, and those of Rock instruments (electric and acoustic guitars, bass, and synthesizers), as well as varied interplay between all of them. Wings of a Thousand Moths features, in addition, a few of the female vocalize. All five of the remaining tracks sound way different than any of those that I've depicted above. (So if I were in Benjy's shoes I would've placed the aforementioned Realm of Neptune on track 5, and not on track 9. Then this very exotic album, full of so different musical journeys all over the world, would have kind of its own equator.) Tahitian Wave and Rush Hour In Dakar (5 & 6) are certainly of an Afro-musical nature. Which is clear from the contents of these compositions, and not only according to the titles of them, even though Tahitian waves lap far from the coast of Dakar, the capital of Africa's state Senegal. (The New) Tahitian Wave is almost completely based on the parts of several exotic percussion instruments and features the ritual-like refrains of a typically African exclamatory character. In some ways, this track can be regarded as the first song on the CD. Then Rush Hour In Dakar will be the second song here. All the vocal parts (with real lyrics), performed here by a mixed choir, as well as all the instrumental arrangements, including the solos of electric and bass guitar, just breathe with uniqueness, which, in its turn, is made up of the African musical textures. Strangely enough, but Seven In Senegal and Back In Dakar (7 & 8), the titles of which are still referred to Africa, though both of them are just parts of the same song (with lyrics), sound much in the vein of the Latin-American music with elements of Jazz-Fusion. Finally, the album's closing track, Under the Spell (10), is about a purely European Progressive Rock with elements of Jazz-Fusion and features a choir consisting of the male and female vocalizes.
Summary. As you have certainly guessed, the new Benjy Wertheimer album, "Circle of Fire", sounds for the most part radically different than its predecessor. To be honest, I would've been quite disappointed if these albums were similar among themselves. While now, I see that Benjy is capable to amazingly transform the style of his music, which, nevertheless, remains distinctly original and, at the same time, quite typical for this remarkable composer and musician.
VM: December 6, 2002
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