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TRACK LIST: 1. Division 5:08 2. Norwegian Wood 6:14 3. Three Steps 5:52 4. Fragile 3:44 5. Float 6:25 6. Persia 5:28 7. Memory On 4:03 8. In Time 4:44 9. Little Wing 6:04 10. Take Me Down 5:58 LINEUP: Nima Rezai – stick, stick synths; santour; el. drums Dan Heflin – saxophones; flute Randy Graves – didgeridoo; koto Brad Ranola – percussion With: Jesus Florido – violin Harry Scorzo – violin Michael Alvarez – cello Adam Darling – el. & ac. guitars; el. drums Christopher Garcia – drums, tablas, djembe Houman Pourmehdi – daf, udu; bass drum Delton Davis – percussion, vibes, darbuka John Zeretzke – kamanche Milad Derakhshani – taar Kevin Goode – piano
Prolusion. The all-instrumental “Songs of Strange Delight” is an album by NIMA COLLECTIVE, a new project by Persian multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Nima Rezai, who lives and creates in the States, though. Nima’s previous outfit, Merge, has two studio recordings to its credit: “Merge” (1998) and “Separate Worlds” (2005), and also one live album “Live in London” (2004), the last two of which are masterpieces. As you see, the man releases one studio outing every seven years.
Analysis. OK, after much anticipation, Nima & Co have returned, with the same basic line-up that played on Merge’s “Separate Worlds” album, albeit here it is augmented by ten guest musicians. After attracting a following with its spirited, energetic blend of Jazz-Fusion and World Music, the band now moves in a more pop/dance-driven direction that, while opening them to a broader audience, is going to cool enthusiasts from the progressive music camp like a cold shower. All ten of the tracks present are distinguished by an overtly danceable groove, most of them only featuring one or two distinctly soloing instruments – something I really didn’t expect to meet with, bearing in mind how many musicians are involved on the album. To its credit, Nima Collective is excelling in taking some colorful eastern melodies and making them danceable – such as on tracks like Persia, Memory On, Norwegian Wood, Fragile and Little Wing (the last three of which are instantly recognizable, though, as each of them is a rendering of the same-titled song by The Beatles, Sting and Jimi Hendrix, respectively) – which seems to be the purpose of this collection. When listening to the first track on the CD, Division, I thought it was most likely the worst track here, okayish only as an opener. However, it turned out that it’s the best one in the set, reminiscent of Jean-Luc Ponty’s late work, although its eastern colorations might arouse associations with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, circa 1975. The remaining tracks, Three Steps, Float and In Time, are woven almost exclusively of European musical fabrics. All of them are much in the vein of The Alan Parsons Project, save the fact that, due to their use of programmed drums instead of real ones, they sound much less impressive than any of that outfit’s famous instrumentals.
Conclusion. So, what we have here is for the most part a blend of quasi Jazz-Fusion and eastern motifs, delivered by means of pop and dance music in a mellow, predominantly balladic manner. My main dissatisfaction with “Songs of Strange Delight” is that the grooves have totally overwhelmed the eventfulness that the artist’s earlier creations (particularly “Separate Worlds”) are filled with. I rated the disc with four stars only out of regard for the man’s previous services in the field of music. In fact, I was bored when listened to it and it was boring for me to review it. Well, if you’re about to dance with your girlfriend or wife, then it’s for you.
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