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Barbara Rubin

The Shadows Playground (Piano Works)

Review by Gary Hill

This is a unique release. As you might guess piano is a large focus here. These are fully arranged pieces, though. They have a real classical rock edge to them, but there is more to the sound than that. There are times when jazz shows up, and other points where it's more purely progressive rock based. Most of the songs have vocals, but there are a few instrumentals. Whatever you call this, it's unique and intriguing.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Endless Hope
The piano passages that open this are powerful and evocative. The cut drops to just vocals for a short interlude. Then it comes in with more of a song structure of piano and multiple layers of voices to continue. There is a dreamy, proggy quality to this tune. The tune gets quite powerful. There are classical strings added to the mix and a male vocal
Seven
Up-tempo piano starts this number, and it grows outward from there with a great jazz meets prog vibe. The first half of this is mostly instrumental. The second half has a full vocal arrangement. This is another strong piece of proggy music and gets more rock oriented as it continues.
La Maddalena
The piano on this might be some of the best of the disc. Given the competition that says a lot. This gets a bit less rock oriented than some of the other music here does. There are both jazz and classical elements at play.
Clouds
This is a short, but dramatic piano and vocal piece.
Sunrise Promenade
I love how the piano and violin dance around one another on this piece. The cut has a real classical music vibe to it. The piece is an instrumental.
The Shadows Playground
The piano that brings the title track into being is powerful and dramatic. The melodies seem to swirl in circles as it continues. Vocals join about a minute-and-a-half in. The piece drops back to near silence beyond that, and piano again rises up to bring it forward. This is an extended, dynamic and powerful piece of music.
Sleeping Violin
Violin textures start this, but you'd expect that given the title, wouldn't you? The melodies build and piano joins after a time. The arrangement builds and gets more involved. This instrumental is quite classical.
La Ballata degli Angeli
Another instrumental piece, this has plenty of drama and intensity. Yet, it also has particularly mellow moments. The classical music elements are tempered with more pop music ones at times. While not a big change, this is effective.
Helen's Word
Many of the vocals on this one are rather chorale in nature. The cut has plenty of classical music in the mix, but also gets into more progressive rock like territory, too.
 
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