I knew I had to
purchase this CD when I came to realise that both my
favourite track on the 2011 compilation album
‘Whisperings: Solo Piano Volume 1’ (‘Irish Rain’)
and my other favourite track on its 2009 sister
album download, ‘Relaxing Piano Artists for
Alzheimer's Research’ entitled ‘Lament’ were by the
same artist: Michele McLaughlin. Seeing that Michele
had a new album out, I decided to take the plunge
and it was certainly a decision I have not
The first thing
that struck me upon receipt of the CD, was the
beautiful artwork. Artists sometimes overlook this,
but hats off to Michele and designer Matt Strieby at
‘Newleaf Design’. It is simply stunning. The front
cover features shafts of light piercing through the
trees, and is clearly symbolic of the album's title.
Inside, there are comprehensive notes about each
track, which from a listener's point of view is much
appreciated. I enjoy learning more about the origins
of each piece. More impressive photography is
contained within, and the attention to detail is
second to none. Even the back cover of the insert
connects to the image underneath where the CD would
normally be located. It is quite simply one of the
most impressive album designs in my entire
course, would be wasted if the music disappointed,
but the reality is the music on this album is
top-notch. ‘Out of the Darkness’ is a deeply
personal album chronicling Michele's marriage
break-up, which clearly and quite understandably was
a very turbulent time in the artist's life. The
pianist's journey through the pain and out the other
end is captured here, and I can honestly say I don't
think I have ever heard such a heart-felt CD.
Michele has channelled her energies into this
project, and I imagine that the composition and
recording process has been a great healer to this
very gifted musician.
opens with ‘Forsaken’ which Michele explains
captures the terrible argument and the moment her ex
announced he was leaving. The piece begins
innocuously enough; all is calm- but that all soon
changes with a quickening tempo and lively dynamics.
As the piece concludes, it slows right down as the
reality sinks in, and a huge part of her life has
come to an abrupt end.
Descent’ chronicles Michele's depression after her
husband had left. This is a mournful piece; the
listener can feel the hurt in the music. It
ends on a more upbeat note; an early indicator that
in a crisis we pull through; we do survive, and
Michele is no exception.
third track is entitled ‘Indignation’. Michele
explains that the piece captures how for a long time
she felt incredibly angry and resentful at what had
happened. Perhaps it is wrong of me to say this, but
I actually find it a beautiful piece- yes, with some
low notes suggesting all is not well, but maybe the
healing process had already begun as this was being
‘Forbearance’ is another heart-felt piece, achingly
sad in parts with hints of optimism- intentionally
or not. Michele explains how this piece captures the
moment she resigned herself to the unwelcome reality
that her marriage was indeed over. As with all the
other tracks, this is a melodic piece, and it is
clear to this reviewer that Michele has an absolute
gift for melody.
'Out of the Darkness’ has a sense of "get up and go"
about it. This is a more optimistic number,
capturing how no matter how bad things might be,
life goes on, and there is definitely an air of
optimism about this piece. I am sure it is more than
just co-incidence that the the album's first four
tracks are described by Michele on a separate dark,
rather ominous and foreboding page, and this track
description is on a fresh, brighter page alongside a
brilliant sunshine and Spring leaves. Another
example of the thought, care and attention to detail
that has gone into the entire album process.
What can I
say about track six, ‘So Long, Mr. Selfish’ other
than it is good to get these things off your chest!
Michele throws caution to the wind here in a flurry
of high-tempo notes. This is an angry song, and it
was her friend Jennifer who suggested she "let rip"
as we call it here in England. As Michele herself
recognises, there is a fun element to the piece; a
cacophony of notes in discord this is definitely
not! There is certainly plenty of energy in this
track, and the piece takes two spots on the album-
the first in solo-piano form, and the second...
well, that will have to wait so as not to spoil the
‘Transformation’ perfectly captures the period where
hurt and anger are slowly replaced with a more
positive frame of mind and outlook. It's quite a
busy piece, and represents how Michele kept herself
busy, reorganising, cleaning, sorting as she did
exactly the same things in her own life. What a
beautiful ending to this piece! I feel it captures
the moment where after all the ensuing activity, she
stops for a moment and reflects.
eight, and this is another high-tempo piece. The
healing process is never an easy one, and the track
captures the frustrations inflicted by the many
obstacles that stand in the way as she tried to move
forward with her life. The sense of frustration is
palpable, but ultimately the composition ends on an
optimistic note as the obstacles are overcome one by
Solace in Friends’ is a happy piece, and this sense
of joy is brought on by the comfort that only good
friends can bring. In times of crisis, friendship is
of utmost importance, and Michele can count herself
lucky that she had such good acquaintances to help
her through the dark times and out the other side.
There is a lovely positive feel to this short but
mood continues with ‘New Light’ which, as the title
would suggest, captures the joyous feeling felt by
Michele when she realised that the worst was over.
In her linear notes, she recalls how she awoke one
morning with an overwhelming sense of joy. Nature
played its part; "I looked out of my window and it
was a beautiful day, sunshine illuminating the world
outside. At that moment I felt so alive," she
writes. The piece reflects the gentle start of the
day, and working in parallel, the beginning of a new
chapter in her life.
Stillness of Peace’ has a lullaby feel to it at the
start, and is a deeply reflective track as Michele
looks back on her life. As the composition develops, the
mood becomes more optimistic again. It is another
penultimate track, ‘Rejoice’, is a highly melodic
and beautifully crafted piece. Michele explains,
"This song portrays such a profound sense of
happiness to me. It reminds me of my struggle, that
I never thought I'd survive, and of how much has
changed and can happen in the span of a year. This
song, to me, is the ultimate song of gratitude and
celebration." I particularly love both the beginning
and end to this piece, and it brings the solo-piano
part of this CD to a gorgeous conclusion.
Oh, how I
adore the Bonus Track, a second outing for "So Long,
Mr. Selfish", but this time orchestrated and with
not a piano in sight. It is orchestrated by Glen
Gabriel (take a bow, young man) and captures all the
anger of the earlier incarnation, but even more so-
especially with the addition of the choir at the
end, bringing the main section to a dramatic
conclusion before the piece concludes on an achingly
beautiful but very sombre note as the awful reality
has set in. A dilemma for me was whether or not to
mention this, but I shall go for it! Having listened
to this CD dozens of times in the car in preparation
for reviewing this album, a strange thing occurred.
I found myself adding vocals to the chorus: two
words of three syllables each time, followed by four
words of seven syllables. What these words are, I
have to keep to myself, but let's just say I hope
that none of the passing motorists travelling in the
other direction were lip-readers...
praise this CD highly enough. It is simply
wonderful, and I love it from beginning to end. It
is somewhat ironic that in a time of great crisis,
Michele McLaughlin has been stirred into creating
what is undoubtedly her finest CD to date. I give it
my highest recommendation, and I am sure that many
listeners will be able to empathise with the
whirlwind of emotions experienced by the composer.
It might even help them through the healing process.
I find myself connecting to the music at a level
rarely experienced by me before.
respects, a CD of the highest quality. Don't miss
out on this very special album.