Thursday, October 22, 2009

Joshua Bell - at home with friends

When I woke up this morning, the temperature had dropped overnight - from an unpleasantly humid 82 to a delicious 64 - and I could just hear the sounds of the brass section of the marching band warming up at the high school. It seemed like the perfect time to pop in Joshua Bell's new album and enjoy the weather.

At Home With Friends is, as explained in a personal message included in the liner notes, an extension of a tradition from Bell's childhood. The album pairs Bell, on violin, with a number of other talents like Chris Botti, Sting, Josh Groban, Frankie Moreno, and Regina Spektor. The full track listing is impressive:

I Loves You Porgy featuring Chris Botti, trumpet
Come Again featuring Sting, vocals
Oblivion featuring Carel Kraayenhof, bandoneon
Cinema Paradiso featuring Josh Groban, vocals
Para Tí featuring Tiempo Libre, various
My Funny Valentine featuring Kristin Chenoweth, vocals
Maybe So featuring Edgar Meyer Sam Bush and Mike Marshall, strings
Grieg: Sonata No. 3 featuring Sergei Rachmaninoff (Zenph re-performance)
Eleanor Rigby featuring Frankie Moreno, piano & vocals
O, Cease Thy Maiden Fair featuring Nathan Gunn, baritone
Il Postino featuring Carel Kraayenhof, bandoneon
Left Hand Song featuring Regina Spektor, piano & vocals
Chovendo Na Roseira
featuring Dave Grusin, piano
Look Away featuring Edgar Meyer, bass and Chris Thile, mandolin
Variant Moods: Duet for Sitar & Violin featuring Anoushka Shankar, sitar
I'll Take Manhattan featuring Marvin Hamlisch, piano
Left Hand featuring Regina Spektor, vocals

At Home With Friends made for great mood music to leave on today. I may have been influenced by the weather, but I felt that several of the songs invoked the spirit of Fall, particularly Chovendo Na Roseira and Left Hand Song.

Surprisingly, and in contrast with other albums I've reviewed, At Home With Friends doesn't have a single track I actively dislike. That being said, I do feel that the true strength of the album rests with the musical rather than the vocal arrangements. Left Hand Song and Come Again are both good songs, but the tracks that I enjoyed - and that grabbed my attention - most were those which focused on the instruments.

Joshua Bell plays extremely well, and his versatility comes through over the course of the album. Duet for Sitar & Violin, for example, is an intriguing piece (and my personal favorite on the album), as are Look Away and Oblivion. Even better, over the course of the album I was introduced to a number of songs and instruments I'd never heard before.

Overall, I think At Home With Friends was a great idea on Joshua Bell's part.

A very hearty thank you to the One2One Network for giving me the chance to review At Home With Friends!

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