Martin Buber once said that «All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.» One such secret destination may be a song, composed months or years after the artist’s journey is over. Bill Wren’s new album “The Road to Chiang Mai” is a tribute to his travels. Here we get to experience some truly amazing places, cultures and atmospheres. So get your passports ready, and join us on this exotic expedition!
“The Road to Chiang Mai” is Bill Wren’s third album. His previous albums are “One day in A Life” and “Journey Around The Sun”. In 2012, during a break from composing music, Wren met his second wife (his first wife died earlier that year), Tamara and wound up joining her on her travels to Thailand and Cambodia, part of which were spent in an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This is the inspiration behind this album.
First track out is “Enchanted Kingdom”. The song all about discovery, excitement and non-stop adventure. The song has speed and quite a few interesting twist and turns. It is impossible to tell where this is going to end. I especially like the flute part. Check out the beautiful music video for this song. It really captures the sense of adventure:
“The Other Side” is a fresh, cheerful and easy to like. It could have been used as background music for a major sports event. I could listen to it all day and not get tired of it. There are some nice vocals here by Aubrey Logan. “Ponder Dust” features Ann Marie Calhoun on violin. It is a powerful song, and the effects accompany the violin beautifully.
All travels have a beginning, and so is also the case with this one. Track four track is called “The Beginning”. From the very first notes it seems clear that this trip bound for somewhere in Asia. The song has a wonderful build-up, and it makes me think of both Vangelis and Kitaro.
When we reach “The Road to Chiang Mai” it is like we are at the destination, this expedition’s goal. This is what we came for. I’m happy to say that it was well worth the trip. The guitar has a lovely acoustic feel, backed by carefully crafted strings. Mike Oldfield would have been proud if he made this song. It truly is a jewel. It makes me want to check out the «real» road to Chiang Mai.
Journey Around the Sun
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Harmonia”. It has a great combination of strings and synth, and a larger-than-life atmosphere. This album is all about contrasts, so next track out – “Journey around the Sun” – has a genuine down-to-earth, chill out feel. The sudden change in expression is very well done, and it makes the listening both interesting and rewarding.
“The Road to Chiang Mai” is in many ways like a collection of short stories. Each part is a concluded narrative. “Longing” is an ultra short and quite sad story with Ben Lash on cello. The 1 minute song is gone in an instant. It is in a way like a prelude to “Memories”. When looking back on good memories, we tend to get a bit melancholic. It is a story about life that has passed. I love the combination of piano and cello, and it makes “Memories” into a wonderful, neo-classical song.
Land of Smiles
“The Way it Was” is also about looking back. When remembering past travels, we don’t think about how a place is now, but how it was at the time we came to visit. There are always changes. That’s perhaps why the song has a dose of melancholy? But the lonely sounding flute makes sure that the song ends on a high note. On “Land of Smiles” we are definitely still in Thailand. The selection of traditional instruments is enough to make me smile. The song has quite a simple melody. Yet at the same time there’s a complexity here, both in the expression and the build-up. It is Thailand in a nutshell I guess. The paradise in “Today on Paradise” is for sure somewhere in Asia. It is like we are enjoying some amazing scenery.
“Ebb and Flow” is a great album closer. Here strings accompany a gentle piano. The ending is surprisingly powerful, rising and falling with the force of a giant wave. The atmosphere is interesting, like there’s a storm coming. We cannot control the forces of nature, and can do little but hide when the elements conspire against us. It truly is a beautiful song.
“The Road to Chiang Mai” is yet another great release by Bill Wren. Travel always makes a great topic for an album, and it is easy to tell that Wren has had some amazing experiences on his journeys. Now we can follow his footsteps simply by listening.
Score: 91/100 – See how I rate music here.