The winds of change have constantly been blowing throughout history, but now, in the 2020s, changes happen so fast that even two-three years ago seems like an eternity. It is easy to lose track of it all, from trends in technology, climate change, and the elephant in the room: Covid19. But if you feel a little lost, don’t worry; David J. Peña’s new album Winds of Change will put your mind at ease. With relentless optimism, determination, and a unique artistic vision, Peña guides us through the storms of uncertainty and shows how human ingenuity always comes to our rescue. Peña’s new album seems to blow away all negativity and underlining that change is the law of life, the only constant – and thank God for that!
David J. Peña is a drummer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist raised in Mission, TX, and based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. At age 4, he would sit on the street curb and listen to the local marching band. After the band passed, he would rush to his family’s piano and steadily decipher the tunes and harmonies of the music he had just heard. Peña developed as a musician and has become known as a skilled drummer and piano enthusiast. He debuted with the Contemporary Christian album The Time Has Come. Later Peña met orchestral composer Judah Earl. As Peña and Earl began collaborating, the seeds of a project took root in their minds. These seeds came to fruition in Peña’s sophomore album, Thinking of You, released in November last year. It was nominated for Best Piano with orchestration on One World Music Radio album awards and was also nominated for Best Neo-Classical Album on Zone Music Reporter album awards. Peña has also worked with Earl on Winds of Change. The album was mixed by Greg Hill and mastered by Brian Calhoon. The cover design is by Mirna Peña.
David J. Peña fans will know that his style is quite hard-hitting, although Winds of Change is a bit softer than Thinking of You. Judah Earl has, as usual, done a terrific job making the sampled strings sound alive and vibrant. Homecoming is the album opener – and what a homecoming it is! A warmer and more welcoming piece is hard to imagine; it is an incredible piece! The first time I heard it, I put it on replay, unable – or unwilling – to go on, until I realized that the album’s theme prohibited me from spending too much time dwelling on track number one when there were so much more to discover. Bravo!
Homecoming fades into Awakening. The feeling of discovery and adventure is so prominent, so strong, that I almost thought that the composition could implode due to its grandness – a “Vangelis atmosphere gone bad” if you will – but Peña’s honest, transparent style and rock-solid melodic arrangements make sure that he lands smoothly every time. It is not just great; it is mind-blowing fantastic! He is easily on par with Marc Enfroy, Marshall Styler, and Greg Maroney.
I don’t know if I’m influenced by Abba’s Arrival (of which Mike Oldfield did a fantastic cover), but every time I see a song with this title, I get very excited. I’m thrilled to report that Peña’s The Arrival does not disappoint; the Arrival takes off from the very first note and will not let go of the listener. I also enjoy the piano and synth duet (I wouldn’t be surprised if it is an Omnisphere) and how it flows so naturally. You will get a deep sense of having reached your destination, the very concept of an arrival. Remember When takes the album in a new and more contemplative direction. It is a romantic and quite nostalgic piece with a touch of melancholy. It would be the perfect soundtrack to an emotional scene in a blockbuster movie.
No wonder that Winds of Change is the title track! The larger-than-life piece starts with the sounds of nature before an incredible melody takes shape. It took my breath away the first time I heard, much like a strong wind. I believe that the winds of change are a symbol of how we as humans – with all our technology and wisdom – still are at the mercy of the elements. It is also an illustration of how our society constantly changes. There is a duality here that makes the listener think. With Someday, the perspective is on the future, yet the underlying atmosphere remains the same. The violin is a nice twist.
Suddenly the melancholy is blown away. Windy Shadows showcases Peña confident piano playing style, making the listener pay attention and hang on to every note. There is some strings magic at play here, too; notice the delicate yet sharp backdrop that adds drama and depth. If the piano is the wind, the strings are the shadows.
I love the trio that concludes the album: Willow, Wise Men’s Journey, and Take Flight. To me, Willow sounds like an homage to this beautiful planet we call home, while Wise Men’s Journey and Take Flight inspire us to be brave and believe in human spirit and grit. Together we can accomplish anything.
In conclusion: When Scorpions in 1990 released Wind of Change, the world was a very different place. While it is easy to forget the stresses of the late 1980s and the fall of the iron curtain, IT and the internet, the globalization of the 2000s, social media, and now also Covid19, all have changed the way we look at the world – and the future too. This is perhaps the main reason why David J. Peña’s Winds of Change is such a breath of fresh air. I don’t know about you, but I cannot ever recall that an album has left me feeling nothing but optimism, but Winds of Change has this ultra-rare quality. The album is only 36 minutes long, but Peña uses the time perfectly. Not a second, or a note, is wasted. Pieces like Homecoming, The Arrival, and Take Flight are magnificent compositions in every sense of the word – while Judah Earl’s orchestral arrangements refine the experience and carry it into neoclassical heaven.
Do yourself a favor and add Winds of Change to your playlist. Just start with the “triple positive opening” – Homecoming, Awakening, and The Arrival – and you will be blown away, guaranteed!
For more information and music samples, visit davidjpena.com