Listening to John Gregorius’ new album “Full of Life” got me thinking about one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous quotes: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.” There is a remarkable quality in Gregorius’ music that makes you want to embrace life and celebrate each moment. It might sound like a cliché, but it really makes you see the sunset in a new way, inspiring you to live life to the max. If that is not the definition of being “full of life”, I don’t know what is. Gregorius has delivered his best album to date and the finest ambient guitar release of 2020.
John Gregorius grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He moved to Southern California when he was nineteen to pursue music. He now lives in Tucson, Arizona, which obviously has had a major impact on his music. “I have found the desert to be a deeply spiritual place. The solitude, openness, resilience, mystery, and life in spite of the sometimes harsh and difficult landscape, leads one to contemplation of a bigger meaning.” “Full of Life” is his third album on the Spotted Peccary label. The other two are “Heaven and Earth” (2008) and “Still Voice” (2016).
The Expansive Sky
The album-opening “The Expansive Sky” has the quality and finesse of a U2 song, and Edge (David Howell Evans) couldn’t have done the ambient guitar better. “The Expansive Sky” is one of those pieces that does many things at the same time; It is welcoming as an old friend, monumental yet unpretentious, and most importantly, profoundly existential. It makes you feel connected, centered, and balanced. It starts with distant synth pads before Gregorius’ glorious guitar cuts through and demands our undivided attention. There is a gentle rhythm here too, which assists the guitar wonderfully. Many similar pieces have a quite cold sound, but “The Expansive Sky” is hot as the desert. One word; bravo!
With an opener like this, it takes some time to “land” and adjust our ears. But Gregorius keeps on going, showing guitar magic on par with Mike Oldfield, David Helpling, and Todd Mosby. “Unfolding Beauty” has just the right atmosphere and expression. Slowly the melody takes shape. It is a bit sad, yet there is a determination here too that is nothing short of impressive; Ambient guitar and synth keys are, as always, a wonderful combination. “Unfolding Beauty” lays the foundation for the acoustic title track. I absolutely love the natural and straightforward “Full of Life”. There is a synth backdrop here too, but the steel-string guitars are center stage. I also like that the title track is not grandiose or majestic; it is honest, bare, and real. There is a philosophical comment here that deserves to be mentioned. To be full of life is not something that is necessarily animated or exuberant. No, when you are full of life, you are filled with gratitude, joy, and a deep sense of spiritual purpose. The be full of life is the most genuine feeling of all. It is love, pure and simple.
Path of Renewal
As promised by the title, “Path of Renewal” takes the album in a new direction. It is a colorful piece with an incredibly well-made synth backing. Notice how the acoustic guitar repeats the same segment while ever-changing synths change the scenery completely. I guess it is a comment on how change is never easy. We all walk the path of renewal every day.
The following part of the album is incredibly meditative. “Blanket of Stars” is a delightful and optimistic piece, while “Winds of Change” makes us stop and reflect on what it really means that nothing is constant – except change, of course.
Then “Wellspring” comes along, cheerful and positive. It is a fabulous piece, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for the replay button. It is a wellspring of good emotions, a soundscape you can spend your day in. “Early Reflection” is a chilled and thoughtful before “Monsoon Clearing” makes you want to move, perhaps even dance. The percussion is magnificent, and the layers of well-crafted textures and female vocalization make it into a unique listening experience.
Gregorius’ music is highly visual. To enjoy “Painted Vistas”, close your eyes, and a bright-colored and radiant landscape will unfold. Nearer the end, the lovely “Catalina” will both amaze and astound you. I like how the song almost ends, then continues as if nothing has happened.
“Rincon Fading Light” concludes the album thoughtfully. From “The Expansive Sky” and onwards, this is an album about light – and now the night is falling, and the journey has come to an end. Notice the nice wind chimes and amazing layers synths; as darkness falls, all colors disappear.
In conclusion: I started this review with an Oscar Wilde quote on how we often spend our lives simply existing and never really living. John Gregorius’ album “Full of Life” inspires us to take a time-out and see the world around us with new eyes. It is a magnificent, consistent, and deeply inspiring release with timeless qualities. It makes you feel grateful for being alive and capable of receiving its message. Not many things these days make you feel connected and complete, but “Full of Life” is definitely in that category. Highly recommended!
Score: 97/100 – See our scoring policy
For more information and music samples, visit johngregorius.com