As indicated by the title, John Adorney’s new album Toward a Gentle Place represents a movement. When listening, your mind is taken on a journey, away from the stress of everyday life and into a state of positivity and rest. Both new and old fans will feel right at home, and listening to just one or two songs is not an option. Give yourself time to enjoy it all, and you’ll see how wonderful it is to flow “toward a gentle place.”
Many relaxation albums have one flaw – the listeners are given no time to adjust their ears and minds. It is like the relaxation is supposed to start at once, from the very first note. John has another approach. He says: “I’ve based the sequencing of the music on something called the iso–principle. The iso-principle is a concept applied in the practice of music therapy where the music played by the therapist matches the energy level or mood of the client, and then is gradually altered to bring about a more desired state. This process can help guide the person toward relaxation and, ideally, to a more peaceful state of being.”
The first track is called “Appreciation.” It starts with a few carefully selected pads, then a distant shaker and various synth leads are heard. It is exquisite sound design. Very few artists are able to create an atmosphere as rich and warm as this with such delicate instruments, and fans will recognize John’s unique sound immediately. “Appreciation” greets you like an old friend, and is a fantastic intro to the album. It stops a bit abruptly, and “Gentle Flow” immediately fills the void. It is a positive and upbeat piano and guitar melody. The instruments are like vocals, singing a song of love and hope.
The next track is the wonderfully titled “The Sky Untied Her Hair.” It shows just how versatile John is as both an artist and composer. He can do any genre, and his albums are like well-written novels filled with surprising twists and turns. The song has a nice neo-classical touch. “Everything Is Breathing” continues in the same style. The flute melody is nicely backed by strings and guitar.
Peace on your wings
Notice how these songs slowly and gently reduce speed and guide us toward a beautiful, meditative state – totally without over-produced synth arrangements and effects. Listen to “Peace on your wings,” track 4, and you will see what I mean. A master at work does not need broad brushes.
When “Candle on the Still” plays, it is apparent that we are approaching a gentle place – or we might already be there, depending on the listener. The Rhodes piano and oboe sound amazing together.
Precious and Fair
If every morning were “Like the Morning,” waking up would not be a problem. The harmonies and melodic elements here are in perfect balance. It might sound overly sweet isolated, but the song is just right at this stage of the album. The guitar-based “Precious and Fair” makes sure that there’s variation in sound too.
The last three tracks are the album’s conclusion. Each song holds a different version of the “gentle place.” “Among the Clouds” is quite ambient in style, including a wonderful cello segment, while “In Your Keeping” is a romantic song, softly played on analogue-sounding synths. “Warm Embrace” is everything you would expect from a relaxation album: larger-than-life synths, a harp-like instrument, and sounds of nature far in the background.
Toward a Gentle Place can be compared to Mike Oldfield’s Tres Lunas (2002). Oldfield set out to make a chillout album, but ended up making an album that was not in this genre at all, yet still uniquely Mike Oldfield in sound and style. Chillout was not for him. He was, in a way, a too good an artist for this genre. It is tempting to say that relaxation music is too easy for an artist of John Adorney’s format. His melodies and approach to music are so much more. A mere relaxation album from him – consisting of heavy pads, light melodies and careful rhythm – would have been a disappointment.
In conclusion: Toward a Gentle Place by John Adorney is a one-of-a-kind release. I can recommend it to people who have never owned a relaxation album. John proves that such music doesn’t have to be boring or uninspired. That in itself is a major accomplishment. The CD is filled with beautiful melodies and wonderful atmospheres, making the voyage “toward a gentle place” both accessible and enjoyable.
Score: 95/100 – See how I rate music here