Max Highstein – Flying Not Falling Review


“Flying Not Falling” is the title of Max Highstein’s 13th New Age music album. It is a collection of highly original and positive instrumental songs. The album will not give you wings, but it will leave you feeling happy and uplifted.

Max Highstein debuted as a New Age music artist in 1985 with “The Healing Waterfall”. It became a best seller and it remains one of the most popular guided imagery programs ever recorded. He has since recorded over 100 guided imagery programs. His two CDs “Touch The Sky” and “Stars” included some of the most heavily played music on the New Adult Contemporary Radio format of the 90’s. Highstein’s more recent include “Hondo Blaze”, “Path of The Heart”, “Intuition”, “Flight Plans”, “Sacred Journeys” and “Healing Journey”.

Fly or fall, that’s the question
It is actually quite interesting. Our perception of music and art is heavily influenced by the many conflicts of our troubled world. Whole genres in literature and music are dedicated to negativity, death and destruction. What would a crime novel be without a bloody murder? We are simply not used to genuine, heartfelt positivity. It makes us doubtful; is it possible to be this happy? This is one of the things that makes “Flying Not Falling” into a great album; it is positive and upbeat without being sugar sweet.

The first track is the title song. Its atmosphere is playful. Here we have a very nice tableau; the fear of falling is gone and all negativity is forgotten when you have wind under your wings. You are free as a bird. Indeed, you feel like you are a bird! It truly is a magnificent song.

Take a Dreamwalk
Track two, “Dreamwalk”, is more quiet and contemplative. It is like stepping into a dream where angels play harp, flute and a toy-like piano. I especially like the pluck styled synth. There’s a wonderful rhythm here too, clicking and clapping along beautifully, hidden in the background. Highstein has gathered several talented artists for the recording of this album. We get to hear John Yoakum on flute and soprano sax, Ed Willett on cello, Mark Clark on drums and percussion, John Gustafson on oboe and Jesse Tatum on flute. The vocalization is done by Willa Roberts. In an age where we are used to music totally made on digital audio workstations, it is refreshing that Highstein has such an acoustic approach to music, which “Dreamwalk” is an excellent example of. The recording is spotless.

On the album we meet some nice people. First out are “Frank and Mandy”, which is the title of track number 3. They seem to be deeply in love, and their relationship is totally uncomplicated and relaxed. Where they walk there’s not a cloud in the sky. I very much like the creative use of instruments here, it is like the oboe, cello and flute are competing on telling funny and heartwarming stories about the mentioned couple. With this many layers, the recording must have been complicated. It truly is an extraordinary, neo classical track.

An evolving song
My favorite track on the album is “Earthtones”. It is an evolving song with different stages. What impresses me the most is the sound, or expression, if you will. It has a hint of late 1980s music a la Andreas Vollenweider or Windham Hill Records. Sax and cello are always a great combination. The acoustic guitar and Rhodes piano are also amazing. It is a beautiful portrait of our world, the tones of the earth. It is beautiful beyond words.

After this wonderful display of musical artistry, “Lilly Pads” gives us time to catch our breath. It is like a walk in the garden, complete with the sounds of nature. It is not to last though. “Lake Shrine” takes us on a dive underwater, to a world of mystery and strange creatures. I very much enjoy the ambient flute melody and tasteful sound effects. Tony O’Connor‘s legendary water album springs to mind. “Lake Shrine” is just as good. Again the production is spotless, and it is impossible not to be impressed by Max Highstein’s studio work.

Playful and bubbly
Can a song named “Helium” be negative and dark? I think not. Highstein’s “Helium” is an upbeat and bubbly song. The flute and sax are amazing, and you just feel like playing with a balloon in the breeze. Then we get to meet some more fascinating people. Their names are “Simon and Michael”. The song has a cool and carefree atmosphere. I especially like the theme. It is a wonderful melody, custom-made for the sax.

I believe you can solve any problem by talking, being open and honest. The song “Let’s talk” is all about in the power of conversation. There’s a serious note here, somewhere in the background, but its vibe is loving and optimistic. You can talk about anything in such surroundings. Then we are introduced to the “New Girlfriend”. Few things are more exciting than a new and promising relationship, and the song captures this feeling splendidly, right down to the mandatory whistling. “Olive Branch” makes sure that the album ends on a high note.

In conclusion: “Flying Not Falling” by Max Highstein is a magnificent New Age music album! It is on par with the best music of John Adorney, Davol and Curtis Macdonald. The acoustic sound gives it wide appeal. Initially it is easy to label “Flying Not Falling” as pretty and uncomplicated. But listen closely and you will appreciate the life wisdom it represents. It is impossible to feel sad while listening to it. In a world of conflicts and negativity, that is a rare quality.

Score: 94/100 – See how I rate music here

Make sure to visit Max Highstein’s homepage more samples.