Curtis Macdonald is one of the most beloved artists in New Age music. EverSound is to release a “best of” collection, focusing on his melodic and positive pieces from the last 20 years. It is a 17 track tour de force, filled with nothing but hits. It is easy to understand why so many New Age music fans have their hearts set on Curtis Macdonald’s music. Listening to it is like a homecoming.
Curtis Macdonald is a graduate composer from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California and has twenty CDs in release. In 2013 he received Grammy consideration for Best Instrumental Pop Record for “When Dreams Come True”, and in 2007 received Grammy consideration for Best New Age Record for “Everlasting”. His latest album is “Breeze” (2016).
Makes the listener listen
In music and show business today everything has to be loud and “in your face”. Artists are instructed to make songs fat and booming. There’s somehow always room for more tracks of bass, pads and effects to make songs cut through the noises of modern living. Curtis Macdonald’s music is a contrast to this. A light, bare piano is his trademark. The backing, consisting of strings and a gentle, almost inaudible rhythm, is totally no-nonsense and bare. It makes the listener listen. It is a statement that Curtis have something important to say, and a rock-solid melody to bind it all together.
The collection starts with “Everlasting” from the 2006 album with the same name, which is one of my top 5 all-time New Age music songs. As a radio host I know that I could put this song on replay all day long and my listeners would still love every second of it. The gentle piano melody and careful vocal backing is breathtakingly beautiful in all its striking simplicity – and the wonderful synth “twirl” effect is the icing on the cake. For this it is a modern classic, a must for any New Age music fan.
Where the Heart Belongs
“Where the Heart Belongs” is a song we know from the 2014 single with the same name. It is a heartwarming song, a perfect backdrop to a romantic dinner or relaxing by the fireplace. I love the synth in the intro, and the brilliant piano melody that rises effortlessly around it, wrapping it in somehow. “Promise” from “Shadow Crossing” (2002) has a cool electronic vibe, like a news intro or backdrop to the Olympic. Yanni couldn’t have done it any better.
On “Holder of My Heart”, perhaps the finest song from “When Dreams Come True” (2013), you can sense how upgraded studio equipment adds life and depth also to songs with a light arrangement like this. Curtis is a studio wizard, which can be heard on each track here. “No Place like Home” (from the same album) is a more contemplative piece, which can be labeled as adult contemporary. The song is rich, loving and warm, a gift for Curtis to the world.
Riding a melodic wave
Then we are off for a ride with another incredibly cool song from “Everlasting”, “Spirit of Wishes”. Curits is at his very best when he jazz up a song, avoiding blue notes (of course, this is New Age music after all). Then he is riding that melodic wave 100 %, banging away on the electronic piano. All gently, I might add.
“Always kiss me goodbye“ from “Hard Rain often Fall” (2008) is a romantic song with a wonderful 1980s analogue sound. I’m a bit unsure what “Kanan to the Sea” has to offer in this context, but that is quickly forgotten when “Tierra Rejada” from “Shadow Crossing” comes on with its amazing Spanish sound. It could have been a song by John Adorney (another fine EverSound artist) or Lawrence Blatt. It shows that Curtis on par with the very best.
A composer in a classical sense
The romantic vibe continues on “Our love is forever”. Needless to say, it is a lovely song. “Within this Mist of Blue” (2012) is one of Curtis’ more thoughtful albums, which both “Coming Home”, and the ending track “Goodnight Moon”, are examples of. It shows that Curtis is a fantastic piano composer in a classical sense.
Light piano backed by synth pads easily sound cheesy and uninspired. Many people can’t stand New Age music for this very reason. But within Curtis’ music there’s a humble quality that instantly connects with the listener. It is super easy listening, but it is not easy music; Every note is emotionally charged. Listen to the songs “Summerland” and “This evening is ours” and you will sense and experience what I mean. Near the end we have two positive and upbeat songs, “Ocean Avenue” and “Coast of Dreams”.
In conclusion: “Where the Heart Belongs” is not just a collection for Curtis Macdonald fans. It is a must-have for anyone who is into New Age music. It contains some of the finest melodies released in our genre over the last 20 years, all nicely balanced and well compiled. Listen to it and you will know where your heart belongs. Highly recommended!
Score: 96/100 – See how I rate music here
You may pre-order the compilation on Amazon (releasedate here is 10 August).