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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
Bill Binkelman is a long-time icon in the industry.
Other reviews from Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman:
  SnowLight: A Christmas Memory by Lynn Tredeau, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 12/21/2015
  Sky Before a Storm by Gareth Laffely, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 11/9/2015
  The Sunflower Waltz by Anne Trenning, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 10/9/2015
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Winding Down
By David Nevue
Label: Midnight Rain Productions
Released 8/2/2015
Winding Down tracks
1. The Acceleration of Time  
2. Foreshadows
3. Clockwork
4. Winding Down  
5. Beneath the Surface
6. Toward the Inevitable
7. Signs in the Heavens
8. Under a Cloud
9. The Long Regret
10. Through a Glass Darkly
11. The Four Winds
12. New Mercies
13. Behold, a Mystery
14. Our Hope Is Here
15. A Thousand Years and After
David Nevue - Winding Down
Winding Down is pianist David Nevue's Pieta, his Mona Lisa, his Aida, his Gone With The Wind, his Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is his masterpiece, his crown jewel, his pinnacle of artistry. He has poured every ounce of himself into this magnificent record and it shows on every single track and during every minute. Nevue has opened a vein and bled out his soul onto the ivories. I first listened to Winding Down while driving around my neighborhood one day. By the time I hit track 5 or 6, I was awestruck by the sheer emotional weight and musical beauty of the album. I don't even know how to begin describing the impact of what Nevue has achieved. But I also feel I have to at least try so I can get all of you out there to buy this and really listen to it, absorb what the artist is saying and take it in.

Winding Down, as a title, is a double-edged sword. It can connote a state of relaxation, taking it easy, and slowing things down. However, after reading the liner notes (which are a must read in this instance), I realized that Nevue may also mean that time is winding down…or better yet, counting down. We, i.e. the human race, are on a collision course and we need to hit the brakes. We stand on a precipice and we can either step back or, well, you can take it from there. While I don't embrace the same religious beliefs that David Nevue does, I certainly respect and admire his convictions, and I agree with what (I perceive to be) his aim here. I quote from the liner notes: "With all the craziness happening in the world today, it would be easy to give in to fear. We must not do that. It’s important we don't abandon hope, because in the end hope will prevail."

Based on the above statement, you may think that Winding Down is optimistic and upbeat, but just the opposite. The vast majority of the music here is played in minor keys and much of it is somber and dark, even when the tempo is moderate or fast. Through its fifteen tracks, Winding Down is forcing us to come to terms with the importance of its message, i.e. time to face what we have wrought. That Nevue has accomplished this feat via music which is darkly beautiful, intricate without being inaccessible, impactful without relying on histrionics - well, I am just blown away.

At times, some artists seem to give song titles little thought, but not here. Winding Down's titles are like a roadmap (one could almost perceive this to be a concept album), not in an overt "look at me" way, but rather in plainly addressing what Nevue is trying to convey. From the opening "The Acceleration of Time" and its metronomic cadence wed to somber musical motifs all the way through the album closing "A Thousand Years and After" which concludes the recording on a warm, gentle note, the songs' titles are signposts and the music contained within are non-verbal descriptors of our destinations.

Stepping out of my gushing mode and resuming a more detached reviewer's vantage point, I can tell you that the darker pieces here are my favorites. "Foreshadows" marries an uptempo pace with a melody whose refrain is fraught with caution. "Winding Down" features a somber but beautiful refrain/motif that draws me in with its duality, i.e. relaxing yet with a hint of finality, as if choosing to "relax" will ultimately mean the end of me. "Towards the Inevitable" begins with evocative minimalism, as each note Nevue plays is allowed to sustain to the horizon (Nevue's control of nuance and subtlety is far and away at its peak on this recording) and slowly slinks into a gentle sadness. While one might expect "Signs in the Heavens" to be celebratory or joyful, it is, instead, one of the darker pieces on the album, with a subtle Spanish influence to the main melody at the outset. When the pace picks up, some of the darkness is shed, perhaps indicating that the "signs" are not foreboding but hopeful. You can well imagine the mood of songs titled "Under a Cloud" and "The Long Regret" and yes, they are somber, but also filled with not just brilliant playing by Nevue but melodies that flow with grace and beauty nonetheless. "Through a Glass Darkly" may be the emotional centerpoint of the album as Nevue balances positive and negative in this emotionally rich piece.

I could go on and on as there is so much here worthy of mention, but words seem only partially adequate when a recording is as emotionally rich as Winding Down. I have to believe that even David Nevue's legion of fans will be caught off guard by the brilliance of this recording. Perhaps some will consider it too somber, too lacking in "feel good" music, but it's fairly obvious that Nevue intends this to be a mirror of his own personal struggles in this day and age as well his journey back to wholeness (again, the liner notes explain this all in detail).

It's somewhat of an inside joke for long-time readers of my reviews (going back to the days of Wind and Wire, the magazine) that I once (ignorantly) stated something like "I am no huge fan of solo piano and I really like this album" (I no longer even remember which album I was reviewing). Over the years, I have come to love many solo piano recordings, so you can trust me when I state that Winding Down is one of the best of that genre I have ever heard (and that covers a lot of ground, trust me). Do you like piano? Then just buy this album already!
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 8/30/2015
 
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