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Another Time, Another Place
By Robin Spielberg
Label: playMountain Music
Released 4/28/2015
Another Time, Another Place tracks
1. First Dance
2. Ship to Shore
3. Another Time, Another Place
4. Cherry Blossoms
5. The View from Here
6. In My Dreams
7. After All
8. The Time Traveler
9. Candlelight Waltz
10. A Whisper in the Wind
11. O Mio Babbino Caro
Another Time, Another Place
Pianist Robin Spielberg's first album of all original material (with one exception) in seven years, Another Time, Another Place, will remind her fans why they fell in love with her music in the first place. Spielberg has always excelled at blending a neo-classical influence (shaded with romanticism) with both semi-pop and traditional new age styles, and on this new release, she shows that even after taking an absence from recording her own compositions, Spielberg not only hasn't lost a step, but may have reached a new height in versatility and virtuosity. The album's eleven numbers are suffused with sincere sentimentality (nary a trace of faux, maudlin sappiness), whether the artist is slowly unwinding a patient, reflective tune or going all out and pouring every ounce of passion she has into the ivories.

One thing that struck me almost right away on the first track, the somber, sedate First Dance, is how the music grabs you so quickly into its embrace. There is no preamble or build-up. The emotion of the piece, which to me comes across as sadness laced with delicate beauty, is right there. A dramatic about face occurs on the second song, Ship to Shore, which is a joyful, jaunty piece with echoes of an Irish jig blended in with that unique characteristic of nautical-inspired pieces (a musical influence that seems to be distinctly New Englandish in nature). I love how energetic the song is, but it's Spielberg's adroit and spirited playing that makes it come alive. In fact, throughout Another Time, Another Place, I kept noticing that the artist seems to have found a proverbial "sixth" gear for her playing. I don't think she has ever sounded better or more in control of every facet of her performing, both technique and artistry. I love the sense of shadow and foreboding at the outset of the title track, with a hint of gothic stateliness interlaced with the various melodic components. Spielberg really gets "into the guts" of this piece as it progresses, pouring all her strength and power and passion into it, before scaling back down to the song's original theme. The following number, Cherry Blossom, floats away on a gentle breeze with a discernible Japanese musical flavor (wonderful, that!). It's just flat out a lovely song.

As stated earlier, Robin Spielberg has been known throughout her career for integrating a classical influence with a new age romanticism leavened with occasional pop lyricism, and Another Time, Another Place displays all those elements. The View From Here wears its dramatic heart on its sleeve, sounding like it could be the closing number in a Broadway musical, filled with both tenderness and passion. On the opening passage of In My Dreams, Spielberg lets the piano's sustain pedal add an element of wistfulness to the music and the melody weaves a blended web of classical interlaced with that new age romanticism I mentioned above. The Time Traveler shows that Spielberg can stretch things out-the song clocks in at almost eight minutes long. I might be tempted to call the music quasi-ambient and it also could be considered somewhat minimalist at times. Overall, the mood is slightly dark yet also quite pretty in a sad kind of way. I am intrigued by the song's title and that is usually an indication of how strongly connected a listener can get to the music when one ponders something like that. Candlelight Waltz, as one would expect, is a straightforward classically-influenced number, light on its feet with that familiar 1-2-3 waltz rhythm at its core. Spielberg closes the album with the one non-original, O Mio Babbino Caro (Oh My Beloved Father) which is an aria from a Puccini opera, and it’s a great conclusion to the recording with a definitive sense of ending.

While I am sure her legions of fans were wondering "When will Robin give us a new original recording?" for all these intervening years, I imagine once they hear Another Time, Another Place they will have the same reaction I did when I played it the first time. Some things are worth waiting for and this album is surely one of them. It just may be this artist's finest effort and surely one that showcases her many musical talents as both composer and performer.
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 6/9/2015
 
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