Wednesday, September 30, 2009

CD Review: Joshua Bells' At Home With Friends

There's nothing on earth I find more soothing than classical music. The delicate, instrumental melodies are my lullabies. I remember the first time I fell in love with classical music. As a child, I watched the Academy Award-winning movie Amadeus, and remember being deeply touched by the works of Mozart. Shortly thereafter, I scoured my father's CD collection to find Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky. I was in awe of their talent, instruments turned into works of art. I dreamt of walking down the aisle in my ivory gown to Pachelbel's "Canon in D", which came to fruition in my adulthood as I married my husband. My love of classical music has only grown as time has passed. It's timeless - transcending age, culture or background.

I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of Joshua Bell until I was contacted by the One2One Network with an album review opportunity. After a little research, I discovered he was a Grammy-Award winning violinist so I jumped at the chance to hear more contemporary classical.
At Home With Friends is inspired by Joshua Bell's fondness for hosting informal musicales in his Manhattan home. Join Joshua as he celebrates the many musical friendships he has made over the years - a diverse group of artists sharing their love of music in an intimate setting.
Check out the mega-wattage of stars featured all on one album:

Track Listing:

1. I Loves You Porgy featuring Chris Botti
2. Come Again featuring Sting
3. Oblivion featuring Carel Kraayenhof
4. Cinema Paradiso featuring Josh Groban
5. Para Ti featuring Tiempo Libre
6. My Funny Valentine featuring Kristin Chenoweth
7. Maybe So featuring Edgar Meyer, Sam Bush and Mike Marshall
8. Grieg: Violin Sonata No. 3, Movement II featuring Sergei Rachmaninoff
9. Eleanor Rigby featuring Frankie Moreno
10. O, Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair, Op. 4, No. 4 featuring Nathan Gunn
11. Il Postino featuring Carel Kraayenhof
12. Left Hand Song featuring Regina Spektor
13. Chovendo Na Roseira featuring Dave Grusin
14. Look Away featuring Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile
15. Variant Moods: Duet for Sitar and Violin featuring Anoushka Shankar
16. I'll Take Manhattan featuring Marvin Hamlisch

And might I say it's as incredible as it sounds.

The moment I heard the first track I got chills. It was that good. I was afraid a compilation filled to the brim with amazing talent would come across as pretentious but I didn't get that vibe at all. It provided a great balance of slow, mid and faster tempos so I never got bored. Each track was as different as night and day, but equally good. I sat there, eyes closed, imagining myself sipping a chai latte as snow fell on the ground outside. Not only would the album be great to indulge in solo, but it could also be the perfect complement to a dinner party as the title suggests - at home with friends. When it ended, I just had to go back and hit repeat. And as a matter of fact, Nate fell asleep in my arms as I re-listened to several of the tracks. Can you say - BONUS?!

While I enjoyed the entire CD from start to finish, my favorite tracks were "Cinema Paradiso" (Josh Groban's rich vocals always astound me), "My Funny Valentine" (Kristin Chenoweth's soprano is breathtaking), the dark, haunting Eleanor Rigby and the uplifting piano and violin duet, "I'll Take Manhattan". What I wouldn't have given to have been a fly on the wall at any one of these recordings. If I was a guest sitting on a pillow watching Joshua Bell duet with Regina Spektor just feet from me, I think my head would explode because it's just...mind-blowing.

I also liked that the liner notes included photos of his collaborations with each featured artist. It really made me feel like I was a part of it all. Oh how I wish.

Bottom line: I highly recommend At Home With Friends as the soundtrack to good food and good conversation. Anyone young or old can enjoy this. When I grow tired of the same songs this holiday season, I'll be popping in this refreshing gem.

BUY IT: At Home With Friends was just released yesterday and can now be purchased on Amazon or at most major music retailers.

Fore more information on Joshua Bell or At Home With Friends, visit his website or become a fan on Facebook. And be sure to tune into The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on October 2nd to catch Joshua in action!

Note: The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are purely mine. You may share a different opinion or experience after listening to this album.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this album from One2One Network on behalf of Sony Music to facilitate my candid review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post.


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