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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Dave Bainbridge & David Fitzgerald
Label: Lindisfarne Scriptorium ( www.lindisfarne-scriptorium.co.uk)
Time: 13Tracks / 66 mins
When you think of the Iona founder-members’ instrumental music, you know roughly what you will get, but the detail changes. Bainbridge likens this to their previous collaboration The Eye of the Eagle, and both are largely instrumental works inspired by devotional writings, but while Eye of the Eagle involved spoken word from author David Adam, this is purely instrumental. Life Journey is not just inspired by the words of Mary Fleeson’s eponymous Lindisfarne Scriptorium book, but also her pictures, and so this has a quieter, more reflective tone to aid reflection on the images.
Generally, if music is based on different sources, the sounds themselves should differ, and this is the case, although both discs have oases of stronger melody among wide soundscapes of waftier ambience. Eye of the Eagle had particularly strong themes, emphasised by the spoken word that punctuated it, whereas Life Journey is more even as it tries to keep stillness and majesty in careful tension. It has to be strong enough to provoke the spirit, while easy and fluid enough not to distract.
The book on which it is based ( http://www.tollbooth.org/2009/books/maryf.html.) takes the reader through a series of calls: to believe, to travel, to humility, to reconciliation, wholeness, togetherness and so on. Each of these chapters has a track, and the booklet includes small images from the book to help reflection. Even in the original book some details – like the light catching the painted wood texture of the cross in the opening invitation – only become visible in an enlarged image, so have little chance of being appreciated in the CD booklet. However, the same picture has a clear sense of movement, even in condensed form, which gives the listener something to think on a while listening to the music.
I find some of the paintings a little ragged and fussy, with too many words, but others have intricate detailing or vibrant colours. Some of the stronger ones coincide with stronger music. So in the book “Magnificat – a Call to Humility” has four lines of prayer alongside a picture recalling a kneeling figure under fiery heavenward strands of colour. The Davids turn it into a lively Celtic jig bookended by a serene, drifting ambience. Similarly, “Follow Him – a Call to Follow,” has a “steady background beat ...and a flowing tune with light and shade” – a musical hint that Fleeson cheekily writes in her book.
The first track “Unknown Destination” has no real tune, but instead sets a clear and calming series of crisp acoustic guitar lines and flute solos against the sounds of birds and waves recorded at Lindisfarne. Melody comes with the next piece, “Follow Him,” which is highly reminiscent of Brian Dunning’s Celtic work with Jeff Johnson –Fitzgerald’s flute work in particular. With a burst of guitar, backed with a bank of keyboards, “Light Eternal” creates the sort of dramatic appearance of heavenly light that John Tavener fashions in his The Protecting Veil.
sax over synth backing on tracks like “Your Breath” and “As Your Touch”
is indistinguishable from much of his noodling elsewhere with Iona and
solo, and by now can feel a bit insubstantial, although the latter is a
very beautiful piece. It is his whistles and flutes that work better in
improvisational mode. Bainbridge offers plenty of delicate guitar work
and his trademark keyboard washes, but I particularly enjoyed the snatch
of mandolin on “Graceful Trinity” and his few forays into rich bass guitar.
I would have enjoyed more of such colour.
This peaceful disc is no
great departure from previous work, and loses a little direction in the
middle, but is a beautiful, unhurried accompaniment to the book and to
I have got to say from the get go that I am totally biased about this album, I absolutely love it. Ever since the release of the first album by the band Iona I have been a huge fan of the music of Dave Bainbridge and David Fitzgerald. I find it to be intelligent, deeply moving and intensely spiritual. I am not a big fan of most modern praise and worship music, I find most of it to be shallow and quite banal. It seems mostly to concentrate on what the writer can do and has done for God. Contemplative music on the other hand, especially the instrumental variety, makes me think of just who God is and the wonders of what He has done in the past and continues to do today.
In the music of such artists as Jeff Johnson and the periodic teaming of Dave Bainbridge and David Fitzgerald we have some of the most amazing and breathtaking contemplative music of the past few decades. Life Journey is meant to be seen as a companion piece to the book of the same name by author Mary Fleeson which by the way is nothing short of brilliant. The thirteen pieces of music contained in this project are meant to reflect the ideas, thoughts and prayers put forth in each of the chapters of the book. Most of the music which is performed by Bainbridge and Fitzgerald, with some assistance by Iona drummer and violinist Frank VanEssen, is centered around the woodwinds of David Fitzgerald with Dave Bainbridge providing ethereal music beds as well as some tasty guitar work. There are pieces which will remind the listener of some of the more adventurous jigs and reels from Iona's musical collection but there are more pieces that will cause the listener to sit back and ponder the mystery and wonder of the God who created us.
As I said earlier I am very biased about this collection of music, it inspires me to desire more of extraordinary art and the God who inspires men to create it.
Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock