When you think of the sounds of soft jazz saxophone, who first comes to mind? Go ahead, admit it, Kenny G, right? Well, the long-haired handsome one can move over, he has some competition. Virtuoso David Fitzgerald first came to prominence as a founding member of the Celtic Christian band, Iona. In this solo release he combines both reed and wind instruments in an atmospheric mix with exceptional production, sound clarity, and purpose.
The first track, a nearly seven minute version of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" might wrongly give listeners the impression that Light Eternal is a Christmas album. In fact, this project is intended to be a musical reflection of the concept that God is light, both in the sense of the Maker of light and the One who conquers darkness. Many of these pieces were originally used as part of the BBC TV series "First Light" for a show called "Jesus--Then and Now," but they have been adapted and expanded to present, in Fitzgerald's words: "a tapestry of sound, text and vision around the life, death and resurrection of Christ--the Light Eternal." As such, the listener is invited to reflect on our Lord's beauty and majesty, which is the desired and likely response to this mostly upbeat collection. The album's reverent tone is most clear on the rare vocal track, "Only Jesus," where Adrian Snell, guests as the lead vocalist:
Who's gonna turn my night to day
Frankly, this tender and beautiful ballad, a love song to the Lord, should inspire a quiet, worshipful response, but being one of very few songs with vocals, it feels out of place among the more instrumentally focused tracks. Fitzgerald's talents really come to the fore, however, on the hymn adaptations, like "Steal Away" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," where the music is central and the vocals, if there are any at all, are secondary.
Also of note is the darker track, "Golgotha," which sounds as if it were taken directly from Peter Gabriel's Passion. Throughout all of these pieces, Fitzgerald's crisp notes on flutes, saxophones, and other assorted woodwinds, rises above the pleasant mix. Clearly, Fitzgerald is a man using his considerable instrumental talent to express his true devotion to our Lord.
Regrettably, as dandy and exquisite as this album is, there is not much to recommend it to folks who aren't familiar and fond of instrumental works. However, those with an attachment to beautiful, worshipful musical meditations on our Lord, the Giver of Light, won't find a better project that this one to brighten their time.
Steven S. Baldwin (10/29/99)
Walk into any book store, coffee shop, gift shop, drug store, or gas station around here, and an inviting display of CD's will entice you with the promise of pleasant, relaxing background music that doesn't ask much of you. Soft jazz, new age, atmospheric, safe. Pay attention to it, or let your mind go elsewhere. It would be easy to dismiss this stuff, except the prevalence of anything in the marketplace is a sure indicator of its popularity, and all popular forms of communication must be examined for their message.
Light Eternal is a welcome antidote to the mushy intellectual vagueness of contemporary easy listening, stumbling only when it strays into the unsure wilderness of contemporary lyrics, especially in direct comparison to the ageless treasures of "O Come, O Come, Emmanual," "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," and "Steal Away." But why should the mystics have all the good music? Brew some tea, kick off your shoes, gaze out the window at the rain and unwind.
Linda J. T. LaFianza 1/11/2000
For a review of the UK version of this album, Lux Aeterna, see James Stewart's review