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Minasian, David: Random Acts of Beauty

Reviewing music is a lot like getting Christmas presents. Sometimes the giver thinks what's inside is the most magnificent gift when in reality you cannot wait to stand in line at the return department to get rid of the monstrosity. Other times you get something that is likable but you can't say much more than that about it. Then comes the time when you rip the wrapping paper off and find a true gift which touches so deeply it echoes the thought and caring that the bearer put into finding just the perfect offering. Something you will smile and think warmly about every time it's used. This is what David Minasian has blessed us with. Random Acts of Beauty contains a musical gift that cannot help but touch your soul and make you feel better about yourself and the world around you. He has created a masterpiece which will touch your ears, mind, heart and most of all your soul.

What sounds like a gong opens the show followed by a piano that reflects the classical training David has received and then his voice which falls somewhere between Justin Hayward and David Gilmour starts the first tale called "Masquerade". These 12 minutes are a stunning example of masterful songwriting at its best. With a dramatic flair that will take your breath away this soaring work of art stands as one of the best pieces of music that I have heard this year. If that is not enough then add long time friend and leader of the band Camel Andrew Latimer on guitar with a few vocals thrown in and you have a collaboration of staggering proportions. These two compliment each other so well it would not surprise me to find them working together a lot more.

This disc is by no means a one shot deal. It is filled with magnificent music from start to finish and long time progressive rock fans will find many a reference point along the way. The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, David Gilmour, Camel, Yes, Mannheim Steamroller and a host of other bands could be influences by what Minasian has produced. Hopefully this disc will put his name right there with the afore mentioned list.

The melancholy "Chambermaid" is the Moody Blues moment on the disc. With a melody that takes you dreamily along with just a hint of electric guitar for that full bodied flavor, Minasian and his keyboard wizardry once again astounds the listener and makes you feel as well as hear what he is projecting. Fans of the Octava period Moodies will be instantly carried away with this beautifully crafted piece. David brings so much life to his music that you cannot help but be touched by what he has done.

When you get to the amazing "Storming The Castle" the knights on horseback will be riding by your side as this powerful instrumental work captures the essence of his subject perfectly. This one reminded me of the early Fresh Aire music by Mannheim Steamroller. I can remember how taken I was by the first Fresh Aire album and this song brought back all those feelings of finding something new and exciting. Minasian has rekindled my love of great melodic, beautiful music as he has managed to create something that not only is a pleasant listening experience but a total emersion in the musical aura he creates. Not often are you totally swept away by the music you hear but this is one that does so and also takes you to a much better place than where you started from.

I could go on and on about all the treasures that this album holds for the listener. Each gem on the disc has a unique and irresistible charm that only gets better each time it is played. The simple undisputable fact is that this album is as close to perfection as it gets. All you have to do is hear the complexities of a song like "Frozen In Time" with its layer upon layer of instrumentation and it is easy to see that this is not your ordinary album by any means. I almost forgot to mention that the extremely brilliant guitar work on most of the disc is done by David's son Justin. I guess we don't have to ask him what he wants to be when he grows up! Justin has a style that reflects his dad's musical path perfectly and I am sure we will also be hearing much more from this very talented musician.

Well, the long and the short of it is Random Acts Of Beauty needs to be in your collection. There is no way that you can come away from listening to it and not feel better. It is one of the times when music can provide the healing properties for what ails you. David Minasian is the doctor and he has the proper prescription to lift your spirits and restore your faith. Just don't forget your daily dose if you know what's good for you!

Track listing:

1. Masquerade
2. Chambermaid
3. Storming The Castle
4. Blue Rain
5. Frozen In Time
6. Summer's End
7. Dark Waters

Added: December 16th 2010
Reviewer: Scott Ward
Related Link: David Minasian's Official Page
Hits: 5082
Language: english

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Minasian, David: Random Acts of Beauty
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-12-16 11:24:09
My Score:

David Minasian's debut album will be a delight for fans of classic English bands Camel and Barclay James Harvest, with particular emphasis on their pre-1978ish periods. There are other influences in there, of course, most significantly "classic 7" Moody Blues and Pink Floyd, but rarely has an album been such a homage to one's favourite heroes: it sounds as though Andy Latimer (Camel) had teamed up with John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme (Barclay James Harvest). [Incidentally, sad news, Woolly died on 13th December RIP Woolly.]

Minasian is a well known composer and director who has penned hits for films and directed over 60 films, including Camel's Coming of Age concert DVD. This is his first album of progressive rock.

The album includes a rare modern appearance by Andy Latimer, who has been recovering from a serious illness, on vocals and guitars on "Masquerade". Having Latimer work on the album, at such a time, is not only an honour but a compliment to the quality of Minasian's music Although Minasian considered asking Wolstenholme to produce the album, he eventually produced it himself. There are other musicians joining him on the album; most notably his son Justin, who plays electric lead and rhythm guitars, as well as acoustic and classical guitars. The line-up is completed by Guy Pettet and Don Ray Reyes Jr., who share the drumming duties, and Nick Soto, who guests on rhythm guitar on "Chambermaid".

The lushness of this soundscape is indicated by the range of instruments that Minasian himself tackles. Through keyboards alone we get grand piano, mellotron, harpsichord, moog, pipe organ, organ, cello, violin, oboe, flute, recorder, clarinet, French horn, cornet, dulcimer, sitar and voices! He also weighs in with guitars, bass, drums, percussion, as well as doing the lead and harmony vocals!

Those fans familiar with Camel and Harvest-era Barclay James Harvest (BJH) will find this music easy to understand. For those others, my attempt at describing it is in the next few paragraphs, before returning to some points about the Camel/BJH influences.

There are three key elements, which are inextricably linked: slowness of tempo, melody and lushness of orchestration. The majority of the music is instrumental: there are sung verses in four compositions but, even in these, long instrumental passages. Genre-wise, I'd put it into symphonic progressive rock.

The tempo, for me, is vital to this sort of music. I do not know of any other canon of work in the rock sphere, other than BJH's, which has such a slow tempo. Like in BJH's music, the slowness may be off-putting for some fans, as the "rock" rhythmic element is restrained by it. Its advantages, however, are that it gives the music huge breathing space to allow the beauty of the melodies and of the arrangements to shine. And, as both the melodies and the arrangements are divine, the tempo is spot on! The complexity is such that one needs more than a couple of listens to fully appreciate its beauty but allowing oneself that luxury means that successive listens bring intense satisfaction. Despite the complexity of the music, at any one time the density of the instrumentation is sparse and thinly layered, but constantly evolving: the emphasis is on the attractiveness of the sonic textures and timbres, on the attractiveness of the melody; very much so over the rhythm because at such a slow tempo the rhythm does become like the human breath it's in this sense that it actually allows the music space to breathe; it allows the listener to bask in its beauty.

The use of the harpsichord has been stated elsewhere as bringing a mediaeval feel to some of the music, and this is partly true, although it's not a major effect; not compared with bands like, say, Blackmore's Night that specifically go for a mediaeval feel. A more significant feature is the fact that the compositions all feature extended lead guitar melodies (solos).

Finally, a couple more notes on the Camel/BJH influences. Compositionally, the primary influence is from Camel, as BJH's music does not feature any complete instrumentals and it was only in their Harvest era (pre-1973) that it featured long instrumental sections within compositions. However, Wolstenholme's 21st century music with his band Maestoso comes closer: for instance, listening to the run of three songs "Abendrot"/"Overture Marsch Burlesque"/"Pas de Deux" (two instrumentals and a gorgeous, sung melodic number) from Grim, one can imagine them fitting easily onto Random Acts of Beauty. The long guitar solos are in a style very similar to BJH's John Lees's live style - yes, even Latimer's solo ends up sounding like Lees, perhaps it's the slowness of the tempo, although there might be an argument for saying that it's similar to his own solo on "Ice" from I Can See Your House From Here - although Justin adds a couple of fast flourishes the like of which do not appear in Lees's playing, either because he can't or doesn't want to.

Like all of the best albums, Random Acts of Beauty overall has a very cohesive feel; the compositions fit well together and Minasian has hit upon and maintained a "key" soundscape that pervades the music. In this sense it's very much like, say, Camel's Moonmadness. That's a hell of a compliment, by the way, and Random Acts of Beauty well deserves it!

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