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Craig Armstrong
Piano Works
Sanctuary Records

If you take the music of Craig Armstrong and strip away all the beats and synthesizers, you are left with something magical. Piano Works is a collection of new compositions, as well as selections from Armstrong's work with Massive Attack, and also songs that he has composed for film scores. But the magic lies in the simplicity of this music. Solo piano. Nothing to interfere with the beauty of the song, itself. And for me, that is a wonderful thing. I'm a much bigger fan of listening to solo piano Mozart compositions than I am his orchestral or choral works. To my ears, there is something divinely mystical in the sound of a piano, sitting in the middle of a room, filling it with wonderful melodies and immensely simple reverbs.

And so, Piano Works is. The album begins with the moody strains of "In My Own Words", which is a perfect song to start this collection. The songs are oftentimes melancholy, but like good classical music, there are subtle shifts that transport the soul of the listener to lighter clouds on a whim, and then drop them suddenly back to corporeal reality. It's as near perfection as any modern classical music has ever been. The re-working of "Glasgow Love Theme" from Love, Actually is brilliant, and is a perfect example of the power of the solo piano to create more mood than an entire orchestra. "Sunrise" is treated with a few sparse electronics (which traces of can be found on a few other songs), which add to the overall tension and elevate the song to even greater heights of emotional impact.

Overall, Piano Works is a wonderful, musically poetic journey, filled with emotion and vibrant compositions. In addition to being a wonderful record, it is the soundtrack to a film of the same name; which is, as far as I can tell, a documentation of the time in Paris spent recording this Piano Works record. It's a nice idea, and there is a trailer for the film included on the cd… Well worth the watching, as there are some amazing scenes from Paris, as well as some nice footage of Armstrong playing piano.

If you are a fan of Massive Attack, you should have this record. If you dig classical music, you should have this record. If you dig soundtracks, you should have this record. Really, everyone should have this record.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:

1. In My Own Words
2. Heatmiser 2
3. Hidden
4. Gentle Piece
5. Weather Storm
6. Diffuse
7. Leaving Paris
8. Fugue
9. Theme From Orphans
10. 1st Waltz
11. Satine's Theme
12. Morning Breaks
13. Laura's Theme
14. Glasgow Love Theme
15. Delay
16. Hymn 3
17. Angelina
18. Childhood 2
19. Sunrise

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