REVIEW: Triptych: Alexander Shulgin’s Songbook Part 1
by Michele Morris, MusicDish
A good massage, aromatherapy, sipping on a glass of chardonnay as you sit by the fireplace reading a book by your favorite author, and Triptych, Shulgin’s Songbook Part 1. You might be asking yourself what these have in common. Here’s your answer – they can all transform you into an oasis of blissful relaxation.
As I prepared myself to review the first of the three album compilation ‘Triptych, Shulgin’s Songbook’ by Russian icon Alexander Shulgin, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. He’s certainly accomplished, having been part of the Soviet-era rock band “The Cruise” that sold 20 million copies of their debut album in 1985. Shulgin went on to work with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, compose music for various films and TV series, and collaborate with artists such as Valeria, Mumiy Troll, Dima Malikov and Gruppa.fm.
But when I sat down to take a listen, I had just had a very frustrating day, and to be perfectly honest, was not particularly anxious to critique anything. But, like a good girl, I sat back and began to listen to the CD. All I can say is, my mood totally and instantly changed from being stressed out to being totally relaxed.
‘Triptych, Shulgin’s Songbook, Part 1’ is simply a phenomenal album! It’s a jazz lover’s paradise. While it’s close to American jazz, it maintains its own distinct sound. This album is a fusion between jazz and easy listening, suitable for every situation – background music, cozying up with your lover, or just chilling out and relaxing. This is, of course, a tribute to the notable line-up of artists including guitarist Paul Drew, drummer John Howeels, keyboardist Simon Rushby, bassist Steve King, saxophonist Chris ‘Beebe’ Aldridge, and backing vocalist Laura Whittel. Shulgin rallied these talented artists to perform his compositions for Triptych, and let me tell you, they didn’t disappoint.
My personal favorites off the 13 track album include “Primadonna”, “Whether Was or Was Not”, “Herself”, and “My Moscow.” Primadonna is the first track and whets your appetite for the remaining songs. With a smooth, melodic, and sometimes dual guitar lead, the song is funky to the very last note. It’s classy and a bit provocative – teasing and taunting. Whether Was or Was Not romances you and reminds me of one’s search for love in all its intensity and splendor. The keyboards, guitar, drums, and bass start off with a nice simple rhythm and become more intertwined and complex as they build into a very rich climax, complementing each other nicely.
Chris Aldridge’s warm and raspy sax lead in and solo improvisations add a unique and colorful hue to My Moscow, all the while carrying the listener to a fresh and unexpected, yet somehow familiar destination. John Howells on drums provides a solid, yet sensitive and integrated foundation for the flowing counterpoint of Simon Rushby’s keyboard and Steve King’s bass on Herself. The last track, “Only You,” has a Spanish feel to it and the music really reminds you of someone who is in “amore”. This track has a beautiful piano solo and is so romantic, it should be rated LWL (listen with lover). Shulgin’s style is somewhat similar to that of Lee Ritenour, of whom I am a big fan.
‘Triptych, Shulgin’s Songbook, Part 1’ is so mellow, so relaxing and smooth, that I was and am still truly impressed. From the first track to the last, I was mesmerized. I closed my eyes and sometimes felt as if I were sitting in a jazz club with cozy lighting, my favorite drink in my hand, and my man by my side. At other times, I was taken away to the beach with the sound of the ocean and the wind blowing lightly across my face. I can’t wait to hear the other two albums, and will definitely be adding it to my CD collection.