"Another Day in Paradise" is a gentle, flowing album of mainly acoustic guitar, bass, and violin. It comprises twelve short soundscapes that also feature the Mellotron, viola, cello, electric guitar, piano, and synthesizer.
Having spent many years in Hawaii, it's not surprising that current Birmingham, Alabama resident Lee Richards composed a number of songs that reminded him of home--or at least titled them as such. You won't find slide guitars, ukuleles, and hula skirts here, though. Focused instead on allowing his main instrument to handle a lot of the work, violinist Lee Richards paints music that doesn't seem to have a home island or a destination in mind. The tunes could very easily be the new age-ish style of music you'd hear while sitting at your breakfast table in northern New Hampshire on a Sunday morning. Or they could be the easy listening backdrop for your time on the black sand beaches in the middle of the Pacific.
Eleven of the twelve songs are originals. "Ho'olana" is a traditional folk song that Lee recorded with beautiful violin backed with an impressive arrangement. "Leaving for the Black Sand" came from the MONEYPIT get together in Vermont in February 2006. Lee and I composed "Leaving for the Black Sand", and Lee did some wonderful work on a rare Mellotron Mark I along with his newly restored M400. I chipped in with a piano piece on the Korg X3 and mixed/mastered the tune.
Because I was involved in "Leaving for the Black Sand", I'll leave that one out of the discussion. I'll just say that I was impressed by the way Lee improvised two Mellotron leads simultaneously during the main recording pass and didn't flinch when the track's "producer" was barking at him. :-) Instead he got me to think about what the song needed, and that led to things like adding the Mellotron Spanish Guitar near the end (which Lee also played on the Mark I).
"Another Day in Paradise" opens with the liquid "Windchimes" with a variety of synthesizer chimes, harps, and violin flourishes. The song feels like it wants to go on or blend into the second track, but instead it ends a bit short. Darn! The second track, "Island Breeze", is an emotive layered string composition with a simple flute-like synthesizer lead atop. One part of the melody line reminds me of "Isn't Life Strange", a Moody Blues tune.
It's with "Island Breeze" that Lee's style becomes more apparent. Mainly focused on chords with a simple melody, Lee's songs create sonic environments or moods rather than trying to head in a particular direction. At times the layered backing instruments in a track seem to hug the chord instead of letting the tune build and grow, taking away from the dynamics a bit. It is at these moments that "Another Day in Paradise" loses a little bit of its gentle, flowing feel. A wider, more airy mix may have helped open things up a little to allow the songs to float a bit more.
While listening, you have to pay close attention to tiny details Lee puts in. "Ho'olana" has a nice harp arpeggiation, for example. Elsewhere there are what seem to be reversed notes, and there's some unusual vibrato on the violin on "Island Breeze". And, yes, you did hear a guitar bumping into a mic stand. :-)
"Another Day in Paradise" feels like an album you'd record (or perhaps listen to) on a Sunday afternoon on the back deck looking out over the hills on an autumn day. But maybe that's how I define "paradise". The songs on "Another Day in Paradise" are calming; there are no vocals, and although lighter arrangements with a bit more air would have augmented the feeling of "paradise", there's nothing thrown at you out of the blue during the listening experience. The basic instruments used throughout (as the guitar and bass in the galloping "Lanikai Aloha") and the variety of synthesizer sounds used (as in the sweeping "Merman's Dream") help everything hang together well, but it's the overall feel of the album that remains very consistent. Guitar, keyboards, or violin over meandering chords bring to mind the ebb and flow of the ocean at your feet throughout "Another Day in Paradise". Imagine a day with nowhere to go and nothing to do but look out over the tidal pools in a small inlet with the expanse of the ocean not far away.
Perhaps "Another Day in Paradise" will help you find your own little bit of "paradise".