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January/February 2002

Michael Whalen
Mysterious Ways
E1 Music

Television and film composer Michael Whalen offers mostly meandering, atmospheric set pieces on Mysterious Ways (Koch KOC-CD-8253; 39:24), using piano and synthesizer to build a mood rather than spark a direction. Whalen, who also produces, likes to stir slow-developing brews like "The Desert of My Heart," which opens with a long introduction of wind sounds and keyboard melodrama before getting going. Sometimes the atmospheres intrigue, like the spooky-to-sweet "How Different You Are From the Darkness," with a David Lynch-like synth feel and Chris Botti's resonant trumpet in support, and "Her Infinite Embrace," marked by ethereal, warming music-box tones. Despite the stalwart support of Tony Levin and Chuck Loeb, Whalen's ventures into pop-jazz are merely conventional, with slow-funk draggers like "Step Into My Fire" and the snail-paced "If Only for Tonight" (which fails despite Ellis Hall's buoyant Stevie Wonder-like vocals) distracting from the composer's more interesting efforts.

Originally published in January/February 2002
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