Clearly

Michael Mucklow

Independent release, 2006

http://www.michaelmucklow.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/06/2007

Searching for the perfect candlelit dinner music? Michael Mucklow has you covered.

His CD Clearly is a relaxing blend of New Age and acoustic music, the kind of soothing background music that would sound good at dinner, around a campfire or in a documentary about saving the planet. Like most artists of this sort, Mucklow never stakes out a unique guitar voice or encompasses any sort of quirks to set his music apart -- by way of comparison, he sounds like a very low-key Leo Kottke or Tommy Emmanuel.

The songs are inspired by Mucklow's spiritual journey and his physical journey across the western United States. Mucklow is unabashedly Christian, but that fact only is shown on his Web site and not in the lyric-free music. As most of his song descriptions seem reflective, the music is of a piece as well, dwelling in languid acoustic arpeggios, laid-back drum machines and a contemporary jazz feel to much of the music. bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

This is where the disc works as background music. Listening to it closely doesn't reveal a lot of individual rewards, but that's not the point. It's about the mood, about making the listener slip into a ruminative trance ("In The Temple" pulls this off very nicely) and just forget about the day. The music surges at key times ("Sunlit Mesas") and sighs most of the time; it would be great for car trips when one needs to wind down, or for playing while you are eating a candlelit dinner with your girlfriend, or if you just need to forget everything and de-stress.

Which is the point of New Age music, but some people took it too far into the spiritual realm, and here Mucklow reins in that tendency. "Gone For A Walk," written when the artist was 16, is just solo acoustic folk guitar, a simple and elegant piece, but it accomplishes the same emotive atmosphere as the eight-minute mood piece "In The Temple." The closing "Vibrant Aire" is a highlight, mixing a '90s alternative feel with a slight flamenco backdrop.

Because the music isn't supposed to be taken separately, there are no offensive moments, though a couple spots drag with too-long electric guitar solos -- and not the good kind, but the contemporary jazz kind one hears on Muzak. It's a shame, because "Love's Way" could have been better with an acoustic playing the lead instead of the too-loud electric.

As background and mood music, Clearly is a success, though it rarely goes beyond that. Worth listening to if you come across it for cheap or if you want some great music for that perfect romantic night.

Rating: B-

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