I discover Kitaro by stumbling across a PBS special in the early ‘80s and was enthralled by the mystical world he created through his music. His airy, synthesizer-based approach was pretty far outside my musical tastes, but there was a thread of progressive music running through his work that caught my interest, and it was so unique to my ears that it was a truly fresh listening experience. This was around the time of his first Silk Road projects, and predated what would be dubbed “New Age music” by some years.
Dream is Kitaro’s collaboration with legendary Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. In Kitaro’s ethereal soundscapes, Anderson’s angelic voice finds a prefect canvas to play against. Anderson contributes to three songs, all themed along the lines of love and human connection.
I have a pretty low threshold for extended play of what I think of as ambient music. In the case of Dream, the African and Middle Eastern-flavored percussion and Anderson’s vocals make it much more than just background music. Kitaro’s gentle textures and smoothly flowing melodies are uplifting and inspiring, and they are complex enough to be elevated above simple ambiance. “Agreement” rides on a funky tabla rhythm and some slinky guitar lines, evoking Carlos Santana at his smoothest. “Lady Of Dreams” features a dynamic orchestral section and some pretty heavy guitar as well. I enjoyed the more expanded musical accompaniment on these tracks in particular.
A lot of Kitaro’s work is recorded entirely on synthesizers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do love the organic feel of the guitars, percussion, and woodwinds. A little electric bass doesn’t hurt either. All in all, I’ve found Dream to be one of Kitaro’s more accessible works and a thoroughly enjoyable listen.