Ryan Yard has been a busy man! Since turning freelance, he has been performing on piano both in public and online, teaching piano, writing a comprehensive book on the Mike Oldfield discography and has completed the sequel to his beautiful and creative 2017 album The Nature of Solitude, which is due for release on 25th September 2020.
Knowing Ryan’s love and understanding of Mike Oldfield’s music does mean that he can tune into or channel the many colours of Mike’s music although Ryan’s work is distinctly more in his own voice than purely a respectful homage (both are a compliment!).
Carl Major has contributed so great guitar lines to Part I but (in true Oldfield style) Ryan has performed and programmed everything else including other guitars, keyboards and a host of real and virtual instruments and voices.
The two main parts would fit perfectly onto vinyl although it’s to be released as a download and CD – with two bonus tracks on the CD release.
Part I – Track Review / Description
Mysterious sounds of the east open the album with pentatonic recorder and guitar along with Tibetan singing bowls and drones. Switching moods every few minutes, Ryan captures intimate folk melodies on acoustic guitar and recorders, constrasting with strong main melodies on electric guitar and synth over punchy rhythms and quirky harmonies on vocoders, strings and a fuller band of instruments. This Oldfield-esque free changing structure of several interlinked movements per side allows the music to flow and change yet repeated themes do occur, which grow stronger and more familiar on second listening much like the Sentinel theme in Tubular Bells II. This is not just a random choice as one of the main themes in TNOS2 is a undulating stepwise theme, reminscent of Sentinel – but then again – there are only 8 notes in the major scale, so this might be purely concidental. The main thing is though that is sounds great!
Part II – Track Review / Description
Part II starts with a distinctly darker and atmospheric passage with great vocal textures and melodic guitar phrases. I feel that this half is more introspective at times, again with its multiple sections, layers and phrases but with a more chilled approach and outcome, perfect for a quiet relaxing evening away from the stresses of 2020. A rockier final section brings familiar guitar themes back with a punch but with an enigmatic ending…
Bonus Track: The Song of the Swan
A short but pleasant and hypnotically cycling passage, with “bowed piano”, steel strung guitars, voices and a guitar solo evoking memories of George Harrison. As with the album, the overall mix and quality of the samples and combination with live instruments is beautifully done – and hard to distinguish the difference at times even for a seasoned pro like me!
Bonus Track: The Song of the Butterfly
Another separate track, perhaps unused from the main album, this is more symphonic in a quiet understated way, with pertinent guitar harmonics, James Horner synth voice passages and gives the listener time to soak it all in before a climatic (slow) Prog-style ending. We just need Jon Anderson over the top!
Finally, Ryan’s book: Mike Oldfield: Every Album, Every Song (On Track) – On Track is available from all good distributors and I’ve pre-ordered my copy already!
Thanks Ryan for another great listening experience.