by Bruce Von Stiers
Whalen’s Futuristic Fusion
When I was growing up, my dad had a couple ‘60’s fusion jazz albums. Although, at the time, I was more into rock than jazz, those albums intrigued me. Over the years, I’ve heard several fusion albums. Some have a distinct theme and sound, others are more diversified.
One recent album that is more of the diversified variety is Future Shock. It is from composer / musician Michael Whalen. As the title suggests, there are a lot of futuristic sounding fusion songs on the album.
You might not know the name Michael Whalen, but you are sure to have heard his music before. Michael has over 800 film and television scores behind him, along with a ton of commercials and television theme songs. Michael’s theme song for Good Morning America opened the show from 1998 to 2002. Michael has been nominated for a Grammy and won an Emmy for his music twice. In addition, Michael has taught at NYU and Berkleee College of Music.
For the album, Michael played the keyboards, synthesizers, electronic percussion and did the programming. He was helped out by Simon Phillips on drums and percussion, Bob Magnuson on saxophone, flute and Shehnai and Tony Levin on the Chapman stick and both upright and electric bass. Aside from being a session musician for albums by Tears For Fears, Judas Priest and Jeff Beck, Simon was also the drummer for the rock band Toto for several years. Bob has played on songs for Alicia Keys and BB King and can be heard in a whole lot of television commercials. Tony is known for his work with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson and has recorded albums with people such as Paul Simon and has toured with many artists, including James Taylor.
Future Shock has ten songs and a play time of fifty-two minutes. Michael produced and arranged all of the songs. He also composed all of the songs on the album. It is being released by Spout /MWM.
Future Shock, the title track, is up first. It has a lot of different elements. There are bits of sci-fi outer space type of music mixed in with what I tended to think of as Mediterranean. Michael threw in some slick groove and vocal robotic tones and some ever so cool keys and synth to make this a super cool song.
Hop Skip Jump follow up on the robotic theme a bit in its intro. Then it settles down into a cool funk fusion piece. It has some strong drum, good drum and ultra slick sax.
La Hermosa Noche is a terrific Latin laden piece.
Lights of Home has a different kind of intro, not quite sci-fi but sort of. As the intro fades, there is a fantastic saxophone solo. Then there is light and easy keys work followed by more saxophone.
Memories of You is a lighter piece. It is a saxophone based piece. It kind of reminded me of something light that Dave Koz or maybe Mindi Abair might have on one of their albums.
Poly Jam moves the pace back up with a solid groove that has some those sci-fi fusions elements that seem to have been sprinkled throughout the music on the album.
Miracle Mile is a toe-tapping light groove piece. It has an almost island paradise tone.
Morning On The Cape is a nice mellow piece that just might conjure up visions of standing on a dock watching the surf go in and out.
Wanderlust is a very fast paced piece with some strong drum and percussion,
The album closes with a subtle groove piece called Your Eyes, Your Touch, Your Kiss.
Future Shock is more than just a fusion jazz album. It has mellow songs in with futuristic sounding fusion. There are groove tunes alongside Latin sounding ones. It has a little bit of a lot of different styles all in one album. Even if you aren’t a big fan of fusion jazz, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Future Shock.
Future Shock is expected to be released on April 23, 2021. Amazon and other music outlets will have it available at that time.
Michael has an official web site where you can learn more about him and his music. You will find that site at https://www.michaelwhalen.com/