Mannheim Steamroller

Fresh Aire II

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This is a rehash of the medieval themes and romantic piano pieces found on the first Fresh Aire. Fresh Aire II gets the nod over the debut by separating the two styles rather than alternating them; the side-long "Fantasia" consists of variations on a stirring medieval theme, not as fertile as Rick Wakeman or Camel's The Snow Goose perhaps, but not far off the mark either. The variations are described as doors (a convenient allusion given the music's conduciveness to reverie), with the intended effect of each described with Epimethean acuity by (presumably) Chip Davis. Without all those precious piano interludes in the middle, Mannheim manages to steamroll its way through more than 15 minutes of medieval mind candy. The second side of the LP features the imaginary themes to romantic movies found on the first album's interludes (there's even a continuation here, with "Interlude V" picking up where the first four left off). Of the three romantic pieces, "A Shade Tree" is the prettiest, with strings (acoustic and classical) conjuring a reflective calm. The medieval theme returns (this time without the accoutrements of contemporary rock) for "Toota Lute," with Jackson Berkey on harpsichord, Eric Hansen on lute, and Davis on recorder. Verily, it doth produceth much pleasure. But Fresh Aire II's finest moment is the closing "Going to Another Place," which wraps the band's different sounds into a succinct, memorable package. Although admirers of the first Fresh Aire will certainly wish to drink deep draughts of Fresh Aire II, listeners with a soft spot for keyboard-led prog rock and historical themes (i.e., Rick Wakeman fans) are also invited. As with all of the American Gramaphone releases, the original LP version is audiophile-friendly.

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