Mannheim Steamroller

Fresh Aire V

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Having exhausted the four seasons, Chip Davis turned to Johannes Kepler's account of a trip to the moon, The Dream, for the theme to Fresh Aire V. Fans may recall that Fresh Aire 4 featured a song of the same name, implying in the album artwork that Kepler's book had induced a reverie by the fireside. Fresh Aire V is that reverie revealed in its full length, detailing on the first side of music the trip to the moon, and on the second side an account of events on the moon. As might be expected, the musical landscapes of the moon and winter lean heavily on synthesizers, so in many ways it's like Mannheim Steamroller never left. The difference here is the addition of the London Symphony (guess the Omaha Symphony was busy that day) and the Cambridge Singers, two revered institutions that Davis puts to full use in place of his usual medieval colors. The opening, "Lumen," is unlike anything Mannheim had done to date: a choral piece that sounds medieval, but forsakes the usual up-tempo entrée for a dour, mystical experience. As it turns out, Mannheim merely moved the usual intro up one spot, to the spirited "Escape From the Atmosphere." Yet the medieval, progressive rock of earlier work never makes an appearance; instead, Mannheim sounds more like the Alan Parsons Project than Rick Wakeman when action or emotion are the tasks at hand, Vangelis when trying to paint spacescapes. Despite some genuinely good sections, such as the classically scored "Earth Rise" (with its shades of Ben Hur) and the oddly charming "Creatures of Levania," much of Fresh Aire V sounds like music for an imaginary television series. In the post-Chariots landscape of 1983, Mannheim Steamroller can be forgiven for trying to bridge electronic and classical sounds, but Davis' classical aspirations seem lightweight on the moon, especially compared to artists who have long since grown acclimated to space, like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis.

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