Various Artists

Prayer: A Windham Hill Collection

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Prayer adds a layer of spiritualism to the Windham Hill label's foundation of contemplation and relaxation. While it's almost exclusively instrumental, the compilation's mantle of talented players bring reverence through their performances. Steve Erquiaga's solo guitar interpretations of "Ave Maria" and the "23rd Psalm" are emotional pieces that seem to play joy off of yearning and pain. Windham fave Jim Brickman contributes a halting, lyrical version of "Holy, Holy, Holy" for solo piano, while Jeff Johnson and flutist Brian Dunning's "Be Thou My Vision" accesses the grandeur of the Celtic music tradition without losing sight of its myth and mystery. The material written exclusively for Prayer adopts a tasteful, meditative tone -- it's like the thoughtful, understated music played before a religious service begins. Suzanne Ciani's softly played piano piece "Go Gently" is aptly named, while harpist Deborah Henson-Conant's "Alisa's Prayer" is as technically beautiful as it is in melody and meaning. Prayer's greatest strength might be its openness to interpretation. While something like The Lord's Prayer can be specifically denominational, Paul McCandless' instrumental version here leaves specifics out of the equation, while at the same time establishing a base for prayer or meditation. The liner notes include reflections from the artists on their own motivations for contribution, as well as the words to universal tracks like "Ave Maria."

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