Robert Raines is a composer based in Florida; however, his dues were paid in the bars of New York City playing guitar with some of the luminaries of the early punk scene, jamming in jazz groups, and -- starving. Raines took a job outside of music that assuaged his hunger, but never quenched his thirst for making music, and as soon as he could get back into music, he did so. But Raines' interests had shifted to orchestral music, and his MSR Classics' CD, Robert Raines: The Return of Odysseus represents the first fruits of his renewed musical labors and, ironically, Raines first recording, as none of the things he did "back in the day" were ever issued.
The disc opens with a heartfelt tribute written in memory of a fellow staffer at the offices of Rolling Stone who had died young, Echoes of Sarah (2007). It is scored very effectively for nine flutes, and in emotional content both deals with the issue of personal loss and carries its subject's spirit up to the clouds, utilizing spinning polyphonic lines scored among the flutes to lift the music off into the air. Ménage (2005) is a trio for the unusual combination of flute, bass clarinet, and piano; its outer movements are tart and jazzy, whereas the inner one is an attractive, intermezzo-styled piece reminiscent a little of Poulenc, not surprising as Raines has orchestrated some of Poulenc's music, but enjoyable nonetheless and a good balance for the other movements.
However, the pièce de resistance here is Raines' ballet The Return of Odysseus. Its rhythmic profile may remind some of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, but it is not imitative of that work and, moreover, is expertly scored and very well suited for choreography. With repeated listens, The Return of Odysseus really grows on you; some of its motifs and melodies stick in your head, while the rest of it retains its freshness and sense of surprise. Raines' music is communicative without being compromised, and while MSR Classics' Robert Raines: The Return of Odysseus is a little short at 51 minutes, it never wears out its welcome. Indeed, it might be just the right amount of music to expose the talents of a gifted composer on his first run through. The performances, by the Moravian Philharmonic and others, are dedicated and all render a tangible consensus of excitement and enthusiasm on the part of the players.