I should begin by saying I am a huge Keiko Matsui fan. I have been looking forward to this release for a very long time and finally, after an almost 4 year wait, we have the new CD, The Road... In fact, I've been anticipating it so much that even though I pre-ordered the CD thru Amazon, I purchased the MP3 album this morning so I could spend the day listening to it waiting for the CD to arrive. It's been playing virtually non-stop for 12 hours, so I feel as though I've experienced it enough to write a solid review.
The more I listened to The Road... the more I realized there are two very defined parts to the album. In the past, it isn't unusual for back-to-back releases by Keiko to be very similar in style and theme. Deep Blue and The Ring / Sapphire and Dream Walk quickly come to mind as examples. The first four songs could easily have appeared on Moyo. They're similar in style and sound and almost feel as though they could have been recorded at the same time as the songs on Moyo. Not that that is a bad thing; not by a long shot. Moyo is a terrific album and the new songs (Secret Pond, Falcon's Wing's, Nguea Wonja, Bohemian Concerto) all stand up very well on their own. To me, Falcon's Wing is the standout of the four. It is easily the best song on the CD.
It's the final five songs (Embrace & Surrender, Awakening, Touching Peace, Affirmation, & The Road...) that we really get a glimpse of what has been going on in Keiko's life the past 4 years as she traveled down her "Road...". I think even the order of the songs offer us insight to her journey as she finds her way through her "hardship" (as she stated in the liner notes). I could be reading too much into it, but after multiple listens, the feeling, the beauty, the true heartfelt emotions come through her music and allow the listener to take the journey with her. It's where the album really shines and where I found a true emotional attachment to the music. As with previous albums, there are always hidden gems that don't get played on the radio, or played in concert, but are some of her most brilliant work (Rose in Morocco from Deep Blue and Marula from Moyo quickly come to mind) and The Road... is no exception. Touching Peace is one of those songs. The way Keiko delicately plays the piano along with the guitar backing is absolutely beautiful and will only get better the more I listen to it.
If you're new to Keiko Matsui's music, this is an excellent place to start. There are some fantastic songs on this album, if not some of the best of her career. Put in the CD, put on the headphones, close your eyes and take the journey down The Road... You will not be disappointed.
For those who are down for only buying individual songs: Falcon's Wing, Awakening & Touching Peace are my personal favorites.