Review: Michael Stribling: A Better Place
by Kathy Parsons
A Better Place is the first album from keyboardist/composer Michael Stribling in several years. I was introduced to Stribling’s music back in 2007 with Out of the Darkness, Into the Light and have reviewed (and enjoyed!) six more of his albums since then. After becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist, Stribling worked in the mental health field for many years, returning to music in 2005 during a transitional period in his own life.
Inspires and Uplifts the Human Spirit
The mission statement of Leela Music sums up Stribling’s goals with his music: “to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit. (Leela means ‘divine play’).” Stribling’s albums have always been visual and spiritual, but A Better Place seems to come from the heart of someone very much at peace with himself and his life. Using keyboards and synths, Stribling creates music that tells a story using a broad range of instrumental sounds and rhythms. The fourteen tracks on this album are diverse and range from ambient and floating to more uptempo rhythms that invite toe-tapping and moving your body to the beat. It is a pleasure to have Stribling’s music as a backdrop to other activities, but I think it is even more effective when listening with eyes closed, letting the beautiful waves of sound envelop you.
Happiness and Carefree Spirit
A Better Place opens with “First Light,” a piece that begins with the sound of birds chirping contentedly and then goes into a peaceful and colorful depiction of early morning light. Fully orchestrated as the birds continue to sing in the background, the music gently coaxes us to a place of warmth and tranquility. “Looking Up” begins with a quietly ambient introduction/prelude that picks up the tempo considerably about a minute in. This wonderful piece overflows with happiness and a carefree spirit – my favorite track! “Winter Encounter” moves in quite a different direction, but is still very soothing and peaceful. The music paints a picture of icy stillness in all of its splendor – another beauty! “Dream Waves” is hypnotic with its smooth, ambient flow – a mind massage!
Ambient and Dreamy
The next several tracks continue in an ambient and dreamy mode with a varied palette of musical instruments. The title track is a bit more dramatic and symphonic, although still very peaceful and warm. “Quiet Certainty” takes us back (or moves us forward) to more melody and an infectious rhythm. I love the titles for “Dust Yourself Off” and “Time for Bed, Sweetheart,” both very soulful and heartfelt pieces. “Ever Onward” is light and breezy, and seems to reflect on the power of love and positive thinking/living – a great way to end the album!
It was worth the wait for A Better Place, an album sure to take you to a better place, if only for an hour or so! Recommended!
Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com. She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.