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Album Review

When it comes right down to it, the music of Philip Glass is simply one of those love-it-or-hate-it propositions: most people find his signature technique (relentlessly repeating arpeggios with minimal harmonic movement and even less rhythmic variation) to be either frantically, hair-pullingly dull or mystically transcendent. So the idea behind a project like Orion seems a bit curious. Here Glass has written brief pieces designed to showcase a variety of world music traditions, including those of China, the Gambia, Brazil, Canada (in this case the Scottish-derived music of Nova Scotia), and Australia, among others. His collaborators include some fairly big names: fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar, griot and kora player Foday Musa Suso, and so on. Everyone plays enthusiastically and well and the music is unfailingly pleasant, but nothing here is likely to win over those who tend toward the hair-pulling end of the spectrum of responses to Glass's music. These pieces are probably more effective in the live setting for which they were intended than they are on disc, where they generally come across as pleasant and goodheartedly multicultural, but not terribly exciting. As he often does, MacIsaac brings a special energy to the "Canada" track, and Uakti's performance on "Brazil" is also worth noting. Otherwise, this will be of interest primarily to world fusion fanatics and Glass's large cult following.

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Philip Glass: Orion, Philip Glass Ensemble
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