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Road to Chiang Mai

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Customer Reviews

From MainlyPiano

"Road to Chiang Mai" is the third album from award-winning composer Bill Wren. Inspired by a recent trip to Thailand and Cambodia where Wren and his new bride volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai (Thailand) this album is a fascinating combination of electronic and acoustic instrumentation plus Asian and other world music influences. Frank Ralls is once again onboard as producer, co-composer on several tracks, and performs on drums and keyboard, as well as providing orchestral programming. Some of the music expresses a joyful sense of adventure, but most of it is more peaceful and calming. The album was recorded in Hans Zimmer’s studio and includes some of his string players plus violinist Anna Marie Calhoun who has toured with Yanni. The music has a very full sound, much like a movie soundtrack, that evokes images of far away places. This magical album is likely to top the charts, as Wren’s two predecessors did: "One Day In a Life" (2009) and "Journey Around the Sun" (2011).

"Road To Chiang Mai" begins with “Enchanted Kingdom,” a spirited symphonic piece that sets the mood with soaring strings, driving percussion and feelings of excitement and joy. “The Other Side” leans a little more toward smooth jazz and includes wordless vocals, piano (keyboard), a catchy beat, and strings. “Ponder Dust” features Ann Marie Calhoun on violin and other exotic sounds that are sometimes almost otherworldly. “The Beginning” has an East meets West feeling about it, combining orchestral strings with instruments that are not so familiar - I don’t think we’re in Texas anymore! The title track is upbeat and adventurous with a much more Asian sound again blended with strings. “Longing” is a gorgeous cello solo performed by Ben Lash. Perfect in its brevity, it goes right to the heart. “Memories” (originally titled “Eternal Hope”) won a Song of the Year award in 2011 and is my favorite track on the album. A soulful duet for piano and cello, the piece is uncomplicated but expresses very deep emotions! I also really like “The Way It Was,” which features Jim Farrelly on penny whistle. Wistful and nostalgic, it overflows with longing - beautiful! The buoyant “Land of Smiles” swings the mood all the way back up again with flutes and full orchestration. “Ebb and Flow” brings the album to a peaceful close, reflecting on a wonderful excursion yet glad to be home.

If you missed Bill Wren’s previous epic musical adventures, "Road To Chiang Mai" is a great introduction to his music. If you enjoyed his first two albums, you’ll love this one, too! Recommended!

Non-Stop Adventure

Bill Wren’s new album “The Road to Chiang Mai” is a tribute to his travels. Here we get to experience some truly amazing places, cultures and atmospheres.

“The Road to Chiang Mai” is Bill Wren’s third album. His previous albums are “One day in A Life” and “Journey Around The Sun”. In 2012, during a break from composing music, Wren met his second wife (his first wife died earlier that year), Tamara and wound up joining her on her travels to Thailand and Cambodia, part of which were spent in an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This is the inspiration behind this album.

First track out is “Enchanted Kingdom”. The song all about discovery, excitement and non-stop adventure. The song has speed and quite a few interesting twist and turns. It is impossible to tell where this is going to end. I especially like the flute part.

All travels have a beginning, and so is also the case with this one. Track four track is called “The Beginning”. From the very first notes it seems clear that this trip bound for somewhere in Asia. The song has a wonderful build-up, and it makes me think of both Vangelis and Kitaro.

When we reach “The Road to Chiang Mai” it is like we are at the destination, this expedition’s goal. This is what we came for. I’m happy to say that it was well worth the trip. The guitar has a lovely acoustic feel, backed by carefully crafted strings. Mike Oldfield would have been proud if he made this song. It truly is a jewel. It makes me want to check out the «real» road to Chiang Mai.

“The Road to Chiang Mai” is in many ways like a collection of short stories. Each part is a concluded narrative. “Longing” is an ultra short and quite sad story with Ben Lash on cello. The 1 minute song is gone in an instant. It is in a way like a prelude to “Memories”. When looking back on good memories, we tend to get a bit melancholic. It is a story about life that has passed. I love the combination of piano and cello, and it makes “Memories” into a wonderful, neo-classical song.

“The Way it Was” is also about looking back. When remembering past travels, we don’t think about how a place is now, but how it was at the time we came to visit. There are always changes. That’s perhaps why the song has a dose of melancholy? But the lonely sounding flute makes sure that the song ends on a high note. On “Land of Smiles” we are definitely still in Thailand. The selection of traditional instruments is enough to make me smile. The song has quite a simple melody. Yet at the same time there’s a complexity here, both in the expression and the build-up. It is Thailand in a nutshell I guess. The paradise in “Today on Paradise” is for sure somewhere in Asia. It is like we are enjoying some amazing scenery.

“Ebb and Flow” is a great album closer. Here strings accompany a gentle piano. The ending is surprisingly powerful, rising and falling with the force of a giant wave. The atmosphere is interesting, like there’s a storm coming. We cannot control the forces of nature, and can do little but hide when the elements conspire against us. It truly is a beautiful song.

“The Road to Chiang Mai” is yet another great release by Bill Wren. Travel always makes a great topic for an album, and it is easy to tell that Wren has had some amazing experiences on his journeys. Now we can follow his footsteps simply by listening.

An Adventure to New Beginnings

I've been a fan of Bill Wren since his first album, and love hearing the evolution of his music while still maintaining his unique and authentic musical "voice." Co-produced with Frank Ralls, Bill's new record is at times peaceful, at times exciting, and always beautiful, as is the country that gave inspiration to this album - Thailand. With electronic, orchestral, and acoustic elements, and a fine array of guest performers, this album succeeds in taking listeners on a journey, and sharing in the joy of Bill Wren's adventures and new beginnings. I'll be listening to this one until he takes on his next journey!

Top Albums and Songs by Bill Wren

Road to Chiang Mai, Bill Wren
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