Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Re-listening to Dan Brown

image Recently, I’ve been enjoying re-listening to Dan Brown – his music, not his books.   Most people probably don’t know that long before he became one of the world’s most famous writers, he moved to Hollywood to try his hand in the music business.  In 1994 he released a CD called “Angels and Demons,” featuring the same ambigram as cover art that would grace the cover of his best-selling book of the same name.   When I learned that Dan had put out an album -- through a mention in a high-school class reunion note – I ordered a copy.   I was surprised by how good it was.

Angels & Demons ambigramHow to sum up “Angels and Demons?”   First of all, for a writer, the CD is a fantastic effort and a professional production in every aspect.  Apparently no expense was spared in production:  Dan had Madonna’s bass player, Michael Jackson’s sax player, and the Doobie Brothers’ drummer as session musicians.    The track "Peace in Our Time” was performed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. 

Throughout, Dan’s voice is excellent and the arrangements are rich and lush.   I am really amazed at the tasteful piano – which apparently was all played by Dan – his understated and elegant chords are the backbone to many of the tracks.

But these are the words that come to mind as I have been re-listening to this album over the past two weeks:  beautiful, anthemic, powerful, evocative, inspirational, and sincere.    Most of the songs are standard four-chord arrangements, but he gets a lot of mileage out of those four!   (Who says that more chords are better, anyway?)   

If one could ascribe any fault to the album, it might be that it occasionally comes off as slightly dramatic and grand-themed.  But better too grand than too small, n’est-ce pas?   I prefer to see it as earnest and sincere.   

The music

The first, title track on the CD is one of my favorites: it starts out with a deep, solemn Gregorian chant in Latin – think of old dark cathedrals from the Middle Ages a la The da Vinci Code.   Mandatum novum do vobis from John 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”.  The backdrop is set as the track opens the album on the premise of an epic internal battle between the forces of salvation and destruction:

listen  image

(Chant) Mandatum novum do vobis

Angels and demons speak my name
They sing to me at night
I could swear they sound the same
They fight an endless fight

And I never know what fate might bring
when angels and demons sing

The second track, “Shadows of Love,” rolls in with a warm lush sound to chase away the darkness of that deep existential struggle, but the deep and expansive themes continue.   O the compassion!  You can almost hear the metaphorical wheel of souls turning in the roundhouse beat, decorated with a wonderfully spare piano and guitar:    

listen  listen
Some will starve and some will feast
But that’s the nature of this beast
How cruel is fate for those who wait
Alone in the shadows of love

By the seventh track,  “The Beat of My Heart” -- another of my favorites -- he’s found his way and is ready to trust himself, all expressed through the lyric beauty of Dan the writer:

listen  listen
Though roses fall here on the stage
I feigned all the sorrow, the rage
I did what they asked, then took a bow
And now this applause hurts me somehow

I know I’ve been wrong
I’ve made up my mind that from this day on
I’ll play this part to the beat of my heart

Anyway, if you couldn’t tell -- I highly recommend this work.   You may be hard pressed to get your hands on it:  neither Amazon.com nor SecondSpin.com have it.  I would imagine it’s been out of publication for some time.     If anyone knows where it’s available, please post a comment. 


All music is copyright © Dan Brown. 

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