It’s been five years since Omar Akram’s last album, Secret Journey, and ten years since his debut, Opal Fire, was released under his first name only (as was Free As a Bird in 2004). One of the more colorful and impassioned artists on the Real Music label, Omar has reemerged a bit mellower and more relaxed as a new husband and soon-to-be first-time father. His world music vision is still a very big part of this album, but there is a much more romantic feeling to this release than some of the high-energy tracks on previous albums. That’s not a complaint by any means — it just shows an evolution and where Omar is with his music at this stage in his life. Most of the twelve pieces were co-composed with Gregg Karukas, who also plays keyboards, piano, drum, bass, and percussion programming as well as producing, arranging, mixing, and engineering the album. Akram performs on acoustic piano, also backed by Charlie Bisharat on violin (always a treat for the ears!), Ramon Stagnaro on guitar and bass, and other exceptional musicians. Echoes of Love opens with the title track, a warm and inviting piece with a gentle rhythm spiced with just a touch of mystery. I love “Take My Hand,” a tender love song that overflows with the sweetness and optimism of new love. It begins with just the piano, adding violin and guitar as well a subtle percussion as the piece evolves. “Lovely Day” takes on a more Middle Eastern flavor with sampled vocals and stronger rhythms as well more exotic instrumentation. Akram titled his song, “Miracle,” the day he learned he’d soon be a father. Piano, violin, flute, and hand percussion create a mood full of wonder and a quiet kind of joy - another favorite. “Finally Home” has more of the fiery dynamics and intensity we’ve come to expect from Akram, and Bisharat and Stagnaro are the perfect partners to send the spirit soaring (with a big happy grin). “Free Spirit” could be the most radio-friendly track on the album. The catchy rhythm and hummable melody make for an intoxicating mix. “Cry For Love” is a gorgeous slow-dance ballad — graceful and poignant. Is there a more expressive violinist than Charlie Bisharat anywhere? I think not! “Open Skies” picks up the tempo bit with a cinematic expression of freedom and vast open space. Composed by Gregg Karukas, it has a little different feel that works beautifully. The last track, simply titled “Merry,” is Akram’s first recorded piano solo, and is a lovely tribute to his bride. Longtime fans of Omar Akram’s music will not be disappointed with Echoes of Love and if you are new to his music, check this one out! It is available wherever Real Music releases are sold, including Amazon and iTunes. Recommended!