Free As a Bird is the much-anticipated follow-up to Omar’s 2002 release, Opal Fire. Exotic, sensual, and brimming with life, it was worth the wait! Richly arranged and orchestrated by David Dial and Gregg Karukas, real instruments replace some of the keyboards from the earlier release, and the interaction of great musicians such as violinist Charlie Bisharat (one of my all-time favorites!), Ramon Stagnaro on guitar, Gregg Karukas on keyboards and percussion, and Pedro Eustache on flute makes the music even more exciting. It is impossible to not think of Yanni’s best work when listening to Omar. International flavors and a strong, optimistic spirit ignite the upbeat pieces, and the quieter songs are full of heart and passion. Quite simply, this is a GREAT album!
There are no weak tracks on Free As A Bird. My favorites tend to be those that feature Charlie Bisharat, but since he is on seven of the eleven tracks, that’s most of the album! “Free” sparkles with joy and, well, freedom. “Passage Into Midnight” begins with a bittersweet melody that is introspective and questioning, but as the piece evolves, it picks up a Latin flavor and rhythm. “A Day With You” is a sweet love song. “Surrender” is a standout. Elegant and melancholy, the piano, violin, and guitar fill the haunting melody with emotion. In a word – WOW! “Riding the Current” is jazzier and practically dances out of the CD player – another favorite. “Flight Of Mystery” closes the album with a swirling ensemble piece that allows all of the musicians to soar.
Free As A Bird is sure to be on my Top 10 for 2004 and should bring Omar the recognition he so richly deserves. Very highly recommended!