I LOVE THIS ALBUM! I first heard Omar’s music on the Real Music compilation Freedom to Love, and his track, “Last Dance,” was my favorite on that album. I was really looking forward to Omar’s debut CD, and it is even better than I was hoping! A classically-trained pianist with an international upbringing (he is the son of a UN diplomat), Omar mixes acoustic piano with synthesized orchestrations, creating a sparkling musical palette with colors from all over the world. It is impossible to not compare Omar’s music to Yanni’s early work — it is full of fire and excitement as well as beauty and emotion, and the instrumentation is varied on each track. One major difference is that Omar’s piano always sings through, and he is obviously a pianist first rather than simply using the piano as one of an assortment of instruments. My favorite piece is still “Last Dance,” which grabs me every time, and stays in my head long after the CD has finished playing. It starts out with a light piano melody, and is gradually filled in with other instruments and rhythms. This is not a sad “Last Dance,” although there is a slightly bittersweet quality to the melody – the piece is really quite joyful, and I can’t get enough of it. There are no weak tracks on this album, but a few others really stand out for me. “Morning Rain” is a beautiful, gentle piece with mostly piano and guitar. The melody is simple, but so beautiful and passionate that this one sticks in my head, too. “Farewell For Now” has a classical feel when it is just the piano with background instrumentation, but then the rhythm track kicks in, bringing it right back to the 21st century and giving it a big grin. “Innocence Lost” is one of the few sad tracks, but demonstrates Omar’s range of playing and composing styles — just gorgeous! “Gypsy Woman” is big and noisy in parts more subdued in others, and is full of fun. It’s hard to believe that the guitar parts are synth. “Longing” is a quiet piece, mostly piano and strings, and full of passion — again compellingly beautiful. Opal Fire is definitely one of my “top 5″ favorite albums for the year so far, and I can’t wait to hear more from this incredibly gifted artist. I give Opal Fire my highest recommendation.