When did New Age begin to incorporate elements of jazz, blues and psychedelic rock? Not being an expert on the genre, it’s a question I am unable to answer. Yet this mixture of musical styles is on vivid display in Lee Offenhauer’s second record of mostly instrumentals. I say “mostly” because the album opens with a vocal tune, the lushly beautiful “Just Begun.”
New Age has always gotten the reputation of being manufactured and antiseptic; Offenhauer breathes life into what would otherwise be cold audio wallpaper. On “Where Are You,” Offenhauer slides blues licks into New Age atmospherics. The result is intoxicating. But even more compelling is “Dark Passage,” wherein Offenhauer lets his guitar rip into dreamy, enthralling textures. “Dark Passage” is utterly spellbinding on headphones. Reminiscent of Pink Floyd, “Dark Passage” blasts the mind into another state of consciousness. “Initiation” travels even further into the outer regions of time and space, hinting at Middle Eastern influences while it grabs the ears and rockets it to the moon.
Looking for a record to trip to? This is definitely it, but no narcotics are needed here. Just lie back and let Offenhauer be your pilot. Guitar students should take note of the man’s mastery, especially on “Initiation” where he really cuts loose.
Skylight Music: www.skylightmusic.org