Nightshade 1982 / Salvatori Productions 2022
To fall in love with Fall, American composer sets expectations high and avoid seasonal disappointment with grace, if not gusto.
Michael Salvatori has been creating cinematic sonic spaces for many years, from the melodies he wrote, alongside brother Tom, for APOCALYPSE back in the ’70s – their sole album saw the light of day only in 2022 – to soundtracks for the “Halo” and, alongside Paul McCartney, “Destiny” games, yet arguably the most stunning dimension the multi-instrumentalist ever sculpted was stored on this record. Although “Waiting For Autumn” might feel elegiac, nostalgic even, what with its deliberately patinated progressive rock passages applied to panoramic vistas, there’s a highly nuanced feeling of future possibilities filling the platter’s six mini-epics that seem relevant, or rather eternal, four decades later thanks to the music’s understated sensuality.
That’s why, perhaps, the key to the album’s secret may be concealed in its shortest piece, the penultimate “A Matter Of Time” – whose harmony guitars stress the pop allure first offered in the robust acoustic strum and thin, though tangible, synthesizer layer of opener “When I Look In Your Eyes” and then picked up in “Our Love Is Real” which starts, startling the listener with lyrical beauty, the tripartite suite “Letter From The Front” further down the line. As Salvatori’s smooth, supple, soulful voice drives the drift towards percussive polyrhythmia and wordless vocal polyphony, forming electric fusion and sending ripples across initial tranquility, the sense of romantic flight and a hint of amorous frivolity set in. However, if the flute-flaunting, folk-informed titular ballad is where the record’s saddest moments turn into celestial sweetness, heavy six-string riffs are also there to shape contrast and let the solemn “Throw It To The Wind” unfold a majestic world in front of one’s mind’s eye, adding small mood-shifting details to the organ-oiled, almost orchestral picture in the process of staging magic.
In a flow of compelling, spellbinding tunes, Tom Salvatori’s classical lace in “A Place Of Solitude” – the aforementioned suite’s central cut – still stands out in its baroque transparency and prepares the affection of Michael’s singing in “The Final Entry” until his bass-spanked, nervous grooves enter the frame to swing wildly and lighten the atmosphere on the way to the sprawling “Epilogue” in which subdued grandeur is enveloping like warm embrace before graciously succumbing to art-rock pastorale. Forgotten to be recalled now, this aural painting of autumn was worth dusting off to be celebrated.