This album starts out like a solo piano recording for the first minute-and-twenty-seconds (and pianist Richard Shulman has made many of those over the years), but then a flute comes in, and half-a-minute later is joined by a vocalist humming (of all things). The tune is “The Bliss of Healing” and this is really the theme of the entire recording which also features lots of cello (by Adriana Contino, who has recorded with Shulman previously) and occasional crystal bowls.
The album title, Bliss of Being, also sets the stage for a 12-track CD that takes the listener on a journey or through stages on the path to finding bliss (ah, if it was only as easy as listening to this lovely recording). The second tune sets it up (“Beginning the Journey”) and the next tune gently chastises us about “Remembering the Goal” (although this gentle nudge only lasts a minute). Then there is the “Transition to a New Way.” Strangely the fifth piece seems like it would be toward the end since it is titled “Heading Home,” but perhaps, metaphorically, we are all heading home to the great beyond all the time of our lives, or some such concept. The album immediately continues with “The Journey Deepens,” and the music surely does. Here again is a strange interlude titled “Remembering the Bliss,” as if it is something we have experienced and then lost. But the tune titles bounce back with “New Openings,” the eleven-minute “Divine Connection” and “Resting in God,” obviously the heavily-spiritual part of the trek. Just when you thought you had peaked and were cruising, there comes the admonition about “Loving All” (always a great cry of solidarity for all members of Planet Earth). And then the album ends with “When We Go Home We Go Together,” perhaps bringing friends, family and God all together for the final harrah, but also handing us perhaps the most melodic piece on the whole disc and sadly only clocking in at 2:19 when its melody makes us want much, much more. The recording is interesting that way since it has three really long pieces, four in the four-minute ranges, and five pretty short numbers. It keeps the pace moving, that’s for sure.
The fact that this album is completely acoustic (except possibly for a tiny bit of drone-synth in the background on one piece) gives it a very warm, earthy, natural flavor, almost like inviting several friends, who happen to be excellent musicians, over to your house for a jam session in your living room. I could see the candles in the corners and smell the incense and feel the camaraderie. We probably played Paul Horn’s Inside album first to get everyone in the right mood. Seriously, this is a good album to put on at an intimate gathering when the talk has died down, and everyone is in that trance-like zone sipping their umpteenth glass of a deep, hearty, red wine, and you need some music that is engaging and interesting, but also mellow, relaxing, meditative and positive. Try it; you’ll like it.