Parting the Waters. Released December 1989. Third Stream (via Projekt)
Parting the Waters is worthy of the highest possible recommendation. It’s an album that possesses genuine beauty, poignancy, and depth of feeling. It has all the sensitive moments the Third Ear Band, Popol Vuh, and the acoustic side of Mahavishnu Orchestra, and also recalls a number of ECM label artists. (Such as Steve Tibbetts), while maintaining a totally fresh American sensibility. Composer/ instrumentalist/producer Vicki Richards emerged at the height of the new age music media blitz of the late 1980s, but was not signed by a major label, which is tragic, as she is clearly a leader in the field.
Recorded in Miami, Florida, this 55-minute disc is described as a voyage into the third ear, the third world, the stream of consciousness, and the energy of the female warrior within. The musical influences are many and diverse, ranging from European classical to North Indian classical. Richards plays violin, electric violin, kalimba, bass kalimba and koto. By using sound-processing devices, she achieves a purity of tone with her violins, giving her an overwhelmingly attractive and warm sound. Richards is joined on this album by her husband Tim Richards (tabla drums, log drum, frame drum, bells), Amit Chatterjee (eclectic and acoustic guitars, koto with sticks), and former Weather Report member Robert Thomas Jr. (congas, bongos, tambourine, Peruvian flute, ocarina, percussion). All four musicians contributed to the writing. The production is a work of subtlety, with a quiet mix and a wide stereo separation, giving the music a very intimate feel.
The 6-minute title track introduces the album’s reassuring and friendly style. A soothing, soft mix of Peruvian flute, ocarina, acoustic guitar and kalimba sets the stage for Richards’ gorgeous violin soloing, which then builds with drums. The 4½ –minute “Rising Sun” is instantly seductive, with koto and acoustic guitar establishing a positive vibe, like the beckoning of a sunny day. The 5 ½-minute “Endless Radiance” is a major highlight; its extremely affecting and poignant violin notes really send shivers down the spine. This exquisite track is basically a raga with tabla, acoustic guitar and cymbals. The 6-minute “Logarhythm” and the 5 ½-minute “Windhorse” each establish a violin loop pattern, adding percussion over which Richards solos on violin. The sounds crated are sensual and sweet, never aggressive, and have not a hint of flashiness.
The 4-minute “Dance for Jaco” irresistibly combines Richards’ violin with a lively koto, frame drum, bongos, and percussion. The 5 ½-minute “Prayer of the Heart” features entrancing, soft patterns of electric guitar, electric violin, and tabla. The 4½-minute “Skater’s Dream” is Richards’ solo violin, with a definite classical influence (perhaps Vivaldi). However, her processing effects give the instrument a different resonance, making it more dreamy. The 5-minute “Kalahari” has cascading, floating patterns of melodic violin and acoustic guitar. The concluding 7 ½-minute “Monsoon” is another highlight. A solo piece by Richards, it features soft violin drones and light sprinkles of bass kalimba and bells. The effect is haunting, creating a deeply introspective mood in the listener.
Parting the Waters is an authentic example of raga/classical fusion and space music, with so many extraordinary qualities that achieves a rare universal appeal. Richards’ hard-to-find 1987 cassette Quiet Touch is equally stunning.
The Billboard Guide to Progressive Music, Bradley Smith 1997