Ralph Towner 12-string and classical guitars, piano, synthesizer, French horn, cornet, percussion
Recorded December 1982 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
If there were ever any doubts as to Ralph Towner’s consummate abilities, though one would need to travel far to encounter them, they can only have been put to rest with the release of Blue Sun. A near highpoint in Towner’s extensive discography, it might have shared the summit of 1980’s Solo Concert were it not for a few frayed threads. Towner’s compositions are already so harmonically dense in their solo form that other instruments merely externalize what is already so internally apparent to them, so that the intimate pickings of “The Prince And The Sage,” “Mevlana Etude,” and “Wedding Of The Streams” hover most clearly before our ears. At the same time, there is something skeletal about his playing that cries for flesh. Not for want of completeness, nor out of lack, but rather through the his balance and inward posture, a flower-like duplicity that embraces both blooming and wilting in the same breath.
Among the potpourri of instruments that Towner plays here, his Prophet 5, while nostalgic, sometimes gets in the way. It seems unnecessary, and evokes more the novelty of using one when his talents on so many other acoustic options were readily available to him. These “unnatural” sounds turn a concave sound into a glaringly convex one. “C.T. Kangaroo” in particular, while playful enough, jumps out as an anomaly in the album’s otherwise majestic mood. The lack of guitar also renders it incongruous. Elsewhere, however, synth textures do blend nicely, as in the floating pianism of the opening title track, and in “Rumours Of Rain,” to which a French horn adds vocal depth. “Shadow Fountain” also makes adept use of electronic textures, bubbling like water on a sunny day.
Towner fans will want to check this one out for sure, but newbies may want to hold off.