Let me start by saying that, ‘Imagine‘ by Armin van Buuren is not an album that one may like in the first listen. This album takes some time to grow on you and it does grow magnificently. This album is a vocal fest, where, you will find some great singers practicing their vocal chords.
The album saw it’s release on Armada Music this April 19th.
It’s not even 15 days and ‘Imagine‘ has topped the Dutch charts at #1, making AvB the only dance producer to do so. Around 2,00,000 copies of the album have been distributed around 30 countries giving it a massive response from the worldwide listeners. "This is absolutely another highlight in my career and it shows me that Dutch dance music is finally taken very seriously." Quotes Armin.
The album begins with a track titled "Imagine". Big lead synths and piano work make way for the guitar riffing done by Armin’s brother, Eller van Buuren. The whole progression becomes orchestral, sounding massive and movie-like music. A numbing bass takes over and beats follow. While Armin works on atmospheric pads, nice rhythmic guitars are played. The track is written by Tiësto’s co-producer in many tunes, Geert Huinink.
The next track, "Going Wrong", was released before the album. Chris Jones wrote and sang the pop-ish vocals for this tune. The release saw a few remixed versions. But the original sounds more euphoric and is brilliantly co-produced by German Trance maestro DJ Shah. Electric sounds with beats start the tune and a sudden grinding bass is introduced after Chris’s vocals start. This tune, again, has some guitars in it but soon a very euphoric synth takes over and paces up the track’s progression. A differently mellow yet happy synth can be heard in the background, which seems to come from Shah’s side. This tune sets up a big headway for the other tunes.
Armin features Jaren, the singer / songwriter who is on a prowl and has some interesting releases coming up her sleeve. "Unforgivable" truly added to her talented singing in this album. The track starts simple with serious sounding vocals from Jaren. At 4:40 an amazing synth work is introduced by Armin which makes the listening all worthwhile and perfectly complements Jaren’s voice. However, it wouldn’t have sounded bad either with some more melody added to it instead of the plain bass line.
Next, we see something better in the plate and something more ‘imaginative’. But it has lots of credits to it, which come in the name of Adrian Broekhuyse and Solid Globe’s Raz Nitzan. "Face To Face" starts with some pads and exhaling vocals of Denise Rivera, the real kick is felt at 3:40 when an uplifting synth is introduced and it progresses with the piano. Bliss!
Audrey Gallaghar of "Big Sky" somewhat creates the magic back in "Hold On To Me". The vocals sound unfledged. A very deep sublime synth makes you moody until the electro bass line is dropped in and finally you can listen to Audrey. Not a very strong production of this album. Like "Unforgiven" and "Imagine", Eller does the placid guitars for this track.
We go break beat with the next track which has German rock band Within Temptation’s Sharon Del Adel doing the vocal chores. Any gothic-rock listener would identify with Sharon’s unique vocals. And "In And Out Of Love" is a thrilling example of what EDM holds for Trance in the future, the fusion of electronica and rock! The track has to offer some tight synthing and easy-going break beats. Armin manages to keep it strictly electronic, but this one sounds just fantastic anyway.
Armin teams up with Dutch rock band Krezip’s Jacqueline Govaert, and creates "Never Say Never". Though the tune starts with sweet piano work, Armin fails to create an ‘imaginative’ mood through his simple synth riffs and flat progression. The vocals, on other side are decent, but somehow the whole tune does not excite your ear drums much. Melody Armin, more melody!
"Rain" has to be my personal favourite of the album. The tune has some 90′s elongated lead synths and groovy percussion, perfect for an arena sound. Cathy Burton of course does not have much singing in it but I like the tune as it is.
One more vocal addition in the voice of Vera Ostrova comes as "What If". The production sounds very contemporary. But it is something that wouldn’t be preferred in any DJ set. We are somewhat ‘imagining’, but are we dancing to it? Ask the techy synths that almost cover up the vocals!
"Fine Without You" was highly anticipated by me as it had Jennifer Rene and Armin coming together for the first time. And, even though, Jennifer’s weighty vocals form an intense mood, I still like the track. It has a great recall factor to it. And do I hear bass guitars? The whole production of different synths, guitars and vocals has been compiled very nicely. This is a track that grows on you completely.
Till the ears get thirsty for something blasty, we have Mr. Sean Tyas covering up the vocal tunes for a blasting "Intricacy". The third non-vocal track is trancing and will get you dancing. But again, could something better have been offered by Armin and Sean? Not really, this tuneage is satisfying with typical Trance synths and a BREAK DOWN! Did we have break downs in this album at all? Thanks to "Intricacy".
The indecision that Armin could have done something far better than ‘Imagine‘ will remain in our minds. But today, Trance music is getting all about re-innovating your own sounds. However, I will always imagine about the title ‘Imagine‘. Did it really get me imagining?