Michael Regina is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist born in the Bronx, New York City. He was inspired as a child by the classic performance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and he’s been performing musically since his early teens. Starting out on violin and French horn, he got into guitar in his teens and in the 1980’s began writing and playing with bands. This led to becoming the main songwriter and lead vocalist of glam metal band WHITEFOXX.
They garnered attention in rock magazines around the world including the American publication Hit Parader and Britain’s best known rock magazine Kerrang. They were regularly played on radio and were offered several record deals. These were eventually all declined and they disbanded in 1989. Now based in New Jersey, Michael has turned his compositional talents to New Age music, which allows him to apply the skills and knowledge he learnt both in the classical music field and in rock music.
This album, A Far Better World, is his fourth, following on from the albums Ascension, Winter Chill and New Day which were released in 2017, except for the latter which was released this year. It consists of eleven tracks and was produced by himself in his own home studio.
Opening track Genesis 1 is an evocative way to start the album. The title obviously brings to mind the Biblical book describing the beginning of the world and this track perhaps depicts the start of a far better one. There’s a subtle grandeur to the music that reminded me of Vangelis, another New Age composer who had a background in rock music (he was a member of Aphrodite’s Child). There’s a strong influence of classical on this one.
The following Tomorrow’s Realm is more a combination of his rock and classical influences. Whereas much New Age music can often be instrumental with no use of percussion, here Regina employs a simple 4/4 rock beat as the bedrock of the music. On top, a haunting synth melody is overlaid, supported by a brooding chord progression. The structure also shows his songwriting influence, with repetition of the various sections similar to what you’d find in a rock song.
Continue M is one of the more cutting edge sounding tracks, and will appeal to a broad range of electronica fans. The core of the track is a restless, syncopated bassline that drives the music forward while otherworldly synths are interweaved into the sonic tapestry. It certainly achieves its aim of transporting the listener and one of my personal favourites on the album.
Peace and Time is another fine piece of composition with a languid, dreamy feel. It is based around a simple, spacious beat which forms the platform for another Vangelis-style epic melody, which Regina clearly has a gift for. The following Lullaby In The Stars is a gem; the melody is immediately memorable and its built up gradually with synths either doubling the melody or harmonizing it. It gives a real sense of transcendence, as if floating through space.
Next comes the title track and it’s a stately, expansive piece with another haunting, enigmatic melody that is varied across the course of the track with various synth sounds. I enjoyed how the music broke down almost to a whisper before blossoming back into full Technicolor. Seventh track Lunar Lounge is very aptly named, being one of the more harmonically adventurous pieces on the album. The modulations help to take the music out into the ether and it’s a very pleasant place to be. Another understated but finely crafted melody, underpinned by subtle but effective pulsating synths.
Cool Space is a nice contrast. Starting with just a simple chordal progression, it builds into a brilliant piece of electronica, with use of rhythmic synths reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder. It’s relatively brief at two and a half minutes but is certainly one of the album’s highlights. Light Years Away is an epic, twice as long as its predecessor and lives up to its title. It’s the musical equivalent of an astral travel and is another showcase for Regina’s talent to create a mystical soundscape.
This ‘space exploration’ vibe continues into the final two tracks, With Honor, and the album’s real epic, Dream Within A Dream, which clocks in at six and a half minutes. The former is striking for its use of exotic percussion towards the end, giving it a magical feel. This segues into the final track nicely, which is a suitable end to what has been a vast musical odyssey. It’s one of the best melodies, which is beautifully harmonized. The last three minutes are truly ethereal, giving a feeling of space and time being displaced.
Overall, this is a highly accomplished and thoroughly enjoyable voyage through sound by a composer who combines his classical and rock knowledge to great effect. Every track has its own qualities, yet it works as an organic and cohesive whole. Any fan of New Age/ambient music, or just electronica fans in general, will find much to admire here and I hope Michael Regina gets the wide audience his music deserves. https://open.spotify.com/album/6Ktzk8jcfgQi47JvkrJYt9?si=21s_sgaKRzyU9TEVvDeOqQ
VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10