||“Beautifully melodic and flowing, every song on this uplifting album feels like a universal embrace from something much bigger than we are. It is full circle back to wholeness.” – Dyan Garris
A mandala – simplified – is a cosmic symbol; a “circle of life,” representing unity or wholeness. Here, on the newest album from Eric Bikales, “Mandala,” we have 12 tracks each representing a specific universal concept. These are: Generosity, Kindness, Honesty, Love, Compassion, Charity, Forgiveness, Devotion, Resourcefulness, Humility, and Serenity. These are all characteristics and qualities that human nature aspires to master while here on Earth. Well, we can certainly try. And should. I think, too, it is no accident that there are 12 tracks. The number 12 has many spiritual connotations.
Now, let’s dig in.
I’m going to start by saying that I cannot pick a favorite on this album. I don’t think you’d be able to either. It’s outstanding, the whole thing. I also think it’s important to note that there is nothing even remotely “heavy” here. The album is easy, breezy, jazzy, upbeat, eloquent, feel-good music.
And every single note is as authentic as it gets. I think it’s all a stunning mirror reflection of Eric’s spirit. I do. Just beautiful. And the music makes US feel good about being here and being alive. It just does. This is the gift of a true artist.
Who is this guy? Erik Bikales is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist from an artistic and musical family. An accomplished, professional musician, he has played in orchestras, jazz groups, and rock ’n roll bands, and for 30 years maintained a career as a studio musician in California, as well as composing tons of music for television while he lived there. In addition, his solo albums are: “Tranquility,” “Fire in the Clouds,” “Follow Your Heart,” “Energy,” “Autumn Whispers-Winter Dreams,” “Ocean Reflections,” and now, “Mandala.”
Just to give you a little flavor of his illustrious career, Eric has played keyboards for numerous notables – too many to name all – such as Bette Midler, Cher, Dolly Parton, and Neil Sedaka. He’s also recorded with Kenny Rogers, Tom Waits, Mike Post, and Lisa Hartman Black, just to name a few. He’s performed on television shows such as The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, Good Morning America, A-Team, and Dragnet. He is also an online professor at the Academy of Art, San Francisco, and has also authored several courses on music theory, arranging and film scoring.
You get the idea, right? Right.
On “Mandala,” Eric plays ALL the instruments, including bass, alto and C flutes, melodica, and a host of synthesizers: Yamaha DX-7, Korg M1R, MS2000R, Waldorf MicroQ Synthesizers, Fender Rhodes/Wurlitzer electric pianos, Oberheim OB-8, Matrix 1000, Hammond B3/122. The word, “impressive” for the instrumentation on the album doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Some brief highlights from “Mandala:” The album opens with “Generosity.” This is melodic and happy. “Kindness” is warm and flowing. I found it artistically interesting that “Honesty” feels mysterious and brimming with intrigue. Not shady. Just a mysterious vibe to it. Light, smooth, and graceful, “Love” is heart-warming and twinkling with its supple synths and flute. “Compassion” is a flowing river of grace. Love it. I do want to point out that while all the instrumentation is simply superb throughout, I immensely enjoyed the flute performances on this album, which I found to be exquisite and uplifting, particularly in these two songs.
The melodic, piano based, “Charity” is just beautiful in every way. The atmospheric “Forgiveness” is effortless, and, again, we have a stunning flute performance here as well, with cinematic strings and poignant piano. Heart-opening and gently expansive, for sure. The piano on “Devotion” is melodic and memorable. Nicely done. Now, you’re going along on your journey of life, and wherever it takes you, there indeed comes a time when inevitably, you find you must dig deep into being resourceful. That is this song, “Resourcefulness.” Perfectly conveyed, it’s a “journey.”
I think humility is generally an oft misunderstood term. True humility has nothing to do with low self-worth. Simplified, it has everything to do with lack of arrogance. That’s what we have here in the song, “Humility.” Flowing grace and elegance with zero pretentiousness. Authenticity. Such cannot be faked.
The jazz vibe in “Respect” is wonderful, just wonderful. And the album closes out with “Serenity,” which is not one of those songs that puts you to sleep. This is one that genuinely soothes the soul on every level. Not the ambient, wandering, fuzzy kind of New Agey “serenity,” this is beautifully melodic, and it truly feels like an extremely comforting universal embrace from something much bigger than we are. The whole album is like that. This is full circle, back to wholeness. Thank you.
And by the way, I do want to mention the CD artwork is stunning, gives me chills, and is by the late Charles (Charlie) Hedges, to whom the album is also dedicated.
“Mandala” is available on all digital platforms, as well as in the form of a physical CD. Yay!
Official artist website: https://ericbikales.com/
LAZZ Promotions (Ed & Stacey Bonk)