||This is the fourth album from new age keyboardist KevOz (aka Kevin Osborn) which I have reviewed and, to my ears, it’s his best effort so far and more consistently enjoyable than either the original Lakefront, the earlier Canvas, or the spacemusic/EM-oriented Into Orbit. Even the "look" of Return to Lakefront represents an upgrade -- the fonts, colors, graphics, and layout are all considerably improved, notably the back cover layout (an area many artists ignore).
Much like on Lakefront, Osborn concentrates on writing and performing new age "pop" music that is mostly light-hearted, cheery, and catchy, whether its uptempo and rhythmic or mellow and laid-back. He uses an assortment of "new age style" keyboards, sometimes including a (digital) piano and his drum programming, while not in the same league as the best musicians in this genre, is also improved from previous CDs.
The ten tracks on Return to Lakefront offer up 46 minutes of likable unpretentious new age music which contain elements of pop, jazz, and adult contemporary as well. While Osborn is no David Arkenstone or Suzanne Ciani, I wouldn't hesitate to place him alongside some other well-reviewed indie artists in this sub-genre, such as Composure (Bill McGee), Robert Dwain Bridges, Fred Williams, Rob Wallace, and Gary Mulford (Streamline).
Osborn recorded Return to Lakefront with one aim in mind, i.e. to provide the listener with the simple pleasure of likable melodic music which is (to use terms often considered anathema by many artists) "pretty" and "fun". Call me a sap, but I like this CD and Osborn's open-faced lack of pretension is why. The album has no subtext, no message, or no deep layer that needs to be unlocked, instead giving the listener breezy tunes with infectious beats and lots of "sunny day" attitude.
My personal faves include: the bouncy Change of Season with percolating drum rhythms, pleasant bell tones, some discrete piano, and a fluid lead synth solo, all creating the sensation of driving down a sun-drenched highway; Lighthouse which starts off in an ambient vein but becomes a jaunty even jazzy piano and synth piece; Memory Drift, a track that hews closer to EM/fusion than others here, what with its abundance of synth washes (some having a Berlin-esque flavor to them) and slow tempo drums; and the wonderful closing number, Sunset which may be the best thing Osborn has recorded up to this date. It’s a slowly building dynamic exuberant song with an undeniable joyfulness running through it, as a piano refrain is joined by one synth after another, as well as some nicely muted tom-toms. It’s an excellent closing cut.
If KevOz/Osborn continues to improve his composing and instrumentation/production, I'm willing to bet he's going to release something truly special one of these times. He seems to be headed in that direction from what I can hear. He still needs some spit and polish in a few places, but overall, I certainly recommend Return to Lakefront for its friendly nature and easygoing charm.