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  • Jonathan Widran

YANNI, Devotion: The Best of Yanni

For a time in the mid-'90s, Private Music was issuing Yanni samplers on a regular basis, prompting the casual fan to wonder if the love-him-or-hate-him new age phenomenon had ever indeed released a real studio album before. This collection is pretty much the definitive one with 15 tracks, including his most recognizable hits: the lush, percussive "Once Upon a Time," the sweeping, global-minded "Song for Antartica," the exotic, chant-enhanced "Aria," and the impossibly melodic "A Love for Life."

Most of the tunes follow a similar pattern of pretty melody over just slightly bombastic electronic percussion and orchestra, but others, like "Reflections of Passion," have a softer classical mood focused more on the acoustic piano. "The End of August" from Live at the Acropolis adds to that flavor a beautiful violin line, to which Yanni's piano serves as a harmonic accompaniment. "Marching Season" from that same release displays an aggressive musicianship that Yanni's other material rarely approaches.

A lot of the anti-Yanni sentiment comes not from people who've heard the bulk of his material, but those who simply reject the idea of simply stated, pretty, top-down music as bad for some reason. It never gets too deep, but the same could be said of a lot of pop music. For those new to the Yanni experience, this disc is a good place to start.

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