Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but the release of emerging symphonic pianist/composer Samer Fanek’s emotionally impactful full length sophomore album Guide Me nearly coincides with that of the 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Yanni’s epic best-selling “Live at the Acropolis.” Before allowing my imagination to soar to transcendent realms while listening to the Jordanian born, Bay Area based artist’s latest sweeping melodic pieces, my first thoughts were of blissful musical time travel.
I felt like I was back in the mid-90s, when pianists and orchestral masters like Yanni, John Tesh and David Lanz defined contemporary instrumental and new age music. Then I thought of another great artist who turned my heart around with the same kind of soaring, intoxicating blend of ivory and string section magic – Argentine pianist Raul Di Blasio, who mixed that dual vibe with a unique Latin flair.
All this is to say that I have not heard an album of this genre that has captivated me this much in – wow, can it be a quarter century? This kind of music is timeless, and nothing in this genre past or present sounds dated. So decades don’t matter. But hearts do – and it’s wonderful to discover a young artist with the whole world in front of him who can captivate mine like this multi-talented indie artist who should be on the radar of everyone who loves compelling, thoughtful and free flowing piano melodies and passionate orchestral soundscapes.
It’s delightful to see the powers that have taken notice of Samer, to the tune of his 2016 debut album Wishful Thinking winning silver medals in the Global Music Awards and a Hollywood Music in Media Award (HMMA) nomination; reaching #12 on the Billboard New Age chart, #1 on three Amazon charts and #2 on the Zone Music Reporter (ZMR) chart. His momentum has continued with Guide Me. Even before its official release, it hit #1 on four Amazon charts, including Best Sellers in New Age, Hot New Releases and Movers and Shakers. Incredibly it also hit the Top 30 on the Amazon Best Sellers chart for all albums in all genres. He’s also something of a YouTube sensation, with over 6,600 subscribers and over 3 million views of videos of his originals and cover tunes.
All that promise and those accolades are not due to hype, but the emotional connection fans of Samer’s style are discovering as they listen. These 11 tracks take you on a majestic journey into his musical heart via 11 powerful, melodically and rhythmically compelling tracks - eight blending synthesizers and orchestral elements and three conveying every ounce of heartfelt emotion on solo piano. Incredibly, while Samer aspires to take this music all over the world with talented musicians and top orchestras, Guide Me is a self-generated, home studio project.
The title track “Guide Me” (so titled because it was the first track he composed for the project) begins as a graceful solo piece before bursting into a whimsical and percussive, orchestral dance complete with stately strings and powerful drums. It’s the emotional centerpiece of the set, whose “story” (which can be interpreted via the listener’s own experience) begins with the bright dramatic, explosive fanfare of “Grand Opening,” tones down for the eloquent and heartfelt solo expression of the nostalgic piece “Long Time Ago” and finds new life amidst the wonder of being ‘Newborn,” which tempo hops from dynamic swells of emotion and moments of true reflection. Samer calls “Now You See,” a jubilant piece about self-discovery, his favorite piece, and its dreamy sense of whimsy and sway may have you feeling the same.
Other gems include the gossamer, angel-soft solo piece “Guardian,” the lively and hopeful, film score lush piece “For Lila” (a loving dedication to Samer’s mother), the hypnotic, poppy, lightly funky “Chasing Time,” a hard driving and rhythmically determined search for a “Sense of Purpose” and the sweetly meditative closer, a triumphant yet understated return “Back to Hometown,” which expresses a feeling of melancholic homesickness for his native Jordan.
As exciting as Samer’s commanding orchestral arrangements are, sometimes it’s the quieter contemplative spaces of the three solo piano pieces that speak most deeply to the heart. Happily, he is considering doing a third project that will be all solo piano. It will be interesting to see how this superb talent’s career evolves both creatively and commercially from this point on. I predict he will be a force in new age and neo-classical music for years to come!