"Stefan successfully takes us on a journey into our own heart and mind and shows us that all things are possible at any time in our life"
ALBUM REVIEW by Maria D’Alessandro (Melbourne, Australia)
“ON THE ROAD” - Stefan Van De Sande
It is my pleasure to review Stefan Van De Sande’s new album “ON THE ROAD” recorded in the Winter of 2014-2015 in Ulvberga (SE) and Ossenzijl (NL). All music, lyrics, art-work, pictures, vocals, guitars, blues harp, flute, recordings and mixing were done by the talented Stefan who clearly took much care in producing this album so that it conveys an atmosphere of intimacy rarely found in contemporary music.
His generosity of heart and spiritual stance are evident in many of the tracks as are emotions of romantic love, a great affinity with nature and a deep concern for the state of the earth. Stefan’s versatile lyrics are about self reflection, personal growth, romantic love, environmental issues, positive thinking and fantasy and therefore, cross various planes of space and time. This collection of important themes makes this album not only a great authentic example of life on the road of a deep thinking modern day Troubadour, but it demonstrates a close reflection of the man behind the velvet voice who is courageously living his dreams “On The Road”.
Stefan has many messages for his audience and fans around the world, but the greatest of these is, “It’s not too late for a new beginning” as he sings in Track 4 “New Beginnings”. For those of us in our middle years, we can only give thanks to this traveling performer for such an encouraging and uplifting reminder.
Here are some thoughts and comments on each track on the album:
Song 1: Small Road
The album suitably starts with the turning of a car ignition ready to take Stefan (and his audience) on “the small road to the top”. With a fitting swinging beat this first song on the album has some philosophical and biographical lines reflecting Stefan’s life as a travelling Troubadour and the loneliness and hardship he faces from time to time. He sings of leaving the past behind without regret including his old regular job and his determination to continue to take the “small road to the top”.
Song 2: Field of Daisies
This is by far the most melodic song on the album with an abundance of imagery. It begins with a hauntingly beautiful harmonica introduction setting the mood about escaping the craziness, trouble, fear and anger in the world for a more peaceful place among nature and in the inner world of one’s own mind. The listener is reminded that it is only when we change our way of thinking and choose a more positive state of mind that “We can start all over, And make our lives sublime”.
Song 3: The Grey Green Sea
This is a sentimental song with some truly beautiful imagery of sun, surf, sea, sky, wind and fond childhood memories. Perhaps the message here is that as adults we could try to be more like we were as children and regain the innocent appreciation we once had for beautiful things in nature like the “grey, green sea”.
Song 4: New Beginnings
This would have to be the theme song of this album in which Stefan sings that “It’s not too late for a new beginning”. We don’t have to remain the same person or do the same things every day – we are capable of change and anything is possible if only we have the courage for self reflection and “...for a new start”.
Song 5: I’ll Be Here For You
A gentle and sweet lullaby that clearly demonstrates Stefan’s “velvet voice” and nurturing character. This is the longest running song on the album at 5.28 minutes which is fitting for a song which envelopes the listener in a comforting and soothing musical cloak of love and support. “When you feel you are almost drowned, And heaven’s door is closed, I’ll be here for you”.
Song 6: Long Train Coming
This is a gentle song about missing a beloved and longing for her return.
Song 7: I Miss You
Stefan sings a tender song to his beloved about how much he misses her as he tours from town to town and across countries as a Troubadour. This one is straight from the heart and shows Stefan’s gift for conveying deep felt feelings through his vocals, lyrics and music. He explores the conflict felt by many performers like himself between pursuing a much loved calling for music, on the road “from Aberdeen to Cologne”, and feeling a great sense of longing for one’s loved one who is dearly missed.
Song 8: Poems
Stefan has been greatly influenced by his travels to Scotland over recent years and this reflects in the lyrics of this commemorative song dedicated to a Scottish poet and wizard he met named Magii McGlynn alias Magii of Balquhidder Glen, who lives in the Highlands somewhere in a cave. “He is no-one’s slave”. This is the plight of all artists, poets, musicians who walk to the beat of their own drum for the sake of their art and the only master they obey is the creativity within their own heart and soul.
Song 9: Light
In this dreamy song Stefan sings of images of sleeping under the stars in a tent and waking up in the middle of the night whereupon he is “captured by the light”. He hears distance and feels space and can smell the night. His great affinity and appreciation for nature is prominent in the lyrics and his senses are awakened. Thunder, lightning, hail lash at his tent but Stefan maintains his harmony with nature by lighting a candle and is captured by the light of the flickering flame. Perhaps there is a message here that in the face of adversity, if one remains focused on the positive (the light), then all things are possible.
Song 10: Don’t Go Away
A sad song about abandonment by one’s lover and not wanting to be alone.
Song 11: Grasshopper
In this fun song which could pass as a light hearted children’s song, Stefan has a one way positive conversation with a grasshopper. An interesting topic for a song which may have come easily for Stefan who is not only a musician but also a father and can relate well to childhood interests.
Song 12: Hope
A song which asks the listener to explore some important environmental questions and take personal responsibility for the state of the earth today. Concerns with polluted seas, diminishing numbers of bees and cutting down of trees are all a result of the lifestyle we choose to live so every one of us must take the blame (and the responsibility) for the Earth’s continuing demise.
Song 13: Goodbye (Amazing Sex)
This is a cleverly written, avant-garde and undeniably honest song with some amazing guitar and harmonica playing. Stefan is not afraid to push creative boundaries with his musical craft and has succeeded in raising a few curious eyebrows with this song with its catchy tune and underlying message that there is a lot more to a relationship than sex alone can provide even if it is “amazing”. Stefan delivers this cheeky song with confidence together with a sense of light heartedness and has aptly positioned it as his last song on the Album.
To conclude this review, I would like to recommend this album to anyone who appreciates listening to honest, free flowing, intimate music born of a lifetime of self discovery and enlightenment. Attention to detail has been paid by the creative and well thought out photos in the album booklet. Here we find on the front cover of the album, a photo of a driver's car side mirror. This may signify Stefan's reflection on his journey and the path left behind with all his adventures and people he encountered. Throughout the pages of the booklet are contemplative images of European green grassy countryside, beaches, lavender fields, rainy foggy days, mountains, rainbows, a farm cottage, burning candle sticks and even a photo of Stefan's odometer showing a milestone reading of 500,000 kilometers travelled.
The booklet ends with a photo of the road ahead yet to be travelled subliminally depicting that life is a continuous journey that never stands still. The last photo is of Stefan's guitar on a picnic table near a lake, with a cup, glasses and writing paper on which new songs are being written. I am reminded from looking at this last photo that after our inevitable death, all that remains of our life on Earth is the work we have done, the difference we have made to others and the gift we leave to the world by way of our talents and our shared philosophy and knowledge.
I rate this album 5 out of 5 stars because it speaks to the audience on more levels than just musically. In this album, Stefan successfully takes us on a journey into our own heart and mind and shows us that all things are possible at any time in our life.