The idea of the Silk Road Ensemble is a really great one. Yo-Yo Ma assembles a group of stellar international musicians and composers and mixes and matches them in interesting ways. So you might have a Chinese vocalist and an Indian musician performing a Mongolian folk song or what not. Interesting idea, like I said, but unfortunately it only works sporadically. There’s a couple of piano based folk songs from Finland that I really loved and the fifteen minute Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur is a masterful mood piece for strings. Most of the rest of the album, for me at least, just fell kind of flat. I will say one surprising thing about the album is that . . . well, this sounds so weird that I’m almost unwilling to say it: the sound quality is not good. It’s mixed at a really low level and you have to really crank the volume to be even to hear the details of the music; some sections are so quiet that they kind of drop off the audible scale completely, but like eighty percent of the album at the very least loses detail and nuance. You have to turn the volume up so loud, in fact, that you get a really loud level of hiss. I’m not sure how the producers behind this record let this happen. It’s a really fascinating premise and you’d think the people doing the behind the scenes work here would really love music all the way down to the details, but I can’t figure how they could let this album come out in a way that makes it this hard to listen to. Well, whatever. We’ll just call it a missed opportunity. 1 ½ stars.
tl;dr – surprisingly poorly produced album has the brilliant idea of mixing and matching an international ensemble of musicians and composers, but it only occasionally really clicks. 1 ½ stars.