So, you're an international DJ and you have a hit radio show that reaches more than a million viewers during each episode that is also complemented by the recent success of such releases as Universal Religion 3 and A State of Trance 2007. Not only that, but your Armada Music label has grown into one of the leading record labels in trance and you are in constant demand for numerous gigs around the world. How could life get any better than that when you are considered one of the biggest DJs in the world? Simple... you become ranked as the number one DJ in the world by DJ Magazine's Top 100 poll just like Armin van Buuren did. What better to way for him to celebrate this achievement than to release his new album called Imagine. So, does the new album live up to the hype that has now been generated with his new ranking?
Imagine is more of a hit-and-miss affair but definitely isn't lacking in effort or great music. Imagine is definitely a more mature release that encompasses a mixture of sounds that demonstrate Armin's growth as an artist. These mixtures of sounds are created by some great collaborations that create a broad range of sounds from banging trance to somewhat smooth downtempo and definitely helps showcase Armin's talent as producer. Unfortunately, the overall flow of the album is where its weakness lies and this is caused by some of the tracks and their placement in the album. The first song is the title track (purchase/download) and the intro which, while unique, seem to be a bit out of place in this lineup. It begins with some atmospheric pads and weird sound effects that eventually add some piano chords that come across more like a rock opera than a trance track. Fortunately, the song develops itself more into a trance tune with some trancey percussion lines and some of the usual riffs and melodies while adding a massive bassline to enhance the club experience, but you still feel out of sync with the unusual intro. The next track is actually the first single to be released from Imagine, and while "Going Wrong" (purchase/download) is a collaboration with DJ Shah and Chris Jones, which would suggest possible success, the track comes off as a second rate version of an earlier Tiesto track and disturbs the flow of the whole album. Fortunately, the third track on the list, though, raises the bar.
"Face to Face" is another great listen and actually should have been the starting track on the album with an amazing intro that starts off with a nice sweet beat that eventually blends with a little vocal placement and piano riffs, creating a nice warm sound- and just when you are at the peak, then a massive bassline kicks in and you are definitely ready to roll with the track. The same could be said for "Hold on To Me," but instead of a piano, we see the use of a guitar and Audrey Gallagher provides some nice vocals that lead up to a great electro bassline that really works for the track. A better track, though, is "In and Out of Love" which showcases Adel's amazing voice while blending it with some catchy bass chords and piano riffs, forming a great breakbeat track. Unfortunately, the next track loses some of that momentum because the vocals seem misused in "Never Say Never" and don't seem to flow with the beats. As far as the next two tracks, "Rain" and "What If" are decent tracks but really don't accomplish much in regards to creating a fluid mood or vibe that gels with the listener or the album with the rolling basslines and average vocal arrangement.
As for the album as a whole, if you are expecting a crazy uptempo and hardcore trance experience, then you will be slightly disappointed in this new release. What you will find, though, is a more mature album that definitely shines at moments with its mixture of vocal and non-vocal tracks that mostly soar. Armin shows his versatility and ability to create amazing music, but Imagine sometimes gets lost in some of its tracks and the flow of the tracks as a whole is not as fluid as one would expect from the number one DJ in the world. I still believe that it is a good album to check out and listen to and definitely worth exploring, but it will be interesting to see what direction Armin van Burren takes on in his next project and whether he will maintain the top spot in the world.
Released April 22, 2008 on Ultra Records.