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First Album Review of “@DREAMLAND”

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Album Review


by Hidayat Honari


“Ric Molina has accomplished almost everything a guitarist can within the span of his diverse career. This includes session work, soundtrack scoring, record production, performing onstage with “98 degrees,” under the stage in the orchestra pit at Broadway’s “Wicked,” and the list goes on. He is an in-demand guitarist and composer for many artists. “@Dreamland” is Molina’s first recording where he not only steps into the position of band leader, but puts his own art in the foreground. It is a collaboration with long-time friend and musical colleague, bassist Fima Ephron. The album consists purely of Molina’s own compositions and arrangements. It was recorded in 2013 at Dreamland studio in Woodstock, NY.

Hailing from New York City, his bandmates saxophonist Samir Zarif, pianist Ted Baker, bassist and producer Fima Ephron, and drummer Dan Pugach present Molina’s sweeping musical vision with a beautiful and adventurous spirit. “@Dreamland” brings an understanding of what makes Molina the musician that he is by reflecting on his vast musical experiences and artistic influences.

The first track “The Tree” is a beautifully hypnotic afro-pop styled ostinato groove, not yet specifically highlighting any one performer. It is an accurate symbol of what Molina feels the band represents as a cooperative, creative force. “The Tree” is followed by the riff-driven cut “ProChannel.” Molina takes the helm and lets loose with an acid jazz/rock guitar exploration, underscored by Pugach and Ephron’s thunderous, dirty groove. “Squintet” introduces Zarif’s beautifully introspective soprano saxophone work.

“November” is a gorgeous ballad with some truly sensitive playing by Molina as well as some extremely tasteful and spacious accompaniment by his bandmates. The album concludes with “Soul Secret,” a narrative composition seamlessly weaving elements of funk, gospel, polytonality, and all of it deeply soulful.

“@Dreamland” is a moving and ethereal experience and can be appreciated by many audiences. It is simultaneously accessible and elegantly sophisticated, crafted with outstanding musicianship by every member of the band. This is an exciting debut recording done by a group of artists that have a wonderful chemistry. I look forward to future projects of the Ric Molina Group.”

— Hidayat Honari

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