- Beverly Glenn-Copeland, who now prefers to go by Glenn Copeland, is a Canadian musician with a long and winding musical history. In the early '70s, he was a jazzy folk artist. Later, he would become a film composer, playwright and a staple in children's music and TV, writing for Sesame Street and appearing on Mr. Dressup. Eventually, Copeland transitioned genders and reinvented himself as Phynix. In the midst of all that, he released a modest but stunning tape in 1986 called Keyboard Fantasies, recorded with just a Yamaha DX7 synth, a Roland TR-707 and his own captivating voice. In scope and style, it was of a piece with American new age private press music at the time. Pensive and relaxing, it's a record that radiates positive vibes with a humble sense of good will.
Keyboard Fantasies has now been remastered and reissued (as Copeland Keyboard Fantasies) by noted crate diggers Invisible City, who live in Toronto, a few hours' drive from where the tape was recorded. It follows a celebrated reissue of South African dance music, and while Copeland's music might not share a lot in common with V.O.'s Mashisa, it has the same feeling of unbridled joy. "Ever New," which opens Keyboard Fantasies, is the kind of thing you might expect to soundtrack a nature montage in the '80s. Copeland's tender vocal performance, which celebrates the oneness of human life and flora and fauna alike, borders on schmaltz, but it's so heartfelt that it's hard not to fall under its spell.
It doesn't hurt that Copeland has a one-of-a-kind voice. Recorded while he was still a woman, the vocals are comforting and almost wizened, like someone singing lullabies at your bedside. The way he sings "Let it go, it's okay" on the wonderful closer "Sunset Village" is equal parts seductive and soothing. The instrumentation is equally arresting. Copeland uses his Roland and Yamaha like vehicles for meditation and introspection. A warm bassline helps "Winter Astral" feel like it's floating by on the wind, while the elegant synth tones of "Let Us Dance" bring to mind a decorous Romantic painting. Cool-blue electric piano instils down-home contentment on "Old Melody." "Slow Dance," a major highlight of the album, features vaguely exotic instruments that call to mind some of the best moments of the Music From Memory catalogue.
Labels like Music From Memory and Invisible City Editions have a way of fetishizing the obscure, almost always digging up music that seasoned heads will have never heard. (A statement on Copeland's website about Keyboard Fantasies seems incredulous at the recent surge of interest.) Unabashedly sentimental as it is, Keyboard Fantasies isn't for everyone, but fans of new age and oddball synth music will find something to love in Copeland's evergreen world, which still sounds wondrous and new, even 30 years on from its original release.
01. Ever New
02. Winter Astral
03. Let Us Dance
04. Slow Dance
05. Old Melody
06. Sunset Village