It took Armin quite some time to release his first studio album. Armin’s first hit ‘Blue Fear’ was released in 1997, and the second one ‘Communication’ came in 1999. The first album was released years later in 2003. The title ‘76’ references to the number of minutes the CD plays, but it’s also Armin’s year of birth. Are you familiar with all these old Armin tracks? Check out the review including audio snippets of all the tracks… 76. The first ever album of Armin van Buuren starts off with strings and spacey FX, titled ‘Prodemium’, which should be seen as intro for the actual first track “Precious”. I remember it from the Sensation White 2003 mix compilation. 'Precious' is a haunting, emotional trance track with a lovely main melody. It is also a great example of a track that Armin somehow seems to have forgotten about. I wonder if today’s Armin fans ever heard this track at all…
“Yet Another Day” featuring Ray Wilson, is a rework of the Genesis track “Another Day”. The lyrics are about the suicide of a friend of Ray and is based on the thoughts of him going to a better place. The track itself sounds rather commercial and the voice of Ray doesn’t suit the dance genre too well. An instrumental track based around the fine synth melodies might have suited better.
I’ve actually always found “Burned with Desire” rather cheesy, too sweet. Specially the famous “Rising Star Remix” that is considered a classic by many. The album features a down tempo version, which, to my surprise, turns out to be a great relaxing tune. The vocals suit this version much better. Justine Suissa, the vocalist, initially didn’t like the additional sentence in the chorus, “But you left me in the rain”, wanting to finish it with just “Burned with desire…”.
A rendition of Armin’s breaktrough hit “Blue Fear” starts off with a nice piano intro before the well-known Blue Fear bassline kicks in. Thank god! The ‘2003 Edit’ hardly provides any new elements compared to the 1997 hit, simply updating it with more modern beats and an improved mix-down. Did you know that Blue Fear was originally not meant to be the A-Side track of the release? ‘X Marks The Spot’ was meant to be, but the label saw more faith in ‘Blue Fear’.
The collaboration with Ferry Corsten (as System F) takes quite some time to develop, but after a two-and-a-half minutes the track slowly but surely takes you away from whatever you’re doing into the musical journey of “From The Heart”. Like ‘Precious’, this is another track that could easily be considered as one of Armin’s strongest trance tracks till date.
After another down-tempo track featuring Justine Suissa’s voice, “Never Wanted This”, which I found quite boring with no remarkable melodies nor ear-catching vocals, trance beats return with “Astronauts”, which is probably an unknown Armin track for many. It’s quite slow, with just 128 BPM. The main melody is rather weak and monotone, but the changes in the notes of the underlying bassline and background melodies give it some more character, overall the track is still a bit too monotone.
“Stay” is a rework of a pop track called ‘I Would Stay’ by the Dutch band ‘Krezip’. The vocals are completely re-recorded to make them fit perfectly with Armin’s track. I’m sure everyone recognized the vocal of Jacqueline Govaert, who also appeared in ‘Never Say Never’ on Armin’s ‘Imagine’ album. I personally like this rework a lot, but I’m not sure if people unfamiliar with the in the Netherlands famous pop song will appreciate it as much.
The tempo is increased to a 136 BPM with “Wait For You”, with Victoria Horn on the vocals. I’m getting ready for a big synth-driven track after three slower/down-tempo tracks, but unfortunately the track doesn’t deliver. The vocals are OK, and there are some nice melodies floating around, but the ‘chill’ part of the album is taking quite long.
It’s quite strange for me to say this, but I would have actually preferred the vocal version of “Sunburn”. The instrumental mix feels a bit empty. Without the vocals it's basically just one big build-up to the Flight 643-inspired climax.
The energy is finally increased with “Communication”. I remember reading once that the echo on the piano (panned all the way to the right while the actual piano is panned towards the left), is a reference to the title as the piano sounds are kinda ‘communicating’ with each other. Wherever the title comes from, its safe to say that 'Communication' is one of Armin’s biggest trance classics. I dare saying it is the biggest he created. The only unfortunate aspect is that they placed an unmixable radio version on the album.
The final track is the full version of “Slipstream”, a collaboration with Airwave. This is another example, after Precious and From The Heart, of a track that Armin somehow seems to have forgotten about. He usually plays ‘Communication’, ‘Sail’, ‘Serenity’ and sometimes ‘Shivers’ as his own classics, but in my opinion he could choose some of these other ones once in a while too. I’m sure a lot of Armin van Buuren fans don’t even know these tracks. ‘Slipstream’ offers powerful strings in the climax. They play a nice dramatic chord sequence giving the track a great warm atmosphere. This definitely deserves to be played on high volume!
Verdict The album features some first-class trance tracks that somehow don’t get much attention anymore. Actually, this a nice place for me to officially recommend Armin to play these forgotten classics more on his upcoming shows. Go for it Armin, throw in ‘Precious’, ‘From The Heart’ or ‘Slipstream’ once in a while! The album also contains some down-tempo tracks that are pretty boring on itself. On the complete album they do work fairly well, though I would have liked just a bit more energy on ‘76’. The overall feeling is quite relaxed and laid-back, and not really epic or banging, which you might have expected from a trance artist, but for chilling home-listening, this is quite a nice album.
Tracklist 1. Prodemium 2. Precious 3. Yet Another Day (feat. Ray Wilson) 4. Burned With Desire (feat. Justine Suissa) 5. Blue Fear 2003 6. From The Heart (feat. System F) 7. Never Wanted This (feat. Justine Suissa) 8. Astronauts 9. Stay (feat. Krezip) 10. Wait For You (Song For The Ocean) (feat. Victoria Horn) 11. Sunburn 12. Communication 13. Slipstream (feat Airwave)