Like its 1997 predecessor, the second volume in Windham Hill's Songs Without Words solo piano series goes heavy on artists not affiliated with the label, some of whom are not even pianists by trade.

Like its 1997 predecessor, the second volume in Windham Hill's Songs Without Words solo piano series goes heavy on artists not affiliated with the label, some of whom are not even pianists by trade. It's an unusual and somewhat confusing assemblage, with tracks by such singer/songwriters as Janis Ian and Margie Adam alongside songs from 17-year-old Taylor Eigisti and cabaret icon Michael Feinstein. Even a touted "duet" between Jim Brickman and David Benoit on "Glory" sounds like it was cooked up on the spot. The cuts that do impress come from criminally unheralded pianists like Barbara Higbie ("Charlie Riley") and Paul Sullivan ("The Rising Moon"), who both embody the style that most fans of older Windham Hill piano releases have come to appreciate. While a good idea on paper, Songs Without Words II seems more like a clearing of the vaults than anything else.—JC

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