Mannheim Steamroller is a pioneer of the new age music genre, and has continuously been producing albums for the last several decades. I am a huge fan, and have picked out, in my opinion, the 8 best Mannheim Steamroller songs from their Fresh Aire series. You’ll notice that a lot of my top picks are mainly Chip Davis’ big orchestral songs. Being a composer of symphonic works myself, I guess I’m just partial to full orchestral scores. I also write synthetic music too, so that’s probably why Mannheim Steamroller is so appealing to me. You’ll also notice that a lot of these appear on the Yellowstone album, which is a great compilation of classical music and Mannheim Steamroller, which also includes my two favorite Interludes: III & VI.
Here are my top 8 picks, in chronological order…
1. Chocolate Fudge- Fresh Aire I, 1975
What’s most amazing to me about this song is that it was released in 1975 on vinyl! Synthetic music was in its infancy, and this song still measures up to anything created synthetically today.
2. Toccata- Fresh Aire III, 1979
By far, my most favorite Mannheim Steamroller song of all time! I’ve always loved songs in 5/4 time (Mars, Mission Impossible, etc.), and this song is no exception. You need to listen to this song with headphones on, the stereo mix of live instruments and synthetics are amazing.
3. G Major Toccata- Fresh Aire IV, 1981
I’m always a sucker for organ toccatas, especially those written by J.S. Bach, and this song is definitely on that list. I love how the organ is mixed with the drum set. You don’t hear that every day.
4. Earthrise/Return to the Earth- Fresh Aire V, 1983
I’m counting this as one song, because it appears as one track on the album. For me this song sounds like a soundtrack to an Old Testament story. It has that nice ancient feel to it, with a choir crescendo at the end. I guess I’ve always loved the songs that start off small and quiet then build to a large and loud ending (the final movements of the Fire bird by Stravinsky & the Pines of Rome by Respighi for example).
5. Come Home to the Sea- Fresh Aire VI, 1986
The structure of this song as it goes from small to huge is brilliant. The sound effects are subtle and not overpowering. The mixture of piano and recorder at the beginning is wonderful, and builds to a powerful full orchestra by the end.
6. Rhodes Suite: Sunrise at Rhodes- Fresh Aire VI, 1986
Another song from the Fresh Aire VI album, which is very underrated and should be intensely more popular. The sounds at the beginning of horses running make this song even more stunning than it already is. It’s short, but very well put together.
7. Chakra 7- Fresh Aire 7, 1990
I’ve always enjoyed songs that have very fast notes in them, and this song takes advantage of that. It represents the Intellect which is a very busy place. The live version of this song with the orchestra backup has to be my favorite, but can only be heard on their PBS special.
8. The Big Bang- Fresh Aire 8, 2000
I’m a big fan of Astronomy, so there’s no surprise that I picked this one. This song is mainly sound effects, which is why I like it. It symbolizes the progression of the universe after the Big Bang, moving from sound effects to structured music. I almost picked fractals as my final pick, since it was very cleverly done, but I ultimately picked this one instead.
Whether you agree with my picks or not, there is no disputing that Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller is the best contemporary composer of our time.