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Reviews in this issue:
Deadsoul Tribe - The January Tree
Tracklist: Spiders And Flies (6:03), Sirens (4:25), The Love Of Hate (3:42), Why (6:31), The Coldest Days Of Winter (3:30), Wings Of Faith (4:34), Toy Rockets (5:31), Waiting For The Answer (5:40), Just Like A Timepiece (7:17), Lady Of Rain (3:31)
Deadsoul Tribe are the brainchild of one Devon Graves, aka Buddy Lackey, formerly of cult prog metallers Psychotic Waltz. Having released a fine if somewhat musically unfocussed self-titled debut, Deadsoul Tribe really announced their presence with last year’s excellent sophomore effort A Murder Of Crows. One of the strongest ‘prog metal’ releases of the year (and I use the term advisedly here!), this album should really have reached a far larger audience than it did. Undeterred however, Graves has wasted no time with the follow up, and fans of the previous album will certainly be pleased that, on The January Tree, both the style and the quality of the material match that of its predecessor.
Not one to ease you into an album, Graves starts things off as he means to go on with the excellent Spiders And Flies. With its ominous introductory bass line, tight sinewy riffs, big anthemic chorus all topped off with Graves’ unique, characterful voice, this could almost be seen as a companion piece to A Murder…’s opener Feed, and is a fine way to kick off the album (nice lead guitar break too!).
The intensity rarely lets up over the course of the album – Sirens rides in on a grinding, relentless main riff which seems intent on battering the listener into submission, whilst the rather melancholic The Coldest Days Of Winter features Graves’ vocals at their most haunting and desolate. Graves also manages to add some of his trademark flute playing in to the mix on Toy Rockets; put together with the heavy riffs he pumps out this may seem a strange combination, but it does somehow work.
There are occasions where Graves certainly seems to be incorporating more modern metal influences here than on previous work – this may seem like jumping on the bandwagon, but it almost always works here. I’ve always felt there has been a heavy Tool influence in the sound of Deadsoul Tribe, and that’s once again noticeable here; in addition, Wings Of Faith sees the use of techno beats which underpins a towering main riff somewhat reminiscent of Rammstein. Waiting For The Answer, meanwhile, has a Sabbathy main riff, yet the chorus is more reminiscent of the sort that nu-metal bands (if that term is still relevant!) employ. The drumming here (as elsewhere) by Abel Moustaffa is excellent, with a tribal feel similar to that employed on the mid 90’s Sepultura album Roots.
The final two tracks are those that deviate the most from the ‘trademark’ Deadsoul Tribe sound. Just Like A Timepiece is a re-recording from Graves’ 1993 solo album The Strange Mind Of Buddy Lackey, and has a very seventies classic rock feel, with a particularly nod to Jethro Tull. The psychedelic-style lyrics reminded me a little of those on The Beatles’ Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. Closing song Lady Of Rain, meanwhile, is a sombre ballad with piano as the predominant instrument, and closes the album on a suitably downbeat note (Deadsoul Tribe are not a band to listen to if it’s happy music you’re after!).
Overall, another excellent effort from Devon Graves. With his profile raised from his appearance on Ayreon’s The Human Equation, hopefully this will be the album that sees Deadsoul Tribe getting some proper attention from the music media. I can’t help thinking that Inside Out would do well to promote this album outside the confines of the usual progressive rock press, as it is sure to appeal to many fans of mainstream modern metal, if only they got to hear it. Great cover art by Travis Smith as well – it captures the bleak mood the music creates perfectly. All in all – this makes a fine entry point for beginners to Deadsoul Tribe, whilst if you liked the last one this is really a ‘no brainer’ purchase.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Steve Adams - Camera Obscura
Tracklist: In A World With No Sky (5:02), Car 333 (4:42), Quicksand (5:55), Seven Four (5:02), The Door Stays Open (4:21), Silent Divide (5:00), Jacuzzi (4:20), Perelandra (5:39), Gnomes Uncombed (3:39), Fragile (4:58), Diminished Capacity (4:59), Wisteria (4:57)
Although Camera Obscura is Steve Adams' third solo album since 1997, the Los Angeles guitarist is most widely known for his membership of Mirage (later Pete Barden's Mirage). Gradually gaining a reputation for being a modern-day axe hero, mostly on the back of his instrumental album Vertigo which laid down Steve's own brand of heavy progressive rock, Camera Obscura is a worthy follow-up and will only enhance the reputation of the latest exponent of the six string. The album was recorded by a core trio of Adams on guitar, vocals, strings and mellotron, Desha Dunnahoe on bass and keyboards and Karen Teperberg on drums and percussion, with a handful of guests playing on individual tracks.
Despite being three-quarters instrumental, it is worth considering the three vocal tunes first. Adam's has a surprisingly pleasant voice, warm and very smooth, it gently floats over the ether and perfectly compliments the music of each of the songs. Silent Divide with its mellotron flute sounds is a great little pop song - catchy melody, great arrangement and two fine solos (one acoustic, one electric) combine to make a superior number. Fragile is more reflective and melancholy dealing with the end of a relationship. The solo is reminiscent of Gary Moore's playing on a Thin Lizzy love song and every bit as good (the song as well as the solo!). Wisteria, to my mind, is the weakest of the vocal tunes as it doesn't seem to flow as well as the other two songs; the rather grandiose sweep of the string synth seems somehow incongruous and the ending is rather weak, particularly as it is the final cut of the album.
Despite the strength of the vocals, it will undoubtedly be the instrumental numbers that Camera Obscura is judged on. And there is no fear of a guilty verdict. In A World With No Sky opens the album with intent; lulled into a false sense of security with a string synth arpeggio, Adams interjects some ferocious power chords before letting rip with some potent soloing. Obviously, being mostly an instrumental album by a guitarist, the album is replete with solos, although that does not prevent Adams giving the listener the variety required for an album to bear repeated listening. This is exemplified by Seven Four which meanders through varying time signatures and includes both bass and keyboard solos. The Door Stays Open, a tribute to the late Peter Bardens, is a lament that features Steve Mattern guesting on Hammond organ. Although there seems to be a ground swell of opinion against Hammonds, I love them and this bluesy number wouldn't be the same without it. The cover of Steve Hackett's Jacuzzi, with Mary Dagani on flute, is a faithful representation that does not deviate too far from the original, a shame as I always prefer cover versions to be radically reworked, after all there is a degree of arrogance in recording a version of a classic song and the original will invariably (but not always) be the definitive version, so one might as well say - great song, but this is how I would have done it!
Belgian guitarist Philippe Thibaut trades licks with Adams in the 'call and response' piece Diminished Capacity. With some ferocious soloing it showcases the talents of both musicians and will have the heavy metal crowd drooling - I fully expect this piece to be utilised in future air guitar contests! The remaining pieces are all above instrumentals that showcase an original approach the genre. There is a touch of the Steve Hunter about Adams' playing which is no bad thing, particularly as Hunter never seemed to be able to step outside of his role of consummate session guitarist (his album The Deacon is well worth checking out!). There really is no filler on this album, each piece is carefully considered and cleverly arranged, resulting in an album that would fit neatly amongst any collection of guitar virtuosos.
The promotional card that accompanied the album stated that if you like Satriani, Vai or Hackett - you'll love the guitar work on the new CD by Steve Adams. For once, the marketing men were not spouting bullshit.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
The Jelly Jam - 2
Tracklist: Not Today (3:22), Coming Round (3:37), Empty (5:24), Drop The Gun (3:04), Allison (5:32), Maybe (4:45), She Was Alone (4:34), Angel Or Devil (4:50), You Don't Need Me Anymore (2:40), Runaway (3:15), War Is... (3:27), Message (0:36)
Super Group trio, The Jelly Jam have returned with their aptly titled second album "2" and once again bring with them a blend of straight ahead power rock tunes that seem to combine the various musical aspects that the individual musicians bring from their respective bands. For the unaware, Jelly Jam rose from the ashes of Platypus after Derek Sherinian reducing Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs), John Myung (Dream Theater) and Ty Tabor (King's X) to a trio who kept on recording together albeit under a different name, Jelly Jam.
Unlike many of the "super groups" that consist of various members from the relatively more popular prog-bands Jelly Jam have not created albums that borders on the pretentious crammed with various doodles and lengthy progressive rock tracks. Instead they have opted for a straight forward powerful rock album. One cannot deny that there are many progressive influences within the music and I feel that one could best compare this album to Rush's last but one studio album Vapor Trails wherein the emphasis was placed on the music as a whole rather the individual solos. The band perform as a solid unit without getting lost in lengthy and at times unnecessary solos.
The opening stomper Not Today is replete with Sabbath riffs giving the impression that the album has that nu-metal tinge. This is far from the truth though there are quite a few numbers like She Was Alone and the hard hitting closer War Is..., that has the band moving in a metallic direction The promotional liner notes that accompanied this album summarised it's musical nature by describing it as a "symbiosis of Black Sabbath, The Beatles and Jane's Addiction".
Many a time one can sense the King's X influence, as is to be expected, with Ty Tabor being the main songwriter. Empty has that funk-metal groove that is so typical of King's X, not to mention that it is one of the more audacious of the numbers presented and is one of the few outright progressive pieces on the album. Some people might query the progressive nature of the album but the influences are there, albeit well hidden! Drop The Gun and Allison are listed as two separate numbers when in fact they are conjoined
The album is not just full of heavy riffs but also offers its acoustic moments. Coming Round and You Don't Need Me Anymore allow the band to make full use of vocal harmonies to further augment the music while on Angel Or Devil the band fuses the electric and acoustic elements of its music. Maybe would be the song that could technically be lifted from the album as a single with its Beatlesque harmonies and ear friendly chorus, though one should not forget Runaway which somehow does not seem to fit in on the album because of its cheesy college-boy style rock.
So where does this leave us with The Jelly Jam's latest opus? Admittedly I expected a much more progressive rock sounding album and was initially surprised to find a straight forward hard rock album. Thus, if you are just a fan of progressive rock - then you might be disappointed. On the other hand, if you like your music with an edge, this will do nicely. This is one hell of a rocking album. Who needs Velvet Revolver ?
The debut album from The Jelly Jam, released a couple of years ago, was an enjoyable slice of King’s X-esque power-pop, flavoured with a not inconsiderable dash of Psychedelia. The King’s X connection is understandable, as the main protagonist in this trio is that band’s singer and guitarist Ty Tabor. Dream Theater bassist John Myung and drummer Rod Morgenstein make up the line-up; whilst this (unsurprisingly, given the rather uninspired title) is their second album, this trio also formed three quarters (along with Derek Sherinian) of the ‘prog supergroup’ Platypus.
My first feeling on hearing 2 was that it had a much harder edge than its predecessor, at least on the first half of the album; opener Not Today, for instance, could almost be (on a musical level at least) a Led Zeppelin out-take, whilst Empty and Allison both feature some great heavy riffs which crop up at key moments. That’s not to say that the band’s knack for a catchy chorus has gone, however; Coming Round, for instance, may rock hard, but the trademark pop hooks and harmony laden vocal harmonies that featured on the first album are still present and correct.
Generally the psychedelic / space rock feel present at times on the debut is not so prevalent here, although Drop The Gun does feature plenty of phasing, with Tabor singing through a vocoder (as he does on a number of tracks, for some reason). The songs on 2 generally seem to be more concise than on its predecessor, which whilst meaning the album is of less interest to those interested in purely progressive sounds, does mean that the consistency level is a bit higher.
The Kings’ X influence is, as you might expect, still very much here; in particular, the second half of the album features a number of tracks redolent of the Texan’s at their best – Runaway, Angels and Demons and She Was Alone are all prime pop-rockers; the latter fairly zips along, and in fact sounds not dissimilar to Kings’ X’s own Lost In Germany.
Overall, whilst not exactly an outstanding release, this is a solid and enjoyable follow-up release from The Jelly Jam. The album lets itself down a little at the end, with the messy War Is… and inconsequential oddity The Message, whilst the odd track (Maybe, for instance) sees them seemingly going through the motions, but the material presented here is generally well written, catchy, melodic and performed with some panache. This won’t appeal to everyone (I think you’ll get the idea that the main market for the band will be fans of Ty Tabor’s ‘full time’ group), but those looking for a break from some of the more complex progressive rock that’s being released at the moment, in favour of some (relatively) straightforward melodic rock, may well find much to enjoy here.
Jeff Berlin - Lumpy Jazz
Tracklist: Brooklyn Uncompromised (5:45), My Happy Kids (5:44), Lien On Me (7:03), A Mensch Among Unmentionables (6:21), Almost Dawn (7:57), Have You Met Mischpucha (6:44), Toot's Suite (6:08), Everyone Gets Old [If They Have The Time] (7:57), Intermezzo In A Major Opus 118 No.2 (3:35)
I am sure the name Jeff Berlin will be known to many of our readers, but as to his history and as to exactly why they know his name, perhaps a little more vague. To many I fear his name may not ring any bells whatsoever, so his latest album Lumpy Jazz gives the opportunity to redress the balance a little. Jeff Berlin arose during an era of great bass players, Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke probably being the most well known, and although none of these guys ever moved into the mainstream of progressive rock, their influences are evident amongst many of today's bass players.
More noted perhaps for their jazz/fusion explorations, Berlin with Bruford, Pastorious with Weather Report and Clarke with Return To Forever. Jeff Berlin did make the odd foray into the prog amphitheatre appearing on Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe's An Evening Of Yes Music Plus release from 1994 and also a brief live stint filling in for a somewhat ill Tony Levin. Jeff also appeared with another ex-Yes keyboard man, Patrick Moraz, supplying bass parts for The Story Of i. Other luminaries that Jeff has appeared with include, Allan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin, Mike Stern, Larry Coryell, The Breckers, Billy Cobham (the list goes on and on). However it is probably his work with Bill Bruford that will register most with DPRP readers.
On Lumpy Jazz Jeff teams up with Danny Gottlieb (drums and percussion) and Richard Drexler (piano and upright bass) - this formidable trio perform the main body of the music - Toots Theilemans being the only notable guest on the album, adding his delicate harmonica playing to the not surprisingly entitled Toot's Suite. Although some additional percussion parts are attributed to John Richardson, I would be hard pushed to point them out. The somewhat strange title of the album is derived from Jeff's dislike of "smooth" jazz and although I found it very easy to sit back and listen to, my ears were constantly pricking-up, normally followed by a huge grin of admiration. Perhaps not a bad place to point out that this CD is not all about jazz. Almost Dawn reveals some excellent blues playing from Jeff and Richard (and not a six string guitar in sight), although distortion among other effects is added to the bass towards the end of the track - surely blues! The album is also rounded off with a splendid interpretation of Brahms' Intermezzo in A Major....
Lumpy Jazz is replete with great music, great playing and with Jeff cutting loose, allowing himself much greater freedom than he has had in the past. This is not to suggest that Drexler and Gottlieb play a secondary roles, far from it, but Jeff's playing does take centre stage. The whole armoury of bass skills are put through their paces - the flowing motif that permiates Lien On Me; the superb improvisations in Everyone Gets Old [If They Have The Time]; the beauty and control of Toot's Suite; the precision of the notation in Intermezzo... and the fluidity of the chordal and melodic movements in Brooklyn Uncompromised. Great stuff!
For me Jeff Berlin is one of the greatest exponents of the bass guitar equally happy playing his part in an ensemble or as here on Lumpy Jazz, showing that the bass guitar (in the right hands of course) can be engaging, melodic, lyrical and a delightful instrument to listen to. Lumpy Jazz is not just a collection of improvised solos - this is a voyage into the bass guitar with the creative genius of Jeff Berlin at the helm. If you've ever wondered what a truly great bass player sounds like, then just click the link above to Jeff's site and listen for for about 20 seconds. If you like what you hear, then there is nearly an hour's worth of such fine playing to be found on this CD. Add to this the melodic and rhythmic input of Richard Drexler and Danny Gotleib and you have a superb album of crafted music.
In summation - I can only say this was an album which was a delight to listen to over and over again, but by now it must be fairly obvious (assuming you've read the review and not skipped straight to this summation) that this CD will not appeal to all across the broad spectrum of progressive rock - but hopefully enough to warrant the inclusion of my review.
Lumpy Jazz is available through Jeff's site - click the Info link above.
Conclusion: Definitely a Bob recommended!
Kevin Moore - Ghost Book
Tracklist: Rhodes Song (1:34), Prayer Call (0:48), Piano Theme (1:42), Roof Access [Day] (3:33), Far Fara (1:41), P.S. (1:30), Library Noise (2:19), Overheard (3:32), Romantik (1:31), The Hecklers (3:37), Mirrors and Phones (4:03), Shall We Jump (1:44), Cowbloke (2:26), Erotik (2:46), Roof Access [Night] (2:46), Hallways and Light (3:21), Afterschool (0:54), Sad Sad Movie (5:38)
Keyboard player Kevin Moore is perhaps best known through his work with Dream Theater, with whom he recorded 3 CDs. However since his departure, he has continued to work, both as collaborator on the O.S.I. project and as session musician with Fates Warning, along with pursuing his own solo career, under the name of Chroma Key. He has released two albums of his own music, namely Dead Air For Radios (1998) and You Go Now (2000), working from his base in Costa Rica.
This album is a collection of music that Kevin wrote for a film entitled Okul. Okul means 'School' in Turkish and the film is an adaptation of a book entitled "Hayalet Kitap" meaning "Ghost Book", written by Turkish rock and metal writer Dogu Yucel. Dogu was a big fan of Dream Theater and together with his partners, the Taylan brothers, loved the work that Kevin had done with O.S.I. When he heard that Kevin Moore had come to Turkey to live and to work, he decided that he would be the ideal person to write the soundtrack to his film. Kevin subsequently accepted the offer of work and has remained in Instanbul ever since, working on this and other projects.
As I have not seen the film myself, I have to rely upon Dogu's own description of the movie as "a cute horror movie about dreams" with a sense of humour that "is a mixture of Monty Python, a little South Park, post-Dumb&Dumber and the traditional Turkish humour". However, this certainly doesn't seem to tally with the rather sombre scenes that are illustrated with photographs in the booklet and which are supposed to correspond with the music on the album. The sombre scenery is matched by melancholic tone of the music, for example during Piano Theme and Hecklers and one could be forgiven for not realizing that the film was in any way humourous.
There are 18 tracks presented here, and rather strangely, that includes two tracks, that are not even written or performed by Kevin, namely Romantik and Erotik. Stylistically these tunes both stand out as being slightly different from the remainder of the music on the album, but not significantly so. Kevin's solo work is generally quite sombre and his compositions are fundamentally fairly basic, though he embellishes them with layers comprising of all manner of drum machines, samplers and synthesized sounds. Here, he also incorporate a certain amount of middle-eastern influences into his compositions alongside his usual electronica. Many of the tracks presented here are quite short, (2 minutes or less in length), and rarely have time to register properly before the next one comes along. This results is a rather disjointed listen, although one can appreciate that the music might be entirely appropriate in the context of the film.
The people most likely to buy this album will be those already familiar with Kevin's other solo work and for them, this album will not present too many surprises. While he has incorporated some local influences and some Turkish vocals on tunes such as Far Fara and Mirrors and Phones, and experimented with some more 'spacey' electronic effects on instrumentals such as P.S. and Library Noise there are still a number of tunes which are recognizably 'Kevin Moore'. These include tunes towards the end of the disk such as Shall We Jump and the album closer of Sad, Sad, Movie as well as Roof Access (Day) and Roof Access (Night) which are more typical of his solo output and which are ultimately the most satisfying of the tunes on this CD.
Overall the album is a rather frustrating listen. It would have been nice to have heard some of the ideas used for the shorter tracks, developed and fleshed out a little more, and while the longer tracks are more satisfying and more typically 'Kevin Moore', it is the shorter tunes which appear to be more innovative, and demonstrate how Kevin has been influenced by his time in Turkey. The local music has brought a certain freshness to his compositions and I look forward to seeing the results of this in his follow-up album Graveyard Mountain Home. This is certainly an album that his keenest fans will enjoy, but its fragmented nature will, I feel, work against those who are listening to his work for the first time.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Rodolfo Alchourron - Talisman
Tracklist: Arbol de sirenas (6:43), Confliction (5:24), Milanga de los Invisibles (7:40), Hola y Adioses (7:32), Amiga Nueva (5:18), Vola Garrion (7:25), Por Calles de Barrio (11:13)
Apparently, Rodolfo Alchourron (1934 – 1999) was well known in Argentina as a guitarist and band leader (particularly as an exponent of the Tango). Don’t let the Tango reference put you off (I know many progheads (myself included) have a bit of an aversion to dance oriented material) – This CD, recorded in 1994, but only now released by excellent Argentinean specialist label Viajero Inmovil Records, features a pleasant and laid back, lite Jazz Fusion.
Its main features are; serene female vocals (mainly of the wordless variety, which have a strong link with the smooth Canterbury sound of Hatfield and the North) courtesy of Naty Swartz; plenty of tasty but subtle ethnic flavours, in the shape of Elenora Ferreyra’s Bandoneon (a kind of accordion); and featured soloists Roberto Martin on Flugelhorn, Daniel Kovacich on clarinet and Pablo Saclis on keyboards. Lets not forget Alchourron’s own contributions on guitar (check out his solos on lengthy closer Por Calles De Barrio –very nice indeed).
The arrangements are skilfully done, with some surprising changeups (you may catch occasional hints of Frank Zappa’s Jazz phase), though the overall mood is very mellow and relaxed. The fairly unusual instrumental configuration makes this a refreshing listen, an ideal soundtrack to a lazy Sunday afternoon. My favourite tracks are Hola Y Adioses, Amigo Nueva (the only real song on the album), and the aforementioned Por Calles De Barrio. On these three tracks, the pace is a little more lively, the arrangements a touch more elaborate.
It’s a great shame that music of this quality (in whatever genre) can go unreleased for so long, and particularly sad that Alchourron did not live to see it’s release. Whilst this CD may be of only marginal interest to prog fans, it is well worth a listen for Canterbury scene aficionados in search of a calm and melodious alternative.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10Dave Sissons