Reviews in this issue:
- Quidam - SurREvival
- Jeremy & Progressor – The Pearl Of Great Price
- ProgDay Kinections (VA) - The ProgDay Support CD
- Various Artists - The Best Symfo Rock
- Forever Einstein - Racket Science (Duo Review)
- Charlie Dominici - 03: A Trilogy Part 1
Quidam - SurREvival
Tracklist: Airing (2:25), Hands Off (9:25), Not So Close (6:22), The Fifth Season (9:45), SurREvival (5:13), Queen of Moulin Rouge (8:24), Everything's Ended (13:14)
Quidam is back. Well actually, 50% of Quidam is back. Female singer Emila, who's voice was so characteristic for Quidam, as well as the band's rhythm section left two years ago. Fortunately Zbyszek Florek (keyboards), Maciek Meller (guitars) and Jacek Zasada (flutes) decided that this didn't have to mean that the book called Quidam had to be closed. Instead they continued and recruited a new singer, Bartek Kossowicz, and rhythm section, Mariusz Ziólkowski (bass guitar) & Maciek Wróblewski (drums, percussion). And although some people might think that they should have continued under another name, I would beg to differ. SurREvival is a splendid record with more than enough characteristic Quidam trademarks to justify the use of the name.
On their first two records, Quidam and Sny Aniolow, the band mainly seemed to be influenced by bands like Camel and Marillion. On Time Beneath the Sky the band moved into more darker areas which reminded me a lot of Porcupine Tree, especially in the instrumental tracks Credo I and Quimpromptu. The band continues on this path with SurREvival on which some of the instrumental sections are not to far removed from the mentioned two on the previous album and some sections even remind me of Sylvan's recent work.
Unlike the previous album this new CD does not feature any instrumental tracks, not counting the two and a half minute Airing, which is a ridiculously long series of sound effects which has immediately earned the 'skip award 2005'. Fortunately the rest of the album is material which is absolutely not skip-worthy.
As on previous albums the music features a lot of delicious flute solo's, sometimes even two in one song, but the guitar and keyboard solo's are also prominently present throughout the album. As such, the band may have changed their style but certainly not their preferred arrangement.
The new rhythm section is very tight and well recorded and my initial fears about the new male singer have proven to be quite unnecessary. Sure, it took a while to forget about Emila and get used to the voice of Bartek, but he proves himself to be a very able singer indeed. His vocal style is very atmospheric and although his reach seems to be limited - he sings in mostly the same way for the whole album - he puts in enough variation to keep things exciting. For some reason he reminded me a lot of the singer of Land's End, although that might have more to do with his style than his actual voice. Another fear, the presence of the inevitable Polish accent proved to be needless as well. Bartek sports flawless English and thereby outclasses most if not all German and Polish singers in other prog rock bands. Nevertheless, I do have to admit that the 'h' is sometimes pronounced as a 'g' and there are occasional errors in pronunciation and articulation. But since these are never really annoying I definitely consider Bartek to be a worthy replacement for Emila.
Where previous Quidam albums sometimes suffered from the presence of too many ballads this problem is fully absent on SurREvival. But this doesn't mean that the album doesn't have it's quiet moments. Almost all of the songs on the album consist of two sections, starting with a more peaceful, and sometimes remarkably jazzy, opening and moving to a more energetic different melody halfway through, often using great repetitive riffs. A remarkable exception is the album's longest track, which actually is one long stretched composition that continuous to use the same melody but simply gets heavier and heavier before quieting down again. And all of that without ever getting boring.
A few words about the individual tracks. The nine and a half minutes long Hands Off is the real album opener, starting with a very powerful riff and Moog keyboards before changing into a peaceful atmospheric mood. We are treated to splendid singing by Bartek and excellent solo's by flute, synths (twice) and guitar. As the song proceeds the opening riff returns and the song gets darker and heavier, working to a passionate climax.
No So Close moves from an acoustic opening and a catchy chorus to a real toe-tapper rhythm with fine driving bass. The song eventually ends with a break building into an emotional multi-vocal ending which is among the highlights of the album.
The Fifth Season is a rather jazzy ballad that opens with upright bass, brush drums, piano and acoustic guitar and quickly conjures up visions of smoky bars. Now, a ten minutes song like this might seem boring, but don't fear because halfway through the track, after the second flute solo, the song suddenly changes into something which would not be out of place on a Peter Gabriel album. Complete with chant and all. After this the tempo speeds up and a guitar/synth/flute duet brings us to the climax. Marvellous stuff.
The title track SurREvival is a more straightforward rock song, but a quality one at that with more aggressive singing by Bartek and in your face guitar/bass riffs. But even among all of this musical violence the bands finds a place for another spot for Jacek to shine on the flute.
The more light-hearted and optimistic sound we've known from the previous Quidam albums shortly returns like a breeze of fresh air in another slightly jazzy moment opening Queen of Moulin Rouge. The atmosphere initially is comparable to that of The Fifth Season but after four minutes the song develops into a Porcupine Tree-like mood and continuous to build in energy up to the final chants of the album title. The band has even hired a DJ to add some scratch effects to this section. Now that's progressive rock in the true sense of the word. Another highlight !
The album closes with the longest track, Everything Has Ended, which as mentioned before is really one long continuous track, reminding me a lot of Sylvan and Porcupine Tree. Imagine the long instrumental tracks of Time Beneath the Sky being expanded into full fledged songs with vocal sections. As such this song is not the most original track on the album, but still well worth listening to over and over again.
To sum it up, Quidam is not gone. They've never been gone and they prove it with their best album to date. The band has survived and revived. Highly recommended to any prog rocker !
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Jeremy & Progressor – The Pearl Of Great Price
Tracklist: Desert Winds (10:02), Spiral Vortex (10:04), Alien Nation (6:10), Pearl of Great Price (4:43), Battle Zone (5:31), Final Victory (10:28), The Journey Home (20:42)
I knew I was going to like this CD within ten seconds of my first hearing. I wondered fleetingly if I’d forgotten to eject one of my all-time favourite progressive-lite albums, The Alan Parsons Project’s I, Robot, from the CD player when I heard Desert Winds, the first track on Jeremy & Progressor’s nicely named CD The Pearl of Great Price. And, with exceptions I’ll note here, you won’t go far wrong in imagining this disc’s sound if you think of the first three or four Alan Parsons albums.
Even the production, and even the sounds of some of the instruments (notably Jeremy Morris’s lead guitar, often a ringer for Ian Bairnson’s) will remind you of some of the great songs from Tales of Mystery and Imagination, I, Robot, and Pyromania. I won’t leave out the synthesizers, which (especially in Spiral Vortex and Battle Zone) sound as though they were borrowed from a studio that had been shut and locked since 1978. That’s all to the good, in my opinion. Although I like Parsons’ latest effort, A Valid Path, it ain’t no I, Robot; and it’s not as though Jeremy & Progressor have simply cloned or ripped off Parsons, because that’s not the case.
Let’s begin with the artists’ slightly odd name. “This is the first joint effort between Jeremy Morris (solo) and Vitaly Menshikov (X Religion),” we’re told in the promo letter. I suppose the two artists wanted to use their own names or nicknames (Menshikov will of course be known to many as editor in chief of Uzbekistan's excellent Progressor ezine) instead of a new group name. Still, I’m put in mind of the Sixties pop-vocal duo “Chad & Jeremy” when I see this name, and the association couldn’t be more off-base. In any case, this isn’t a vanity project by the two; it’s a solid album that features – in addition to Morris’s work on guitar, bass, drums, mellotron, and piano and Meshnikov’s on keyboards, synthesizer, bass, and percussion – Brian Hirsch on synthesizers, keyboards [yes, there are lots of keyboards on this album!], and drums, and a guest guitarist, Rob Wessel, on one song, Spiral Vortex.
As for the music, once you’ve taken your bearings with my Alan Parsons comparison, you’ll find lots of instrumental treasures on this album – because it does indeed consist of sixty-eight minutes of instrumentals. The song titles suggest that this is a concept album, or at the least that the songs are meant, taken together, to tell a story; but although the album is very much of a piece and the sequence of the songs is pleasing, I don’t think I’d have known, without the song titles’ guidance, that they were meant as any kind of narrative. To take one instance of a match between titles and sound, however, Final Victory concludes with some synthesized snare drums in a marching beat, underlining a happy, "victorious" - sounding guitar line – so there you go: final victory. Then there’s The Journey Home, which is actually divided into five parts (Transparent Darkness, Total Lucidity, Nellysea, Borderland, and Flying) but which, clocking in at twenty minutes, is a bit too long to sustain interest for the repeated listenings that would be necessary for one to perceive the demarcations between sections and assess each section’s success in communicating the intention declared by its title.
I’ve just used a phrase that I will now repeat to make my only real adverse criticism of this otherwise very fine instrumental album: Too long. Too long, too long, too long. I’m not accusing only Jeremy & Progressor of this fault, of course. Ever since CDs became the primary medium for commercial recorded music, some artists have assumed that because the technology permits them to cram more than an hour’s worth of music on to a disc, they must do so. I disagree. An hour is a long time out of one’s life (especially as one gets older), and few bands command the talent to make more than an hour spent in their company at one sitting a fully rewarding one. And, as much as I genuinely enjoy this album, I’m pretty sure I’d have enjoyed it more (and more often!) had it been half an hour shorter: say, oh, I don’t know, forty-one minutes long – like I, Robot.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
ProgDay Kinections - The ProgDay Support CD
Tracklist: The Strawbs - Riviera Dei Fiori / Under a Cloudless Sky (6:57), Djam Karet - Pentimento (6:50), Nathan Mahl - The Place We Call Home (6:27), Trettioåriga Kriget - Lang Historia (7:45), Wobbler - Leprechaun Behind the Door (13:21), Sonus Umbra - Self Erosion (6:03), Gert Emmens - The Warlock Returns (9:25), The Muffins - They Come on Unknown Nights (4:22), Guy Manning - Top of the Mountain (17:58)
ProgDay 2005 is coming!
ProgDay is a progressive rock festival (now in its eleventh incarnation, according to ProgDay.com) held at Stoneybrook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the United States. This year, the festival will take place over the Labor Day weekend (September 3 and 4).
In the past, the festival has featured such artists as The Flower Kings, Arti e Mestieri, Kraan, Happy the Man, Wishbone Ash, Discipline, Deus ex Machina, Ars Nova, The Muffins, Echolyn, Finisterre, Samla Mammas Manna, Pain of Salvation, Focus, Thinking Plague, and many more. The line-up for this year’s event is still being assembled but so far it includes Happy The Man, White Willow, The Spacious Mind, Far Corner, Helmet of Gnats and Psicotropia. Sadly, Nektar was scheduled to headline on September 4 but has cancelled due to travel difficulties.
In support of the festival, and to help defray the attendant expenditures, Lew Fisher (with the assistance of The Progressive Music Society) culled various contributed tracks to create a ProgDay compilation CD, which is now available for purchase at the first info link given above. The cost is $12.00 and the music is certainly worth the price.
Compilations are fun because, if properly done, they tend to highlight the variety of sub-genres within any given musical category. Kinections: The ProgDay Support CD, offers nine dissimilar tracks, and yet, taken together, the CD serves as an apt commentary on the contemporary state of progressive rock music.
All of the tracks are fine but I did have three favourites.
The Strawbs lead off the disc with Riviera Dei Fiori/Under a Cloudless Sky, which is splendid. It begins as a soft, very pastoral arpeggio instrumental and then breaks out into a mid-tempo rocker a la The Moody Blues or, more closely, Roy Harper. (The vocals were remarkably Harperesque, to be honest.) I can only imagine what the lines “Won’t somebody try and understand?/All I want to do is land!” portend: a very bad flight in an aircraft, or perhaps a very bad trip of another sort? Regardless, I loved this song and will need to add The Strawbs Deja Fou, the album from which the track was taken, to my wish list.
Track number 2, Pentimento, is a previously unreleased song by the Californian Djam Karet, a band that was easily one of my favourites during the prog revival of the 1990s. Djam Karet has three compelling strengths: adventurousness in its compositions, willingness to employ a unique (sometimes bizarre) palette of sounds, and always-impressive guitar work. The band has a decidedly yin/yang approach to music, and will sometimes record heavy music and at other times experiment with lighter ambient soundscapes. Pentimento is different only in that it combines the two into one tune. As always, the sounds are foreign and strange at times but the whole thing hangs together well. There’s a nice section of acoustic guitar work, which isn’t something Djam Karet showcases frequently, and the final electrified meditation over the tick-tock, jungle rhythm is quintessential Djam Karet. A good one.
Track number 4 (Lang Historia) is by Scandinavian band Trettioåriga Kriget. I recently discovered this band, having been giving a recording of a live 2004 show by a friend, and am thoroughly impressed. It’s definitely situated within the ‘harder rock but prog-influenced’ camp also occupied by bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin, Rush, etc. The band plays with might. The opening riff in Lang Historia is so hookish that I always feel like a yanked trout whenever it starts up. This is a track with some bite but also some great control of mood.
And despite my personal preferences, the remainder of the CD’s tracks are top notch.
Both Nathan Mahl and Guy Manning contribute songs to Kinection (The Place We Call Home and Top of the Mountain, respectively) and they are similar workouts with changing times and complex, fluid arrangements. Nathan Mahl’s track had a definite fusion flavour to it: it’s very busy and complicated. The sound quality is slightly cheesy to my ears (maybe an 1980s production residue, I’m not sure) but the playing is exceptional. I preferred Guy Manning’s track, though, which is perhaps overly long (at nearly 18:00) but which features some catchy saxophone embellishments. Wobbler gets the nod for best track title, Leprechaun Behind the Door. This is apparently a demo although you wouldn’t know it by either the performance or the engineering: it’s all professional and accomplished. This is a keyboard-laden tune with numerous shifts of tone and style; I’m not a huge fan of keys but I found myself fascinated by the sheer variety on Leprechaun.
Sonus Umbra’s Self Erosion (from the album Spiritual Vertigo) is track number 6 and is the most accessible, most commercially-oriented tune on the CD, with a 4/4 signature, steady backbeat, and recurring chorus. The break has a staggered time pattern that surprised me, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by this song, though it’s a tolerable example of pro-tinged pop rock.
Gert Emmens provides track 7, another previously unreleased recording: The Warlock Returns. (And, of course, you can’t have a prog CD without a witch, a dragon, a demon, or a warlock, now, can you? I certainly imagine a leprechaun is appropriate, too….) At least in terms of evoking the mystical and the arcane, Gert has succeeded. Warlock is rife with haunting synth trills and fretful beats. However, the track doesn’t have much movement and is in the Philip Glass/Fripp and Eno vein, with repeating loops. The few solos are at least well placed and clever.
Finally, we have an offering (They Come on Unknown Nights) by The Muffins, a band whose reputation precedes it but of whose recordings I had yet to hear anything until now. I can’t say that I was especially won over by this track but it did have a uniqueness and idiosyncrasy to it that I appreciated. The playing reminded me somewhat of Canterbury (e.g., Soft Machine’s Third) with its irregularity and oddness. I admired the spirit of the track, no question.
So, ultimately, an enjoyable listen and thanks to Lew Fisher, The Progressive Musical Society, and everyone else involved in the production of this CD (including graphic artist Ed Unitsky, whose fabulous and fitting work adorns the CD insert). I’ll recommend this to any prog fan who simply wants to support ProgDay (and, thereby, live progessive rock in general) and I’ll also recommend this to any prog fan unfamiliar with the contributing artists. Compilations are the ideal samplers so come taste the bands! There are enough choice tracks on Kinections to validate your investment.
And, if you’re going to ProgDay, have a grand time and please drink responsibly!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Various Artists - The Best Symfo Rock
Tracklist Disc 1 [75:23]: Genesis - Firth Of Fifth (9:34), Yes - Yours Is No Disgrace (9:42), Rush - Tom Sawyer (4:33), Marillion - Script For A Jester's Tear (8:39), Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Blinded By The Light (7:04), Asia - Heat Of The Moment (3:50), Pendragon - Paintbox (8:37), Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Lucky Man (4:38), Queensrÿche - Walk In The Shadow (3:35), Styx - Come Sail Away (5:31), Jethro Tull - Nothing Is Easy (4:22), Mike & The Mechanics - Blame (5:18)
Tracklist Disc 2 [76:31]: Camel - Ice (10:13), Kayak - Merlin (7:19), Fish - Vigil (8:42), IQ - Promises [As The Years Go By] (4:31), Rainbow - Gates Of Babylon (6.47), Queensrÿche - Operation Mindcrime (4:47), Angel - Tower (6:55), Uriah Heep - July Morning (10:34), Colosseum - The Valentyne Suite Theme One: January's Search (6:21), Opeth - Fair Judgement (10:22)
Tracklist Disc 3 [75:05]: Rush - Spirit Of Radio (4:58), Dream Theater - Metropolis Part I: The Miracle And The Sleeper (9:32), Arena - The Hanging Tree (7:11), Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Peter Gunn Theme (3:35), Angel - The Fortune (8:39), Styx - Suite Madame Blue (6:31), Mostly Autumn - The Gap Is Too Wide (10:36), Supersister - Present From Nancy (5:10), Focus - Hocus Pocus (6:41), Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son (5:23), Toto - Home Of The Brave (6:49)
Compilation albums in our genre come far and few in between, and decent compilation albums are even more rare. Usually the compilation albums are rather either projects on which a variety of relatively unknown bands collaborated -like the ProgDay CD or the excellent Tsunami Projekt- or label samplers like the ones from Inside Out, Musea or Cyclops.
However, compilation albums designed to be sold in regular shops can, to my knowledge, be counted on one hand. I remember a Best Of Symphonic Rock compilation on the EVA label (EMI/Virgin/Arista), which focused mainly on the commercial single ventures of the likes of Marillion and Alan Parsons, and more recently the Virgin compilation The Best Prog Rock Album In The World... Ever!, which focused once again mainly on the EVA artists, and more so it focused utterly on the pre-1980 output of bands.
So now we finally have on our hands a prog rock compilation album which not only features songs from the nineties and the new millennium (though only a few), but lo and behold, it is a label transcending compilation, which even includes some independent artists.
The compilation was done by radio DJ Kees Baars, who hosts the only progressive rock show in Holland on Arrow Rock Radio, Tuesdays between 21.00 and 22.00, and judging from the tracklist you could say finally a compilation by someone who knows what he is talking about.
With a compilation of this kind most of the talk usually goes into what is not on the album, rather than what is. Besides the usual suspects like Pink Floyd (don't think I've ever seen them on a compilation album) or Porcupine Tree (wouldn't want to have anything to do with a prog rock compilation, me thinks), there are also inexplicable omissions of artists like Van Der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, Mike Oldfield, Alan Parsons Project, Twelfth Night, Pallas, or, in fact, any artist that is on the Inside Out label, like Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, TransAtlantic or Ayreon. And it is not as if there wouldn't be enough space on the discs, since no less than five bands got a favourable treatment by appearing twice on the compilation.
Speaking of those five, the reason as to why this was done puzzles me. Both the Rush and ELP songs have been included on dozens of compilation albums already, and neither are representative for the "symfo" output of these bands. However, since these appear on pretty much every rock compilation around one could conclude that licensing these tracks would be a bit cheaper than, say, 2112 or Karn Evil 9. As for the other bands that appear twice on the compilation... Queensrÿche? They did about an album and a half which would classify as progressive rock or progmetal, then they lost it (which is even mentioned in the liner notes here!). Styx? Gimme a break! Angel? A band created by a record label as a counterpart to Kiss, which made only two interesting albums and lasted less than six years. I cannot understand the choice of having five bands appear twice on the compilation, and even less the three that in my opinion aren't all that representative for the prog genre. At least, not in the way such as Genesis or Yes might be, or Pink Floyd and all the other absent bands mentioned above for that matter!
As for the actual songs that appear on the compilation, it is a mix of the usual suspects and some pleasant surprises.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Fish's Vigil as well as bands like Opeth, Arena and Mostly Autumn. It goes to show that despite the (licensing) limitations Baars did his best to create an interesting and diverse compilation.
However, one thing I cannot comprehend is the IQ track that was chosen. What on earth possessed Baars to ignore any work from the terrific Subterranea or Ever albums, and opt for the Paul Menel fronted pop single Promises?
When Bob reviewed the Virgin compilation he concluded that you should save your money and buy an album by any of the featured artists instead. While I wouldn't want to echo his conclusion for this particular compilation, I do feel one should think hard before rushing out to buy this album. Any self-respecting prog fan should already own 75% of the music on the compilation anyway.
If nothing else, the compilation is a great way to re-listen to some classics, as well as to get introduced to some of the music you might not have heard before. And seeing this is one of those TV-advertisement compilations, maybe, just maybe, a handful of people will realise that prog isn't dead and get interested in checking out the lesser known (newer) bands that appear on this compilation.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Forever Einstein - Racket Science
Tracklist: How Come The Wrong People Are Always In Charge? (3:26), You're Living In A World Of Make-Believe With Flowers And Bells And Leprechauns And Magic Frogs With Funny Little Hats (3:55), It's A Good Thing I Don't Have Super Brain Powers Or You'd Be In A Thousand Little Pieces Right Now (3:17), They're Portable, They're Annoying And They Cost Three Dollars A Case (2:52), I'm Trying To Contain An Outbreak Here And You're Driving The Monkey To The Airport (4:26), It's Almost Impossible To Concentrate In This Cafe With All These Leggy Belgian Girls Walking Around In Miniskirts (6:05), God Has A Plan For Me, And It Involves Puppets (2:26), I Wish I Had Me Some Of Them Miracle Smart Pills (4:26), I Got My Picture Taken, I Got Forty Dollars And I Get To Keep The Underwear (7:04), There's Some Milk In The Fridge That's About To Go Bad ... And There It Goes (8:06), Every Word Out Of Your Mouth Is Like a Turd Falling In My Drink (2:58), He Looks Interesting - And By Interesting I Mean Weird (1:36)
Forever Einstein is a three-piece band playing instrumental rock music and they have released their fifth album under the name Racket Science some time ago. Guitar player Charles Chuck O’Meara formed the band in 1989 and drummer John Roulat later joined him; for this album they have asked bass guitar player Kevin Gerety to make the trio complete again. Their music is intelligent, and shows influences of bands like The Beach Boys, King Crimson, Fred Firth, Snakefinger and Primus. So the musical styles vary from surf rock, prog rock, pop rock to blues-rock, jazz-rock and avant-garde rock.
So, some songs feature math rock metric shifts, articulated by both guitar and bass, as for the drum parts, they are rather solid throughout the entire album. Most of the songs combine a few musical styles so that is probably the reason why you will not get bored very likely listening to this rather unusual album. In two tracks the guitar sound of Chuck even reminds me of the good old Shadows, as other pieces are again extremely weird and show also signs of Oriental influences. Forever Einstein use familiar musical elements in an unfamiliar and interesting way and as a consequence the music on this CD is somehow quite familiar, but also completely different……
You may love or you may hate this album, but no one sounds like Forever Einstein, making this album very, very original and therefore probably real food for die-hard proggies; at least if you like instrumental prog rock music. I truly must say that it took quite some time to start appreciate this album, but it really grows on you. So, give it some time and listen to it for a couple of times and maybe you will like Forever Einstein also.
I remember the first time I listened to this album and, like most albums we receive at DPRP, it was initially played without any great depth of listening but useful for me to add some notes to our pipeline. The pipeline is a listing of the latest CDs that have arrived and are awaiting review - these notes offer links to the band's website, record label, release date and a general overview of the music. Sometimes this process is fairly straightforward and others, as is the case here, slightly more difficult.
Now the opening few bars of How Come The Wrong People Are Always In Charge? pricked up the ears, but after that the music didn't grab me immediately, its angular, choppy guitar driven sound leaving me somewhat bemused as to what I was hearing. However by about the fourth or fifth track I had become more attuned to Forever Einstein's quirky sound and began to listen with a greater degree of depth. As Martien says, there are a number of disparate styles going on here, one minute you are thinking Robert Fripp the next Hank Marvin - so diverse are the parameters. And this broad spectrum and shifting influences continues throughout the album, not only triggered by O'Meara's guitar but also the rhythm's laid down by Roulat and Gerety.
I mentioned earlier about becoming accustomed to Forever Einstein's sound and mainly stems from the acceptance of O'Meara's guitar sound. It is clean, precise and with a distinct 60s sound - there is little in the way of distortion, just the amplifier being driven and with the inclusion of subtle effects here and there. This initially conceals the complexity of O'Meara's playing, with initial thoughts more focussed around early "surf" music and "fun" music of the 60s, rather than the field of progressive rock. Repeated listenings however reveal a far greater depth in the complexity of these parts. Then there is the absence of (almost) any keyboards and as the album is entirely instrumental - any vocals. However It's Almost Impossible To Concentrate In This Cafe... was the turning point for me. The proggy elements started to surface - a choppy rhythm, a guitar theme and then there is the splendid tuneful fretless solo from Kevin Gerety. From here the upbeat and ear friendly God Has A Plan For Me, And It Involves Puppets heralds a golden patch of tracks on the CD. Tracks 7, 8 & 10 (I've avoided using their titles to save space :0) are wonderful intricate pieces.
On this note and before concluding this review I've should say something about the track titles, which may not tell you much about the music they represent, but certainly brought a smile to my face. In the main I've always thought titles for instrumental tracks to be somewhat superfluous, so hats off to Forever Einstein for this humorous collection of gems.
To say this "may" not appeal across the board of our readers would be this year's understatement for me, and I can quite imagine that many might well be initially horrified by the music of Forever Einstein. Racket Science certainly sits on its own within the prog genre. Granted it is quirky and perhaps it might not immediately be your thing - but in my book that is a plus. As Martien says a couple of listenings and you may well be hooked. Give it a whirl if you can.
Charlie Dominici - 03: A Trilogy Part 1
Tracklist: Introduction (2:59). Unwilling Volunteer (3:04), My New Land (2:34), I Found My Love (2:58), The Dream (6:56), A Day Of Conflict (4:37), The Order Comes (4:02), The Plan (4:36), I Will Return (4:52), The Hand Of God (4:40)
Charlie Dominici... the name must ring a bell with most people, even though many probably won't know who he is. He was, after all, Dream Theater's original vocalist, who sang on the band's debut When Dream And Day Unite, but got replaced by James LaBrie before the band hit it big.
Dominici remained active in the music scene however, playing gigs with Frankie And The Knockouts as well as solo gigs. Nevertheless it took over 15 years for his first solo album to arrive.
Shaking off the metal image, Dominici's solo album isn't at all what you'd expect. It's just one man and an acoustic guitar, with the occasional use of harmonica, bearing more resemblance to the likes of Steve Earle or the solo albums of Bruce Springsteen, then his former band(s). As Dominici states on his website: "If DT fans will listen to this CD with an open mind, they will be able to appreciate the music and the story much more than if they listen to it looking for something else that they are expecting to hear. If they don’t, I think they will be missing out on something they might have found interesting and entertaining."
Well, interesting is certainly the word. The album is rather easy to listen to, despite the rather dark and bleak subject of the 'concept'. Dominici's voice is a pleasant one and only occasionally do his metal roots become apparent. When reading the lyrics, the album seems to be every bit the prog concept album. The Plan for example, is divided into three parts, like a genuine prog epic. It works somewhat differently on an acoustic guitar though.
And also the most cliché of all prog clichés applies to this album: the longest song is the best one. The nearly 7 minute The Dream is a very weird account of, well, a dream, in which Dominici is visited by people like Picasso, Hitler and a dozen others.
Melody-wise many of the songs are very catchy and some do sound eerily familiar. The melody of My New Land, for example, is almost a rip-off of Cat Stevens' Wild World, and The Hand Of God resembles a Neil Diamond song, but Dominici is easily forgiven.
The album is a pleasant listen throughout, albeit slightly monotonous. The music could certainly have benefited from a somewhat broader instrumentation.
As for my final conclusion. Of course this album has nothing to do with prog rock, other than that it was made by someone who once sang in the world's leading prog metal band. I quite enjoyed the album, but I'm quite a fan of singer-songwriter material, and I love the acoustic Bruce Springsteen albums for example. Prog purists should be avoiding this album, obviously, but if you are a Dream Theater fan with an open mind, or if you like acoustic singer-songwriter music you should have a look at this album. It is just too bad there aren't any samples available anywhere.