Dutch Progressive Rock Page
2005 : VOLUME 35

REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


The Pineapple Thief - 10 Stories Down
 The Pineapple Thief - 10 Stories Down
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:GFT Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL 144
Year of Release:2005
Time:60:31
Info:Pineapple Thief
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Prey For Me (6:39), Clapham (4:28), Wretched Soul (4:59), The World I Always Dreamed Of (7:10), Start Your Descent (3:54), My Own Oblivion (3:39), It's Just You And Me (4:56), The Answers (5:22), From Where You're Standing (4:03), Light Up Your Eyes (15:34) (i. I [7:25], ii. Who [8:08])*

There is a companion EP, 4 Stories Down (CYCL 150S) available featuring two album tracks (Clapham and Wretched Soul) a 13th Floor Mix of Subside from the Variations On A Dream CD and an otherwise unavailable track The Ground Floor. A limited edition release containing the bonus disc 8 Days Later is also available (CYCL-144D).

Six months on from the limited edition 12 Stories Down 'work in progress' CD, the new Pineapple Thief CD is ready to be unleashed on the world. Although both releases share a number of song titles, all of the numbers have been re-evaluated, revamped and refined for inclusion on the new album. Although essentially the same songs, and thus many of the remarks made in the DPRP review of 12 Stories Down are still valid, the refining process has in some cases subtly altered the nuances of the songs and in others completed deconstructed and reconstructed them! The new release omits Slip Away, Watch The World (Turn Grey), Catch The Jumping Fool and Take Our Hands from the 12 Stories Down release but has promoted Wretched Soul and (I Will) Light Up Your Eyes from bonus tracks to full, and in the case of the latter track, radically altered and extended, versions on the new release.

Prey For Me starts things off in brilliant style, with a few tweaks here and there to tighten up the structure it is a powerful opening number and should be excellent on stage. Clapham, the single, sounds altogether more refined, some added keyboards and violin making the song progress in a smoother manner.

Having lived with these tracks for the past six months one has really come to appreciate the strength of the writing, the melody of Clapham being particularly memorable. Wretched Soul, probably the strongest of the three bonus cuts on the limited edition release is welcomingly added to the main disc and will certainly be appreciated by fans of Porcupine Tree sharing similarities with some of that band's recorded work. Again, The World I Always Dreamed Of has minimal modifications, which is no surprise considering it was near perfect in it original version!

Start Your Descent has been remixed, the most immediate change being the introduction where a lone solo acoustic guitar picks out the notes under the violin refrain rather than on the original where it was a bit more cluttered with keyboards and strummed guitar chords. The changes improve the clarity of the number, making it a bit starker, but I suppose it is a matter of individual preference as to what one would consider the more appealing option. However, the Richard Hunt Violin Ensemble really comes to the fore in this piece.

The mood is lifted with the electronica of My Own Oblivion which again is remixed into a more forceful, and menacing format, the guitar biting through the keyboard bass synth line. It's Just You And Me has been shifted down the running order (originally it followed after opening number Prey For Me) but the fact that it still follows a more up-temp number is significant as the contrast between the heavier ending of My Own Oblivion and the acoustic opening of It's Just You And Me is rather appealing. Following on is the very sedate The Answers, a track originally chosen to end the album. In retrospect it did prove a rather limp ending and so its repositioning is a good move. It is on tracks such as this that the additional work applied to these songs really comes to the fore. The clarity is much improved with distinct separation between instruments. Again the violins really stand out in this track.

From Where You're Standing, another standout song, assembles the ranks of mass guitars gradually building from an acoustic beginning to an all out assault on the ear drums. The fade out takes us into the final track Light Up Your Eyes which has undergone the most radical transformation. From a little over three and a half minutes in its original demo form it has expanded to a two-part fifteen and a half minute mini epic. Essentially the original track has been incorporated into the first part, I. A plaintive piece with drum machine and electric piano it is extended to twice its original length with the title repeated over firstly a rather ambient backing and then the whole band joining in to round off the section. Second section Who (will light up your eyes) starts acoustically using the same melody as the first part but expands on this through the addition, and subsequent subtraction of various instruments. At times it sounds as if it is about to break out into a more electronic rhythm, but pulls back before committing itself. In many ways the effect is not unlike Sigur Ros and quite untypical for Pineapple Thief.

So what is the verdict? Ultimately it is another very strong album from Bruce Soord and one that will delight his growing number of supporters. It is refreshingly different from previous albums, and the extra time in the studio has helped to enliven and clarify the tracks. Well worth a listen and one of my contenders for favourites of 2005 (and it is only June!)

Conclusion: 9 out of 10*

MARK HUGHES



Satellite - Evening Games
Satellite - Evening Games
Country of Origin:Poland
Format:CD
Record Label:Metal Mind
Catalogue #:mmp cd 0297
Year of Release:2005
Time:75:43
Info:Satellite
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Evening Games (16:45), Never Never (7:02), Rush (5:47), Love Is Around You (5:39), Why (6:59), Beautiful World (9:05), Evening Overture (10:38), Take It As It Is (3:39), Follow The Rain [bonus] (3:25), You Know And I Know [bonus] (6:44)

It remains a total mystery to me how albums work. For example; some albums you can place into the CD player and from the very first listen you know it is one that will have enduring appeal, while some releases go straight into the 'sell on eBay when I get around to it' category. Similarly there are certain discs that you know will take a few spins to really get into but then remain fresh for years, and others that you know will be absolute monsters for a few months and then fade away. Then, there is what I will refer to as the 'Satellite Category' - albums where half a dozen listens in and you still haven't a clue whether it is just about to unfold its beauty, or whether you are just faffing around and wasting your time!

It certainly wasn't this hard last time around. A Street Between Sunrise and Sunset, the debut album from this Polish band was an almost instant hit with me. A glorious musical journey across summer landscapes, that proved one of my most enjoyable progressive purchases of recent years. So it was with high expectations that I awaited the follow-up.

There are a couple of immediate differences to take note of from the debut. Firstly it appears that Satellite has become a real band. Instead of a project by former Collage mainstay Wojtek Szadkowski, this time the sleeve lists a simple full line-up as opposed to guest musicians and shared credits. (Although only Wojtek gets a photograph, so either I'm wrong or the rest are camera shy!) The line-up has also had a wee change - the loss of Mirak Gill, leaving just Sarhan Kubeisi to handle guitar duties.

The music also takes a noticeably darker vibe, with a much wider musical range including some heavier, rockier sections lurking in a few corners. Wojtek, who writes, arranges and produces all the music as well as being the drummer - is a huge Genesis fan which shows repeatedly throughout the album, although there is a very distinctive neo-prog influence, especially of English bands such as IQ, Pendragon and Marillion. On the meatier segments, there's a certain similarity to the vibe of fellow Poles Riverside.

The album opens with the title track which is a pure progrock song and weighing in at almost 17 minutes can safely be given the description of 'Epic'. This is a real piece of class, inventing and reinventing several musical themes and then mixing them up and putting them back together again.

The second track is the most instantly accessible. Never Again has a real catchy melody line as does the ballad Love Is Around You - one of the songs that really took a while to sink in for me. It's here that Robert Amirian's voice is really put on show. Half-spoken, half-sung in parts, yet gently or even tenderly melodic in other parts - it really does suit the Satellite sound perfectly and gives the band a very distinctive sound that really appeals. Why is the rockiest and most experimental track, that features a cool guitar/keyboard theme, some double bass drumming, a cleverly reworked melody and some very odd rhythms. Along with the title track it's my favourite on the album.

The only song that still hasn't sunk in is Beautiful World - and by now I don't think it will! Amirian tries a more forceful vocal style that just doesn't work while the slightly staccato rhythm and rather menacing vibe doesn't really flow with the delicate melody and the second half of the track is just too drawn out.

The bombastic and slightly pomptastic Evening Overture resumes normal service with a memorable hook in a similar poppy vein to the second track and a clever remodelling of some of the melodies from the opening track. The label's website also lists two bonus tracks but as there is no mention of them on my preview copy, you'll have to enjoy them as a surprise. My listening experience bows out on a high, with the beautifully whimsical, yet concise Take It As It Is.

I really can not say why it took me so long to get into this album. Maybe it's just one of those, where I had to be in a certain frame of mind to appreciate its charms. Anyway, I'm glad that I stuck with it. Evening Games is certainly a worthy successor, if not better than its predecessor and is an album that I would recommend as having appeal to almost anyone who enjoys progressive rock.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

ANDY READ



Watertouch - We Never Went To The Moon
Watertouch - We Never Went To The Moon
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:SODA 001
Year of Release:2004
Time:44:30
Info:Watertouch
Samples:-

Tracklist: Maybe I'm a Muslim (7:17), Funeral Procession From Aselby (4:39), The Burning of My Ashes (10:47), Foxhunt (4:13), Waltz For Backtax (4:16), Just Before Cleavage Hill (5:26), We Never Went To The Moon (7:24)

This new Swedish band introduces themselves on their website as follows: "If you imagine the scenario that Ritchie Blackmore was raised in the Swedish woods listening to Focus and Frank Zappa albums, you get a little hint of what the music sounds like - Come taste the band , Cheers !" (Too) Often the promotional lines are mainly just commercial sales talk and lack a considerable touch with reality, but in this case there's something to it!

There are indeed some noticeable Zappa and Focus influences in there, and surely the last line also refers to the Deep Purple album of the same name? But it's not automatically guaranteed that Zappa, Focus and Deep Purple fans will instantly like this album, since Watertouch does offer much originality and a specific sound of their own! The comparison with Zappa does however apply not only musically, but also for the sense of humour that is poured over the album beginning with the title, referring of course to the rumours that the whole moon landing of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was just staged in some high tech studio in California. On a more serious note Watertouch' singer Patrick Salin mentions on the inner sleeve: "everybody can play and sing but not everyone wants to listen". It's a nice statement to debate about between music addicts; any Internet forum that wants to take it up?

The band consists of Peter Holmstedt on bass, Eiron Johansson on drums and percussion, Patrick Salin on guitar and vocals and Per Wiberg on organ and piano and the album features several additional musicians.

But back to the humour with the first track of the album Maybe I'm A Muslim, a song title that seems to broach a very actual theme. But actually it does not since it's an instrumental song, but it does start with the sounds of a Kasbah or so and has a very oriental sound all over due to the use of a sitar and the oriental melody lines. The song is a nice up-tempo tune dominated by the sitar, a Hammond organ and guitar and later on the organ and guitar get into a more jazzy mood. Funeral Procession From Aselby is another instrumental which is not remarkable since 5 of the 7 songs on this album are one! Considering the title one should expect a sombre song, but although it's a simple tune eloquently played starting with a beautiful guitar solo, it's still an uplifting and bright song to listen to and not gloomy at all.

The far out longest song on the album The Burning of My Ashes, strangely another title associated with death, is the first vocal song. The song handles about a prostitute's ("a nightingale of the night") sorrowed life filled with regrets. The vocals, that are more spoken than sung, vary from a sort of intoxicated whispering to a tormented shouting and are not exactly premium quality but suit the song quite fine, even though it's not much to my liking. All the better there's also enough instrumental bits in this song to make it still enjoyable. Another touch of humour is the line "I chopped off my head now I am completely, completely dead" 'sung' in a way only count Dracula would speak like. It starts with a plain piano solo after which the other instruments, among which the sax that takes a prominent role, join in. The song has a bluesy feeling relieved by the bass that brings a more funky tune until the vocals kick in.  The song structure is a bit chaotic and also therefore certainly not my favourite, but the organ solo in the instrumental part is great and reminds me of Jon Lord.

Foxhunt is very Seventies styled reminding of Deep Purple and also Uriah Heep, mostly due to the excellent interaction between guitar and organ. Focus elements are indeed sufficiently present and it also reminds a bit of Rainbow. Waltz For Backtax begins in the same style as Foxhunt then the piano slows down the tempo, but it are mostly the guitar and organ who give this song shape and tune, alternating between up-tempo and a bit bluesier slowed down pace. Just Before Cleavage Hill is a mellow tune starting with a deadened sax and evokes images of a dark, smoky nightclub. A powerful organ sometimes adds to the volume of the song and interacts with the moody sax. It's not a traditional song with a start, middle section and end, it actually just flows along in a bluesy and jazzy way. The title song is the most powerful song of the album and a good closer; it's the other vocal song and of course takes on the alleged big scam of the lunar landing: "Well T-minus two, Neil was puking in the loo", "We are stuck with this lunar curse. Greetings and medallions from the Man. He didn't notice our absence of moontan".

It does not matter if you support or oppose to this theory, the music of this song is great! It starts off in a standard prog way with all instruments adding to the bombastic full sound. The lyrics are at first somewhat mysteriously sung, again more spoken than sung, and come through a vocoder, but later on a additional vocalist Tommy Andersson proves to be a better singer than Watertouch' own Patrick Salin and gives the song a more accessible and traditional prog sound. What follows are some nice instrumental parts and a good full sound enjoyable for every prog lover.

All in all this is a very interesting and enjoyable album, musically especially interesting for people who love that seventies organ sound and who prefer instrumental stuff over vocal based songs. It has several unique edges to it, certainly a style of its own although the mentioned influences are among others clearly there! It has found a good balance between 'not too complicated' and 'still enough to discover' to avoid it quickly becoming boring. It's not brilliant, but still innovative and sparkling enough to become recommended. I hesitated long if I was to give this album the minimum score that entitles it to a 'DPRP recommended' mention, but I did so in the end.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

JORIS DONKEL



Radio Massacre International – Emissaries
Radio Massacre International – Emissaries
Country of Origin:UK
Format:2CD
Record Label:Cuneiform Records
Catalogue #:Rune 211/212
Year of Release:2005
Time:60:00 / 76:26
Info:Radio Massacre Intl
Samples:Click here

Tracklist:

Disc 1: The Emissaries Suite: Seeds Crossing The Interstellar Void (16:23), A Priest Crossing Frozen Water (13:24), Mad Bob’s Self-Inflicted Torment (9:59), The Emissaries Reveal Themselves (9:09), The Ice Garden (7:37), A Promise Of Salvation (3:28)

Disc 2: Ancillary Blooms: An Interstellar Vacuum Is Far From Empty (12:15), Mobile Star Systems (13:02), A Piano Wanders The Incandescent Vapours (11:12), Sympathy For The Bedeviled (9:36), The Arrival Of The Seeds (16:17), Deliverance From Nuclear Winter (14:13)

This is my first exposure to Radio Massacre International, and I guess you may never have heard of them either. This is probably due to the fact that they are an Electronic/ Space music outfit, rather than a Progressive Rock group (though many people debate whether groups such as Tangerine Dream could actually be categorised as Prog – there is definitely some crossover/ common ground shared between the two genres – if this is the case, then RMI would qualify as well).

This wasn’t quite what I would expect from the Cuneiform label either – most of the releases I have heard from them are in more of an Avant/Rio vein, or Canterbury scene artefacts. Speaking as someone who has loved Tangerine Dream’s Ricochet, Phaedra, Zeit etc since I first heard them in the mid 1970’s, and who still plays and enjoys them to this day, I was absolutely delighted to experience RMI for the first time. Now don’t get me wrong, I have heard many electronic artists who have been inspired by TD, but often their imitative music is but a pale copy of the original. There are scores of bedroom boys beavering away in this field, but much of their output is only likely to be of interest to the most dedicated of Electronic Music fans.

RMI on the other hand, rather than imitate, take the baton of Space Improv- so skilfully wielded by TD, Klaus Schulze and a handful of others- and strap it to their spaceship for an Interstellar voyage into the fathomless depths of the Outer Galaxies. Consisting of Steve Dinsdale, Duncan Goddard and Gary Houghton, RMI have been together for 12 years and have recorded at least as many albums, so there’s plenty for the newcomer to explore. All three members utilise keyboards and electronics, with Houghton taking a leaf out of Edgar Froese’s book and contributing electric guitar as well. His deep space grooving also reminds somewhat of French wizard Richard Pinhas of Heldon Fame.

This reasonably priced 2 CD set is the ideal introduction to the group, and contains two mammoth suites of the finest cosmic, drifting, sequencer-fuelled space rock you’re likely to find. The package comes with a PDF file containing a comic strip, by underground artist Matt Howarth, which can be viewed on your computer, and which enhances the otherworldly feel of the project.

The first disc is a studio recording, and the second is a recording of a live radio broadcast from WXPN in Philadelphia form 2004. Both (conceptually interconnected) pieces are beautifully flowing, ethereal drifts overlaid with driving sequencers and burning guitar solos. The pieces are split into shorter tracks, but are best experienced in their entirety. There may be some who would accuse the group of rambling and repetition, but I personally am always a little disappointed when the tracks come to an end. The tracks build and morph in extremely subtle ways, expertly creating trance inducing moods which are quite elating. This is exactly the kind of music many TD fans wish they’d carried on exploring instead of their much more concise and commercial, soundtracky stuff of the eighties and beyond.

If this was an Electronic/ Space music site, I would be awarding a whopping great, richly deserved 9 out of 10, for what will surely join the ranks of the timeless classics of the genre alongside Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra, Ricochet etc., Klaus Schulze’s Timewind, Blackdance and X, and Ashra’s New Age Of Earth. In terms of Prog Rock in general, this is difficult to rate, and some of you would hate this, I’m sure, but many progressive fans (myself included) do enjoy this type of music, and for those who like the aforementioned albums, I strongly urge you to investigate this fantastic, mesmerising cosmic odyssey at the first opportunity. I fully expect to be listening to this album regularly in ten years time.

Conclusion: Unrated

DAVE SISSONS



Jo McCafferty - Radiaxial
Jo McCafferty - Radiaxial
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Neosome Music
Catalogue #:NE001
Year of Release:2001
Time:42:03
Info:Jo McCafferty
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Another Day Goes By (3:18), Vanessa (4:04), Page 94 (4:31), Mediterraneo (3:11), Grown Man's Tears (3:53), So What? (3:15), Paper Lady (1:26), Lady Day (3:09), Shadows And Stars (3:01), Easier Said Than Done (4:53), Neomorphism (3:29), Flames (3:47)


Jo McCafferty - Papercuts & Lime
Jo McCafferty - Papercuts & Lime
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Neosome Music
Catalogue #:NE005
Year of Release:2005
Time:40:17
Info:Jo McCafferty
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Brick By Brick (1:34), Confession (3:12), Prove You Wrong (4:25), Don't Delay (3:26), All This Time (2:56), Chiar Daca Ma Duareh (2:08), Farewell [With A Sigh] (1:01), Dangerous Ground (4:43), This Good Love (3:50), Opalesque (3:49), If I Say (4:26), Romeo's Late (2:20), Cave (2:21)

Ever been to a concert and glancing at your ticket thought - is it a quick drink before the concert, or I wonder what the "plus support" is going to offer. Well for those who chose the latter and have in recent years caught such progressive luminaries as Marillion, Fish and John Young, then you may well have been treated to the music of Scottish songstress Jo McCafferty.

The format of Jo McCafferty's shows are reflected in the two CDs reviewed here and represent Jo's solo works from her debut CD Radiaxial released in 2001 through to her latest studio offering, 2004's Papercuts & Lime. Although it should be noted that Jo's career stems further back than this. In the early nineties fronting the now defunct Arnica and with the release of her 1993 debut cassette Nothing Whispered To Katy - now available on CD format.

On both these the albums the songs are simple in their arrangements relying on Jo's acoustic guitar and splendid voice. Lyrically the tracks are pointed, observant, often scathing and act as engaging storyboards within her music. I was particularly enamoured with her lyrics which offer different slants on "tried and tested" themes - nicely captured in the perspective of love from Page 94...

He wrote, "I love you", in pencil, on page 94
And I asked him "What are you writing in pencil for?"
He said "I love you, but will I love you in seven months time?
When I've worn you, and breathed you, and watched our passion die?"

Equally cutting lyrics can be found in Vanessa

I want to be pretty like Vanessa
Beautiful like Vanessa
Her "angelness"
I don't want the shit life like Vanessa
Don't want a boyfriend like Vanessa
Just her loveliness

Jo McCafferty is fine lyricist and strangely I kept drawing comparisons to the writing of Don McLean, whose work I admire. And whilst on this point and by way of offering other pointers (as a guide only), then early Suzanne Vega & Joni Mitchell perhaps - whilst at other times Jo's voice and the song arrangements reminded me a little of Melanie Safka. Other suggestions might be Eddi Reader and last but not least some of Ray Wilson's acoustic writings.

Of the two CDs Papercuts & Lime struck me as being more of a companion CD to Radiaxial and the three year gap between the two showing little in the way of musical change. And if I were to offer a more down-beat note to these reviews, it would be that with limited acoustic guitar styles played and this accompanied by just a solo voice, the albums did suffer from being a little "samey". However I have heard bands accomplish the same with more. So the writing and structures are very similar although the lyrics seemed slightly less "bitter sweet" in 2004, however none of the poetic, lyrical style has been lost. It is in fact Jo's lyrics that set these two albums aside from the seemingly endless plethora of female singer/song writers in the music world at the moment. There are no sugary prose here, no jumping on a commercial bandwagon, just heartfelt songs.

Special note for those tracks that required the repeat button to be pressed on the CD player and not mentioned already. The delicate and beautiful Mediterraneo, the all too brief Paper Lady, and from Papercuts & Lime - Brick By Brick, Chiar Daca Ma Duareh and finally the "title track" from Papercuts..., the excellent Cave. I'm sure I've missed some more.

So will the songs of Jo McCafferty find favour with the DPRP readers? Well I hope so, but that is entirely down to you of course. From a personal stance listening and reviewing these two albums has made welcome change from my usual digest of musical excessiveness and I am thankful to Stuart for considering us a suitable site for Jo's music.

As with Bart's recent review of Charlie Dominici's debut solo album, the progressive references are scant and somewhat tenuous here, therefore I have not offered numeric ratings on these two albums. Not a reflection on the music I hasten to add.

In June of this year Jo has released a live CD recorded at the Moorings - many of the highlights from these two albums can be found there. I wish Jo McCafferty success with the new album and hope some of our readers take the time to check out her music.

Conclusions: Unrated

BOB MULVEY



Nyl - Nyl
Nyl - Nyl
Country of Origin:Russia
Format:CD
Record Label:Soyuz Entertainment
Catalogue #:SM 724-02
Year of Release:2002
Time:47:13
Info:Nyl
Samples:-

Tracklist: 1-2-3-4-5 (7:32), Playin’ This Game (8:04), Around the Time (5:51), The World of Seven (4:42), C Jam Blues (6:55), Alone (4:39), No Matter of Our Lives (9:15)

Okay, everybody, listen up: do not be put off by the title of that one song – C Jam Blues. That single title – promising seven minutes of my two least favourite kinds of music (the blues and instrumental “jams”) – made me delay listening to this CD until long past the time I should have begun preparing for this review. But even that one song, my least favourite on the album, is really neither the blues nor a jam – in fact, it’s both carefully written and meticulously played, and it’s too happy for the blues and too tight to be a jam – and the rest of the album has a lot of wonderful music to offer.

Just to offer a very rough preliminary frame of reference, you can get an idea of the band’s sound if you think of peppy progressive pop-rock with vocals sounding like those of Helloween’s venerable Michael Kiske and a guitar sound that will remind you in most places of Steve Hackett’s. Other occasional features are tasty double-bass-drum work (check out the ending of Alone) and generally excellent percussion; interesting and often fun keyboard work (both synthesizer and real piano, as in The World of Seven); and strong song craft. Many of the songs are built around a single interesting riff or bass line (notably Around the Time), and there’s even a sort of power ballad (The World of Seven), though it’s very much in the progressive rather than in the hair-metal vein. One of the album’s strengths, in fact, is that it puts the individual song first, never sacrificing a song to instrumental showiness.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t be impressed by the playing. The alleged jam-blues song is, I suppose, the main showcase for the members’ instrumental work, which they intelligently restrain elsewhere so as not to compete with the vocals, and you’ll like the nice syncopation of the song, the lovely soaring guitar work, and the genuinely fun bass playing and drumming. But every song repays the repeated listenings you’ll need to appreciate fully the skills of the band’s four members (bassist Alexander Bouzlov, drummer Michael Kheifets, guitarist Alexander Korpusov, and singer/keyboardist Oleg Reznikov). In the main, though, as much as I enjoy listening to each member’s contributions, what impresses me the most about the album is the band’s tightness. Everyone’s locked in to the beat, serving the melody, supporting the lyrics, joyfully building up the song – every song.

“Joyful” is, in fact, the word for this album, the one I’d choose if I were forced to assign it only one adjective. I’m a fan of almost every kind of music (right – except for “jam-band” music and blues, though the blues cranked up by Led Zeppelin are fine by me, at that), but what I think I value most in a band or album is the sense of joy in creating music, a sense that occasionally, if all too rarely, comes across in albums in every conceivable genre (yes, even death metal). You need to hear Reznikov singing lyrics like “I’m alone, I have a hard time / I am walking on the fine line / You may think that I don’t care / Is this line between hope and despair?” (from Alone), lyrics that one of those histrionic singers we all hate (right?) would make an occasion for lugubrious drawling, in a voice almost celebratory, triumphant, while supported by zippy, energetic playing by all the band members, to hear what I mean. I like, that is, bands that love what they’re doing, and, if I’m any judge, NYL is such a band.

I could go on pointing out highlights, because there are many, but I’ll restrain myself and mention only a couple. The superb album opener 1-2-3-4-5 (chorus: “And if the night is too long time for me / I count the numbers 1-2-3-4-5 / Sex!”) announces the band’s cheery agenda right off the bat, with bouncy keyboards and a peppy, propulsive beat. Alone is probably my favourite, for the reasons I’ve enumerated. And the CD leaves us wanting more with the delightful No Matter of Our Lives, a very long song at nine minutes that actually earns its length with a plethora of musical ideas, dynamic changes, and wonderful playing. Lyrically, too, it’s inviting – what better choice than to end an album with a song that proclaims, among other things, “I hear the music that’s so bright / I’ll live and never die”?

I want to end by praising the band for an extra-musical choice – keeping the album to a reasonable length. My daughter just celebrated her eleventh birthday, and she planned a four-hour party. In my part of the world, kids’ birthday parties are usually two and a half hours long, and for good reason: especially on a hot summer day, that’s just long enough, and most kids go away happy. By the end of four hours, though, everybody (not just the parents who must control things!) was worn out. Same thing with albums. The limitations of vinyl records somehow seem to me to have coincided with an ideal attention span in the average listener: three-quarters of an hour is about right. When this CD ends, I want to hear more – so I listen to it again. Unless the album is extremely good, when a CD that’s an hour or more longer ends, I put it aside for another time. NYL do what they do extremely well, and they call it quits long before the listener does. This is a superb album, highly recommended – as I’ve said throughout, a fun album. What better recommendation?

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

GERALD WANDIO



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