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2006 : VOLUME 46

REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Al Garcia - Alternate Realities
Al Garcia - Alternate Realities
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:WL8019
Year of Release:2006
Time:57:06
Info:Al Garcia
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Alternate Realities (6:36), Turning Point (5:25), The Red Queen's Race (5:59), Secret Correspondences (6:09), Materia Prima (7:43), Three Of A Kind (8:46), The Pleasure Of Progress (3:12), A Place In The Sun (6:28), Calculated Risk (6:45)

And again!

What?

An album arrives out of the blue from a guy (or band) I've never heard of before, and one I really should have heard of. Al Garcia is the latest in this trend.

Now I have to say that reading some of the comments about Al's playing prior to listening to the album I was somewhat sceptical. A guy who plays guitar like Allan Holdsworth and bass like Jeff Berlin, surely this is not possible. Well I have to tell you that Mr Garcia posses the chops to do both these jobs - admirably. As to whether or not he sounds like either of those guys is debatable, but certainly Al is a crafted musician on the six, five and four stringed instrument. And it doesn't end there, he also lays down the drums and percussion on several tracks. And while were on with the plaudits, best get them all out of the way before we delve into the music. Al has also written all the music, produced the album and designed the album cover... did I miss anything? Well perhaps we should note that Alternate Realities isn't entirely a one man show and three guest musicians appear - Chris Garcia and Dean Rohan (drums) and Fred Ramirez (piano).

But none of the above would matter one iota if the music wasn't good. Well again I have to report that it is. Al writes accessible instrumentals which fall into that huge cauldron that is labelled jazz-fusion. However unlike many others in this field, the music on Alternate Realities is very strong on composition and not just avenue for Mr Garcia to display his undeniable chops. Don't get me wrong, Al's fret board dexterity is always on display, but forms an integral part of the music rather than just being the end result.

Al Garcia's website lists a number of influences, which I won't re-list, but needless to say contain leading exponents from the fusion, jazz, progressive, rock and classical arenas. And this broad spectrum gives Al's music its greater appeal. Certainly the influence of Allan Holdsworth is undeniable, however the arrangements steer away from Holdsworth's more intense fusion style, and there is a lightness to the tracks that is captivating. Mr Garcia also incorporates a guitar synth, which again adds greatly to the music. Unlike others I've heard, the guitar synth isn't used merely to make the guitar sound like a different musical instrument played poorly - but Al uses it to add to the overall sonic plate. Yes some solos feature keyboard(y) sounds but here I feel they work. Pat Methney in his more melodic moments!

Now I know I use this phrase too often, but again it applies - "the album is fairly consistent throughout and selecting those for note is difficult". The opening three tracks set the tone nicely for the album and much in Holdsworth fashion. The introduction of Secret Correspondences sees Fred Ramirez on piano broadening the palette, his light "classical" opening lays foundation for one of the jewels from the album. I think I even detected Mellotron sounds creeping in here and there. With the introduction of Latin percussion, lilting bass another hero of mine, Al Di Meola sprang to mind. Not for the first or the last time on the album.

Materia Prima again features percussion and Al turns to the acoustic guitar for this jaunty track. But hey, I have neglected to mention Al's bass playing - as with many of the tracks this one features a great melodic solo, which adds another dimension to the great percolating bass that fills this album.

Three Of A Kind - atmospheric, nicely held back - great. And to be honest the music just keeps coming, with the only redundant track (for me) being the brief The Pleasure Of Progress - but a minor hiccup on a great album.

Initially Alternate Realities fell just short of a DPRP recommended tag, not because the music falls short in any way, just because I couldn't say that the music would appeal to all. But one final listen swayed my decision. So if finely crafted, melodic fusion instrumentals are you bag, then I can recommend this album to you unreservedly. Top drawer stuff!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Apostolis Anthimos - Back To The North
Apostolis Anthimos - Back To The North
Country of Origin:Poland
Format:CD
Record Label:Metal Mind
Productions
Catalogue #:MMP CD 0396
Year of Release:2006
Time:45:08
Info:Apostolis Anthimos
Samples:Click here

Track List: Bar Wah Wah (5:00), Bonnie’s Eyes (4:08), Pinocchio’s Dreams (4:10), Waltz for Barbaras (6:10), Colours Impressions (14:54), New Century (5:41), Back to the North (5:05)

Apostolis AnthimosBack To The North is either an exquisite exercise in technically sharp, multi-faceted guitar prowess, or a wankery festival: you can decide for yourself.

Mr Anthimos is likely known to many in the DPRP audience as the guitarist for Poland’s prog-rock group par excellence, SBB. I own one SBB recording and, while I don’t give it frequent spins, I do recall very well that the first time I heard it, I asked the friend who had lent it to me, “What was that?!?!?” It is very impressive music indeed that SBB produces: intense, complex, melodic yet never sickly sweet. In short, I was impressed with SBB. I am also impressed by Mr Anthimos’ solo effort, although it does veer dangerously close to the territory of guitar gunslinger excess.

Along with Mr Anthimos, the band includes Marcin Pospieszalski (double bass, bass guitar, and keyboards) and Paul Wertico (drums). Yes, Back To The North can be discussed as a bona fide power trio offering, perhaps reminiscent of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and some of Robin Trower’s ensembles. In general, I found the tunes to be well constructed and imaginative; the arrangements and shifts in dynamic and tempo to be professionally treated; and Mr Anthimos’ guitar work to be expressive, controlled, flamboyant, facile, and mature. The rhythm section is more functional than flashy but, since this CD is truly a showcase for Mr Anthimos’, there is no need for, say, Entwistle-Moon bombast. All in all, there’s nothing on North that isn’t first rate. There may be too much guitar, period, especially in the absence of vocals, but if you are a fan of instrumental music featuring a seriously adept player, this CD should win you over.

I’d love to definitively compare Mr Anthimos’ playing to some other guitarists, but that comparison is very tricky because he does have his own singular style and tonal palette. I can suggest similarities but bear in mind that, really, the guitar work on North is pretty unique and idiosyncratic. Bar Wah Wah features rollicking country rock a la Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page in homage to early Americana. Bonnie’s Eyes is a dreamy, flanged jazz ballad that recalls Jeff Beck and Allan Holdsworth. Pinocchio’s Dreams could be a long-lost Steely Dan outtake: it’s heavy on the syncopated piano and those funky, biting guitar rips (think Larry Carlton or Rick Derringer) Dan fans know and love well. Waltz For Barbaras is a smoky, pining blues number that echoes early Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull. Colours Impressions is another bird altogether and is the proggiest track on North. It’s a suite and it mostly reminds me of Hendrix’ more experimental moods. And throughout the disc we get snippets that bring to mind Joe Satriani, Ritchie Blackmore, Eddie Van Halen, and the aforementioned Mr Trower. You’re getting the idea by now: there’s a plethora of sounds and textures on this album, and if the music does sometimes hint at another artist’s oeuvre, still, it never seems like thievery or simple imitation. North is guitar stew and you can identify the ingredients but it’s the combined flavour that is savoury.

Now, I want to re-emphasize my caveat: North is indeed wankery, on some level. It’s all about Mr Anthimos’ devotion to his six-string and his wizardly manipulation of it. I don’t mind the wankery a bit, to be truthful, since it’s all tasteful and smart. But if the promise of a collection of tracks that reveal well an artist’s guitar virtuosity doesn’t whet your appetite, you might want to avoid Back To The North.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Would I feel cheated had I bought this CD? Absolutely not; it’s a fine example of masterful guitarmanship that grows more enchanting upon each listen. Would I recommend that you buy this CD? Yes, but only if you subscribe to the opinion that, e.g., Bridge of Sighs, Surfing With The Alien, Wired, and Electric Ladyland are stellar achievements in the annals of guitar rock ‘n’ roll. Would I recommend that you hear this CD via begging, borrowing, or stealing? No: I think you should buy it, since the money may ultimately contribute to more releases by both SBB and Mr Anthimos.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

JOHN J SHANNON



Super String Theory - Principles Of Transformation
Super String Theory - Principles Of Transformation
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Info:Independent
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2006
Time:36:47
Info:Super String Theory
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: A Philosopher's Suspicious Tale (4:57), Principles Of Transformation (5:02), The Colored Pencil Heist (3:43), Endless Manicotti Bar (3:56), Sometimes Goodbye Takes Forever (4:05), Scary Dad (5:05), Seduccion Del Prototipo (3:42), The Great Dictator (6:14)

Missouri based Super-String-Theory (SST from now on) were formed in early 2000 and are based around axeman Aaron Roten (all electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar), with Steve Mason (drums and percussion), John Anderson (drums) sharing the rhythm section with Roten. James Pitts adds keyboards on a couple of tracks and Andy Levey (bass) guests on track three.

Principles Of Transformation is the band's second release following on from their 2003 debut, Swimming In A Dutch Mordant. As I've not heard the first album it is difficult to offer any comment on changes, so this current release will have to stand on its own. On Principles... SST offer up eight highly charged instrumentals that fall neatly into the progressive, technical jazz metal slot. Almost every track features aggressive riffs with varying degrees of light and shade added during the pieces to keep the interest level keen. The rhythm section is busy, technical and tight. And that is exactly how the album kicks in - grabbing you by the throat and letting you go five minutes later.

More variation is offered as we move into the title track, one of the stand out pieces from Principles.... The format of the song is fairly straightforward and relies on the dynamics of the playing. The opening minute and a half is wonderful. Light arpeggiated chords, a simple but effective melody, clever use of guitar sounds, subtle punctuated keyboards, sparse drumming are all contrasted by the brutal onslaught that follows. James Pitts adds a flurry of keyboard runs to this crunching section, trading solos with Roten, before once again the track returns to the quieter intro. Roten adds some nice legato runs here. The formula continues to the end of the track.

Again contrast is offered with The Colored Pencil Heist, which takes us on along a jazzy path. This is a fairly slick lightweight track but with a few bumps and turns along the way. The Endless Manicotti Bar returns us to the metal playing field once again and four minutes of crafted arrangements and furious playing. As good a time to mention Roten's guitar sound which I found a little difficult to get into - the effected, mid boosted tone not initially to my liking, but it sort of grew on me. I also found the sound a bit too dry at times, but decided the lack of reverberation was necessary to keep the tightness of the riffs and solos... But then Sometimes Goodbye Takes Forever comes along, a great little track, with delicate backing that allows the solos to glide across the music. Pitts makes a welcome return on this nice resting point on the album.

Scary Dad has a great pulse, almost a groove, setting up the track that probably most effectively showcases Roten's guitar virtuosity. The full armoury of electric styles is put through the ringer here. Whereas the classical guitar noodlings of Seduccion Del Prototipo offer a breather before the tricky album closer kicks in. Roten adds some spoken dialogue to add weight to the grand finale. Personally I could have lived without these spoken words... but that's just me.

Principles Of Transformation took a bit of listening, but was definitely worth the time spent. Initially I perceived the album to be a bit to heavy for my tastes, but like most things the more I delved in the greater depths were revealed. And this was certainly the case with Principles.... The album clocks in just under the thirty seven minute mark, perhaps considered a little lean by today's standards, however I felt that Roten had said all he needed to say. So at this length this is a concise and enjoyable album.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Electric Outlet - On!
Electric Outlet - On!
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC180
Year of Release:2006
Time:51:02
Info:Electric Outlet
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Comprendes (8:51), Propellerhead (6:26), Odd Garage (9:27), We Need A Plan (6:21), Wanna Energy (0:31), Tekky (4:40), Gold III (7:52), Miles Ahead (0:36), Miles Away (6:14)

If you try to find information on Electric Outlet on the web you will fall almost always to one of the epitomes of jazz-rock-fusion, John Scofield's Electric Fusion. Maybe this album apart from inspiration, provided this talented German quartet (guitar-bass-keys-drums) with a band-name! The band Electric Outlet falls into the jazz-rock-fusion genre and provides us with a pleasant and uplifting collection of instrumental tracks, drawing inspiration from artists/bands as Tribal Tech, Mike Stern, Brand-X, Steve Vai or Satriani. Notice that the guitarist Marcus Deml is not an unknown personality: he has his own project (Errorhead) and has toured in the past with Saga, but also played session guitar in artists as diverse as Kingdom Come and Rick Astley! Marcus' style is in the likes of Scott Henderson or Satriani/Vai, just to give some pointers here on what to expect.

Opener Comprendes is a strong and straight to the point fusion dynamite, that gets you in the mood to listen further on. Non-chaotic keyboard and guitar solos prolong the track without making it tiring. Propellerhead is equally powerful, but in a more witty way: by having a good rhythm section, nice keys combined with some spoken words that in the end seem to provide the track with a sort of refrain part. Flows nice even though a bit repetitive in parts. Old Garage slows down a lot and yields a very 80's feeling. However, the track is a bit stretched in my eyes - could have been a bit shorter. We Need A Plan is one of the weakest tracks of the album, although the mid loungy-jazz section is quite interesting.

Tekky is total funk and fun, which was somehow to be expected from what we heard before, but the surprise comes in Gold III which brings Ozric Tentacles to mind the way it starts. Innovative track that freshens up the ambience at this moment. Miles Ahead paves the way for Miles Away, a good mellow track for the ending credits. In fact, the "tender" guitar-playing gives a nice feeling and emotion in a work that could easily slide to the technical (prog-fusion) or detached (funky-jazz) side.

These guys are no doubt very good musicians, very concentrated on what they do, carefully balancing exploration and complexity. The chemistry within the band seems to be good- something somehow reflected not only acoustically but also...visually - by the way they look! Check their website to see: it's not what you would expect! They have done a very good job overall. Only, there doesn't seem to be any "emergent" property in this system composed of these four musicians. Great job, but even if you look deep inside, it is still unlikely you will find something hidden behind the nice arrangements, great technique and mature compositions. A negative point is also that tracks usually tend to be repetitive towards their end. But don't get me wrong: if you are into this kind of music, this could even fascinate you, and thus, for this audience, I would recommended it. For the rest, I can assure that it is really pleasant, fresh and easy to follow, unlike other efforts that appear from time to time. Especially like those that come from metal virtuosos trying to play fusion...

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

CHRISTOS AMPATZIS



Marcel Coenen & Friends – A Live Time Journey
Marcel Coenen & Friends – A Live Time Journey [DVD]
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:DVD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMDVD187
Year of Release:2006
Time:110:00
Info:Marcel Coenen
MySpace
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Abstract Impact, Verbal Defence Mechanism, The Shrink, La Bella Mira, Traumatized To The Bone, Still Bleeding, Patron Saint, Moyra, That Moment, The Skill Factor, Inner Alchemy, Shoreline, New Race, Waiting. DVD EXTRAS: Hidden Bonus track - Guitar solo, 2 Cover songs (Still Of The Night and Rooster), Biography and DVD Story, Marcel Coenen Live In Thailand, Behind The Scenes, Picture Gallery

Marcel Coenen’s second solo album called Color Journey was a fantastic partly instrumental guitar album, which proved that Marcel is still the best guitar player of The Netherlands. A Live Time Journey is the much anticipated live DVD from Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged) and it is a live documentation of the performance to launch Coenen’s second solo CD.

On the DVD you can enjoy a wealth of musical talent from around the globe to perform the many styles of the second album of Coenen “in the flesh”. As it happens I was there at the time (The Bosuil in Weert, The Netherlands on 28th January 2006) and I really enjoyed myself that evening. As I now watch the DVD I still think that this is musically speaking one of the best DVDs I have heard and seen in a long time. The sound quality is excellent, the set list is also very good and the guest musicians, but especially Marcel of course, plays like f… hell. So marvel about Marcel’s fantastic guitar picking and also about great guest musicians like Mike Andersson, Colleen Gray, Frank Schiphorst and Rene Ubachs. Of course all eleven tracks from Color Journey are performed and my personal favourites are La Bella Mira, - a fantastic guitar ballad which almost sounds like Steve Vai’s For The Love Of God or Joe Satriani’s Always – and the rather heavy Abstract Impact. Older songs like Moyra, Inner Alchemy and Shoreline also prove what a wonderful and talented guitar picker Marcel is.

As DVD extras you get a hidden bonus guitar solo (scroll around on the first page), two cover songs Still Of The Night, originally by Whitesnake and Rooster, originally by Alice In Chains. As you all know how I feel about covers I will not say anything about those two songs….. Furthermore you can watch Marcel at a Thailand show which was recorded in March 2006, with lots of scenes behind the stage. And of course a biography, DVD story and picture gallery are included in the package. A very worthwhile DVD, especially for all guitar aficionados out there!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

MARTIEN KOOLEN



Daniel Palmqvist -
A Landscape Made From Dreams
Daniel Palmqvist - A Landscape Made From Dreams
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC 177
Year of Release:2006
Time:44:39
Info:Daniel Palmqvist
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Welcome (0:53), Devil’s Dance (3:21), Moment Of Clarity (4:24), If Things Were Different (3:20), Riddle Me This (4:53), Carte Blanche (3:17), After The Rain (4:05), Truffle Shuffle (3:29), Behind The Mirror (4:22), Song For Pongo (2:40), Words Of Wisdom (3:30), A Landscape Made From Dreams (Farewell) (6:34)

Another instrumental guitar rock album, this time from a Swedish guitar player called Daniel Palmqvist. If you listen to this record a few times then you will hear that Palmqvist is clearly inspired by guitar pickers like Malmsteen, Holdsworth, Metheny and Lukather as he combines his technical skills with the strong close of melody to create his rather unique style.

The album kicks off with the semi-acoustic Welcome before he really starts torturing his guitar with e.g. the prog metal song Devil’s Dance or the rather speedy and heavy track Carte Blanche. However Palmqvist is at his best in the more melodic and slower songs like for example Riddle Me This, a track with an amazing melody (Lukather-like) and some awesome solos. The Satriani-like ballad After The Rain is also one of the highlights as this song gives me gooseflesh all the way.

Words Of Wisdom really rocks and is almost a tribute to Steve Lukather. But Palmqvist saves the best for last, as he ends this album with the master piece A Landscape Made From Dreams. Palmqvist begins this song with a bombastic intro, which is then followed by absolutely breathtaking guitar solos, which remind me of Neal Schon’s album called Late Nite. Some will say that this is just another instrumental guitar album, but give this guy a break as he really plays like a true guitar hero. Check him out, of course it is not original, but it is so well played that this album becomes a must for guitar lovers.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

MARTIEN KOOLEN



Tommy Bolin – Whips And Roses 2
Tommy Bolin – Whips And Roses 2
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:SPV/Steamhammer
Catalogue #:SPV 78622 CD
Year of Release:2006
Time:74:32
Info:Tommy Bolin
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Grind (3:25, Crazed Fandango (5:01), People, People (6:08), Homeward Strut (3:41), Sooner Or Later (4:18), Bagitblues Deluxe (14;23), Spacy Noodles (2:26), Lotus (6:02), Journey 2 (3:48), Bolin’s Boogie (2:37), Tommy’s Got Da Blues (9:10), Some People Call Me (13:12)

I truly think that this CD is not actually suitable for a progressive rock site but Whips And Roses is a must for guitar lovers and therefore I still think that you should read this review and eventually buy this amazing album.

For you youngsters out there who do not know Tommy Bolin I will tell you something about his short but fantastic career. Tommy Bolin was born in 1951 and at the age of 20 he formed the fusion jazz-rock –blues band Energy. Later on he replaced Joe Walsh as guitar player in the notorious band The James Gang, and with that band he had two records. In 1975 Bolin released his first solo album Teaser and he played on Deep Purple’s Come Taste The Band. In 1976 he began to record his second solo album called Private Eyes, which was to become a double album, but due to financial problems it was released as a single album. The tour that followed would turn out to be his last as the cost of keeping a band on the road and his heavy drug addiction forced him into being a supporting act. At the age of 25 one of the most talented guitar players ever died on an overdose of beer, champagne, cocaine and heroin.

Now the second volume of the Tommy Bolin Masters series is finally released and so you can enjoy some of Bolin’s extra material from the vault, including two lengthy closing tracks with a total over twenty minutes in length! It really is an album for guitar lovers only as most of the songs are filled with long, experimental and intriguing solos. Homeward Strut and Sooner Or Later are of course well known to Bolin fans and here he plays one of his best shredded guitar solos ever, reminding me of the famous trio Taste.

The over fourteen minute long jam called Bagitblues Deluxe is one of the true highlights as Tommy really shines here with his Jimi Hendrix-like riffs, melodies and solos, especially his guitar slapping is amazing. This is Bolin at his best, improvising like hell, and also coming up with some slow blues solos and a true Southern rock solo, bringing back memories of the famous Allman Brothers Band. Lotus is another highlight as it starts with a Hendrix-like slow blues intro followed by some heavier parts, a funky slide guitar passage and an amazing howling solo at the end of the song. Journey 2 also sounds like Hendrix and is again food for guitar freaks only. The second bonus track Tommy’s Got Da Blues is a kind of old blues track with piano and organ parts, some Southern rock like vocals, a pumping bass solo and of course a smashing guitar solo. The last bonus track is a bit chaotic as it is a live track which sounds like it was recorded with a single microphone, making it sound very hollow and demo-like! The bluesy guitar solo is followed by an organ and sax solo. The entire song however is dominated by the rather stupid screaming and whistling audience, spoiling it for me….

All in all I can say that I truly love this album, as I am a guitar freak, for those of you who still have not got that! What a shame that this amazing guitar player died at the age of 25!!! He could have made so much more great guitar music, but fortunately we now have two great “new” Bolin albums where he plays and shines like a young guitar god!!!

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

MARTIEN KOOLEN



Guitar Garden – Secret Space
Guitar Garden – Secret Space
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2006
Time:47:18
Info:Guitar Garden
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Passchendaele [Song Of The Mellotronia] (1:21), Evolution X (4:47), War Echo (6:38), Proggy Mountain Breakdown (3:41), Secret Space [Blues For R.S.] (5:13), The News At 11 (4:51), Waltz Of The Dead (2:27), Brahms (5:27), Mandolin Blue (5:27), Suddenly [A Four Part Improvisation) (2:39), The Groove Eternal (4:45)

This is the second album of Guitar Garden, a four piece instrumental band, making serious progressive guitar and keyboard music. This new album has turned into one of the most compelling instrumental prog rock platters that I can remember, although I must say that I think that the spacey keyboard passages are sometimes a bit too dominant. Therefore I prefer the guitar driven songs like Evolution X, Secret Space and Suddenly. Here lead guitarist Pete Prown plays some wonderful and intriguing solos. The title track is an homage to "Flokis" guitar player Roine Stolt, who Prown really admires. War Echo is a space rock like song with Pink Floyd-like slide guitar work, giving me gooseflesh every time I listen to it.

However not all the songs are filled with great guitar work and dreamy keys. Songs like Mandolin Blue – almost Country and Western like with mandolin – and Proggy Mountain Breakdown – also Country-flavoured - do not appeal to me at all. Most of the songs however have strong melodies and rather dramatic arrangements, making it enjoyable to listen to this album more often. Food for spacey guitar lovers and listeners who like lots of sound track keyboard melodies….

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

MARTIEN KOOLEN



The Bob Lazar Story - (sic)
The Bob Lazar Story - (sic)
Country of Origin:New Zealand
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2006
Time:30:14
Info:The Bob Lazar Story
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Levers Of Doom (4:02), ThreeFourFaster (2:47), Double Turn Double Safe (4:39), Heavy Sandwich (4:36), Greengold (4:02), Son Of Six (2:30), The Progressive Adventures Of Foodstool (3:49), I Didn't Get Anything Off That (3:42)

Well I have to say that when this CD first arrived with its rather simplistic, cartoonesque cover along with the band's rather un-appealing name, I didn't feel like I needed to rush to the CD player to listen to this new offering from New Zealand's The Bob Lazar Story. To be honest with the plethora of releases landing on the DPRP table these days Mr Lazar kept slipping down the pile. But thankfully it did make it into the player and it turned out to be quite an interesting release.

So who is, or what is Bob Lazar? Well primarily guitarist and composer Matt Deacon from Liverpool ?! Who now resides in Christchurch, New Zealand and with the help of Simon Fox (drums), Ross Devereux (sax) and Tanya Didham (spoken word) has produced these eight surprisingly diverse instrumental offerings.

The album opener is probably the best track for me, rising as it does from a fairly lengthy ambient intro before bouncing into full flow. At this point I might easily have put a SpaceRock label on the album and gradually let my interest dwindle accordingly. But rhythmically Levers Of Doom is an infectious piece and makes you just want to go along for the ride. Matt carefully crafts in a number of layered guitar lines nicely building up an appealing texture. And at just over four minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome. Following on from here we have the metallic vibes of ThreeFourFaster and unlike the title might suggest this isn't played at warp speed. In fact it has some of the trappings of a MathRock composition with a few early Sci Fi sounds, (courtesy of a theremin), lurking around the extremities. And that nicely links into Double Turn Double Safe with its driving heavy riffs, before gliding into a swampy country/blues slide solo.

OK so far so good. Heavy Sandwich surprisingly is more of a groove affair, that ain't heavy - gradually building and climaxing with a rather manic sax solo from Ross Devereux. Greengold on the other hand is probably the album's trickiest piece - off kilter drumming, odd metered guitar riffs, punctuating arpeggiated keys in a jazz fusion mould. Matt Deacon treats us to an extended instrumental section - the first on the album. Drawing from the previous piece the flow of the album is maintained through Son Of Six.

The Progressive Adventures Of Foodstool is as the literature describes - "weird and wacky" as it covers "several different directions". Employing a minimalistic approach to the sounds, opening with just piano, acoustic guitar and the gradual introduction of deft keyboard flourishes. Full circle with a brief Pierre Moerlen tuned percussive section - a Mellotron moment - and then a twisting melodic guitar interlude reminiscent of Mike Oldfield - and finally the wind carries us off and away.

I Didn't Get Anything Off That is one of those gradual building affairs, full of promise, but sadly doesn't really develop into anything. There's a hint of Pink Floyd in there, but not enough to write home about.

This mini album didn't quite push all the right buttons for me, but it showed that not all guitar orientated albums need endless flashy solos to be interesting. And it is interesting and certainly worth having a listen to the audio tracks on CD Baby and The Bob Lazar Story websites. Matt is currently putting together a band to perform live and presumably to record more material. As it stands sic makes an interesting taster and I would certainly be keen to hear more from TBLS in the future.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Galactic Pulse - The Final Endless
Galactic Pulse - The Final Endless
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:GP-3
Year of Release:2006
Time:39:41
Info:Galactic Pulse
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Celestial Incantation (0:38), Trapped In A Starlight (4:03), The Hands Made Beauty [To Shawn, Dime And Chuck] (1:37), Serne Clarity/The Inner Dominion (6:05), For Nothing Sake (7:27), The Final Endless (13:29), It's Never You (2:17), Musilu (3:45)

Galactic Pulse is the work of guitarist Tommi Rönkönharju who has been honing in on these tracks since his early demos of 2001. The Final Endless sees the music come to fruition in the form of eight instrumental guitar tracks. The musical palette employed by Tommi I suppose starts in a ProgMetal mould, although his abilities have made him seek out other forms of music and the inclusion of jazz fusion is also evident in many of the pieces.

The album opens with a brief atmospheric, almost classical, piece played on keyboards. A flurry of notes and then a driving riff takes us into Trapped In A Starlight, and I have to admit to having some early misgivings about this album. In the CD notes Tommi indicates that he wrote this track about "people who blindly believe that they know all the secretes of this existence without needing anymore answers". Best be wary not to fall into this all-knowing trap. Actually the piece develops nicely and the heavy riffing is balanced by some nifty piano and arranging. In contrast The Hands Made Beauty is light, solo electric guitar piece dedicated to recently departed guitar heroes. The transition from this track into Serne Clarity/The Inner Dominion is cool and gives a nice flow to the music. At this point I had certainly warmed to Tommi's compositionally skills and there are numerous highlights in this twisting, melodic rock/prog metal workout.

For Nothing Sake shows again the writing skills of Mr Rönkönharju - there is a lightness to the music here and the crunching guitars are foresaken. I suppose if the album contains one track that shows Tommi's abilities on the guitar then this is it. For me I tend to view tracks like For Nothing Sake as "guitar ballads". The guitar plays a catchy melody with long sustained notes, with the backing gradually building in intensity, eventually letting rip towards the end. I have heard thousands of 'em - I never tire of 'em and this one works for me.

The Final Endless at thirteen minutes plus, is the album's tour de force - think Ytse Jam as a starting point. The track contains numerous twists and turns, interwoven themes, mini solos, deft guitar flourishes... in fact the lot. Well almost. Good as this track is, it does expose the album's main weakness, the programming. Now most of the parts work, but the drumming is a bit of a killer for me. Not only the sound of them, which isn't brilliant, but for this type of material you really need something (someone) driving the music. So overall The Final Endless is a good piece of technical writing/music, just the execution doesn't do it justice.

The album concludes on a lighter note with two short tracks: It's Never You and Musilu are simple tunes played on electric guitar with delicate strings in the background.

And there we have it, a good debut album if not brilliant. I really wish I could be more enthusiastic about this release from Galactic Pulse, but sadly I just couldn't entirely get passed the drums, which is a real shame as it is evident that Tommi Rönkönharju has poured his heart and soul into his music and in particular this release. I wish him every success with this release and hope one day that he is able to record The Final Endless with a band. I think we could then see a pretty awesome album...

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY




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