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2009 : VOLUME 20
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


OSI - Blood
OSI - Blood
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:SPV
InsideOut
Catalogue #:SPV 28090 DCD
IOMSECD 309
Year of Release:2009
Time:47:36
Info:OSI
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Escape Artist (5:55), Terminal (6:33), False Start (3:09), We Come Undone (4:08), Radiologue (6:09), Be The Hero (5:56), Microburst Alert (3:53), Stockholm (6:46), Blood (5:26)

Ed Sander's Review

This is the third album by by Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater, Chroma Key) and Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), following Office Of Strategic Influence (2003) and Free (2006). I was very curious to hear if it would again hold a total change in style as they displayed with Free.

The Escape Artist is a nice heavy album opener with great guitar riffs that echoes the previous album's opener Sure You Will. It's on songs like these that the voice of Kevin Moore that so many people dislike, works best. Combined with the heavy music his style adds a certain darkness and devilish indifference to the atmosphere. The song has a nice breakdown with more a more electronic approach. Terminal could easily have been a track from Free since it has the same slowly building ambient feel and the main orchestration being electronics. With False Start it's back to the hard and heavy approach of the debut album; loads of guitar riffs and a couple of weird time changes.

The pattern gets predictable with We Come Undone, which goes back into electronic ambience with the minimalist arrangements of some of the songs on Free combining the weird sound effects of OSI. For some reason this one was a bit to monotonous and dragging for my taste. Radiologue is a nice example how the band can succeed in combining rock music and electronics in an effective way. Unfortunately the vocal melody sounds extremely familiar, giving me another 'haven't I heard this before' feeling, which certainly isn't the first one I've had while listening to this album.

Be The Hero is one of the few moments where the band sounds different for a change. After a spooky two minute intro we get a song that sounds like a mixture between current day Porcupine Tree and the greasy riff approach of Metallica. There's quite a lot happening in this song, which is a nice change from the often repetitive structure of OSI tunes. A successful experiment.

We finally get an instrumental with Microburst Alert. The lack of instrumentals was a weakness of the second album. Even if you can cope with Kevin's voice it does start to get on your nerves after a couple of songs. The instrumentals on the debut album were a perfect variation. Unfortunately I find Microburst Alert quite unappealing since it mainly is a series of rhythmic synth effects with sound effects of radio contact in between. Even though it does have a climax midway this instrumental misses the intensity of The New Math from the debut album.

The voice of Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt singing Stockholm is a welcome change, especially after the unconvincing instrumental. The melody is nice and Åkerfeldt's vocals full of emotion, but unfortunately the song does not really develop into something. It can therefore not be compared to shutDOWN from OSI on which Steven Wilson performed the vocals. I had looked forward to this track but it fails to meet my expectations. In slightly less than seven minutes it's over, not leaving a real lasting impression; the guitars at five and a half minutes simply comes in too late and lasts too short (less than a minute) to count as a real climax.

Blood is the album closer and unlike on the previous albums it's not an acoustic ditty this time. It's basically another mid tempo OSI track full of their trademark approaches. To be honest, by this time I have lost attention completely to really care what it sounds like. I simply want to put something else on.

As you've seen above, there's a lot of comparison with the previous two albums, and that's exactly the main problem with this new CD; the lack of real surprises. Free was a clear change in style from OSI with a much stronger focus on ambience and electronics, not saying that it did not contain a few real rockers. Many people were disappointed with this but I personally found it a nice change, especially since the compositions were mostly quite interesting and there was more variation than on the band's debut album. On Blood I can find no surprises whatsoever (with the possible partial exception of Be The Hero). The album sounds a bit ... no make that far too much like the stuff we've already heard. The band probably tried to end up with a sound somewhere between the first and second album but has thereby fallen into the trap of repeating itself. As such the novelty value of the band's sound is wearing out. It was innovative and experimental for two CDs but starts to sound standard now.

Whereas Mike Portnoy sat behind the drum kit on the first two albums Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison takes up the sticks on this album. As we know Gavin Harrison is a technically highly skilled drummer, but as with Porcupine Tree's later albums technically superior does not always mean better. I personally find the drum sound dry and lacking of feel on this album. I think I preferred Portnoy's drumming on the other albums.

To conclude, this is not a bad album. But it's not as far as interesting as I had expected and hoped it to be. I have to admit that while I still often play Free and occasionally OSI, I actually felt a lack of interest to slip this one back into the CD player after hearing it the first couple of times. I hope Moore and Matheos live up to the reputation for innovation they've built up with their previous two albums on their next release.

Andy Read's Review

First a bit of context. Fates Warning is possibly my favourite band of all time and Jim Matheos one of my favourite guitarists. I’ve also enjoyed a lot of the work that Kevin Moore has been involved with (early Dream Theater, Chroma Key and of course Fates Warning). So when I heard of a project involving the two musicians, I went straight out and grabbed a copy of the self titled debut – Office Of Strategic Influence. Yuk. Not what I expected. Way too much plinky-plonk electronica. Horrid processed vocals. Straight onto Ebay.

Three years later and the second album got little more than a cursory listen. That was until we were in Mallorca on family hols and my son found the promo CD in my car’s glove compartment and started playing it. A track called Home Was Good suddenly found itself on repeat play. I revisited the album with a freshly opened mind and for some reason it all clicked. OSI is its own beast. By disregarding the baggage and expectation from former projects, I was able to enjoy it for what it is – not what I wanted it to be.

With this in mind, I settled down with Blood - the third album from OSI. From the start it became clear this album continues the journey started on Free, away from experimental progressiveness, onto a form of music that’s all about mixing electronics and progressive metal.  And I’m enjoying it – on the whole.

Previous reviews have frequently drawn comparisons to Porcupine Tree. These have been cemented with the recruitment of percussion meister and Porcupine Tree member, Gavin Harrison. In a similar way to the arrival of Mark Zonder in Fates Warning, the employment of Harrison’s technique has taken the sound to a whole new level. The other noticeable change is that Matheos’ guitar plays a more consistently heavier role on Blood – in both senses of the word.

Among the songs themselves, there is a lot to look forward to.

Opener The Escape Artist is a good example. Among the sprinklings of electronica, the guitar is to the fore with a great groove and melodic riff that could have been lifted from either of the last two Fates albums. Moore’s doleful, robotic vocals try to keep it all as non-metal as metal can get.

Next up, Terminal replaces the electric guitar with an acoustic one, and swaps the riffs with electronics. It’s a slow and brooding tune which I quite like.

And the rest of the album pretty much continues in that manner - alternating between the two styles. False Start is a short, sharp hard rocker with a great hook, as is Be The Hero with its more poppy groove. Radiologue is another favourite. Up until now the songs have been rather one-dimensional. This is the first time the pair truly expands the original theme and groove. It’s a slow song which gets heavier as it progresses. The annoying, blipping disco thingies are just about restrained enough to be bearable for me.

However you need to wait until nearly the end to reach the standout point of Blood when the other new recruit makes his sole appearance. Stockholm was one of several songs given to Opeth frontman, Mikael Åkerfeldt to select from. He wrote and recorded the lyrics and melody from his Swedish home. Those expecting him to unleash death growls will be disappointed. Those who love his singing voice (like me) will lap this up. I’ll pinch a comment from something I read elsewhere as it sums this up perfectly.

"Imagine OSI doing a cover of one of the slow songs from Ghost Reveries with Åkerfeldt at the helm."

Again it’s all about expectation. Providing you don't expect it to be a death metal epic, then you're likely going to enjoy this. Built around Matheos’ acoustic guitar, the electronics add atmosphere and warmth to create an environment in which Åkerfeldt’s voice thrives. The standard and accessibility of this record rises noticeably with this one track. What if they created a whole album this way with guest singers?

Overall then, Blood is a strong, modern, progressive album. It’s the more ambient, electronic-based songs which I still tend to skip. Microburst Alert, the title track, and We Come Undone all fall into that category. These will be more to the tastes of fans of the debut who may return my thoughts in relation to the likes of False Start and The Escape Artist.

It’s far from my normal listening, but of the three OSI albums, the greater prominence of the guitar makes it easily the most-suited to my tastes. Definitely not an album to be discarded to EBay or the glove compartment of my car.

(There is a special edition of Blood, with a three track bonus CD. As these songs aren’t include in the promo pack, I am unable to comment on whether it’s worth splashing out the extra.)

Conclusions:

ED SANDER : 6.5 out of 10
ANDY READ
7 out of 10



Brett Kull - The Last Of The Curlews
Brett Kull - The Last Of The Curlews
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2008
Time:51:48
Info:Brett Kull
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Acadia Gulls (7:12), Lullabies And Starlings (4:49), Hey Horizon (4:49), If She Could Be Who She Wanted (3:58), Nightingale (4:31), Halos (2:18), Love Is On The Discarded Street (3:50), Become A Ghost (2:56), Autumn Endings (3:48), Last Of The Curlews (3:47), There Was A Place For Us (3:53), Windows Of Light (6:10)

Brett Kull really doesn’t need any introduction. He is the guitar player, singer and songwriter with Echolyn; a band that seems to become better with every album they release. But alongside Echolyn, Kull does several other projects, releasing albums with Still, Always Almost..., and Grey Eye Glances, which he joined in 1997, and toured extensively through the States with. And finally Kull started his own businesses with Farmhouse Recordings, MM3 and Area 602. Recording and producing other people's music, writing music for films, audio books etc. If you own the special version of Amor Vincit Omnia by Pure Reason Revolution you can see that Brett Kull was responsible for recording and mastering the Nearfest tracks on the DVD. The Last Of The Curlews is Kull’s second solo album, following up his 2002 release Orange-ish.

A good song with strong melodies and choruses is absolute essential with all the bands that Kull works with. With Echolyn mixed with progressive influences, with Still mixed with hard rock and progressive influences and with Grey Eye Glances mixed with pop, rock and Americana. With his second solo album Kull works within the singer-songwriter part of the musical universe.

The title of the album comes from a story by Fred Bodsworth and although Brett Kull never read the book, he remembers watching a cartoon version when he was a kid. The story is about the annihilation of a bird called Eskimo Curlew and the cartoon follows the last two birds desperately searching each other. The sad ending of the story has always stayed with Brett Kull and he feels that the songs on The Last Of The Curlews somehow exemplifies the songs on the album. The sleeve design of the album features the two birds. It’s a beautiful painting by Tara Jane O’Neil.

The songs on The Last Of The Curlews are all of a great quality and in comparison to Orange-ish I feel that not only the Curlews songs are stronger, but that a lot more attention was paid to the arrangements. The quality of the songs and the clever arrangements reminded me of artists like Aimee Mann and Michael Penn but also lesser known singer songwriters like Jason Falkner and Jon Brion. And above all the album sounds much better than Orange-ish which is, I think, largely due to the experiences Kull has accumulated over the years. Curlews is even more a solo effort than his first solo album as he is helped only by Echolyn colleague Paul Ramsey on drums and some guests on backing vocals.

Acadia Gulls is an impressive album opener, clocking over seven minutes the song alternates between verses that are dominated by Ramsey's heavy drumming and Brett's slide guitar, and a beautiful chorus where the piano takes centre stage. And in the midst of it all Brett Kull's beautiful voice. Now if this song still contained some references to Echolyn the rest of the album does not. Lullabies And Starlings is a beautiful pop song with Beach Boys influences. Each time I hear this song it brings a smile to my face. Hey Horizon has a melancholy feel that is emphasized by the use of a Hammond and slide guitar. Again the catchiness of the song is addictive and when you hear this song you’ll be singing it all day.

This high quality of the songs remains throughout the album and as I said before, also the clever arrangements and the open, crystal clear production that enables you to hear all the instruments and everything that goes on in each song contribute positively. As with Molly Deckers background vocals in If She Could Be Who She Wanted which also has a beautiful guitar solo during the chorus at the end of the song.

If I heard it correctly Kull also seems to make use of a Chamberlin (a sort of American Mellotron) to add some cool sounds to the songs. For example the weird sounds in the background at the start of Halos along with the flutes during the verses. The song ends with an excellent short guitar solo. Become A Ghost is another killer song, which has “hit potential” written all over it. Great verses in which Kull shows he can play bass as well and befitting the great drumming from Ramsey. At the risk of repeating myself, the same applies to the equally strong Autumn Ending (I just love those la la la’s at the end). It really only happens very rarely that I listened to an album that seemed to get better with every song. The final song “Windows of light” starts with the sound of a film projector and spoken word over a desolate piano motif with added percussion and strings (Chamberlin?). So beautiful! And then after a little more then two minutes the song opens up and Brett sings

‘Through it all I see the windows of light and we are golden’

With Windows Of Light this impressive album gets an impressive ending.

And now comes the difficult part. How do we rate this album. As it’s not prog I feel I can’t give it a DPRP recommended rating but with The Last Of The Curlews Brett Kull really has made a beautiful, melancholic but through it all, a very uplifting album that I can recommend to anybody who loves good songs. Even if it does not fit the “progressive rock” label. This album deserves a large audience.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

LEO KOPERDRAAT



Chris Thompson – Timeline
Chris Thompson – Timeline
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:VP452CD
Year of Release:2009
Time:76:29
Info:Chris Thompson
Samples:N/A

Tracklist: Land Of The Long White Cloud (2:59), Radio Waves (3:28), Dust In The Light (5:39), Gods Own Country (3:20), Forever (4:27), Don't Stop (3:35), She's Not There (3:46), Broad Daylight (2:54), If You Remember Me (3:00), For You (3:12), You're The Voice (4:08), Blinded By The Light (9:37), Davey's On The Road Again (6:21), Mighty Quinn (7:36), Questions (4:31), Zu Leben (2:34), You're The Voice [Classical Version] (4:45)

There are few art rock bands that have enjoyed commercial success in the singles market as much as Manfred Mann’s Earthband did in the 70’s. A good deal of that success can be attributed to Manfred’s shrewd choice of material, often covering and adding unexpected proggy dimensions to songs by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Another main contributing factor in my view is the presence of Chris Thompson, surely one of the best voices in rock. More recently Thompson has made a name for himself as guest singer on numerous albums by artists like Mike Oldfield, Steve Hackett, Alan Parsons, Sarah Brightman and most famously Jeff Wayne’s The War Of The Worlds. Since 1981 he has also produced numerous solo albums with Timeline serving as an abridged compilation of his output so far. As such the tracks are subdivided into five separate categories namely ‘The Brand New’, ‘The Unexpected’, ‘The Fan Stuff’, ‘The Concert’ and ‘Bonus Tracks’.

Looking at the track listing first impressions would suggest that this was an incongruous, hastily put together collection. In addition to his solo work it includes several covers plus the best known tunes from the Manfred Mann days, albeit in a live context. Surprisingly it proves to be quite a cohesive combination. The opening five songs come under ‘The Brand New’ heading although as this album was originally compiled in 2005 that is not quite true. Co-written by Thompson, they mostly fall into the radio friendly, soft rock category but are none the worse for that. Forever in particular is a real tear jerker, when he croons the chorus line “Have I lost you forever?” there’s scarcely a dry eye in the house. It clearly demonstrates that in addition to his golden larynx Thompson is capable of writing a pretty mean tune or two. And his songs are up against some fairly stiff competition including Fleetwood Mac’s Don't Stop, The Zombies’ She's Not There and Bruce Springsteen’s For You which are all covered here.

If You Remember Me is one of Thompson’s better known recordings but it’s a tad too sickly sweet for my tastes. The arrangement is also like most every other Carole Bayer Sager/Marvin Hamlisch penned song especially their Bond tune Nobody Does It Better. More on the mark is the sing-along anthem You're The Voice. It’s often assumed that this was written by John Farnham who had a huge worldwide hit with it in 1986. It was in fact co-written by Thompson and his version here sounds just as memorable as Farnham’s. The album concludes with an alternate ‘classical version’ of the same tune which turns out to be a bit of a disappointment. Recorded with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the rousing vocal chant is replaced by limp sounding strings. A real opportunity missed in my view, had brass been added instead it would have been closer in spirit to the strident tone of the original.

The four Manfred songs that make up ‘The Concert’ section are part of a live recording made at Tromso, Norway in November 2004. The full show is also available from Voiceprint as a DVD under the title One Hot Night In The Cold. Thompson, accompanied by the Mads Eriksen band does a reasonably faithful recreation of the originals although Mighty Quinn is taken at a slightly quicker tempo and Davy's On The Road Again is performed in a higher key. Only the splashy cymbal sound and the audience joining in for the chorus give it away as a live performance. Also the extended guitar and synth solos from the two leads appear a tad over indulgent without the benefit of the visuals.

As compilations go Timeline is better than most and at seventy-six plus minutes it’s certainly on the generous side. It also fits its intended bill which is to provide a stop gap prior to the release of a new solo album from Thompson anticipated soon. Certainly ‘The Brand New’ songs bode well for the next release which should prove to be a hit with his legion of loyal supporters. Had this been a mainstream rock site then this particular release could have earned a DPRP recommendation. However this is not the DMRP and despite Thompson’s history this remains relatively proglite. It’s still a very listenable collection nonetheless and if like me you have a partner that doesn’t share your love of prog you may find, as I did, that this is an agreeable compromise for those shared car journeys.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Marc Carlton – Reflex Arc
Marc Carlton – Reflex Arc
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:DR8455
Year of Release:2008
Time:64:35
Info:Marc Carlton
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: One (5:17), Two (4:47), Three (3:25), Four (5:48), Five (2:39), Six (5:39), Seven (2:10), Eight (2:37), Nine (2:54), Ten (4:31), Eleven (4:01), Twelve (2:55), Thirteen (3:50), Fourteen (3:54), Fifteen (7:49), Sixteen (2:10)

Although he is a new name to me, performer and composer Marc Carlton has been responsible for at least seven “atmospheric electronic music” recordings since 1998. His fifth Reflex Arc originally appeared in 2005 under his own label. Courtesy of Musea it received a new lease of life towards the end of last year which also brought it to the attention of the DPRP. He states on his website that the album is made up of mainly improvised recordings which I found difficult to believe. Not because I doubt his abilities in that area, but rather because the music is superbly arranged with some very strong and memorable melodies.

In the sleeve notes it suggests that this CD “be listened to in the providence of aural sanctity” which I interpreted as on my own with the lights turned down low through headphones. This I duly complied with, together with a glass of my favourite tipple (an optional extra). Using acoustic guitars (folk and classical), electric guitars, piano, synths and percussion, Carlton weaves an audio tapestry of tonal colours with each track drifting unconsciously into the next. The rather nondescript track titles reflect what is intended as a “continuous suite of sixteen parts”. That doesn’t prevent each piece having its own individual identity however several of which are worth singling out for special mention.

Such gems include a ringing Fripp flavoured guitar theme to open the album (One) and a pastoral acoustic guitar interlude that could have been lifted from one of Anthony PhillipsPrivate Parts & Pieces collections (Four). This same piece develops into a beautifully haunting guitar and keys melody that sounds like a cross between Jon Anderson’s Song Of Search (from Olias Of Sunhillow), Mike Oldfield’s Celtic Rain (from Voyager) and Ant Phillips’ The Anthem (from Tarka). Very fine company indeed. The musicians amongst you will appreciate the classical flavoured Six with Spanish guitar playing over synthetic percussion bringing to mind Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez and praise doesn’t come much higher than that.

It’s almost breathtaking the number of different moods Carlton is able to produce through his instrumental versatility. The stately synth theme of Eleven for example conjures up the image of a vast craft drifting slowly through infinite space and would have sat comfortably on any Tangerine Dream album or indeed the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Thirteen on the other hand is centred around an evocative solo piano delivering a simple but effective melody. The albums longest track Fifteen makes good use of its time with a rapid but melodic keys led tune over sustained organ chords with ethnic percussive effects and a lush choral backdrop. The concluding Sixteen reprises the haunting theme from Four with a sumptuous synth tone reminiscent of James Horner’s lyrical music from Titanic, providing a suitably cinematic finale.

The DPRP receives a consistent stream of one man recording projects the excellence of which never ceases to amaze and delight. This is one such effort where Carlton’s labours could so easily be the work of several highly skilled musicians. As is typically the case it’s an all instrumental affair but this is one instance where the presence of vocals would have been an intrusion. The net result is a sound that’s both expansive and tasteful in its execution. I particularly admire his deft guitar technique (especially classical) and also the revealing production ensuring that “the providence of aural sanctity” is not lost when the disc is transferred to the car.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Spaced Out - Evolution
Spaced Out - Evolution
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:CD
Record Label:Unicorn Digital
Catalogue #:UNCR-5057
Year of Release:2008
Time:46:85
Info:Spaced Out
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Biomechanic I (4:39), Fun Key (5:03), Power Struggle (5:27), Octavium (4:56), Nemesis (5:59), Biomechanic II (3:50), Furax II (4:38), Replication Junction (6:35), Polymorph (8:23)

I had no previous knowledge of the band but the name and title of the album appealed to me on various levels. I was expecting an Ozrics/Gong/Spatialize thing, but it turns out that the music is very different. The band go to vast lengths in the CD cover to explain how we usually listen to music and how they regard their own music. They confess that in their music you will find: "polyrhythm, groove, odd timing, rhythm manipulation..." Sounds good to me, alot of the things that I admire in music. I can't compare it to previous albums, but this is very technical muso music that incorporates chugging metal-esque head nodding riffs, crazy time signatures to confuse Terry Bozzio, and bits of prog. It's an intense experience where musical ideas and rhythms collide against each other.

The second track Fun Key, could come from some sort of Liquid Tension Experiment on steroids, but with that something really special missing. It's all supremely technical, every note precisely executed. That's just how I would expect when each band member records their own parts at home. The band do maintain that it the aim is also to make it recreatable on stage. Gone are the days of producing Led Zep II and Black Sabbath LP's in 1 week! There are some really great moments where you think, wow, that was great and everything gels, but... It evokes the kind of excitement when someone in your favourite sports team executes a magnificent piece of skill, looks like they are about to score, but then hit the corner flag from 10 yards out.

Track 3 Power Struggle might even make Victor Wooten pick up his bass to practice, it's that impressive. Technical drums that many greats would struggle with I reckon. I take my hat off to these guys, boy they can play and play and play, but as you and I know, the music that gets you going isn't always based on how technical it is. I am realising that this isn't for everyone, even all prog fans aren't the same :-)

Track 6 Biomechanic has some of the most crazy riffing going on, which makes you stop and think, how did they do that? How did they even think of that? Then I realised something else, the sound is too clean, too polished. Those keyboard sounds dated and would probably bring a cringe to Ed Wynne's and Richard Barbieri's faces. The distorted guitar needs to be a bit more 'manly' to give it a bit more authority. Having said that, track 9, Polymorph is unreservedly fantastic and any metal-progger should listen to this track... And yes I did hear the hidden part of the track at the end :-) You might buy the CD just on the strength of this track.

I tried to imagine that if this was a King Crimson album, would my view be different? Some small parts of this actually wouldn't be completely out of place, but done differently, obviously.

It's definitely not for the faint hearted, that's for sure. Perhaps it's too fast and frantic to get a real grip on unless you are really versed in this kind of music? I have listened to this album many times because I know that it is good. The ideas are great, the musicianship outstanding, but I have the impression that for many people it may leave them a bit cold. It seems to lack a bit of drama and tension that is created by space in the music. For that reason I can't fully recommend it. Perhaps fans of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment (and possibly Bozzio/Levin/Stevens) who wish that they would just make a very technical album would enjoy this. It's probably not metal enough for general 'metalers' either. It sits in a niche area, which only you know if you will give it a try. Music is so accessible these days, all music is worth a listen.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

IAN BUTLER



Rick Miller - Falling Through Rainbows
Rick Miller - Falling Through Rainbows
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:CD
Record Label:Unicorn Digital
Catalogue #:UNCR-5067
Year of Release:2009
Time:46:37
Info:Rick Miller
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Journey (7:56), The Fortunate One (4:32), Rose Coloured Halls (4:54), Everything Dies (4:07), Thoughts Of Suicide (4:55), Spanish Sun (5:24), Your Ghost Tonight (5:15), The Days Of Hieronymus (4:22), This Heart Of Mine (5:12)

Edwin Roosjen's Review

For Rick Miller's debut album we have to go back to the beginning of the eighties, where his new age instrumental keyboard album Starsong sold over 30,000 copies. The next album came many years later and it was not until about five years ago Rick Miller took the path of progressive rock. His music has many influences from Pink Floyd and Moody Blues, more leaning towards singer-song-writer than rock. Rick Miller also creates paintings which he uses as an album cover. My promo copy contains a different image than is provided by the record company that recently signed Rick Miller, the new album cover looks like a cut out from the cover of his album The One.

The music on this album is like a mellow dream, occasionally an outburst but mainly gentle music, whilst the vocals of Rick Miller sound a bit like a combination of Justin Hayward and Arjen Lucassen. In combination with the clear guitar and mellow pace of the music Rick Miller's voice gives the music soul and a gentle character. The guitar solos are much like that of David Gilmour. However the combination of mellow music and David Gilmour like solos does not infer it sounds anything like Gilmour's latest album On An Island. With the complete style of Rick Miller differing too much, only the typical solos are present on Falling Through Rainbows.

Every song has it's own unique twist, if this was not the case then this album would sprawl on continuously, with the lyrics in every chorus are of the kind that keep coming back to you. That is the strong side on the whole album, every song has a soulful vocal part that keeps haunting you. The down side however is that from beginning to end the music is very mellow and does not differ very much in style.

The opening song The Journey starts in a true Pink Floyd style with a keyboard sound as a base for Floydian guitar solos. Almost reaching eight minutes this song holds the most lengthy solos on the album. And it would be easy to say that the rest of the album sounds like a shortened version of this opening song with varied themes that comes pretty close. Each song varies slightly in pace but this album never comes close to a rock song. Your Ghost Tonight is the "heaviest" song on the album. Thoughts Of Suicide starts very mellow, which half way through has a guitar piece which reminds me of a Mike Oldfield song that I cannot recollect the title of. From that point the song becomes more uplifting, which is strange considering the title.

It's hard to pick a favourite song - if you like music you can play back to front and that you really need to look at the number on the CD-player to find out which song is playing - then this may be an album for you.

Falling Through Rainbows is a strange album that is hard to categorize. To re-cap the music is very mellow and throughout the whole album the style does not change, with the opening song summing up the style of the whole album - mellow music with a great deal of lengthy Pink Floyd like solos. Each song has it's own distinctive chorus that sticks in your head, so it would have been nice if the other parts of the song were also distinctive.

Jeffrey Terwilliger's Review

Who is Rick Miller? I didn't know, either. But I'm sure getting to know now.

This is one of those rare albums that grabbed me almost right away - after 2 listens I was hooked. This album is very sombre and bluesy, sounding like a mix of Pink Floyd and Riverside in mood. The Unicorn promo also mentions the Moody Blues, and yeah, I hear that, too - Rick's voice even sounds a bit like Justin Hayward. Rick himself plays most of the instruments (guitars, keyboards, bass) with guests doing the flute, drums, and some real string parts. Kane Miller is credited with violin and guitar. I don't know if he is a relation to Rick, nor which one plays the fantastic electric guitar parts that strongly evoke Gary Moore - Track 4 sports a great example of that near the end. So if you can imagine Nick Mason, the late Richard Wright, Justin Hayward, Mike Pinder and Gary Moore all playing in a super-group together, it might sound like this. No wonder my ears sat up and paid attention!

Although the soundcraft seems none too difficult (there are no Dream Theater antics here, and basic 4/4 and 3/4 all the way through) Rick's primary strength is his strong sense of melody. There are several that will simply slay you - you know, stick in your mind until you think you are going to go nuts. IMO that is the thing that separates the Pro's from the Joe's in this business. A quick review of the artist bio reveals that Rick has been doing mood music for years, and is now doing prog. So I suppose all that experience paid dividends here.

A short word about the album cover - its, um, not very good. Sorry, Rick, because I know it's your creation, but the portrait (the one seen on promo website, with your face sideways on a reflective surface) is much more effective at visualizing the content on the CD.

There are plenty of releases that have good good covers, or good production, or talented playing, or great vocals and lyrics, or all of it, but are boring because the music conveys no meaning. I have to say that Rick Miller isn't at the top of the heap in those important respects - perhaps in the top 25%. - but his music has that something you connect with, that heart, and that makes all the difference.

NB: Subsequent to Edwin's review, Rick Miller signed to Unicorn Digital. The cover-artwork has changed on several occasions - the image pictured here was the last one to be issued.

Conclusions:

EDWIN ROOSJEN : 6.5 out of 10
JEFFREY TERWILLIGER
8 out of 10



Claire Vezina – Cyber Neptune
Claire Vezina – Cyber Neptune
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:CD
Record Label:Unicorn Digital
Catalogue #:UNCR-5059
Year of Release:2008
Time:46:85
Info:Claire Vezina
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Cyber Neptune (2:23), Meluzine (5:05), Naufrage (6:30), Il Pleut Sur La Ville (3:37), Jeanne (0:06), Dans Ton Monde Cyber (3:25), 11h52 (4:05), Soleil (5:00), Les Soldats (3:25), De l’Ouest, Une Brise Souffle (3:27), Tant De Guerres (4:49), Cyber Neptune II (2:24

A singer/songwriter from Quebec, this is the fourth album from the pen, piano and voice of Claire Vezina over a 15 year period.

On the surface, this dozen-strong collection has a very singer/songwriter, pop/rock appeal. However, dig deeper and the instrumentation in particular has a more progressive-flavour. This is aided and abetted by the rotation of piano, keyboard and mellotron as primary accompaniments to Claire’s voice. Some electronic percussion and slide guitar provide additional layers of atmosphere. The lyrics hold a lot of the interest. The album’s title gives a clue towards the general themes. ‘Cyber’ apparently reflects the modern world, daily life and virtual reality, whereas ‘Neptune’ stands for water, imagination and depth. My improving French detects themes of life and death, love and war. There are tales about urban life (Il Pleut Sur La Ville), legend (Méluzine), and contemporary dilemmas (Jeanne, Les Soldats), however it is Claire who stands central to the album. Her voice sits in the mid-range with a husky breathiness which more than suits the mood and lyrics. She is ably assisted by Serge Poulin who adds guitar, drums and bass synth to his production and song writing credits.

There is a pretty even mix of the balladic Meluzine and Il Pleut Sur La Ville and the more poppy rocky melodies of Tant De Guerres and Jeanne. The song writing could benefit from a few more addictive hooks – only half the tracks really stick in the memory over repeat plays. A couple of tracks (Les Soldats And Naufrage) leave no impression at all. The ambient 11h52 and its abundance of ‘Ahh Ahhs’ only really warrants repeat hits on the skip button.

A couple of the best songs are annoyingly cut short before they grow to their full potential. Whilst the title track is split into two parts either end of the album, the way it opens the album holds such promise, it is somewhat criminal to cut it short as its skips past the measly two-minute mark.

I don’t think people seeking a dose of prog will be this album’s biggest audience. Cyber Neptune sits firmly on the laid back, thoughtful, easy listening side of the spectrum. However those who'd enjoy a female French singer who is able to pen thoughtful music will find plenty to savour here.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

ANDY READ



Antihéroe - Entretejido Cósmico
Antiheroe - Entretejido Cosmico
Country of Origin:Argentina
Format:CD
Record Label:Viajero Inmovil
Records
Catalogue #:ANTI032VIR
Year of Release:2008
Time:51:30
Info:Antihéroe
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Ciudad Zombi [Parte 2] (2:38), Ciudad Zombi [Parte 1] (4:02), Anos De Apatia (6:19), Sonambula (9:41), Indios Electronicos (4:39), Devian (5:38), Que Rest I Till (6:42), Lo Viejo Por Venir (5:00), La Esquina De Las Corazonadas (8:51)

Antihéroe are a four piece band hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina who trace their origins back to the mid 90s with the release of a self titled debut in 1997. This newer stage for the band re-forming around 2004. On Entretejido Cósmico the band consists of guitarist/composer Darío Iscaro along with José Maria "Txema" Torrabadella (trumpet), Guille Marengo (bass) and Jose Franco (drums & electronic percussion). I say on Entretejido Cósmico as Darío Iscaro's website lists other contributors to the Antihéroe ensemble.

Introductions over and straight on to the main course, the music, and here we are steeped in the traditions of jazz, albeit modern jazz and jazz rock. Incorporated in this are cultural and ethnic influences as well as those gleened from noted western proggers and fusioneers. For instance 80s era King Crimson came to mind during the opening of Anos De Apatia, whereas the prolific Danish composer/multi-instrumentalist Robin Taylor came to the forefront in the riffy opening of Ciudad Zombi [Parte 2]. Elsewhere there were hints at Weather Report, although without Zawinul's playful input.

But these are merely pointers and certainly Mr Iscaro & Co plough their own ground and a fairly tricky ground it is too. The musicianship is first rate, however it is the compositions and performances that I feel will leave all but the hardened jazz fans cold, as I personally struggled with this album. Not due to lack of admiration for the skills of the individual musicians, but more down to the often dissonant and avant-garde nature of the pieces. Certainly Torrabadella's trumpet was well executed, but oh so tiring on the ears.

The bulk of the CD is taken up by fairly free flowing jazzy tunes with each of the instrumentalists able to take on fairly lengthy solo sections. However following Devian, Entretejido Cósmico takes on a more palatable and less frenetic approach. Now I doubt even these pieces would appeal across a broad spectrum of prog listeners, but certainly they were more in tune with this reviewer's ears. Perhaps a different track order on the CD may have been advisable... as the space given in these pieces allowed the music to breathe more easily...

So and as mentioned, I did struggle with this album, however watching some of the pieces performed on Youtube (viewable from the band's MySpace and linked above) I certainly had a growing admiration for Darío Iscaro and friends. Guitar buffs may like to checkout the playful footage of Gentileza De O-bri. This aside Entretejido Cósmico is only likely to appeal to those avant-jazzers amongst our readership.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY




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