REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Frequency Drift – Ghosts...
Tracklist: Crows (2:04), Dreams (11:55), Sadness (4:12), Tempest (10:04), Ringshine (2:58), Dance No More (9:59), Mermaid (9:46), Come (7:54)
The third album of cinematic prog from German band Frequency Drift follows the previous two part release, Personal Effects, which got mixed DPRP reviews in 2008 and
2010, the latter part faring the better. Ghosts..., however, is an altogether fine album of widescreen music that achieves highly in every department.
The low-key but quite beautiful Crows is a piano and acoustic guitar scene setter, serene and tranquil before the album proper starts with the lengthy Dreams. The structures here bring Camel to mind and this is underlined by guitarist Christian Hack often referencing Andy Latimer and deploying occasional flute to good effect. Additionally, the guest violin of Frank Schmitz also points towards Camel and to the way the instrument has been previously used by Rush.
Singer Antje Auer is excellent throughout, supplying wonderfully emotionally and breathy vocals which possess real power when she is called upon to deliver it. The use of double tracking for the vocals is very impressive, Auer complementing herself beautifully and adding another facet to the music which is all provided by keyboardist Andreas Hack, English lyrics coming from Hack and the rest of the band, the only exception being the instrumental Ringshine written by guest Nerissa Schwarz for her electroharp which has a very interesting sound that is well used throughout the album. My copy didn’t come with a lyric sheet so I won’t comment on the content, suffice to say it all works well with the music making for a very satisfying listen.
Sadness is a more straight ahead rocker that features good use of keys and echo guitar before Tempest, another lengthy number filled with atmosphere building from the piano and synth start, the twin guitars of Hack and Sebastian Koch working well together. The drums are interesting and the guitar solos have elements of Steve Howe to them. With Auer’s vocals again impressive this is developing into an album with real legs.
There is an overarching sense of melancholy about the album, similar in feel to areas of Pink Floyd’s work and this continues into Dance No More which features a wonderfully toned guitar upfront before an increase in volume gives a metallic edge. Auer remains serene as the track builds through a number of changes to a great peak before dying away with electroharp and a quiet vocal.
With synths setting the scene during Mermaid electroharp and percussion support a double tracked vocal that possesses plenty of character. The violin gets a wild solo spot and the metal element returns with drums giving things a live feel before the finale turns things in quite a Celtic direction.
Come ties things up in some style with real depth, electric violin adding so much and Auer turning in another great performance with a sense of longing. The tempo builds for an instrumental section that sounds a bit like IQ to me at times, Auer returning for the final word.
For me this album is a great find and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know it. My interest was sparked from the start but I have really grown to love it the more I’ve listened to it. The performances are superb and the writing excellent with a good ear for sounds that will bring the material to life - special mention for the violin and electroharp which are inspired guest choices that will hopefully be further integrated into the band for future releases – and in Auer Frequency Drift have a very talented focal point. Excellent.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
North Sea Radio Orchestra – I A Moon
Tracklist: Morpheus Miracle Maker (5:21), I A Moon (2:24), Guitar Miniature #3 (1:43), Heavy Weather (8:10), Berliner Luft (6:12), Morpheus Drone (2:25), The Earth Beneath Our Feet (5:32), Ring Moonlets (3:23), When Things Fall Apart (4:32), Mitte Der Welt (6:09)
This is my first foray into the eclectic chamber-folk world of London’s NSRO, who exude an aura of high intellect while still retaining a charming playfulness. Here we find that Alice in Wonderland meets the Incredible String Band, COB, Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten, Michael Nyman and Kate Bush on a staircase to infinity and produces some quintessentially English and captivating chamber classical-folk whimsy.
Whereas on previous albums NSRO have apparently used classic English poetry as lyrics, this time guitarist/composer Craig Fortnam and wife Sharron have penned lyrics for Sharron to sing in her inimitable style, her voice a cross between a trad folk singer and a chorister. The instrumentation is a delicate construct of chamber instruments – cello, bassoon, clarinet, violin and viola, joined by piano, acoustic guitar and occasionally by subtle electronica. The whole is a beguiling affair with ethereal lyrics that sound distant and intimate all at once.
Title song I A Moon has an initial melody line that sounds not unlike something Henry VIII might have written on the way to Greensleeves, I kid you not. An implied lyrical sigh on being lonely but still connected through pull of the hearth it is a winsome but alluring song.
Backed by the not unpleasant quiet drone of what I assume is a hurdy gurdy, Guitar Miniature #3 has a very Steve Howe feel to it, while Berliner Luft is an interesting break in the style of what has gone before. Deceptively starting off with a gentle chamber orchestra melody, it takes a sharp turn left and emerges as Stereolab taking on Neu! unplugged. Very minimal percussion and driven by entirely acoustic instruments, it is the soundtrack to a steam train journey. Doing the motorik thing without a drummer takes some imagining but the song title is a strong indicator of where it’s coming from.
The album is steeped in a pervading air of melancholy, as the mournful lone cello of Morpheus Drone attests, and this track along with its predecessor form a natural break in the album. The song arrangements return on The Earth Beneath Our Feet which manages to be both sad and hopeful at once, as lines like “We don’t need our bodies anymore / we don’t remember what they’re for / we are the earth beneath are feet / we are the things we want to believe,” illuminate. Mitte Der Welt (Centre Of The World) closes the album with what would have been a math rock melody line were it played on electric guitars instead of by a chamber orchestra. Layer upon layer of quiet but insistent instrumentation builds to a stop before returning again and repeating the cycle and fading away as the Moon sets below the horizon to recommence its own infinitely repeated journey. Very nice indeed.
I A Moon serenely passes by in its own orbit, oblivious of trends and any need to be commercial, and is all the better for that. NSRO are a genuine curiosity and one that deserves attention. Having a preference for playing in churches and libraries where their delicate and otherworldly sound is no doubt lent great support by the surroundings, I can only hope that I get to see them play soon.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Gazpacho - London
|Country of Origin:||Norway|
|Year of Release:||2011|
|Time:||CD 1 49:58|
CD 2 60:44
CD 1: Mass For Atropos I (3:57), Defense Mechanism (6:20), Snail (4:48), Vera (7:42), River (6:29), Desert Flight (7:05), The Walk, Part 1 (7:53), The Walk, Part 2 (5:44)
CD 2: Splendid Isolation (8:29), Mass For Atropos II (2:04), Missa Atropos (8:47), Dream Of Stone (17:32), Chequered Light Buildings (6:29), Upside Down (11:11), Winter Is Never (6:12)
Snatching triumph from the jaws of adversity, this is an excellent double live recording from the gig-that-almost-never-happened.
I am a relative new comer to the Gazpacho cause. The band was formed in Oslo in 1996, but for various reasons I don’t think I’d even heard one of their songs until a Dutch friend sent me a few tracks from their most recent studio album
Missa Atropos, suggesting it may be a piece of music that I’d like to get better acquainted with. He was correct and I’ve since been working my way through the band’s discography of six albums and a live DVD.
Having whetted my appetite, I just happened to be in London when this Norwegian sextet stopped-off as part of their Missa Atropos Tour of 2011.
There was a sudden power loss at the long-established Dingwall’s venue just as the band was about to come on stage. Due to the amount of electronics used in their show, the outage almost led to it never taking place. A 70-minute delay merely served to heighten anticipation amongst the crowd.
Speaking to keyboardist and producer Thomas Andersen for a recent edition of the DPRP Radio Show he revealed that there no intentions to produce a live album from this show. It was recorded by the venue and given to the band as they left. It was not until later, when he had a chance to listen to it, that Thomas realized it deserved a wider audience. I’m delighted, as this is the first live album I have from a show I actually attended. And as the
DPRP review of the gig claims, it was a damn fine performance by the band.
Having now listened to Gazpacho in more detail, I do think they are a band that is even more emotional and captivating in a live setting. Even tracks that I love as studio recordings, such as River, Winter Is Never and Vera, have extra layers unveiled thanks to the edge and vulnerability before a live audience.
One of the main reasons to put out a live album is to present some of your best material to your fans in a new way and to attract new fans to your back catalog. This live album serves both purposes well.
The track listing sprinkles the new Missa Atropos music between a celebration of the epics of the past. It is a faithful recreation of the two-hour show with only the second encore of The Secret missing from this disc.
For existing fans the quality of the recording is equal to the quality of the performances from the whole band. The reinterpretations of studio favourites plus the extra atmospheres from a live show will make this an essential purchase.
If you’ve been curious about this band but never taken the plunge then this is a comprehensive best-of that will serve as a great introduction.
For me it is simply a wonderful reminder of a great gig. London more than whets my appetite for the new album, Ghosts, and the accompanying tour in the Spring.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Druckfarben - Druckfarben
|Country of Origin:||Canada|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: ELPO (2:34), Influenza (5:24), Smaller Wooden Frog (4:37), Dead Play Awake (7:33), Walk Away (3:03), Seems So Real (4:28), Nat Nayah (5:40), Sons Of Anakim (3:55), Nonchalant (7:33)
Jez Rowden's Review
From Toronto, Canada, the five members of Druckfarben named themselves after a mysterious word they found stencilled onto some barrels of printing ink (naturally!), sharing a love of progressive rock despite varying backgrounds and experiences over many years. Drummer Troy Feener had been in a classic rock cover group and managed to persuade guitarist Ed Bernard, keyboardist Will Hare and singer Phil Naro (ex-Talas alongside the legendary Billy Sheehan) to join him to produce a Yes show. Bassist Peter Murray was unable to play but attended the gig in September 2007 where Druckfarben was born.
Originally performing prog covers this self-titled debut uses many of the sound triggers of the likes of Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Kansas and Rush to produce a stunning and cutting edge album that immediately impresses but has the depth and imagination to keep the listener hooked through many spins.
An Emerson, Lake & Palmer flourish of keys and percussion unsurprisingly opens the brief yet marvellous instrumental ELPO which also features jazz influences in the main body and a Frank Gambale/Return to Forever guitar solo. Nice keys work too from Hare. Influenza sees Steve Howe guitar and a hint of Yes in the interplay with the keyboards, Naro’s first vocal and high range adding to the Yes effect on this melodic number with fiddly instrumentation. Again the organ is used to good effect giving a ‘70s vibe similar to its use within Spock’s Beard with hints of darker vistas beyond. There is even space for a brief bass solo and all the players contribute to a particularly high standard.
Smaller Wooden Frog continues the jazzy theme adding a Gentle Giant twist with Keith Emerson piano darkness woven into the extended instrumental intro combined with Mellotron and organ. When it arrives Naro’s vocal is at odds with what has preceded it, changing the mood nicely. Dead Play Awake is a statelier piece despite a multitude of guitar notes zinging from Bernard. A quieter piano interlude adds depth followed by a thunderous instrumental passage of near metallic guitar well supported by organ and dancing bass.
Phil Naro is a real pedigree vocalist with a fine range and excellent delivery. Throughout the album he uses a Yes-like edge to his vocal at the higher end which hints at Jon Anderson without copying him; a neat device that builds the classic prog mood whilst delivering something new.
Walk Away storms in with call and response guitar and organ, another very melodic piece that would make a great single if they were looking for one and such things mattered anymore. Seems So Real again features a Gentle Giant/Spock’s Beard intro and Yes influences in the vocal harmonies packing a lot into its four and a half minutes. Nat Nayah continues the Yes hints but this time circa Open Your Eyes – only in a good way! The modern sheen brought to that album by Billy Sherwood and Naro’s voice pointing the way. Midway through, however things change with an instrumental section that veers the track in an altogether different direction to good effect.
Sons Of Anakin is a skewed Gentle Giant influenced stomper that sounds very different from what has preceded it with a much funkier edge than elsewhere on the album. The acoustic flavours of the lengthy Nonchalent bring the album to a close with violin and mandolin from Ed Bernard producing a very different sound. Half way through the song changes to a folky Yes feel with mandolin still prominent giving the appearance of two different pieces brought together under one banner; a relaxed way to end after the vibrant technique that permeates the album.
Each of the songs, which generally clock in at the 4 to 5 minute mark are succinct and well constructed, the dextrous musicianship not being allowed to over balance them. Melody is the top priority and the result is an entertaining and upbeat album of quite stunning instrumental virtuosity that does not outstay its welcome and initial promise.
This is highly skilled group of players and if you like a modern spin on a classic ‘70s prog sound this may well be one for you. The jazz influences are generally from the fusion end of things and as evidenced in their playing background classic prog in many of its forms is the real touchstone. This album is a triumph.
Leo Koperdraat's Review
When you look at the name of the band you think “Germany”, but that is not the case. The band got their name from a word that was written on some barrels in their rehearsal space in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Canada. That was in the mid eighties, however this is their first album. The band consists of five experienced professional musicians who all have been very active in different bands in the years after their rehearsals in the mid eighties. If you watch their website you can see that vocalist Phil Naro worked with Billy Sheehan and has released a string of solo albums. Guitar player Ed Sheehan has his own studio and worked as a session player for a great number of artists. Drummer Troy Feener and bass player Peter Murray have toured with the likes of Honeymoon Suite and Jeff Healy. And finally keyboard player William Hare has been very active with different tribute acts and The Classic Album Live show (with Troy Feener). They all met up again when they came together to perform Close To The Edge by Yes in 2008 as part of The Classic Album Live show. After that they got a monthly gig in a Toronto bar (partly owned by Rush’s Alex Lifeson). From that experience original material was written and recorded which has now been released as their first album as Druckfarben.
So these guys are very experienced musicians who all shared a love for progressive rock and it must be said; this love and the pleasure of playing together really comes across on this album. They seem to mix a wide variety of prog influences on this album. First of all there is the voice of Naro who does resemble Jon Anderson - but so does Benoit David. However I am of the opinion that Naro does not try to be an Anderson sound-a-like. Music wise there are also plenty of Yes influences to be heard (Influenza and Dead Play Awake), but also Gentle Giant and Echolyn (Smaller Wooden Frog, Seems So Real and Sons Of Anakim) - and ELP (ELPO). But there is also jazz rock (ELPO, Dead Play Awake, Nat Nayah) and folk (the albums longest track Nonchalant). There are hints of Toto and AOR for example on the very catchy Walk Away. They even mix a little bit of Southern rock into the sound during Influenza. So all in all a quit eclectic mix. Another aspect of progressive rock is long, epic tracks but that is something that Druckfarben does not incorporate in their music. Every track is song based with verses and choruses a break in the middle or at the end. A lot of the tracks could be called catchy. The earlier mentioned Walk Away could be a single. But during the instrumental breaks they do show their musicianship which is excellent throughout. I especially like the bass playing of Peter Murray. For instance during the second part of Dead Play Awake and during Influenza. That last track is also a showcase for Hare’s keyboard playing with a great Moog solo. The instrumental Emerson, Lake and Palmer meet The Mahavishnu Orchestra, ELPO does also feature some nice keyboard (Hammond) and guitar solos. Ed Sheehan also adds violin and mandolin to folky album closer Nonchalant.
After the first listen Druckfarben sounded like a musical friend I had know all my life. It’s also an album (a download really) that I found myself playing over and over again. So I really like this album. The musicianship is excellent, you can hear the fun the band had recording the album and the songs all sound nice. On the “negative” side there aren’t any real highlights, (...if someone would put a gun to my head and made me choose, it would be Sons Of Anakim which combines the best of Gentle Giant and Echolyn in one short track). And because of all the influences they lack a bit of their own, Druckfarben style. However I feel that Druckfarben is a worthy addition to the ever growing prog community and I am really curious how this band will develop in the years to come.
JEZ ROWDEN 9 out of 10
LEO KOPERDRAAT 7 out of 10
Paul Menel - Part Of The Story [EP]
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Under Your Wing (5:49), Saddled With Me (4:11), The Nurse (4:07), Twenty One (4:03), She’s Up On The Chair Again (5:56)
It’s been quite a while since the name Paul Menel has crossed my lips and I guess others too, a gentleman that participated in two of my favourite IQ’s albums. Nomzamo featured my favourite IQ song, the piano vocal/version of No Love Lost, an impassioned performance that in my honest opinion hasn’t been caught since or to this day bettered by the band.
Although Paul brought a more commercial edge to the band than his predecessor, quality was always top of his agenda and quality was something that those era albums had in abundance being highly regarded by IQ fans worldwide.
This time out Paul hasn’t been afraid to travel that commercial path again, something that has made these five tracks off his forthcoming album Three Sides To Every Story special and before you ask his agenda hasn’t changed. Some vocalists would kill to have a smooth and silky tone like this. Part Of The Story really does confirm that Paul Menel hasn’t lost any of his eloquence or class.
I have spent sometime with this release, and in all honesty from the first listen I was dragged straight into his musical world, a world that is full of colour, style and confidence. Paul’s vocals tones envelop you as does the contributing musicians that accentuate the cleverness of his musical approach, a raw innocence that is married to a stunning production job that oozes class, something which you just couldn’t make up and in all honesty, you wouldn’t expect anything thing less.
From the opening seconds of Under Your Wing, “I don’t need a book or T.V”, Paul leaves you under no illusions that he is back and means business, a song that more than matches Mike and the Mechanics The Living Years in prose and presentation. No massive gestures of grandeur, just warm heart felt emotional music. Each creation has its own uniqueness that is addictive, even the Beatles inflected The Nurse hits all the right melodic spots with it punctuated humour. Hey anyone who can incorporate Shelley and Byron in their lyrics without becoming pretentious is a winner in my eyes. Twenty One is the most commercial of the songs on offer here as he reminisces and She’s Up On The Chair Again is just a stunning piece of brilliance as the emotive vocals, a theme that is maintained throughout, really works in conjunction with the musical passage, making it a fitting and perfect closer. The poignant line, “No one can tick all the boxes one at a time”, may just be an understatement as I think he might just have.
If I was asked to pick a favourite song here I would in all honesty struggle as the quality really is that good. This sounds like music that has grown and matured through the years, being developed and nurture to a level of maturity that will please many palettes. I defy anyone to listen to this and not enjoy what Mr Menel has created. Part Of The Story will confirm that his time has been well spent, creating his vision and bringing it to fruition, hitting the bullseye, firmly. Bring on the album Three Sides To Every Story.
All I can ask for now is that maybe something special will be done live with the two IQ albums he featured on?
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
The Reasoning – Live In The USA: The Bottle Of Gettysburg
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Comet Music|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Intro (2:49), Diamonds & Leather (5:35), Fallen Angels (6:13), Sharp Sea (7:21), The Nobody Effect (6:52), Shadows Of The Mind (7:10), The Thirteenth Hour (8:59), How Far To Fall? (4:13), Chasing Rainbows (6:56), 14 (7:19), Dark Angel (7:45), Aching Hunger (7:06)
It’s so often the case that three studio albums seems to be the prerequisite requirement before unveiling the almost obligatory live release. With a trio of very well received studio recordings to their credit,
Dark Angel (2008) and
Adverse Camber (2010), The Reasoning adheres to that tradition. Recorded on 22nd May 2011 at the now legendary ROSfest, The Bottle Of Gettysburg is a fine testimony to the band’s abilities in the live arena, turning in a confidant performance that impressed the American audience judging by the response they received.
Due to the vocal presence of Rachel Cohen (formerly Rachel Jones) The Reasoning have often been compared with the usual female fronted ‘crossover prog’ suspects (Magenta, Mostly Autumn, Karnataka etc.) but this latest effort reveals a harder, more contained style. All three studio albums are well represented with an even balance of songs from each. The superb sound is also well balanced ensuring that the shimmering keys of Tony Turrell and the nimble bass work of Matthew Cohen (Rachel’s partner) are not over shadowed by Owain Roberts’ meteoric guitar riffs and histrionic solos. Drummer Jake Bradford-Sharp for his part puts in a surefooted, no-nonsense performance.
With the occasional exception, the songs are all mid-tempo rockers around the 7 minute mark with proggy overtones courtesy of some fine instrumental work. As comparators I would offer up Touchstone, Arena and Shadowland. My main criticism is that the songs sound a tad samey to these ears although one or two stand out amongst the crowd. Highlights for me include the powerful Dark Angel which contrasts a gritty guitar hook and memorable chorus with spacey piano and synth interludes. The heavy weight 14 features fluid and razor sharp guitar lines that bring U2’s I Will Follow to mind whilst The Nobody Effect is blessed with some very fine guitar, keys and bass interplay and another memorable choral hook. During her intro to the latter, Rachel mentions that the band is working on their 4th album so expect a new release any day soon.
Although Rachel’s voice certainly has the poise, on the evidence here she doesn’t quite possess the power of some of her contemporaries. That said, during songs like the Middle Eastern flavoured The Thirteenth Hour her airy tones glide effortlessly over the propulsive riffs. During the suitably moody finale Aching Hunger she even manages to sound like Caamora’s Agnieszka Swita. Sadly the fine balance I mentioned earlier doesn’t always extend to the vocal mix. During the edgy Shadows Of The Mind the harmonies are pleasing lush but elsewhere as in How Far To Fall and Chasing Rainbows Turrel’s overbearing vocals are intrusive rather than complementary, even though he reminded me a little of Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame.
Given the even balance of material from all three studio albums, The Bottle Of Gettysburg would make a fine introduction for those who are new to the music of The Reasoning. That said given the comments of my fellow reviewers I suspect that the songs (and vocals especially) sound more polished in their studio form. It’s also worth noting that since the release of Adverse Camber, the band has lost the services of singer and guitarist Dylan Thomson who was clearly a prominent force within their ranks. Before parting I should also give a mention to the neo-classical Intro which provides a triumphant backdrop as the band takes to the stage.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Roz Vitalis – Revelator
|Country of Origin:||Russia|
|Catalogue #:||MALS 374|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Revelator (5:12), Warm Tuesday (3:57), Deadlock Of The Deceiver (4:07), Painsadist (Hit Version) (3:25), Underfrog (7:09), Midwinter Tulips (2:08), La Combattimento Spirituale (6:29), Persecuted (10:14), Silver Melting (2:57)
We have had a Bechstein grand piano in our family for many years. I recall being seated at my mother’s piano as a child, dutifully practicing the chromatic scales I was assigned as part of my piano lessons. The years have gone by and the Bechstein now makes its home at my sister’s house in Boston, with a smaller and more manageable digital piano taking up residence at my mom’s place in Rhode Island. I have fond memories of the Bechstein as an instrument, so I was struck with sentimental delight upon receiving my review copy of Revelator by Russian outfit Roz Vitalis, and seeing the Bechstein listed as one of many instruments of choice in the credits.
Roz Vitalis’ history goes back to its conception by multi-instrumentalist and composer Ivan Rozmainsky in 2001. His baby throughout the ensuing years has seen the release of a couple of independent full-length CDs, an online label download album, some EP length and full-length CDRs, and now Revelator. It’s the band’s debut label physical release.
On the album, Rozmainsky plays the aforementioned Bechstein along with the shvi on one track, Hammond RT-3 organ, other keyboards, and additional percussion. Vladimir Efimov plays electric and acoustic guitars. Vladislav Korotkikh plays low whistle on one track and flutes on eight of the CD’s nine tracks. Philip Semenov plays drums and percussion and Vladimir Semenov-Tyan-Shansky plays acoustic and bass guitars. The music is jointly and strongly composed throughout by the various members and a few guests, with only Rozmainsky receiving a music composing credit for each and every track. And those talented guests get in on the fun, like Artemy Sementsov who offers up some mournful shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown flute, on Silver Melting.
Keyboards are the predominant element on Revelator, so if you dig keyboards you would probably go for this album. The album’s Russian classical sound is not unlike that of compatriot and label mate Gennady Ilyin.
On Persecuted, Rozmainsky lays down dark, toccata style playing on the Bechstein along with the meditative sound of the shvi (a fipple flute with Armenian origins). Ilya Rysin plays some ceremonial brass (either the credited trumpet or flugelhorn, I can’t tell which). Fyodor Mozhzhevelov layers in some carefully placed bassoon, and Efimov sprinkles across some plaintive electric guitar.
His guitar duels boldly with Rozmainsky’s playing on Warm Tuesday, which also features a bit of somber cello from Fedor Kirillov.
We have quite a talented cast of players on this CD, with a groove evoking Ravel’s Boléro from Semenov, that Eastern low whistle from Korotkikh, waterfalls of bass from Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, and staccato viola from Janna Kotsyuba at various points. References across the CD include early Pink Floyd, the darkness of Van Der Graaf Generator, and the Western ambience of Steve Roach/Roger King.
So if you have a craving for experimental, adventurous music with touches of Russian classical and a bit of avant-garde, you might like this CD. There’s probably not too much on here for mainstream pop enthusiasts.
The CD packaging is professionally designed, with musician credits in the four page booklet and a track listing on the back inlay.
With their next release, I see an area of opportunity for the band to include a guest female spoken word artist. My personal taste, just saying.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Arthur Brown & Vincent Crane - Faster Than The Speed Of Light
Tracklist: Storm Clouds (1:05), Nothing We Can Do (5:18), No (2:32), Bright Getaway (1:24), Timeship (6:17), Come And Join The Fun (5:45), Stormwind (0:33), Storm (5:40), This Is It (3:19), Tightrope (3:55), Balance (1:33), Faster Than The Speed Of Light (8:01)
Arthur Brown is one of the most influential vocalists in the history of rock music. He has a very distinguishable style and he is unique in his performances. With his voice he is able to whisper, shout, scream, sing like a classically trained tenor or sing softly in a jazzy style. Ever since the late sixties with his huge hit Fire (1968), Brown has been singing, dancing and recording and still performs to this day. The very talented keyboardist Vincent Crane can be considered to be ranking among other great keyboardists like Keith Emerson (Nice) and Jon Lord (ex-Deep Purple) or perhaps also Graham Field (Rare Bird, Fields). Crane was a member of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown until Crane decided to do his own thing an founded Atomic Rooster. Like Lord, Crane preferred organ and piano and used other keyboards reluctantly. During one of his episodes of manic depression that led to his premature death aged 45, he was contacted by Brown, who persuaded him to go to Klaus Schulze's synthesizer school. Although Crane did go there, he came out after two weeks stating he thought it was 'rubbish', but at least he was back on track again. Instead of using the modern technology, Crane and Brown decided to use an orchestra for their joint effort Faster Than The Speed Of Light. Members of the Frankfurt Symphony Orchestra were conducted by Crane brilliantly. With the help of a very talented drummer Clifford Venner, who would be playing with New Musik in 1982, Brown & Crane came up with some interesting compositions. Throughout the album the main theme keeps popping up once in a while and part of the music flows continuously without interruptions.
In the first track we hear a classically orientated piano playing by Crane, then accompaniment by the orchestra and Brown using his 'tenor-voice'. The music flows right through into Nothing We Can Do, an up tempo song with a nice groove, Crane playing the organ like Emerson and Brown singing, reciting and sometimes using a distorted voice. In the slow majestic interlude there are some synthesizer sounds and Brown singing beautifully and softly. The end piece is performed by piano and orchestra and as Brown joins in the next tune No, with the music sounding like part three of the previous song. The main theme is explored in different ways by the orchestra in Bright Getaway and the sound is comparable to a musical in the style of Bernstein's West Side Story. The piano is the connection between this instrumental piece and Timeship combining gently sung verses with up tempo choruses in which Brown uses an somewhat unnatural deep voice. The orchestrations and other parts remind of the musicals of the sixties again. The music fades away with solo piano.
For the first time an interruption and there's a fresh start with the frivolous music in Come And Join The Fun, a nice poppy tune with piano, organ, drums and orchestra and Brown both singing and 'reciting'. The last part reminds me of Fields a lot but the orchestra makes the difference and the same theme as in the first part of the song is performed in a much lower tempo. The piano has the final 'word' in this track and opens the next one: Stormwind, a short instrumental piece with a major role for the orchestra and flowing right through into Storm, a nice cheerful tune, beautifully sung by Brown, although he uses his 'child's voice' overdubbed in the choruses. Halfway through the track suddenly becomes a slower, symphonic piece by piano and organ. When Brown joins in, also singing the background vocals, the music is in the vein of gospel music at first before returning to the original theme. This Is It is a separate track featuring Crane's keyboards (organ, clavinet and Mini Moog), an early synthi-pop like tune. In the vein of rock meets pop, Brown uses his ordinary singing voice. Tightrope is an up tempo rock tune, with some jazz-rock influences but the choruses sound like pop-music. There's a organ solo from Crane that leaves no doubt whether he can play or not and Brown goes falsetto. Without interruption the piano carries on into Balance - a slower track in which Brown recites his poems. The orchestra opens the title track and Brown starts to sing as if he was performing in a musical. The up tempo chorus features Crane's organ and piano again. In the last part the theme of the chorus is repeated a little too often for my taste and Brown explores the upper boundaries of his voice again. Indeed I think Ian Gillan must have listened to Brown when he started using his falsetto voice.
For me this record sounds a bit like Fields, Rare Bird and Atomic Rooster but surely Brown's vocals, the addition of the orchestra and the absence of guitars and bass creates another atmosphere. As a whole the music is much more accessible than the album Time Actor by Brown & Wahnfried, but especially when Brown uses his voice in another 'not ordinary singing' modus, I can imagine not everyone will be carried away by his shouting and screaming. Too bad though that Vincent Crane is no longer with us because I'm convinced he could have been one of the major keyboard players through the eighties & nineties as well.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK
Eloy - The Tides Return Forever
Tracklist: The Day Of Crimson Skies (5:02), Fatal Illusions (9:22), Childhood Memories (6:22), Generation Of Innocence (6:10), The Tides Return Forever (6:40), The Last In Line (4:01), Company Of Angels (9:45) Bonus: The Tides Return Forever [Remix] (6:41)
The Tides have literally returned.
I love Eloy. In my opinion, they are surely one of the greatest prog rock bands to come from Germany. Over time I've carefully collected their classic albums from their 'classic' era, from Inside to Time To Turn. Of course, when I was given the opportunity to review the reissue of the band's fifteenth album, I took it in a heartbeat. Naturally I wasn't expecting the psychedelic noodling of Floating or the epic soundscapes of Oceans, but I was quite certain that with Frank Bornemann's familiar vocals and Klaus-Peter Matziol's enveloping bass, I could hardly go wrong. Unfortunately, this doesn't hold quite true.
To those with a working knowledge of Eloy, this album sounds like Planets or Time To Turn, and to those without, I mean rather concise arena-rock tracks with a lot of focus on keyboards and effects. The crucial difference is the diminished creativity which can happen in the space of a decade. Despite not being complex or innovative, there were moments on Planets which just felt extremely powerful and passionate, and there's a significant lack of those moments here. For any band releasing an album in their twenty-fifth year, such wear and tear is typically to be expected but it's still a shame nonetheless.
That being said, it's not all bad. The arena-rock songs, namely The Day Of Crimson Skies, Generation Of Innocence and The Last In Line, all sound very cheesy, but are catchy and upbeat all the same. If you listen carefully, Matziol's bass still retains some of the marvellous effect it had on such classic tracks as Poseidon's Creation and Master Of Sensation. Even better is the title track, a powerful song with a relatively inventive structure and a lovely surprise from vocalists Bettina Lux and Susanne Schätzle in the latter part of the piece.
It must be said, though, that I fell into the all-too-common trap of hoping (maybe even believing) that the longer tracks (Fatal Illusions and Company Of Angels) would perhaps vindicate this somewhat mediocre album. If anything, these tracks aren't even better than the shorter ones. The first of these tracks has an extended introduction, which is eerily similar to the bridge between On The Verge Of Darkening Lights and Point Of No Return from Planets. This leads us to believe that the track will somehow be quite epic and grandiose, but instead we are presented with yet another arena-rock song, which is just a tad disappointing. As for Company Of Angels, let me just say that it's very silly. As soon as the 'dramatic' vocals enter, it becomes difficult to take seriously. There are some good moments though, but that's all they are, moments.
This album was actually reissued because it had become deleted for over a year, meaning scrabbling Eloy fans were not able to buy a copy anywhere (or at least this is how their press release puts it). Whether or not that many people minded about the absence of this insignificant album is really quite unknown to me. However to the band it seemed important to provide their loyal fans with another chance to listen to all the highs and lows of this album once again, along with a remix of the title track for good measure. Certainly if I was in a band, I'd be quite miffed if someone couldn't buy one of my albums and therefore give me more money for my hard work. In fact, it's a pretty decent reissue, and if you fork out an extra €5 you can get a sweet Eloy sticker, a picture card, and a signature from Frank Bornemann himself! Not a bad deal if you ask me. Inside the 16-page booklet, there is a short essay in English and German, as well as lyrics to the songs. My only issue with this set is the modified artwork, but that's just because I'm quite the stickler when it comes to these things.
Before finishing the review, I thought I might leave something else from the press release: 'Surely this record is one of the best works this internationally recognised rock legend from Germany ever released.' I totally understand that the point of the press release is to big up the album in consideration, but when a band fools itself like this it becomes hard to take them seriously. While this album isn't horrible, it's certainly a poor substitute when compared to some of the bands greater material. To those who aren't so familiar with the group, I'd say that this album is to Eloy what The Ladder is to Yes or what Freaks Of Nature is to Kansas: that is a mediocre album that the band can get away with given their superb efforts of the past. I might actually go and listen to some of those earlier efforts right now.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10
Consortium Project V – Species
|Country of Origin:||International|
|Record Label:||Lion Music|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Epilogue [storyteller] (1:25), Life On Earth (3:51), Origins Of Mankind (3:58), The Worst Has Yet to Come (4:24), An Untold Message (3:40), To The Earth And Back (6:01), Sirens (3:31), Pitch Black (3:46), Silence Calling (4:08), Species (5:22), Enemy Within (3:03), Oracle (5:13)
The fifth and final instalment of Ian Parry’s Consortium Project rounded out the series with an exclamation point. The musicianship is top notch and the energy level for this outing is palpable. What a way to finish this pentalogy!
Species is the title of this power metal/prog closure to a great series and in true Sci-fi fashion it takes us into space to meet our original progenitors - aliens. It is a story that runs alongside a current made familiar by David Icke where alien influence in our DNA is mixed with some ancient Egyptian lore. Salvation for the human race comes down to a trio of women and their role is portrayed by the use of female voices here and the effect is quite ethereal and powerful. Throughout, the album is punctuated with female gothic vocal arrays that when added to the stellar guitar riffs it makes for a very memorable piece of work.
For those not familiar with this project, this is an offshoot of the great band Elegy and is a classic riff-based heavy metal series that is infused with prog elements distinguished by use of an all-star cast of musicians, many who have worked extensively with Ian Parry previously. This one boasts the likes of Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Niels Vejlyt (Infinity Overture), Veith Offenbächer (Dawn of Destiny), and Casey Grillo (Kamelot). As expected, the expertise of the band is apparent and it’s easy to get lost in the action due to the great compositions by Ian.
This album separates itself from the rest of the series with superior audio quality, song writing, and vibrancy. Each album can be enjoyed on its own, and if there were just one to buy, this would be it – although, as the series is remastered and released I will be updating along the way.
Ian Parry’s distinctive voice is well suited to this kind of metal and my initial complaint of his voice not having enough of a dynamic presence (see review of Part 1) is less evident here due to the varied song structures and better use of backing and effect vocals to mix things up. There are no dull moments in this album.
I am partial to concept albums, especially in the prog genre. Here is a concept pentalogy that will be worth delving in to and the fact that it hasn’t been more widely promoted (at least from where I am standing) is not a reflection of its quality. Anyone who enjoys good progressive metal with a solid backbone and little pretence will enjoy this. This is high talent metal with very creative song writing – how could you go wrong?
High points include the intense drum presence, the exceptional use of vocals to build atmosphere, and the overall quality of how these instruments combine for a cohesive continuous wrap of a long spanning project. Most importantly, this is a very enjoyable listening experience.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Desert Wizards - Desert Wizards
Tracklist: Apocalipse Begins (8:21), Burn With Me (5:08), Funeral Smoke (7:02), The Lisergic Show (6:46), Serial Killer (5:35), Pulsar (5:06), Woman In White (4:31), Waiting For The Sun (4:42), Last Call To Saturn (5:25)
Italian psychedelic stoner rock band Desert Wizards featuring Mambo (vocals, bass and guitar), Gito (guitars and synth), Anna (organ, vocals) and Dallas (drums) release their eponymous album, an album that has been recorded for lovers this approach.
The musical landscape more than emulates their name succinctly, their musical approach being highly influenced by the old school retro heavy psych approach of the 70’s, music that is drenched in sonic rumblings that calls to mind the early works of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster and The Doors.
The performance from this quartet is rather impassioned where you get the feeling that the band feel are living every note that they are playing. Their musical presentation is both eerie and atmospheric as they slowly power their way through the nine songs on offer here.
For the most part the sonic rumblings are mid paced and bass heavy as one would expect from this genre seeing the band setting out to really penetrate the mind. The ethereal dual vocal activity of both Mambo and Anna add another layer and dimension hauntingly complimenting the structures.
This is not the only approach the band takes as they do mix their soundstages, Burn With Me has an intriguing melancholic frame work, something that is very noticeable throughout the album actually, that is complimented by some stunning fluidic guitar and keyboard work. Interesting too, the band also manipulate some rather quirky time structures, something that is evident on Funeral Smoke. Although this is the case the band never moves too far away from their generic formula, executing it with military precision.
One of the album's standout songs is the rhythmic and infectious The Lisergic Show which displays the true prowess of the band as they powerfully unify their talents adventurously, pulling together all their creativity juices. Serial Killer with its more basic approach and dark lyrical sense creates another strong song, beautiful harmonies that swirl around as the vocals follow the instrumented passages.
The spacey Pulsar sees the band taking a more aggressive and forceful approach that looses none of its appeal and is in all actuality, pardon the pun, the so called star attraction as is the album closer Last Call To Saturn.
On merit this is a strong album and does represent the genre well, being a good place to test the water. Once tested I truely believe that you will be hugely surprised. Compositionally the band isn’t far off the mark. The album does feature some sublime musical interaction and is what definitely makes Desert Wizards a band to keep an eye on.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Rick Wakeman – Caped Crusader Collectors Club ~ Bootleg Box Vol. 1
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Floating World |
|Catalogue #:||RW 1007|
|Year of Release:||2011|
CD 1: Live In Sweden (1980) ~ A Swedish Intro (0:05), Catherine Parr (0:28), No Earthly Connection Medley (14:10), Anne Boleyn (8:36), Happy Birthday K Krona (2:55), King Arthur Medley (13:18), Journey To The Centre Of The Earth Medley (18:59) ~ [58:34]
CD 2: Live In Holland (1993) ~ Intro (6:37), Catherine Howard (5:12), Instrumental (4:42), Eleonor Rigby (7:41), Adams Entrance (4:59), King Arthur (12:34), Catherine Parr (9:24) ~ [51:13]
CD 3: Live At Kabooze Bar (1985) ~ Intro (5:59), Myths and Legends (8:52), King Arthur (4:32), Part 2 (4:21), 6 Wives (4:41), Instrumental Medley (11:50), Catherine Howard (3:10), Six Wives (5:11), Journey (11:54), Part 2 (4:00), Part Three/The End (6:03), Outro (2:38) ~ [73:17]
CD 4: Boston 1974 [Vol 1] ~ Introduction (2:48), Horizon (6:23), Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 1 (4:02), Catherine Parr (8:05), Catherine Howard (9:13), Anne Boleyn (7:49), Something Completely Different (4:17) ~ [42:53]
CD 5: Boston 1974 [Vol 2] ~ Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, Pt. 1 (23:07), Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, Pt. 2 (27:16) ~ [50:24]
A 5 CD box-set of bootleg material! The first and foremost question pops up - is this legal? Well according to the accompanying information it comes completely licensed by the great man himself.
This collection of 5 CDs dates from live recordings made between 1974 & 1993 and as might be expected a great number of "favourite tunes" appear on most, or all, the CDs giving us the opportunity to notice variances in recording and performance. That may be true, however listening to these bootlegs was an effort in itself as the quality of the recordings is not too great most of the time. Bootlegs for me are recorded materials for the real fan, or for the collectors of live shows and that is the case here. As mentioned earlier the quality varies greatly between the different discs and as I really care a lot for the music of Rick Wakeman and in particular the concept albums, like Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, Six Wives and Myths And Legends, I struggled with the sound quality. I’ve heard worse but also better quality sound.
As the title implies the music on the CDs is of course "bootlegged material" and this continues into the poor packaging, with no information provided on who was present and who played with the maestro at the various gigs represented here. So the packaging may well go with the "bootleg feel" but it also really does let you know what you can expect. The same green "cartbox sleeve" for the CDs is the same artwork as all five CDs. Even making the CD covers different colours might have helped - the only difference between the discs is the track titles. Bootleg maybe, but this should have been done with more care I think.
For me this is a fan or collectors only release and as such - truthfully and however much I enjoy the music of Rick Wakeman - this bootleg series is not for me.
Rick Wakeman – Caped Crusader Collectors Club ~ Bootleg Box Vol. 2
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Floating World |
|Catalogue #:||RW 1008|
|Year of Release:||2011|
CD 1: Hammersmith Odeon London March (1976) ~ 1984 (4:09), Catherine Howard (3:46), Whole Lotta Rick (0:54), Something Completely Different (0:34), Catherine Howard, Part 2 (6:12), Lancelot And The Black Knight (5:45), The Realisation (5:01), The Forest/Journey (16:17), The Prisoner (9:13), Merlin The Magician (7:40)
CD 2: It's Nearly Christmas' Tour November (1997) Norwich ~ The Jig (4:52), Space Oddity/Life On Mars (8:30), Summers End (4:44), Merlin The Magician (7:55), Wild Swan (7:32), 1984 Trilogy (16:18), The Breathaliser (4:10), Burlington Arcade (6:44),
Help!/While My Guitar Gently Weeps (8:27)
CD 3: Crystal Palace London (1974) ~ Intoa And Cues (8:36), Catherine Howard (7:58), Anne Boleyn (7:27), New Piece And Ying Tong Song (4:58), Journey Start (8:42), Journey Part 2 (12:32), Narrative (0:56), Praise (4:00), Journey Part 1 (5:56), Journey End (7:06)
CD 4: Live In Preston Lancashire November (1981) Part 1 ~ 1984/Wargames (10:21), A Medley from King Arthur (11:55), Seahorses (5:09), Julia (1984) (6:04), Catherine Of Aragon/Anne Of Cleaves (12:43), The Proles (1984) (5:17)
CD 5: Live In Preston Lancashire November (1981) Part 2 ~ The Journey-Recollection (17:50), Danielle (4:38), Shuffle (3:48), Chamber Of Horrors (6:34), The Hymn (3:19), Big Bem Party (6:04), Wooly Willy Tango (3:24), The Warning (2:21), White Rock (3:50)
I'm not really sure what I was thinking when I requested to review this. While Mr. Wakeman has been a pivotal member of Yes, and fundamental in pioneering new keyboards and symphonic rock, I'm not quite sure that 5 hours of bootleg material was really what I needed to hear.
Of course, when you see the name 'Rick Wakeman', and the name of the album succeeded by the description '(5CD)', your poor unsuspecting heart skips a beat and you pick up the album in a flash, without realising you're getting yourself into. However, as soon as Basil pulled the collection of discs out of its packaging, I realised listening to this wasn't going to be as simple as I'd hoped.
The physical 'box' in which the contents of this set are contained is nothing more than a 5" by 5" cornflower blue cardboard case which is about 1 cm thick. Inside, there are five bright monochromatic card sleeves holding the discs, with details of their respective setlists on the outside. Not the most ostentatious packaging, but it is a bootleg collection after all.
Inside, the five discs cover various periods of Mr. Wakeman's solo career. Oddly enough, the discs aren't in chronological order, and one wonders why they've been given any order at all (save discs 4 and 5 which comprise a single concert). Shows from 1974, 1976, 1981 and 1997 can be found here, with the sound quality appearing directly proportional to the year in which it was recorded. For someone who isn't the greatest fan of Wakeman (like myself), the sound quality on the earlier records is quite offputting, especially when those records arguably contain his more revered work.
Understandably, this compilation contains more than it's fair share of Henry VIII's progressively interpreted wives, a few excursions to the core of our planet, as well as some medieval characters interspersed with Orwellian dystopia. Essentially, the Wakeman you want to hear is covered; it's there. More interesting are the things you didn't come to hear; things like Beatles and Bowie covers, individual pieces apparently written especially for the given tour, and even a rendition of the Monty Python theme. It's a bizarre, eclectic collection of things, like rooting through an attic that you haven't been to for years. For a more devoted fan than I, this would be a veritable treasure trove.
When valuating a collection of bootlegs such as this, it's a question of asking whether this would be suitable for any music lover other than the hardcore fan, and in this case the answer is no. The gargantuan five hours of music is simply too much to take for anybody other than a Wakeman devotee. This compilation hasn't even been successful in introducing me to any of Wakeman's later works, as I've generally been too put off by the poor sound quality. As a bootleg, it does its job fine and comes at an average price, but for the majority of listeners this will not be a satisfying experience.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10
Telergy – The Exodus
|Country of Origin:||USA/Israel|
|Record Label:||Telergy Music|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Into The Past (), Enslavement (7:58), Pleading (1:39), Plagues (15:31), Escape (6:54), Pharaoh’s Revenge (5:30), Wandering (3:10), Is There Anybody Out There? (2:51), The Golden Calf (2:47), Commandments (4:19), Canaan (12:38), Avadim Hayinu (1:37)
Telergy is the project of multi-instrumentalist/composer/producer Robert McClung who tells us that his passion for prog and history led to him creating this outlet as a means of telling classical historical stories. The first of these is
The Exodus, a literal interpretation of the Old Testament book.
In reviewing this I will have to leave behind my natural scepticism that arises when any religious tract is taken as gospel (heheh), but luckily this does not seem to be a religious work per sé, merely an all too literal interpretation of a legend. It has however already received a favourable review in Christianity Today, who claim “It's a theatrical collection that not only packs plenty of gusto for prog faithful, but also loads of faith-centered inspiration.” I could not possibly comment on the last part of that sentence, but let’s see how true the first part is.
Well, the first thing you notice is that the story has narration in the form of a grandmother relating the story to her grandson, and most tracks end or start with granny setting the scene. The opening track Into The Past has granny and kiddy clearing the loft, finding an old record player and playing an ancient religious record Go Down Moses which inspires her to start relating the story of Exodus to her grandson. You can almost imagine this as a cheesy Disney movie, granny being voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, natch!
Personally I have never been a fan of rock records with narration, it just gets in the way of the music in my opinion. If you can get past the first two minutes of fromage the music proper eventually makes its entrance. McClung’s guitar style is very much of the technical prog-metal variety, and replete with occasional shredding too, but he employs a large cast of supporting musicians who add an orchestral oomph to proceedings and who also give the necessary amount of portentous weight to the album. There are also some nice traditional Hebrew musical touches that add authenticity.
In Enslavement the literal interpretation of the text extends to the sound of whips a-cracking and much groaning and a-wailing and no doubt plentiful gnashing of teeth, and granny reckons “…it was something awful” as if she witnessed it first hand, and her grandson reckons “..they were very mean” - Walt would have been proud.
A nice Hebrew flavoured violin interlude precedes Plagues when Moses “..sent down a whole bunch of nasty plagues” to annoy the Egyptians. You can guess what’s coming can’t you? The sound of frogs “riddipping”, locusts buzzing, thunderstorms and other nasties are scattered through this fifteen minute epic which musically is highly atmospheric and cinematic in scope and were it not for the cheesy sound effects would be worth more than a few listens by the fan of epic prog.
Commandments starts with God reading out the ten rules in a cookie monster stylee over suitably crushing riffing and is a laugh-out-loud moment and takes rock music with narration to a new cringeworthy low!
“Did they make it to the end Grandma?” “Oh yes, they sure did” our companions’ saccharine sweet homily concludes at the intro to Canaan, which for me is the best piece of music on the album. Starting with a Hebrew hymnal sung beautifully in a solemn female voice, the track has all the cinematic qualities of before, and it doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up a visage of hot tired and thirsty folk trudging across a tinder dry landscape back to their homeland. Building up with flute and cello the guitar winds things up with some meaty chords as a full orchestra bows and swoops through the arrangement, a rock riff taking over and speeding things up to the guitar solo, syncopated with the string section. The track ends with a Dave Gilmour influenced mid-paced guitar section. An impressive arrangement indeed.
Contrary to what you might be thinking I actually quite like this, and one has to admire McClung’s epic ambition, but if only he’d toned down the way too literal sound affects and left the narration alone after the intro then it would have been a much more pleasurable listening experience. Also, taking on a somewhat controversial subject like this will mean McClung won’t be selling many copies of this CD to those of Arabic extraction, and indeed it may put them off his future releases, much as he may argue his objectivity. Mind you, calling an album Exodus didn’t do Bob Marley any harm, did it?
Marking this is incredibly hard, as musically it’s at least a seven but the over-literal concept and the sugary sweet Walt Disneyisms let it down badly, so...
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10
Mark Wingfield & Kevin Kastning - I Walked Into The Silver Darkness
Tracklist: Air Distance Transform (5:43), From All The Green Around You (5:45), The Sharp Crucible Of Autumn (7:19), Long Quiet Transform Of A Thousand Skies (4:27), Secret Density (7:28), The Mirror Of Here (6:04), Scattered Rain Of Sleep (1:58), What When Winter Comes (4:33), Into Equilibrium Hesitation (1:45), Arch Of Unimagined Bridges (6:51), A Dark Unscathed (6:40), An Image Seen Through (5:09), Things Left Unspoken (4:47)
I Walked Into Silver Darkness is a full-length album of improvised duets featuring Mark Wingfield on electric guitar and Kevin Kastning on acoustic guitar. Both Wingfield and Kastning are established and respected musicians having between them released 17 previous CDs either as solo artists, collaborations or as group members. Kastning has also been involved in the development of new types of acoustic guitars such as a 12-string baritone and a most unusual 14-string Contraguitar which can be viewed on his website.
The material on the pair's first collaborative album is an unusual fusion of jazz, classical and even avant-garde compositions. Ranging in length from under two minutes to over seven minutes, the pieces are of a largely similar style with the acoustic guitar providing the root of the composition and the electric providing the light and shade over the top. Having said that, there are occasional instances where the mould is broken with Scattered Rain Of Sleep generating a more minimalistic couple of minutes in the middle of the CD. Generally, the sound is somewhat unique, the closest comparisons come with the mid 1980s Al Di Meola albums Tirami Su and Cielo E Terra, most especially on When Winter Comes.
Although technically magnificent, the style of music is fairly dissonant and a greater appreciation of jazz than I possess is required to really get the most out of these pieces. There is a lot of 'stop and starting' which prevents the album from really flowing and means that quite intense concentration on the playing is required. Additionally, I found the tone of Wingfield's electric guitar to be too sharp and piercing throughout without enough variation. No doubt this is intentional to make it stand out from Kastning's acoustic but made the individual tracks sound too much alike.
One's opinion of this CD will obviously depend on one's liking of all things jazz and experimental. Not really my bag and would be quite hard pushed to spot any crossover with the progressive rock idiom other than some similarity with Robert Fripp's more out there compositions. Still, very good guitarists and the track titles are brilliant!
Conclusion: 4 out of 10