REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Resistor - To The Stars (Duo Review)
Tracklist: To the Stars (11:46), Random Values (2:59), I, of the Hurricane (4:33), Train to Tucana (7:08), Atlantis' Final Flight (6:07), Little Lie (5:20), AnnihilExcavation (8:37), The Boy With His Brain Out In Space (12:51)
|Country of Origin:||U.S.A.|
|Year of Release:||2014|
Mark Hughes' Review
To The Stars is Resistor's third studio album of songs, ignoring for a moment the collection of studio improvisations The Secret Island Band Jams, and their first since the excellent Rise back in 2010. The quartet's line-up remains stable with multi-instrumentalist Steve Unruh on guitars, lead vocals, violin and flute, Fran Turner on guitars, Rob Winslow on bass and Barry Farrands, the defeater of sea monsters himself, on drums. Although not a concept album, several of the numbers, and the excellent digipak sleeve, are of a theme, that of space.
Title track, To The Stars kicks off proceedings and will be familiar to those that picked up the Live At ROSfest album. The early recording of this song on that album promised a lot and the band delivers in spades with the studio rendition. Unruh produces a confident and assured vocal, probably the best I have heard him sing. The 12-minute playing time gives the group plenty of space to explore different time signatures and rhythmic variations and, outside of perhaps the Bayliss/Cinninger combination of Umphrey's Mcgee, I can't think of two other currently performing guitarists who mesh together so well as Turner and Unruh. Random Values would, in days gone by, have made the perfect single lifted as a taster for the album, and not just because it hits the three-minute mark almost perfectly! Despite the shortest playing time there is a tremendous amount going on, with plenty of riffs and a well-positioned pizzicato violin adding to the ambience. Personally, I love I, Of The Hurricane which sets aside any prog pretensions to deliver a straight forward rocker with an Eastern tinge in the middle eight. Again, Unruh's vocals impress along with a very tasty guitar coda at the end.
Although violin is utilised on previous tracks, it takes a more prominent role on the instrumental Train To Tucana which rattles along like, well, like an express train! The culminating violin-guitar duel is exceptionally good and if that wasn't enough they even find space for some fine flute playing. Atlantis' Final Flight is of a different style, although it is still blatantly a Resistor song. Some fine guitar motifs and the melodically spoken lyric, which includes some text from a NASA transcript, are merged so that the story is told in a rather unique manner - I can best describe it as an instrumental with words overlaid. It is a top tune and would be an excellent instrumental number by itself but the lyric actually adds a lot to the piece, and is very informative if you ever need to know the correct process for conducting a solid rocket booster test! Great number.
Little Lie starts with a single notes picked out on a guitar with a somewhat plaintive vocal overlaid before Turner adds some tasty guitar licks over the top, and a fantastic and classy solo at about the two-minute mark. The intelligent lyrics are a delight, equating the 'little lie' to a newborn child and watching how it grows taking on a life of its own. We are back to the heavier prog sound with the opening of AnnihilExcavation which at times takes on a Muse-like edge segueing nicely into more fantastic dual guitar work that harks back to the glory days of Wishbone Ash - the 45 seconds from the five-minute point onwards are simply sublime, makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up and are worth the price of admission alone. The album ends with as big a bang as it started with The Boy With His Brain Out In Space - every bit as good as the title suggests. Again, the violin is to the fore and Unruh's use of different methods of playing the instrument brings out new dimensions that expand the sonic pallet. A more languid section is heralded by the flute introduction followed by a brief vocal section and then an instrumental break which is the only time the band strays away from the totally melodic by throwing in a few curve balls to keep the attention. Gradually ramping up and culminating with a frantic guitar solo eventually bringing all the elements of the song together with a conclusion that is the mirror image of the opening. This track stands as the one that will probably raise the most differences of opinion as it is the most unconventional of the eight numbers on offer but is also the most progressive if a true meaning of the word is employed.
To The Stars firmly marks out Resistor's place in the modern prog world. With five high quality albums under their belt and a growing fan base the reputation and reach of this band of merry men can only grow. In Unruh, the band have their own Steven Wilson - gifted multi-instrumentalist, lyricist, engineer and song-writer (he wrote the music for four of the compositions and co-wrote another two), and it has to be said that the two even look alike! However, it would be unjust to even suggest that Resistor is Unruh's Porcupine Tree as it is a band and the three other members are of equal worth: Turner's playing is effortlessly fluid and almost lyrical and his writing contributions are not to be sneezed at either; Winslow is a somewhat unsung champion that keeps the music together; and Farrands is as solid a drummer you could wish to have behind you. True, none of the four are extravagantly flash in what they play but that is to the benefit of the music - more focus on the performance than the performer(s). Easily my favourite release of the first quarter of 2014.
Eric Perry's Review
Two men stroll out, silent and resolute, into the open, unaffected by the dry dusty heat. Holstered low by their side their weapons bob along casually under static hands, poised, ready to draw at any time. In a seemingly endless strut the two men circle slowly round each other until the final standoff becomes inevitable. Cut to a slow lingering close-up shot of Bronson's weathered looks, his pale eyes narrowed by bright, noonday sun. A wailing, purposeful soundtrack provides the backdrop - a typical piece of Ennio Morricone - full of bluster, heroism and inevitability that gathers in strength as the final duel draws closer.
It's a classic moment from the Sergio Leone epic Once Upon A Time in the West. The style is much like many of the Spaghetti Westerns, such as The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, from the Italian director, made all the more grand by the aforementioned Morricone masterpiece. It's typical of such a well-defined scene in cinema history that still resonates today, particularly in the Tarantino era.
Much like Tarantino, Train to Tucana from the new album by Resistor - To The Stars - draws heavily on those stylings and plays like a scene from their films. The opening strains of violin conjures up visions of Eastwood, dusty towns and whisky drinking. In stark contrast to those Morricone haunting soundtracks, Train to Tucana is a pacey gallop with a twist of Rock-folk which delves neatly into a very Tull-like groove courtesy of some punchy flute. In true Western style the song features a Deliverance-style duel between the violin and lead guitar and closes with a rousing, dramatic climactic conclusion.
You may be forgiven if your assumption from the title is that Tucana is some remote Mid-western town borne out of the 19th Century gold rush, however in this case it's actually the name of a constellation of stars in the Southern hemisphere. Suddenly the gunslinging grandeur and majesty of the song belongs to the night sky and gives the track an alternative flavour to vintage Spaghetti. It's a clever mix of ideas and genres and stands out as a key track on this new release.
To the Stars as an album is thematically built around the ideas of space and travel from the title track to the dedication to the Space shuttle on Atlantis' Final Flight and whilst it talks romantically about astral dust, energy and stellar brilliance in its lyrics, a larger, more overriding aspect of the album can be distilled from its concept. It's about our dreams and the big (somewhat existential) questions of life. Who are we? Are we alone in the Universe? From the sleeve notes which talk of the bands many significant life events since the last album, it does feel all the more relevant that this 'subtext' has found its way into the writing.
Lyricist Steve Unruh does a great job of capturing the motivation and joy that scientists, astronauts and astronomers experience as they venture forth and attempt to unlock the mysteries of the Universe. At times he relates to us this fascination with an almost geeky energy about the subject mixing romanticised description of the morning before the lift-off of Atlantis with the tech speak of a Kennedy Space Centre control room via a NASA transcript.
All of this is wrapped in some deliciously tight and interesting fusion of progressive, folk and good old-fashioned old school hard rock. There is no doubt the influences of Kansas, Jethro Tull and Rush are present along with a variety of others such as the Neil Young Ragged Glory of I Of the Hurricane and the almost Maiden-like virtuoso guitar on AnnihilExcavation matched with possibly the most impressive, eye-wateringly high voice out there. Vocally, Unruh has an impressive range that exceeds that of Dickinson or Lee at their peak. Guitarist Fran Turner really shines on this track and shows throughout the album he has a tasty melodic style of writing with a great range of sound from trippy delay tones to a hard–edged Sabbath grunt. Rhythmically Turner and Unruh's guitar also provides a great counterpoint to the multi-instrumental flute and violin colouring.
Whatever is in the scope of sounds that Resistor tap into and where it may have been derived from it matters not as this is a truly stonking collection of songs expertly performed with passion. Credit should also go to a very impressive pairing from bassist Rob Winslow and Drummer Barry Farrands who drive the rhythm with precise urgency through tracks like Train to Tucana and I of the Hurricane.
Closing the album is the second epic length song - The Boy with his Brain out in Space - a folky bit of story-telling with a nod to the style of Ian Anderson and Manning. The song ably demonstrates further Resistor's talent for memorable hooks and melodies combined with a diverse and unpredictable delivery.
Resistor fit within the sphere of current American Progressive Rock groups well and fans of Phideaux, Discipline and Echolyn amongst others would get a lot out of this release. It would be a crying shame if an album this exceptional slips under the radar and doesn't get the attention that many of its contemporaries experience.
MARK HUGHES : 10 out of 10
ERIC PERRY : 9 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Resistor CD Reviews:-
|"...by far one of my favourite albums of the year so far and, depending on how one views these things, is up there in the list of outstanding debut albums."|
(Mark Hughes, 10/10)
|"There is no doubt about it, Resistor are really a class progressive rock band and have displayed over their two albums to date a quality of song writing that many bands fail ever to achieve."|
(Mark Hughes, 10/10)
|The Secret Island Band Jams|
|"...it is without hesitation that I thoroughly recommend this album...for the sheer enjoyment and musicianship that is present throughout all 58 minutes and 27 seconds of this CD."|
(Mark Hughes, 9/10)
|Live At ROSfest|
|"So all-in-all a great live CD from a band that have so far lived up to their promise and deserve to be heard by many more people."|
(Mark Hughes, 9.5/10)
RPWL - Wanted (Duo Review)
Tracklist: Revelation (5:18), Swords And Guns (8:42), A Clear Cut Line (2:56), Wanted (4:29), Hide And Seek (5:09), Disbelief (6:10), Misguided Though (6:07), Perfect Day (6:19), The Attack (11:07), A New Dawn (5:34)
Guillermo Palladino's Review
What began as a Pink Floyd cover band founded in Freising in 1997 has now evolved into one of the most important Progressive Rock acts in Germany. One of the most impressive things about RPWL is the way they have retained their musical essence through recent years and even moved across multiple influences to push them further as a more conceptual and experimental band with a unique style of their own. The band have suffered some important line-up changes during the last few years and solo projects from current and former members of the band, such as Parzival's Eye and No Decoder, have become a reality as a way to have a break from RPWL or forge a spin off. Fortunately these works have not affected the development of the parent band.
That style actually has a philosophical approach that started in 2012 with the release of Beyond Man and Time, based on Nietzche's characters and Plato's cave, and know continues on this path with the concept of "The ultimate liberation of spirit" preached by Greek philosophers like Plato and Hippocrates. Well, with all this background the only thing I must tell our readers is that it depends on the listener how deeply they want to consider these philosophical works while listening to Wanted...
Overall I've found this record to be very similar to Beyond Man and Time, in this search for a sound of their own RPWL have left behind the Pink Floyd influence that had been present in their earlier works or, at least, this is less strong. Recently Yogi Lang has said that Wanted is the follow up to Beyond Man and Time in order to establish some kind of continuity in the "Liberation of spirit" concept. Now they are moving into a mix of Progressive and Art Rock with a rougher Pop touch that makes them more contemporary and different although other musical influences like Genesis, Blackfield and ELP remain present in this record.
I like the mix of atmospheric sounds, the electronic elements and synthesizer solos and the rough sound of the guitars in a balance with the voice of Yogi Lang, which sometimes sounds like David Gilmour and sometimes like a sweeter Greg Lake. I only want to remark on the highlights of this record for me: the rough arrangements and rhythm from Swords and Guns combined with the Far East cadence in the melodies; Wanted is a song that reminded me of Unchain the Earth, my favourite track from Beyond Man and Time, and is the one that made me think that this is going to be the new trademark of RPWL, musically speaking; the Crimson-esque influence in Disbelief with its changing rhythms and the Frippest solo from Kalle Warner; Misguided Though which brings us back to a kind of Hole in the Sky-like song, perhaps a reminiscence of their earlier influences; and finally A Perfect Day which combines both Progressive and more commercial musical influences into a wonderful song that become better as the seconds pass by - there is no waste in it.
More than a concept, more than an emotional background or a philosophical essence behind the evolution that has marked RPWL through recent years, is the fact that the band is finally finding what it really wanted: their real musical essence and path to future masterpieces. I recommend Wanted to our readers; perhaps this album will be one of the MOST WANTED of the year...
Gert Hulshof's Review
Wanted: whenever I hear the word I get images of old Western movies like the ones I used to watch with my dad when I was just a little boy.
Even now with the new CD by RPWL I got that image although it has nothing whatsoever to do with the music that can be found on this new work by the Germans. Looking at the artwork however it looks like I am not the only one with a childhood Western movie memory with Wanted, the only thing missing is the 'Reward Money' for finding the band!
After releasing the highly acclaimed Beyond Man and Time in 2012 it is now time for the follow-up. Will RPWL have come up with a fine and worthy album again this time?
What they have done is release yet another concept album after the Nietzsche themed Beyond Man and Time. With Wanted RPWL take on something really big - Our Mind and how to set things free.
I hear you thinking "can they pull this off and make an album dealing with the least understood part of us as human beings?". We are about to find out in 10 tracks, dealing with us, how we think, believe and feel free.
With Revelation the album opens with an overture, no lyrics and a true revelation for your mind. Up-tempo with a nice ear-striking theme, the song sits straight in your head from the first note until the last, taking you straight into a bold song about, I believe, the way people in the Middle East think, more specifically Jews and Palestinians. Politically aware and difficult material. Is it true or is it not? We cannot be sure but Swords and Guns is a grand rocking and anthemic song, I especially like the thick bass lines by Werner Taus on this song as well as the bridge and keyboards solo. It is an enormously heavy musical intermezzo in an already politically laden song. Once again the song, as with Revelation, gets stuck in your head because of the theme.
With A Clear Cut Line RPWL crawl back into our minds, all is not as clear as it seems, rather blurry even. If we are true to ourselves we may retain clarity as the clear guitar lines take control whilst the rest stays inevitably dark and unreachable.
Wanted are we? Wanting we are. We want to keep control, laid down by RPWL with the high dynamic of a running bass line accompanied by the heavy guitars. Do we have control? RPWL have, they control us so far with another song that tends to stick in the mind. How is all this possible, such great themes yet so magically "simple", as it were? It is reminiscent of the '70s rock songs; musically strong and classically correct. So far I am utterly impressed by the album.
With Hide and Seek I hear a bit of Pink Floyd coming along musically. Lyrically I guess it is more of a 'Jekyll and Hyde' kind of tune, although I must say with the more acoustic bits and then some heavy parts we have a 'Jekyll and Hyde' in the music too. A theme that is as simple as it is beautiful it is, the fifth track I am lyrical about.
Rough and edgy, the album continues with Disbelief, the scorching guitar is really something else after listening to all the cleaner and heavier bass dominated songs so far. With the lyrics dealing with our minds and the ever-present arguments between men not believing what others have to say. The music speaks louder than the words, sounding like a '70s progressive rock song.
The inevitable is happening, RPWL will never ever be freed from their former Pink Floyd cover band label I guess as Misguided Thoughts is a ballad so calm yet so impressive but also very Pink Floyd-like in my opinion. This, however, does not mean the song is not good; it is a fine example of 'new era' prog with 'old era' influences and good ones too.
Perfect Day continues where it is supposed to, an energetic song with a fine tune that again stays and stays and pulls you back into the music. Like in Revelation the keys play a tune and the bass deals with the rest, topping it off with anthemic vocals and the ingredients for a hit song have been gathered.
The Attack is the 'Epic' of this latest effort from RPWL. The sound of The Attack is the genuine RPWL sound that gave the band their name, the theme is good and can be spun out as needed with some great guitar lines, Hammond and other keys, the bass and drums taking care of the ever continuing back track, steady and secure. RPWL as RPWL here, good arrangements with the changes right at the spots where they should be; a true Epic. A step back to the last effort Beyond Man and Time, with the cure for the future but have they found it or is it just A New Dawn?
The last track on the album is like the last show in a series on TV or a film with an open ending, a typical cliff-hanger. If you come across this album and listen to it I really recommend you to study the lyrics of this last track.
Dealing with our spiritual life in all its forms, a ballad as a closer to this fine concept album.
Concluding, I cannot find one song on the album that I do not like. Sure there are some lesser and some better songs but all in all Wanted comes highly recommended and is a must for all progressive rock collections.
GUILLERMO PALLADINO : 8.5 out of 10
GERT HULSHOF : 8.5 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous RPWL CD & DVD Reviews:-
|God Has Failed|
|"...this highly recommended album makes RPWL the newcomer of 2000 for me."|
(Ed Sander, 8+/10)
|Trying To Kiss The Sun|
|"The compositions are very accessible, with catchy melodies and choruses. For die-hard prog fans it may sound a bit too commercial, but I'm sure many fans of above mentioned bands will appreciate the album."|
(Bart Jan van der Vorst, 8/10)
|"All in all, an album which leaves me with mixed thoughts. Unfortunately this will be the first RPWL release which does not get my full recommendation."|
(Ed Sander, 7+/10)
|World Through My Eyes|
|"...a wonderful progressive rock album and certainly a must for all lovers of Pink Floyd."|
(Martien Koolen, 8/10)
|Live - Start the Fire|
|"...this a bit of a weird live album, not really representing he average RPWL gig. But there's so much great material to be found on both discs that you won't hear me complaining."|
(Ed Sander, 8.5/10)
|"...not for the occasional RPWL listener but more suitable for die-hard fans. If you're not in this category you'll be better of trying one of the band's fine studio albums..."|
(Ed Sander, 7.5/10)
|The RPWL Experience|
|"...for RPWL a bit of a disappointing album but it does have it's occasional moment of brilliance."|
(Ed Sander, 7/10)
|The RPWL Live Experience|
|"...gives a good impression about the excellent musicianship of this band..."|
(Ed Sander, 8/10)
|The Gentle Art Of Music|
|"The title of the CD says it all it truly is the Gentle Art Of Music."|
(Gert Hulshof, 9/10)
|Beyond Man And Time|
|"...good tracks which stand in another league than many mediocre prog bands existing nowadays. I guess I just expected a bit more than that."|
(Erik Laan, 8/10)
|Previous RPWL Live Reviews:-|
|2001:-||Hellendoorn, The Netherlands||Eclipsed Festival, Germany|
|2002:-||Leipzig, Germany||Zoetermeer, The Netherlands|
|2003:-||Zoetermeer, The Netherlands|
|2009:-||Summer's End Festival, U.K.|
|2010:-||Apeldoorn, The Netherlands|
|2011:-||Night of the Prog VI, Germany|
|2012:-||Zoetermeer, The Netherlands|
|Previous RPWL Interviews:-|
|Yogi Lang speaking to DPRP's Martien Koolen (2008)|
|Yogi Land and Kalle Wallner speaking to DPRP's Gert Hulshof (2010)|
Ring Of Fire - Battle of Leningrad
Tracklist: Mother Russia (5:10), They're Your Name (4:04), Empire (5:34), Land Of Frozen Tears (4:37), Firewind (7:42), Where Angels Play (4:53), Battle Of Leningrad (6:14), No Way Out (5:11), Our World (4:13), Rain (4:23)
The potential consequences of a vindaloo, a Johnny Cash song, or the area of the Pacific Ocean where the world's largest number of earthquakes occur, Ring Of Fire works with all three options. But after listening to this band with that cognomen, I suspect the answer would probably be the last one if the question was ever asked about the derivation of their name. At certain volumes this CD could certainly reduce buildings to rubble.
It was also the title of the singer's second solo album where the guitarist was one of the troops. That was in 2000, the same year that the album's title was commandeered to name this band that was to go on and produce three studio albums and one live one, recorded in Japan. After a nine-year hiatus, they have returned to active service producing Battle of Leningrad with original members Mark Boals on vocals and Tony McAlpine masterly taking control of the Guitar. Together with Ukrainian and classically trained Vitalij Kuprij on very impressive Keyboards they return as a three piece. Whilst Mr. McAlpine is also no slouch on the ivories, adding additional keyboard spice to the "Chopin" board, guest musicians are Jami Huovinen, from Sentiment, giving the skins a damn good thrashing, and Timo Tolkki, who earned his stripes as long term member (as guitarist) of Stratovarius, recruited on bass.
The music within is inspired by the historic resilience of the Russian people through thick and thin but with particular reference to the Siege of Leningrad, the true WWII story of the blockade of the entire city by Hitlers' forces. It lasted 872 days and was the most costly, in terms of casualties, of any war torn city (including Hiroshima) with over a million and a half deaths from starvation and bombardment. However, the admirable stoicism of the city's inhabitants meant that they never surrendered.
With that premise we are brought ten tracks which, besides the occasional foray into balladry for Our World and AOR on Land Of Frozen Tears, are a fine example of the sub genre "Neoclassic" Power Metal. In three of the tracks, They're Calling Your Name, Where Angels Play and No Way Out the thrash tempo could be exhausting but because the blending of keys, guitar and drums are played with military precision, you never look at the speedometer. All the time the clarity of Mark Boal's singing is almost subjective until it dawns how much is going on AND we can hear the words, with Empire (great keyboards too) and Battle of Leningrad (the song) highlighting his famous soprano A5 top note. Elsewhere, this recording is shot through with enjoyable keyboard and guitar embellishments, but even though the longest track, Firewind at 7:42, has some gorgeous piano and uplifting moments, it's the closing track Rain - at a "mere" 4:27 - that manages to cross the Prog check point.
Medals should also be awarded to the cover designer, Felipe Machado Franco, and, on top of his seismic contributions, Timo Tolkki has done a fine job mixing this recording. There is a lot to offer fans of the more symphonic side of Rainbow and the more up to date bands in the Headspace vein. The Battle Of Leningrad is superbly played and like it's subject matter deserves its place in history.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Egbert Derix - Paintings In Minor Lila
Tracklist: Blind Curve (6:22), Waiting To Happen (6:19), Seasons End (7:50), Bridge (5:28), Alone Again In The Space (5:02), This Train Is My Life (3:22), Marbles I (2:49), Garden Party Stroll (2:09), Mood Piece For John Anthony (9:41), Bill's Marble (2:40), Warm Wet Landscape (2:58), Pseudo Silk Kimono (4:16), Thousand Faces (4:26), Marillion Memories (3:36), Chick's Marble (3:02), Safe In The Sanctuary (2:01), Where The Heart Is (For Gert) (1:11), Phoenix (3:46)
|Country of Origin:||The Netherlands|
|Record Label:||Eggy D|
|Year of Release:||2012|
Egbert Derix - grand piano & keyboards
Fish - narration on Pseudo Silk Kimono
Iain Matthews - vocals on Phoenix
Steve Hogarth - narration on This Train Is My Life
John Helliwell (Supertramp) - tenor Saxophone on Mood Piece for John Anthony
Limburg String Quartet - strings (arrangements by Egbert Derix)
Leo Janssen - saxophones on Thousand Faces & Safe In The Sanctuary
Sjoerd Rutten - drums & percussion on Garden Party Stroll, Alone Again In The Space & Thousand Faces
Norbert Leurs - acoustic bass on Mood Piece For John Anthony
Egbert Derix first started playing piano at the age of 15. At 18 he was enrolled at the Maastricht Academy of Music, during which time he studied with Irvin Rochlin, Frank Giebels and Louise Wolfs. In 1991 Egbert played with his jazz trio at the Jazz Mecca Festival in Maastricht, where Miles Davis and Branford Marsalis were the headline act, and after he graduated with a teaching degree in jazz piano in 1994 he gained a diploma for jazz performance and studied with David Berkman and Steve Kuhn in New York.
Moving forward, Egbert is currently the pianist-composer for the Searing Quartet, has a musical partnership with Iain Matthews and teaches at the Rock academy in Tilburg, Holland.
At the last Marillion convention in Holland at Port Zélande, Egbert was a guest and played with the band at the "swap the band" event. I was at the convention but missed this, fingers crossed it may happen next time. Having a passion for the music of Marillion inspired Egbert in the recording of his album Paintings In Minor Lila (an anagram of 'Marillion'). The album also features the talents of both of Marillion's singers through the years, Fish and Steve Hogarth, who both feature on a song each. Hogarth offered his services when he heard of the idea to record Marillion material with string arrangements, which led to Egbert getting up courage to contact Fish and ask him to join the project. Fish was really charmed that when Egbert heard the song Pseudo Silk Kimono at the age of 16 it changed his life and this quickly helped him to make up his mind to do it.
Most of the material is based around Marillion songs, as you would expect there is lots of piano with nice classical touches mixed with jazz. It really is a joy and so beautiful to listen too with lots of highlights, especially if you like Marillion and the idea of classical and jazz influences being mixed into the songs to breath a completely new life into them. It's just so clever the way it has been arranged; pour a large glass of wine and it's a perfect chill album.
There are plenty of clues to what each song is based on, such as Alone Again In The Space being based on Alone In The Lap Of Luxury and The Space. Warm Wet Circles is the inspiration for Warm Wet Landscape and Marillion Memories is based on Kayleigh and Fugazi. A dedication to the artistry of two great jazz players is also heard: Chick Corea on Chick's Marble and Bill Evans on Bill's Marble. Mood Piece For John Anthony has a nice quote from Supertramp's Fool's Overture paying homage to that band whose John Helliwell features on saxophone. The album closes with the fitting Phoenix with lyrics by Iain Matthews and music by Egbert Derix.
The whole album is a nice package. I am reviewing the digipak version which has a painting on the cover, 'Kindness' by Egbert Derix (which is fitting as the album is all about beauty and kindness), and there are also paintings (by Ludi, Nica and Egbert), featured in the booklet as well as photos, information and lyrics.
Overall then, an excellent album - as reviewed by a Marillion fan who likes jazz and doesn't mind some classical music. I found the music, recording and arrangements to be of a high standard, with the bonus of having the contributions of having Fish and H on the album so fans of 'old' and 'new' Marillion should find something to enjoy if not all of it. Just remember, it's not going to rock or send you off into prog land but it's a really good chill album of quality music with an added bonus of material you will know if you are familiar with Marillion.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Jeff Green Project - Elder Creek
Tracklist: Theseus Falls (8:18), Elder Creek (5:09), Our First Meeting (7:53), Point Blank Creek (6:25), Gordian Knot (6:30), Loops & Threads (4:19), A Long Time From Now (20:05)
|Country of Origin:||U.K.|
|Record Label:||Festival Music|
|Year of Release:||2014|
Californian one-man-band Jeff Green grew up in the '70s listening to many of the classic American bands of the day such as The Eagles, Poco, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers as well as Yes, Rush and Pink Floyd, Dave Gilmour's solo on Money being the first to really grab his attention.
Arriving in the UK in 1986, he learned his musical crafts and started playing with covers bands, which he continues to do with The Illegal Eagles. Now settled in Co. Clare in Ireland, he first came onto the music radar with his debut solo album, Jessica, which he composed in the memory of his stillborn daughter.
The follow-up, Elder Creek, has been five years in the making, and again, it draws on themes inspired by his family, in this case his grandmother and the loss of her memory. So he takes us back to Elder Creek to explore what makes memories and how time can shift perceptions of it. But far from being melancholic or lachrymose, his journey melds several musical styles, each of which tells a different part of the story.
Opener Theseus Falls comes in three parts, Entrance depicting the stillness of the water through shimmering keys from Mike Stobbie that open up and build layers with Green's meticulous guitar, Pete Riley on drums, Andy Staples on bass providing a solid framework. The tempo increases on Questions while Green sings with some attractive harmonic backing. It then pares back into more instrumental passages spearheaded by acoustic guitar, mandolin and piano, the sound of lapping water and more very listenable guitar from Green. There's no mistaking the boy can play!
Title track Elder Creek gets off to a slow nostalgically tinged start, after which one of the two featured guest vocalists, Sean Filkins, delivers a characteristically upbeat and emotionally charged song line with some super harmonies over a great melody with Green's characteristic guitar flourish included.
Our First Meeting is a gentle, wistful, laid back song punctuated with pretty keyboards and a lush orchestral sound over which Green takes care of vocal duties. Point Blank Light is a sumptuous instrumental that pulls together all the elements of Green's distinct "sound", notably his resonant guitar, both acoustic and electric, plus mandolin here; and his ability to create fluid washes of melody around them.
The straight rocking Gordian Knot has a heavier slant while Loops and Threads again harks back to the memory theme with a plaintive vocal from Green singing about "Armstrong touching the moon" over a delicate piano and sweet synths.
The magnum opus is saved until last, A Long Time From Now the proggiest of all the tracks with echoes of Yes and Pink Floyd most prominent in the mix. It fuses some straight rocking passages with more experimental sequences, including a jazzy organ, lots of scuzzy guitars, a beautifully modulated acoustic guitar and a chiming clock. There's also a fantastic soulful vocal contribution from Alan Reed, showing he is a singer currently right on top of his game.
This is a thoroughly lovely and likeable album that will further increase Green's musical stock. It is melodic prog shaking hands with soft Californian rock and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Mike Pinder - The Promise / Among The Stars
|Country of Origin:||U.K.|
|Record Label:||Esoteric Recordings|
|Year of Release:||1976 & 1994/2014|
|Time:||CD 1 - 31:39|
CD 2 - 45:00+
DVD - 60:00+
Disc 1: The Promise - Free as a Dove (4:12), You'll Make It Through (3:51), I Only Want To Love You (3:26), Someone To Believe In (3:18), Carry On (4:16), Air (2:20), Message (2:46), The Seed (1:25), The Promise (6:05)
Disc 2: Among the Stars - The Power of Love (Can Survive) (3:20), You Can't Take Love Away (3:44), The Best Things in Life (3:49), Hurry on Home (4:30), When You're Sleeping (3:34), Fantasy Flight (4:44), Among the Stars (2:25), Upside Down (5:50), Waters Beneath the Bridge (3:15), The World Today (5:58)
Bonus tracks: If She Came Back (:), Waves Crash (:), Empty Streets (:)
Disc 3: DVD - Interview with Mike Pinder
This immaculate collection, nicely packaged as a boxed set with replica album sleeves, full sleevenotes and lyrics, as well as notes from the man himself, collects the two solo albums of The Moody Blues' founder Mike Pinder released over a 20 year period.
The Promise, released in 1976 when The Moodies were on hiatus, is a soulful collection, reminiscent in places of George Harrison's early 1970s solo work, and, as with many artist when they make their debut solo album, has echoes of the parent band but showcases the performers individual songwriting ability.
With a core band of Bill Berg (drums/percussion), Flynn J. Johnson (guitar) and Mike Pinder on guitar, piano, keyboards and vocals, he manages to merge the epic sound of The Moodies, with a more intimate West Coast Americana rock.
Recorded in Pinder's home studio in California, the laid-back vibe permeates the whole album, with uplifting songs like Free as a Dove and the funky jazz tinged Someone to Believe In, with some wonderful drum breaks and flute counterpoints, all held together by Pinder's soulful vocals. This doesn't make it Moodies-lite by any stretch of the imagination, Pinder is an intuitive and intelligent musician, and a great songwriter whose craft had been honed over the years and there are some great rocky tracks like Carry On. The album ends with a mini-suite that starts with the great keyboard riffs in the instrumental Air with flute centre stage and catchy melody. At just over two minutes it's over before it's begun, leading into Message, with its lyrics very much the important part of the song, flowing into the spoken word New Age piece The Seed before the title track kicks in on an acoustic and electric guitar melody and expressive lyrics which celebrate Pinder's faith and belief.
Pinder later contributed to The Moodies reunion album Octave, but left before they toured, his replacement being Patrick Moraz.
Settling into family life in California nothing more musically was heard from Mike Pinder until his 1994 release Among the Stars. Despite the cheesy cover art, the album itself is a credible return to music for Mike, his trademark songwriting skills aren't rusty, and his vocals are as sublime as possible. Opening with the funky sax driven The Power of Love (Can Survive) with some great guitar work, this is as strong an opener to the album as you can think of.
The production slightly dates the album, with it being very obviously of the early '90s, but that doesn't overshadow the fact that Pinder has a strong collection of songs and that he’s obviously enjoying being back in the studio making music.
His jazz/soul-influenced songwriting is strongest on You Can't Take Love Away and Hurry On Home. When You're Sleeping is an acoustic rock number, almost nursery rhyme style, with some lovely acoustic slide guitar (reminiscent again of George Harrison's playing) and the title track, with its atmospheric keyboards and spoken word lyrics, is an interesting piece, whilst the closing The World Today is a funky blues. Whilst this isn't as interesting as The Promise, it is still a finely crafted set of songs, with the bonus tracks If She Came Back being a new Mike Pinder track with some great lyrics and superb symphonic production. The remaining bonus tracks, Waves Crash and Empty Street, are by The Pinder Brothers, Mike's sons Michael and Matt, with guest flute from The Moodies' Ray Thomas and Mike on Mellotron, a great sound showing that the apple doesn't fall far the tree.
The DVD is a great in depth interview with Mike about his career and music, the main part being from conversations between 2012 and 2013 whilst extras include an interview from 2008 as well as intimate performances of tracks like My Song, showing his voice still has all its power, whilst chatting about his Ivor Novello award and the album The Promise. There's also a solo piano performance of The Moodies' Go Now, his first big hit, which has lost none of its magic or power. Pinder comes across as a genuine musician and intelligent guy.
This is an impressive collection from a performer who is probably not as recognised as he should be. If you're a Moody Blues fan then this set is indispensable.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Sassafras - Expecting Company
Tracklist: Electric Chair (5:01), Busted Country Blues (3:32), Beans And Things (5:35), Across The Seas Of Stars (6:13), School Days (5:33), The Way Of Me (4:51), The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg (5:09), Expecting Company / Meanwhile back in Merthyr (7:12)
Bonus - Oh Don't It Make You Want To Cry (3:33), Kansas City Wine (2:58)
Back in the days of yore I used to work for HTV Wales, which was a television company. I remember a mild mannered chap who worked in the sound dubbing department called Ralph Evans, who apparently used to be in a group. Another amiable nice bloke and fellow wizard at the audio post-production game, was the bespectacled Dai Shell who was also in the same beat combo. To be honest, I was ignorant of Sassafras then and being pre-Tinter Web, I never got around to checking them out as it were. So, some considerable time later...
Fast forward (that's a tape term you know) to 2014 and I am listening to said ensemble's debut album called Expecting Company from 1973, but dusted off and polished to perfection by those meritorious people at Esoteric Recordings. This release restores the original artwork and includes two bonus tracks that formed the "A" and "B" sides of a rare 7" single issued in the same era. Having been signed to "Air London", the studio that was set up by one George Martin, it is of no surprise that the production has a timeless quality with everything in its right place and nothing to date stamp it.
The rest of the band were vocalist Terry Bennett, bassist Ricky John Holt, and fresh from his lie down after playing "Sabre Dance" with Dave Edmunds' Love Sculpture, drummer 'Congo' Jones. Now, going back to those other two, they both played guitar and often "at the same time"!
Not wanting to ever make comparisons but when opening track Electric Chair plays, my thoughts are drawn to a certain...errr...well, OK then, Wishbone Ash and to nods of approval on School Days (with its lovely guitar playing in the Coda) and The Way of Me that only confirms this.
This album ranges from the Country twang of Busted Country Blues through beer soaked boogie in The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg and bonus track Kansas City Wine via the blues rock funk of Beans And Things and original album closing track Expecting Company / Meanwhile back in Merthyr. Mid-way point song Across The Sea Of Stars is what we used to call a "slowy" that if played in an early '70s Disco, would cause embarrassed platform shoe gazing as we hoped one of the girls would invite the partaking of some out of time (hands on) dancing - very nostalgic. Beans... has a great percussion wig out that must have been a rousing live favourite and talking of which, they played a record 332 gigs in one year and were on the same bill as the one that gave us Frampton Comes Alive!
Expecting Company is original rock music played very well with west coast style harmonies (other bonus track Oh Don't It Make You want To Cry could almost be Little Feat), a distinctive lead voice, those two guitars (better than? Well you know....), solid rhythm section and some great songs. To me it's a 9/10 album, but that would mean it's recommended for listeners of Prog, so I'll compromise...still recommended mind!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Algabas - Angels and Demons
|Country of Origin:||Russia|
|Record Label:||MALS Ltd|
|Year of Release:||2014|
Tracklist: Angels and Demons (5:04), Galileo (5:47), The White Stone (5:00), Walking Around Jerusalem (5:17), Secrets of the Sky (5:29), The War (6:31), Madness Formula (5:25), The Chimney House (6:00), Express Train (6:07)
In this digital age of panning through music cyberspace searching for shiny nuggets of prog gold, progsters will find some traces of golden veins hidden within Algabas's debut album Angels and Demons. This is Russian prog from Vladimir, an ancient city a few hundred kilometres East of Moscow. The album was originally available from the Bandcamp website in 2013 before being released on the MALS label in 2014.
Algabas describe themselves as neo-prog, heavy in many places with the odd nod towards Russian folk music. A reasonable summing up given that there are many nuances of neo-prog bands past and present that have clearly influenced Algabas. If I were pushed to name a band that they remind me of it would possibly be a heavier version of Poland's Abraxas but not as polished and varied.
Like Abraxas, Algabas' songs are sung in their Mother tongue. I've no problem with that as there are too many examples of banal prog lyrics in English out there. Songs sung in a language you do not understand could be a blessing in disguise. However, not singing in English could have some cyberspace progsters emptying the contents of their neo-prog pans back into the ether.
When listening to the album I became convinced that the singer and bass player, Sergey Milyaer, was a reincarnated Russian version of Scotland's Alex Harvey (Sensational Alex Harvey Band) blended with a small pinch of Arthur Brown thrown in for good measure. Sergey's expressive and sometimes theatrical delivery may not be appreciated by those more discerning progsters who prefer being wooed by a caressing, mellifluous voice.
Angels and Demons is a concept album. How do I know this if not fluent in Russian? I asked keyboard player Ilya Frolov who said:- "The music and words are about mental strife. The principal character struggles with himself, his fear, inferiority complex, stereotypes and loneliness. Trying to find support through religion, science, authorities, motherland, friends, women, art...but all of this falls to pieces as soon as he approaches them". I also asked Ilya about the album's artwork and how it fitted in with the overall album concept. There is no direct link between the imagery and lyrics but I guess it would not be beyond one's imagination to put forward some allegorical interpretation, especially the snail with a key-hole on its shell! Also worth checking out is the artwork by the Russian artist Dmitry Masly.
Sergey, who is originally from Kazakhstan, has had some of his poetry published and his novel Petushki- Manhattan can be purchased via Amazon. An accomplished wordsmith, it's just a pity that many of us will never be able to appreciate his work unless one can understand Russian. He has also written music for a version of Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap. Sounds like good credentials for writing some great neo-prog. Have they succeeded?
The album is very well engineered and sounded just as good through my studio monitors as other more well known established neo-prog bands. The songs are well crafted with enough twists and turns to keep most progsters happy. One small criticism would be the lack of any slow, ambient, acoustic textures without the pounding drums and driving bass lines. The closest they do come to that is the opening of The War. Here there is some really nice guitar arpeggio work played with feeling that allows you to relax before the next salvo is delivered. For me, these quieter, heartfelt musical moments are too fugacious and the frisson they create is quickly lost. Other bands slow things down now and again during the course of an album, for example Dream Theater do it to catch their breath, so maybe Algabas should consider this for their next album.
The standout tracks for me are The White Stone and the instrumental Walking Around Jerusalem. The opening thirty seconds of The White Stone has a strong driving bass with underlying keyboard harmony and the guitar providing catchy thematic phrases that also bookend the song. Some of the best guitar playing on the album. I liked the dual synth and guitar motif played around the 3:34 mark, adding quality to the song.
Walking Around Jerusalem, has a great opening blast of rock. The bass playing here reminded me of Chris Squire, the song also featuring more great drumming, possibly the best on the album. I also could hear some snippets of Rush in there. A track worth checking out.
Other album highlights: The Chimney House features a nice sax solo over a 7/8 time signature. Galileo features Sergey probably at his best with its catchy refrain. There are plenty of good guitar solos sprinkled throughout the album on songs such as Secrets of the Sky (which also features a nice funky style rhythm around the 2:37 mark), The War (including a Gilmour style slide guitar section) and Express Train.
One of the weaker aspects of the album I feel is in the keyboard department and in some places the choice of sounds. For example, the opening bars of the first track Angels and Demons has a sound that I can only describe as sounding like steel drums. I suspect it's supposed to be some form of strings and it just didn't do it for me.
While researching the band I discovered that they had looked high and low for a keyboard player but to no avail. So guitarist Ilya Frolov stepped up to the challenge and his resultant keyboard playing is OK and therein lies the problem - it's just OK. For example, the track The Chimney House has a piano solo that can only be described as lacklustre. If you were to give those bars of the song to, say, The Tangent's Andy Tillison or Dream Theater's Jordan Rudess, then the resulting piano solo would take the song to a much higher plateau.
The word Algabas means "thinking ahead". For Algabas to move forward and pique the interest of more discerning neo-prog fans, there are a few things they might wish to consider. Firstly they need to think about singing in English if they want to attract more listeners (they went part way with the song titles being in English on the album cover). Secondly, their music desperately needs some vocal harmonies to add more texture. That could be by having another singer in the band. Thirdly, they need to continue the search for a very good keyboard player or alternatively Ilya works hard to develop his technique further which will take time. Fourthly, some slow acoustic/ballad type songs. Lastly, maybe consider writing longer pieces of music.
I've enjoyed listening to this album and it's worth checking out via the Bandcamp page. Many thanks to Ilya for supplying band information. As to scoring on the DPRP 1 to 10 neo-progometer, this album is not an 8 and it's not a 5 but straddles somewhere between these two scores.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Arena - Live (Recorded 2011-2012 Tour)
|Country of Origin:||U.K.|
|Record Label:||Vergals Music|
|Year of Release:||2013|
|Time:||CD 1 - 49:53|
CD 2 - 60:11
Disc 1 - The Great Escape (4:36), Bedlam Fayre (6:04), A Crack in the Ice (4:43), (Don't Forget To) Breathe (5:07), Rapture (4:30), The Ghost Walks (3:18), One Last Au Revoir (5:14), What If (4:11), Burning Down (4:29), Serenity (2:21), Ascension (5:18)
Disc 2 - Valley of the Kings (10:22), The Eyes of Lara Moon (4:33), Ghost in the Firewall (4:03), Crying for Help IV (5:51), The City of Lanterns (1:26), Riding the Tide (4:34), The Tinder Box (3:51), Solomon (13:55), Crying for Help VII (4:32), The Visitor (7:04)
What were Arena thinking when they released this fourth live album? Shortly after their superb live DVD Rapture, this double CD saw the light of day with almost the same songs as the DVD but in a different running order and taken from different shows. Is it the simple conclusion that the band wasn't content with the musical achievements on Rapture and tried to select better performances of these songs from their 2011/12 tour? Well, if so it certainly was a bad choice because it doesn't work at all.
I find this live album quite an annoyance. The musical deliveries are quite good, although it took me a couple of spins to get used to Paul Manzi's somewhat 'thin' voice. But what is very annoying is the fade out of the applause after each track. The whole album makes clear that you are not witnessing a real Arena gig but instead are listening to a pick-and-run live compilation of their 'best' songs...which is most definitely not the case. The emphasis is logically on their latest album, The Seventh Degree of Separation, which is quite good but its songs lack the attractiveness of tracks like Solomon or Crying for Help. The renditions of these classic Arena songs on this album are all less good than on former live albums. That doesn't make them bad songs or bad renditions; they're simply less good. Within a flowing show that may have been less apparent as the listener is witnessing the more or less complete show. But as this live compilation doesn't have the coherence of a show, each song has to be judged on its own merits. And that doesn't lead to a favourable ordeal.
Just for comparison I listened back to the Live & Life album that was released some 10 years ago. That's a very energetic album on which the songs flow from one to the other. The band also recorded some interplay with the enthusiastic audience that gave that live album the authentic feeling of witnessing an Arena gig. The energy, the flowing songs and the authenticity are totally missing on this new album.
The band hasn't invested much in the booklet in which there is very little information to be found. There are many photos which are all very small, there is the track listing and the line-up but no information whatsoever on where each track was recorded. As Manzi thanks the audience in Dutch, French, Spanish and English it must have been all over Europe. The website contains even less information and no sound clips at all. Not the best way to promote a new album.
This Live album may be interesting for the real completists as it introduces new frontman Paul Manzi but the Rapture DVD proves to be a far better introduction for him. For others this is a completely superfluous and, therefore, irrelevant album. That's a shame for this very nice band.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Marcelo Paganini - 2012 Space Traffic Jam
Tracklist: Sphinxes of Babel (8:15), Crying With a Smile (4:29), Actor (3:06), Somewhere Somehow (8:01), Lost Secrets (6:14), Last Bart to San Bruno (5:09), B4ever Now (4:33), For Real (5:41), Can't Autograph Your Mp3 (8:11), 2012 Space Traffic Jam (8:41)
|Country of Origin:||France|
|Year of Release:||2014|
I was quite looking forward to this album called 2012 Space Traffic Jam replete with 1950's Sci-fi cover with flying saucers that, due to budgetary constraints, probably have curtains between the flight desk and the rest of the ship...
I was aware that guitarist Marcelo Paganini had done some Hendrix tribute shows, and seeing some of his stuff on YouTube reminded me of John McLaughlin. These were recordings by someone in the audience on either a phone or maybe an amateur video camera with a stereo mic stuck on top. This can be very atmospheric and kind of puts you into the room, technical "quality" comes second place to art.
Also the presence of Gary Husband, a drummer who has played with many jazz/rock/funk groups including Allan Holdsworth (him of beloved UK) and Level 42, which early on quite exited me with their crossover British funk. Billy Sherwood plays on one of the tracks too.
But it's the inclusion of Brazilian keyboard player and arranger Deodato, or Eumir Deodato to his friends and bank manager, that interested me. It was he that 41 years ago unleashed a jazz funk arrangement of Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss (that most will remember as the opening theme of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey).
His version became the most successful recording ever for CTI Records and made a lasting impression on one 13 year old in 1973 as it landed from another world and settled on our planet causing a Von Däniken furrow through our earthling single charts and Grammy selection board.
Now remember what I said about the way a lot of YouTube videos are recorded? Visualise an album of music recorded in the same way in a smallish room? Well the drums would sound very ambient and too loud (not "up" in the mix as we only have one, or maybe two microphones in this hypothetical situation), the bass would only bother us if no one else was playing, the guitar would be a little "peaky" and maybe harsh, and the vocals would be a bit indiscernible?
So as not to stretch your imagination too far, envisage that this actually happened and the result was this album? Yes, I'm afraid "Houston, we have a problem..."
I listened to it once, then a second time. This was not, unfortunately, to try and understand the obvious complexities of the arrangements and further evaluate the superlative musicianship including a rousing Hammond solo by one Tony Kaye on Somewhere Somehow, but to try and work out what it was that had replaced the snare drum. Another listen, and I concluded it must be either, a) the door from a small hatch back, or, b) a biscuit tin sampled in a disused warehouse.
I cannot tell you how I hate to even begin to criticise any one who has clearly completed the task, sat down, played it back, smiled at the result and then tucked into the chilled beers, but this is my VERY humble opinion...
Of the ten tracks here, only number seven (B4ever Now), eight (For Real) and ten (2012 Space Jam) seem to have been sent to a mixing desk, where the vocals and general balance appear to work.
There is nothing wrong with the playing, it has elements of Jazz Rock and maybe hints of later period King Crimson, with the drumming and guitar playing being first class. But the overall narrative is so distracted by the production values that I really can't recommend this. If it was a school essay, I'd write "See me" in the margin...with red ink.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Antonello Giliberto - The Mansion of Lost Souls
Tracklist: Equinox (6:31), Lotus Effect (4:56), The Mansion of Lost Souls (4:54), Sorrow (3:18), Flight of the Sleep (5:46), Entr'act (0:46), The Power of the Whip (4:06), Dream of the Dead Tree (3:45), Rise of the Titans (5:31), Ballad No. 3 (4:31), The Ride (4:13), Commiato (1:16)
|Country of Origin:||Italy|
|Year of Release:||2013|
The most rewarding aspect of being a music reviewer is that you can say whatever the fuck you want...as long as you genuinely mean it. You're obligated to a subjective integrity and brutal honesty, nothing else.
So...This will be a short one.
I always try to give any album I review three listens. That's fair, don't you agree? Some albums are growers, not showers, and you need to let them impact your bloodstream, like good quality heroin. You're not high, it's coming, you're slightly high...you're THERE.
The heroin was dud and I couldn't make it past the fourth track.
The Mansion of Lost Souls is the debut release from Italy's Antonello Gilberto. Mr. Giliberto has an impressive pedigree, having studied the guitar very seriously at a number of prestigious institutions within Italy, under the guidance of numerous luminaries of rock guitar (and perhaps, more specifically, the neo-classical style). Allan Holdsworth, Paul Gilbert, Robben Ford, Greg Howe, Guthrie Govan - these are the names Mr. Giliberto drops and it must be impossible not to find a keen appreciation for all fretted virtuosity under such tutelage. As well, Mr. Giliberto writes articles for prominent publications; teaches; endorses high-end instruments and equipment; and collaborates with a number of quite varied bands. A musician's musician? He certainly seems to be.
Mr. Giliberto is committed to the neo-classical guitar aesthetic so definitively established by the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine. If these heralds of the marriage between the baroque and the bombastic form Mr. Giliberto’s musical ancestry, then The Mansion of Lost Souls tells that, indeed, the pear hasn't dropped very from the nurturing tree.
I'm sorry, truly sorry. Maybe I'm jaded from my exposure to the last four or five neo-classical prog-metal albums I've reviewed for DPRP. Or maybe I'm no longer a teenager. But The Mansion of Lost Souls sucks. Hard. I'm embarrassed to drop any American vernacular...but "sucks" does the job.
Chops do not necessarily produce compositional excellence. Let me cry that out from the wilderness for all budding prog stars. Accept my baptism.
In sum: The Mansion of Lost Souls is a fully predictable wankfest of neo-classical overplaying wed to Maiden/Dio pretentiousness and excessiveness.
Even at its best, on Lotus Effect, the inclusion of the Hindustani/Arabic motifs (and that's redundant...but an anthropological conversation for another forum) is mildly - so mildly - appealing...but it's ruined by the boring sweep arpeggios and flailing strains of "I'll show you!". Yes, I mean that. I mean that.
By the time I got to the fourth track, Sorrow, the obligatory flamenco guitar ballad, with its bland, spiritless, less-than-progressive, clichéd immaturity, I was done.
You can have at it, if you want. Ever heard Dio? Ever heard Yngwie? Ever heard Iron Maiden? Did you enjoy their music? Do you want to hear a bastardized concatenation of borrowed and trite duplications of exactly that sound? You can...it's all there for you in The Mansion of Lost Souls.
Have I been unfair? Tough shit. Give me something unique, with some earnest humanity, effort at originality, and at least a measure of bona fide personality. If you please.
Conclusion: 2 out of 10
JOHN S. SHANNON
Mikael Persson - Marks & Bleeds
Tracklist: The Room (1:02), Not A Human In Sight (5:06), Roughhouse Boys (4:17), Room Of The Virgins (4:29), Some 50 Roads (4:02), Scarf Around Your Neck (5:00), You Must Be My Eyes (5:12), Man With Hound By His Cottage (3:25), Cottage Revisited (4:24), Only You (3:21), St. James`s Park (3:53), Fall Into My Arms (9:56)
Mikael Persson is a singer songwriter from Sweden, he is 52 years of age and has been around in many bands for a long time now. A few years ago in 2007 he released his first solo-album, after which he released an EP and has been a collaborator with many Swedish artists.
Musically I would not categorize Mikael Persson as progressive music, let alone progressive rock. The music on Marks & Bleeds can be categorized as folkish or AOR. In making this album Persson has had the help of a few great singer-songwriters from the American scene, Greg Copeland and Janni Littlepage. Home-grown help has also come in the shape of Citizen K and Luisa Jordan, both helping him with the recording of Marks & Bleeds.
The acoustic guitar plays a prominent role, the tracks completely acoustic or with electronic support. Vocals are the other important ingredient and there are a couple of duets, up-tempo songs and balladry as well as some improvisation in the last track.
I cannot say that the music is bad, au contraire, the music is even very good and entertaining, ranging from Dire Straits to Sniff n The Tears to pop songs in folk/country vein such as Only You, a former hit by Yazoo and Flying Pickets and, further away, The Platters. Here again in a different version.
The album is good, and entertaining, but not progressive at all. I did enjoy listening but as it isn't prog I'll refrain from rating the album.