Reviews in this issue:
Neal Morse - Neal Morse
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Radiant/Metal Blade|
|Year of Release:||1999|
Tracklist: Living Out Loud (4:32), Lost Cause (5:02), Landslide (5:27),
That Which Doesn't Kill Me (4:42), Everything is Wrong (5:03), Nowhere Fast (3:45),
A Whole Nother Trip (Total - 23:58): a. Bomb That Can't Explode (9:03),
b. Mr. Upside Down (4:41), c. The Man Who Would Be King (4:22), d. It's Alright (5:52).
Most of you will know that Neal Morse is the brain behind Spock's Beard, writing
most of the songs, doing lead vocals and playing keyboards, organ and acoustic guitar to
boot. Those of you who have seen 'The Beard' live know that Neal is an enormous entertainer
and marvellous front man. Now Neil has released his first untitled solo CD. Another Beardy
person who appears on the CD is drummer Nick D'Virgilio, who plays on all but the first
Neil described his albums as follows: 'You can expect to hear a wide variety of
styles. There's piano oriented pop songs, guitar heavy ones like Tom Petty or something,
some Spock's sounding stuff....all in all there's 7 regular songs and one 23:00 long
progressive thing called "A Whole Nother Trip." Actually I just said that for people
who are listening to the album and haven't heard Spock's Beard....for Spock's Beard fans it
won't be a surprise! It's a really cool album, if I do say so myself, and I hope people
Living Out Loud has an emphasis on the piano and acoustic guitar.
It sounds a bit like a cross between 'Out on The Edge' and 'Can't Get it Wrong'
from the last Spock's Beard album. Nice sing-along tune.
Lost Cause has a melody line which sounds exactly like Waste
Away. Like that track it's a very joyful and energetic song, despite
the lyrics ('I used to be a poor man, now I'm really broke ... I'm
a loser, I'm a failure'). This track also appeared on the CD Single of
Spock's Beard's Skin. Of the first 7 tracks, this is probably the
most 'Beardy' one.
Landslide is a quiet song with acoustic guitar and brush drums.
It's got a very nice vocal melody. Love it.
The intro of That Which Doesn't Kill You sounds a bit like the
Rolling Stones. It's a rather straightforward rock song in the vein
of Crowded House, but a nice one !
Everything is Wrong is a whole different thing. It features a very sad
piano melody and sad lyrics.
Nowhere Fast is another joyful pop song which reminds me a bit of
Mary Jane of the album by Arena's guitarist's Urbane album.
Emma is another lovely mid-tempo song with acoustic guitar, strings and
lovely lyrics about a childhood friendship.
So far, it's been mostly straightforward rock songs and ballads in the style
of Tom Petty/Crowded House. Great stuff nevertheless, and a nice diversion from
the more quirky Beard style. But for those of you who fear a full non-prog album,
read on !
Now it's time for the big epic A Whole Nother Trip. It starts with
a very Beardy tune called Bomb That Can't Explode which also features a
cello. The first instrumental part reminds me a lot of Gibberish and also
features some growling guitar bits.
After two and a half minutes it goes into a rather The Time Has Come-like
part. Whistles, drum loop effects and an organ and guitar solo lead us to a closing
section with a different, acoustic arrangement and melody which suddenly crosses into ...
Mr. Upside Down ... headbanging time ! Typical Beard goes Hard Rock
track, not unlike Hurt. Great drive ! A very simple but effective one-note
guitar riff forms the basis to this track. Lot's of weird computer-effects and
snippets of speech form the background.
The Man that Would be King .... Latin time ! The cello melody of the
intro of A Whole Nother Trip returns with Flamingo like rhythms and
percussion. This part also features a Spanish guitar solo. I bet you can't sit
still when this is playing.
It's Alright .... Beatles time ! A slow ballad with vocal overdubs.
The intro sounded slightly 'Strawberry Fields'-like. Later on there's a lot of
atmospheric vocal overdubs as if you're listening to The Eagles or Crosby Stills
Young & Nash. Wonderfully peaceful ending to a marvellous epic and a great
This album is bound to become one of my favourites of 1999. It has the Spock's
Beard sound we have come to know and love, but it goes beyond that to various
musical genres and sounds a whole lot more adventurous than Day for Night.
This album ones again proves who's the brain behind Spock's Beard !
Check out the
samples at the Radiant Records Web Site.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10.
John Young - Life Underground (the demos)
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||1999|
Tracklist: All Grown Up (5.08), Closer (4.34), Palmistry (5.27), Wings to Fly (2.12),
Last One Home (4.37), Nothing At All (3.30), Imaginery People (5.17), Ivory Tower (6.54),
Life Underground (4.14), Reprise (2.24).
John Young, born in Liverpool, is a keyboard player who worked as a session musician with lots of big names
like Paul Rodgers, Bonnie Tyler, Steelye Span, Robert Fripp and Steve Hackett. John also
played with John Wetton and co-wrote one song for his Battlelines album and six for
Arkangel (among which After All, Crime of Passion, Arkangel and All Grown Up).
He has his own band called Oblivious and is working on a solo CD called Life Underground.
DPRP received a copy of the demos for this album. About this album John wrote:
'The obvious solo move would be some kind of instrumental based virtuoso CD, but as I've
always had this leaning towards purer songwriting I decided it was time to make the jump
across to songs rather than self indulgence!'
The CD contains 10 quiet, sometimes almost ballad-like songs with vocals and keyboard
as main focus and drums in some of the songs. John is a good keyboard player and his vocals
are very nice as well. The feel of some of the songs is very Wetton-ish, as was to be expected.
Some song deserve special notice:
All Grown Up, a song that was also recorded by John Wetton, is a wonderful ballad.
Reprise at the end of the CD is another version of the same track.
Last One Home is John's composition which was also used as the basis for John
Wetton's Arkangel song.
Ivory Tower, is a real treat with a very quiet enchanting beginning followed
by the only real uptempo part of the CD. Unfortunately it ends very strange and abrupt.
The CD is sold through John's (rather dodgy) web site for 10 pounds ($20), which I personally
consider to be a bit high for a home made album without inlay and booklet. You might as well
wait for the finished version.
I'm looking forward to hearing the finished version, which will also feature an appearance
by Marillion's Steve Rothery. Some more varied instruments like guitar (acoustic and electric),
bass, saxophone, etc would do the songs a lot off good and make them even better. The lack of these
instruments and the fact that they are all quiet songs are the only weaknesses of the demo
version of John's album.
Conclusion: 7+ out of 10.
Tom Newman - Faerie Symphony and Other Stories
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Tempus Fugit|
|Year of Release:||1999|
Tracklist: Feary Symphony (32.04), Sad Sing (2.16), Excerpt from Stonehenge (2.48),
Will you be mine in the morning? (2.55), Excerpt from Concerto de Mango in E Major (2.30),
Day of the Percherons (demo) (2.27), The Soujourn to the Dun of Culann the Smith (6.48),
The Courting of Emer (4.54), Superman (demo) (3.33), Cycle for Moving Dunes (12.40).
Plus Hidden track: Sad Sing (German version) (3:51).
Tom Newman has been around for a long time. In 1970 he met Richard Branson and
formed a partnership to build the Manor studios in Oxford, where he recorded Mike Oldfield's
Tubular Bells, which was released as Virgin Record's first album in 1972. He
(co-)produced other albums like Hergest Ridge, Platinum, Amarok and
Tubular Bells II for Mike Oldfield and also worked as a producer for folks like Cat
Stevens, John Cale, Babylon Zoo and Snowy White.
Besides playing in bands like Tomcats and July in the late 60s, Tom has also been recording
his own music since 1975. This album is a compilation of his work, taking songs from Tom's
first (1975-77), second (1986-88) and third recording periods (1996-99). All songs on the album
were digitally remastered
The long Faerie Symphony, which consists of 13 parts, was actually released as a
an album in 1977. It sounds a lot like Mike Oldfield's 70s epics, but much more
experimental, less melodic and even more folky. The first part of Faerie Symphony,
called The Woods of ... actually features a melody that is almost identical to one
in Oldfield's Ommadawn (1975). Oldfield plays guitar in the Dance of Daoine
Although I am a big fan of Oldfield's instrumental work from the seventies, I think Newman
takes it a bit too far. I can't really enjoy listening to some of the drawn-out pieces.
Three vocal tracks originate on Tom's Fine Old Tom album from 1977 (the rest of the
album is fully instrumental). Despite the sad lyrics, Sad Sing (again with Mike Oldfield)
is actually a very
joyful folky track with a catchy melody. Will you be Mine in the Morning ? (strange
enough called Will you Bite me in the Morning? on Tom's web site) is a typical folk
tune. The demo of Superman is totally different; it's a weird reggea tune ! It
therefore sounds rather out of place on this album.
The tracks from this period sound rather outdated and use a lot of conventional folk
This period in Tom's career was influenced by New Age music. Traces of that influence can
be heard in the tracks from that period: Excerpt from Concierto de Mango in E Major
(from the 1986 Bayou Moon album), Excerpt from Stonehenge (from the 1986
album Aspects) and Cycle for Moving Dunes (from the 1988 Ozymandias
album). These three songs sound more modern and use more synths instead of conventional
folk instruments. Especially Cycle ... is a very interesting track and could best
be described as a modern Bolero. The track slowly builds on the same
melody, all the while increasing in volume and power. The track leans heavily on synths and
features Mike Oldfield as well.
The Soujourn to the Dun of Culann the Smith and The Courting of Emer
(both from the 1996 album The Hound of Ulster) are a lot more pleasant to listen to
because of their contemporary sound quality and mixing. They seem to combine the best of the
two previous periods in the music.
Day of the Percherons is a previously unreleased demo with Oldfield on electric
The secret bonus track is a hilarious German version of Sad Sing, recorded
live at a Mike Oldfield convention in 1998 and features complete nonsense German words
Some of the music on this album is quite interesting, especially from the two later
recording periods. It does need a while to grow on you. At times it is very Oldfield-ish,
although the Celtic and folk elements are more important than the rock elements and the
music tends to drag a bit.
The booklet is very well done, with nice artwork, a short biography and lyrics for the
Only recommended for Celtic/folk lovers and die-hard Oldfield fans.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10.
Different Trains - On The Right Track
Tracklist: Birth (0:57), This Is Life (5:13), Bits Of Dust (0:30), Dut In The
Wind (5:18), Market Place (0:54), In My House (8:10), Sweet Children (6:14), Class (5:20),
To Be Continued... (1:41), Workmen (0:46), Work (5:36), Rain (8:07), The Tired
Tide (1:20), Swim Against The Tide (10:05), Cruel Trick (9:39).
The fact that an album has been in circulation for longer than a couple of months has
never been a reason to disqualify it for the CD Reviews section of DPRP. A good album is
never too old, as we progheads should be all too aware of! I shall therefore treat this
album like any other release, although it was released more than five years ago now.
Different Trains is a project around Damon Lewis Shulman, who has written all of the music
and lyrics for this album, sings all lead vocals and also plays a multitude of
instruments. He is assisted by full band members Mike Payne on drums and percussion, John
Rozzell on keyboards and Alan Woods on bass and backing vocals. In addition, the album
features Ajay Shukla on bass on some tracks and additional keyboards by Steve Ennever.
Lastly, Paul Tasker on saxophone and Adrian Fry on trombone make appearances on the last
track Cruel Trick.
The opening track of the album, Birth, is a short instrumental, very much like the
short piece of music that opens Pink Floyd's The Wall, just before In The Flesh kicks in.
This Is Life is very much a neo-prog track, such as bands like Summer Indoors use
to make. It features a lot of keyboard strings that are all too much indication of that
particular type of songs and I'm not too fond of those...
A bit of text spoken in a silly way is all that Bits Of Dust is, and it's no more
than a prelude to the fourth of the track of the album, Dust In The Wind. This is
a really great track, with a very depressing lyric. During the more quiet parts Shulman's
voice reminds me a bit of Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson. The refrain features some great
guitar playing, in the Rothery style, a style he perfected on Afraid of Sunlight which
had yet to come out a year later!
Market Place is another short in-between track, just like Bits Of Dust merely a
prelude to the following track, In My House. Again a very Marillionesque track,
largely due to Shulman's guitar sound.
Sweet Children has a very poppy feel to it, despite the atmospheric intro. The
last part of the song could have been a King Crimson improvisation, though.
To Be Continued... is a very orchestral instrumental and is followed by
Workmen, another prelude-track. When I first heard Work I thought I was
listening to a motown record from the seventies. Very jazzy, it even features (sampled)
Rain is one of the very few tracks of the album to feature an extended electric
guitar solo, and is therefore one of my favourites. The music needs a kick in its ass
(pardon my french) sometimes and a goof guitar solo can do the trick.
Swim Against The Tide is a eight minute monologue followed by two minutes King
Crimsonic improvisation. I can accept that Shulman has a statement to make but I think
it would have sufficed to include it in the CD booklet alone, because I find myself
skipping this track after two listens.
With its nine plus minutes, closer Cruel Trick is the second longest track on the
album. This has some of the energy that Spock's Beard is famous for, but it's more
straightforward than today's premier live band. The song fades out after five minutes,
followed by piece of music that could have been played on a medieval market. Flutes and
On The Right Track is not a very coherent album, it incorporates too many styles for that.
Also the prelude/interlude tracks more disrupt the flow of the album than enhance it.
Having said that, some of the material is very good, and the production of the album is
crystal clear. The drum sound especially is excellent, and it's more often than not that
the drum sound of prog albums is lousy at best.
Final mark is a seven, which would have been higher with greater cohesion and originality.
But as the band say in their booklet: We are developing presently but feel we are on the
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Derk van Mourik
Inner Resonance - Solar Voices
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Catalogue #:||IR 99001|
|Year of Release:||1999|
Tracklist: Icarus (3:31), Winter's Dawn (5:09), One More Summer (9:12), Ember
(4:30), Wanderlust (3:54), Solar Wind (5:01), Desire to Believe (6:53), Open
Eyes (4:13), Broken Stone (6:59), The Drum (9.58)
Although they present themselves as a band, in fact Inner Resonance consists of
two people, Jeffrey Ryan Smoots on guitar, keys, bass, drums and backing vocals
and Peter Orullian on vocals and keyboards. Normally, this means that the music
is either very keyboard or guitar dominated, but Inner Resonance succeeds in
finding the balance in their instruments. The CD itself is also quite balanced
with respect to song structure (heavy and easy) and is truly progressive in
nature, Egdon Heath meets Rush. Influences of Queensryche and Dream Theatre are
also present on the album. One minus: the vocals are not always completely in
tune especially in the high-pitched parts (although Peter has won the Private
Eye Best Male Vocalist Award) and this screws up some of the best parts on the
The album opens with the very driving Icarus, a song with a very strong melodic
line, a bit like the album Nebula of Egdon Heath. This is already the highlight
of the album for me, a bit unusual to find the climax on the start of the album.
Winter's Dawn is a more elaborate composition with a nice difference between
heavy and more mellow parts. One of the two "epics" (as apparently all 8+ minute
tracks are called in press releases) is One More Summer. It is clear that the
guys of Inner Resonance are more at ease in these long pieces, since the
compositions are truly elaborate, with really heavy parts and really nice
melodic lines. In the low parts the vocals are quite effective and theatrical
but in the higher regime they get really irritating and screamish.
Ember is an almost 60's ballad-like guitar-vocal song. Nice, but nothing
special. Wanderlust is a powerful instrumental opening with a 7/8-6/8 melody and
is the second highlight of the album (if only because you don't have the vocals
here). A piece heavily based in classical music. Solar Wind is more meanstream.
A standard prog-song. Desire to Believe has a driving rhythm but is nothing
special. At this point the CD that started so strongly has more or less
collapsed for the listener. Somehow the songs at this point just aren't
interesting. The opening of Open Eyes, very delicate and mellow comes as a
relieve. A nice keyboard-based ballad.
A more technology based opening of Broken Stone: Dream Theatre is the first
thing that comes to mind here. The rest of the song lives up to this
expectation, but the total composition is rather dull.
The Drum opens with a beautiful piano/electric guitar melody, really well done,
lots of melodic and rhythmic changes and breaks: prog at its best. As soon as
the vocal melody starts, the composition falls down, with some interesting
parts, but the general picture becomes untrackable.
All in all this was a difficult CD to judge. Parts are spine-chiveringly
brilliant, others are quite bad. Like I said a couple of times: the vocals are
horrible in some places. So the average of brilliant and bad leaves us with the:
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Sonic Debris - Sonic Debris
|Country of Origin:||Norway|
|Year of Release:||1999|
Tracklist:New Horizon (3:40), Virtual Steps
(3:57), Dead Man (5:14), Aching Pain (5:42)
Wow! What a vocalist! That is the main impression I get from this demo-CD of Norwegian
band Sonic Debris. Musically, they range from Saga to Rush and sometimes
even a hint of Queensryche.
The vocalist Rune Sørheim sounds like all the great: ranging from a typical Saga
sound in the first song to U2's Bono in the others. A true promise for the young
prog-scene, where good vocalists are rare. The first song, New Horizon could be a
Saga tune, well composed but not too complex, apart from the Rush-like intro.
Virtual Steps has some interesting breaks in it, reminding a bit of Dream Theatre
or even Faith no More.
In general, the songs on this album sound very familiar, a lot of
links with the above mentioned bands, as well as King Crimson can be made, yet fresh and
original. It surprises me they do not quote Saga and U2 as influences themselves,
since for instance Aching Pain is very U2-ish, and even the Simple Minds come to
mind! But perhaps this was left as an exercise for the reviewer ;-). Some weird psychedelic
sounds end the demo (hurray, a non-listed bonus track).
I sincerely hope they are able to produce a complete album with material like this, this is
really worthwhile. Not your mega-complex bombastic sympho, but very well produced mainstream
rock with a progressive edge. In February/March 2000 the full length CD should come out, so
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.