Salem Hill - Not Everybody's Gold
Tracklist: Prelude (4.21), Riding the Fence (6.23), The Last Enemy (7.49),
January (5.56), Let Loose the Arrow (7.04), We Don't Know (4.43), Sweet Hope Suite (27.54).
Hidden track: The Blind Place (1.00).
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Lazarus Records|
|Year of Release:||2000|
Salem Hill consists of Michael Ayers (keyboards), Michael Dearing (guitars, vocals, additional keyboards),
Carl Groves (guitars, vocals, additional keyboards), Patrick Henry (bass) and Kevin Thomas (drums,
percussion & vocals). All of the band members also provide backing vocals on various tracks.
Not Everybody's Gold is the band's 5th album. After hearing the marvellous Robbery of
Murder in 1998 - an album very well received by various members of the DPRP Team - it's wasn't difficult
to gather volunteers for a roundtable review of the new album. On top of the opinions of the three
DPRP Team members we have also added some comments from the band, as found on their homepage.
Carl (Salem Hill): Incredibly fun to record. This was also the easiest to record. There are no less than 20
different percussion "instruments" (excluding Kevin's kit) playing in this tune. We'd walk
around Ron's house, hold out a microphone, smack something with a drumstick, and yell out "Sound
good?" I played everything from cookie sheets to garage posts on this one.
Remco: Salem Hill is a new band for me. Their highly acclaimed previous album has gone past me, so I look at them with a
fresh view and will treat them in the same way as I do other bands that I don't know.
This track reminds me very much of Yes (Big Generator style), including the multi-vocal parts and
subsequent synthesizer DX7 sounds. Midway it is quite AWBH like (Brother of Mine). This is not particularly
my favourite Yes-era, but all in all it opens the album with a some power.
Mark: Though there is some vocal chanting this is basically an instrumental track. Opens
with percussion that soon begins to sound like a typewriter. A vocal chant in typical Yes
fashion follows. This track immediately shows we're not dealing with a repeat of The Robbery
of Murder. Guitar also sounds like Yes at times; I'm thinking of Yours Is No Disgrace
Ed: The fact that Salem Hill already released two concept albums previously plus the title of
this instrumental album opener first made me think that this was another concept CD. Still, it isn't. As a matter of
fact the track doesn't have a link with any melody elsewhere on the album and could therefore
have had any other title.
The main melody of this energetic opener is first introduced by a close harmony acapella section, which reminds
me a bit of Who Are You by The Who. Another remarkable thing is the multitude of percussion
that was used for this track. After this percussion we get a rather Camelish guitar solo
and some very bombatic sections that reminded me of Prey by Casino. A splendid album opener.
Riding the Fence
Mike Ayers (Salem Hill): The piano solo in the middle was inspired by the third movement
of Samuel Barber's "Piano Concerto". Of course, after I heard the original demo and wrote the
solo, Carl THEN informed me that the tempo had been speeded up to what was now a "Tempo Di
Tearass". Of all the new material, this is the one I am most looking forward to playing in
Remco: A very uptempo and catchy track, but with terrible vocals. In terms of composition, this track is also not
quite the peak of the genre. The way it is performed/produced is also not up to standards, quite chaotic instrument mixing.
The most positive note is the piano solo halfway the track, although the keyboard player obviously is no Rick Wakeman.
Let's just quickly forget this track, because some quite good tracks follow.
Mark: A speedy track, notably on guitar and the temperamentful drumming. Vocal intonation
seem a bit disconnected at times, especially in the verses. There's a long instrumental section,
with a great piano solo. The retro Seventies keyboards sound like Rick Wakeman at
several spots. Good lyrics, too: "Like pacifist soldiers or blood-thirsty doves, Our lives
are only pretense". Not the music I expected from Salem Hill, but bloody good!
Ed: A very fast and energetic track, probably the heaviest one on the album. The song
features a catchy chorus with harmony vocals plus a nice instrumental intermezzo with solos
for piano, bass & percussion and finally guitar. One of my favourite tracks on the album to play
on the highway and scream along to (yep, that's me in your rear view mirror). Unlike Remco,
the raw vocals by Dearing don't bother me at all.
The Last Enemy
Carl (Salem Hill): I don't really remember specifically what sparked the writing of this
song. I suppose I was tired of the reverent way in which most of us deal (at least publicly)
with death. Death pisses me off. I hate it. Even as a Christian, I don't look forward to it as
a "transitional event." I look at it as a slobbering, smiling predator, glutted on its prize. I
like the keys of the verses and the choruses being a tri-tone apart.
Remco: A slowly pounding track, heavier guitar work, ala the Hanging Tree of Arena, or some later
Pendragon tracks. A type of track done a million times before, but if done well it never loses its power. In this case,
it does not reach the quality of the mentioned references, but the general impression of the track is positive. The vocals are
much better now, the mix is still weak though (a guitar solo with the guitar almost muffled in the background). The climax
building halfway the track is done nicely. The choir is a surprise but the instrumental section that
follows just starts. It is too obvious that this track is composed using cut and paste techniques.
Mark: This track (re)kindled my interest in Salem Hill, when I heard it on
Progressive DisDURPance Vol.
3 some weeks back. I immediately sampled Salem Hill's album The Robbery of Murder
again, then purchased it. And this track sounds most like the material on that previous album,
both where vocals and instrumentalisation are concerned. And even lyrically. An introductory
section, missing from the DURP edit establishes atmosphere with wind, bells and softly whispered
words. The heavy bass is very noticable. In the instrumental section the winds and bells return
and there are some noticably retro keyboards, like Arjen Lucassen is likely to use.
Overall the neo-progressive label I earlier had expected to stick on Salem Hill's material fits
this song best.
Ed: A beautifully sensitive and melodic ballad, which is a nice change from the two more
powerful tracks that open the CD. After a short Floydian guitar solo that opens the track
we hear Thomas' frail vocals in the melancholic verses, while Dearing and Groves share vocals
in the chorus. The song contains more delicious bits and pieces, like a guitars duet, a piano
break, a choir (giving the song a bit of a Light flavour) and a dramatic, slightly
a-tonal section. At the end the song returns to the main melody of the verse, but this time with
acoustic guitar and a new rhythm. All in all another splendid and diverse track.
Mike Ayers (Salem Hill): It took me a while to warm up to this one, but it has become my
personal favorite of all of Pat's songs. I wanted to create colors that balanced the dark
thunder of the bass and drum lines, and gave the feeling of contrary motion to the rhythm
section. The keyboard solo is a tribute to my all-time favorite Rick Wakeman solo from my
all-time favorite Yes album. That's all the clue you get.
Remco: This is a relatively good track. Pounding, complex rhythms, a bit Flower Kings like, good interplay between the
instruments. The middle section is quite bare, with only electric (rhythmic) guitar and drums. Could have done better on the
composition side there, as well as the keyboard solo. Much more power was desired here, the bass guitar (which does
as good as nothing) is better audible then the flat keyboard sound. The chorus is a relief in that respect: catchy and
Mark: Musically, a much simpler piece as instrumentalisation goes, in the sense that it's
more straightforward than the other tracks on Not Everybody's Gold. Starts with some
lashing guitar strokes that continue throughout. Again a long instrumental section, which is
standard through tracks 2 to 4 and track 6. Notice also the heavy bass again. No favourite of
mine this one. Whoever's playing keyboards here seems to be just fiddling away, except in the
instrumental part, which is undoubtely the best section of this track, with a far better
arrangement and clearer performances then elsewhere during January. Vocal performance in
this song also comes last when rating the album, as do the lyrics.
Ed: Nope, this one - composed by bass player Henry - doesn't really work for me. Although the vocal melody in the verse and
chorus and the George Harrison-like singing isn't bad there's other things that spoil the track for me. For instance, the heavy guitar
riff that's repeated endlessly and makes the song too repetitive, or the rather irritating fiddling
of the keyboards that accompanies this riff. The instrumental break is very nice though (again, Remco and
I disagree here). If only it had been incorporated in a more interesting song.
Let Loose The Arrow
Mike Ayers (Salem Hill): I'm not going to say much about this, other than the lyrics
bespeak my Zen influences very strongly. The chorus is a reference to the art of "kyu-do", or
Zen archery, where target and marksman must become as one, and thinking and doing are one swift
motion. The middle section was one of two parts of the album recorded on the Beckerath pipe
organ at the First Presbyterian Church of Brentwood, TN.
Remco: An awful keyboard sound opens the track, which enters a standard rock composition, but soon typical
IQ like rhythmic measure changing tricks follow. The rest is a bit modern Yes like, Open Your Eyes, you know the
thing. The (real) church organ middle section is very cool though (I have a weak spot for church organs).
Mark: Starts with some high-pitched keyboards, then a deliciously simple but effective
bass picks up the tune. And from there it's onwards with nicely arranged instrumentalisation
towards the two minutes mark. Yes, the long instrumental section I've come to expect starts off
this track. The lyrics are brought by two vocalists, probably Groves and Deaning. This again
has some very Yes like attributes, for instance in a returning vocal bridge between verse and
chorus, though keys are more like in the vein of a later day Tony Banks. And electric
guitar has been traded for acoustic at times. A late addition of pipe organ ends this one.
Ed: Now this sounds really retro ! The vocal harmonies in canon, the 'hippy-ish' topic of
the lyrics and the whole feel of the song has got early Seventies written all over it. And it
sounds mighty good ! After a long instrumental intro of almost 2 minutes we are treated to a duet of
Dearing and Thomas in the verses, while the rest of the band joins in for the close harmonies
in the chorusses. To add a bit more of a Close to the Edge feel a church organ solo is also
featured, followed by a guitar solo with that typical distorted Brian May sound. This song
has that powerful and energetic 'lively' sound you can also hear in Spock's
Beard's music. Marvellous ! Fiercely disagree with the Open Your Eyes comparison !
Blaphemy ! ;-)
We Don't Know
Carl (Salem Hill): My favorite story from the album. Pat had brought in a cool ballad
called "Fade" for consideration on NEG. It didn't fit this record (It'll be on the next one,
don't worry), but it was a song about love-not necessarily a love song. The rest of us began
joking with him, nudging him in the ribs saying "Salem Hill doesn't do love songs!" "We never
even mention the 'L' word!" and crap like that, all for laughs of course. So later, everybody's
gone save for Kevin and me. Kevin is very serious and comes up to me and asks quietly "Do we
have any songs that mention love?" "Of course!" I laughed. But I couldn't think of one. Not a
single one! As my smile faded, I turned around and said, "What do we know about love anyway?"
and got in my car. The song was pretty much done before I got home.
Remco: A rock ballad, maybe the best track of the "short" ones. Powerful Hammond work, passionate vocals
and more massive than the previous tracks, but not very varied, it's sort of one big chorus.
Mark: Strange clicking sounds over some white noise at the start. Then keys play bells
from what sounds like a nursery rhyme. Some good Hammond sounds, though I'm not sure a real
Hammond is used here. In the guitar solo I'm reminded somewhat of Brian May's play. It
took some time, but this one has really grown on me. It's not a complicated track, but it's
brought with fervour, with special kuddos to the singer. Again a bit of heavy vibrating organ
to top it off.
Ed: Hmmmm ..... I don't know either. Another one that's not among my favourites. After an
opening section in which we hear someone winding up and play a nursery rhyme from a musical box
(where have we heard this before ?) we are treated to a very Soundgarden-like track with
a sad vocal melody and Dearing going into 'Paul Stanley (Kiss) screaming mode' in the chorus.
Not really my cup off tea.
Sweet Hope Suite
Mike Ayers (Salem Hill): A masterpiece of a composition, and the most musically
challenging keyboard work I have ever attempted. We experimented with a thousand different
textures and colors, it felt like, and mixing the keyboard parts was a nightmare. Once again,
we invaded the First Presbyterian Church, and made use of that incredible pipe organ. Once you
hear it, you'll KNOW why we bothered.
Remco: An almost 30 minute long track. Being disappointed in these long tracks too often, I listened with prejudice, but this, I must
admit, is one of the more interesting 30 minute tracks. With a Yes-like, maybe even TransAtlantic/Spock's Beard like opening,
it quitens down with only keyboard chords and vocals, Awaken/Turn Of The Century style. The keyboard soli here
are in my opinion much better than on the rest of the album (oh, and the church organ returns, hurray ;-)! The middle section
is almost Spock's Beard like, with this sort-of-folky tune and multi-vocal backings, evolving into an unplugged
acoustic part, which is excellently performed and quite varied in terms of composition. A reference with Kansas in
general for the whole track pops up here, with the heavy organ/keyboard use. The last ten minutes of the track are very nice,
better even, are beautiful. Warm sounds of chello, piano and souring electric guitar, a bit (lot) Camel like, as is
the uptempo section that breaks the two slow sections.
Mark: A magnificent three-part progressive opus, divided in sections of eleven, eight and
ten minutes respectively. The first section again has those familiar Yes-influences, most
especially in the instrumental intro. Listen to the guitar and you'll be sure to recognize
Steve Howe's style. This first part is enhanced through the application of violin and
pipe organ and the truly wonderful quality of some of the vocals! The second part again uses
violin and adds mandoline. The last section is, like The Last Enemy very much in tune
with the music of The Robbery of Murder. In an instrumental piece in this third part the
boys return to some earlier themes, while the haunting vocals are best on the album throughout
this section; some true emotion is poured into these. This track alone warrants an interest in
this album; a definite contender for Best Song of the Year if Salem Hill prove able to reach a
large enough audience, which they should as they show talent, craftmanship and imagination.
Ed: After being treated to some good and two mediocre tracks we come to the real treat
of the album; a 27 minute prog rocker's wet dream. Wow !
The song consists of three parts. The first part, Eternity in Our Hearts, starts with
a fast guitar lick that will return several times and runs like a red thread through the song.
After 3 minutes the vocals start and we are treated to more of those wonderful retro close harmonies.
After a slow version of a theme that will return in part 2 we get a bit of early Genesis with
a The Knife-like section. Great instrumentation with chuncky bass guitar and later on that
majestic church organ solo Mike Ayers referred to.
Part two, And We Wait, starts after eleven minutes. The melody of the first section of this part
reminds me a lot of Worn Down Piano by the Mark and Clark Band. The other half of this 8 minute
long part is one of those 'happy' Spock's Beard/Yes-like compositions with nice 'clanging' bass,
acoustic guitar and also feature the wonderful talents of Kansas' violin player David Ragsdale,
who was an important factor in the great sound of Robbery of Murder.
Part three, the 10 minute The Hill of Peace, is an incredibly sensitive ballad. After some chello-like
instrument (which might be Ragsdale's baritone violin mentioned in the credits) and a short guitar solo we
get another reprise of the fast guitar lick from the opening
before we go into another lively instrumental section. After a second guitar solo the opus ends
with the opening close harmony verse from Eternity in Our Hearts.
This song - which alone is more than worth the price for this album - is the only track on the CD
that sounds like the material on the previous album here and there, mainly during the third part.
The Blind Place
Kevin (Salem Hill): The funniest thing I ever heard at the end of a project. I had tears
in my eyes from laughing so hard after hearing the finished product. I'm so proud of my first
Ed: A hidden track that follows after some 5 minutes of silence. A rock 'n roll like
stomping little thingy with sound engineer Ron Foster on muted trumpet. Nice little lighthearted
surprise after having been able to catch your breath following Sweet Hope Suite.
Remco: All in all the album disappointed me in that respect that what I heard about Robbery of Murder set my expectations perhaps too
high. What I hear here is a nice album by a band that is still very much in the learning process.
The production and mix are weak, the artwork is childish,
the compositions (with the exception of the tour-de-force Sweet Hope Suite) in general cannot convince me, most of the time I do
not like the lead vocals and the instrumental parts are not
always accurate in timing, giving a chaotic
impression at times. Still, there are things to be said on the positive side as well. The album is very diverse, it is pure prog,
and you can play it without getting tired after half an hour, it keeps interesting. The wonderful Sweet Hope Sweet lifts the
average to a 7 for me (also because it takes almost half the album).
Mark: In some ways this is a very retro album, and the YES-influences are very evident.
Perhaps a comparisons with the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe album is stretching
things a bit too far, but this thought hardly comes from out of the blue. Song structure on
Not Everybody's Gold is rather basic in tracks 2 to 4 and 6, as it was on The Robbery
of Murder. The focus on the new album is not so much on melodies as it was on that previous
outing, which often results in a somewhat crowded instrumental arrangment. This is less true of
the other songs on the album.
While The Robbery of Murder was very clearly neo-progressive, this album fuses neo prog
with good old symphonic styles and influences. Salem Hill has therefore succeeded in surprising
me. As The Last Enemy was the first track of this new album I heard, I was expecting a
second The Robbery of Murder, but I'm not displeased with the product the boys from the
U.S. have turned out. Let's face it, noone wants a band that keeps repeating itself. This has
strenghtened my interest in the Catatonia album, which I'm sure to try and pick up soon.
I do question the long term attraction of Not Everybody's Gold. After owning The
Robbery of Murder for just one week I had memorized all the lyrics through the sheer joy
of singing along. I haven't gotten that from any of these songs, not even the ones I really
like, notably Sweet Hope Suite. It remains to be seen if this album has solid durability.
I've you've enjoyed SMPTe's Transatlantic album this year, be sure to give this
album a try.
Ed: I have always been very impressed with Salem Hill's previous masterpiece The Robbery
of Murder. I was quite shocked when playing Not Everybody's Gold for the first time because
it's completely different from its predecessor. Whereas Robbery featured mainly shorter songs
that were very accessible, this new CD contained some long tracks and songs that needed a while to
get into. But after playing it a couple of times it really grew on me.
I still don't care that much for We Don't Know and January; they are good songs in
themselves but just don't live up to the high standard of the rest of the material.
On this CD we hear a much more diverse Salem Hill. The album combines the best of Seventies with
contemporary prog music. Comparisions range all the way from Yes and Spock's Beard
to Klaatu, Barclay James Harvest and Styx, and on top of that, the occassional
section wouldn't have been out of place on an IQ or Arena album. The album is also
very heavy in close harmonies, which seem to be making a come back in prog (just think about
recent Spock's Beard and Porcupine Tree albums), great as far as I'm concerned as long as it
doesn't turn into a 'Bee Gees go Prog' thing, which fortunately is not the case on this CD.
The packaging features a nice collage drawing where the faces of historical figures are combined
with friends of the band (DPRP's own Rene Janssen is also among them !).
All in all a highly recommended album. Oh, and want to get a clue about the title of the album ?
It is a misinterpreted lyric from one of the songs from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Happy
Mark: 8+ out of 10.
Remco: 7 out of 10.
Ed: 8.5 out of 10.