Reviews in this issue:
Tim Burness - Infinite Ocean / Mumbling in the House of Commons
Tim Burness used to play in a band called Burnessence who supported various UK prog bands in the mid 80's. While he's now working on material for a full album with Pendragon's Fudge Smith, he released a 8 track E.P. in the meantime.
Immediately after the first track Infinite Ocean (3.55) opens it becomes very clear what the main weakness of this EP is; Tim is a pretty lowsy vocalist. Tim's
voice spoil the otherwise enjoyable title track, which features acoustic guitar and a very nice bass line. The track reminds me of Crowded House, but more danceable.
The next track Mumbling in the House of Commons (2.30) is a nice rock composition with Tim talking in the infamous stiff English accent which is associated with members of the parliament. Although it's quite funny and the music isn't bad at all, the joke loses it's strength after two refrains.
Dancing in the Sun (3.36) is a rather ambient piece in the same style as some synth bands from the 80's like OMD, Howard Jones, Ultravox, etc. It's also got some keyboards which remind me of early Floyd (Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, etc). Once again not a bad track, besides Tim's vocals.
Free the Chicken in your Soul (1.37) is a real waste of CD space and features Tim making an arse of himself, literally ! It's just one and a half minute of acoustic guitar and animal noises by Mr. Burness.
The instrumental version of Infinite Ocean (3.50) which followes, proves once more that the track really is a good composition, if only it featured a good vocalist.
Effing the Ineffable (4.00) is a long Floydian guitar solo with a synth chord. It might work fine if incorporated in a longer piece, but as a stand alone track it does not have enough changes to stay interesting for the full four minutes.
I Don't Know What's Good For Me (3.45) has more strained vocals and acoustic guitar and the ambient guitar effects in Tranquility are hardly worth mentioning with it's 47 seconds.
Although Tim Burness clearly shows that he has the potential to write and produce good pop/prog songs, he lacks the vocal power to give his compositions the necessary 'finishing touch'. Also, if he wants to be taken seriously in the music business, I doubt if tracks like Free the Chicken ... and Mumbling ... will do the trick. They might be fun as concert encores or added tracks on later singles, but they definitely don't leave the impression of a talented artist.
I would therefore advise Tim to build on the strengths in the other compositions and get a good vocalist in his band to sing them.
If anybody is interested , the Eleusis site has some real audio samples available.
If anybody would be interested in this CD, it can be ordered for 4 pounds sterling (plus 1 pound for overseas) from: Expanding Consciousness, P.O. Box 2244, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 3UB, United Kingdom.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10.
Aragon - Mr. Angel
This is the fifth album by Aragon, a band from Melbourne, Australia. Aragon used to be one
of the bands signed on the S.I. label and their music was featured on the three sampler CDs
by that label.
To be honest, that's also the only Aragon material I knew until I had to review this new album. As a result, I don't know how this one relates to their earlier albums. I will therefore present my opinion without any judgement if the band's getting better or worse.
Aragon has a guitar player (John Poloyannis), a vocalist (Les Dougan) and a keyboard player
(Tom Behrsing). Bass and drums are produced by sequencers. This is also, as far as I'm concerned,
one of the weaknesses of the band. Every now and then their music sounds very artificial;
flat computer drums and bass lines without any depth.
The guitar parts are okay and the album has some very good keyboard solos, but I was quite put off by the vocals of Les Dougan. Liking a singer's voice is often a matter of taste, but I really don't think Dougan is a talented singer. And that's a shame because the album does have two or three nice compositions, especially among the more powerful (though very straightforward and basic) rock tunes. Most of the ballads are completely forgettable.
The album features 11 tracks, all very short and most of them faded out. The longest track is only five and a half minutes long. The vocal section of the first track, Surface Tension, sounds like a shameless copy of Brian Adam's Run to You. The last track on the CD, Mr. Angel ends with a pathetic 'da-dub-dub-du-du' lyric and a bit of computer drumming, leaving me absolutely unimpressed.
The cover of the CD booklet has a silly simple drawing of a smiling angel. Inside the booklet all of the lyrics can be found.
If the band's other CDs are comparable to Mr. Angel then I wonder how they got their popularity in Holland.
Conclusion: 6- out of 10.
Jorge Riesco - Jorge
Being an unknown Spanish musician, I asked Jorge to provide me with some information about himself:
I´m a music amateur. Sometimes I used to play, sometimes to compose, sometimes to study.
I have always worked alone, so I couldn´t hear the music composed by myself. About two years
ago I heard about computer´s sound cards and decided to buy one. I found it very interesting.
The sound card can easily perform in multiple voices. For several weeks I did enjoy a lot of
playing with my sound card, connected to a keyboard, and I decided to make a record. This was
not a quick decission. I was thinking very, very slowly about this idea. My original idea
was to make one hour of music. This was a big challenge.
I had a lot of work to do like composing the music (sometimes I use old musical bits, but the most of the work is new). Very soon I noticed that the sound card was a too small musical machine, so I had to buy a synthesizer, and a MIDI driver for my electrical guitar (and to learn about how to use all the two machines).
I got to learn also some things about MIDI programming, and many other small things. I was learning at the same time I was working. When the most of the music was composed and performed on a sequencer, I got to buy an 8 tracks digital recorder and recorded the music. You can notice a few seconds of silence between the parts 1, 2 and 3, in the CD. At the begining of recording I was not very clever about how to use the recorder, so the parts were smaller to prevent an accidental erasure. From part 4 to the end I got more faith in myself, and the music plays continuosly.
My original idea was to make a non stop hour of music. The individual track numbers are placed to make easy to navigate through the CD. For example: If you wish to hear the last minutes you can press the number 8 on your CD player and go directly near the CD part you want.
When all the work was finished I went to a professional studio, and take my recording to a CD. I send some copies to about a dozen of record labels, but nobody seemed to be interested. Then I decided to produce myself a number of 500 CDs (and say goodbye to the remainder of my savings). Some CDs were assigned to promotion, and this is, for the moment, the end of my musical adventure.
People uses to ask about my musical influences. I don´t use to hear a lot of music. I like best to study scores. I found all the scores interesting, and I always learn a little (or a lot) from the scores I read. All kind of scores, and all kind of styles are interesting for me, so my musical influences could be very different.
The result of Jorge's experiments is a musical journey of 60 minutes and 15 seconds. It's all done with MIDI and keyboards, so if you're not interested in that kind of music, don't bother with this CD. However, people who like Jean Michel Jarre, ambient music and keyboard music, give this one a try ! Some parts reminded me of Mike Oldfields Songs from a Distant Earth album and others would not have been out of place as instrumental sections on an Alan Parsons album.
Some parts of the composition would work very well with a full band and as I've also told Jorge already, he should definitely try to get together with some other musicians and form a band.
Jorge is definitely a very talented musician and I was surprised by some of the melodies
and arrangements on his CD. There's a constant switch from one instrument to another and
from classical sounding tunes to more rock and prog oriented parts. The different musical
sections end before they're beginning to get boring.
I'm not that keen on synth-only music that I can listen to it for a full hour, but I definitely found myself playing parts of this CD again and again in the last couple of days.
The CD comes with a rather uninteresting booklet with computer illustrations based on the Mandelbroth fractal. I would have liked to have seen some more information in the booklet an maybe Jorge should have added some depth to the tracks by giving them names.
If anybody is interested in this CD, you can contact Jorge at email@example.com or write to him at: Jorge Riesco, c/ Cuenca 65, 36700-Tuy, Spain.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Snowy White and the White Flames - Little Wing
Snowy White has been one of my favourite guitar players for a long time. I've even worked as an editor/translator for the official fan club for a while. Most people will know Snowy because of his hit single Bird of Paradise and some even know that he played live with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters (for instance, The Wall live in Berlin). Less people will know that Snowy also played with Al 'Year of the Cat' Stewart, Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd's Richard Wright and ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor.
At Snowy's live performances, I often see a lot of people who also go to regular prog concerts, so I thought a review of Snowy's album might be interesting for this page as well. I find it very hard to describe Snowy's style since you cannot easily stick a label on it. There are obvious blues influences, but some songs could easily be called progressive rock and some sound a bit like Dire Straits.
Snowy's live shows are marvellous. A lot of improvisation and extended solo's often extend song to over 15 minutes. Since 1993/1994 Snowy has been working with two Dutch musicians, Walter Latupeirissa (bass and bass pedals) and Juan van Emmerloot (drums and percussion). These two guys can easily be counted among the best musicians in Holland and Snowy made them his official backing band, changing the band name into 'Snowy White and the White Flames'.
As during the concerts, the whole new album is performed by the three-piece band. Juan and Walter even wrote one song each for this album.
The album starts with Juan's Discoveri (3.42) (not a typo), an instrumental track which was played live as the opening of the show. It featured some amazing percussion and a roaring guitar solo by Snowy. I only found it strange that for the opening of the tune the band used a strange fade in from a muffled sound. When I first heard it I thought there was something wrong with my CD. I also regret that the track doesn't cross over into the next one like it did in the live version.
Long Distance Loving (8.21) starts very relaxed, but after a while it goes into one of those wonderful rock jams you also get to see at a live gig. Breaks, bass slapping, guitar effects, percussion .... Great stuff ! One of the highlights on the album. I'll Be Moving On (5.54) is a very laid back bluesy tune with acoustic guitar by Walter, as well as one of those typical White solo's. Very nice !
The More You Love (4.32) is a nice rock track which features incredible breaks where you can hear Juan going beserk on the drums, but sounding as if it comes from an old transistor radio. Fantastic effect. Later on we also get one of those Radar Love-like sections they often do live.
Jimi Hendrix' Little Wing (4.14) is a song which Snowy has been playing live for a long time and people have often asked him to record it. Whereas most live versions were performed by Snowy on his own, this version is a full band arrangement. Unfortunately Snowy tried to turn the song into something sounding like 'Bird of Paradise part 2'. What a waste. This could have been such a great track, but it turned into the only real disappointment on the album.
That's When I Stop Loving You (4.11) is another rocking tune, after which the quite bass solo Terpisah (2.18), a composition by Walter, brings a peaceful moment.
The First Move (5.31) is not one of my favourites on the album. Silly lyrics, poppy chorus, not very much happening. Fortunately the song goes into another jam after a while.
Like the Sun (9.29) has been played live during Snowy's recent tour. As I hoped for, the long instrumental section was not chopped off for the album version. Another highlight.
That Ain't Right (5.05) has been played live quite a lot during the recent years. It was on the list for the No Faith Required album but did not make it to the album. As far as the music is concerned, it changed a lot. The version on the album is identical to the reworked live version of the recent tour.
The nice atmospheric instrumental Melting (4.53) closes the album.
The only bad thing I have to say about this album, besides the messed up version of the title track, is that the packaging is pretty lowsy. The cover is a ugly edited live picture, the back cover has the same picture and pictures of Juan and Walter, as well as the track list and credits.
The inside of the booklet does not have the lyrics, but a catalogue of Hypertenion Music. There's a very nice picture of Snowy and the back of the booklet shows a picture which is almost identical to the one used for the previous album.
But still .... it's the music that counts. Little Wing really catches some of the vibes of Snowy's live performances. Since I always prefered the live gigs above the albums I really like this CD. Make the next one a live album .... a double CD please !
Conclusion: 9- out of 10