Album Reviews

Issue 2003-059

Reviews in this issue:

Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live
Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Warner Music
Catalogue #:5050466-8596-2-4
Year of Release:2003
Info:Peter Gabriel
Encoding & SoundPal/NTSC 16:9 widescreeen
Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby 2.0

Tracklist: Concert [133.42]: Here Comes the Flood (5.58), Darkness (6.51), Red Rain (6.17), Secret World (8.34), Sky Blue (8.11), Downside Up (6.04), The Barry Williams Show (9.45), More Than This (7.18), Mercy Street (7.40), Digging In The Dirt (6.13), Growing Up (8.09), Animal Nation (15.34), Solsbury Hill (4.20), Sledgehammer (6.07), Signal to Noise (8.02), In Your Eyes (10.52), Father Son (5.23), Credits (2.10)
Bonus Material:The Story of Growing Up (9.40), Tony Levin's Tour Photographs (5.05), Noodle - Interactive Growing Up

Ed's Review

As long as it took for the marvellous Secret World concert to be released on DVD as unexpectedly fast did the Growing Up concert DVD hit the shops. Filmed in Italy in May 2003, a few days after I saw the multimedia concert in Rotterdam, it has taken less than half a year to prepare this release.

Compared to Secret World Live this is a very different concert movie with a completely different feel. There are many different camera views being used. Sometimes you're watching the show in the audience, sometimes you're soaring over the stage like an eagle and sometimes you're right there on stage with the band, just inches away from the face of a musician. Crystal clear professional shots are alternated with half-blurred home movie-like shots. Most of the footage is slightly dark, but this does create the right atmosphere.
One of the most special things are the orange crew. Those who have seen the show live know that there's a small army of orange-clad crew members walking around and under the stage (re)arranging the stage settings during the show and filming the musicians for the big projection screens which hang high above the stage. Normally a concert movie goes through a lot of pain and effort not to show any other camera's or crew members. Not this one. You can actually watch the orange crew fully at work and the camera even dips below the stage every now and then to see what they are up to, making the concert movie sort of a documentary at the same time. The latter might not be to everybody's liking since it takes away a bit of the magic in the show. Personally I like this approach a lot since it makes you feel like you're part of the whole thing, much more than in the Secret World gig.

The Secret World concert had two stages, a male and female one, and the band would often travel from one stage to another, making the whole show extremely dynamic. For Growing Up Live there was basically one round stage and a round scaffolding which is lowered during certain parts of the show. Band members also move to different spots on the stage, which also has a rotating outer ring. Thereby the lack of space to move around compared to Secret World is partially compensated. Nevertheless, this show feels less dynamic than the previous one, but at the same time this creates a more cozy atmosphere. Bravely opening and closing the show on his own with Here Comes the Flood and Father and Son (with just Tony Levin on bass) suits this atmosphere very well.

The Barry Williams Show is the only song where a lot of tinkering with the footage has been done. Using lots of static, test images and control room switchboards the atmosphere of a TV show behind the scenes is created. Nice ! Less pleasing are the visual slow motion and split-second still effects in Sledgehammer which are a bit tiring to watch and soon become rather annoying.
Instead of the often overused overlaid images (read: Yes' Keys to Ascension DVD) this concert movie switches to split screen images every now and then with the upper part and lower part of the screen showing different perspectives.

Another fine thing as far as concert registrations are concerned is the fact that in a Peter Gabriel show there's lots of rearrangements and new additions to songs, making it a new adventure from the audio side as well. And what about throwing in a brand new song, Animal Nation ? Surely not one of his best, but with some fine audience participation in the end section.
Compared to Secret World Live the concert sounds much more 'live'. It was no big secret that Secret World had a lot of overdubs. This seems to be less the case on Growing Up Live. Still, this concert most probably has it's own share of minor 'cheating'. For instance, a song like Growing Up sound very different in the vocal department compared to e.g. Digging in the Dirt or Sky Blue. Then again, considering that it must me darn hard doing some decent singing while walking around in a big plastic ball I can live with this. ;-)

I - and with me many other people - found the collective Secret World band tighter and better than the band for Growing Up Live, nevertheless there's a lot of splendid musicianship to enjoy. Also, unlike the show I saw in Rotterdam, the Blind Boys of Alabama actually join the band on stage for Sky Blue. And that's just one of the treats in this amazing show, all of which are captured on this DVD. Every song has it's own atmosphere and special effects or theatrics. The spooky little house hiding the drummer in Darkness, the egg descending from the ceiling in Secret World, Peter and his daughter walking on the ceiling in Downside Up, Peter walking on the rotating stage in Sky Blue, the camera in Barry Williams Show, the flaming globe in More Than This, Melanie in the boat moving around the stage in Mercy Street, Peter in the big ball in Growing Up, the little bike in Solsbury Hill, the tr ansmi ssion pillar in Signal to Noise, the lightbulb jacket in Sledgehammer, you name it.
Another integrated part of the whole visual spectacle is the Italian audience, which is marvellous. I can see why Peter prefers to shoot his concert movies here. They are very enthusiastic, as one can see and hear during songs like Digging in the Dirt, Sledgehammer and Animal Nation.

Whereas the concert itself was excellent, I found the DVD extra's to be quite disappointing. There's some still photographs of the tour, accompanied by an interesting ballad version of More Than This in the background. The 'making of' documentary The Story of Growing Up was rather disappointing. Not only does it feature some material that was already available in the sneak-preview on the Secret World DVD, it is also quite short (less than 10 minutes). Considering the wealth of material that was already available on the Gabriel website about the making of Up I expected a more in-depth view regarding both concert and album.
When I bought the DVD the software for the so-called Noodle feature wasn't available for downloading yet. I was thoroughly annoyed by that and I almost fully forgot about this option. When I tried again, just before submitting the review it was finally on-line but it took me quite a bit of reading, downloading and installing before I figured out how this interactive version of Growing Up works. During the process I noticed that basically anybody could download it, regardless if you own the DVD or not! Not much of an exclusive extra...... It turned out to be an interactive way of remixing the Growing Up track. Instead of getting a mixing desk (like on Gabriel's Explora CD-Rom) or multitrack-mixers like ACID Pro this one works in a more graphical and playful way with figures that can be set to play one or more sounds. Quite nice, but it takes a lot of patience to figure it out and actually 'design' something interesting.

Last but not least: the packaging. The DVD comes in a slip-case and folds open until you have the DVD with two booklets on each side, thereby displaying the trinity earth, moon and sun (Peter in the Zorb ball). The two booklets contain credits and nice pictures of the show and behind the scene. All done in a very tasteful way.

To sum up: a great concert movie and some disappointing extra's. Still highly recommended because of the main feature, but adding up to a bit less than the Secret World Live DVD.

Bart's Review

This was undoubtedly the best concert I've seen in 2003, period. However, when translated onto the small screen it loses some of its impact and the awe-inspiring size of the production doesn't particularly come across. This doesn't mean it is a bad DVD or that I wouldn't recommend it, however, it was the first thing that struck me when I popped it into my DVD player. The effect of the moving round stage, and the vertical earth-heaven axis are somewhat diminished, partly an effect due to the few wide shots used.

Nonetheless, as Ed mentions above, many of the visual aspects are as stunning and mind-boggling as they were live. And, compared to Secret World Live, many of the songs sound a lot more 'live' too. (evident in the occasional slip Gabriel makes with the timing of his lyrics).
Furthermore, the concert is filmed 'as is' in the way that all pauses and introductions in between the songs (necessary to move the stage and props around) are all left in. Often we are treated with a look behind the scenes, or below the scenes actually, via split screen modus. On the upper screen you can see Peter Gabriel and his band (dressed in black) onstage, talking to the audience, and on the lower screen you see the crew (dressed orange) working hard in the limited space below the stage.
This causes the concert to lose some of its momentum, and a few times some of the surprises are given away, but again, it gives the whole thing a bit more rawness and reality and makes it look more like a concert and less like a motion picture.
Before Mercy Street, when all instrument rigs had to be moved from the outer ring onto the middle of the stage, this break takes so long, that the band starts an a capella version of Mercy Street. These nice little extras make the concert film less sterile and less fabricated than Secret World Live.

The technical aspects of the DVD are flawless, especially when compared to the Secret World Live DVD. Whereas Secret World suffered from grainy images and a frankly poor audio production, the clean, digital look of Growing Up is in a completely different league. All three soundmixes are crisp and clear and the use of overdubs is far less evident as on Secret World (where you could literally hear Gabriel sing both lead and backing vocals at the same time). And furthermore, the surround mixes are mixed as they should be: to create a vibe as if you are really in the theatre.
I really enjoy the work of director Hamish Hamilton, who is now rapidly becoming one of the worlds most popular concert film directors. His vivid use of unusual shots make the video a very pleasant watch, which never bores.

I concur with Ed on the poor extras. The Growing Up documentary is virtually similar to the one on the Secret World Live DVD, so what in essence what you have here is a fantastically packaged, superb concert film, on a hastily assembled DVD.
During the end-credits you see a two minute movie of Gabriel in his Zorb ball rolling and bouncing around in the centre of Milan. I personally would have liked to see a bit more of this footage. Peter zorbing through all the different cities the Growing Up tour played in, for example.
Also slightly disappointing is the setlist. This is the standard set Gabriel played throughout Europe, however, as this film is made from two gigs, which were especially staged for this DVD, they could have included a few of the tracks that were played on various occasions during the tour, like Shock The Monkey, Come Talk To Me, The Tower That Ate The People and My Head Sounds Like That.

But in the end, despite the meagre extras this is a highly recommended concert film, which is a must-have for everybody who saw the tour in 2003, and perhaps even more for those who didn't!


Ed Sander: 8.5 out of 10
Bart Jan van der Vorst: 8.5 out of 10

Syzygy - The Allegory Of Light
Syzygy - The Allegory of Light
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2003
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Allegory Of Light (M.O.T.H [11:20], Beggar's Tale [2:47], Distant Light [5:35]), In The Age Of Mankind (Zinjanthropus [12:31], Industryopolis [6:33]), Forbidden (3:22), Light Speed (2:58), The Journey Of Myrrdin (17:29)

Some of you may recall that in 1993 a CD called Cosmos & Chaos by a band called Witsend materialised on a small label out of Ohio. The album fused short, almost classical, solo guitar and piano pieces with more intense progressive rock workouts that took in some of the pomposity of ELP, the complexity of Yes and the musical adventurism of Gentle Giant. Almost entirely instrumental, the album showed great promise for a debut offering. However, the years passed by with n'er a follow-up in sight; all hopes that the band would build on their initial opus were cast aside believing that the trio of musicians had fallen victims to the curse of public indifference.

Imagine the surprise when, a mere ten and a half years later, a CD by a band calling themselves Syzygy (which, in astronomical terms, means the alignment of three heavenly bodies in a straight line) plops through the letterbox and onto the doormat. Witsend by any other name (the band somehow forgot to secure ownership of the name and in the intervening years another group had registered the name) the trio have taken a break from "studying, writing, recording and raising nine children" to compile material for a second album. Still predominantly instrumental, the years have infused fire into the bellies of the musicians who set about lighting up the grooves (metaphorically speaking) of this exceptional album.

The Allegory Of Light, a suite in three parts, opens the album with a frantic 90 second introduction to M.O.T.H. (Master Of The House) before things settle down with an acoustic guitar preface to the vocal section which bears resemblance to Spock's Beard in it's delivery. In fact the whole 11 minutes of this piece could be viewed as an amalgamation of some of the better bits of the Beard held together by the splendid drumming of Paul Mihacevich who sets about his kit like a young and hyperactive Simon Phillips. Closing as it started, with some frantic fretwork courtesy of Carl Baldassarre, the second element of the title track, Beggar's Tale takes the mood down a peg with some exemplary acoustic guitar work in the style of Al Di Meola before the track comes to an end with the energetic instrumental Distant Light. More instrumental mayhem follows in the second suite - In The Age Of Mankind, the first part of which, Zinjanthropus is a veritable cat and mouse competition between guitar and keyboards. Shades of Tarkus-era ELP run through this piece with Sam Giunta's piano work particularly resonant of Keith Emerson's stylistic approach. The odd, staccato rhythms that introduce Industryopolis are maintained throughout the first half of the piece which, with precision military snare, settles down into a brief keyboard-percussion of the type that Gentle Giant used to manage so well.

In complete contrast, it is back to the acoustic guitar for the rather beautiful Forgiven, one of the best mournful ballads released this year. Realistic keyboard-generated cello adds to the guitar to form a madrigal that is sparsely, but wonderfully arranged. It is also very well sung by Carl Baldassarre. The penultimate track, Light Speed is another guitar workout, similar in style to the latest incarnation of Deep Purple with Steve Morse wielding the six string. The shortest track is followed by the longest - at 17.5 minutes long The Journey Of Myrrdin will be a delight to all progressive rock fans (and I mean all!). Everything one could want from a progressive band is contained in this piece - twists, turns, light, shade, excitement, suspense - one could add an abundance of adjectives but you are advised to get hold of the album and find out for yourselves!

The ten years since Cosmos and Chaos has seen great strides made in the compositional skills of the band but overall it is the cohesiveness of the group that is the main advancement. Superbly played and imaginatively arranged, this first album under the name of Syzygy is one that is highly recommended.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

Mark Hughes

Trion - Tortoise
Trion - Tortoise
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Record Label:GFT Cylops
Catalogue #:CYCL 135
Year of Release:2003
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Tortoise (5:25), The New Moon (7:59), Hindsight (3:33), Radiation Part 1 (1:27), Jemetrion (6:05), Radiation Part 2 (1:16), The Seagulls (5:53), Hurt (1:47), Tribulaton (7:03), Spectrum Of Colours (3:17), Endgame (5:39)

“A fun-project for ourselves ..." in the liner notes multi instrumentalist Edo Spanninga descibes how Trion was born. Spanninga enlisted guitarman and bandmate from Flamborough Head Eddie Mulder to join in, as well as Odyssice’s drummer Menno Boomsma. While testing recording equipment music this project emerged and will without a doubt will be warmly welcomed by the Prog & Symfo scene. Why? Because the total look and feel of Tortoise, as the album that came out of it, is a feastly tribute to the legendary era where all things important in Prog Rock happened.

So it is no wonder that the look of the album cover, which is the first thing you see before you hear the actual music carry a very familiar identity, the identity we know so well of Yes, Uriah Heep, ASIA and may others. But how could this band have made contact with Roger Dean? A closer look learns that the artwork has been done by Jasper Joppe Geers, a Dutch artist who is obviously highly influenced by Dean. I wouldn’t know what Dean himself would think of this but it is beautifully done and fits a tribute very well.

A tribute without actually being a tribute. Trion created music that roots from the 70’s, so lots of Mellotron, guitars, organs and intricate rhythms. It is an instrumental album so I guess Gabriel or Anderson didn’t have the time? The main influence is Genesis, the very beginning of the album already makes that clear. After a while I hear the Steve Howe and Steve Hackett style creeping in. The total sound is as if Genesis recorded an instrumental album back in the 70’s, just after Peter Gabriel's departure and Steve Howe left Yes for Genesis. The album got shelved and never saw the light of day. It isn’t only Genesis and Yes, sometimes Pink Floyd-like moments come sailing by and also early Rush and Kansas are heard in Trion.

But actually it is an album made in 2003 by three Prog worshippers who in playful mood created music that is played fantastic, has all the traditional elements of a so called legendary album (except the vocals). This is a wonderful and remarkable way of paying tribute I must say.

It also is a conceptual album and tells “A turtle’s tale”. Jemetrion is a tortoise with a desire to stand out, do something new. He finds his fulfilment in music, by creating his own sound. A simple but nice story that is transferred to music that has more complexity. A wonderful combination. A wonderful project that deserves a wonderful DPRP Recommended.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Winston Arntz

Atlantis - Pray for Rain
Atlantis - Pray For Rain
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:90591-2
Year of Release:2003
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Pray For Rain (13:09), Magnificent Desolation (4:22), Lelune (5:07), Again (1:49), The One (6:30), Hills Of Time (5:46), Secret Realm (4:30), Oceans To Cross (4:18), Forest Cathedral (10:38)

Pray For Rain is the second release from LA based symphonic band Atlantis. I do have a copy of their self-titled debut, but it never made much of an impression on me, and it’s been a while since I’ve heard it. Pray ... contains a considerably improved formula and finds them operating at the upper regions of the Neo Prog genre, where the margins blur into fully blown 70’s style symphonic progressive rock.

The disc contains seven short songs and two epics. Not surprisingly, the epics are the standout cuts. The thirteen minute title track in particular has all the pomp and glory of Yes, with a sound akin to their Going For The One/ Tormato era, and with occasional flashes of ELP in the keyboard sounds. Keyboard player Technobudd X and guitarist Karl Johnson, are the stars of this particular show, contributing sterling work on their respective instruments, sometimes flashy, sometimes mesmerizing, yet always melodic. This is truly an impressive opening number, and once you are past the clichéd sound effects in the intro, you are in for one heck of a ride into symphonic rock territory.

The shorter songs have more of a Neo slant, being perhaps more akin to Asia or GTR, with more conventional structures and pop elements, but they are still, for the most part, a good deal more complex than the average pop fare. The first of these is Magnificent Desolation, which has a Marillion-ish feel to the beginning of the track, but it quickly takes on a more American vibe, recalling Ad Infinitum or Crucible. There are hints of Hackett and Howe’s shortlived GTR project also. The chorus is particularly memorable and catchy.

Lelune is a mid-paced ballad, with a touch of Lands End in the vocal delivery. There is some nice guitar on this one (especially the solo towards the end), and moments where I am reminded of Brit proggers Grey Lady Down.

Again is a concise but powerful instrumental, proving that size isn’t always everything. It certainly packs a punch, with the vibrant rhythm section driving it forward as the guitar and keys trade licks over the top. The One is a lively rocker, with some swirly synth lines and, again, some Marillion influence bubbling away below the surface.

Hills Of Time has an atmospheric opening, and features an impressive vocal performance. I was reminded again of Ad Infinitum and their particular take on the Yes/Genesis sound here. There is a plaintive piano melody a couple of minutes in, which has a lovely warm feeling, maybe edging towards The Beatles here. Very nice.

Secret Realm retains the Genesis feel, but has an Eighties aura, with the vocals sounding a little like Duran Duran in places. This is a slightly strange mixture, but overall this is a catchy little piece, with a melody that lodges in your brain. Oceans To Cross is the most surprising of the shorter pieces, having a guest appearance from Guitar God Alan Holdsworth, who adds a Jazzy solo in his usual fiery style, to make this punchy little number really come to life. Great stuff.

The album concludes with the second of the two epic tracks, and Forrest Cathedral does not disappoint, living up to it’s grand title with some soaring melodic keyboards, some fantastic guitar solos, and all held together by a truly professional rhythm section. The piece journeys through various moods and tempos, having a nice melodic vocal mid section, with sweetly uplifting synths, and a more up tempo closing section which has an anthemic feel to it.

This CD is a fine example of a close-knit group with an eighties melodic heart, rediscovering and exploring their chosen genre’s 70’s roots. In the process, they have considerably developed their skills and pushed the material up to the next level, fashioning a pleasing work that may appeal to 70’s and 80’s fans alike, and may even draw in some new fans as well.

After reviewing some more marginal and experimental works of late, I found this disc to be a refreshing reminder of the style and sounds that drew me to progressive rock in the first place. The two epic tracks definitely help raise the overall score for this one.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Dave Sissons

Violent Silence - Violent Silence
Violent Silence - Violent Silence
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:Musea Records
Record Heaven
Catalogue #:FGBG 4508.AR
Year of Release:2002
Samples:MP3 Sample

Tracklist: Squeal Point (5:19), Dead Cities (5:28), The Way Of The Exploding Fist (4:11), Curtains (5:39), Tunnel Vision (5:02), The Sound Of Dying (3:43), War Ant (4:31), Shoot It in The Head (5:12), They Are Only People Like Us (1:19), Grey Fluid Earth (8:02)

Violent Silence are widely touted as being the 'next big thing' in Swedish Progressive Rock circles. Virtually unknown outside their homeland (and I'm not sure they are even known about there!), they remain an enigmatic bunch. A trawl through the internet will not unearth anything apart from the fact that, apparently, bass player Phillip Bastin used to play with a group called Ransta Trädgård, although I can't even be too sure about that as the information was written in Swedish! Their eponymous debut album, is already almost two years old having originally been released on the small Scandinavian Record Heaven label and only recently having gained a wider European release via Musea. There are minimal clues as to group and their musical genre in the CD booklet: the cover and logo (which are pretty good), the posterised band photos, the song titles and even the group name, give an immediate impression of a heavy rock band! The line up is quite unusual as well, Mr Bastin is joined by Hannes Ljunghall (keyboards), Johan Hedman (drums) and Bruno Edling (vocals).

Without a guitar player one may be forgiven for assuming that the music is rather one-dimensional, but the truth of the matter is that on first playing the album I didn't even notice that there wasn't a guitarist! This is achieved by firstly Hannes Ljunghall employing to full effect a wide variety of different sounds and tones that modern keyboards can produce, and secondly having imaginative arrangements that feature prominent percussive elements produced by both drums and keyboards. This is particularly evident on pieces like The Way Of The Exploding Fist and Tunnel Vision. Vocals, all sung with hardly a trace of an accent, are pretty good, although the vocalist does lack a wide range giving the overall impression of being rather 'flat' (in terms of dynamics - he sings in tune perfectly!). The lyrics are interesting and a cut above a lot of native English-speaking bands. Phrases like "I wonder if you've heard that an eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind" (from Tunnel Vision) is, when all is said and done, rather poetic.

The music works better in the up-tempo numbers, the slower The Sound Of Dying doesn't quite cut it for me. Ironically, I think it may have been better arranged for solo piano as opposed to keyboards, and Bruno Edling doesn't have the type of voice that handles ballads effectively, although his performance on Curtains, the other ballad-type number, is better. Overall, Bruno is more at home on tracks like War Ant, which ventures into the more syncopated style of Gentle Giant or Beat-era King Crimson. Final track Grey Fluid Earth is three-quarters instrumental and is the only point in the album where the lack of a guitar is evident. Despite that, the insistent drumming and persistent four-note left-hand keyboard riff provide a steady basis for some more adventurous keyboards laid over the top.

Violent Silence have come up with an interesting debut album that effectively by-passes the potential drawback of only having one lead instrument. Further development of their sound and continuing to integrate poly-rhythmic elements into their music is likely to yield further interesting results and make the band something to watch out for.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Mark Hughes

Album Reviews