Reviews in this issue:
- Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla – Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla
- Patrick Moraz – Change Of Space
- Satellite - Nostalgia
- Derek Sherinian – Molecular Heinosity (Duo Review)
- Parhelia – Shifting Sands
- Lobster Newberg - Actress
- Pete Laramee – Childhood Memories
- Kevin Peek – Awakening
Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla – Keith Emerson Band
Tracklist: The House Of Ocean Born Mary: Ignition (1:42), 1st Presence (:37), Last Horizon (2:33), Miles Away Pt 1 (1:55), Miles Away Pt 2 (2:16), Crusaders Cross (1:14), Fugue (0:37), 2nd Presence (0:19), Marche Train (6:13), Blue Inferno (1:12), 3rd Presence (1:08), Prelude To A Hope (2:24), A Place To Hide (4:26), Miles Away Pt 3 (2:31), Finale (5:57); The Art Of Falling Down (3:30), Malambo [from “Estancia Suite”] (5:33), Gametime (2:40), The Parting (4:45)
On par with Black Moon. Totally smokes Love Beach. What that short-lived 3 band could only have yearned to be. Tears In the Hot Seat a new one. These are just some of the phrases that came to mind when I listened to Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla, the self titled debut from the legendary ELP keyboard wizard’s new band. It’s Emerson’s first studio album release since In the Hot Seat, excluding compilations and soundtracks.
Emerson needs no introduction, and the point of this review is not to dwell on his historic past, but to address his work in the present. On the CD, Emerson plays concert grand piano, Hammond C3 organ, custom Moog modular synth, Korg OASYS, pipe organ, Reaktor, Diatonic accordion, slide whistle, and handles some vocals. Emerson is joined in his new band by Marc Bonilla (Glenn Hughes, Boys Club, Kevin Gilbert/Toy Matinee, David Coverdale, California Transit Authority) on 6 and 12 string guitars, lead vocals, bass, Reaktor, and harmonica. Gregg Bissonette (an endless string of credentials too numerous to mention) plays drums and percussion on most tracks, with Joe Travers (Dragonchoir/Boys Club) playing drums on one track. Bob Birch (Dragonchoir/Boys Club, Elton John, Warpipes) plays bass on most tracks, with Travis Davis (Eric Martin, J.R. Richards, Danny Seraphine, Troy Luccketta, Alice Cooper) on bass on one track and harmony vocals. Longtime producer Keith Weschler (who, according to Emerson’s site, is currently in the studio with Greg Lake) contributes Jew’s harp on one track, and Nathanial Bonilla provides recorder on one track. Emerson, Marc Bonilla, Weschler, and Steve Porcaro all help out with programming. As an aside, the touring version of the new band is Emerson, Marc Bonilla, and Davis, with Tony Pia (another endless resume) on drums.
I was eagerly anticipating the release of this CD, checking Emerson’s web site and Amazon on a daily basis for signs of its release date. Eventually a CD/DVD version was released in August 2008 in Japan, followed by a tour of Eastern Europe and the Baltic nations. Summer/fall 2008 releases of the CD/DVD in Germany, Italy and other countries followed soon thereafter. Emerson also released an independent version of it on his site, without the DVD. It then got a retail release in the USA in early 2009, appended with a bonus track, a studio remake of The Barbarian (also with no DVD). My esteemed editor Bob Mulvey has informed me that at the time of this writing, the CD has still not been released in the UK. The version being reviewed here is the independent version I ordered from Emerson’s site, with no DVD or bonus track.
The CD is comprised of a 35-minute epic piece, The House Of Ocean Born Mary, and four shorter songs. For this review I will touch upon the epic piece, based on a New England ghost story by Marion Lowndes, and then the shorter songs. The biggest change in musical direction for Emerson is the partnering with Bonilla, who neither sounds like Greg Lake nor needs to. He’s his own guy. Some reviewers on Amazon compare his voice to John Wetton, but I think it sounds more like the smoky voice of Ray Wilson. Bonilla’s voice may take some getting used to. It gives Miles Away Pt 1 a soulful flavour, augmented by his melodic guitar playing that evokes Steve Rothery. Miles Away Pt 1 is the fourth section of The House Of Ocean Born Mary, which fades in ominously with Emerson’s sprinkling synths and macabre keyboards and piano as if Emerson is saying “I’m back!”. After 1st Presence, one of three pipe organ movements, industrial synths give Last Horizon an industrial groove and a kick that pinches you - you’re not dreaming, Emerson is indeed back.
On The House Of Ocean Born Mary as an epic, some reviewers on Amazon have complained that it’s not really an epic or even a song cycle but a series of little snippets strung together, and this is evident during the abrupt shift between Miles Away Pt 1 and Miles Away Pt 2. With repeated listens, though, The House Of Ocean Born Mary has seamless continuity. I will say however that the jumpy rock number Marche Train could have been continuously played into the next section, Blue Inferno. Instead the two sections crossfade into one another. This also happens between the acoustic waltzing balladry of A Place To Hide, and Miles Away Pt 3. In contrast, 3rd Presence is smoothly followed by Prelude To A Hope. On the epic’s closer, Finale, Bonilla showcases his fine soloing flair while avoiding any dated, dreaded shredding. Emerson tosses in some modern electronica synth touches, and Bissonette even gets in on the action with a drum solo.
An epic, a song cycle or just a bunch of snippets? I’m thinking epic, with Ipod compatibility.
The shorter songs are a mixed bag. There’s the requisite classical cover, Ginastera’s Malambo [from “Estancia Suite”], which features some expert Hammond C-3 playing from Emerson and some sizzling guitar from Bonilla which points to the guitar playing of Shaun Baxter and Paul Bielatowicz (The Carl Palmer Band). The bouncy honky-tonk of Gametime offers Weschler on the aforementioned Jew’s harp and some clever nursery rhyme lyrics from Bonilla. His voice on this track seems out of place, though. The Art of Falling Down is a basic rock number, and closing song The Parting is a well-structured ballad that fades out on the same notes that the opening epic fades in on.
The cover art shows what appears to be a Hammond organ on fire. I was pleasantly surprised when I received the CD in the mail to find that it was autographed by Emerson and Bonilla.
Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla will certainly appeal to fans of ELP and prog in general. It’s contemporary without sounding mainstream, yet classic without coming across as retro. If you prefer more conventional, concise music, this CD may not be for you.
My only suggestion as an area of opportunity with another studio release would be to record a longer CD, as this clocks in at 51:23 in length. I would also love to see a live CD and DVD.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
NB: It has not gone without comment by our readers that this album has not been reviewed by DPRP as yet. However as Jim mentions and to this date, there has not been an official release of the album in the UK.
Patrick Moraz – Change Of Space
Tracklist: Peace In Africa (4:54), Change Of Space (8:19), Sonique Prinz Suite: Sonique Prinz [Movt. 1] (2:17), Sonique Prinz [Movt. 2] (2:39), Sonique Prinz [Movt. 3] (5:25), One Day In June (7:29), Cum Spiritu (4:53), The Power Of Emotion (6:02), Stellar Rivers & Streams Of Lucid Dreams [In 4 Movements] (12:09), Alien Spaces (5:53)
If you’ve followed the career of Patrick Moraz and caught my review of his last two albums then you’ll be aware that Change Of Space is his first solo release in five years and his fifteenth in total. One of the keyboard greats, Moraz should need no introduction but for a potted history checkout my 2007 introduction to his Resonance and ESP albums plus my review of Refugee’s Live In Concert ~ Newcastle City Hall 1974 from the same year. As you may have already gathered I’m a huge fan of his distinctive keyboard technique which for me dates back to 1974 when he made his stunning debut in the UK on the self titled Refugee album. His virtuoso abilities didn’t go unnoticed by a certain Anderson and Squire and before the year was out he had been drafted into the ranks of Yes and the rest as they say is history.
In more recent times Moraz’s career has been dominated by several jazz and classical piano excursions. Change Of Space on the other hand is trumpeted as a return to his progressive roots of the 70’s, although I have some reservations on that score, but more about that later. One things for sure, just like his 1976 solo debut the classic Story Of I, he’s produced a bold and confident selection of tracks some of which are performed solo whilst others feature a cast of thousands. Falling firmly into the latter category is the powerful and optimistic Peace In Africa with its pounding bass line, tribal drums and compelling vocal chant. Moraz is back with a vengeance adding a short but characteristic Moog solo as a reminder that he’s the one in control. You would be forgiven for thinking that he’s been listening to the world music of Peter Gabriel but to be fair to Moraz he was making this kind of music back in the late ‘70’s when PG was still finding his solo feet.
The title song Change Of Space demonstrates how he’s absorbed American musical culture with a soulful performance from singer Alex Ligertwood and a jazzy rhythmic backdrop with a prominent bass synth line. The gospel charged female backing voices add weight to the catchy chorus which is offset by Bunny Brunel’s fretless bass solo and Moraz’s noodly synth workout. In three movements, Sonique Prinz opens with a relaxed electronic drum pattern and sparse but engaging keyboards. Moraz is responsible for all the sounds here creating a mood not unlike Steve Hackett’s Hammer In The Sand. The mood is shattered in the second movement by what sounds like overblown metallic guitar shredding but turns out to be Moraz doing a Ryo Okumoto courtesy of a remote Roland Axis keyboard. It’s certainly well played but as it continued into the third movement I couldn’t help feeling that it was just a tad self indulgent with an ear piercing delivery putting my speakers firmly to the test.
The joyously proggy instrumental One Day In June is easily my favourite track thanks to a bright and breezy keyboard melody. It rolls along at a heady pace sounding like a real slice of Jan Hammer style Americana with just a hint of Herbie Hancock before going out with a brief but lively Emerson flavoured piano boogie. In contrast the ambient Cum Spiritu is a laidback affair with Moraz providing a pretty convincing jazz tinged ‘sax’ solo courtesy of keys. The Power Of Emotion is a song that will divide opinions I’m sure. It’s a big production AOR ballad with Ligertwood at his most soulful backed by massed voices for the radio friendly chorus. Keyboards keep a low profile here and it’s clear that Moraz is not averse to creating songs that have a more commercial, mainstream appeal.
The exotically named Stellar Rivers & Streams Of Lucid Dreams is divided into four movements, each with classical titles like Moderato and Allegro which give few clues to the musical content. The first movement finds Moraz and company south of the American border with rain forest sound effects, Mariachi rhythms and another jazzy ‘sax’ solo from the man himself. Drummer John Wackerman and bassist Brunel provide a master class in rhythm technique propelling the first three movements before the final section slows things down for a symphonic keyboard and percussion landscape bringing Jean Michel Jarre’s Souvenir Of China to mind. Nicol Mecerova’s ethereal voice leads into the perfectly titled Alien Spaces which wouldn’t sound out of place as the soundtrack for a documentary on space exploration evoking as it does both Tangerine Dream and Vangelis.
As I suggested earlier I’m not entirely convinced that this is an out and out prog album. True it does include many of the genres stock in trade devices (especially the showy Moog soling) but I was left with a feeling that melodic jazz and world music influences lie closer to Moraz’s heart. It successfully crosses several musical boundaries including prog, fusion, mainstream rock, soul, gospel, world music, ambient and does it in style. On a personal note, given that the CD booklet boasts no less than 46 keyboards (although it’s not made clear if Moraz plays all of these) it’s a shame he couldn’t find room for the glorious Hammond and Mellotron sounds of old, with piano also being in short supply. In every other respect Moraz barely puts a foot wrong creating an album that oozes class, rounded off by stunning production mastered by long time musical collaborator Jean Ristori.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Satellite - Nostalgia
Tracklist: Every Desert Got Its Ocean (9:13), Repaint The Sky (6:56), Afraid Of What We Say (8:47), I Want You To Know (7:21), Over Horizon (8:05), Am I Losing Touch? (9:46), Is It Over? (7:31)
Wojtek Szadowski is the mastermind of Satellite and used to play an important role also in his former band Collage. Nostalgia is the fourth album of this Polish band and successor to the DPRP recommended Into The Night album. In fact so far all Satellite albums have been DPRP recommended and I’m not keeping it a secret that this one will be too! The line-up is Wojtek Szadowski keyboards, acoustic guitar and drums, Robert Amirian (also ex-Collage) vocals, Sarhan Kubeisi on guitar and a new band member on the bass: Jarek Michalski. This means Robert can focus on the vocals during the live shows for the full 100%. Wojtek wrote all the music, the lyrics and did most of the recordings and he produced the album. The limited digipak edition of Nostalgia comes with two bonus-tracks, not available on my copy so not reviewed here. The artwork is comparable to the previous albums.
As in the previous albums the songs are all melodic, full of richly filled orchestrations, and all characteristics making progressive music such a joy to listen to. At first we can appreciate the spirit of Genesis in the first tracks. In Afraid Of What We Say there are also touches of Pink Floyd and Santana too because of the sounds and style of guitar and drums. Multiple changes in atmosphere and sounds make this track particularly interesting. I Want You To Know features tasteful but not too hard to play accompaniment by both organ and synths but very nice solo’s on synthesizer and guitar. Of course there are lustrous bombastic symphonic passages next to some almost Beatlesque pieces. In Over Horizon Robert sings at his best: low, soulful and warm, however in the choruses he has to reach for high notes as on this whole album, giving me the impression it’s a tour de force for him, maybe just a tiny bit too over the top for my taste.
Am I Losing Touch? starts off as a slow track and for the first time one can hear the bass really well, because in the other tracks it felt to be slightly too far in the background. Again Robert sings very melancholically but has to reach very high again in the choruses. The up-tempo interlude reminds of Genesis, Arena or IQ: whichever you prefer, but it sounds good and familiar and the guitar and organ are similar to the sounds Camel used to have in the early Seventies. Then suddenly a folkloristic acoustic piece, before majestic symphonic sounds come through the speakers once more. The song ends the way it started. Sounds of the Moog with effects as if it was J M Jarre landmarks the slower and sad song Is It Over? - and special guest Amarok plays like Gilmour. In contrast to most other tracks drummer Wojtek takes it easy on this one.
I have to say I’m not entirely enthusiastic about the mix. I would have liked other guitar sounds in some instances, a little more bass and more powerful drums. Of course this a very subjective statement.
The first album is still my personal favourite but surely Nostalgia is a worthy successor to Into The Night and a must for everyone Satellite fan, including yours truly. My guess is that people interested in buying this album should opt for the digipak: usually the bonus tracks are more than worthwhile. It is an album with a great atmosphere and many superb moments. Anyone who likes melodic (neo) prog in the vein of the bands mentioned afore should check it out!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Derek Sherinian – Molecular Heinosity
Tracklist: Antarctica (5:23), Ascension (2:14), Primal Eleven (7:57), Wings Of Insanity (3:48), Frozen By Fire (5:18), The Lone Spaniard (3:07), Molecular Intro (1:08), Molecular Heinosity (3:27), So Far Gone (7:24)
Menno Von Brucken Fock's Review
This is the sixth album by Derek under his own name and of course we all know about his activities collaborating with celebrities like Alice Cooper, Billy Idol and Ayreon. We most certainly know him from his keyboard wizardry with Dream Theater and all prog/fusion fans will undoubtedly know of his band Planet X.
In the opening Antarctica do not have fear of freezing caused by chilling music, because virtually immediately all hell breaks loose and numerous smashing and aggressive duets between guitar and keyboard are presented. The style is pretty much like Planet X, so a lot of fusion/jazzrock influences and touches of UK here and there. The second track Ascencion is a beautiful symphonic piece, the atmosphere reminds me of (again UK’s) In The Dead Of Night. Definitely more UK, but in a more modern way is Primal Eleven, a nice and outstanding piece of music with a lot of exciting craftsmanship and a very tasteful slow almost bluesy interlude. By far the best and also most ‘proggy’ track. Zakk Wylde and Virgil Donati are amongst the core players, and we also have Tony Franklin on the bass. Furthermore as a guest on this release is Brian Tichy (Foreigner).
Wings Of Insanity is a more straight forward metal track and I must state I’m not fond of the way the drums have been mixed: too “butcher-like” and the roaring keyboards and guitars are too much over the top for my taste. As far as the drums and the ‘over the top’ duelling are concerned, I have the same criticism on Frozen By Fire: astonishing speed seems more important than melody. A lot of feel and subtlety however by Derek in the slow Lone Spaniard, but I think it’s a pity the guitar is soloing as if it were the end of an encore in a hard rock show: the same ‘fault’ in my opinion Malmsteen often makes in his slower tracks, playing just too many notes per bar. A dark, Pink Floyd like sequence opens Molecular Intro until (Wylde’s?) axe takes over and the music shifts into a higher gear in the title track: metal meets rock meets prog meets fusion.
Zakk Wylde is the only vocalist on this album and - fortunately - only on the last track So Far Gone. Not a very pleasant voice to my ears, sounding a bit like Ozzy Osbourne on one of his inferior days. It’s a bit of blues meets hard rock and in between a nice piece of dazzling speed-metal.
In conclusion Molecular Heinosity is an album by an outstanding musician and more than qualified guests, however Derek seems to be repeating a little too much from what he has done in the past and it’s too much a mere showcase of Wylde’s and Sherinian’s abilities to play loads of finger breaking solo’s. The total length of the album being less than 40 minutes, is not a compensation whatsoever. Almost forgot to mention that Sherinian produced the album himself.
Edwin Roosjen's Review
The albums of Derek Sherinian always surprise me, it is strange that this very skilful keyboard player produces heavy metal guitar music, with some pieces of music that could have come from a guitar hero album perhaps like Malmsteen, Vai or Satriani. Sherinian's albums differ very much in style, from jazz/rock/fusion to heavy metal guitar shredding. His previous album falls mostly into the latter category, Blood Of The Snake, the one with the cover version of In The Summertime. This new album Molecular Heinosity continues in this heavy metal guitar style. With the help of Zakk Wylde, guitar player for Ozzy Osbourne, this must turn into another stunning album.
Antartica shows that this new album is more technical with many odd time changes and many, many trips along musical scales. When things get really complicated you can clearly hear Derek still has some Dream Theater left in him. Ascension contains keyboard layers with Steve Vai like guitar playing. A nice transition into Primal Eleven and the complexity continues. A solid guitar riff and many guitar and keyboard solos, plenty of treats for lovers of instrumental technical music. It is not taken beyond the limit but both songs remain accesible. Up until now the compositions are a bit more complicated than on Blood Of The Snake and certainly not for the easy listener.
Wings Of Insanity is insanely heavy and some parts even remind me of Slayer. The keyboard solos on this song are really over the top and Zakk Wylde plays many shrieking notes, common to his style of guitar playing. I love that. No odd time schemes but powerful very, very heavy metal. On to Frozen By Fire which sounds like an Yngwie Malmsteen song with fast music and furious solos by guitar and keyboard. These two songs are really heavy metal material and I like it.
The Lone Spaniard is a ballad with Zakk Wylde again playing a bit like Steve Vai. Another guitar orientated song on this album created by the keyboard master. Molecular Intro sounds like Pink Floyd's On The Run and if my memory serves me right then this was also present on Blood Of The Snake. The title track continues in the heavy style of music and many keyboard solos explode into your ears. I am a guitar lover myself but I am glad that on this song Derek Sherinian really takes matters into his own hands and shows his magnificent skills.
Not an "out of place" funny cover on this album to close the deal, but So Far Gone is a slow pounding metal song, where Zakk Wylde does the vocal part. You can hear he has been around Ozzy a long time as there are many Black Sabbath influences. You might think they would slow down at the end of the album but no way, again an explosion of notes firing on your eardrums during the solos.
At first this album classifies as another Derk Sherinian album, plain and not simple. The first part shows many strange schemes that will appeal to fans of Dream Theater, whereas the centre part of the album is very, very, very heavy. Not so many strange timings, rather heavy metal with many exploding solos both on guitar and keyboard. Like always Derek Sherinian has produced a very guitar orientated album coming from a keyboard player, and guitar player Zakk Wylde really rocks on this album. The last part of the album it seems Derek has taken more time to himself and even a guitar lover like me does not mind that at all. I rate this album higher than Blood Of The Snake, but one warning - you must really like heavy music.
Parhelia – Shifting Sands
Tracklist: Our Ship Has Sailed (5:43), Perpetual Motion (3:51), Shifting Sands (5:16), Pacific (7:55), Inertia (5:05), Time & Tide (7:42)
Irish four-piece instrumentalists Parhelia have thus far in their career released two EPs, both favourably reviewed here on DPRP. The review of their second EP, Oceans, mentioned that the band had since split up. This turned out to be a temporary hiatus, and now they are back with what is described as their first album, although as it is only a little longer than its predecessor, the distinction is a slightly vague one.
The music on Shifting Sands certainly dips its toes into the progressive rock sphere as defined by the likes of latter day Anathema (who they recently supported on a few dates) and late nineties-era Porcupine Tree, but fits more snugly under the post-rock banner. Largely eschewing the more metallic approach of the likes of Isis and Neurosis, the music instead draws comparisons with the more melancholy, atmospheric side of the genre represented by the likes of Red Sparowes and Explosions In The Sky. Like those bands, Parhelia concentrate on pieces which build gradually, with shimmering, interweaving guitar lines, dextrous bass and rhythmic percussion conjuring up some evocative, atmospheric images such as used on the perfectly-in-keeping cover art. Largely eschewing the grand climaxes many of their contemporaries build towards, Parhelia’s music instead seems as much about the journey as the destination; the effectiveness of this approach is enhanced no end by a pitch perfect sound mix which enables each note of a guitar and brush of a cymbal to be clearly defined and audible to the listener.
The problem I found with this album is that it perhaps treads rather familiar ground; I listen to a lot of post rock, and at times find it hard to differentiate Parhelia’s music from those of a number of their contemporaries. Allied to this is the fact that, whilst almost all of the album is pleasant, atmospheric listening which works well for the length of the album, I found that once the disc had stopped spinning I found it hard to recall the majority of the melodies contained within. Oddly enough it was the softer, more melancholic sections, such as the gentle, acoustic-dominated first half of album closer Time & Tide, which made the most impact, and it might be that focussing on this side of their music may be the band’s best bet of establishing a niche for themselves in an increasingly crowded scene.
Having said that, this still stands as an enjoyable, highly professional piece of work, and one that stands alongside many of the recent efforts of their contemporaries – I found it a stronger, more compelling release than Chicago scene heavyweights Pelican’s latest outing, City Of Echoes, for example. There’s certainly plenty of promise here, and Parhelia are still a band in their infancy who possess the musicianship and ability to go on to bigger and better things.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Lobster Newberg - Actress
Tracklist: Set Your Sails (3:41), Stay (5:05), Bug City (3:47), Lost (4:42), Wonderful (3:08), Demian (4:06), Illusion (9:13), Bed (5:52), Tight Rope (4:21), Silver Cities (5:27), Have You Ever Been Alone (7:31)
Following up their debut Vernal Equinox CD, Lobster Newberg are back with fifty-six minutes of high energy progressive rock. Somewhat bizarrely, the band's website fails to make any mention of the previous CD and even states that Actress is the group's debut album! I suppose it is the first CD by this line-up, which is Colin Peterik (keyboards and vocals), Phil Miller (guitar), Corey Kamerman (bass) and Jamie Dull (drums), but as the sound of the band hasn't changed dramatically (founder member Peterik gets sole credit for all the new material, whereas the last album was ostensibly a group effort) it seems strange to totally dismiss what was, after all, a very good album.
Set Your Sails is an appropriate enough title for the opening track as the Lobsters launch us on our voyage. Perhaps the allegory is not that apt as rather than relying on wind power the album kicks off as if powered by humongous outboard motors! The frantic pace really gets things moving, with a particularly urgent sax break (by guest Steve Eisen) aped meticulously by guitarist Miller proving a highlight. Eisen also provides some stunning flute playing on Stay, which is rather dichotomous, the slower, mellow sections are excellent but the heavier sections (sans flute) are rather too much of a contrast, the two elements not fitting comfortably together. Bug City features the first of two brass arrangements by Jeff Lantz, which features the playing of session aces Mike Chicowitz on trumpet and Dave Stahlberg on Trombone. Peterik is obviously using his father's connection in the music business, and it must help that Stahlberg was a band mate of Peterik senior in The Ides Of March. A great little number that brings back memories of the great rock bands featuring horn sections like Chicago and Blood, Sweat And Tears. Things go a little awry on Lost which doesn't have the immediacy or impact of the earlier tracks, although, to resume the maritime metaphor, the swell soon becomes a crest with Wonderful. Again, Eisen's flute is superb and Peterik's singing exemplary in this anti-love song - the pathos and pain he exudes in the line Cause I know everything's wonderful now is heartbreaking. Demian follows the pattern set on the earlier album with guitar and keyboards echoing each other. Another guest, Scott May, plays the guitar solo which is nothing really to shout home about but is quite fitting within the context of the looser framework of the song. There are times when the band seem to want to break out into jazz rock territory but are held back by indecision, or something. I'm rather glad as I find their more regular rock songs hold much more appeal.
Illusion is the first of the long tracks and proves that the band can hold things together over an extended composition. Eisen, undeniably the star of the show, shines again with his sax solo which bridges the slower intro section and a more up-beat second section with a couple of keyboard solos and one on the guitar (even if it doesn't quite match up to the David Gilmour comparison given on the website!). Good use of different keyboards creates a variety of moods with the only minor quibble being that Peterik voice isn't quite strong enough in places. The brass section and flute are back to great effect on Bed which has a fantastic melody mixed with an aggressive undercurrent which ably demonstrates the potential of this band. Leon Russell's Tight Rope is the choice of cover version on this album and, as with Happy Together on Vernal Equinox, the Lobsters have created a fun version that they have made their own. The heavy bass section may be a bit superfluous but the guitar solo is essential and almost equals the significant contribution by harmonica legend Howard Levy, a founder member of The Flecktones with Bela Fleck and contributor to Donald Fagen's Morph The Cat album (and I think everyone is aware of the exacting standards that Fagen demands from his fellow musicians). Last two tracks Silver Cities and Have You Ever Been Alone are seamlessly joined to create a 13-minute closer that doesn't quite match up to the intensity of the opening but is still a fine piece of work that manages to assimilate a variety of styles that the band, or more pertinently, Peterik, is influenced by.
I'm in two minds over this one in terms of if it is a better album than the last one. Certainly there is evidence that, compositionally, Peterik has moved on and the use of brass and flute is at times inspired. However, overall the last album resonates as being a trifle more enjoyable to listen to. That could of course simply because it has been in my possession for over 12 months now, and with the new album offering tracks such as Set Your Sails, Bed and Wonderful (what happened to Lincoln Fudge that was on the old website?!) there is no reason to believe that Actress will not 'mature' with age. The inevitable MySpace page offers a few tracks to listen to, as does the band's new website, which promises bonus tracks at some future date. So why not pop along and lend an ear; whilst you are listening you can always tickle the giant foot in the sky...
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Pete Laramee – Childhood Memories
Tracklist: Arm Or The Leg (4:29), 13 Stitches (4:08), Flagpole (5:11), Brain Freeze (3:45), Pinkeye (1:02), Running With Scissors (4:45), Saturday Morning Cartoons (4:11), Below The Belt (5:02), Snow Day (4:24), Red Rocks (5:17), Suspended By Rain (1:37), Dodgeball (3:47)
Pete Laramee, founder and guitarist of the Baltimore based melodic prog band Kurgan’s Bane, has wandered a bit off from that path and created a solo project called Childhood Memories – a culmination of music he had written over the years that didn’t fit into the styling of Kurgan’s Bane.
This project isn’t entirely a departure from Kurgan’s since two of the musicians were brought along – his brother and drummer, Jeff Laramee, and bassist, Luis Nasser. While I am not familiar with the Kurgan’s Bane entire catalogue, I hear no similarity.
It was surprising to me to learn that this collection was written over an extended period of time. The songs seem to flow together as a cohesive piece of work as if they were meant to part of an album from beginning to end.
Childhood Memories is an interesting and refreshing concept with a theme that is down to earth and light-hearted. This is a riff driven instrumental that focuses primarily on guitar but gives room for some great keyboard interplay and the influences of Steve Vai, Randy Rhoads, and Joe Satriani are ubiquitous.
The riffs are great, and the tone of the album is extremely listenable, especially for an album of this sort. I would even say this work is much more enjoyable than Pete’s predecessors’ instrumental releases. However, the 4 bar riff that jumps to another 4 bar riff has been done many times. I’m partial to music that offers something new, and while enjoyable, this isn’t new.
The inclusion of Derek Sherinian was a bonus and his contribution is noticeable. The musicianship throughout this disc is expertly displayed and the production is phenomenal. This disc has the technical elements you would expect in a modern progressive metal release and the drop-down grinding metal riffs to keep things flowing.
While albums of this sort usually suffer from a degree of technical sterility or even blandness, this one doesn’t; but despite this admission, it didn’t exactly move me either. I’m inclined to say that for fans of guitar-oriented instrumentals, you will like this, especially the 7-string aficionados. Pete’s work here is bound to improve the work of his usual band, if not give a springboard for much better song writing for his next solo project. I don’t doubt he is up to the task one bit.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Kevin Peek – Awakening
Tracklist: Awakening (4:31), City On The Water (3:50), Sidewinder (2:39), Spanish Blues (3:42), Manitou (3:47), Sailplane (3:00), Starship Suite: (i) Faster Than Light (8:02), (ii) Infinite Dreams (3:54), (iii) Arrival (5:39), (iv) For Those We Left Behind (2:13)
Back in the mid-eighties, while a student at a two-year junior college, I worked as a DJ at the campus radio station. Every week we would receive promotional copies of just-released albums, and we would gather with anticipation in the station manager’s office to see what the labels had sent us. One album that struck my fancy was an LP entitled The Great Balloon Race, by instrumental band Sky. I remember playing the title track on the air, voicing over the weather forecast, and recalling how good it sounded as bed music. One of the members of Sky was a guy named Kevin Peek. I never thought I’d hear him again, but fast-forward some twenty-odd years later and here I am reviewing Awakening, his second solo release recently reissued on Voiceprint.
Scant info on Peek is available on the web, but he is a hard-working session guitarist who has recorded with, among others, Cliff Richard, Leo Sayer, Mary Hopkins, Manfred Mann, Kiki Dee and Shirley Bassey.
Awakening, according to the Voiceprint promo literature, was Peek’s first solo effort to get a wide distribution at the time, and due to his association with the commercially successful Sky it took on a higher profile.
On the CD, Peek plays bass, electric, acoustic and synth guitars. Helping him out are Tom Nichol on drums, Nick Lennie-Smith on keyboard synths, David Reilly on vocals on two tracks, and Ron Asperry on saxophones.
The CD is divided into six short songs and a four-part concept cycle entitled Starship Suite.
Upon listening to the CD, I was immediately reminded of Sky just seconds into the opening title track, and I was transported back in time to that college radio station all those years ago. The selection of this track as an opener seems odd as it sounds more like a coda. Lennie-Smith’s keyboard synths evoke the keyboard work of Geoff Downes in The Buggles. This influence becomes even more obvious on Faster Than Light, the opening track of Starship Suite, due to the analog synths along with some slightly processed vocals from Reilly. References to Time-era ELO and Devo seem evident as well. One of the more interesting tracks on the CD, Faster Than Light features some sneaky tempo changes and a rock-based section with some fine soloing from Peek.
To call the final four tracks on the CD a “suite” is a bit of a stretch as they all do not merge into one another as a continuous piece, and all sound different from each other. Reilly only sings on one other track, another tricky Devo-like number entitled Arrival. The six shorter songs on the CD are lacking his voice has well.
The more upbeat songs on Awakening have a Jan Hammer soundtrack like feel to them. I prefer the dance-oriented pieces over the lighter ones, which are mostly bland, forgettable affairs.
The colourful CD booklet features watercolour paintings by David Shortt. A photo of Peek adorns the back cover.
This CD will mostly appeal to any fans of Sky, although even hard-core devotees in their fan base may debate as to whether or not Awakening has merit. As my personal tastes on a whole go, I did not care for it.
If Peek plans on coming out with a new release, I would suggest he stay away from the lighter stuff and take advantage of modern drum programming and synths to go for an updated, electronica sound. Featuring Reilly as the vocalist more prominently would also be a good idea.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10