The Ben Cameron Project - Tipping Point
Part 1: An Introduction, So Unknown, I Never Wanted To Be Like This, Cut It Off, Nobody Home, Tipping Point, About To Explode, Fight Or Fight (21:02), Part 2: It Comes Again, So Far Away, Why'd You Have To Leave Me?, Release, Nothing To Take Away (17:49)
Okay then, no beating about the bush, Tipping Point is a marvellously accomplished debut that delivers some excellent prog, replete with variety. The first part has a memorable riff that recurs throughout the track, some poignancy, particularly during the Nobody Home section, counterpointed by the heavier aspects of About to Explode. Being of a certain age, I still tend to view albums in terms of the original LP format, which in this case is not difficult as each part would take up a single side of the album. The physical need to turn an album over and thereby giving a natural break in proceedings is something that should be taken into consideration when listening to this album as I recommend that the listener incorporates a brief break between listening to the two sections. This is not for any musical reason as one is perfectly capable of listening all the way through without such an interlude, it is just that, in my opinion, the listening experienced is somewhat enhanced. There is scientific research that shows that the optimal period of attention is approximately 20 minutes, with greater focus being paid to the start and end of the 20-minute period and that a brief break between each period has the effect of 'resetting' the attention meter. But this is supposed to be a review and not a psychology lesson, but it is something worth trying!
Part 2 is, initially, somewhat heavier with a very nice opening guitar-keyboard interaction on It Comes Again, which has a somewhat IQ feel to it, before heading into the more acoustic, and Pink Floyd-like So Far Away. The bipolar concept is emphasised in the music with this more 'depressed' section contrasted by the manic guitar driven Why'd You Have To Leave Me? which is prefaced by a lovely brief electric piano intro. Again, the repetition of themes is evident throughout the piece which gives a cohesion to the album as a whole and also adds reference to the cyclical nature of the disease. Nothing To Take Away is the only track that could really stand alone but given that it is a lengthy (over seven minutes) piece that is quite gentle and meditative, it does make most sense as a conclusion to the album.
Ben Cameron is obviously a very talented chap possessing not only great prowess in his multi-instrumentative capabilities but also as a writer, arranger and producer. Listening to the album it is easy to forget it is not a band performing the music but essentially just one man. Tipping Point is an excellent debut album and on the evidence provided on this release the future holds great promise for Mr Cameron.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Element V - Element V
Alive (3:57), Le Cri Des Hommes (9:30), Jeunesse.com (5:13), Instrumentalisation (3:46), "Je" De Miroirs (9:04), Vengeance (6:54), Solitaire (4:34), L'Or Noir (11:43)
The music here is high-energy, rugged, and, at times, slightly ominous. Marginally progressive, the music - mostly instrumental - emphasizes hard-hitting guitar riffs with the occasional lightning-fast runs and occasional moments of banging emblematic of prog metal. (The CD insert does not state that any of the four musicians plays keyboards, although keyboard-like sounds can be heard.) The lighter tunes and segments sometimes sprinkled in create a welcome contrast. Certainly, upon listening to Element V, Dream Theater and early Rush quickly come to mind. The musicianship, particularly the guitar playing, is impressive throughout. The writing is solid as well: the songs are reasonably complex and well structured although not catchy. On the downside, the lead vocals (with French lyrics) are merely competent (the tone does not match the richness of the instrumentation), and the harmonies sometimes seem off key. Additionally, the drumming, while forceful, can sound wooden (perhaps a mixing problem) and overly predictable.
Standout tracks are Instrumentalisation, which is redolent of some Rush classics (such as YYZ), and Solitaire, which skilfully blends harsh and soft passages and includes some nimble acoustic guitar. The jazzy introduction to Vengeance is also a treat. Weaker links are Jeunesse, which is characterized by a too-poppy beat, and "Je" De Miroirs, which, despite compelling and flashy guitar work, is dragged down by thin vocals and stilted drumming.
The CD insert is notably well done. Included are several detailed and eerie but otherwise non-thematic drawings (including images of skeletons, ruins, and mountains) and a full-spread, high-end photo of the band standing amidst an evocative, ungroomed outdoor landscape.
In the end, this is a solid CD that will likely appeal to some extent to fans of well-played, rough-edged, rock and to a greater extent to fans of mostly instrumental prog metal.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Jack Foster III - Apple Jack Magic
Take a Little Time (4:20), Cavalry (3:33), Saga (4:40), A Thousand Miles Away (3:44), Blue Grass (4:21), Guinevere's Dead (6:10), Real Roses (3:50), Medicine Cup (3:34), Beyond the Blue (4:37), High and Dry in the Rain (3:24), Your Hero and Your Fool (03:36)
Earlier albums were produced by Trent Gardner who has worked with Magellan and Kansas's Steve Walsh but this one has the faders pushed by Robert Berry (as well as keyboards, bass, drums, and backing vocals) who I hope is the same guy that had teamed up with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer for their Power of 3 album, so passport checked there then. The domain name on his website is JazzRapTor but don't worry there is no rap or Marc Bolan here, just a fine collection of rock / AOR (in the old sense) type stuff whilst Mr Foster's press release eschews genre and replaces it with the question "How Listenable is the album?" Well,very!
The credits show guest drummers in Mike Vanderhule and Sven Krong, and that's one of my first impressions is how good the drums and sound of them are, the timbale snare sound on Cavalry is a good example. Indeed all the playing, production, and singing are of an exceptionally high standard.
By no stretch of the imagination is this a prog rock record, but more in the same camp as say The Dave Matthews Band or maybe Hootie and the Blowfish, both being amazingly popular (especially in America) and this recording really does deserve it's place along side them.
Vocals are nicely up front, clear as glass, and his acoustic and electric playing are both excellent. Opening Take a Little Time, Saga, and High and Dry in the Rain show off his distintive lead tones and the intergration of his band with Mr Berry's bass and keys being spot on. There is a lot of variation between songs,from Lynda Upthegrove's vocal lead on sing-a-long country banjo'd Blue Grass, through Progiest track Guinevere's Dead (where Jack sounds a bit like Ray Wilson),to the FM rock of Your Hero and your Fool. Real Roses gives us a change of keyboardist in Richard Huebner which also helps with the album's overall variety.
A good album with a timeless production. My main conclusion here is that I want to check out the back catalogue.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Lucy Goes to Sleep - Live Friday the 13th
Tree In Mind (8:03), Arrival In the Mud (5:30), Waiting Time (5:34), Lucy's Lullaby (10:29), Tattoo (5:47), Becoming Insane (Infected Mushroom) (7:26), Faded Colours (8:55)
The CD is attractively packaged and the sleeve notes are informative. Considering that the release is a live performance the sound quality of the recording is very good. The release contains spoken introductions to each song in Finnish. The audience appear to be having an enjoyable time. Crowd noise does not detract from the overall sound. The mix given to all instruments is carefully balanced and the vocals are for the most part clear.
Unfortunately, the undoubted excitement and experience of witnessing this young band perform does not transfer particularly well when heard in a sanitised head phone environment. The limitations of the band are noticeable in the delivery of some pieces. Despite the bands youthful exuberance and obvious belief in their music, the fraility of the compositions on display is difficult to ignore. The songs are built around a verse and chorus structure. The melodic but highly repetitive tunes are overlaid with powerfully chugging chords , chest expanding vocals and floods of efficient guitar solos. The release will probably not appeal to readers that enjoy music that is saturated with technical proficiency, virtuoso solo performances and complex time signatures.
The live performance begins with a lengthy keyboard introduction which is interesting and atmospheric, but is quite unlike the rest of the performance which follows. At around the two minute mark the band join the fray as a slow Black Sabbath like riff emerges. When listening in a considered way >Tree in Mind is unfortunately altogether quite forgettable; devoid of subtlety and innovation. It might appeal though, to those who like their music raw and heavy. A Rival In The Mud, has a rhythmic Led Zeppelin feel. Regretably, the piece is bombastically unimaginative, overblown with cliched guitar posturing and medallion vocals. A Rival in the Mud erases any pretentions that Lucy Goes To Sleep are a progressive band.
Lucy's Lullaby is the longest piece on offer and has all the ingredients associated with a classic rock anthem. It has a slow burning intensity which bubbles, simmers and eventually boils over. It also has an appealing chorus in which vocalist Vuortenvirta's falsetto, warbles in the style, beloved by alpha male vocalists. At the five minute mark a pleasant interlude of piano and guitar offers some variation and slight progressive moments.It is one of the parts in the album where the band are given some freedom within the compositions to strive to shine. It is without doubt a brief streak of colour in a disappointingly monochrome soundscape. This interlude then segues into a lengthy guitar outro, that although effective, can hardly be called imaginative.Tatoo is on the other hand a standard fast paced hard rock tune that is emboldened with innovative lyrics such as Tomorrow there will be no pain and sorrow ooohhh what will I do with the things she put me through. Faded colours is a much more satisfying piece. It has some enjoyable moments that include, some effective keyboard and guitar call and response passages. These elements create variation and enable the piece to be dragged kicking and screaming from its otherwise safe rock landscape.
Lucy Goes to Sleep are a young band with the potential to establish a loyal live following. Whether they should try to associate themselves with the progressive genre is debatable. On the evidence of Live Friday the 13th they may well struggle to find supporters within that genre. Nevertheless, if that is the bands preferred audience, I would be interested to see how the bands compositions might be embellished and developed in a studio setting and I wish them every success in their endeavours.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10
Guy Manning - Akoustik 2 - Duo Review
White Waters (5:39), Songs from Bilston House (5:02), Yesterday's Hero (5:39), A Strange Place (6:11), Moorland Skies (6:49), Flight 19 (6:45), Saturday Picture Show (7:04), Blue Girl (4:57), Icarus and Me (4:56), Joshua Logan (6:19), Ships (5:02), Winter (5:25)
John O'Boyle's ReviewThe only rule of the album is: "...to only record parts that we could reproduce live! No overdubs!"
Well folks, it's that time of the year again for one of Britain's most talented artists to step forward and release his annual album. It is a known fact that at this current moment Guy Manning has been a very busy man, releasing Akoustik 2 that features nine re-imaged songs and three brand pieces and is also working with the United Progressive Fraternity, who will be touring and he has also been across the pond for a few dates in the US.
Akoustik 2 takes songs from Tall Stories for Small Children, Songs from Bilston House, The Cure, Cascade, Anser's Tree, Number Ten, and The View from My Window albums, five of which are DPRP recommended, so it's a brave move to include reworks of songs from said albums.
It is definitely worth noting that the re-imaging of the songs adds another dimension to the pieces, breathing new life into them. Ships for me is a perfect example of this, the original version has some power and rapidity about it where Akoustik 2's version still maintains a certain level of urgency but is more mature, where you really sit up and listen to what is being conveyed. The real stand out piece for me that has caught the essence of the Akoustik approach is Flight 19 with its air of desperation that perfectly captures the romanticism of the time, (Flight 19 disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle on the 5th December 1945), and the emotional panic of the pilot as he cries out, "can you hear me", which just sends a shiver down your spine as you can hear his emotional state. This is what Manning does to perfection, offering vignettes that focus on the scene and character of reference, succinctly capturing the moment, where one can mentally see the scene unfolding before one's eyes. It is worth noting that being able to translate songs in a stripped back presentation and for it to still work shows the adeptness of the song writing and the strength of the song.
Like an expectant father, the excitement here for me are the three new songs, (not that any of the other pieces are less important in the grand scheme of things), Yesterday's Hero, Moorland Skies and Saturday Picture Show. The presentation and sound of these three sounds would in my mind point towards The Root, the Leaf and the Bone sessions, especially with Moorland Skies and to be honest more so with Saturday Picture Show, capturing an innocent childhood of yesteryear much like Palace of Delights did.
Saturday Picture Show is the strongest of the three songs with its construct that undulates and flows freely and displays a really nice dynamic especially with the guitar work. It's also worth noting that Marek Arnold's contribution really brings the song to life, something that is very noticeable throughout the whole album if I am totally honest as it did with Akoustik 1.
Moorland Skies could be the cousin of Autumn Song, a forlorn love song that quite cleverly uses reference to Turner, (Joseph Mallord William Turner, who was known as the painter of light and is purported that his dying words were, "the sun is god", he was the man who elevated landscape painting to an eminence, his use of colour to capture the emotion of the setting was second to none), to capture the emotion of a relationship that has come to an end without closure. Like Caliban and Ariel off Charlestown, Moorland Skies could be seen as an analogy of Turner's life and his relationship with Sarah Danby, his mistress, who he never married and is believed to have been the father of her two daughters.
Yesterday's Hero with is Celtic feel really uses word play to maximum effect being very clever in how it handles the subject matter, a narrative of failure and change, a recount of how it was not recognised until it was too late, preordained, very much in the same sort of vein as The Root, the Leaf, and the Bone did, but more subtle.
Akoustik 2 continues the journey that Akoustik started taking it one step further with three new songs, which makes it even more desirable and not just a completist purchase. As ever IMHO you cannot go far wrong with Manning as a recording artist, he touches on all the important parts of his art, he is creative, lyrically succinct, challenging and thought provoking, creating cinematic landscapes that one can wander through adding your own colours or not as the case maybe. When I read Steinbeck, such is the power of his work I see the scenes in black and white as they build; the more time you invest in his work the more you get out of it. Manning for me has the same effect such is the power of his approach and penmanship.
Alison Henderson's ReviewGuy Manning's body of work, now spanning 15 albums over his band project's 15 year history, certainly makes him one of the UK's most prolific prog artists. Such a significant output means he now has the luxury of revisiting some of the songs from the past albums in order to give them a different treatment so that they now fall under the label "acoustic" rather than electric prog.
The first Akoustik collection appeared in 2012: in between this and the new Akoustik 2 collection, there came The Root, the Leaf and the Bone, one of the outstanding albums of 2013 with its overarching heady air of times past, the stories within the songs told within complex but always fascinating arrangements.
For this album, he has again gathered together his trusty band of resident minstrels including guitarist, David Million, vocalists Julie King and Kev Currie, Martin Thiselton on piano, Ian Fairbairn on fiddle and mandolin, Jonathan Barrett on bass, Rick Henry on drums, Mark Arnold on saxophone and clarinet, and Steve Dundon on flute.
However, unlike Akoustik where his contribution was pared down guitar and lead vocals, this time, Manning takes a greater part with his customary vocals, guitar, mandolin, keyboards, percussion and drums.
Starting with the laid-back vibe of White Waters, all 12 songs bring out all the component ingredients of Manning's music, in particular the story-telling which invoke interesting times and haunting places.
Interspersing each of the songs with either fiddle, saxophone, clarinet or flute gives the songs their own definitive character with splashes of folk and bursts of the blues.
Manning's distinct voice conveys a range of emotions, none more so than in the slightly spooky A Strange Place that first appeared on his second album, The Cure.
The new songs comprise Yesterday's Hero which is a natural successor to those which appeared on The Root, the Leaf and the Bone, Moorland Skies delivers an intense sense of place, a feeling of being in open countryside, while Saturday Picture Show returns us to days of youth.
One of the most dramatic songs is Icarus and Me, drawn from the 2007 Songs from the Bilston House (along with the title track) with its unusual Arabian scale-type arrangement. It contrasts with the bluesy Joshua Logan and the gorgeous yearning of Flight 19.
I had the pleasure of seeing Squire Manning perform acoustically at London's Resonance Festival in July and his power to deliver his compelling songs was there for all to see. What they deliver here is akin to enjoying an evening out in a northern country pub with a blazing log fire, the intimate atmosphere only heightened by a group of masterful musicians providing the entertainment. This is an album to curl up with on a cold winter's evening.
Presto Vivace - Periferia Vital
Cada Emoción (8:12), Corazones Iluminando (6:27), Constructoras de Primaveras (5:54), Tres Niños (6:58), Tomado de tu Mano (6:39), Azul o Rojo (8:12)
That's not to say it lacks distortion: far from it. It doesn't even include atypical instruments: just the four classic rock instruments with a singer. But the arrangement variation is so rich, especially on the bass section that - without trying to undermine the work of the other instrumentalists - this is an album that every prog metal bass player should listen. This should be no surprise, since both lyrics and music are credited to bassist Marcelo Pérez Schneider, who also handles the keyboards.
On that note, I should also highlight the poetry contained within the lyrics. A lot of prog metal is based around complex, grandiose stories, and in most cases it's OK, but nothing more. There's none of that here, every track takes on a different theme with very rich metaphors. I don't usually mention the words in my reviews because the music frequently takes all the praise (or the critique). Unfortunately, those that don't have a good grasp of Spanish will miss out on this, which is a shame.
The moods are also varied, another very important aspect of the genre. The heavier sections intertwine with the softer parts, never clashing, but rather fusing together in a gradual way. It's an album that sounds unconventional as a whole, because the combination of the pyrotechnics and instrumental gymnastics blend in a very exquisite way.
Gabriel Chaperón's vocals are also quite unique, with a soaring falsetto that never seems to go too high for his comfort, and a rougher timbre on the lower sections. One of the most dynamic rock voices I've heard in a while, he uses a lot of melisma when singing, which suits the music really well.
There's also a lot of hidden details on the compositions that made me stop in my tracks a few times. A classic prog riff with an off-beat drum section might seem to follow a certain pattern, but then something sounds odd, and when you go back there's that one note that changed, altering the structure of what we already know to expect from this sort of recordings and also breaking the predictability of the genre's cliches.
The rhythmic section is very solid. Edu Giardina's drumming is top notch (it must be noted that despite the fact that he recorded the drums, Federico Mele is credited as the band's drummer). It's also not conventional in the sense that it's not just the bass and drums the instruments responsible for the cadence of the songs, because both guitar and bass swap protagonism both rhythmically and as lead instruments.
Periferia Vital is one of the best albums I've heard this year, and there's no comparisons or band references here because, even though it could be shoehorned into a category, it's also distinct enough to be set apart from other prog metal bands. Every instrument is precise, the compositions are thought out, the lyrics are deep and the execution is flawless. I can only criticise the length of the album: I want more.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Pymlico - Guiding Light
A Day Out (3:54), Sounds of the City (6:47), The East Side (7:49), Wanderlust (5:48), Bobcat (6:29), Piz Gloria (6:26), Neptune (13:48)
Arild is inspired by everything from Arabic music, jazz, metal, world music and (lucky for us!) good old prog rock. Arild has written, arranged and produced all music on this album and of course is also one of the musicians. He plays drums, keyboards and acoustic guitar. He is accompanied by a large group of musicians. Among them are his brother Øyvind on keyboards, Larry Salzman from America on percussion, guitarist Felix Martin from Venezuela, saxophone player Ivan Mazuze from Mozambique and fellow Norwegians on bass guitar, guitar, trombone (!) and keyboards. Together they prove to be a bunch of fine musicians that produce some wonderful sounds on this well recorded album.
Normally I like the presence of a good vocalist on an album but in this case I didn't miss vocals at all. Sometimes instrumental music doesn't hold my attention from beginning to end but this Norwegian project led by Arild Brøter manages to keep me listening from start to finish! The album grew more in my appreciation everytime I listened to it.
A Day Out is the shortest track but in nearly four minutes it gives you a good idea of the variety of sounds on the album. Starting with pounding African drums and a nice alto saxophone played by Ivan Mazuze towards the end. Sounds of the City reminded me of Peter Gabriel's Digging in the Dirt. It's a very nice track with excellent soloing by Geir-Anders Haugen on guitar.
The East Side has a mellow start by Ivan Mazuze on the alto sax. The first minutes of the track are quite jazzy but when the guitar kicks in, the song starts to rock. Mads Tvinnereim Horn has a stunning solo on guitar during the final minute of the track. Wanderlust has an intro with Arabic sounds supported by pounding drums getting heavier towards the end. You could call it psychedelic metal at some stage.
Bobcat is a bit to jazzy for my taste although I liked the organ bit but the rest of the track made me a little nervous! But hey, tastes differ! Piz Gloria is one of my favourites. A pleasantly pumping bass by Axel Toreg Reite supported by excellent drumming from Arild kicks off this track. The two guitarists also contribute largely to the strength of this more up tempo track.
Neptune is the magnum opus that closes the album. It's a song thar really combines all the good things from this group of musicians in almost 14 minutes. I could almost imagine being in a submarine hearing this music, so I think the music really captures the title of the track. The guitar soloing reminded me of Andy Latimer (Camel) at times.
Great music by this Norwegian project and certainly worth a try for all proggers!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
RanestRane - A Space Odyssey Part I - Monolith
Semi (18:09), Fluttuero' (3:51), Stazione Orbitante Uno (7:47), Materna Luna (7:35), Clavius (3:44), Il Monolito di Tycho (9:08)
Rothery became aware of RanestRane when he received a copy of 2011's Shining from Davide Coste, RanestRane's manager and "The Web Italy" (a Marillion fan club) web-master, who asked for his opinion on the the music and informed him of their next major project. The feedback was positive and the rest they say is history – both Rothery and Hogarth were happy to contribute and be associated with this great Italian band.
RanestRane (means "Strange Frogs" and was inspired by the first name of the band "Bop Frog" taken from the E.A. Poe story Hop Frog) are an Italian prog band who formed back in 1996. The aim of the musicians is to compose music against a film backdrop, a "cineconcerto" in their words. The idea is to show film images while performing the music live. In this case, they have chosen 2001 – A Space Odyssey for a trilogy of albums. There is a good smattering of PFM, Le Orme, Pink Floyd and Marillion influences in here that lends itself leading to many musical sonic delights. Apart from Hogarth's narration in English, the band sing in Italian.
The first album of the trilogy to be released is A Space Odyssey Part I - Monolith and consists of six main tracks (or scenes). The opening scene, Semi, serves things up very nicely indeed. The opening has all the hallmarks of Pink Floyd which is followed by some narration from Steve Hogarth. The track includes some lovely piano work, melodic synth solos, great energetic drumming, guitar solos, the odd monkey screech from the film, wonderful bass lines and well delivered vocals from Daniele Pomo. The track has various tempos, moods and timbres that makes this an exciting opening to any album. Fantastic stuff and these guys certainly know how to compose and are clearly competent musicians.
The second scene, Fluttuero', starts with vocals over guitar arpeggios which reminded me of Mostly Autumn. This is a short song with some great vocal harmonisation. The track gets livelier with the entry of the drums. A simpler track than Semi, but a beautiful melody with good vocals throughout. This track is slightly more "poppy" than Semi but sits nicely within the album.
Stazione Orbitante Uno is interesting as it has some of the film dialogue (discussed in general later) over the music. Thankfully they truncate the banal telephone conversation that Dr Heywood Floyd has with his daughter! Sonic delights, eerie in places, are served up well here, with nice acoustic guitar, flute sounds, guitar arpeggios and some cracking drumming. Superb track.
Materna Luna features, once again, some excellent drumming over a sensuous synth solo with a dreamy string accompaniment. The track also includes some superb guitar solos from Steve Rothery that tie in beautifully with the lovely synth solo work. Also features great singing from both Steve Hogarth and Daniele Pomo. Nothing disappoints here and it is possibly the highlight of the album – if you want a taste of what this album sounds like, check this track out.
The fifth scene, Calvius, is the shortest song on the album. It opens with a beautiful and delicate ethereal sonic soundscape, acoustic guitars, some tingling fret-less bass playing that accompanies some of the Space Odyssey dialogue. The sixth and last scene, Il Monolito di Tycho, starts with the albums heaviest moment, and certainly rocks in places, with some treated vocals, that gives the song a distinct aggressive edge. This gives way to a dreamy soundscape with Hogarth providing narration. Track also includes a catchy melody, Beatles-esque Strawberry Field moments, brilliant drumming that makes the song groove in places. The album crescendos with such a wonderful sonic tapestry, crackling and fizzing with energy, it leaves the hairs on the back of your neck standing. A classic way of rounding off an excellent album. Well done!
Tracks Stazione Orbitante Uno and Clavius feature some of the film's soundtrack dialogue which in itself is not a new idea. On first hearing these tracks I wasn't sure whether I liked this since as the dialogue was very up front (almost to the detriment of the music) in the mix but after a few listens I softened my views to some extent. However, I would have preferred the more subtle approach Pink Floyd did with Casablanca dialogue on Momentary Lapse of Reason's Yet Another Movie.
I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing this album, and being hot on the heels after my review of Shamall's Turn Off album, it was refreshing that there was some musical restraint here and that the album forms part of a trilogy rather than condensed into a single album release. The band are currently working on the second album of the trilogy called HAL, hopefully out in April 2015. Later this year, November/December 2014, a live CD-DVD entitled Monolith In Rome - A Space Odyssey Live will be released.
I'm looking forward to the next album and as to the DPRP "rock progressivo Italiano"-ometer, I rate this a very strong 8 out of 10!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Jason Rubenstein - New Metal from Old Boxes
The Contemplation of the Cosmologer (3:38), Calculation and Walkaway (4:11), The Set Up (3:51), The Blow Off (6:16), Unspeakable Highways (3:24), A Burden of Secrets (7:56), The Snowflake Defines the Weather (3:18), Frankenstein on the Red Line (3:31), The Steppes of Sighs Part 1 (2:51), The Steppes of Sighs Part 2 (3:50), New Metal from Old Boxes (6:39), The Barbarian (4:56)
Taking no prisoners, Rubenstein is a virtuoso guitarist and keyboard player, and this self produced album, Rubensteins sixth, shows both facets of his talents as a performer and composer, and takes you right back to Rubensteins prog roots. This amazing album demands that you listen from the opener Contemplation of the Cosmologer to his rousing closing cover of ELP's The Barbarian, with style shifts from jazz prog, to prog metal and some intense riffing this covers all music bases with style and panache, and could be the soundtrack to some crazy film thats not been released yet.
Working in a heavy vein, that draws on the improvisational style of King Crimson, the harder edge of bands like the Nine Inch Nails, and with the intense guitar and keyboard interplay of classic Deep Purple, Rubenstein has a mighty arsenal of sound at his disposal, and like all the best musical generals he knows when and where to deploy his artillery, and this album is full of composotional masterpieces that take your breath away, from the wonderful title track, that is a nod to his use of older musical equipment in this contemporary composition, and the great Frankenstein on the Red Line. With deft musical touches, and some intense guitar and keyboard sparring that drives the album, New Metal from Old Boxes is a masterpiece of an album that demands your attention and rewards your listening, there is no pause for reflection, no let up in the intensity and as a statement of intent it is mighty.
Rubenstein is a name that you may have heard of previously, but this lays down a marker indicating that Jason Rubenstein is here to stay.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Todd Rundgren and Utopia - Live at the Electric Ballroom
CD 1: Real Man (4:20), It Wouldn't Have Made any Difference (4:39), Love of the Common Man (3:44), Trapped (3:08), Abandon City (4:43), The Verb to Love (8:19), The Seven Rays (9:55), Can We Still Be Friends? (3:53), The Death of Rock and Roll (4:02)
CD 2: You Cried Wolf (2:17), Gangrene (3:41), A Dream Goes on Forever (2:35), Black Maria (5:26), Eastern Intrigue / Initiation (11:50), Couldn't I Just Tell You (4:08), Hello, It's Me (4:16), Just One Victory (5:42)
CD 2: You Cried Wolf (2:17), Gangrene (3:41), A Dream Goes on Forever (2:35), Black Maria (5:26), Eastern Intrigue / Initiation (11:50), Couldn't I Just Tell You (4:08), Hello, It's Me (4:16), Just One Victory (5:42)
This tour featured a consistent backing band of Roger Powell (keyboards, vocals), Kasim Sulton (bass, vocals) and John 'Willie' Wilcox (drums, vocals), otherwise known as Utopia. However, unlike the previous year when Utopia had played approximately 150 dates, this was ostensibly a Rundgren solo tour featuring material from across his albums, although, of course, it would have foolish to have completely ignored anything from the Utopia songbook. As a consequence five of the eight tracks on this album feature the band performing as Unitopia on their own material which was not included on the Back to the Bars album. Three songs, Trapped, Abandon City, and Gangrene were from the previous year's release, Oops! Wrong Planet album while both The Seven Rays and Just One Victory had originally appeared on 1975's Another Live. Of the three solo songs that don't appear on Back to the Bars, two, Can We Still Be Friends? and You Cried Wolf, were from the most recent Rundgren solo album, the excellent The Hermit of Mink Hollow, while The Death of Rock and Roll was from 1975's Initiation, songs from which featured heavily in the set list.
So with live versions of nine of the 17 tracks recorded at other dates on this tour, some of which also featured also featured the Utopia line-up, and given that the source tape was not multitrack and is therefore not of as high a quality as the official live album, what does this 'official bootleg' offer? Well, the recording is of a complete show which is a bonus from a collector' point of view with Unitopia playing on all of the songs. In addition, the group is on fine form, which is not surprising considering the number of dates already played on the current tour and the extensive touring from the previous year resulting in a finely honed musical unit. Additionally, the concert spans a wide variety of music, from the proggier Utopia songs to the more pop/rock flavours of Real Man, Couldn't I Just Tell You? and Hello It's Me, and, as such, is highly representative of the multifaceted musical career of Mr Rundgren.
Ultimately, this release is, as intended, for the fan rather than the more casual listener who would be better off investigating non archive releases. But with that caveat in mind, the album will find favour for the many Rundgren/Utopia fans who will be delighted that the archives are being delved into, mastered for CD release and presented in the best quality possible. You can't say fairer than that.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10