Album Reviews

Issue 2022-012

Duo Review

D'Virgilio, Morse & Jennings — Troika

D'Virgilio, Morse & Jennings - Troika
Everything I Am (5:43), Julia (6:07), You Set My Soul On Fire (3:22), One Time Less (4:53), Another Trip Around The Sun (4:39), A Change Is Gonna Come (4:24), If I Could (4:02), King For A Day (5:47), Second Hand Sons (4:43), My Guardian (3:43), What You Leave Behind (4:16)
Patrick McAfee

Nick D'Virgilio, Neal Morse and Ross Jennings are household names in prog rock/metal circles, but their work is not well-known outside of those fan-bases. In a just musical world, Troika would go a long way towards changing that. The album is a refreshingly modern take on a style mastered in the 1970s by bands like Crosby, Stills and Nash and America. Heavily acoustic, the material is driven by truly impressive vocal harmonies.

This is somewhat of a reunion for Nick and Neal; they long ago proved in Spock's Beard how well they sing together. In fact, there are moments on Troika that are reminiscent of classic Spock's songs such as June and The Distance to the Sun. The addition of Jennings takes the vocal dynamics to an even higher level. Though best-known as the lead singer of prog/metal band Haken, this project (along with his recent pop-infused solo debut) finds him expanding his musical scope. Ultimately, the symmetry of their three voices creates a perfect musical dynamic that is compelling to listen to.

As wonderful as the singing is, the first-rate song-writing is what secures the essential status of this album. The authentic feel of the material disproves any stigma associated with prog musicians working outside of their comfort zone. The tracklist ranges from sublimely upbeat (Everything I Am, One Time Less, Another Trip Around the Sun, If I Could), socially relevant (A Change is Gonna Come), rocking (King for a Day, Second Hand Sons) to various points in between (Julia, You Set My Soul on Fire, My Guardian, What You Leave Behind). You will find occasional prog elements, but mostly, the album is a legitimate and wholly successful attempt at straightforward acoustic rock.

Troika is unlikely to be released with the same pomp and circumstance as other musical endeavours by these three talented artists. That is a shame because it is absolutely deserving of the same level of attention. It is a unique album that will please existing fans and hopefully introduce these three talented musicians to a new audience. Highly recommended and a great musical release to start 2022!

Greg Cummins

Despite the many lockdowns inflicted on the population in the past two years, miracles seemed to have happened within the music industry. Three of the biggest names in the business have joined in a triumvirate of voices to create one extremely nice departure from what we have come to expect from them.

Neal Morse, Nick D'Virgilio and Ross Jennings have united for a mostly acoustic journey that quite frankly is a very enjoyable change to the frantic listening required to enjoy the music from their mainstream bands.

The 11 songs are mainly acoustic samples of what a merging-of-the-minds can produce when the situation allows. The three-part harmonies are simply stunning throughout, and it just reinforces why these guys front some of the most popular progressive rock bands in the world. They each have incredible voices, song-writing skills and the ability to apply those talents in a very cohesive manner. There is not a note out of tune or a phrase out of place.

When you consider how much influence and overall respect truly talented musicians have for each other within the progressive rock fraternity, a united project such as this was a no-brainer. It hasn't surprised me how many excellent projects have surfaced, involving multiple members of different bands and all contributing to a huge variety of collaborative albums such as this. Despite this album being less progressive than what my normal music appetite requires, it is nonetheless just as enjoyable. In fact, this is something that could easily be used to introduce a newbie to progressive rock music.

From some info supplied, we know the tracks took shape with the musicians recording all music and vocals separately, yet the eclectic performances burst with the energy and excitement of the collaboration. Acoustic anthems, charged rockers and sensitive ballads are all part of the mix. The unique blend of Ross, Neal and Nick's voices and styles have created an album in which you will encounter these musicians in a way you've never heard before. So very true!

Those familiar with Spock's Beard, Haken, Transatlantic, Neal Morse Band et al will appreciate the stylistic similarities to none other than Crosby, Still, Nash & Young. Their influence is all over these great songs and will certainly appeal to those wondering why that band couldn't maintain their brilliance, despite personal differences that emerged in the 70s.

We are even treated to a short Jimi Hendrix intro on the track, Second Hand Sons which, while not out of place on a 1970s album, reminds us of the decades-old influence that former musicians have had on these three maestros. It is probably the grittiest song on the album but still fits in perfectly with the softer tracks.

Picking the best song is pretty hard, as the songs are all generally well composed and produced. What You Leave Behind is certainly an excellent number and reminds me slightly of that Steve Stills' classic, Do For The Others. I can see this album doing pretty well on the radio; not that I listen to that format much. The music has that essential, infectious nature that many people crave. So I would not be surprised if 2 or 3 of the better songs weren't lifted for airplay. Have a listen yourself and see what songs you think might be radio-friendly.

While true prog lovers might be slightly put off by the lack of any ground-breaking music on this disc, what will impress is just how good it sounds as a countrified / acoustic diversion. Highly recommended.

Troika will be available as limited CD edition, a gatefold 2LP + CD with the vinyl in black or blue. Each format includes a bonus alternative version of the track Julia. The official release date is February 25th.

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