Album Reviews

Issue 2023-032

Aisles — Beyond Drama

Aisles - Beyond Drama
Fast (4:38), Megalomania (6:25), Thanks To Kaka (4:18), Disobedience (7:18), Time (A Conversation With My Therapist) (6:40), The Plague (11:06), Surrender (6:44), Needsun (2:09), Game Over (6:28)
Greg Cummins

Hailing from Chile, Aisles is a band I have followed since their debut album, The Yearning was released in 2006. Their current line-up consists of Israel Gil (vocals), Rodrigo Sepulveda (guitars), German Vergara (guitars, vocals), Juan Pablo Gaete (keyboards), Daniel Concha (bass), and Felipe Candia (drums).

Five spins of their latest album, Beyond Drama and I am starting to relish much of what I am hearing. Although Aisles have been traditionally considered a neo-prog band, on this outing, they have throw down the gauntlet and allowed themselves to partake of the plethora of musical genres now available to all aspiring musicians. In this regard, the band have adopted a slightly heavier progressive metal style and also embraced a more traditional progressive rock framework for many of the songs on the album. For the most part, it works pretty well. The songs have far more complexity for a straight neo-prog band. Containing many sections with complex time signatures, and sharp arrangements, I can see this album appealing to a much wider audience.

Of particular note, I am really enjoying hearing their drummer really excel at his craft as he throws in some really creative fills to let you know he is no slouch as a stick twirler. Their keyboard player is also no novice either and contributes many extremely appealing passages to help underpin what the rest of the band have concocted.

The opening song, Fast, really needs no introduction because its title tells you exactly what is going on. This is a song performed in top gear and does not let up until it finally lets go of your ears to then be treated to one of the better songs on the album. Megalomania, is a softer track that allows the vocals to shine a little brighter and in a way that encourages you to keep wanting more of the same. It is a lot more experimental compared to what I have heard before from the band and culminates in some propulsive drumming towards the end of the song. Great stuff!

I found Thanks To Kaka to be somewhat unusual, as the band have created lyrics that need a lot of tweaking to fit in with the rest of the rhythms of the song. It might have been created with this aural diversion deliberately, but it seems to these ears, too many words are being squeezed into a space where far fewer would fit more naturally and comfortably.

Disobedience is a full tilt bout of musical mayhem as the band throw a lot of muscular power chords and tight arrangements that borders on a somewhat frenetic attack of the senses. The title is also perfectly suited as one could easily envisage a tribe of unruly kids getting totally out of hand and wasted on their "medication" of choice only to then unleash an unholy attack on some unsuspecting victim.

Probably the most adventurous track here, is Time. It begins with some trademark guitar passages by the likes of Andrian Belew (King Crimson), but softens proceedings to culminate in a very listenable track.

The Plague is the longest song on the album and while not an epic in the traditional sense, it does allow the band to break loose a little and explore more diverse territory. The chorus is particularly good and quite catchy while the occasional excursions away from the backbone of the song are sufficiently enticing to allow the listener to enjoy the diversion. It also includes some very neat and unexpected double triplets from the drummer so that made me chuckle a little. Surrender is a more introspective song and features some nice melodic vocals along with some moody keyboard flourishes here and there to help embellish the sound. A nice track!

This is somewhat spoiled by the penultimate track called Needsun which features horrible and whiny type of singing that I felt should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Thankfully, that track is over in a few minutes and gives way to the closer called Game Over. This is again far more experimental in its structure and includes some excellent squealing synth work, which then allows the guitars to chime in with their contributions, making it one of the better songs on offer.

Not being supplied with any details other than the raw music makes it a lot harder to interpret the lyrics. Although the band are capable of singing in flawless English, a lyric sheet and some liner notes makes our job as reviewers a lot easier. Considering a lot of music we are expected to review is no longer supplied in the original CD format, it should be a mandatory inclusion to supply some additional material to help with our job. In addition, when trying to locate some YouTube video clips of the bands newest songs to include as samples, I was expected to subscribe to the band's channel (which I reluctantly did), yet I was still not able to see or hear any music samples. Not sure what has gone wrong here, and it may be resolved by the time this review is uploaded (it is — Ed.), but if a band wants to sell their product globally, they should make it a lot easier for the public to gain access to it electronically.

So what we end up with the band's latest album is one that is a little patchy in places yet shines in others. None of the songs are classics nor will they become earworms, as they are devoid of that essential catchiness quality that is normally a prerequisite for such an attribute. This is by no means a bad album but left me feeling more accessibility was needed to really make me sit up and take notice.

Cairo — Nemesis

Cairo - Nemesis
Asleep At The Wheel (7:45), Tripwire (6:13), Glow (3:24), Rogue (5:47), The Love (5:21), New Beauty (7:36), Déjà Vu (3:20), Jumping On The Moon (5:34), Save The Earth (4:14), Nemesis (8:32).
Greg Cummins

Not to be confused with the American band with the same name, Cairo from the UK are the brainchild of founding member, Rob Cottingham who kicked the band off in 2016. You may be aware of the name as Rob was the instigator for that other excellent band Touchstone which operated from 2001. I believe he departed Touchstone around 2015 but has been busy with his latest endeavour ever since. Currently, he is joined by Sarah Bayley (angelic vocals), James Hards (acoustic and electric guitars), Paul Stocker (bass) and Graham Brown (drums / percussion). Rob is the main songwriter and contributes all keyboards and programming together with his vocal duties.

This is the band's second studio release and shows considerable cohesion amongst the members along with an uplifting vibe regarding the songsmithing abilities of Rob and his team. While it would be hard to say the music is groundbreaking, it is certainly appealing in a mellower kind of way compared to that which I was expecting. For some reason, my initial understanding of this band was that they were a harder edged band compared to their American namesake. Perhaps I had been reading some slightly incorrect information from a few years ago as I was expecting a much heavier musical onslaught to that which was unfolding after repeated listens. In fact, the band's entry on RateYourMusic has the band labelled as "crossover thrash" which I find improbable, although I confess to not having heard their first album from 2016. The music on Nemesis could hardly be called heavy in any real sense although the band unleash a few tasty morsels here and there to let you know they can rock out if required.

The general theme underlying most of the songs on the album however, falls within the melodic symphonic rock / neo-prog genre which is perfectly fine for these ageing ears. One of the biggest assets the band has at its disposal is the pure and angelic vocals courtesy of their newly appointed singer, who replaced Rachel Hill. She has certainly earned her position as a crucial part of the team as she has a great voice that makes her the perfect fit for Rob's music. This is perfectly showcased during the song, Glow as her pristine voice along with some really tasty keyboard passages makes for one of the better songs on the album. Sounding as powerful as Sarah Brightman, this delightful and hauntingly beautiful song is one almighty credit to the female voice.

The first half dozen songs all feature very competent songwriting with acres of melody, the odd guitar lead break when needed and a smattering of keyboard flourishes that add some appropriate texture. The song, Déjà Vu begins with some brilliantly melodic but melancholic keyboard swirls that eventually allow the rest of the song to unfold with guitar, bass and drums. The catchiest song on the album is however, also one that I found a little annoying due to its simplistic structure. Jumping On The Moon possess a lot of bounce right from the get go but falls down a little when the chorus kicks in as it simply has way too much cheese for my pizza. The chorus also drags towards the end of the song and is the perfect case for less is best. Maybe I'm a little more simplistic in some respects but with food of an Italian nature, you can hold the cheese and get rid of those gherkins and anchovies. I don't eat that stuff. Your mileage may vary.

The sound effects and computer programming in Save The Earth are quite effective and helps to resurrect what might have been a slight mis-step for the close of the album. Thankfully, the final song, Nemesis features some excellent keyboard passages and brings everything back on track for the ultimate finale.

In some respects, I am reminded of the style of music one would hear from Mermaid Kiss, The Far Meadow, Landmarq, Sun Palace or even a less Celtic-inspired version of bands such as Iona, Magenta, October Project, Karnataka and Mostly Autumn

This really was a pretty decent album to review and apart from the string cheese incident (no connection to the American jam band), was sufficiently enjoyable to keep the album on repeat a few times more.

The album is due for release on 5th May 2023 although at the time of writing my review, I could find no samples on either Bandcamp or Spotify.

Kinetic Element — Chasing The Lesser Light

Kinetic Element - Chasing The Lesser Light
First Stage (6:15), Chasing The Lesser Light (19:50), Radio Silence (9:55), We Can't Forget (11:35), Door To Forever (15:18).\
Greg Cummins

Kinetic Element is an American band I had not heard of before but was sent a digital copy for review. The band comprises Mike Visaggio (piano, organ, synthesizers), Michael Murray (drums), Mark Tupko (bass), St. John Coleman (vocals), Peter Matuchniak (guitars).

This is a concept album that traces man's history in space beginning with the embryonic dreams of space travel, through the moon landing and culminating in the planned mission to Mars. It does so through 5 tracks of varying lengths including an epic song of almost 20 minutes duration.

From the outset one realises this is a keyboard centric album as it features the dexterous talents of their chief keysman and song smith, Mike Visaggio. The album features a smorgasbord of rather excellent keyboard flourishes right throughout the album and is back-stopped by his other teammates who add their respective contributions where needed. The album does not really contain any really lengthy pyrotechnic guitar passages, grinding bass runs or thunderous drumming as the basic concept being followed is more of an organic sound as the songs tend to be on the softer and more mellow side rather than having too much crunch. If I was to be pushed for a comparison, I would probably find some similarities to older 70's bands such as Ethos and Fireballet although in fairness to those stalwarts of the American prog scene, they were so much better, sounding far more natural and despite utilising many complex time signatures with the majority of the songs.

Although there are some nice ideas here and there along with some sections where the band let loose, I am not really hearing anything really exciting or that piques my interest for any longer than my obligatory 5-6 spins. I also need a few more earworms with my music these days, but sadly I am just not finding too much here in the way of memorable songs or rousing choruses.

One of my main issues is that their vocalist often sings with so much effort, he occasionally misses the mark and while not being totally out of key, there can be no denying there are pieces where the vocal strain is too hard to ignore. The musical arrangements of the album are also quite complex in parts but in various sections I am finding there are too many round parts trying to fit into a square hole. I am all for the use of complex time signatures, outrageous arrangements and the like but at the end of the day, it all still needs to gel together well.

Lyrically, the album also suffers a little as too often the words just sound a little too klutzy for my liking, often not fitting in naturally with the remaining song structure. Musically, there is certainly a decent degree of ability as each member has a professional handle on his respective piece of equipment. However, considering the huge choice of great instruments available to a professional musician these days along with so many methods to improves ones technique, it becomes a mandatory requirement for any aspiring musician to know their instruments backwards. In this regard, the band do a convincing job as the playing on the whole is pretty tight and well controlled. Apart from the few caveats mentioned above, I still wish the band well for the future as I am sure the latent talent on board just requires some songs that are more suited to their overall abilities and styles. Possibly the next batch of songs could include sections where their vocalist can shine and reach those higher notes without having to strain quite as much.

Keith A. Gordon — On Track: Spirit

Keith A. Gordon - On Track: Spirit
Jan Buddenberg

I still remember as if it were yesterday when, freshly introduced in 1981 to Spirit via the formidable The Adventures Of Kaptain Kopter And Commander Cassidy In Potato Land album , I sat ready to watch and record the rerun of their illustrious 1978 Rockpalast concert on the German WDR Network. Not with a VCR, because me and my parents did not have that luxury in 1981, but with an audio recorder that could be connected to the state-of-the-art monumental Blaupunkt TV we owned. Monumental for the fact that it weighed a ton, occupied the space of a fridge and was fully equipped, though without a remote control.

It did however feature colours, which was a breathtaking novelty at the time, and provided the opportunity to make double-mono recordings via ordinary pre-tulip plugs. Something my dad on occasion did on his reel-to-reel tape recorder. Thankfully innovation caught up with this so when the actual Rockpalast re-airing was about to begin I was firmly seated with my own inferior cassette recorder in front of the TV and pressed record the moment the show started. Fully aware that at some time during the gig I had to switch my tape over in order not to miss anything.

Possessing only one limited 90 minute length cassette tape at the time I made my move around the 44th minute mark, quickly ejecting the tape, reversing it and after pressing record once I had closed the lid I patted myself on the back for not having missed out on any of the music. Little was I to know that the thoroughly exhilarating performance by Randy California (guitars, Taurus Pedals, vocals), Ed Cassidy (drums) and Larry "Fuzzy" Knight (bass) was never going to fit completely onto my tape as the show lasted 100 minutes.

Missing out on the encore jam with Dickey Betts for years, surfacing decades later when the Rockpalast Archives, at long last, started to release DVD's of their most successful concerts, I deeply cherished and wore the tape down. Besides the "controversial" 1984, this sensational set contains many fan favourites like Nature's Way, Mr. Skin, I Got A Line On You, complemented by various exciting covers and a great many other splendid songs not yet featured on regular live/studio album like personal favourites Hollywood Dream and Looking Down.

Since the unfortunate passing of Randy California, going under while successfully save his son from drowning in 1997, all of these songs have now found a way onto various posthumous compilation/live-albums. These albums also add a gargantuan maze of other unreleased gems to the plate, so seeing them comprehensively included in the final chapters of the book makes Keith A Gordon's On Track: Spirit a gift from heaven for those with an above-average appreciation for Spirit.

Over the past 50 years, the "Reverend of Rock 'n Roll" Gordon has written 25 music-related books and appeared in over 100 publications worldwide, many of them associated with classic rock and blues. In the Spirit world this is now expanded with a kaleidoscope of other genres like proto-prog, psychedelic rock, folk, R&B, jazz, disco, funk, soul, melodic rock, avant-garde and timeless music all bundled into one.

Told with well-chosen and engaging words that show richness and variety in description, illustrative elaborations and clarifying opinionated statements, this book gives page-turning a new meaning. I simply devoured every bit of information and finished it all in one evening without pausing, thereby, for instance, reading up on California's powerful bond with Jimi Hendrix, who was the one who dubbed Randy Craig Wolfe into Randy California when he was in his band. Or receiving insights into the denied "Spirit vs Led Zeppelin" copyright infringement case, which claimed Jimmy Page borrowed a little too much of California's 1968 song Taurus for their Stairway To Heaven.

At the same time, it successfully reconnected me to their formative period when the band, besides California and Cassidy comprising John Locke, Jay Ferguson and Matt Andes, released their excellent eponymous debut album in 1968, followed three albums later by their 1970 psychedelic masterpiece The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus. It brought back bags of memories of listening to the underwhelming albums Feedback and Son Of Spirit that followed shortly after. Albums I encountered in reverse order once I had tracked down the formidable Spirit Live from 1978, which encompasses many alternate versions of the Rockpalast gems.

That Gordon and I have a slightly different taste becomes fairly obvious through the various comments involving the various albums. I for instance wouldn't mark 1977's Future Games down as a confusingly entertaining effort. I rate this as quite an understatement on Gordon's part for it is one of the most bewildering and extraordinary albums I've ever encountered, one which I'm still attempting to get to grips with. Far ahead of its time (probably) this challenging goofy concoction of experimentation and musical frivolities serves up utterly ingenious nonsense wrapped in a concept that brings a bundle of amazingly mind-boggling compositions topped by the hilariously funny and ribbiting wacky Freakout Frog (click for YouTube video).

I also wouldn't go as far in stating the semi-reunion album Farther Along from 1976 is a disappointing album for it does have its moments, but agreeably within Spirit's legacy it's not one of their strongest efforts. Potatoland, which doesn't make Gordon's Top 10 list (out of 15 albums) however to me definitely is. And I have nothing other than an infinity of question marks about his "not-recommended" judgement for the posthumous released Rock 'n Roll Planet... 1977 - 1979 compilation, which to me is Spirit's holiest grail in light of unforgettable California/Knight/Cassidy magic.

This fascinating and fruitful period, which shows Spirit in their prime as far as I'm concerned, is actually barely covered at all. On the one hand this is shown by the striking ignorance of the iconic, Potatoland Records released, Spirit Live cover in the obligatory images segment. And on the other hand because of the studio album premise on which Gordon has based his main story, which in the absence of one creates a gap in his story. One he fills in nicely later on in the brief chapters dedicated to Live Albums and Randy California solo efforts, but I would have preferred a more complete chronological story. Also in light of Modelshop, which is correctly placed in the year of its official release (2005), but it would be much more fitting when placed at time of recording which places it between 1968's The Family That Plays Together and 1969's Clear.

Regardless of these personal preferences, it's clear Gordon's shared knowledge and information is comprehensively extensive and outstandingly worded. It's not flawless though. Live At The Ash Grove 1967, Volume 1 is stated to be the only live recording of the original band, which he contradicts on the next page by expressing his love for Live At Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA, a rare 1971 document that features the entire original band. I know for sure many more recordings of the original line-up exist, also from the full line-up that played together as a family in 1976, a fact which isn't mentioned in the book.

And why omit California's instrumental version of The Prisoner from Miles Copeland's 1988 No Speak sampler when California's participation on Miles Copeland's Night Of The Guitar album gets an apt description in the Rapture Of The Chambers chapter where a vocal version is featured? Gordon even goes at length for a more detailed description of this excellent live album in the "Spirit Live Albums" chapter, but this is entirely wrong as California only performs two songs under his own name without any other members of Spirit present whatsoever.

As far as missing songs are concerned, I could have gone on and on because despite the non-album tracks praised by Gordon, there are still a lot missing. As said, all but one of the albums on which these gems are featured are named, so the hunt is freshly on again. But it would have been nice to have a complete index of sorts to make it easier for completists (like me) to know which songs I'm still missing out on. The fact that the exception in these named albums is the Ultimate Potatoland box set from 2019 I find very surprising for all other releases up to 2022 by this same label are mentioned.

Despite these reservations on my part, Gordon's take on Spirit and Randy California legacy is an excellent entertaining read and comes highly recommend for fans. I do however hope Gordon will write an adjacent volume, preferably in the Decades series, which further highlights the various incarnations the band went through during the years 1972 - 1981 and highlights their influences (click link for YouTube video) as well as their significance in music. The band fully deserves it.

Duo Review

The View Inside — Strange Destinations

The View Inside - Strange Destinations
Passage (2.14), Bad Neighborhood (5:52), Stuck Under (4:57), Son Of Someone (4.44), The End Of Me (6:18), I'm Not Supposed To Be Here (5.12), Unvirtual Reality (4:58), Pleased To Meet Me (5.38), Father Of The Future (3:40), Mother Of Silence (2:20), Work Of Art (4:56), Portal (4:43)
Thomas Otten

Here it is, the second release of this French/American joint venture, consisting of the French Ludovic Briand (lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion), and Julien Boursin (keyboards), and the American Matt Rohr (lyrics, producer). They issued their first album The View Inside in 2020 under the name Briand Boursin Rohr. For Strange Destinations, they changed their band's name to The View Inside. As on their (band-eponymous) debut, The View Inside resorted to the abilities of additional musicians, such as Serge Arese, and Francois Gomez (bass), Camille Briant, and Maîté Sahuc (violin), and Christophe Briand (drums, vocals), plus several guest musicians on backing vocals. The CD comes in a nice digipack format, again with excellent artwork and photography by Gaetan Chrétien. As one would expect, given a professional producer is an official member of the band, the production is top-notch, the mixing is very balanced, and the sound quality is such that every detail, which the music is full of, comes across in perfection (best with headphones on).

The underlying story is a loose continuation of the one on Walter, in such a way that he has left the confines of the life described in the first album to set out on a new journey of uncertain destination. The songs describe a series of encounters and adventures, where the protagonist finds himself either observing, or participating in, various strange situations. The whole concept is to be understood as an allegory for spiritual seeking.

The View Inside's first release kind of fell in between genres, combining elements of various music styles such as prog, AOR, pop, fusion, soul, funk, and groove. Since then, the band has given a label to their music: "proggish rock". I think that this is a catchy and appropriate designation for a phenomenon which, the way I hear it, has taken place in between the two releases. To me, it sounds as if The View Inside had decided to flesh out their musical style with a view to foreground rock and prog elements. Such an approach entails opportunities and risks. Concreting its musical direction can mean that, in a way, the band has matured, not in terms of musical and arranging capabilities — they remain outstanding in this case — but because they now have committed themselves to a particular genre. On the other hand, narrowing its musical spectrum can take place at the expense of diversity and variety. The surprising effects are fewer, and the music becomes more predictable. Covering a broader range of musical genres gives more opportunities to sound varied - the trick is to keep that variety even though the musical terrain is more concrete. To this effect, The View Inside scored well on this release in my opinion.

Indeed, it is fair to say that, in line with this more concrete profile, the songs on Strange Destinations sound a bit more alike compared to the band's debut. This also results in the spectrum of possible peers to compare The View Inside's music with being more homogeneous. The influence of Toto is very present, especially in the guitar playing on the rockier songs - certainly also owing to Ludovic Briand's activities with his other band T2T (Tribute To Toto). There are also hints at comparable-sounding bands from the AOR-spectrum, such as Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Asia, and Boston. The ballads remind me of Peter Gabriel's solo work, as does Ludovic's singing altogether, plus touches of Alan Parsons Project in some of the instrumental parts. The way the drums are used in some of the tracks is a bit reminiscent of Phil Collins. The closing song Portal, which is the most "proggish" one for me, and which bookends the album together with Passage, even brings Kansas to my mind, given the violin used.

Despite the songs following a related musical scheme, variety and diversity have remained, but now take place within the very songs. A little extra guitar riff here, a specific outro there, unusual synthesizer sounds, breaks, complex harmonies, rhythm changes, syncopation - they are present, but require the listeners' unrestricted attention to be fully appreciated. Striking as well is the emphasis on vocals, and melodies, also evidenced by the number of different singers in the line-up. Ludovic's warm and melodious singing provides for quite some emotional moments, especially in the quieter songs, which sometimes display a feeling of sadness and melancholy. But also, the harder sounding tracks catch the listeners' ears with accessible melodies and refrains.

Strange Destinations clearly bears the handwriting of a guitarist. However, Ludovic manages to make the music very much sound like a band effort, and Julien's keyboards are given plenty of opportunities to contribute diversity, melody, and depth to the songs. Most of the tracks sound compact and dense, and the parts dedicated to keyboard and guitar solos are just selective, as measured by prog standards (whichever those are) but in line with AOR-characteristics. I would have nothing against more of those, though, my favourite on the album being Pleased To Meet Me because of its great jazzy(!) sounding piano solo - the only part that leaves the otherwise used musical scheme.

The View Inside's first release still belongs to the finest ones I had the pleasure to review for DPRP. Hence, I was champing at the bit to listen to its successor and asking myself: can they maintain the high quality and meet the expectations set by the positive reception of that debut? I had to give it some thought, but eventually, the answer was clear: "Yes, they can". Despite having confirmed their genre to become narrower and easier to pigeonhole, The View Inside have once more managed to create a well-played, ambitious, varied, catchy, emotional, and accessible work, arranged with care, likely to please prog (and other) music lovers. I look forward to a continuation of the musical journey. "Strange destination still unknown to me" - it is the word "still" in this last sentence of the album's lyrics that fills me with hope in this respect. Walter, please acquire this knowledge and let us listeners participate musically.

Jan Buddenberg

In 2020 Briand, Boursin, Rohr released their debut album The View Inside a concept album telling the tale of the orphan Walter who possesses a strange ocular power. Aided by famed musicians like Simon Phillips (Toto and many more) and Gregg Bissonette (too many to mention) this album, which at the time passed me by completely, was reviewed very favourably by my colleague Thomas Otten.

Three years on, they return under the moniker of The View Inside (good decision!) with their, well, second debut album Strange Destinations. It loosely continues the narrative of Walter, and is a thoughtful story bookended by the thematically and musically linked Passage and Portal.

This time though without the aid of illustrious names, but supported by several lesser-known guests musicians and a basic formation consisting out of Christophe Briand (drums, percussion, vocals on Pleased To Meet Me) and Serge Arese sharing bass duties with François Gomez. This absence of reputed names has had no effect whatsoever on the overall result, for Strange Destinations is a magnificent album with exceptional performances and strong song smithery. Especially if one enjoys the familiar grounds covered by bands like Toto and Intelligent Music Project mixed together with delightful AOR/Melodic-rock from the likes of Mecca, Vertigo, Ambition in a wonderful world of eighties-inspired music reminiscent to Morgendust this is an album not to pass up on.

After Passage's beautiful atmospheric symphonic opening, Bad Neighborhood is an extremely effective example in that regard. A catchy melodic groove is embedded with funkiness. The song's opening is simply blissful and fully Toto's The Seventh One-worthy. Soon, the song goes straight to the heart as tasteful riffs and rhythmic dynamism reveal themselves. Provided with pristine harmonies and an irresistible poppy catchiness, this attractive composition glows with warmth and openness through excellent production. It thrills with its tasteful interpretations and prog arrangements. Both bass and virtuoso synths play a leading role alongside the rock-solid well-seasoned vocals by Briand providing depth.

Initially surrounded by blues and dark atmospheres, Stuck Under brings the lightest touch of new-wave and pop, which through Briand's expressive and melodic vocals shimmer with light impressions of Marco de Haan (Morgendust) and Peter Gabriel. The guitar riff that blows the song's flame to high temperatures is pure gold. Also pure gold is the subsequent, meticulously arranged and intricately executed composition Son Of Someone, which burns even brighter with Toto-ness. Trying to sit still to this beautifully designed song is impossible. For me, this turns back the clock to a much-cherished period in time when Isolation, Hydra and The Seventh One ruled the airwaves. Great guitar solo, strong backing vocals, infectious groove, and a superb sense of melody. This marvellous song is a pinnacle moment of pure magic for the Toto enthusiast.

The End Of Me is a restrained ballad that brings a touch of intimacy and melancholic warmth. It is followed by I'm Not Supposed To Be Here, which carries on with a sensitive, intensifying build-up, transitioning into lushly crafted melodies thriving on interplay. The magnificent Unvirtual Reality brings another perfect illustration that Toto's inspiring legacy is well-catered for. Flowing like nothing before, this slightly feistier composition ups the ante in Lukather-likeness. With an endless feel towards going for a song, it exhibits several exciting changes of pace which are closely guarded by sparkling synths and pristine (computerised) harmonies.

By this point, the bows to Toto stay proudly present, but gradually, other styles start to emerge in the artfully crafted songs. The Gabriel-esque Pleased To Meet Me, for instance, brings a lovely refined spirited jazz movement, while Father Of The Future inserts pop-inspired melodies reminiscent to Mr. Mister, and a synth melody that keeps on lingering in my mind with For Absent Friends nostalgia. The dreamy instrumental Mother Of Silence adds an elegant touch of world music.

Work Of Art delivers everything the titles promises to be. Sensitively flowing with comforting calmness and soothing melancholy, when which a palpable note similar to Starfish64 emerges. This majestic song, crowned by a princely guitar solo, is a perfect demonstration that creative colouring between the lines can be just as mesmerizing, pleasing and breathtaking as crossing them. Maybe even more so.

Saving the prog-best for last, Portal offers a thematic revisit and a marvellous surprise transition that soars into lively Celtic melodies, elevated by violins. Compelling Kansas melodies blessed by ad-libs show an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Williams. These last two songs will surely supply the love towards more prog-orientated listeners.

The View Inside's (second) debut album wears its influences with pride. It is as good as they come. Especially for radio-friendly AOR/Melodic Rock fans the immaculately arranged and variegated compositions exhibit a massive engaging appeal, brought brilliantly to life through top-notch musicianship and complementary high level production values. As such, Strange Destinations is a highly recommendable effort and to my ears marks another solid end of year list contender for what so far has been a marvellous start already. And if you happen to have a fondness for classic Toto, like me, then buy now it should be fairly clear that this is an essential album to add to your collection!

Album Reviews