Showing posts with label Prog Rock Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prog Rock Reviews. Show all posts

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Neo Prog Review: Cosmograf-Rattrapante

Release Date: March 26 2021 (CD/Digital), May 28 2021 (Vinyl)

Label: Gravity Dream music

Website

 

Cosmograf is the creative vehicle of Robin Armstrong, a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and vocals), who also records and produces his music in his home studio. Robin has released 8 albums, from the debut, End Of Ecclesia in 2009, to the album under review, Rattrapante, released earlier this year.

To quote Robin, "Rattrapante is a French word which has its root in rattraper, meaning to catch up or recapture. A Rattrapante chronograph watch can simultaneously time two events, such as a lap split time and a final race time. As such it was the perfect metaphor for our interaction with time.

Cosmograf albums tend to be either concept albums, or at least, themed in some way. The sound of Cosmograf is rooted in 70's classic rock with a progressive twist, and although I have used the term neo-prog (from Progarchives) to indicate the musical style, there are straight metal passages as well as classical styled themes.

Rattrapante is a 5-track album with a total playing of around 51 minutes (50:34) and the opening track, “In 1985” is the longest track at 12:46 min, with the third track, “I Stick To You” the shortest at 6:52 min.

The guest musicians involved with Robin, who plays guitar, keyboards, bass and provides vocals, are Kyle Fenton (drums and backing vocals), Chrissy Mostyn (vocals on track 3) and Tommy McNally (spoken words on track 5). NASA is also credited for the use of some sound clips on the album.
 
The opening track from Rattrapante, "In 1985" (12:43), starts with a very distinctive nod to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, with some superbly atmospheric guitar over a gently building background before Robin’s shout of “Are you ready?” sets us off on an autobiographical journey which manages to veer from the poignant to the angry. There is an insistent driving beat and a Middle Eastern influence before the guitar wielded by Robin soars above all. With references to Concorde, Spectrum, and Amstrad computers, the Back To The Future film, Live Aid, Queen, Bowie, Life On Mars and the Heysel Disaster, this opener certainly catches the listeners interest and draws them into the nostalgia, before bringing things up to date as the track progresses. The sound of crowds cheering through the music adds to the atmosphere of this being a "live" track. A different middle section leads back into the driving style on show at the start, and thus, ends a very stunning opening track to commence a superb album.

The closing track of the album, “Time Will Flow” (12:42) is a different style to the opening track, especially the moodiness of the music. There is a relatively long scene-setting start, in some ways similar to the opening of track 1. As the moody aural landscape builds, there is a voice that appears, but not that of Robin, but Tommy McNally, narrating the fact that time is a very precious commodity that should be used, but carefully. Lines such as "Time shapes. Time Destroys. Time brings an end to all your joys." And "We measure time, but waste it more, equally bound, the rich and poor. Use it well for it can’t be made. Do it now, don’t be afraid,” include atmospheric music behind the narration which builds continuously until around the halfway point in the track, when after another excellent guitar section, vocals appear, courtesy of Robin. There are superb lyrics and masterful music in this stunning track and towards the end, a question is asked. "Look back upon what is done. A life well-lived. But did you think, what did you give?" As the track closes out, Robin's voice can be heard in the distance drifting away.

Rattrapante
is a stunning album that settles into your grey matter within a couple of plays. Cosmograf has a superbly high standard of music across all previous 7 studio albums and Rattrapante is no exception. My advice is to grab a listen to this album and then clear a space on your CD shelf to slot it into.

(If you have not heard much of Cosmograf, check out one of my radio show podcasts ("Podcast: The Ancient One - Edition 161 - Progzilla Radio ) which is “A Brief History of Cosmograf” and takes a couple of tracks from each of the 8  studio albums.)


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
June 2, 2021 

Tracks:
1. In 1985 (12:46)
2. Rattrapante (9:44)
3. I Stick To You (6:52)
4. Memories Lie (8:29)
5. Time Will Flow (12:43)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Crossover Prog Review: Downes Braide Association-Halcyon Hymns

Release Date: Feb 5 (Dig), Feb 12 (CD/DVD) and April 2 (Vinyl) All 2021

Label: DBA Records

Website

The Downes Braide Association is a studio-based project by Geoff Downes (keyboards) and Chris Braide (singer/songwriter), both of whom have a rich musical heritage.

Geoff has been a member of The Buggles, Yes and Asia, while Chris has written and produced music for film scores, advertising campaigns and worked with Lana Del Ray, Beyonce, Paloma Faith, David Guetta and co-wrote the music for Seven Worlds One Planet (A David Attenborough BBC TV series) together with Hans Zimmer and Sia.

The debut album from the Downes Braide Association was issued in 2012 and titled Pictures of You, followed 3 years later by Suburban Ghosts and then in 2017 by album No 3, Skyscraper Souls. A live album from the band was also issued in 2019, DBA Live In England.

Under review is the fourth, and latest, album from Downes Braid Association, entitled Halcyon Hymns. This is a 12 track album with a total playing time of around 64 minutes (63:37), with tracks 11 (Remembrance), and 10 (Late Summer) being the longest at 11:44 minutes and the shortest at 2:24 minutes respectively.

The opening track, “Love Among The Ruins” (6:24) starts with a short spoken section before a gentle acoustic before the vocals of Chris Braide appear. The guitar of guest musician, Dave Bainbridge (Iona/Strawbs) soon soars over the track and adds an interesting dimension, as the track repeats the previous themes leading to another guitar section. A pleasant enough entry into the album, but not one that made this listener too optimistic about what was to come, and my overall impression was that the opening track overstayed its welcome and detracted from the effect “Love Among The Ruins” had.

Track No 2, “King Of The Sunset” (6:37) features additional vocals by David Longdon (Big Big Train) and more superb guitar work from Dave Bainbridge. This track is a definite grower and initially boosted my interest after the opener. The sound drops away around two minutes from the end of the track to leave an instrumental fade out featuring mandolin and guitar which was a bit unexpected. The thought that floated across my mind was that the ending section was not necessary.

As you progress through the tracks, there are some excellent passages, melodies that penetrate deep into your mind and will not go away, stunning vocals and guitar playing, and as the long track (second last on the album) approached, I was beginning to look forward to what the band could do on a 10 minute plus excursion.

The long track, “Remembrance” (11:44) starts off with piano, some spoken word By Barney Ashton Bullock before the acoustic backing starts to build courtesy of the mandolin. Excellent lyrics carry the track along and the listener eases into the journey that is unfolding. The narrative short interludes work very well but there seemed to be a fair repetition of some lyrics which, to my mind interrupted the journey. By the halfway point, the track was beginning to pull the listener back but the disappointment was that the track then seemed to retread the music that had already gone and appeared to lose its way. I think that this was another example of a track running out of ideas.

Halcyon Hymns
has its moments, but the band seem unable to maintain those high points or to use them as jumping-off points. While I was not blown away by Halcyon Hymns, that is my personal opinion, and I would suggest, as always, that you should give this album a listen and see what you think. I will go check out the earlier albums and perhaps find the spark I seemed to miss from album No 4.


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
April 21, 2021
 

Tracks:
01. Love Among The Ruins (6:24)
02. King Of The Sunset (6:37)
03. Your Heart Will Find The Way (5:20)
04. Holding The Heavens (7:54)
05. Beachcombers (3:31)
06. Warm Summer Sun (4:43)
07. Today (6:59)
08. Hymn to Darkness (2:59
09. She’ll Be Riding Horses (4:35)
10. Late Summer (2:24)
11. Remembrance (11:44)
12. Epilogue (0:36)

 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Prog Rock Review: Jethro Tull-A-La Mode 40th Anniversary Set (3 CD-3 DVD-Book Set)

Release Date: April 16, 2021

Label: Rhino/Parlophone

Website


As Steven Wilson makes his way through the bountiful Jethro Tull catalog, fans get an opportunity to relive all of that great music. There are reissues and anniversary releases of many recordings available but there is a difference with these fine book editions that Jethro Tull has provided over the years. I have been the fortunate recipient of many. 


A is not one of my favorite albums although I now have an entirely different view of the recording thanks to this A-La Mode 40th Anniversary Set 3 CD-3 DVD-Book Set. What was meant to be an Ian Anderson solo album turned into a full-blown JT album and an on-stage production and video of “Slipstream.” Also included is live concert footage in between the storyline with Ian trying to escape large pink balloons and posing as a vampire in the “Sweet Dream” video and thereby chasing himself posing as that despicable Aqualung.

Wilson is a true wizard when he works with the remastering of the catalog of JT. This is, as all the others are, all-inclusive and in-depth exploring the music at different angles, and the end products all differ. Each production offers a look into aspects of the music you have never heard before. That is the entire idea with these sets and hopefully giving the long-time faithful more appreciation for the music now. In the case of A, which was underrated at the time, it most certainly accomplishes that in more ways than one would expect. Interestingly enough, the band considers the album in their top third of releases. Perhaps now so will some fans. I still a have list of my top picks and this one still is not at the top of my list even after rediscovering it with different ears. Although I did appreciate the experience and reading the entire book, which was extremely informative, and hearing the music live and remastered was refreshing.

If you are a Jethro Tull fan, there is a lot to take in with this set and it will take some time. It is time well spent I believe. If you are an average fan, you would not consider releases such as this anyway. If you love your progressive rock and are interested in hearing one of the true innovators of the genre, then, of course, any of these massive reissues is a must. That is how I perceive it, but then again, I have been loving JT since the first time I heard Aqualung and I nearly wore out War Child as a teenager in discovery mode.

The treat here is after all these years, regardless of how long you have been following the band, there is always something new to discover. It’s like a basket of Easter eggs long before the day arrives, you cannot resist looking to see what is inside. And that is what makes it worth every penny and all of the time spent soaking it all up.


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-MuzikMan.net Founder

April 22, 2021

 Disc One: Original Album and Associated Tracks
(Steven Wilson Stereo Remix)
1. “Crossfire”
2. “Fylingdale Flyer”
3. “Working John, Working Joe”
4. “Black Sunday”
5. “Protect And Survive”
6. “Batteries Not Included”
7. “Uniform”
8. “4.W.D. (Low Ratio)”
9. “The Pine Marten’s Jig”
10. “And Further On”
Associated Tracks
11. “Crossfire” (Extended Version)
12. “Working John, Working Joe” (Take 4)
13. “Cheerio” (Early Version)
14. “Coruisk”
15. “Slipstream Intro”

Disc Two: Live at the LA Sports Arena 1980 (Part 1)

(Steven Wilson Stereo Remix)
1. “Slipstream Intro”
2. “Black Sunday”
3. “Crossfire”
4. “Songs From The Wood”
5. “Hunting Girl”
6. “The Pine Marten’s Jig”
7. “Working John, Working Joe”
8. “Heavy Horses”
9. Band Instrumental Intro
10. “Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day”
11. “Instrumental” (including flute solo)

Disc Three: Live at the LA Sports Arena 1980 (Part 2)

(Steven Wilson Stereo Remix)
1. Trio Instrumental
2. Keyboard solo
3. “Batteries Not Included”
4. “Uniform” (including drum solo instrumental)
5. “Protect and Survive” (including violin solo)
6. “Bungle In The Jungle”
7. Guitar Solo/Bass solo intro to encore
8. “Aqualung”
9. “Locomotive Breath”/Instrumental/”Black Sunday” (reprise)

DVD One: Original Album and Associated Tracks

(Audio Only)
Contains Steven Wilson’s 2020 remix of the album and 5 associated tracks in DTS and Dolby AC 3, 5.1 surround, and stereo 96/24 LPCM. Flat transfers of the original LP master in 96/24 LPCM

DVD Two: Live At The LA Sports Arena November 1980

(Audio Only)
Contains Steven Wilson’s 2020 mix of the concert in DTS and Dolby AC 3, 5.1 surround and stereo 96/24 LPCM
 
DVD Three: Slipstream Video
(Video)
With audio tracks remixed by Steven Wilson in DTS and Dolby AC 3, 5.1 surround and stereo 96/24 LPCM

Friday, October 30, 2020

Symphonic Prog Review: Rick Wakeman-The Red Planet

Release Date: June 19 2020

Label: R +D Multimedia

Website



Red Planet
is the newest release from The Caped Crusader, otherwise known as Rick Wakeman. Rick is probably one of the best known prog musicians and a pioneer in the use of electronic keyboards in rock music. As well as previously having been a member of The Strawbs, Yes and Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe (a Yes offshoot), not forgetting AWR (Anderson, Wakeman, and Rabin appearing as Yes), he has a list of session credits that almost stretch to the Red Planet. This list includes David Bowie, Elton John, Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens, Al Stewart, Lou Reed, and many more. Rick has also found time to release more than 100 solo albums across a swathe of genres.

The Red Planet is a return to the beginning, in that Rick has returned to the symphonic prog that appeared in many of his early albums, such as 6 Wives of Henry XIII, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table and No Earthly Connection.

The band on The Red Planet is Rick Wakeman (keyboards), Dave Colquhoun (guitars), Lee Pomeroy (bass), and Ash Soan (drums) and the other musicians are given the collective name of The English Rock Ensemble.

The Red Planet is an eight-track album with a total running time of just over 56 minutes (56:24), with track 4, “Olympus Mons” being the shortest at 5:20 minutes and the final track, “Valles Marineris” being the longest at just over 10 minutes (10:02).

The opening track, “Ascraeus Mons” (5:52) immediately puts the listener into a high plane of expectation with the superb swathe of swirling keyboards that ride over the top of that tight power unit of drums (Ash) and bass (Lee). Initially starting with a church-like organ passage, the drums and bass soon boost the sound before the excellent keyboard passages follow one another, revisiting earlier themes, but exuding first-class symphonic prog. A choral sound provides several passages before the guitar (Dave) gets a chance to shine. As an opening track, this is a very satisfying return to Rick’s symphonic prog areas and leaves the listener eager to sample the remaining seven tracks.


Track 5, “The North Plain” (6:53) has a spacey, quiet start with a piano theme, which gently builds in intensity until the drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards launch into the mix around the 1:30 minute point. A wonderful passage on keyboards follows while the powerhouse of drum and bass underpin everything so well. At 2:50 minutes, Rick’s keyboards start to soar above all else before a return to a similar passage to the start, which is very atmospheric and takes the track on past 4:40 minutes. Cue again another keyboard passage from the Caped Crusader himself, before a return to one of the earlier keyboard themes and a relaunching of another theme, but this time on guitar rather than keyboards which takes the track out.

“Pavonis Mons (7:13), track 6 starts with the band in unison before a nice passage from the keyboards, them a sudden change in tempo before returning to the opening theme. Superb keyboards over the solid rhythm section lead to a change of tack at the 2:00 minute mark, with a different keyboard theme before morphing into a piano passage and back into the keyboards. The track swings back into the earlier themes and changes tempo a couple of times as it starts to wind towards the finale. There is, however, still time for another flurry of keyboard work from Rick as we enter the last minute.

The Red Planet is an excellent example of keyboard-based symphonic progressive music played by one of the best, if not the best, keyboard players in the music environment. If you enjoy the earlier works by Rick, mentioned earlier in the review, this album is definitely for you and if you are new to Rick Wakeman, get this album as a superb example of a very skillful keyboard player at his very best.


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
October 12, 2020

Tracks:
1. Ascraeus Mons (5:52)
2. Tharsis Tholus (6:16)
3. Arsia Mons (6:10)
4. Olympus Mons (5:20)
5. The North Plain (6:53)
6. Pavonis Mons (7:13)
7. South Pole (7:35)
8. Valles Marineris (10:02)


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Prog Rock Review: Notion Blue-The Son, The Liar and The Victor

Release Date: May 12, 2020
Label: Digital Self Released


This was an unexpected album for review, The Son, The Liar and The Victor, as I had not heard of the band, Notion Blue before. A little bit of research gave me some info about the 3-piece rock band from Connecticut.

Unfortunately, the unifying force behind the formation of Notion Blue was a tragedy. Brothers, Gabe (drums/vocals), and Luke (vocals/guitar/bass) Chase had often joined Max (vocals/synthesizer/keyboards) and Johny (bass) Barbi for gigs since high school days. Although this happened a lot of the time, they never actually considered forming a band. Everything changed in 2018 when Johny died unexpectedly and in dealing with this loss, the three remaining friends decided to form an official band to produce a concept album about the life and times of Johny Barbi. Over the following 12 months, they worked hard, writing and recording demos and wrestling with rough ideas.

The resulting album, The Son, The Liar and The Victor, is a prog concept album greatly influenced by concept albums from The Neal Morse Band, Dream Theater and Steven Wilson to depict Johny Barbi’s life.

The album is a 10-track release with a total running time of just over 42 minutes. The longest track on offer is track 5, “Keeping Apart” which clocks in at 5:41 minutes, and the shortest is the opening track, “Memories” at under 2 minutes.

Opening the album is “Memories” (1:31) a short introduction to the album with excellent piano, strings joining in around 35 seconds, and a plaintive vocal appearing after 60 seconds. A really good piece of music to set the listener up for the rest of the album.

The fourth track, “The Liar” (5:40) has a stunning keyboard/guitar intro before dropping away to the vocals and then returning to the opening passage. The tempo builds up to another stunning keyboard/guitar interplay which drives the track on until dropping away with the return of the vocals and the opening theme. An interesting guitar riff takes the track towards the finale and a gentle fading away.

The last featured track is track 6, “Doubt Is Not A Destination” (5:36) which commences with a gentle acoustic guitar and vocal, taking the track onwards for the first 1:30 minutes, before the band starts to flow with an excellent section and a great guitar backed passage. By 3 minutes the music has returned to the gentleness of the opening section before building up as the track enters the final quarter with some excellent harmonized vocals and strings again reappearing. The gentle acoustic guitar from the start escorts the track out.


This was a huge undertaking by the three remaining friends and musicians, and they have produced an excellent prog-rock album. If I have one niggle, I do tend to find that in trying to convey areas and happenings in the life of Johny, the flow of the lyrics sometimes doesn’t quite work, but with such excellent music, it is only a niggle. The band provides sensitive lyrics, great vocals, both on lead and on the harmonies, superb bass, guitar, and keyboards going from the delicate to the soaring and the gentle to the driving.

I found The Son, The Liar and The Victor to be an excellent first album and congratulate the three band members on their achievement. Grab a listen to this album, and while I cannot guarantee that everyone will be blown away by it, I feel that many prog followers will find this of sufficient interest to add it to their collection.

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
March 16, 2020

Tracks:

01. Memories (1:31)
02. The Gathering/Overture (4.47)
03. Always Tomorrow.\ (4.27)
04. The Liar (5.40)
05. Keeping Apart (5.41)
06. Doubt Is Not A Destination (5.36)
07. I See The Light (4.03)
08. Passing (4.20)
09. Homecoming (3.13)
10. Gates of Heaven (3.11)

 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Progressive Rock Review: Art in America - Cloudborn

Release Date:August 1, 2019
Label: Art in America



Like a book, music can catapult you into an imaginative adventure. Art in America most definitely built their latest LP, Cloudborn around the concept of an alternate universe where all your troubles just disappear and the listener cannot wait for what may lie ahead.

The theme of experimental simplicity is fitting for this band as the band members started, as they state on their site, “in their living room kicking around some musical ideas with guitar, bass and some unusual instrumentation - … and a Japanese Koto.” Band members and siblings, Chris Flynn – lead vocals and guitar, Shisonee Flynn – harp, koto, tamboura, and vocals; and Dan Flynn – on drums and percussion, began the venture of artistry and bringing together the framework of a band. Soon, after adding Jim Kuha – on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Garry Galloway on the keys; the band was finalized and two albums later, Art in America is on the rise to become a part of every Progressive Rock N’ Roll lover’s collection and earworm.

“A Tale of the Unexpected” sounds like that of a videogame cut scene. It offers the listener a way to both, relax and get introduced to a realm of unusual instruments that typically is not included within Progressive Rock album concepts. The harp, an Indian piece called a tambura, and a Japanese koto are fused throughout the track list.

Much of the rest of the album gives off a blend of 80’s and 90’s Progressive Rock/Pop vibe. As soon as I heard the first few lines of “I Am I,” I felt like I was inside a Classic Progressive Rock or Action movie soundtrack music video. “Someday” hits right in the heart of any listener with half a sense of aspiration and hope. It proclaims that one day soon he (the singer), will get to where he needs to be.

Just take a look at this particular album art. It is of a vast and new unexplored world that leaves an imprint of a powerful image on the listener’s mind. “Drool,” on the other hand, gives the feel of a traveler that is in search of something but; no one quite knows what. The singer may just be wandering down an endless road. Rounding out the first half of the track list, “The New Swami” is one of those songs that you just cannot exactly place your finger on how to react. It contains elements of the tambura giving the tune some peacefulness. It is sung so brightly but, if you listen to some of the lyrics: “The new Swami smiles, as rubies turn to rubble;” the Swami is not as peaceful as proclaimed.

“Someone Called My Name,” is all about looking for answers. It’s a journey where all but, the voice he keeps hearing over and over again remains a constant in his life. We never do learn if he discovers who or what he has been searching for. Art in America goes back to a wild-western-type of a theme on “For Shelly.” It sings of coming to a realization of whom he had however, now she’s gone out of his life
Trying to find any remnants of back to when he and his friend or lover back to simpler times, the singer is in a daydream-like state and the rhythm remains constant to maintain that feel of flashbacks. It’s a very mellow peace to bridge the album together, it almost becomes instrumental.

Going from an almost monotone beginning to an action-packed four minutes and twenty-one seconds, “Facelift” is a fun changeup from the rest of the record. It feels like the singer or the listener could be charging up to something blending with a somewhat mystical sound towards the end. It becomes one of the standout tracks on the album for the simple reason that it brings some life and rejuvenation back into the record; like a reawakening of sorts.

The last three tracks create their own personalities. “Don’t Look Down” keeps with the upbeat sequence of the prior track. It’s guitar solo, is on the shorter side but, still offers what every Progressive Rock lover desires, a pure shred of the strings through your speakers. “No Wonder” finds its way on this record perfectly as its unique sound, almost like a movie scene, or story time sequence. The lyrics do not reflect much in terms of positivity because the man in question has made some mistake that he cannot seem to identify but, she knows quite well what he did. It’s the typical couples’ flare-up of arguments, disagreements, and sometimes breakup. Finally, taking a look at the last track “Goodbye My Love / Mind’s Eye / Peace of Mind,” it is truly an ideal finale to a perfect Progressive Rock album. It begins slow and swing-like, then, by the time it gets to “Mind’s Eye,” it blossoms into an up-tempo grand finish to make the listener feel as though they are leaving the concert of their life.

Cloudborn is that album that defines experimental. It pushes all types of Progressive Rock boundaries and draws the ear of various listeners. If you are looking for a record that makes you daydream, that makes you feel good overall, and that can turn any day around; this is the album for you. Often, Progressive Rock is misconstrued as angry – when commonly dealing with Metal, or disturbed when playing a bunch of Alternative artists; there’s a third avenue of eclectic and experimental sound that can accompany a typically positive intonation.

Key tracks include: “A Tale of the Unexpected,” “The New Swami,” and “No Wonder.”

Gregg Keniston- MuzikMan.net Staff
February 15, 2020

Reviews Provided By:

Track Listing:
 

01. A Tale of the Unexpected
02. I Am I
03. Someday
04. Drool
05. The New Swami
06. Someone Called My Name
07. For Shelly
08. When We Were Young
09. Facelift
10. Don't Look Down
11. No Wonder
12. Goodbye My Love / Mind’s Eye / Peace of Mind

Monday, January 27, 2020

Prog Rock Review: DBA-Geoffrey Downes/Christopher Braide-Live In England

Release Date: November 29. 2019
Label: Cherry Red Records
Geoff Downes and Christopher Braide are DBA. DBA stands for Downes Braide Association. Both gents are well known in musical circles and Downes has carved out a legendary slice of time with Asia and Yes and several other projects over the years, with his keyboard wizardry. Braide is a multi-talented artist, vocalist, musician, producer, and collaborator.

This matchup is one to die for with excellent musicianship and vocals beyond compare. Besides those two key players, there are important parts of the whole to make all this music complete, including Andy Hodge (bass), Dave Colquhoun (lead guitar) and special guests David Longdon (vocals and flute) and narration by Barney Ashton Bullock.

Live In England folds out into four sections holding two CDs and one DVD and an informative booklet.

I have always loved Yes and Asia including the 80s version of Yes with Downes. As all fans know that is why Asia was born. What you will hear in this immense set are 16 audio tracks then the same in the DVD. So, you get the best of both worlds. I watched the DVD first, of course, to get the full in-house impact when it was recorded at Trading Boundaries in East Sussex on September 28, 2018. The stage was normal and no-frills, just straight-ahead great music which suits me just fine thank you very much.

Christopher has an amazing voice, there is no other way to explain it. For me, it was goosebump time when the lead-off track “Prelude/Skyscraper Souls” kicked in. He has a smooth voice that can hit those high notes and perfectly enunciated for every part of each song. I did notice that when he sings in the lower register it reminded me somewhat of David Gilmour. When he goes high forget it, there are not too many vocalists that can pull off a performance as Christopher did on so many songs in one performance. I particularly appreciated that I could understand all the lyrics thanks to Christopher’s pinpoint vocal style. So enough about the vox humana.

Where would all of those beautiful vocals be without an amazing soundtrack to sing along to? That is exactly what Downes and company provide from start to finish on this performance. Downes is and was the musical centerpiece of the presentation and he even gets the stage all to himself to perform some familiar music instrumentally for the audience.

This is not just progressive rock its prog! And with some of the best-seasoned talent on the planet to present it all, fans of this kind of music will find a lot to enjoy on this set. The music covers their studio releases with precision and energy that will greatly be appreciated even with the most particular listeners.

If you don’t have the three studio albums, after hearing Live In England you will likely seek out all of those releases, I know I will.

Watch for the vinyl version of Live In England to be released on February 14th!


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
January 26, 2020

Founder of:

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

Tracks

DISC ONE:

 1. SKYSCRAPER SOULS
2. MACHINERY OF FATE
3. LIVE TWICE
4. VANITY
5. SUBURBAN GHOSTS
6. BOLERO / VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
7. GLACIER GIRL
8. ANGEL ON YOUR SHOULDER


DISC TWO:
 

1. TOMORROW
2. LIGHTHOUSE
3. SKIN DEEP
4. DARKER TIMES
5. FINALE
6. HEAT OF THE MOMENT
7. THE SMILE HAS LEFT YOUR EYES
8. DREAMING OF ENGLAND


DISC THREE – DVD (NTSC REGION 0)

1. SKYSCRAPER SOULS
2. MACHINERY OF FATE
3. LIVE TWICE
4. VANITY
5. SUBURBAN GHOSTS
6. BOLERO / VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
7. GLACIER GIRL
8. ANGEL ON YOUR SHOULDER
9. TOMORROW
10. LIGHTHOUSE
11. SKIN DEEP
12. DARKER TIMES
13. FINALE
14. HEAT OF THE MOMENT
15. THE SMILE HAS LEFT YOUR EYES
16. DREAMING OF ENGLAND
 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Prog Rock Review: Nektar-The Other Side

Release Date: January 24, 2020
Label:  Independent
Website



Early influencers of the ’70s prog-rock movement, Nektar has returned with a satisfying new release. The Other Side reaches into the past and skillfully carries the band’s groundbreaking sound into the modern age. Like many prog-rock pioneers, Nektar took chances. Their debut album, for example, contained a single 40-minute song. As with any early 70s band that is fortunate enough to remain together, Nektar has gone through changes. Today, Nektar consists of three original members (Mo Moore, Ron Howden & Randy Dembo), a returning stint player (Ryche Chlanda), and a new keyboardist (Kendall Scott).

These are experimental rock songs with driving, complex rhythms supporting flights of fancy on keyboard and guitar. Think of Jones & Bonham of Led Zeppelin meeting Rick Wakeman of YES meeting Steve Hacket of Genesis. The most enjoyable moments on this album come when the band flies away from the derivative and predictable choruses and allows Chlanda and Scott to take the listener to new heights.

Case in point is the opening track, “I’m on Fire.” The lyrics Mo Moore wrote in 1978 for his fiancĂ© fall flat against the imaginative underlying sonic texture. “SkyWriter” is a more accessible and reminiscent of an Asia track bridging prog with pop. On the other side of the coin, “Love Is/The Other Side” is a masterful progression of melodies and tempos taking off mid-way and not relenting until the end. “The Light Beyond” and “Look Through Me” are slower, more orchestral, and introspective songs heavy on keyboard with strains of Alan Parsons.

At times it feels as if The Other Side is attempting to combine the experimental and ethereal nature of progressive rock with down-to-earth hard rock sensibilities. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. As a listener, I found myself tuning out for the chorus and turning in for the jams. Overall, the offering is strong, and the experience is worthwhile. The better news is that Nektar is still producing quality albums and is still touring. Legend has it that they do not let their live audiences down, so check out their tour list and go see this iconic band while you have the chance.

Tom Endyke - MuzikMan.net Staff
January 23, 2019

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Tracks:
1. I’m On Fire
2. SkyWriter
3. Love is/The Other Side
4. Drifting
5. Devil’s Door
6. The Light Beyond
7. Look Through Me
8. Y Can’t I B More Like U

Monday, December 23, 2019

Prog Rock Review: King Crimson-In the Court of the Crimson King 50th Anniversary Reissue

Release Date: October 25, 2019
Label:  Panegyric
Website
  
The beauty of the current wave of 50th Anniversary box set releases is that they are entering the golden age of modern rock music— the 1970's. If In the Court of the Crimson King foretells a string of influential 50th Anniversary reissues to follow, music fans have cause for celebration. 

In 1969, there was the crisp, airy resonance of vinyl. In the 1980s, Compact Discs sucked out all the air and antisepticised the sound. In the late 1990s, clarity and depth were eliminated altogether through compression to fit on portable digital devices and streaming services. Only recently have we begun to move in the opposite direction. More storage and bandwidth mean larger digital files with "less loss" and high-quality sound has come full-circle and is attainable once again. Herein lies the opportunity to bring these 50th Anniversary reissues back to life by leveraging modern technology to restore the sound to its organic, multi-dimensional form.

This Blu-Ray disc in this collection does just that, featuring all-new 5.1 & stereo mixes by Steven Wilson, approved by Robert Fripp in 24/96 resolution. Wilson not only remixed the original album; he also remixed much of the bonus material that he had mixed initially in 2009. This 4-disk set includes 3 CDs of the original remixed album by Steven Wilson plus instrumental versions, an expanded edition of the alternate album from the Blue-Ray, the original master edition of the 1969 mix, plus additional tracks. Suffice to say, the sound will overtake you and force you to surrender to its majesty.  

I distinctly remember the first time I heard this album. I bought it from a used record store based solely on the bizarre artwork of the Schizoid Man himself, which resembles a modern-day Edvard Munch Scream. On a warm spring day on the porch of my college apartment, I poured myself some Carlo Rossi wine from a jug, scraped enough resin for a decent bong-hit, dropped the needle, and surrendered. "Said the straight man to the late man, where have you been?" I was indeed the late man who had "been here and there and in-between." The album went immediately into heavy rotation and to this day, I can't listen to this seminal masterpiece without thinking back to that afternoon.

To think that In the Court of the Crimson King was King Crimson's debut album boggles the mind. Typically, bands need a few throwaways before finding their identity. King Crimson came out of the gates with unadulterated rawness and a sound much like truth, which hadn't been spoken very loudly until then. Not only did the music illuminate the chaos of the times, so did the lyrics. 1969 is when the walls of establishment crumbled at the hands of the counter-culture, songs such as "21st Century Schizoid Man" conveyed the angst of the dissociative and marginalized youth of the time. Images of burning politicians and starving children shed light on the mental and physical destruction of the Vietnam War and deepened the divide between generations.

Standout tracks include the original studio instrumental take of "21st Century Schizoid Man," which has been completely remixed and re-imagined by David Singleton. It adds Greg Lake vocals from later studio sessions as well as Saxophone and guitar overdubs, creating a juggernaut of a song that infuses energy amidst bravado, leaving the listener's consciousness forever altered. The instrumental closing version of "The Court of the Crimson King" strips the vocals exposing deeper-layered intricacies of sound evoking an entirely different atmosphere.

The dissection and reverse-engineering of this masterpiece provide a bounty of tracks for King Crimson and progressive music fans to sink their teeth into. "Epitaph," for instance, appears in five different forms. The "Isolated vocal, 2019 mix" is the most provocative as it isolates Greg Lake's vocals for three minutes and forty-four seconds before elevating the instrumental tracks to carry the song to its dramatic, yet gloomy conclusion.

Over the years, the band's lineup has evolved with its sound. Their 2019 tour featured eight musicians, including three drummers. They remain highly influential, and their live shows have garnered the highest of accolades. This collection falls between the 40th Anniversary Series remixes a decade ago, the earlier 2019 remastered release, and the planned 2020 box set release (which will include all of this material). What it offers collectors and fans alike is a more affordable package of Steven Wilson's remixes plus rare bonus material. Most importantly, this thoughtfully mixed and packaged release serves as a 50th Anniversary tribute, a genuflection and a gift left at the altar in the Court of the Crimson King.


Tom Endyke - Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
December 21, 2019


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Tracks:
CD 1 - 2019 stereo & instrumental stereo Steven Wilson mixes
01. 21st Century Schizoid Man
02. I Talk to the Wind
03. Epitaph
04. Moonchild
05. The Court of the Crimson King
06. 21st Century Schizoid Man (Instrumental)
07. I Talk to the Wind (Instrumental)
08. Epitaph (Instrumental)
09. Moonchild (Instrumental)
10. The Court of the Crimson King (Instrumental)


CD 2 - Alternate album, expanded edition
01. Wind Session (2019 Stereo mix)
02. 21st Century Schizoid Man (Morgan Studios June 1969 take)
03. I Talk to the Wind (Alternative 2019 mix)
04. I Talk to the Wind (Duo version, full-length master, 2019 mix)
05. Epitaph (Isolated vocal, 2019 mix)
06. Epitaph (Alternate take, 2019 mix)
07. Moonchild (Take 1 2019 mix)
08. The Court of the Crimson King (June 1969 take, 2019 mix)
09. 21st Century Schizoid Man (Trio version, 2019 mix)
Mixed by Steven Wilson except 2 & 5, mixed by David Singleton


CD 3 - Original master edition, expanded
01. 21st Century Schizoid Man
02. I Talk to the Wind
03. Epitaph
04. Moonchild
05. The Court of the Crimson King
06. 21st Century Schizoid Man (Morgan Studios instrumental take, 1969)
07. I Talk to the Wind (Studio run through, 2019 mix)
08. Epitaph (Backing track, 2019 mix)
09. The Court of the Crimson King (Part 1, single a side)
10. The Court of the Crimson King (Part 2, single b side)


Blu-Ray
* 2019, 5.1 and stereo mixes by Steven Wilson in 24/96 resolution (for the first time)


* Original master edition of the 1969 album mix in 24/96 stereo.


* A complete alternate album comprising 2019 mixes by Steven Wilson including a much extended duo version of I Talk to The Wind, a June 19th version of ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ from the band’s final day at Morgan studios in June 1969, an isolated voice dominant version of ‘Epitaph’ & a version of ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ which combines the Morgan studios instrumental with Greg Lake vocals from Wessex studios and August 2019 overdubs by Mel Collins & Jakko Jakszyk – the latter two mixed by David Singleton.


* A further album’s worth of additional material drawn from studio takes – much of it mixed by Steven Wilson & including extracts from the ‘wind session’ that produced the intro to 21CSM in stereo for the first time, the single a/b sides of the album title track drawn, for the first time since on disc, from the original master tapes & more are also included.


* The Blu-Ray is completed by a set of 2019 instrumental mixes and the surviving fragment of black & white footage from Hyde Park in 1969.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Prog Rock Review: 7-Time Will Tell

Release Date: September 27, 2019
Label: Starport Records

When I started listening to 7 and their album Time Will Tell, my immediate thought was, this sounds like the early 80s Yes and Asia. That hit the nail on the head as the band was formed back then with all the songs written in that time frame. In that timeframe, I was in Japan and was asked if I wanted to go to Tokyo to see Asia. I declined my friend's offer. Looking back now I wish I went.

7 Is:
Bryan Timm - guitars, vocals
Randy Copus - lead vocals, keyboards
Scott Steele - bass
Michael Landino – drums

Music like this is retro and brings all the memories flooding back. If this had been released back then it could have competed with bands like Yes or Asia. Better late than never and as far as I am concerned because it is a joy to listen to. 


Four of the nine songs are over 5 minutes in length which is and was typical of the genre. These are classic sweeping tracks with fantastic vocals supported by strong guitar, rhythm section, and the all-important keyboards, for the finishing touch. I think even without the keyboards I would still tag it as prog rock.

There are simply no weak links in this recording however if I was pressed, my favorites would be “Time Will Tell,” “Chance of a Lifetime,” “The Knight” and “Go the Distance.” Every one of those tracks has good lyrics and a fantastic song structure with top musicianship. I like passages like “You can go the distance if you don’t let your heart go blind.” The wordplay is very clever and meaningful.

Starting the album with an ear-catching title track is a very good idea and, in this case, it gets your attention. And just as important is to close out the album strong and they do it with excellence on “The Knight.” The soaring vocals provided by Randy Copus, pulsating bass, in time drums and driving keyboards, make this a very catchy tune that you want to hear again once it is over.

It may sound outdated for 2019 because it was meant for the 80s however it remains a fact that this music is complex yet always radio-ready. That special connection to prog rock from legendary performers like Yes, ELP and Asia give this a real chance for a wide listening base. Many people still listen to this music regularly, making it a viable release. I would love to hear this on vinyl LP, it would be amazing.

I have provided the “vintage” version of the “Time Will Tell” video along with the stream from Spotify for interested listeners. If you like any of the aforementioned bands you will love this music!

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
November 24, 2019

Founder of:

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

Tracks: 
1.  Time Will Tell (5:45)
2. On the Bridge (4:05)
3. Are You Ready (6:36)
4. In Time (3:44)
5. Transitions (2:30)
6. Let It Go (4:51)
7. Chance of a Lifetime (4:19)
8. Go the Distance (5:41)
9. The Knight (5:16)

 



Thursday, November 14, 2019

Prog Rock Review: District 97-Screens

Release Date:  October 4, 2019
Label:  MindScan Records

The Chicago-based prog-rock quintet, District 97, is back with a new studio release, Screens. Both the band and their sound have evolved through several incarnations since their inception in 2006. The band started as an instrumental rock band until changing direction in 2007 when American Idol finalist, Leslie Hunt, joined as vocalist. A few years later, a renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist, Katinka Kleijn joined the band as well. Ms. Hunt’s vocals capture the angst of society’s marginalized. Her vocals, combined with the unabashed musicianship, form a curious, yet absorbing the sonic experience.

Screens pick up where the band’s previous three studio albums leave off, with a more evolved and accessible sound. Therein lies one challenge I faced as a listener, blending the stylistic, almost pop vocals into what feels like an unnatural prog-rock habitat. As a result, I found it hard to surrender completely. Just as the Zappa-esque prog/jazz/fusion creativity takes me in one direction, the glossy vocals take over and pull me in another.  

Songs like “Bread & Yarn,” where vocals are more subdued and democratized, stand out. “ShapeShifter” and “Ghost Girl” come closer to vocal/musical synergy as Hunt sounds a bit less polished and produced. This suits the twists and turns of the undercurrent well. Vocals aside, some masterful performances are starting with Jim Tashjian’s jazz-infused guitar licks where he takes the listener on short sprees away from the rhythm and masterfully returns them to the start. Founder Jonathan Schang’s drumming is clever, accomplished, and brings forth rhythmic illusions in the vein of Gavin Harrison of King Crimson and Porcupine Tree. 

While the blend of pop and heavy prog may not be everyone’s cup of tea, one can tell by the skill of the players, the shifting tempos, and the spaces left between the notes that District 97 would be an engaging live band. The One More Red Night album released in 2014 confirms the assertion. 

Overall, District 97 embodies the Prog rock principals of pushing the envelope and opening the listener’s mind to new sonic possibilities. This is a modern progressive sound that melds elements not typically melded together. While Screens shines in places, this listener had to work to find them and did not become as absorbed as he had hoped.  

Tom Endyke - MuzikMan.net Staff
November 7, 2019

REVIEWS PROVIDED BY:
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Tracks:
1.  Forest Fire
2.  Sheep
3.  Sea I Provide
4.  Bread and Yarn
5.  Trigger
6.  After Orbit Mission
7.  Shapeshifter
8.  Blueprint
9.  Ghost Girl