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Circa:

Circa:

Review by Gary Hill
Well, since I’m a huge Yes fanatic, it seems a foregone conclusion I would like this CD. The thing is, unless something purely amazing comes out in the next few months, this is my favorite disc for 2007 – yes, it’s that good. Fans of the more crazy, million notes per minute school of prog will probably not be equally amazed, but if you prefer progressive rock that focuses on a solid song structure, this is definitely for you.

You might ask, “what does Yes have to do with it?” Well, this band is a definite spin-off of Yes. The two most obvious ties come with the drummer and keyboard of this group – none other than Alan White and Tony Kaye. Add in Billy Sherwood who was a member of the band for several years and you are left with guitarist Jimmy Haun to wonder about. Even he has Yes ties, though. He appeared as an extra musician on the Union album. Trevor Rabin even contributed some song writing to the picture. Whatever the heritage, though, these four guys have given us an incredible slab of progressive rock that will surely stand the test of time. It has elements of classic prog, modern progressive rock and much more. It’s all delivered in a very palatable fashion. This should appeal to fans of Yes for sure, but it should really find a place in pretty much every prog rock fan’s collection.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Cut the Ties
A keyboard meets acoustic guitar approach serves as the introduction to this track (and the album). This grows gradually until it gives way to a harder edged jam that is both retro and modern at the same time. A funk meets Chris Squire bass approach (calling to mind the Drama album a bit) takes over. The vocals come in over the top of this to carry the cut forward. They move this through some soaring Yes-like changes creating a great progressive rock jam. There is a great angular shift later in the tune that gives way to a short guitar solo segment. The changes continue in an organic fashion and this thing just plain rocks. A number of intriguing changes and varying instrumental solos take it in different directions, but the bass continues to drive this bus along the winding roads. They shift into mysterious territory later in the cut. Then it moves back out gradually and some Steve Howe-like guitar surges over the top of this in places. I can’t imagine a better way to lead the disc off. This is catchy and yet challenging, the vocal interplay and instrumental progressions are just plain top notch. They show that they know when to soar and when to drop it back, but they also remember that the song is always the king.
Don't Let Go
With a title that seems in stark contrast to the opening number, vocals lead this off feeling a bit like The Buggles with a processed, hidden in the back manner. It starts to rise gradually until they shift it out into a slightly off-kilter jam that’s extremely tasty. They begin a great progressive rock building process on this, feeling a bit like Big Generator era Yes. Dropping down and raising it back up in alternating patterns serves this cut well. An exceptionally tasty guitar solo is woven over the top of a dramatic modern prog rock back drop. A cool, mellower, jazzy jam takes it later with a bit of funk thrown into the mix. This has a bit of a groove to it. Another drop back later gives way to a great, dramatic (although mellower) vocal section. They power it back out from there in a majestic pattern with more Howe-like guitar work screaming over the top of the arrangement.
Together We Are
Keys lead off the festivities here and hold it for a short time. Then more acoustic guitar enters. As the vocals enter this feels a lot like Genesis – the vintage stuff. In fact, so much more it’s uncanny. This is beautifully evocative and a great change from the songs that preceded it. As other lines of sound enter to move it in varying directions, more of the (obvious) Yes leanings to come to play, but in many ways this is far closer to the Peter Gabriel lead Genesis than to any lineup of Yes. There’s some great melodic guitar work on this that leads to a crunchier, more neo-prog section. This is where the Genesis-leanings vanish, but they really aren’t fully replaced with Yes sounds, but more with other modern progressive rock textures. While I wouldn’t consider this song one of my favorites, it does lend quite a bit of variety to the disc. The pounding segment later comes closer to Yes music in some ways, but either way this is a track which has more changes and dynamic range than some of other material. We do get more Howe-like guitar runs on this one. If they want to truly capture the neo-prog fans, this would be the track to put out there as a single (or probably in the modern day as the default song on their myspace page). It captures vintage progressive rock and neo-prog very well and covers a lot of moods and musical ground. The closing acoustic guitar segment actually makes me think a bit of The Beatles.
Information Overload
The staccato vocal section that opens this reminds me a lot of Big Generator era Yes, and, appropriately, Open Your Eyes. As the swirling, enveloped guitar comes in, I’m reminded more of the Talk album, but the BG textures are still prominent. While there are plenty of intriguing musical changes here, the vocal arrangement really is what steals the show here. Mind you, we do get some strong performances from everyone on their respective instruments. It’s just that the unusual vocal presence is striking. They slow it down and drop it way back for a time, then a Howe-like guitar sound soars out in a Drama-inspired jam that just plain rocks. Tony Kaye takes a killer retro keyboard bow on this segment, too. This eventually gives way to a return to the modes that preceded it, but the guitar continues soloing even during the vocal segments. That’s something I’ve always loved (not putting solos into their own little compartments) and you don’t find it in music that much anymore. They move through another series of changes, feeling at times like classic Yes and even throwing in a quick passage that feels rather like ELP. This is another highlight of the disc.
Trust in Something
Coming in with a keyboard based ballad-style, this is another that calls to mind old Genesis on this intro. They shift it out into different territory from there and begin a soaring modern prog arrangement. As they climb upward out of here I get a bit of a Going For the One vibe. They drop it back to a symphonic sort of segment later that takes the track in a number of intriguing directions. Then they power out from there in a great stuttering arrangement. This is dramatic and powerful. They move it back down the balladic stylings (guitar based this time) to move it forward from there. This has a very satisfying, resolution type of texture to it. Rather than end the track, as it feels it might, it gives way to another new segment. This comes in with a hard edged, modern prog sound that feels like it’s about to pull the track into a Talk era jam. Instead, though, this serves to bring in a series of instrumental changes that eventually give back to the verse segment and they begin building it back up from there. Eventually they carry this forward into an ever building and growing version of itself that eventually takes the track out. This is another great track that has an identity all its own. It’s really hard to pick a favorite on a disc this strong, but this might just be it depending on the day.
Keeper of the Flame
This is a short (just over two and a half minutes) song that is made up in large part by ambient keyboard based sounds. While this isn’t a major piece of music it serves as a great way to break up the intensity of the larger numbers. The vocal arrangement is the shining star of this track, as it was on the last one, but there are still some instrumental moments that work really well. This segues into the next number.
Life Going By
At a little less than four minutes in length this is the second shortest track on the disc. It’s a bit more subtle than a lot of the other material, feeling more about mood and feeling than virtuosity. It’s a good track, but not one of the standouts. The bass work on this is (although a bit understated in terms of the mix) pretty incredible, though.
Look Inside
Mellow tones start this off in a rather ambient tone that seems to have a lot of kinetic energy ready to fly out. Instead, the vocals come in over this backdrop, making for a moody sort of introductory section that reminds me just a bit of some of the more ambient, dark material from Fish era Marillion. They raise this up a bit after a verse to something more akin to Open Your Eyes era Yes. They fire it up a bit as they carry on, with a slight bit of funk appearing in the mix at points. We do get a cool retro sounding keyboard solo on this number. This crescendos to a held keyboard sound with an echoed voice over the top to end.
Brotherhood of Man
Clocking in at almost twelve minutes, this epic piece makes for a great closer. Guitar textural sounds start this off and the band begin to coalesce as this grows upward. More Howe-like soloing shows up on this introductory segment. Then it drops back to ambient keyboard based sounds and an acoustic guitar joins after a time. The vocals come in over this balladic motif. They build it up slowly before launching out into a very Yes-like faster paced segment. They keep working and reworking this in a rather free-form sounding progression before peaking and shifting out into a dramatic sounding, mellower section. This builds in powerful ways in a gradual way. The next vocals come over this with a great tone and mood to the piece. Once they build this up for a time, with some jazzy guitar work coming into the mix. Still, it remains very understated and mellow as they move forward and the guitar takes on psychedelic tones at times. At around the six minute mark they build up into a more energized version of the themes. They eventually crescendo out and drop back to the textural, ambient elements to carry forward. Another building process ensues from there. This stays pretty true to its roots here, instead building up by the addition of layers and power onto its central themes. It’s a great way to end the disc in fine fashion.
 
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