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Ampersand Volume I

Review by Josh Turner

For those not already familiar with Izz, this is one of the best bands of the genre. As for their sound, there are many similarities to Spock's Beard in their songwriting and style. It even shares the exact same track time as Spock's Beard's latest, Octane, tracking in at 55:55. That's a magical number, because both of these albums are awe-inspiring in their own right.

Ironically, this is their "in-between" album. For an officially unofficial album, it's very good. Unlike its predecessor I Move, the songs don't necessarily go together. Then again, there is a lot of variety and it works well in the flow. If this is supposedly material left by the wayside, I can hardly wait to hear their next studio release. I'm hooked. Ampersand puts the punctuation in the progressive.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Ancient Memory
And now for something completely comparable, this is unquestionably Izz. The material is certainly reminiscent of I Move. The Spock's Beard influences are forefront here and the harmony is terrific. Paul's guitar climbs the classical scales like Steve Hackett. Tom's symphonic solos are well-timed. John's bass is brash and ballsy. Before the outro, Brian Coralian's drums shuffle down a corridor of utter coolness. Afterwards, we witness the return of the earlier verses in the wrap-up.
Afraid to Be Different
This is in the vein of Spock's Beard's June and The Beatles' Revolution. Its lighter fare with a bit of angst. It reminds me of Oasis.
The Wait of It All
In April 2004, the band performed at ROSfest. At this festival, many fans knew Izz, but had no idea of what lied outside of the critically acclaimed I Move. After repeated listens wore down my CD and burned the material to memory, it was nice to hear something new and different. This song is quite unique and it's the first real highlight on the album. There is certainly a Genesis flair about it with something sort of industrial and that's only half of it. Anmarie Byrnes is featured on vocals in the chorus. Her passages are classical, progressive, and folk, but there are still hints of Izz here and there. Tom even throws in a symphonic solo for good measure. This song has wow written all over it. Songs like this make you ask, "in between album, what in the world are they talking about?"
One Slice to Go
Paul Bremmer gives us something Sweet and Lowdown. If you liked the movie by that name, which starred Sean Penn, you'll like this song as well (and vice versa). It's Paul all by his lonesome creating one heck of a composition.
Like The Wait of it All, it is both a highlight and another one of the newer pieces played at ROSFest. This is one of my faves on the album. It's has a crumb of The Flower King's Corruption. Here you will also find a scrap of Spock's Beard and if you listen closely, a teeny tiny fragment of Tears for Fears. It basically has everything that put I Move in motion.
The Bar Song
After hearing two great songs I was fortunate enough to sneak peek at ROSFest, I thought we might be all cashed out at this point. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This song has obviously been influenced by Beatles ballads and McCartney’s seventies songs. The voices are so much like the tenor quartet found in The Beatles. Brian is Ringo. Laura Meade is the all-so cherished cherry on top.
My Best Defense
Lady Laura is back yet again. Her voice is a mix between Sarah McLachlan and Jewel in this song. In fact, it actually sounds a lot like Jewel’s Foolish Games. She also plays a piano on this piece. Not sure about you, but this isn’t the sort of thing I’d expect on an Izz album. Let’s hear it for the girl. Bravo to the boys for giving her the spotlight and putting something so distinct and different on the album.
Molly's Jig
There is good reason to think that this sounds like Paul Bremmer's solo album Wombsongs, because it's actually found on that album. This is a live version performed at the NJ Proghouse in January 2003. Here we get another perspective on the band's diverse talents.
This is the first in the series of cuts recorded live during The Dividing Line webcast. Their playing is so precise and the recording is so clean, you'll be hard-pressed to differentiate these from their alter-egos born and bred in the studio.
Another Door
Unlike the previous track, there is disparity in this song from the original. I find the differences intriguing. While I really like all the live material found here, it's my favorite of the trio.
Star Evil Gnoma Su
There is a lot of talking in the beginning; you might think this is nothing more than an unadorned and extraneous outtake. Once it gets going, these guys are serious about their chops. It's amazing how quickly they can go from goofing around to such intense focus. This song proves this group is progressive. They push it to its symphonic limits. The pace changes so rapidly, you'll think they're schizo. When we reach the last note and you get a chance to reflect, you can't help but think that this is one hell of an album. If the next one from the studio is better, it should be nothing short of incredible. Since this is volume 1, I'm hoping that more material is rescued from the limbo found in-between official albums. It shouldn't go to waste. Ampersand proves that these trinkets left behind can be made into a treasure.
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