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The Illustrated Band

The Forever of Now

Review by Gary Hill

I know some of the prog purists out there probably occasionally scratch their heads at some of the stuff I classify as progressive rock. The truth is, I think that the spirit of experimentation is a big part of what progressive rock represents as is the breaking down of musical barriers. Besides, I really like the idea of challenging the readers to explore roads they might not have thought about traveling on their own. Well, with this CD, such an exploration or head scratching will definitely not be necessary. These guys are really quite an original outfit but their roots are firmly based in progressive rock – and more the old school stuff than the neo-version. They have a less synthesizer and electric guitar based sound, focusing more on organic textures, but still the progressions and sounds will be familiar to fans of classic prog. You might hear a whole host of bands in their mix (even jam bands at times) but the overall effect is pure progressive rock that works really well. There is not a song here that I think is even a bit subpar. This is actually a great disc that fans of classic progressive rock should check out. For more information check out their website. And watch out, next time I might be challenging your borders again.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
The Forever of Now
This one rises up slowly with hints of music merging with the sounds of rushing water and birds. As it begins to coalesce it’s in a swirling jam band like take on sounds that share a lot with Close to the Edge era Yes. In fact, this section has a lot in common with “And You and I.” The song is in the same range of lengths, too – at almost ten minutes. Eventually this moves out into a new progression that bears a resemblance to both the Grateful Dead and vintage Genesis. Yes-like elements still linger, too. When the song shifts gears about three minutes in the main sounds you will probably hear are Yes, Rush and Starcastle. This moves through several changes from here and more Grateful Dead textures, but still mixed with echoes of Rush are infused. Then it moves out into something more like a ballad approach. It’s almost four and a hal minutes before the vocals enter to begin the song proper. As this one carries on all of the bands previously mentioned can be heard, at least to some degree. This is an organic sounding progressive rock that should be quite pleasing to fans of old-school prog. The chorus is in a rising sort of progression that again calls to mind Yes, but only in the musical arrangement, the vocals are definitely in a lower register. I suppose in a certain way the gentle prog tendencies also call to mind Renaissance at least a little bit, but that tends to make one think of Annie Haslam’s vocals and there are no women in this outfit. The expansive jam that enters later really does seem a strong merging of the Grateful Dead with Yes. They move it out towards more sedate elements for a short time, then pull into a new lilting sort of progression to eventually pull it to the conclusion – a downward fading sort of movement with more sounds of nature – and even a carnival and chiming bells entering.
Mother's Arms
“Mother’s Arms” comes in a bit harder edged, but still far from “crunchy.” It drops to an even more sedate ballad motif, though for the vocals. As this gains more power and instrumentation after the first verse I hear a lot of Genesis in the mix. They power it back out into more Yes-like territory later – with definite leanings on the Beatles. They drop it back to the pretty ballad stylings after this movement and these segments pretty much make up the rest of the track in varying combinations and reiterations. This is another strong one on an album that shows no sign of letting up.
All of These Secrets
An echoey acoustic guitar begins a beautiful musical journey that is again reminiscent of early Genesis. As they move into the band based segment from there it’s in a melodic mode that might be a bit more like bands such as the Flower Kings. This is another pretty and organic progressive rock journey. They take us through a number of varying segments and assorted treatments on those to good effect. They power this one out about midway through the cuts nearly eight minute trek into something that is closer to A Farewell to Kings era Rush, but with less of a metallic texture. As this runs through for a time, they drop it back out then pull it into a new rhythmic jam that serves as the backdrop for the vocals. This shifts out after a time to a slow moving melodic progression. Then it bursts out into an expansive segment. This doesn’t last long, though and gives way to a return to the rhythmic portion of the track for the next vocal segment. After working and reworking these themes for a while they move it back to an acoustic guitar mode then bring it into a Pat Metheny like segment. The Rush oriented section shows up again after this and eventually takes the track to it’s feedback oriented conclusion. This is another beautiful and exceptionally potent piece of prog rock.
Anima Mundi
With a ballad structure and vocals jumping right in, old Genesis definitely comes to mind here. This one builds on that general motif for a while. Then it shifts into a segment (still in the same basic motif) that seems to merge the Genesis sounds with The Beatles, but eventually just Gabriel and the boys remain in the mix. This is pretty and evocative, but never rises far beyond its origins. That’s not a bad thing, this is actually one of my favorite songs here. It’s just that it’s also one of the most consistent.
I hear Genesis on the introduction segment here. As the vocals enter it’s a little bit of Yes merging with that element. Eventually they power this out into a more electrified melodic prog that again makes one think of The Flower Kings quite a bit. They twist and turn this arrangement around and move it in new directions and this is another extremely potent cut. I particularly like the fast paced instrumental break jam that ensues later. It eventually drops way down and wanders in that direction with just pretty and rather playful sounds until they bring it back upward from there.
Return to Cair Paravel
This starts with some feedback in the backdrop and instruments gradually rise up from there in a very Grateful Dead like fashion. In a total change of pace these guys launch into a prog rock take on funk, jamming over the top of this killer backing. They drop it back and power it up and at times sound like Pink Floyd and at others like some ‘70’s guitar god, but the overall progression on this instrumental remains close to home. This is the most unique piece on the album and a real smoker. You will probably hear some Rush on the resolution that serves as the extended outro – particularly in the percussion.
On My Knees
More sedate tones are back on this cut, which comes in tentatively with a ballad-like structure. They power it up into a more rock-oriented performance on the same musical themes. Eventually they pull this back out into more of the melodic prog we’ve come to expect from these guys, but return to the place they came from later. They also drop it way back for a bridge further down the road and gentle vocals come over the top of this – once more feeling just a little Yes like – as they rise up the music has hints of Yes and Starcastle both. There is a killer Starcastle like movement later, but it doesn’t stay around long as these guys launch into a whole series of fast paced instrumental changes in classic prog tradition. Eventually it drops back for another line of vocals, then they power back up to take the song to its conclusion.
Piano starts this one off in pretty ways. Then they launch out into a new progression based on their particular style of prog rock. They drop it back to the piano for the vocal segment. Eventually this powers back out into the segment that came before. They move this through a number of killer changes before eventually dropping it back to a mellow fusion-like sound to end it.
Where The River Bends
At just under three minutes this is one of the shortest tracks on the disc. It’s basically an intricate acoustic guitar solo with accompaniment. Nicely placed this serves both as a pretty tune and a nice respite before the disc’s final (and longest cut).
Whirling Dervish
Radio station sounds (shifting dials, snippets of newscasts, etc.) lead this off. As the music comes in its with a percussive rhythm section and keys that call to mind Pink Floyd a bit, but in a funky sort of arrangement. They deliver the first vocals over this backdrop. This wanders out later into a jazzy jam that has jam band tendencies, too. It eventually gets reworked into a new segment that feels almost swirling in its rhythmic structure. This segment still shares something with that early mode, though. From there they run through a number of new movements and progressions in a pretty steady flow of changes for a while before settling back into a more complex take on the first segment. Although, they still punctuate it with differing movements. Eventually this drops back to some rather Steve Howeish guitar work. They burst out later into a triumphant sounding prog resolution that has hints of Rush in the mix. This has been one heck of a ride and I can’t imagine a better way to end it than this track.
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