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Various Artists

AMY-Cyberian Khatru

Review by Gary Hill

Out in cyberland there lives a news group called "alt.music.yes". It is one of the oldest of its kind, and one of the most lively. It is known to its members as "AMY". This CD is a compilation of works by various members of "AMY". They do not seek to copy Yes with this album, but instead simply present examples of their individual stylings and musical expression. The album is a mixed bag. Some of the material is quite strong, while other pieces might need a bit work. Still, the concept is solid, and these seem like a good bunch of people putting in an honest effort. Points must be given for that.

For ordering information please point your browser to http://www.amycd.com or . http://www.cdbaby.com/amycd. In the world of AMY, at least when I was a frequent poster, flaming was a common sight. So, with that in mind, here is hoping that my review of the album doesn't prompt a maelstrom of flames, but if so, "flame on".

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Len Richards-Begin Round About Here
Appropriately, this short acoustic guitar solo starts with the opening harmonic of Roundabout. It is fun and captures the spirit of Mr. Howe quite nicely, while blending themes from Firebird Suite and Close to the Edge.
The Prodigal Sounds-Listen
 This one starts in atmospheric percussive tones. After a time of this it erupts into a funky sort of faster-paced jam that is quite effective. The vocals feel a bit like Chris Squire, and so does the overall songwriting texture. The track evolves into a potent prog jam that works quite well. It drops to a slower, dramatic segment later. Eventually it returns to the faster paced mode. This is a quirky, but quite solid cut.
Dark Sky-Center Core Nevermore
 This brief instrumental rocker is a hard-edged take on a Yes-like jam.
Timothy Martin-Pavan
 Mellow intricate patterns make up the early segments of this cut. Progressing onward from there, this becomes rather Yesish as it grows but also seems to incorporate a bit of a Celtic texture. Next it drops down, and intricate keys take over. It makes its way back to the earlier segment, and begins a building process on that. The cut tends to drag a bit, but definitely has some winning moments.
Dennis Hoffman-Altered States
Starting based on acoustic guitar and percussion, as this carries on keys enter. The vocals here are the element that makes this a tough listen. However, the musical performance is quirky and interesting.
John Goodall-Dr. Zaius
First off, bonus points are awarded to this song for a Planet of the Apes title. The cut begins with a Wakemanesque neo-classical keyboard solo. As it continues it takes on more of an ELPish jazzy prog styling. This instrumental also gets a bit Genesis-influenced at times This is a definite winner and one of the shining stars of the CD, even without those bonus points.

Synergy Quartet-Prowl
This funky fusionish jam makes for a nice change of pace.

Matthew Piaker-The End The Beginning
This guitar solo type cut has all the earmarks of Steve Howe. It starts out on acoustic, then eventually electric lead guitar enters. The overall effect of the piece is much like something from one of Howe's first couple solo releases. The cut meanders quite a bit and captures the essence of the maestro very well. Not content to stay firmly within Howe's realm of influence, though, eventually it redefines itself, moving into very Crimsonian territory. It does return to the earlier modes, though after a time. This instrumental is very dynamic and effective and gets quite involved at times.

Paul Goodwin Band-High School Sweetheart
  This one feels like a hair-metal balladic take on something from Grease.

Alex Von Starrex-Driven
This is an unconventional, slightly twisted instrumental. It is fun, but doesn't go far.

Christopher Oberst-Gila
This brief cut is fairly straightforward at time, but at others feels like the quirky approach to poppy prog that was practiced by Flash. This instrumental has enough changes to stay interesting and doesn't outwear its welcome.

Miguel Falcao-New Pictures
Coming across as an acoustic guitar solo, if that were the case this would be interesting, but not earth shattering. However, when you add in the fact that the track is actually played on a custom tuned 8-string bass, this one takes on some new elements of interest.

Trecento-Vegas Blue
Starting with noises, tasty piano begins working over top. Then waves of keyboard sounds enter. This is a pretty instrumental that grows by building on its basic themes. It gets rather powerful at times.

Dark Sky-Green Castle
The second piece by Dark Sky, this starts with neo-classical textures played on electronic harpsichord sounding keyboards. The overall effect is that of classical music played in a modern techno vein. What a great way to end the first CD. This is fun!

Disc 2
Len Richards-Harmonia (Short Edit)
 This CD starts with a cut by Len Richards as did the first/ Rather than the guitar base that started CD one, Richard instead chooses waves of pretty keys to weave a brief atmospheric instrumental piece here.
Ellsworth Hall-The Path Yrbesque
 Acoustic guitar begins this one and rather quickly a jam that shows elements of Yes, Genesis and even the Flower Kings ensues. It drops to a more balladic style after a time. That styling makes up the accompaniment for the vocal sections. The track builds on these elements, keeping the section alive. It gets quite powerful and the Genesis elements begin to dominate after a time. Eventually it drops back to an acoustic solo, then those Genesis elements come back. The outro is based on the earlier prog jam.
Trecento-Shadows Against Heaven
Atmospheric keys make up the mass of this technoish cut.
Christopher Oberst-Passing Years
 Feeling a bit like Peter Banks at times, this is a fairly straightforward, yet jazzy cut that is a lots of fun. throughout.
Alex Von Starrex-Ditto
This keyboard instrumental is quite dramatic and pretty.

Synergy Quartet-Change of Plans
This one is a jazzy ballad that is straightforward and smooth.
Dennis Hoffman-Burn Bright
 Hoffman might want to consider having someone else do the vocals on his material, as he writes and arranges strong cuts, but his vocals seem more suited to backing position than leads. This divergent piece feels a bit like The Drovers or even Lindsay Buckingham, and would be an exceptionally strong one except for that vocal performance and a less than stellar production quality.
Matthew Piaker-The Angel On the Waterfall
This is an intricate, slowly building acoustic jam that shows elements of Native American textures. As it grows it takes on leanings toward early acoustic King Crimson and/or Genesis. This is pleasant, but a bit sedentary, making it drag on a bit.

The Prodigal Sounds-Painting Abstracts
This comes across as an odd combination of mid-era Genesis married with Asia and Starcastle. The vocals here only work moderately well, but this is quite a strong piece The track drops to a killer jazzy jam late It is one of the more progish compositions to grace the collection.

The Naming-Sun King
  Starting off fun and metallic, this early segment feels a lot like Spinal Tap. It shifts gear to Spock's Beard sorts of territory, then drops back to a balladic element. The cut builds on this classic prog sound for a time before bursting out in fury and power. It then moves to a meandering jazzy jam and eventually turns rather Flashish.

Paul Goodwin Band-The Wrong Crowd:
This hard rocker has a definite glam texture that calls to mind T-Rex and even Alice Bowie (anyone remember Cheech and Chong?). It is a lot of fun.

Ellsworth Hall-Yrbesque Less Travelled
This short cut is an energetic keyboard dominated jam.

Karl Haberl-Fragile Shadows Suite
Starting off on energetic acoustic guitar, the first verse is delivered in this manner. The piece begins building on that format as it hits the chorus. After reworking gradually on that segment it bursts forth in raw power and an instrumental break that feels a bit Crimsonish ensues. It then turns more melodic with the piano taking a killer solo. After another verse segment the song moves into a new jazzy break. A false ending heralds a new movement, this one dramatic and fusion oriented. It moves forward by working and reworking all these elements, representing both the most progressive rock oriented, and the strongest cut of the CD.

Joff Lindsell and Len Richards-Farewell From The Isles
This is a pretty and fairly intricate brief instrumental.

 
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