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White

White

Review by Gary Hill

While Alan White released one solo album in the 1970's, this is his first project that could be considered "solo" since then. Much like Steve Howe did with Remedy, rather than create a totally solitary work with guest musicians, White has chosen instead to put together a band to record his music. The artists joining Mr. White on this venture include one time Yes mate Geoff Downes, Steve Boyce, Karl Haug and Kevin Currie. For those looking for another version of Yes, they should look elsewhere. While there are Yesish elements here, this is entirely its own musical creation. The group seems to merge modern hard edged pop and metal textures with a classic rock texture and a definite progressive rock basis. The overall effect is off a modern, radio friendly (yes, I said it, but in this case there is nothing insidious about that term) progressive rock that feels much like what Asia might have been had they emerged today instead of in the '80's. This is really a very strong album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
New Day
Coming in with a hard-edged groove, this drops to something that reminds me a bit of Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower." They move it through a series of intriguing changes creating new musical textures along the way. This one feels a lot less like Yes than the other track on show here. It's quite a solid piece of music, seeming both accessible and still very creative. The vocal arrangement and buildup around it mid-song is quite cool and powerful. The whole song is bumped up from that point forward rocking out very strongly and making for a great opening number.
Beyond the Sea of Lies
Coming in tentatively, this one begins very gradually taking on its textures. The first vocals come in over top of a fairly balladic like structure. They begin moving it up from there in a fashion that seems like an energetic, slightly punky fast paced prog based pop rock styling. This moves through some interesting changes and some Yesish segments emerge. The keyboard solo here is quite cool. There is a jam later in the track where very Howe like guitar jamming comes over the top and the Yes elements are firmly entrenched here. This segment takes the track to a short, sedate outro.
Give Up Giving Up
Guitar brings this one in with a bluesy, metallic texture, but there are other sounds here, too. It drops to something that feels like a hair metal arena ballad. Then the group turn this around with a bit of jazz/blues texture on the chorus. This one seems so easy to pin down, but as with most of this disc, it isn't all that easy. The group seem to bring in all sort of sounds into the mix to create something that while feeling like it fits in one style, encompasses a lot of other elements. The result is a sound that is all their own.
Crazy Believer
Wow, what an interesting and hard to pin down sound this cut starts with! On the one hand there are elements of a bluesy hair metal ballad here, but there is a certain edge to it (not a metal edge, but something a bit left of center) that moves it away from that. The over textures and vocal arrangement on the early parts of this cut are really intriguing and quite a cool twist. The band cut in after a bit into a more straightforward metallic jam. Still, they throw in enough interesting prog rock turn arounds (or should I say "roundabouts") to keep the prog heads listening. They cut it back after a time to the section that opened this and begin moving it back up from there again.
Fate
This one has another interesting texture. It still combines the progressive rock textures with more mainstream metallic elements into a sound that is quite meaty. I have to say that this one is amongst my favorite cuts on the disc. It rocks out quite well, but still finds time to cut back to the more sedate and almost haunting. The instrumental break here has some of the most pure progressive rock sounds on show, but also includes some journeys that feel rather pure metal. Later they drop it to an almost funky, jazzy sort of bluesy mellow break that is another plus. They end it on a short keyboard dominated mellow outro. The arrangement on this cut is both very dynamic and very strong. This one is exceptionally potent.
Dream Away
They just keep getting better here. This one feels like the balladic end of Rabin era Yes with a modern twist on the sound. The end result is a cut that starts mellow and quite evocative, then grows upward in anthemic, AOR oriented prog rock ways. This cut is another highlight of the disc. Particularly the rhythm section here comes across a lot like the "Yes West" sound. Downes' keyboard layers late in the track seem to bring in a Drama era Yes texture. The keyboard-dominated outro, though, feels a lot like something from The Yes Album.
Once And For All
A metallic intro makes one think that what we're about to hear is a hair metal song. As it drops to the verse, though, this is a mellower, ballad-like progressive rock excursion. While the metal textures return on the chorus the overall effect of the disc is that this is one of the most progressive (albeit modern prog versus '70's progressive rock) excursions on the disc. Still, it has a bluesy classic rock motif, too and the crunchy guitar solo is all slow metal with a touch of Jimi. The keys manage to add a cool retro jazzy texture to the piece. The impressive instrumental segment before the final chorus seems to tie together all the elements of this band in one killer progression. This is without question my favorite track on the disc.
Mighty Believer
Picture Bob Marley jamming with Rabin era Yes, and you have a good idea of what this song is like. While this isn't one of my favorites here, the variety it provides to the disc is good. The guitar solo segment on here has a quirky, slightly off kilter feel that is a nice touch. I also like the keyboard dominated jam that comes in later in the track a lot.
Loyal
This one comes in with a harder edged, more typical rocking sound, but then some very psychedelic guitar comes across this backdrop as part of the introduction to the piece. It drops back to a segment that is rhythmically oriented and feels very much like something from Peter Gabriel's solo repertoire. This builds up rather gradually until a chorus with great layered vocals come in to carry it on. They return to the mellower verse section as they move forward. This one is another that at times has a "Yes West" sort of sound, but with other textures integrated into this sound. They burst it out later into a killer instrumental jam that seems to take those earlier psychedelic tones and merge them into a modern sound with elements of Rabin era Yes and Asia. As they come out of this they move it into a version of the chorus to serve as the outro. This time, though, keys are laced in with the vocals to create an even stronger take on the themes. This one is another sheer winner.
Waterhole
A bluesy acoustic guitar segment starts this, and the band eventually join to play along in a new variant of these themes. As they work and rework this it becomes more and more progressive rock oriented, but still manages to maintain that bluesy overall element. Eventually they crank this up, just a touch, then as the extended introduction ends, they drop it back to an acoustic based ballad style that is more Yes-like. This creates the format for the verse of the cut. They create the rest of the track on this backdrop, building it up ever so slowly. The guitar takes a tasty crunchy solo later. They eventually drop it way back to end the track. While this is a good number, I question its use as a closer. Frankly, I think it would have been stronger mid-disc, leaving "Loyal" as the closing piece.
 
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