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Kevin Atwood

Crowded Moon

Review by Gary Hill

Crowded Moon finds Kevin Atwood making his way through a number of instrumental pieces. Overall, the basic musical style fits well under the heading of “progressive rock,” but it’s got music that’s closer to fusion and a lot of it isn’t that far removed from the electronic sounds of acts like Vangelis. It’s an entertaining release that never feels redundant or tired. Atwood has the chops and musical creativity to pull it all off well.

While this album is quite strong, it’s instrumental only nature will limit the audience. In addition, while there are no real flaws in the production, it doesn’t really feel vibrant or alive. There’s sort of a flat texture to the mix. Still, this should surely appeal to fans of instrumental progressive rock. It’s a solid set that’s both original and full of nods to the greats.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Crowded Moon

Atwood opens the set with the title track. It has a fairly high energy arrangement at the onset with a rather fusion-like sound. It drops down after a time, though, to a playful, bouncy arrangement. When the guitar powers back up later it really feels a lot like something from Asia (the band, not the continent).  Further down the musical road there are some world music elements at play.

Amnesty for Black Hats

This comes in slower and while it’s still basically electronic music, there is a definite symphonic vibe in place. When it drops down for some guitar soloing, it’s really along the lines of mellow fusion. The tune is both melodic and powerful. A more classic rock oriented section is added later. Some world music sounds show up as this carries forward.

Triangles in the Sky

When this song starts, it feels very much like the same kind of electronic music that has dominated the first two tracks. Then it shifts to almost a surf music kind of vibe, though. The two sounds are merged as the piece continues. There is definitely a real retro rock and roll vibe to this number. Some of the tastiest keyboard work of the whole set is heard later in the piece.

Fifth Density

A bouncy, mellower sound opens “Fifth Density.” Sound effects are heard fairly regularly on the piece and overall it feels a bit like something from a movie soundtrack or even something from Kraftwerk particularly early. It’s not as strong as the first few pieces, but still works. Some non-lyrical vocals later really make the whole thing feel a bit like Clannad.

Star Angels in Africa

Although in some ways “Star Angels in Africa” doesn’t feel a lot different, there are some guitar bits in the piece that have a definite Steve Howe-kind of vibe to them. That makes it another number that resembles Asia quite a bit.

Victims of Themselves

Coming in tentatively, “Victims of Themselves” is mellower and more electronic. The guitar, though, brings more of a fusion kind of vibe, but melodic fusion rather than the fiery variety. Pat Metheny might be a valid reference point alongside Vangelis.

Strangely Familiar

This starts with something akin to Native American or world music sounds. It works out from there to more of the same kind of melodic electronic meets fusion and prog music as we’ve heard to this point. There are some more bits of Native American sounds mid-track and some real percussive moments.

The Landings

This is very much a psychedelic rock meets electronic progressive rock song. It has some bits of melody here and there that seem quite familiar. It’s one of the most accessible and effective moments of the whole set.

See You in Cydonia

This is one of the hardest rocking cuts on show, with a lot more developed guitar presence. In a lot of ways it calls to mind Yes. That said there are some drop backs to more world and electronica driven sounds. It’s also one of the most dynamic pieces on the set. It has melodic instrumental progressive rock that feels like it could fit on a Steve Howe album. That said, there is a mellow and quite pretty keyboard oriented interlude and part of the track feel like Hawkwind-style space rock. The piece is certainly one of the highlights.

Earth Mother Divine

The closer is a mellow tune that’s bouncy and a bit like a lullaby. It’s basically just keyboards and quite playful.

 
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