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Benjamin Croft

We Are Here to Help

Review by Gary Hill

This new album from Benjamin Croft is really strong. In fact, I think it's  another that's likely to make my "Best of 2024" list. This alternates between instrumental and vocal tracks. The two singers featured (two songs each) are Jeff Scott Soto and Lynsey Ward. Other guests here include Stuart Hamm, Greg Howe, Marco Minnemann, Per Nilssonn, Simon Phillips and Billy Sheehan. The music here lands at different times closer to such genres as fusion, progressive rock, prog metal and more. This is just such a strong release.

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Track by Track Review
The Age of Magrathea
Frantic prog gets this opening instrumental piece going. There are hints of funk and a bit of fusion as this works through some changes. Various instruments get the spotlight at various points, and this instrumental is so cool. I'm reminded a bit of Derek Sherinian's work along with Bruford at times here. There is also some sort of trippy stuff later that calls to mind King Crimson and as the heaviness takes over from there, that's a valid reference again. The guitar soloing (courtesy Greg Howe) brings more of a mainstream rock vibe as the bass (Stuart Hamm) puts down a funky groove underneath. The powerhouse fusion sounds return beyond that solo to take it out with a lot of power and style. Marco Minnemann handles the drumming on this opener.
We Are Here to Help
They waste no time here, powering in with more killer fusion. The first vocals (provided by Jeff Scott Soto) of the album enter, and this has a mainstream rock arrangement with some proggy angles at play. This has some great arena rock sound build into it. It's also decidedly proggy. It's a  powerhouse track. Minnemann returns here, but Billy Sheehan's bass is the other half of the rhythm section on this number.
You Made Me Miss
Drums (Simon Phillips) start this, and this gets into fusion right out of the gate. I'm reminded a bit of the first UK album here. This works through some killer shifts and turns. This instrumental has some smoking hot twists and turns. It also has some great instrumental interplay. There is a drop back to a vaguely reggae-like jazz jam later, too. The bass on this one is again handled by Stuart Hamm.
Caught in the Flypaper
With lead vocals by Lynsey Ward, this song might be my favorite here. It has more of a pure progressive rock sound to it. Some of the riffs and twists make me think of both Renaissance and Yes. This is such a great song and Ward's vocals are absolutely perfect for the piece. It does drive out to a fierce, metallic, instrumental movement later that features keyboard soloing. That gives way to a return to more melodic prog rock, though. There is an unusual ending that has an almost symphonic vibe to it.  Per Nilssonn provides guitar and Minnemann is back on drums.
Same Siders
Metal and fusion seem to merge as this driving rocker gets underway. This gets into more mainstream prog zones at times. Don't get used to any one section, though, because this keeps reinventing itself. It's a smoking hot instrumental jam that has such a great mix of sounds. It all works well together, too. I love the bass (provided by the returning Sheehan)  showcase later. Minnemann is again in the drum seat.
Wrestling with Plato
Fusion and progressive rock merge here. Ward returns to deliver her great vocal performance. This has so many great changes. I love how it's still decidedly progressive rock but does manage to lean a little on the fusion end of the spectrum. This is another standout number. I really love the synthesizer solo, too. The later sections of this track have some of the most powerful stuff on the whole album. Nilsson is back on guitar and Minnemann is still handling the drum sticks.
Lower Moat Manor
This starts mellow and ambient, but it quickly shifts to potent fusion jamming. This is another instrumental. It covers a good deal of territory and is another winner. Simon Phillips provides the drumming on this track.
She Flies Softly On
Coming in more rocking, but in a prog way, this drops way down for the entrance of the vocals. This is another powerhouse prog song. It works upward to powerful, soaring sections. It is packed with emotion, drama and style. Soto is back on vocals, Nilsson and Phillips are also back.
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