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Progressive Rock CD Reviews



Review by G. W. Hill

Alaska, the debut album by the band of the same name, features progressive rock arrangements which hint at the styles of ELP, Yes and others. For the most part, the arrangements are predominately keyboard based, but there is some nice guitar work present as well. The lead vocals on the album are definitely in a Jon Anderson vein.

Alaska is Al Lewis and John O`Hara. On this album, they are accompanied by several side musicians. The album can be ordered bysending check or money order (payable to Alaska) to:Alaska, P.O. Box 551, Dunmore, Pa 18512-0551. Prices are CDs : $14.99,cassettes : $9.99 (including shipping in the US(Overseas orders please add $4.00 S/H per unit)). Check out the Alaska website at

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Ice Spirits
A softly atmospheric intro gives way to a verse which is in the mode of a rather sedate UK. Some of the keyboard work in this song is a bit Wakemanesque, and moments of the song call to mind ELP. There are several interesting instrumental breaks. The short break at the end of the song particularly stands out.
Museum Dreams
The keyboard textures here ae similar to Black Sabbath`s Who are You, but that is the only comparison to be drawn to that band. This piece is a slow prog ballad.
Two Shades of Grey
Containing a very interesting percussion track, this piece is very laid back. A feel approaching classical music pervades this song, mostly through the string section voicing on the keyboards.
A strong UK/Pink Floyd/Marillion styled instrumental, this song serves as the intro to Reason to Wonder.
Reason To Wonder
The textures that began in the last piece (UK with Marillion tinges) continues until the arrangement becomes considerably more sparse. At this point, spoken vocals through heavy processing enter. Eventually, the more standard Alaska vocals join the fray, but the spoken word vocals keep making their return.
Mesa Extrana
This is an unusual and quite powerful piece performed by a string quartet, basoon, oboe, flute, piano and percussion. Mesa Extrana is an intriguing instrumental and has a feel which incorporates the sounds of ELP and Kansas.
Tiananmen Square
Another very strong and quite emotional piece, this is a solid prog work combining elements of ELP, Yes and fusion styles into a powerhouse number. This one addresses the Tiananmen Square rebellion of several years back. This is a mini-epic and encompasses several varied and integrated movements. The first major instrumental break has a definite Yesish rhythmic influences show up frequently on this cut. Some spoken words, simulating crowd control over a megaphone, make an appearance a fusion based instrumental section.
Steve Howeish guitar work comprises the intro. This assimilates into an intro that is rather like Yes with traces of Jethro Tull. After a time, the Tull influences tend to take over for the verse sections. About 5 minutes into the piece, a very dramatic instrumental break takes charge. Elements of ELP and Yes are combined in this break, which is a very fluid section. After a time, the piece drops back into the verse sections that predominate the composition.
Caring is a fairly short textural piece that remains fairly complacent. It is a good number, nonetheless.
Forests of Heaven
Forests of Heaven starts in a solid Yes mode. The song contains several intriguing changes and an instrumental ala ELP and Yes.
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