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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Portugal The Man

Church Mouth

Review by Gary Hill

OK, this one might not be progressive rock – or it might. It all depends on your definition of prog. If you think of it as a musical format that tends to borrow from numerous musical styles while creating a sound all its own, then these guys are all over it. There’s no question that this music has heaping helpings of classic rock sounds, but it’s all infused with a somewhat off-norm take on a pop sensibility and a bit of a punk musical freedom. Is it a bit strange? Yep. Is it prog? I don’t know, I think probably it qualifies. Is it a great disc? – no questions there, it is.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Church Mouth
This cut has a rough around the edges (just enough to lend some serious character) sound. It’s kind of psychedelia meets prog and punk. The majority of the track is fast paced with multiple layers of energized vocals, but they break it down mid-track to a drums, bass and vocals section that’s quite cool in a classic rock way. This is a cool piece of music, if a bit unusual.
Sugar Cinammon
Percussion leads the way here into another killer jam. I’d have to say that I like this one better than the first, although the general sound scheme is not all that altered from the motif of that other cut. This has an awesome classic rock song and plenty of drama and changes to keep the prog head entertained. It’s catchier, but still quirky, than the opener. This has a great spacey, atmospheric jam in the middle that has elements of early Pink Floyd and just a hint of funk.
Telling Tellers Tell Me
The title here reminds me of Al Franken’s “Lying Liars and the Lies they Tell.” Another that starts off with drums, this shifts out into a rather ballad-like acoustic based piece of psychedelia. They transition this upward into a more rocking approach that’s quite effective and powerful. A Zeppelin meets Black Crowes sort of mode takes the mid-section of the cut. This is the hardest rocking number thus far and is one of the highlights of the disc.
My Mind
This is by far my favorite cut on the disc. It has an enchanting, swirling, psychedelic meets progressive rock approach. The vocal arrangement is awe-inspiring and the layers upon layers of sound create a sense of drama and wonder that is simply incredible. This one by itself is worth the price of admission. There is a killer break down to a classic rock blues jam that finally ends this.
Shade
A guitar based ballad approach leads this one off and the group launch out into a great jam that reminds me a bit of Mazzy Star perhaps. This is another strong one on a disc that doesn’t have any weak cuts. This rocks out pretty hard in the mid-section.
Dawn
The bouncing sort of rhythmically constructed track reminds me just a little of early Santana. It’s a powerful jam gaining drama and energy with added instrumentation and layers of vocals as it carries onward. They drop it back to a cool, jazzy (again rather Santana-like) sound later. This is another highlight of the CD.
Oh Lord
Keys lead this off in a gentle, playful manner that reminds me a bit of the Beatles – particularly when string sounds come over the top. This doesn’t stay around long, though, giving way to a hard rocking jam that is all classic rock. The keyboard segment returns here and there as a little break, though. The riff that makes up the main part of the song reminds me a lot of something you might have heard from Led Zeppelin. A killer mellow section takes it mid-song. This is one that is contender for my favorite – but doesn’t quite stand up to “My Mind.” A reprise of the Beatles-like themes give way to a down home blues jam.
Bellies Are Full
Perhaps the most Zeppelin like track on show here, this one reminds me a lot of the British Blues approach that Zep and others used to love to create. This thing rocks out hard and has a lot of style.
Children
An acoustic blues approach starts the festivities here. They build on that sound with slides. The vocals here remind me quite a bit of Robert Plant’s more bluesy textures and this is another that falls into that Zep blues motif. This is another of the harder rocking cuts on the disc and has more classic rock textures than should be legal. You'll probably hear Led Zep here, but you might also hear the Yardbirds and early Aerosmith. A false ending gives way to a powered up reprise to end it.
The Bottom
Fast paced percussion is the first order of business here. Then a killer bass line joins. Vocals come in with a psychedelic rock tinge as that Yardbirds sound is all over this. The vocals bring in other textures (although at times they turn very Zep-like) but the later parts of the song are very much in line with classic Zep. This is another scorcher.
Sleeping Sleepers Sleep
A stripped down, rather bluesy, acoustic guitar ballad sound again calls to mind some shadows of the Beatles. This turns more towards the pretty end of the spectrum before powering out into a symphonic arrangement that brings the visions of the Fab Four even more to the fore. They move it out into an almost jazzy, space rock sort of motif later. We get some backwards tracking, again nodding to the Beatles. This is one of the more dynamic tracks on show here and one of the more unique. It’s also very cool. The acoustic modes return to end this, and it’s amazing after the ride we’ve been on that’s it’s lasted less than four minutes. A sound not unlike the ticking of a clock or the beating of a heart take it, with other sounds joining, to end it.
Sun Brother
Another riff based rocker, this is another that’s pure classic rock and roll. It’s another killer cut and a great choice to end the disc. It reminds me a bit at times of something from the later era of the Beatles – the more blues rocking sounds that they worked within from time to time. This fades down at around the minute and a half minute and the same sounds that ended the last piece take over and finally end the tune and the disc.
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