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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ray Bennett

Whatever Falls

Review by Gary Hill

Ray Bennett has released what is very close to a masterpiece with this album. The disc seems to take common elements of progressive rock both old (Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd) and new (Spock's Beard, modern King Crimson) and blend them with other elements to create a sound that is both modern and unique, while still being quite firmly entrenched in the progressive rock genre. Bennett does the majority of the album in true "solo" fashion, accompanied only by Mark Pardy (all tracks but one) and David Kannenstine (on two songs). He certainly proves that he is a master of many instruments. This one is a great album, and should please fans of all types of progressive rock. It just oozes class and style.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
La Verite Des Miracles
A cool, psychedelic sounding texture starts this instrumental, then a guitar crying out over an atmospheric keyboard texture takes it. New-ageish textures dominate for a time. Then a gradual building on these elements ensues. The melodies give way to more atmosphere, then a harder edged guitar melody takes the piece, washed over by keyboards. As this carries on, a spoken word sample comes over the top. Eventually all of this gives way to a fairly straightforward rocking sound. Still, this is interspersed and punctuated by unusual melody lines and eventually a Yesish texture enters the fray. This is a track that really keeps reinventing itself and becomes one heck of a strong prog jam. It is dramatic and powerful at times, and ever changing.
Torn Apart
Percussion begins this one, then a cool groove, a bit Crimsonish, ensues. This one is high-energy and both virtuosic and straightforward - no easy feat! This one should please both prog heads and fans of modern rock. The interplay between the guitar and bass is at times quite stunning. The outro is a cool, unexpected keyboard turn.
Under the Wheel
This has to have one of the coolest gritty sounds to the intro that this reviewer has ever heard. The vocals on the intro are a spoken edge over top of the musical element, more sound effects than singing. As the song proper enters, it is in a slightly Beatlesesque garage band sort of sound. Fans of modern King Crimson should enjoy this one. It is a very intriguing take on progressive rock with an extremely modern texture. The keyboard break is dramatic and a bit neo-classical.
Digging With the Spoon
Although much of this number is straightforward, it is still quite interesting. The instrumental break/outro should have enough prog changes to please most fans of the genre.
Ahh!
Textural patterns begin and a weirdly processed spoken vocal line lends a weird mood that is actually just a little Alice Cooperish. Those vocals are essentially an oddly textured poetry reading. Mid-song a bass line enters, pulling the composition into new ground, but the spoken vocals and recurring melodies link the two segments. The guitar jamming late is pretty exceptional.
Stella
A drum machine type percussion line holds this one in while a guitar gently wails over top. A solid rocking groove builds from this basis and this instrumental track carries on with some exceptionally meaty bass work really standing out. This one is based in a slow mode, but it truly screams out --not out of metallic fury, but from very tasty jamming on all of the instruments.
Changing
Mellow tones begin this one, then percussion takes the piece. As keyboard patterns emerge, a dramatic building takes over. As the intro ends a more stripped down progression takes over and the dramatic vocals and arrangement calls to mind Spock's Beard just a bit. This is a very cool, albeit slightly understated piece. It somewhat switches gear later, going more full on prog in a somewhat Yes/Genesisish way.
Dave Goes to the Park
Atmospheric and mysterious sounds begin this one, and as the song proper enters it's in the form of a balladic prog style. The choruses get rather hard edged. It features an awesome break with an intriguing rhythmic texture. This is a very strong track with a lot of musical changes and a great vocal arrangement.
Whatever Falls
The title track, appropriately, seemingly falls out of the previous piece. This slow-paced number really feels a lot like a cross between Beard, Genesis and Pink Floyd. It is a gentle composition that moves quite nicely.
New West
Another that feels like it flows seamlessly right out from the number that preceded it, this is a killer instrumental groove that has a jazzy texture. Appropriately it is a bit in the style of the music of the old west.
 
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