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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Yanni

Live – The Concert Event

Review by Gary Hill

Yanni – yeah, I know all the jokes that go around about this guy. The thing is, this music is really good. I know there are those out there who will say that he’s not prog rock, but certainly he’s too rock to be “new age” music. I don’t know what other genre breaks down barriers as much as prog does, so he’s included in this genre. Frankly, his music doesn’t differ that much from a lot of people who are generally considered prog. This might not be the most energized and hard rocking stuff you’ve ever heard, but it’s also not boring. You really have to admire the musicianship and creativity involved. The thing is, though, even without that consideration, this is just a solid disc as far as sitting down and giving it a listen. You just have to get past all the preconceived notions.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Rainmaker
A tribal percussive segment gives way to a world music meets classical approach as this carries forward. This is dramatic, if a bit over the top. Still there are some great musical moments in the mix. This has a rather Latin groove at times and one of the vocal lines (the male one) seems to be Jamaican. This has some intriguing interplay throughout.
Keys to Imagination
Keyboards open this one with a pretty and rather mysterious texture. The cut comes out from there is a mode that reminds me a bit of something Pat Metheny might do. They move through a number of incarnations on this as the arrangement is ramped up. Multiple world music cultural sounds come and go as this carries forward. For my money the Middle Eastern ones are the most effective, but frankly I’ve always had a special place in my heart for that type of sound. The violin solo segment here is especially powerful and parts of this whole treatment remind me a lot of Al Dimeola.
Enchantment
A pretty, slightly melancholy keyboard line opens this one. The instruments join to augment and explore this musical theme in a very evocative pattern. This is quite classical in texture. It stays sedate, but other elements come and go to help to explore the musical themes. Honestly, this is my favorite cut up to this point. It is just so powerfully emotional. Granted the treatment gets a little over the top towards the end.
Standing in Motion
This comes in with an electronic rhythmic texture and seems to be threatening to break all out. Instead lines of melody emerge over the top in a fast paced, dramatic pattern. At only a minute and a half this is by far the shortest cut on the disc. It is also one of the most potent. I like this one a lot.
On Sacred Ground
Tribal rhythms and chant like choral vocals lead this one off. It quickly jumps into a quicker groove that has all sorts of world elements with a bit of a bluesy nature at times. The instrumental wanderings that occupy this one are at once very ethnic in nature and also quite pretty. This is quite a dynamic piece of music, moving through a number of incarnations. At times I’m reminded of such diverse acts as Mike Oldfield and Alan Parsons, but the violin work calls to mind Jean-Luc Ponty. The non-lyrical female vocal wailing in the closing segments call to mind some of the similar work on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album.
Playtime
A tribal rhythm starts this, joined quickly by a rather funky bass line. The jam that comes over the top of this is another that calls to mind Alan Parsons just a bit. This one moves through a number of varying musical segments, but seems to always remain entertaining. It’s another winner.
Until the Last Moment
A classically tinged piano melody starts this. Then other layers of sound join in to augment this arrangement. This one is quite a pretty and gentle piece, which definitely falls close to the classical music tree.
If I Could Tell You
This is a rather beautiful ballad-like number. It’s a little trite, but still there is enough emotion and style to make it work. It actually feels at times a bit like some of Rick Wakeman’s solo work.
For All Seasons
An electro tribal rhythm starts this one off and it starts to feel like techno music until the choral vocals enter to bring a more serious air to the sound. This one is quite dramatic, even if a little over the top. The funny thing is, I don’t usually like opera, but the operatic vocals on this one are simply stunning. So are the lines of melody that swirl over the top of the arrangement. The Spanish tinged horn solo is a nice touch, too. This might well be my favorite cut on the disc. It’s very dynamic and entertaining. The horn soloing is simply brilliant, too.
The Storm
Dramatic and mournful strings begin this in a sedate way. This plays through for a time, and gets a bit chaotic at points. I’m not sure, but I believe the instrument is a cello. Whatever it is it plays along unaccompanied for the first couple minutes of the piece. Eventually, though, this explodes out into a frantic instrumental jam with both acoustic and electronic instrumentation creating the mix. While I wouldn’t consider this one a favorite, it definitely has its moments. Some killer horn work certainly adds to its charm. This thing certainly gets energized in the later movements.
Prelude
A very sedate and pretty flute type sound begins this and carries the piece from there. It is another with a lot of classical air to it. While this is loaded with inherent beauty it’s a little overlong for as little change as it has within. It leads (as the title would suggest) directly into the next piece.
Nostalgia
Now this is more like it. Powerfully beautiful waves of keyboard melody weave lines over the top of each other in this stunning arrangement. Other elements come and go as the track makes its way through, but Yanni’s keyboards truly carry the emotional power and drama of this piece. It is to my mind unquestionably the best piece of music here. For that reason I can’t think of a better song to close the set with.
 
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