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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Robert Berry

A Soundtrack To The Wheel of Time

Review by Gary Hill

A Soundtrack To The Wheel of Time is an album created not as a soundtrack to a film, but rather to a series of books. The fantasy books are written by Robert Jordan who has officially endorsed this album. To create the tapestry that will weave the stories, Robert Berry enlisted several musicians to help him. Among those artists are Lief Sorbye (Tempest, Caliban), Andy Frazier, Lisa Bouchelle (Mastermind) and Michael Mullen (formerly of both Tempest and Caliban). The music has a strong Celtic texture, as Berry's association with Celtic rockers Tempest and his choice of two Tempest alumni would indicate. However, that is certainly not the entire picture. Indeed one can hear the influence of such artists as Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream, not to mention a myriad of other prog rock stylings. Much of the album, as one would expect of a soundtrack, consists of instrumental material that tends to paint a picture through tones and melodies. The end result is a very interesting album that should literally be a wonderful soundtrack while reading the novels. Such was Berry's intent, and this reviewer believes that he has succeeded.

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
A Theme For The Wheel of Time
With a Celtic sort of backing music, the vocals weave an evocative trail over the early modes of the cut. As it continues to evolve a hard edge takes the piece and it becomes more complex and prog oriented. It alternates between the earlier mode and this later one. The middle section is a very powerful instrumental break, and as the chorus comes out of that it is with a renewed energy and vitality.
Return To Emonds Field
This one comes in ominous and mysterious. It evolves into a slightly Celtic-ified rock jam that feels a bit like Mike Oldfield. The cut continues to grow moving through many changes and becoming more like Pyramid era Alan Parsons Project at times. It then becomes far more Celtic once again. This is a very powerful instrumental.
Song For Moiraine
Another instrumental, this composition begins with a traditional acoustically driven Celtic progression. As it carries on a harder edged rocking mode ensues. The more traditional style returns, taking over again from there. Then, after running through various lines in that mode, the cut seemingly explodes into power and runs through a strong prog jam with varying degrees of Celtic influence. Another quick drop to acoustic ends the piece.
Traveling the Ways
Continuing in instrumental fashion, this one starts with dark, ominous tones. Although based in rock music, this track feels somewhat classical in texture. It also retains the Celtic stylings that dominate much of the album. This one is mostly heavy and atmospheric, though.
Spears and Buckler
Yet another in the chain of instrumentals, this brief cut begins with sedate modes. However, chaos and dark, ominous tones quickly intercede.
Dream Walker
A hard edged dramatic prog rocker with a solid percussive texture, this one comes straight out of the previous track. It gets quite dramatic in its arrangement after a time.
The Knowledge of the Wise Ones
Another brief instrumental piece, this one basically serves almost as an outro to "Dream Walker". It is heavy, ominous and quite neo-classical in texture.
The Winespring Reel
With a title that includes the word "reel", you have to know that you are in for a Celtic one here. This serves as a great contrast to the heaviness that came before it. It is a bouncy and fun Celtic rocker that still has a lot of progressive rock leanings interspersed. It eventually drops to a more acoustic, gentle section that quite evocative. As the Celtic textures return to lift it back up, it gets quite powerful before its threefold dramatic conclusion.
The Halls Of Tar Valon
This brief instrumental is another that starts off dramatic and ominous. Quickly, though, it becomes more atmospheric.
Search For the Black Ajah
Coming straight out of the previous track, this one evolves eventually into more friendly territory. It is another instrumental and it gets quite powerful.
Ladies of the Tower
A strong balladic cut with powerful vocals, this is a very interesting one. It includes a very interesting segment based on percussion and chanting.
The Game of Houses
This is another instrumental, this time in a fairly cohesive, somewhat olde world mode. It gets quite potent as it carries on, then switches into a harder edged Celtic rock jam. It is quite a dynamic piece of music, going through a lot of changes.
Voyage of the Sea Folk
Based in a dramatic, acoustically dominated mode, the main melody line to this instrumental sounds just a little like the Oompa Loompa's song from Willie Wonka. It quickly jumps gear, though, becoming a fast paced, Celtically leaning progressive rock jam. It does, however, eventually return to that opening theme but this time it is in a more evolved state. In fact the track just keeps growing and reinventing itself.
Heart of the Wolf
This instrumental is more dramatic mood type music. It gets very powerful, ominous and dramatic, though in neo-classical textures.
Journey Through the Waste
Sedate, yet powerful neo-classical structures make up this instrumental.
Lan The Warder
This one is made of electronic sort of modes that call to mind Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream.
March Of The Trollocs
Slightly hard edged in texture, this one has a mysterious, neo-classical nature to it. It gets very powerful, involved, and just a bit weird at times.
Rand's Theme (Fanfare For The Dragon Reborn)
Pretty, evocative and dramatic neo-classical tones make a nice contrast to the previous track. This one does get considerable dramatic at times.
The Aiel Approach (Dahl Of A Chant)
Starting in Gregorian sounding chant, this prog jam has an otherworldly texture to it.
 
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