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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic

Dancing on A'A

Review by Gary Hill

I got this disc after having heard quite a few other Birdsongs albums from the catalog. Yes, the music here is consistent with the rest of their material; jazzy free form progressive rock excursions that are often hard to classify. I have to say, though, that this is my favorite disc by them. For me it's the most easily listenable of the bunch, and it has some wonderful moments. Perhaps it's because after hearing the others I am more open to their unusual musical format, or perhaps it really is a more entertaining album. Either way, I heartily recommend this one as a first introduction to this fine group.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
A Band Of Deborahs (Not Debbies)
First, I have to say that I don't have a clue what this title represents, but I really like it. They get lots of points for that one. Musically a hard-edged groove starts this one, the mood feeling a lot like vintage King Crimson. This one is very experimental and expressive while still managing to create an accessible sound. It is in no way stagnant, but rather in near constant flux, but they somehow are able to maintain an air of consistency about it. This one really rocks.
Dancing on A'A
At first this one feels like the theme to "Sex In The City", but it quickly evolves past that point, first transforming into a stripped down jazzy texture. Then a cool, almost surf, almost blues guitar line takes it for a short time. It's too bad that is a short duration as it is because I really liked where it was headed there. It then changes into a sparsely arranged dissonant jazz exploration. This eventually builds up, maintaining the jazzy texture, into fast paced Crimsonian jamming.
Ptinct
An awesome atmosphere, dramatic and powerful creates the backdrop for this one. This is one of the most stable songs by the group.
Readymen
How a song this strange can be so catchy is beyond me. This seemingly random pattern of riffs, loops and percussion combine to create a cacophonic pattern, but it's really catchy. This one works remarkably well - to the point of being one of the highpoints of the disc. This drops to a sparse arrangement later.
Birdgam
A playful, almost tribal sound is the basis for this one as the band create some very intriguing lines over top. At times this feels a bit like Frank Zappa.
Electric Altamira
This is a dramatic and very accessible prog rock excursion and another highlight. With a killer jazz interlude, this evolves into a very accessible jam.
Swamp
Dissonant piano begins this and the cut rapidly becomes an incredibly dissonant song as instruments join in, adding to the weirdness. Then suddenly a fast paced piano part that reminds me of the music to the original Planet of the Apes film takes it for a time. More weird sound effects emerge after then, then the group burst into a fairly high-energy cohesive jam. This at times feels like the music from the film Reanimator, but they shift it to a great groove that is much like modern King Crimson. All the elements of the piece keep recurring varying patterns to create an incredibly dynamic piece of weirdness. A sound much like the "Clack clack"ing of a train ends this.
Peter Gunn
The band puts in an awesome performance of the Henry Mancini number, turning it into the jazzy stomp that it was intended to be. This song was always a favorite of mine, and it leads me to wonder what this group could do with Mancini's Pink Panther theme.
Ray
Latin/tribal rhythms star this, and the band launches into a hard-edged jazzy jam that feels rather Eastern at times. This becomes Crimsonian at times. This even gets a bit metallic occasionally. It's a very dynamic and very powerful piece.
Sirius The Scorching
This another very cool instrumental experience with its staccato and rather quick paced movements .
The Pearly Eyed March
Starting in dramatic ways, this one becomes very powerful and pretty at times. It is another that is not content to stay in one place very long.
 
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