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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Speechless

Time Out of Mind

Review by Gary Hill

You may have never heard of Speechless, but if you are a fan of instrumental progressive rock, you really need to know that name. These guys have put together a disc of fusion meets traditional prog and vintage Rush that should be one of the most played instrumental CD's in your collection. While a lot of purely sans vocals music tends to blend together and drag on, Speechless have altered their vision from song to song enough to keep it interesting. You'll probably never find yourself thinking that the album seems to be repeating itself. You'll hear echoes of such acts as Yes, Genesis, Pentwater, Kansas, Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd here, but it's all woven into a thread of sound that is almost purely original. They may be Speechless, but when the instrumental work and compositions are this strong, who cares that there aren't any vocals? For more information check out www.speechlessband.com.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
In The Clouds
A playful, triumphant sound that calls to mind both Yes and Genesis a bit opens this up and the group develop this into a soaring sort of jam to carry forward. They twist it about later with influences of fusion and Rush-like sounds entering. As the crunchier guitar mode takes it those Rush leanings are more prominent, but it quickly moves out into something closer to Kansas. This is exceptionally dynamic, twisting and shifting over and over in an ever changing soundscape. One moment it will be nearly metal, then it will move out into a soaring expansive journey that's part ELP and part King Crimson. This makes for a great opener and includes some extremely inspiring performances from all hands.
Spidercrawl
Super funky bass work is the first thing heard here. As the rest of the group join this becomes a frantic fusion extravaganza. I love the funky texture on this groove and they intersperse this with more traditional prog elements at points. It turns mysterious later with a drop back towards slower territory. Then they drop it to a ballad-like section to keep going. The guitar solo that shows up on this segment is especially tasteful and tasty. As they wander out from there you might hear echoes of Joe Satriani, but then they take it into more Frank Zappa inspired zones. This just screams at times on the fast paced jam in that motif. While I really liked the first track, this one is even better in my book. It's at least as dynamic, too, and includes a Wakeman like closing section.
Stella
We're back into more typical fusion territory as this one starts off. It shifts to something a bit like the more jazzy Pink Floyd for a time before a Dregs-influenced section takes it. This is frantic and extremely tasty. After a time they rework this with a funky keyboard line leading into a new jam that has elements of Yes and other prog outfits. This has a killer retro sound with a modern delivery. It simply soars and makes this one still another step up from what has come before. The keyboard leads a lot of this and the sounds it makes are awesome. The track turns heavy and dramatic at points. They move it out into space for a short time and then power it out into another killer groove. With all its spectacular views and modes this one might well be my favorite track on show here. They turn it into playful modes rather like Pentwater at points and bring in more vintage Rush sounds at other times.
Thank You
Beginning with more sedate, prog ballad modes, this one builds gradually. Melodic and pretty, this works organically through, turning more towards fusion as it does. This one never really rises to the fury of some of the other material and is much less dynamic, but it's still quite tasty and likely to please the jazz purists a bit more. It is the first point where the disc recedes a bit, but that has more to do with the magnitude of strength the previous tracks showcased than it does any weakness here.
The Big Majestic
The festivities lead off here in even more sedate ways than the previous number with a Spanish tinged ballad-like jam. Once again the building process is organic and gradual. At about the one minute mark, though, they power out into a smoking jam that seems to combine elements of King Crimson and Pentwater. This is a bit off-kilter and very strong. It gets quite intricate with lines of melody dancing around each other in reckless abandon. Still they maintain a consistent texture. It drops down toward the more sedate as it carries forward. Then we get a fusion inspired jam that has definite Beatles-like melodic tendencies. Once more it's dropped back towards prog ballad territory and this is quite mysterious in texture. It doesn't stay around long, though, instead giving way to a soaring triumphant Yes-ish mode that is another highlight of the disc. Once more they modulate out into new land from there, then come back to this segment for a keyboard dominated movement. This gives way to crunchy fusion and one of the most potent jams of the whole CD. This is another contender for best track. It's dynamic, powerful and inspiring. The various modes all make return appearances in reworked fashion as this moves toward its conclusion.
Something Green
And now for something completely different, they lead this off with a mellow, swinging jazz progression. The keyboard sounds lend a great retro texture to the piece. Building gradually on its musical themes this is another potent piece, but just not as ear-catching as some of the other stuff on show here. Still, they have already set the threshold of greatness pretty high – it's hard to maintain. It's a cool groove and a great change of pace, rooted more firmly in traditional fusion. It does grow and become more powerful but more by revitalizing and reinterpreting it's themes than any wholesale reinvention.
Spaghetti Junction
Rising gradually upwards, this shifts gear fairly quickly into a frantic fusion jam that has more Rush-like elements infused. This turns metallic at times. It also drops to the more sedate at others. It's another dynamic and potent piece of modern fusion inspired prog instrumentality. It has some killer keyboard sounds and the fast paced jam that serves to end it is simply awe-inspiring.
Hangover
A short percussion solo leads this off, then bass joins in a frantic pattern. Weirdness in the form of somewhat dissonant sounds take over before they move it out into an Eastern tinged metallic jam. Visions of Rush appear on this one, too – firmly ingrained with fusion. This is another standout.
Vader's Boogie
The rhythmic instrumentation is the opening salvo here as well. As they power it out from there more of those Rush meets fusion textures take over. This is powerful and majestic in scope. In many ways this more closely resembles Rush than anything else on the CD. Like one of that band's older instrumentals they rework and rearrange this in changing patterns of rhythm and sound creating a killer track that while not the best on the disc, is certainly a highlight – and a great closer. They move it out into more mainstream prog midsong in a great groove, but return to the Rushish themes as they move out from there. Once this thrill ride ends you'll probably find yourself catching your breath before hitting “play” to start it all over again.
 
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