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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Ernie Hendrickson and the Make Believe

Only A Dream

Review by Gary Hill

From the first few measures of this disc you might get the idea that you just popped in a new jazz album. However, as the music carries on it becomes pretty obvious that Ernie Hendrickson and The Make Believe are actually a jam band who just happen to incorporate large amounts of jazz into the mix that makes up their original sound. Listening to this disc you'll be hard pressed to believe that it's a debut outing, but it is! The band show a definite sense of solid songwriting and great instrumental prowess. They also have four singers in the outfit, so that serves to give a full vocal presence. The production on the CD is spot on, as is pretty much everything else.

This Chicago based quartet really does everything right here. It seems a foregone conclusion that fans of jam band music will enjoy this one. The truth is, though, that is not the only group of people who will appreciate this offering. There's enough smooth jazz to endear it to many folks who enjoy that style of music. Classic rock fans should also eat it up. Even prog rockers will find plenty to like here. In fact, this disc is a pretty universally appealing outing. What a way to start off their career - here's to seeing where they go next!

For more information, or to get your hands on this disc, stop by their website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.



Track by Track Review
Only A Dream
A funky jazz type arrangement leads this jam off. The group throw in layers on top of this motif to carry forward, but overall the tone holds on throughout the cut. This is a great opening volley, but the truth is, these guys are in it for the whole game, not just a good play or two.
Runnin'
This one comes in feeling a lot like The Allman Brothers, but quickly shifts gear to something more akin to Deep Purple. That sound doesn't dominate for long, though as the band incorporate those two stylings into one cohesive texture that holds the track together. A healthy dose of classic rock with an energetic motif makes for a very entertaining rocker. Add some meaty guitar work and you have a real winner on your hands.
Let's Get Down
Percussion leads this one off. They move it from there into a retro sounding jam that feels a bit like something Niacin might do. This is a fun groove that works every bit as well as anything else on this strong disc. Some minor Grateful Dead textures show up at times in the arrangement. You might even hear a little bit of The Spencer Davis Group on this one. The wah guitar work is a nice touch as is the organ solo.
Natural
They break it down here coming in with something close to traditional blues. As it moves up into the song proper, though, the jam band motif is the dominant theme here. They crunch it out with a classic rock heaviness at points to break it up, though. This one is a good track, and on a lot of albums it would be a standout. The trouble is that the opening few numbers are so potent that this pales just a little by comparison.
Good Vibrations
Nope, this is not a cover of the classic Beach Boys' tune. What you do have here is a reggae styled number that is quite evocative. This is a bit more laid back than some of the other material on the CD, and therefore a refreshing change of pace. It's also a nice plea for peace in the world. In an interesting change up, they shift this one around into a killer prog rock jam later.
Showtime at the Apollo Creed:
Alright, I'll admit up front that I have a thing for clever titles and this cut definitely gets bonus points in that category. With hints of the Survivor theme song to the Rocky movie on the rhythm section, this one comes in with a great fusion-like structure and the band launch into an excursion in that mode that's right up there with any of the neo-prog bands who practice that style. This instrumental will definitely appeal to fans of that genre. It's also another great example of how talented and diverse this outfit truly is.
Wake Up The World
Stomping in this one feels a bit like 1980's Rush at first. It runs through like this for a time, then drops back to a psychedelic mellower texture to carry forward. They alternate between these two modes for the duration, but also thrown in some more progressive rock type sounds at points.
Silent Moments
This one starts in much more sedate tones, a bit like a cross between a jam band and a progressive rock ballad. It builds gradually on its basis as it moves onward. Eventually it begins to rock out more and as it kicks into full gear it feels a bit like a more progressive rock oriented Grateful Dead. The vocals in particular bring in the Dead textures. They really do infuse a lot of prog into the mix, though. It moves through a number of changes, but still stays fairly true to its roots. A later section, though, lead off by an acapella mode feels quite a bit like Yes to me. This is actually my favorite cut on the disc.
Lullaby
Appropriately, this has an approach that is like a mellow acoustic guitar ballad. The vocals, though, have a nice retro processed sound to them to create a slightly psychedelic texture. They add more instrumentation later, but this stays fairly mellow throughout, even though they shift it more towards expansive prog rock. There are moments where echoes of Pink Floyd can be heard on this one.
Song For Devin #2
I'm not sure where number one is, but second time around is often better anyway. Percussion leads this off, and it's another that shows off the band's penchant for fusion. The jazz modes are all over this instrumental, and at over nine and a half minutes it's definitely the longest cut on the album. It's sure to be a favorite with aficionados of both jazz and prog. These guys pull out all the stops here and reinvent this number over and over again - all the while doing a great job of showing off their chops. It might wander into a bit too esoteric territory for some listeners, though.
Run To the Mountains
A pounding beat starts this, but as the guitar comes in it feels a bit like a down home blues rocker. This has some connection to the bluesy material of bands like Led Zeppelin, but also touches on the grounds of the Dead. It's another showing of the group's diversity. As they crank it out later it's in a bluesy southern rock tinged way, feeling a bit like The Black Crowes and other such bands. They alternate between these two stylings to carry it through. They seriously smoke this one later. While it might not be the most obvious choice to close the disc, it works pretty well. Besides, as you will read in a moment, it is really only listed as the disc closer.
Hidden Track
After a bit of silence, a reprise of the title cut shows up, and then wanders off into a spacey jam.
 
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