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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Fareed Haque Group

Cosmic Hug

Review by Gary Hill

Cosmic Hug lives in sort of a wonderful area between jazz, prog rock and world music - close enough into the prog genre for me to include the CD review under that heading, but not content to be restricted by the title. This disc combines Indian (technically Pakistani - but hard to discern the difference for this reviewer) traditional sounds with smooth jazz, fusion and sounds as diverse as Steve Howe, Frank Zappa and King Crimson. While not every cut on the album shows every one of those styles, and while there are tracks that are stronger than others, not one song really falters completely and the overall effect of the CD is a cool one. If you like world music and jazz infused sounds mixed with your prog, get yourself a Cosmic Hug by picking up this CD.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Gulab Jammin'
Picture a groove oriented progressive rock cut performed by an East Indian outfit and you have a pretty good image of this number. The drums lend a native sound as do the vocal elements and the drone/solo of the sitar guitar. This is mostly progressive in its world music themes. The wandering progressions as this carries on also bring in the prog lines and the short outro riff is almost Yesish.
Pairs
This one really feels like a cross between fusion, slight Indian elements and a heavy dose of Steve Howe's solo music. The fusion changes at varying points in the song are very cool. This one has an exceptionally tasty groove and a lot of killer jamming. It also includes some quite meaty guitar lines.
BRD
This one has almost a Frank Zappa texture on the quirky jam, but it also feels a bit like King Crimson. Still, the overall texture is all jazz. It wanders into dissonance at places. Some funky guitar later brings in more Zappa meets fusion. Later this moves into chaotic cacophony.
Fade Into Bolivion
This is a more smooth fusion oriented jam that has another great groove. It is quite intense, but still smooth enough. It shifts gears to more funk and blues, then moves toward chaos for a short time before recovering out to smoother jazz. This feels a bit like Birdsongs of the Mesozoic at times and Djam Karet at others while moving in more traditional fusion places other times. This one covers a lot of musical ground and gets a bit weird at times.
A-Yight
This short cut has a major King Crimson weirdness gone fusion approach.
FH/SK
A welcome reprieve from the last cut's fast paced changes, this one is a smooth fairly mellow fusion jam early on. They turn it to an intense array of acoustic pyrotechnics at times, but overall this one is very palatable, mellow and often quite pretty. They pull it through a number of great changes as they carry forward making this one of my favorite pieces on the disc. The late passages are especially powerful.
Cosmic Hug
This one comes in with a mellow electronic yet organic texture. While much of this song is soothing pretty soundscapes, short visions of chaos and hints of hard-edged fury emerge here and there. The percussion textures and bass line are especially intriguing on this one and it even threatens to soar into space at times. There are moments when the sitar guitar feels like a buzzing bee and Hawkwind like keys wader amongst the background at points. This is another favorite.
Raj
Early on the order of the day here is quite ambient tones moving around one another in varying almost imperceptible patterns. It builds very slowly. Some intriguing guitar patterns emerge at points, but this one never really moves beyond ambience.
Lahara
For some reason this cut feels to me a lot like King Crimson doing the blues with a total Eastern Indian texture. The non-English vocals feel almost like scat, but with a Zappa/Crimson weirdness. As strange as this one feels I like it a lot. It turns to a fairly straightforward rock jam with just enough Crimsonian weirdness to keep it interesting. For a time it drops back to just percussion. Then a fast paced fusion like jam takes it until it moves back to a more high-powered groove oriented take on its earlier themes. That section carries this standout composition out.
Short Suite
This comes in feeling like a Henry Mancini cut, and frankly to me it feels like a rather weirdly twisted fusion take on the Pink Panther theme for quite a bit of its length. More traditional jazz modes merged with Birdsongs of the Mesozoic like elements take this one in new directions. This gets quite weird at times. It wanders through a lot of musical territory, but is a bit too hard for me to follow. I'm not crazy about this one, really.
Sassi Lassi
With a very cool groove, this has a somewhat funky feel to it. They certainly know how to end on a strong note, as this jazzy number is one of the best on show here. It is smooth, but they truly smoke on it. They crescendo, then move it to traditional Indian sounds for a short time before jumping back into the groove. They turn it more rock and roll this time with a killer prog jam that is a lot of fun. The pull this into a fiery jam. The rhythm section feels a lot like Tony Levin at times, but this isn't KC-ish. The cut fades down to end.
 
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