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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Road

Drift

Review by Gary Hill

This road is a divided one. At times the vocal arrangements on this disc are top notch, but throughout a lot of the album either due to the performance or the production (and it varies from time to time) they are lacking. The thing is, when I say that they are top notch at points, I mean it. The arrangement on the opener is stunning and the vocals are up there with the best of them. They never fall into the unlistenable category on any of the tracks, but there are quite a few songs where the vocals are the weak point. I just don’t understand how they can get it so right some of the time and so wrong the rest. Well, the thing is, that’s the worst criticism I have for this band. The truth is their jazzy, original form of progressive rock is quite interesting. Their song structures are somewhat challenging and these guys can definitely play. I suppose I’d have to fault the overall production for feeling a bit flat, too, but with as solid as the music is, that’s easier to overlook. While this album is not perfect, it’s very good and presents a new interpretation of progressive rock that should appeal to both classic prog fans and those addicted to neo-prog. It’s a fine start and shows a lot of promise for the future. For more information (and ordering info) check out the band's website and myspace profile.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Breathless
A soulful horn leads this one off and carries it for a while. After a few measures guitar joins doubling the melodic line. Then the whole group bounds in with a heavy texture and they start their way down this musical journey. It drops back quite a bit for the verse. The chorus has just a hint of Beatles like sensibilities, with perhaps even a bit of old Chicago in there. The vocal arrangement is nice. Later they pull it out into a neo-classically tinged jam with horn drifting over the top of the mix. The transition between this and the main song structure has a definite Yes-like feeling to it – not in the execution, but in the progression. This is quite a cool track that has both a classic and a modern sound.
All Time
This begins very gradually with sounds that feel a bit like whale song. Eventually other effects bringing to mind space rock enter. When the main progression jumps in those elements remain, but a new journey brings in echoes of Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Genesis. I’d have to say that the vocals here are a bit too theatrical for my tastes, but the music on this one is purely awesome. They power this out into a slightly dissonant metallic prog fury. As it resolves into the chorus section this takes on very lush natures. The cut alternates between these styles to carry forward. After another heavy segment it crescendos to drop back to an acoustic guitar solo with intricate and pretty patterns. This moves through several alterations during its course and eventually ends the piece. I prefer the music on this one to the other track, but I like the vocal arrangement on that one much better.
Requiem
A pretty acoustic ballad approach leads this one off. As other layers come in to augment this, the Pink Floyd comparisons return. When they move to the verse, though, it seems more like a folk rock mode from the 1970’s. I don’t hear any particular band in this, but you still get a certain familiarity from it. It moves out into a faster paced jam from there, still working through the same musical themes. When they drop it back down the arrangement is revitalized and invigorated. This is a really cool track that has a major 1970’s approach. I don’t think you’ll come away from this thinking it’s progressive rock, but you will probably enjoy it. The soaring instrumental section is enchanting and brings in some definite prog tendencies – I can even hear a little Genesis on this.
Someone Like Me
The guitar part that brings this one in reminds me a bit of the Doobie Brothers. The vocal line is a spoken one, but the instrumentation that joins with it bring some more progressive rock elements to the table. Once again the vocals leave me wanting a bit on this one, but it’s more about the production than performance. As this turns more intense we get a fusion sort of prog atmosphere that calls to mind King Crimson, Hawkwind and even Chicago. This is a cool piece and the vocals definitely improve as it moves on. The guitar solo segment is especially tasty.
Drift
A definite prog rock approach seeming to combine neo and classic progressive rock approaches makes up the core of this cut. This has some intriguing changes, but also suffers a bit on the vocal arrangement. With as strong a showing the vocals made on the opener it’s really odd that it’s the aspect of the band that seems to suffer the most on a lot of the rest of the disc. They drop this to a cool mellower segment that is purely wonderful. I hear the familiar Hawkwind and Genesis on this, but also some Traffic.
Fly Away
Acoustic guitar elements lead this one off in a ballad like approach, but still an energized one. They bring it up from there into a new journey based on these themes. Once more the vocals seem to be lacking in the production department. This is another powerful cut and as the arrangement fills out the vocals fit better. There are some particularly tasty guitar solos on this one.
One Small Kindness
This one rises up tentatively with jangly sort of sound. Now, here the vocals work really well. This has an almost jazz based (mind you fusion) element. It’s essentially a ballad and includes some intriguing changes and chordings. They power it out to an electrified version of itself that really rocks out! This is another highlight of the disc.
Dog And the Vampire
Atmospheric tones start this and guitar eventually takes control. The band begin building this up in a creative progression that works pretty well. The vocals on this one are back in the good range, too. This is a song that’s all its own, but also reflects Pink Floyd a bit at points. There is a killer instrumental progression on this one with some rather Gilmour-like guitar soloing. This segment is especially powerful and saves the cut from any sense of sameness that the rest of it might portray.
The Gift
The sounds of nature begin this one, and music seems on the verge of rising up amidst a gentle thunderstorm. As it does finally enter it’s in a very classically oriented acoustic guitar solo. This works through some variations and reiterations and is quite pretty. The song becomes a prog ballad approach from there for the first vocals. Eventually it explodes out into more energized and powerful lines. Either the singing is still good on this one or I’m just getting used to it. I hear bits of Rush on this one and even a little of the more progressive end of The Who.
Bipolar
A more jazz oriented guitar dominated progression leads this one off. There is a nice stuttered timing on the track and the vocals here might be the best on the whole CD. This one is possibly my favorite track here, too. As one could guess from the title, this gentle sort of prog approach gets a contrasting element in the form of a noisy, somewhat dissonant metallic segment that is interspersed. I’d say the group’s mix of sounds is both at its most unique and most effective here. They include a cool break here that makes on think of both King Crimson and Pentwater and then move it out into a melodic revitalization of the central themes. The dual nature of this song is brought back home later with a noisy, metal/punk sort of segment and a screaming, noodly guitar solo. The King Crimson elements return after this and end the cut.
Yellow Wood
More pretty prog ballad stylings are the rule of the road here. This is another powerful progressive rock cut, but the vocals seem to suffer a bit here again. There is an exceptionally tasty guitar solo on this one and a lot of the instrumental interplay borders on brilliant. This is as good a disc closer as anything here.
 
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