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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hermes Orchestra

Live

Review by Gary Hill

I've seen this CD listed as a classical album, and frankly while I can see sections that fit that style, I really find it hard to believe classical music purists would consider it such. Certainly large chunks of this instrumental disc fit under that heading, but there is also a lot of jazz on show here and even some folk and rock. The end result, I would say, fits better under prog rock, although even that only works so well. The truth is this music is quite beautiful and one of the more unique and genre bending sounds you'll ever hear. It's all fairly sedate and restful, which makes it a good disc for those times when you don't feel like rocking out hard. I'm not sure this one will be something I'll listen to all the time, but I can tell you that I bet I pull it out every once in a while to give it a fresh spin.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
St. Thomas
This cut, which is credited as originally being by Sonny Rollins, starts with acoustic guitar, then turns into a bouncy classically tinged piece that is still based on non-electrical instrumentation. It moves through a number of intriguing changes and wanders at times into jazz territory. Overall this one is quite a nice number that's both invigorating and relaxing. It's a nice way to start off the disc. It is very dynamic with a number of varying segments making their appearance.
Gave
This one comes in with a more jazz-fusion sort of approach. There is a touch of a Latin sound to it, too. The bass sounds as though it's electric, but the guitar is acoustic. This one has a definite jazz tone throughout and feels like challenging, sometimes dissonant acoustic based fusion. As in the previous piece, it runs through a lot of sections and movements, turning far more classical at times, and in fact even drops back to a full sedate symphonic arrangement. The section that rises up from there is very dramatic. It turns later to a mellow and incredibly beautiful neo-classical piano solo.
Redemption
Acoustic guitar figures heavily into this arrangement, too. The cut is even more dramatic than the two that preceded it. I'd have to say that of what we've heard so far this is my favorite. It rocks out pretty well and moves through a number of intriguing changes in the course of its run. This one should please all fans of old school progressive rock. If I had to compare it to anyone in particular I might say that there are similarities to Renaissance, but this is more classical than that.
Patience
Based primarily on a beautiful piano backdrop, this one grows slowly and is a lot gentler than the track that preceded it. It turns more to a jazzy sort of arrangement later and begins building on that backdrop. The cut turns later to be driven by the acoustic guitar. Still, the piano regains its prominence later and the group continue to move through varying calming, pretty movements. They gain more of a jazz backbeat later and move the cut forward in a more fusion-oriented style. An acoustic guitar segment takes it in a solo later and the laid back tones that take over from there are simply enchanting. They serve to end this track.
Suite: Mov. II
A jazzy dissonant piano starts this one off. The first electric guitar sounds of the disc enter bringing with them tones that are somewhat reminiscent of Al Dimeola and perhaps Carlos Santana. As the cut moves forward, though, it has both a heavy rock tone and a jazz texture that combine to feel a bit King Crimson like. Mellow classical music plays over the top of this in a startling contrast and sometimes takes command of the composition for a while. This includes some of the heaviest, most crunchy music on the disc, but it's not metallic, but rather in the lines of fusion.
Suite: Mov. III
This one comes in with a scorching guitar sound, but again it has a fusion, rather than metallic sound. While there is some dissonance on this jam it's quite a catchy piece of music that's definitely accessible. I certainly can imagine those who picked this up as classical music covering their ears about now, though, as this really screams at points. There is a definite Birdsongs of the Mesozoic sort of craziness to a lot of this. It's another strong cut and along with a few others (including the last track) a sure argument for including this in the progressive rock segment of MSJ.
Quartet: Mov. II:
This one is one of the more classical oriented pieces on the disc, while there is some dissonance, it reminds me a bit of something Beethoven or Bach might have composed. It's rather pretty and certainly more gentle than the rocker that preceded it. Later, though, it takes on a jazzy groove with its rhythmic patterns and begins to feel a bit more energized. I particularly enjoy the violin solo that comes later on in the piece.
Without
Acoustic guitar begins this one and eventually it is joined by other instruments to create a pretty and gentle ballad-like tone. Once again, dissonance rears its head here, but also as has been a pattern, this is a beautiful and powerful cut.
Enough
This has the most straightforward (but still acoustic based) rock song texture of any of the pieces here, but there is a definite Latin feel to the early sections. This fun bouncy piece of music still has enough instrumental variation to please and makes for a good closer.
 
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