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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Quiet Earth Orchestra

The Quiet Earth Orchestra

Review by Gary Hill

Let’s get one thing out of the way right at the start, this is not an orchestra. In fact, it’s not even a band. The Quiet Earth Orchestra is actually a solo work from John Ludi. He has given us a CD that, while probably considered neo-prog, is so rooted in traditional progressive rock it’s nearly scary. This is a great album actually. You’ll hear echoes of older groups like Genesis, Yes and solo Steve Howe here, but you also might pick up on bits that are similar to The Flower Kings. Either way, it’s a strong disc that should please prog purists and neo-prog fans alike.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
History Ends Here
The intro to this one is surely the beginning of Genesis’ “Watcher of the Skies.” Right where the vocals should enter, though, it moves out to something a bit like a fusion-texture. From there we get some Steve Howe-inspired guitar work. Then it drops way down for the first vocal segment. This is fast paced neo-prog that is firmly rooted in the vintage progressive rock sounds. After this vocal section we get another inspired prog rock instrumental motif. Then keyboards take control for a time. It shifts out from there into a dramatic and rather mysterious sounding section. Next up we get a motif that’s based in percussion and keyboards. The vocals that come across here remind me of some of the electronic new wave music from the 1980’s. After this section we get more Steve Howe-like guitar – in an arrangement that calls to mind Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe. Then another section of vocals and we’re back into ABWH-like guitar solo territory once more. This time the instrumental section ends it.
God
Bouncy, echoey guitar that’s again rather like Steve Howe, leads this off. As the other instruments join and the track is reformed, it still feels like something from Howe’s solo catalog. This makes its way through a series of instrumental sections, but still feels very much in keeping with Howe’s work. As the vocals enter, though, it shifts out into something a bit different. When it moves out after that segment we get some distinctly Yes-like music for a short instrumental interlude, but then we’re back to the vocal portion. More Yesisms occur after that and then lead into dramatic Steve Howe solo album type territory. These various motifs make up the rest of the piece.
Limitations
Keyboards start this off and the vocals join almost immediately. Keys with voice carries it for a while, but it shifts out to a slow moving, but more lush, progressive rock motif from there after a time. There are sounds here that call to mind Yes at times and as its shifted out for the next instrumental movement we get some more Howe-like guitar work. More movements are built in here, but much of the track has a Yes (or at least a Steve Howe) styled motif. There are some segments that don’t fit that image, but well over half of the cut does.

Simple
This title is somewhat appropriate, although perhaps “short” would be more fitting. This cut is an instrumental that’s essentially balladic. The main structure is based off of an acoustic guitar segment, but it gets more fully realized as it carries on. Still, it is rather brief (compared to the other stuff here) at around two minutes.
The Prophet
This one is definitely well rooted in Yes music but there are other elements here as well. The fast paced progression is amongst the best music on show here. The vocal motif on this one is pretty catchy and rather mainstream. We get treated to a great keyboard solo section later in the piece.
Singularity
Somewhat ballad-like (although it does get quite energized), this track has much more in common with The Flower Kings than it does older progressive rock. Running through a number of changes and alterations, I really could hear Roine Stolt’s band doing this track. The only vintage prog sounds I hear on this are closer to Genesis than anyone else.

Slow Down
Other than some brief parts which remind me of Jethro Tull, this one seems to be very much in its own stylings. It’s a rather bluesy tune at times, but is definitely a progressive rock piece. It’s more accessible than some of the other stuff here and is a good tune. There is one soaring segment on this and a cool acoustic guitar solo afterwards that turns a bit jazzy. This gives way to a fast paced, organ heavy section that is quite satisfying. We get a short reprise of the main themes to end this.
The Madness of Crowds
This comes in rather heavy and powerful. It drops back to a staccato sort of rhythmically dominated pattern for the first vocals. This, with more instrumentation added to it, serves as the central song structure as it carries on.  Here and there I pick up traces of different artists – the guitar stylings of Steve Howe, the bombastic motifs of Pink Floyd. The war effects that end this are definitely Floyd-like. I love these lyrics, “The punch becomes a fight / The fight becomes a brawl / The brawl becomes a riot soon to become a war / I run away.”
Cicadas
Here we have what is essentially a pretty ballad. There is a tasty prog electric guitar solo, though. The vocal arrangement on this one is worthy of mention as being above some of the rest of the music, too.
The Prophet's Theme
A pretty keyboard solo leads things off. Other instruments join and we’re lead along a potent instrumental pattern. This ends and gives way to a classical music styled movement. This doesn’t really wander far, but rather continues by repeating and merging these various sections.
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