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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Karnataka

The Storm

Review by Steve Alspach

Rare is the album that can impress you with its ability to carry you away with its softer material yet can rock out enough to keep you awake. The Storm, the second album by Karnataka, does just that. Led by the lovely vocals of Rachel Jones, this outfit is able to find a perfect balance between its Celtic roots with some muscle-flexing rock.

The personnel on this album are: Karnataka (Rachel Jones, vocals; Jonathan Edwards, keyboards; Ian Jones, bass, acoustic guitar, bodhran, and samples; Paul Davies, electric guitars; and Gavin John Griffiths, drums and percussion); Peter Davies, Scottish small pipes; Steve Evans, percussion samples; Jenny Hooker, recorder, and Steve Simmons, tenor and alto saxophones.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Heaven Can Wait
The album opens with waves washing on the shore while a harp plays a soft melody. Jones' vocals intertwine over the verses, and Davies gets two solos here. You've been rocked out and you hardly notice.
Dreamer
This shows the band in rocking mode, sounding a bit like October Project on steroids.
The Journey
At 8.25, this is the longest piece on the album, but it is a well-arranged number that doesn't stretch for lengths' sake but instead takes its time. The verses are acoustic-electric, and the chorus goes into a more powerful mode.
Hay
A sampled harp plays a hypnotic arpeggio over this waltz, yet Davies' guitar work and Griffiths' syncopated hi-hat work add a lively edge to the song. Simmons' saxophone soloing closes out the song on a light note.
Love and Affection
This is a mid-tempo rocker with lyrics hinting at unrequited love and frustration ("Lie to me, baby / before you lay me down / and believe me, I know you too well").
I Should Have Known
Things get even more relaxed with this acoustic-rooted, 6/4 selection.
Everything Must Change
Karnataka sounds most like Capercaillie on this song without wearing its Celtic roots on its sleeve. Jones' voice is multitracked in the verse and chorus.
Shine
Jones' unaccompanied vocal lines at the beginning seem disjointed, but they are only snippets of the verse structure. The song itself is a strong piece of work. Ian Jones' bass is at its most fluid, and the clavinet proves to be real toe-tapper.
Writing on the Wall
This is another relaxed rocker. The two-chord pattern in the chorus makes for a good structure that the band expands on for the song's coda. Davies' lead over this pattern is languid yet melodic.
The Storm
A harp sample plays an unusual yet subtle bossa pattern throughout this song that deals with an ill-fated sea journey. The piece maintains a three-chord pattern throughout with no change for the chorus. It hits its climax halfway through with an excellent Davies solo, then winds down to the last verses. The band fades out to the sounds of the sea.
 
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