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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Nick D' Virgilio

Karma

Review by Gary Hill

Nick D' Virgilio, the drummer best known for his work with Spock's Beard, but he also served as the drummer on part of Genesis' single post Phil Collins disc. With Karma Nick D' Virgilio has prepared a solo album that represents progressive rock on an equal caliber as that dished out by those two bands. He also shows that he is more than just a drummer. In fact, most of the work on the album is done by the man himself. It seems that the only times he brings in other musicians is when he wants their work, not because he needs their help. He certainly chose wisely in whom he got to join him, too. Obviously he looked to the Beard camp in the form of Alan Morse and Ryo Okomoto. He also enlisted the input of most of Beer For Dolphins (Mike Kenealy, Bryan Bellar and Rick Mussallam). Notables among the others are Dave Carpenter (Andy Summers and Louie Bellson), Mike Johnson (Dinosaur Jr.) and Kevin Gilbert (Toy Matinee). The sampling offered up here is a pretty diverse one, both in terms of the talent present and in the modes of the prog styles presented.

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
The River Is Wide
Acoustic guitar opens this one, then leads into a bouncy melody line. A progression that feels a bit like an AOR take on newer rock takes the piece for a time. Then a modern Rush type of texture runs in. This one kind of keeps reinventing itself over and over until the verse enters. As it does it is in a balladic sort of tasty rock progression. This one gets pretty intricate and powerful at times, and the bass work really stands out. The Rushish textures return from time to time.
Dream in Red
This is a bouncy popish cut that feels a bit funky and a bit Beatlesesque. It gets rather involved as it carries on
Forgiven
This is a hard rocking cool textured retroish prog track that feels a bit like Spock's Beard at times. It is a very strong piece that both rocks out and has a lot of intriguing changes.
Karma
This one has an interesting percussion based arrangement with jazzy vocals that are almost scat.
The Game
This is a mellower balladic prog number that has quite a cool texture. It builds on this basic structure becoming harder rocking and more intricate in style as it carries on. This is a standout cut.
The Water's Edge
A melancholy song, this is about a love lost to a tragic series of events. It has a great and complex, somewhat sad texture befitting the lyrics. The piece is quite proggy, yet accessible and even a bit Beatlesish at times. This one is a real winner!
Come What May
This is a poignant and pretty piano ballad.
Untitled
This instrumental feels a lot like something from the classic era of Genesis. It is a killer jam that suddenly turns hard-edged and just a little funky.
Will It Be Me
Starting in a balladic pretty and intricate mode, this one begins a gradual building process. It is kind of poppy and could be a bit forgettable if not for the inherent conviction.
Anything
This one has more of a modern rock feel to begin, but then it switches to a fairly hard edged, just slightly gritty rocker. It changes again after a time, this time to a more progressive rock oriented segment. The segment that ends the piece has a very exceptional arrangement, especially in regard to the vocals.
Paying The Price #1 - Dysfunction
Percussion begins this one, and a cool bass groove continues it. As the song builds on this basis it begins to feel like a great prog take on a soft jazz arrangement. It then drops to a balladic mode to continue. That movement crescendos after a time, then a new bass line takes the piece, and drama builds for a while until a metallic prog guitar line blasts out. This ushers in some strong jamming, Ala Beard. It eventually drops down to an all new segment that ends the composition.
Paying The Price #2 - Paid The Price
This one emerges from part one as a more straightforward down to earth rocker with a cool riff occasionally showing up. The chorus comes in with an awesomely dramatic arrangement. Then the song alternates between the two sections until a new, slower mid-section shows up. That segment is just a tiny bit Genesisish. Coming out of there, the cut emerges into a new, fairly triumphant sounding prog refrain that begins a strong building process. It eventually crescendos back into the chorus. A sampled type of rhythmic segment ends the cut and segues it into the next one.
Paying The Price #3 - Unknowing
The rhythmic outro from the last track carries over into this one, and a verse based on fairly sedate tones begins the song. Then a killer bass groove takes the number for a ride. It carries on with a new melodic, ballad type segment. Then that bass jam returns for the chorus and evolves into a potent prog interplay that serves as a great conclusion to the album proper.
Hidden Track
The CD is actually ended by a rhythmically driven progression that is one part military cadence, one part old time rock and roll and one part prog - for a total of all fun.
 
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