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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Niacin

Live Blood, Sweat and Beers

Review by Gary Hill

Niacin have been quickly establishing themselves as a prog group that is at the top of the heap. Here they, Dennis Chambers, John Novello and Billy Sheehan present a live album (with two previously unreleased studio cuts) that showcases the talents of this hot fusion based trio. The material here is made up of cuts not presented on the two recent Magna Carta studio albums, thereby making this a must have for collectors. It also shows that all three men bring much to the sound of the group. This is a stand out album, and a solid addition to any prog fans' collection.

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Track by Track Review
Clean Up Crew
The disc is started by a short, but quite tasty bass solo from Sheehan. This is rather funky and full of power.
Do A Little Dirty Work
A drop ending from the previous cut sets up this Hammond B3 heavy jam. The organ provides a killer retro texture while Sheehan's bass holds down the rhythm in deep tones. This one is quite jazzy and has a great groove.
Bullet Train Blues
This is faster-paced, and the bass really drives it. It is, despite the title, only a little bluesy, but definitely a lot of fun.
Hell To Pay
A frantically fast bass riff starts this, then the cut changes to a slow grind. This is another smoking jazzy number that has quite a few tones and moods. There are quite a few changes to this one, but it maintains a heavy texture that is very meaty. It is one of the most effective pieces on the CD.
Niacin
This is another frantic jam that has a retro texture and unbelievably fast bass line. It is short, to the point and awesome.
One Less Worry
Starting with mellow piano, this builds quite slowly on that basis for a while. As it carries on the piano takes on various melodies wandering between the frantic and the sedate, the jazzy and classically dominated. After a time the bass comes in in a pattern that calls to mind the riffs of Chris Squire, and the group are off on an uptempo prog rock excursion. Sheehan's work is a definite standout and a must-have for bassist and bass fans. Chambers shows off his chops on the skins here, also.
I Miss You (Like I Miss The Sun)
This cut is slower and quite evocative. It is one of the bluesier tracks on the album. Novello really makes the keys cry and sing on this, and it is so tasty.
Klaghorn
This starts in dissonant cacophony. As the intro ends a short silence gives way to a killer jazzy jam based on an awesome extended riff. This is one of the more jazz oriented numbers on the CD. Chambers finds room to show off on this one, too. In fact, he manages a full-fledged and very impressive solo here.
Three Feet Back
A juicy organ intro starts this off, feeling a lot like Jon Lord's Deep Purple work. In fact, at points I felt like the band was about to let loose with "Lazy". After a bout a minute and a half of just the keys, the band bursts forth into a tasty jam that has quite a solid groove to it.
Purple Rain
Covering a cut by one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, Niacin star this with a texture much like the original. In fact, the whole piece feels pretty faithful, with Novello's keys taking the vocal line. Therein lies the only problem with this cover. While on the chorus the keys are effective in replacing the voice, the verses seem a little lacking in that department.
No Man's Land
Keys start this cut with a dramatic flair, but it quickly shifts gear to a fast and furious prog/fusion jam that really smokes. This one never outwears its welcome either, being fairly brief, but packed with quality instrumental performances.
You Keep Me Hanging On
Their take starting much like the Vanilla Fudge rendition of this classic, that proves to be the mode of the entire track, but Sheehan's bass expertise seems to add a lot at various points in the track. I never really found myself missing the vocals on this as I did with "Purple Rain", and this is truly a great cover.
Front and Center
The first of two previously unreleased studio tracks, this is another fast paced fusion cut that really moves.
Gelatin
The other studio cut, this is aptly named as it is slower and truly feels "jiggly". The bass line that drives it is a very intriguing one.
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