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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Emily Bezar

Exchange

Review by Gary Hill

This is an insidious CD. On first listen it seems, “okay,” but it gets under your skin. Each subsequent listening has you further under its spell until you are really a big fan. I suppose that’s what can be said of the best progressive rock, so that’s a good sign. The music here is along the lines of jazz, but there’s lots of progressive rock and classical in the mix, as well. The vocals (and some of the music) call to mind both Tori Amos and Kate Bush. This is truly a CD that will appeal to fans of both of those ladies. All in all, this CD will become a treasured part of your collection with your appreciation of it growing with each repeated listening.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Saturn's Return
A jazzy musical texture leads off in a motif that still somehow has a bit of a King Crimson feel to it. The vocals come in over the top of a swinging rhythm and feel rather like Kate Bush and Tori Amos meet Lene Lovich. This is a cool piece of music that’s not the most easily accessible and yet still has a catchy air to it. There’s an intriguing bridge that’s got a bit of a Pink Floyd sound on the music. We are lead out later in a pretty and quite lush journey. A piano and voice excursion still further down the road gives us more of a Tori Amos feeling. This gives way to a frantically paced prog rock jam and then eventually shifts back to the song proper. We get an extremely jazz oriented piano solo beyond this. Then it’s another variant on the main theme with more Tori Amos oriented sounds as the resolution. As this is built up it really resembles the more powerhouse arrangements of Kate Bush a lot. Another jazz oriented romp takes us to the feedback laden noisy outro.
Anything They Say
Pink Floyd like keyboard sounds start this. As Bezar’s voice comes over the top I’m again reminded of Tori Amos quite a bit. It evolves into a funky sort of jazz groove later. In many ways this songs is more consistent than the previous one. The same general thematic structure holds this one for a longer period than what we had in the opener. It gets different treatments but remains essentially the same until a frantic (more pure progressive rock) jam takes it for a while and then deposits the listener back into sedate keyboard and voice territory. This is worked upon for a while and then takes us back to the song proper. We get more piano and voice treatments later. That segment eventually takes us out.
Lament
Coming in very gently with a jazzy keyboard texture and voice, this one calls to mind Tori Amos even more than anything we’ve heard thus far. It’s definitely both more classically and jazz oriented than anything Amos has ever recorded, though. This one changes very slowly and gradually. As it does grow it leaves behind most of that classical leaning and focuses more directly on the jazz side of things. There are times where you might here Pink Floyd on this. The track is definitely different and more ethereal, but I like it a lot.
That Dynamite
Here we get a lot more pure prog rock approach than we’ve heard on the disc so far. This is a fairly straightforward cut that works quite well. A couple drops back to more mellow material are a nice touch and this powerful piece is one of my favorites on show here.  The section that takes is just past the four minute mark has some extremely emotional and powerful vocal showings. It is among my favorite musical segments of the whole CD.
Heavy Air
This one comes in much more purely jazz oriented. It’s a cool groove and includes some great horns. We get plenty of progressive rock and fusion in the mix as it carries on, though. This moves through a number of changes but still stays reasonably consistent in terms of musical stylings. It’s another killer track and another highlight of the CD.
Strange Man
A Pink Floyd like, keyboard dominated, jazzy backdrop creates the scenery for Bezar’s vocals. Eventually this is built up into a more complete and potent jam that’s still got plenty of remnants of the introduction in its midst. At almost ten minutes in length this one is epic in proportion. It’s also very dynamic. The track is moved through a number of revisions and full alterations. We get jazzy prog, proggy jazz and everything in between. This is another powerful track and another of my favorites on show here.
Glory or Crazy
Based on a Tori Amos meets jazz and classical treatment, this becomes an intriguing musical groove and landscape. It’s a strong cut and allows Bezar’s voice to shine with an ethereal soaring delivery. The piano is also quite prominent on this and the track often times calls to mind Kate Bush, too. It becomes quite dramatic in places, but settles back down to pretty textures to close it out.
Climb
A big band jazz treatment leads us off here. Although we are given some different types of sounds here and there, this motif, with a number of variations and side journeys, takes us through the bulk of the piece. It’s a change and rather cool, but perhaps one of the weaker tracks on show. Of course, nothing here is anything close to a “skip it” track, so this is more about how strong the rest of the songs are than it is about any weakness in this cut. We do get some killer jazz jamming here and there. It also turns a bit weird later, but in a cool way.
Winter Moon
At over eleven minutes in length this is the longest cut on the CD. It rises up with a gradual cacophony. The vocals join and begins to feel like part opera, part Broadway musical and part fusion oriented progressive rock. This motif is built upon in a slow moving progression. After a time it takes on some weirder elements, but also has an even more profound classical element to it. This one is quite dramatic and intriguing, but in some ways doesn’t do as much for this reviewer as some of the other material on show here. A classical string section takes over around nine and a half minutes in and takes it to its conclusion.
Exchange
Pretty piano leads off and builds up in a jazzy motif. The vocals come in over this backdrop – also gently. This mold is never really broken, but they get quite involved with it. This track still remains very classical in nature.

 
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