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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Salem Hill


Review by Steve Alspach

Thank God for perseverance. Without it, Edison would have said "The hell with it, candlelight's not so bad," the book of Exodus would have been a lot shorter, and Salem Hill wouldn't have given us this crafty little gem. Longtime band members Carl Groves, Pat Henry, Kevin Thomas, and Michael Dearing have stuck it out over the years, and this album (voted as the album of the year by National Review Online - think it will show up in William Buckley's CD collection?) shows a band at top musical and songwriting form.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
After the sounds of waves and gulls start the album, this short, acoustic preamble sets the lyrical tone for the rest of the disc.
The band kicks in on this track. The rumbling riff echoes the song's sentiment of a man full of ideas but finding that nobody will listen.
Nowhere Is Home
This slow, ¾ piece is very reminiscent of Neal Morse's shorter works in Spock's Beard.
The Great Stereopticon
This song is ideal as an introduction to the band. This mid-tempo song is well-constructed, and the transition from verse to chorus, with its gently ascending keyboard chord sequence, is priceless.
Children of the Dust
After the initial two-verse blast, the song goes into a rather intense instrumental section, only to swerve into a Kansas-like vocal refrain of "So Human", a theme to be addressed in the next song.
So Human
Spock's Beard isn't the only band who has a good grasp on Gentle Giant-type vocal arrangements. This 2.21 piece, tongue held firmly in cheek, bounces back and forth between whimsy and a strong punch.
The Red Pool
This is a rock-solid number that, with its catchy chorus, would also find a good home on the radio.
This one borders on metal prog without power guitar chords and running double bass drums, but then it can swerve to either a light-step acoustic section or a pseudo-baroque section that borrows the melody from "Reflect."
Seattle (In Memory of...)
 Referred to as "London of the States," Salem Hill switches gears to a piano-bass arrangement while paying homage to "Starbucks, Ichiro, Red Delicious, Ann and Nancy," and "Eddie's flannel show."

The band takes a rather serious lyric turn here with this tale of doom and gloom. It's a rather harsh tune.

The Perfect Light
This is a quirky number - at first a bouncy pop tune, the song then goes into a slower-tempo pre-chorus, and then airy chorus with its call of "regard me."
Love Won't Save the World
This sounds a bit like Genesis with the layers of keyboards and melodic guitar solo in mid-song.
This is a slow, languid acoustic-based tune with acoustic guitar tuned percussion sharing time with an electric guitar, played with a touching sense of legato.
Regard Me
"Be" closes with this tune, a return to the theme of the album's opener.
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