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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Tangent

The Music That Died Alone

Review by Josh Turner

Stop reading right here… Go out and get the album NOW!!! You should run, not walk.

Oh, you are still here to read a reviewer's opinions? Well, there is plenty to say about this release. It is about as perfect as a progressive rock album you can get, which is why you should be listening to it rather than hearing second-hand information. The musicianship is technical, yet efficient. It is neither overblown nor is it too short. Elements of jazz are fused throughout. The contributions from each artist are stellar and the lyrics are quite astonishing. This is a super group, considering you have contributions from leading artists in progressive rock from three different generations. Andy Tillison, keyboardist from Parallel or 90° is the front man for the project and he brings along an excellent cast. On loan from The Flower Kings comes not one, but three musicians: the amazing Zoltan Csorsz, Jonas Reingold, and Roine Stolt. Adding pinch-hitting to the line-up comes Sam Baine on piano and the up-and-coming multi-talented solo artist, Guy Manning. Last, but not least, making an unprecedented appearance and adding shape and depth to the instrumental section is David Jackson from Van Der Graaf Generator.

If you have not guessed, I really liked this release. I am a very picky listener. An album is lucky to make it through a complete listen on my stereo. Aside from gems such as the releases of Transatlantic and the last two Dream Theater albums, repeat listens are highly uncommon. It has been awhile since I played through an album and then replayed it. This one qualified. Actually, it got three consecutive listens. No, not all at one sitting silly, but you get the picture. There is really a lot to absorb. It takes awhile to sink in and then the genius to it hits you. The album is similar to The Flower Kings and Transatlantic (hmm, I wonder why?), but much different since Andy Tillison is responsible for the foundation. Andy is in the drivers seat. You know that the music must be extraordinary in order to have this sort of cast taking direction from a new age progger. When I heard this background behind the music, my reaction was very similar to hearing that no other than Daniel Gildenlow, the most talented vocalist in the business, was singing backup (Can you believe it?) on the Flower King's latest album, Unfold the Future. Anyhow, enough fanfare, let's discuss the album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The album is divided into 4 sequences: 3 multi-track epics and one standalone song.
Sequence 1 - In Darkest Dreams
The album starts out with this epic sequence, which is upbeat, but paying attention to the lyrics you will hear a much darker message, making it a bit manic-depressive. It clocks in at about 20.56
Prelude - Time For You
The start of this track, the album for that matter, is purely awesome. I have noticed with many progressive rock albums there is a slow build up in an epic. Not the case with this one. Like Karmakanic's opening to Entering the Spectra, this one grabs you from the first note and does not let go. There are some very juicy symphonic bits in this track.
Night Terrors
This number features a groovy jazzy beat overlaid with Roine's relaxed vocals. Halfway through they introduce the epic's chorus with vocal harmony from the rest of the band. This piece is a cross between something you would expect from Sting and The Flower Kings.
The Midnight Watershed
We experience another smooth transition. The jazz gets a little funkier. Jonas' bass goes from sliding up and down the scale to jumping back and forth. Here is some great bass playing. Roine gives us some great rifferage here, as well. As it progresses, we get what appear to be Andy and Sam trading off between the piano and keys. There are many great solos here, too.
In Dark Dreams
This one definitely starts with a Flower Kings vibe, especially how Jonas is playing the bass. Andy comes in with lead vocals. In some ways, his voice is somewhat ordinary, but at the same time it is not. You will have to hear it to know what I am saying. There is a tension in his words. It is almost like he is talking to the listener and reminiscing about reawakened memories. He sings with so much passion. This is evidence that he put so much of himself into this project. Towards the end the flute makes it presence in a solo backed by the rhythm section, and then it is followed by a little sax bit.

The Half-Light Watershed
This starts out with a smidgeon of sci-fi noises, and then it gets a little acoustic. It is a short piece.
On Returning
We experience gentle layered vocals in this track. This is short as well.
On Sax in the Dark
Guess what? The sax comes to play and has some short exchanges with the rest of the band.

Night Terrors Reprise
The chorus returns in a grand finale. Zoltan takes center-stage, but everyone else's instrument has their say. In the end it dissipates into a dreamy state, not much different from the ending of Transatlantic's All of the Above. Fortunately, it is a bit more concise.

Sequence 2 - Canterbury Sequence
Many tout the second sequence as the highlight of the album. I will state the obvious, but this is a tribute to the Canterbury genre. This style of music sounds a bit like jazz mixed with progressive rock. The singing style is definitely jazzier while the instrumentals build a wall of undulating sound. Here David Jackson is busiest adding a dry woodsy sound with the sax and flute.

Cantermemorabilia
Another great start and a quick build up, this is progressive, but it is different. The lyrics really work here, even the nonsense words. The keys are sprinkled throughout the music in a very unique way. The flute comes in an out at will. Again, we feel a Flower King's vibe towards the end, but it is not an exact incarnation, owing to the fact that Andy's keys are quite different from Bodin's.

Chaos at The Greasy Spoon
It is like we are torn into a different world. The transition is a bit abrupt, but not unwelcome. The piano and bass are quick with some slow synthesizer in the background. After the aroma settles around us, out comes Roine in the forefront with his signature guitar. It ends with the keys and flute filling up the space.

Captain Manning's Mandolin
This is just a simple, yet still beautiful wrap-up. It leaves the listener wanting more. It is like you are awoken from a nice dream and wanting to go back.

Up-Hill From Here
I have heard it stated that this song is out of place with the concept of the album. I am not sure whether I agree or not. This piece is stellar and worthy of its spot. It begins as a tasty little rocker, which could have been overblown had it continued the formula throughout the entire track. However, the piece does not get repetitive, as about halfway through it turns into a killer jam started off by Roine. There is a quick return to the vocals, but then it comes back to the jam and really gets exciting from that point on. There are blues brother style keys and a fantastic bass line. This requires American Bandstand fanatical dancing. If I did not have both hands on the wheel, I just may have driven off the road. Ladies and gentlemen, bring out your air drums, guitar, keys, and bass!!! The finish is phenomenal. Many thanks go out to the decision-makers who opted to keep this one on the album. It is not filler. I repeat; it is NOT filler.

Sequence 3 - The Music That Died Alone
A Serenade
The title is fitting for this one. It is obvious the author had a romance with this style of music. He feels it died an untimely death while it was in its prime. He definitely does his best to revive it here.

Playing On...
The lyrics are stunning. He sings about the forgotten music. This is a creative topic. An interesting layering of vocals is featured. While in harmony, they are almost chanted, not sung. There are several beats here not unlike theme music to dramas found in the seventies.

Pre-History
This is easily my favorite moment of the disc. That says a lot considering how much I liked the opening to the Canterbury Sequence and Up-Hill From Here. Every instrumentation found in this piece is precise, timely, and so unbelievably yummy (yeah, music to me is like food for the soul; I devour it when it is this good). The pace changes throughout. Each player contributes equally, having his own moment.
Reprise
Here we are brought back to planet earth. We drift away from this alternate reality and go through a cool down period to catch our breath. When the music has finally exhausted our brain and we think it is over, there is one last chorus and some subtle riffs. Then the synthesizer carries us back home.

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