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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jeremy Shaw

Neptune Ensemble

Review by Vivian Lee

Neptune Ensemble is a solo debut effort by Chapel Hill, NC artist Jeremy Shaw. The album features guests Jonathan Robinson on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Marc Gratama on drums and backing vocals.

Neptune Ensemble's nine tracks show an impressive range of influences that run the gamut from ska, reggae, jazz, and country. Neptune Ensemble is now available at either www.jeremyshaw.com or at live shows.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
All the Same
The funky, bouncy song's upbeat tempo and light tune offset the potentially depressing lyrical content detailing what a drag life can be when you're over worked and underpaid.

Another Day
Is Shaw saying "don't worry be happy", or "if life hands you lemons make lemonade"? Perhaps he's saying both. Bass and rhythm guitar harmonize and play well together. The instrumental break at the three-minute mark contains nice interplay between bass and guitar as well as a notable guitar solo.
So Be It
This is an upbeat song with interesting instrumental breaks that remind me of metal. Intriguing, this is a strong track because of the instrumental breaks. The instrumental solo at the two-minute mark goes from metallic to funky to rocky to jazzy.
Control Drama
Funk, jazz, and rock fuse to make this instrumental piece the strongest track on the album. It has a flavor like Stanley Jordan or other similar sounding jazz-fusion bands, yet not. This relaxed but intense groove quickly rocks my world.
Green Canopy
An eco-ode to living the simple life for Mother Earth's sake. Shaw's rapping reminds me a lot of Deborah Harry a la "Rapture" minus the heavy funk factor. The compelling lead guitar solo makes me think Alex Lifeson meets Eric Johnson.
Hyperbole
A fast paced bass riff gets attention and sets the pace and is also the backbone for this song. The band's jazzy vocal styling calls to mind Manhattan Transfer. The interesting use of hyperbole is both clever and silly.
Needle In My Eye
The title alone evokes vivid images of drug use. Not a glorification of the High Life, this is actually a cautionary tale. Altered states of consciousness are described in a fast paced reggae-rock style a la the Police ("my mind was temporarily visiting another land"). Shaw demonstrates some keen storytelling ability through a Show Don't Tell function, via writing through the protagonist's point of view. The country/rockabilly flavored instrumental break at the 3:31 mark is odd but it works in the song's favor.
House Music
Seventies funk/house music meets Shaw's brand of rock. After the 4:55 mark it gets heavy funk-metalish
Mental Elephant
An ode to the secret value of daydreaming, the mental elephant is a nifty fantastical critter - a metaphor for going into a magical place in one's mind. ("I close my eyes, to see another kind of consciousness, To be, to touch, when the outside words too much"). Close your eyes, relax with this song, and get in touch with your own mental elephant. What a soft slow jazzy way to complete the album - beautiful.
 
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