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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Spiraling

Transmitter

Review by Josh Turner

You may be wondering how Spiraling fits into the music scene. That's simple. The keyboardist, singer, and frontman of this band is none other than Tom Brislin. If you're still confused, all we need to do is take a take a trip back in time… In the dawning days of progressive rock, there was a mighty band by the name of Yes. There came a time when they joined forces with a crafty keyboard wizard named Rick Wakeman.

While I may have lost you, trust me, this all relates…The band had much success in lands near and far. Eventually the keyboardist left to seek out his own solo career. To compensate for his loss, the cavalry contracted with an entire symphony orchestra. Since they were a progressive rock band, keyboards were absolutely essential to appease live audiences. So, when it came time for the band to tour, they invited a keyboardist to come along on their crusade. Tom was the valiant virtuoso who traveled with them on this fantastic voyage. If you think Tom was some sort of raw recruit, think again. When the band played Roundabout, Tom cast the spells with the skill of a seasoned sorcerer. This takes us to Transmitter, an astounding album that Tom's both written and produced. The music he creates here is neither progressive nor pop. To be honest, it's somewhere in between. While it's standard on the surface, the music is sprayed with all sorts of symphonic delight. It truly is a dazzling display of exuberant enchantment. This artist has thought of everything and it's quite apparent in the music. Much attention and management has been allocated to every aspect of his art. The mixing, mastering, in general, all areas of the production, are simply superb. As an engineer, Tom detonates every charge without setting off a single dud.

If he didn't already put enough thought into the music, I must point out that the packaging is just about as environmentally friendly as it gets. It consists of a thin cardboard foldout with all the lyrics and artwork neatly printed on each fold. The disc is held firmly in place, not by plastic, but instead by a very stiff sponge. Not only does Tom have skill on the synthesizers, organ, and electric piano, he also does a remarkable job singing. The only areas that call for assistance are the drums, bass, and guitar. This aid comes mostly from the helping hands of Paul Wells, Bob Hart, and J.P. Doherty. To get an idea of the music, many comparisons can be made. The songwriting has an elegance that's similar to bands like The Beatles, The Rubinoos, or Toy Matinee. The pop is potently charged like Owsley, Sugarbomb, or The Churcills. In some places, the music even gets gritty like Foo Fighters, Goo Goo Dolls, or Stone Temple Pilots. The album is highly accessible with loads of catchy melodies, but it should still appeal to progressive rock fans as well. There is no lack of symphonic sweetener. It's like a sugary snack that'll have you bouncing off the walls. It springs, it swirls, and yes, it even spirals, but it never seems to dull or dampen due to the result of repetitive actions.

Track by Track Review
The Connection
This song is an anomaly. It's exactly one part pop, one part prog. It's short, yet it makes time for a piano, drum, and bass solo. The chorus comes with a special sauce that's smart and sassy. It's the deluxe slapped into a tight tortilla wrap. It has all the fixings. He crams so much into the mix it's ready to explode. This economical cut could easily be a number that's two to three times its size.

The Girl on Top (of the piano)
The last song is so good I would have guessed he started with his best material. It comes as a shocker when you find out this one is better. The landscape is excavated in rock that's rich with The Rubinoos. The bridge utilizes The Beatles' blueprint. The overdubbed harmony is surreal-sounding while the keyboards have traits that are lively, lurid, and livid.

(I don't want to) Grow Up
The first couple notes could have been used in a Midway Arcade game from the eighties. The remainder is a melodic ballad with the heart and soul of Matthew Sweet. The power chords give this song the strength and sustenance needed to sprint a relatively short distance.

This is the Road
Goo Goo Dolls "Name" will be an instant association. Not much else explains the song better, yet this one has more powerful guitars and considerably kookier keyboards.

Transmitter
We jump right in the shallow end head first. This is the most progressive song on the album and it's a whole lot of fun if not a little dangerous. Just be sure to brace yourself for this perilous plunge into the hard and heavy riffs that lie below. In addition to these reckless rhythms, the keyboards prance and play like elk in the prairie. This gives a good example why Tom may have been chosen by Yes. It's like The Buggles and Todd Rundgren's Utopia all rolled up into one.

Lighting Twice
We continue on the same course. The keyboards rip and roar as Ryo Okumoto has been known to do on his keytar. The song also has its softer parts. The crazy mixed with the calm is what one might expect from Spock's Beard.

Living Proof
This is almost like Shania Twain or Sheryl Crow without the country, folk, or female singer. The keyboards are present, but they're merely added as light sprinklings. Even though this is plugged squarely into an electrical socket, it's easy to imagine an acoustic version.
The "L" Word III:
This is somewhat spooky. It is hard to tell if the singer is cautiously wooing an adored one or sinisterly stalking his prey.
Too Good To Be True
It's difficult to draw comparisons to something specific because it's a cross between such diverse behaviors. The bass bounces and then slides. The guitar slices and dices before it's significantly smeared. Tom raps, chants, and even swoons. No Doubt, Tracy Chapman, Oasis, and Kevin Gilbert can each be heard here. Together it actually flows very well and makes for one exotic tune.

Today is the Last Day I Fixate On Your Shape
If you haven't already guessed, this one is witty, wacky, and wild. This is funky pop in the vein of Beck.

(get your own) Holy Grail
Tom finishes with one of the best songs on the album. While he is best known for his keyboards, he demonstrates an aptitude for vocal variation here. It's simple power pop from an instrumental standpoint, but the delivery of his singing is quite stellar. When the last show of a season is finally aired, it should have you on pins and needles waiting for the next one to start up. That's actually how you'll feel when you reach the end of this album. Be sure to raise your antennae in order to receive the latest transmission from Spiraling. For anyone who likes pop, prog, and a little funk, this album is for you.

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