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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Nu Shooz Orchestra

Pandora’s Box

Review by Gary Hill

This is the newest album from Nu Shooz Orchestra. While they are generally considered a jazz outfit, I’m putting them under progressive rock because they really stretch the boundaries. Sure, some of this is pure jazz, but most of it isn’t. It might not be a tight fit in prog rock, but it’s not a tight fit in jazz, either. It is a very cool disc, though.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Welcome To My Daydream

This rises up gradually with classical elements along with world elements and even some hints of The Beatles. As the vocals enter it becomes more jazz-like, but there’s a lot of suitably dream ethereal sound and some serious progressive rock built into this. The instrumental section focuses on expanding the dreamy textures along with some progressive rock and jazz elements. The strings later really bring a lot of Beatles to the table.

Spy vs. Spy
Starting with an ominous element, spy sounds join after a time. There are a lot of big band elements here, and in many ways this feels like it could have been a theme song to a James Bond movie – one of the early ones. It’s a killer tune that’s a lot of fun. The bridge on this brings more progressive rock to the table along with more classical elements.
Right Before My Eyes
There’s a sixties sort of jazz pop vibe to this tune, mixed with elements heard on the songs that brought us here. While this is still good, it doesn’t stand as tall as its predecessors.
Pandora's Box
There’s a cool rhythmic element to this piece and the track features a jazz meets theatrical music meets progressive rock sound. It’s one of the coolest pieces on show, but also the shortest. There is a cool psychedelic segment that calls to mind the Beatles near the end.
Color of Everything
A mellower tune, this is more exploratory. It’s more purely progressive rock oriented, in the mellow end of prog rock, but there is still a lot of jazz built into the arrangement. However you slice it, though, it’s a great song and one of the highlights of the set.
Looking Glass
A driving rhythm section, cool melody line and scat vocals lead this out in a tasty exploratory way. There are a lot of cool vibes and sounds on display in this intriguing piece. Perhaps it’s more purely jazz than some of the other stuff, but I still make out some progressive rock in the mix.
Miles Beneath the Sea
There is a definite classical texture here. We still get some jazz on display and in many ways it shares some territory with both the Rock in Opposition movement and space rock. It’s quite an intriguing turn.
Before The Fall
Starting with some of the most purely jazz-oriented stylings on show, this modulates out into some of the most progressive rock oriented music. It shifts to more jazz later, but makes its way back to the rock-like sounds further down the road. In fact, this piece does a great job of alternating between the two. The vocal arrangement on this is particularly cool and there are some sections of the piece that make me think of Traffic a bit. Some of the bass work here really stands out and there are some definite spacey textures on show at times. It’s really one of the coolest cuts here.
Charade
Bass starts this tentatively. As the vocals join this is a torch song. Some classical elements join after a while and this is another that feels like it could have been a theme song to an old James Bond movie. Of course, this is a theme song to a 1960s movie, done up Nu Shooz Orchestra style.
Skeets Benni
There’s a really cool groove to this, and some harmonica here and there lends some blues to the mix. Still, there are little fills and excursions that take it off in almost Zappa-like directions at times and the vocal arrangement has some scat built into it. This is quite a unique and cool piece of music.
The Return of Point of No Return
The bass line that leads out here calls to mind Stevie Wonder, but the song moves out in different directions than that comparison would lead one to believe. It’s quite funky and quite cool. This has one of the most modern arrangements on show and it’s lots of fun. It alternates between jazz, electronica, prog and even a little hip hop. There is a killer guitar solo on the piece and this thing just oozes cool.
Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
This is one of the most purely jazz romps on show. In fact, I’d say there’s really no rock in this one at all, but it’s quite a cool tune, nonetheless.
Driftin'
Another that’s not got a lot of rock in it, this is a killer smooth jazz number that’s got a great vocal arrangement and some smoking hot horn work.
I Can't Wait (20th Anniversary Edition)
There’s some rock in the mix on this, but overall it’s a soulful jazz groove. It’s cool. It makes for both a great bonus track and a great way to end the set in style.
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