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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jon Butcher

Pictures from the Front

Review by Larry Toering

Jon Butcher is a true talent of rare proportions, and this is a masterpiece of the AOR / prog variety which cannot be quite compared to anything he's recorded prior or since. This is a radio friendly version of Butcher for once, after several records that only sported the occasional effort in that area. This explores dreams, miracles and other possibilities that both give and take from everyone at one point or another. It's like he is singing in the mirror and it's telling him something back. The combination of guitar virtuosity and artistic preaching are hard to equal on this outing of perfection. If only Butcher would resurface with anything like this.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I'm Only Dreaming

The sweeping airy chords of Butcher's guitar sets the mood right up before he sings the melody with that wonderful raspy tone. Dreaming is the concept of this disc and is mentioned in titles and songs throughout. While not the best track, it doesn't defeat the purpose of opening this fine release. It's a solid way to start a solid album and get the theme rolling.

Might As Well Be Free
This has more of the Jon Butcher Axis feel to it, but with a little harder edge that he moved onto when he dropped the Axis. Freedom is another one of the vibes that can be felt here, as Butcher sings of the notion that he might as well be free. The lyrics begin to dominate the disc already and stay the course as it goes, with words like “I've got leather on my heels / rubber on my wheels/ and I've got a Magnum .44 / And 'if those bad times aren't over for me / I might as well be free.” There is a fine bit of tasty guitar work on this one, and I could listen to it with or without vocals.
Live Or Die
There are a few epic worthy tracks on Pictures from the Front, and this is one of them. When Butcher sings his heart out, it's magnificent, and this track brings a tear to the eye because it's so emotional. Feel the pain as he sings like his life depends on it. This is absolutely beautiful sounding.
99 (May Be All You Need)
The concept fires up on this track where Butcher starts to explain the difference between 99 and 100 on the street and the belief that 99 may be all you need, as it's close enough to 100 anyway. This is brilliant in its message to street life and its shortcomings, from junkies to winos; it's all the same to Butcher as he works out his demons. The desperation slices through like a knife as if Butcher was really trying his hardest to tell the world what was really going on. This is one of the more lyrically complex numbers, but it fits the thread.
Beating Drum
This has more of a tribal factor, naturally. It's not hard to get the message here as well. It's about two boys, one born to freedom the other a slave.... but is anybody listening?
The Mission
Things get raunchy here and the beat pulsates as the guitar gets downright lyrical and dreamy. This is a smooth, but rocking, instrumental. This is driven by an excellent rhythm section and some light keyboard textures. It’s very nice indeed.
Send Me Somebody

This is where the whole disc shines. This track complements what came before and what comes after. Chasing those dreams all pays off, as Butcher pines for someone he can dream about. The guitar chops take a back seat here but certainly enhance everything nevertheless. This is an AOR classic that is now just way too good to be reduced to radio airplay in my opinion. It's a superior effort, and then some with an almost pretty melody. This is absolutely outstanding!

Division Street
Now this has to be something to which anyone can relate, as I've been to very few cities where there isn’t a Division Street. What an amazing vibe this has! It's an account of hard times and crimes that take place on the local strip. There is a repeating thick guitar riff that comes after the chorus, and it's sheer magic how it's delivered. This is another one of the highlights of this slab of mellow ear-candy.
Come and Get It
With a nasty groove and big drum sound, this shuffle instrumental helps keep the vibe in place as things come to an all too fast end. This is where Butcher really lets fly on the guitar, showing he has chops that contend with the best virtuoso blues players around. It is a testament to this day of his ability to swing between several genres.
Waiting for a Miracle
Things close with an homage to Viet Nam, and this calls to Butcher's Axis period, when he wrote a lot about war and its effects. This is another of the epic style numbers and comes in the form of more of a ballad-like track. This is a beautiful ending to a beautiful record that begs to this day for a mainstream follow up from Butcher.
 
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