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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Spoonbeach

Spoonbeach

Review by Gary Hill

Music that blends different genres generally falls into two types. The first is the complex variety. It’s music that seems to thrive on rapid changes and forcing disparate styles together with often musically violent results. When it works; it’s art. When it fails; it’s hard to sit through. The second type is music that combines things in such a way that it feels natural. It’s the type of music that holds a groove and seems instantly familiar. That type of sound reveals its complexity only on deeper analysis. Such is the soundscape created by Spoonbeach. The music is a unique combination of Latin sounds, classic rock, progressive rock, jam sounds, funk and fusion. Yet, it never feels strained. The listener gets caught in the mood and just flows along. Only by digging deeply into the varied sounds is the mixed up nature of sounds revealed.

While the overall balance of the album seldom shifts far in one direction or another, there are songs that feel more like a certain genre than other cuts. The thing is, whatever direction Spoonbeach pulls the sound, it always stirs the soul and gets under the skin. Even when it does head heavily in one direction, it still feels organic and connected to the rest of the sounds on the set. This is the kind of music that doesn’t require any kind of learning curve. Fans of classic rock and mellow jazz will certainly enjoy this album. Really, though, it’s hard to imagine that there’s anyone out there who wouldn’t get caught up in the killer grooves. This is kind of universal music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Wonder

“Wonder” opens the set and its sound covers ground between classic rock textures, jam band music and progressive rock. It’s accessible and tasteful, yet doesn’t feel lacking in flavor or style at all. This is poppy, but also meaty. The chorus calls to mind a jazzy Grand Funk Railroad or Rare Earth and there are some retro keyboards sounds and sultry saxophone on display.

Rainforests

A funky bass line drives “Rainforests.” There is definitely a Latin flavor built into the cut, along with hints of reggae and a lot of jazz. The chorus is again quite familiar in texture and built on a great hook. While the horn section commands a lot of attention, there’s a smoking hot guitar solo built into to carry the mid-section. This is like Santana meets Spyro Gyra with some Captain Beyond built into the choruses.

Solitary Castaway

“Solitary Castaway” combines the jazz elements with a progressive rock sort of texture. It’s kind of like a cross between the mellower era of Rush with Toto and the aforementioned Spyro Gyra. The mid-section of the tune takes on more of a jam band element.

Crystal Highway

They take it into mellower territory with the smooth jazz styled “Crystal Highway.” Somehow the tune seems to combine that Spyro Gyra sound with Steely Dan and even a little Pablo Cruise.

Downscale

The bass brings a rubbery groove to “Downscale” and the percussion and vocals call to mind Santana while that Spyro Gyra element still hangs out. The bridge has more of a classic rock texture.

Trust

“Trust” comes in with some definite funk but shifts towards some more progressive rock like material, think “Rush” again.

Sun

Percussion starts “Sun” and it is, in many ways, the most directly progressive rock oriented cut. Of course, there’s still a lot of fusion to be heard. The vocals are more subdued than on the rest of the material, almost in a spacey kind of style. Still, there is some soul carried on the vocal delivery and some steamy guitar soloing emerges, too. That guitar soloing turns a bit like a bluesy Hendrix-inspired sound later in the piece.

If With You

“If With You” comes next and it fires out of the gate with a lot of energy. The musical motif is very much along a fusion meets progressive rock style.

Silently She Speaks

Arguably the most jazzy cut on the set, “Silently She Speaks” has a bit of Dave Matthews vibe and both psychedelic rock and progressive rock elements.

Fragile (Handle With Care)

“Fragile (Handle With Care)” seriously brings the funk to close the set in style. It’s high energy and soulful.

 
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