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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ken Hensley

& Live Fire – Faster

Review by Larry Toering

Organist, guitarist and vocalist extraordinaire Ken Hensley has outdone himself here with Live Fire, and even though there is still a touch of that classic Uriah Heep sound, it's not only heavy rock, it's prog because it's a concept album. The prog factor is pulled off by the AOR vibe mixed with a strong metallic feel and theological and sociopolitical themes. It all crosses the country to city and back by the time it's  over and done. Afterword, there remains a yearning for more on this marvelous Eagle Rock Entertainment/earMusic release.

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
Set Me Free (From Yesterday)

It doesn't start off any better than this, as things go from light and mellow to epic and explosive in this amazing hard rocking opener.

The Curse

This is another awesome number with a strong organ driven shuffle. It’s kind of hard not to hear of bit of Uriah Heep here, but considering who it is, it would be very hard to get around at least a few points here and there. The thing is, this is as good as anything the Heep ever did with Hensley.

I Cry Alone

A searing blues guitar gets this one underway before it’s made clear that this is going to be a ballad, and a theologically interesting one, at that. There is no secret by now of a threaded approach. More amazing guitar and vocals are displayed on this track.

Faster

Things go from burning rubber to “the speed of light” on this great AOR sounding title number with lots of organ and interesting bits of jazz guitar. This is a truly marvelous track, easily one of the album’s best, with its killer fast pace, yet extremely mellow vibe.

Katrine

This is a raunchy sort of  ballad with yet another light touch that adds a nice flavor. That combination saves the day and makes the disc thus far consistently spot on. This also features more killer guitar work.

Slippin' Away (The Lovers Curse)

This is another light paced groove in the AOR vein, and I think it's one of the best tracks on here. That’s because, even though this is a hard rocking album, it's also very smooth and easy to enjoy. I just love this! “Don't point your pointless existence at me...” There are some fine lyrics and lovely backing vocals here to boot. It's just not what you'd expect to hear by this point on the disc.

The End Of Never

Another biting riff leads into a frantic pop oriented track with a catchy chorus and lots of humor throughout  this otherwise sleepy sort of dreamy little gem.

Beyond The Starz

Thunder and rain introduce some fantastic female vocals, some excellent guitar and then another ballad in the epic tale approach. This features more melodic grooves and majestic vibes. This is another of the best tracks on Faster.

(At) The Last Minute

This is a more stripped back and pedestrian number, but it's somehow not out of place. It's kind of urban for its surroundings, but it's still such a likable track either way. It's a trip through the city of life.

Somewhere (In Paradise)

The AOR factor once again shines through, yet doesn't quite dominate the entire show. This is just another lovely little tune to add to the proceedings for good measure. It's a vibe that makes it all worth while.

Fill Your Head (With Rock)

This is somewhere between the heavy and lighter elements found all over the album. It’s not the best but not the worst thing here. Of course, there is not one bad cut. It has a strong metal feel, not that unlike Europe meets Queen with heavy organ and female backing vocals.

Circle Of Hands (live) with the NRK Orchestra

This is a bonus track featuring the NRK Orchestra, and a beautiful way to close such a great album. The orchestra adds what winds up being a grand finishing touch on what is already an outstanding band.

 

 
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