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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Martina Downey

Sign Post

Review by Gary Hill

Martina Downey has produced an intriguing album with Sign Post. The disc combines jazz, classic rock, psychedelia and other elements into a mix that qualifies for the most part as progressive rock. Sure, there are some points here that aren’t prog, but overall, it lands close enough to that genre to warrant inclusion there. The most frequent non-progressive rock link would seem to be David Bowie, but the earlier, more artistic period is the specific on that reference.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Be Paused

Psychedelia is merged with jazz as this starts. It works out through some killer jamming that’s almost progressive rock. It drops back to a more straightforward arrangement, still full of jazz and psychedelia for the vocals. There are some cool shifts and turns along this road. The guitar solo section later is quite cool, and very progressive rock-like. In fact, it reminds me of a cross between Steve Howe and Di Meola.

Hurricane
The vocal arrangement on this is unusual and unique. The whole piece has a real symphonic prog element to it, blended with a lot of psychedelia. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the early years of David Bowie. There are quite a few shifts and changes and this is a great tune. In fact, I’d consider it one of the highlights of the set. It’s got some great instrumental interplay, at times while the vocals are underway. That’s a little touch I always liked in older music and it seems lacking in a lot of modern stuff where the instrumental soloing gets compartmentalized away from the vocals.
Slide
There’s a cool bouncy retro sound here. It’s perhaps stripped of the psychedelia, but it still feels nicely tied to older days of music. The progressive rock tendencies are still present, but in smaller helpings. This is more like classic rock. I love the vocal arrangement on this.
Sign Post
Certainly this mellow tune has a lot in common with modern progressive rock. It’s slow and ballad-like in a lot of ways. It has a real symphonic arrangement and a tasty retro-styled melodic guitar solo. There’s a mellower section later that again calls to mind early Bowie. We get some more proggy jamming with some hints of jazz after that, too. The closing segment is also quite cool with a lot of progressive rock in the mix.
Tired, Sick and Lonely
Bouncy and nicely quirky, this is a fun tune. It is another that reminds me quite a bit of Bowie. It’s perhaps more classic rock than progressive rock, but it’s also very interesting. There’s a more complex movement mid-track and another later in the disc. We also get a section with more layers of vocals creating drama. From there, we get taken out into something that’s almost like Nektar.
Like a Flower
This piece works through a number of changes and variants. It’s often delicate. The vocals are quite emotional. While this is, in some ways, understated, looking beneath the surface reveals a lot of substance here. It’s not the most “in your face” proggy tune, but it really has plenty of prog in the mix. It’s also one of my favorites in the set.
Catch the News
Piano opens this and holds it for a while. Then it works out to a more developed arrangement. Again, I’m reminded of Bowie. I like this tune, but I’m not overly crazy about the doo wop backing vocals. Still, those are only included in the first part of the cut. There is a cool guitar solo on this piece and some other intriguing instrumental passages. This is another that, later, resembles Nektar quite a bit.
Dark Caverns
The arrangement that starts this is fairly stripped down and jazzy. It works gradually out, but still stays rather sparse. It’s only until around a minute and a half in that it gets a more powerful musical concept. Still, it’s based on the same slow progression. When that second section joins, it resembles Pink Floyd a little. Then a new section emerges that’s more dramatic and powerful. It really works out to almost spacey prog from there.
Finer Things
I definitely wouldn’t call this tune progressive rock. It’s got a bouncy arrangement that’s fun and a little jazzy. It really fits most closely into a style that’s along the lines of 1970s mainstream mellow rock. It’s not one of my favorites on the set, but it is catchy.
Close to Her
Opening with a saxophone heavy arrangement, this comes in slow and jazzy, but also very dramatic. As the vocals enter it becomes more artistic in its sound. It’s kind of a slow jazzy ballad as it works out from there. From there, we get a section that features a more full arrangement and it comes more into a progressive rock vein. It drops back for the next section, but then works out to a decidedly psychedelic movement.
 
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