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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

HBC

HBC

Review by Gary Hill

In a lot of ways, decoding this album is as simple as decoding the three letters of the name and album title. The “H” is guitarist Scott Henderson who is best known for Jean-Luc Ponty, Elektric Band and Tribal Tech. “B” stands for bassist Jeff Berlin, known for his work in Passport, Vox Human and Bruford. The “C” represents drummer Dennis Chamber of Parliament Funkadelic, Santana, John McLaughlin and Niacin fame.  With a lineup like that one expects a few things. First, instrumental talent that’s nearly unmatched is expected. Secondly, a reverence for and adherence to lots of melody would be called for with that lineup. Finally, one would think the group would play in a fusion vein. All of those things are true, and this is a  great disc that really delivers on the promise that each player brings to the table. This lands in the progressive rock section of Music Street Journal based on the fact that fusion and prog are pretty close and that these guys have all played with prog acts at one point or another.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Actual Proof

Funk brings this in with style and they work out with that groove continued. Melodic fusion emerges in new directions from there. This is a powerful and effective musical ride that takes us through quite a few cool changes and alterations while the musicians manage to astound throughout. Each gets a particular section to lead the way, as well.

Mysterious Traveller

While this is still clearly fusion, it rocks out harder and has more of a mysterious dramatic, darker tone than the opener did. This is more like something from Steve Vai or Joe Satriani in a lot of ways. There’s a more evenly distributed section later, but overall this one’s more of a guitar showcase.

Footprints

More of a traditional jazz vibe is heard as this opens. Some of the melodies are bit obtuse and this is just plain cool. Bass clearly drives a lot of it, but the melodic clean guitar playing is also all over the cut. There is really some incredible instrumental interplay on this thing. We’re taken through some unusual changes as this thing continues and all in all, it’s an intriguing piece of music. 

D Flat Waltz
In some ways this is even weirder. It’s an odd sort of waltz, but it’s also got both the guitar driven brand of fusion in place and sections with more typical jazz. Still, we also get some sections that land pretty close to rock music. I would have to say that Dixie Dregs might not be a bad comparison here. There is some seriously screaming guitar on this beast. It’s a very extensive jam, running almost twelve minutes. They even, as a three-piece manage to take it into a section that calls to mind big band music later in the number.
The Orphan

The bass is the real driving force on the early parts of this as the cut is quite mellow and atmospheric. It grows out very gradually. There’s an unusual section after the two minute mark that has bits of sampled vocals over some percussive bits. This is a fairly short piece and never changes a lot. It’s a great interlude amidst the crazier music on the rest of the set.

Sightseeing

This one powers in with some killer fusion sound. The bass works into a smoking hot groove as the tune beefs up and the whole thing just becomes incendiary. Some of the coolest moments of the whole disc are contained here. There’s a killer bass solo later and the movement that ends the piece just has some great layers of sound.

Wayward Son of Devil Boy

With some scorching guitar soloing, we have a blues jam on our hands here. It’s a guitar showcase.

Threedom

This is essentially a bass solo and a dramatic and cool one at that. It’s mysterious and powerful.

Stratus

Percussion leads this off. They fire out into some smoking hot fusion from there. There aren’t any big surprises, but it’s a satisfying way to end things in style.

 
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