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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steven Wilson

The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve seen some reviews that simply gush all over this thing. Well, I’ll say that it’s a very strong album. It’s certainly worth owning and worth listening to. There are definitely some magical moments here. I’m just not sure that it has the kind of energy or cohesiveness needed to really hook the listener and live on as the kind of masterpiece some are making it out to be. Yes, it’s a great album. Yes, it’s better than a lot of the stuff out there. I just don’t know if it lives up the kind of massive praise some people are stacking onto it. By all means, go out and get it. You’ll dig it. Just don’t expect your world to change by listening.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Luminol

The rhythm section opens this and what a rhythm section it is. Some killer modern prog with plenty of classic sound is heard over the top as the arrangement fills out from there. We get some hints of fusion over the top of that mix. At points this reminds me of mid-period Rush a bit. It drops down for a wall of vocals and the cut keeps shifting and changing from there. There’s a guitar riff that feels really familiar to me before the bass takes over again. The piece starts getting exploratory from there. As the instrumental movement continues it shifts to something that feels a bit like Yes for a time. Then it drops down to a mellow motif that makes me think of Peter Banks era Yes. The vocals come over that, bringing more of a modern prog sound to play. Then the flute we heard earlier returns to carry this in new directions. It just builds organically from there. Some cool keyboard soloing is heard later as this continues to grow. Then multiple layers of vocals come in as this works through from there. A powerful new section emerges around the eight and a half minute mark. There’s a killer guitar solo over a fast paced prog movement later. At points some of the guitar soloing really makes me think of Steve Howe’s work around the Close to the Edge era of Yes music.

Drive Home

Coming in quite mellow, early sections here make me think of early King Crimson. As it grows out there are points where I’m reminded of Genesis and others that call to mind Pink Floyd. Still, the overall impression is original and unique. It’s also moody and pretty. Further down the musical road we get into some jazzy territory. Then a picked acoustic guitar section that really makes me think of Floyd and Genesis both comes in beyond that segment. It powers out with a more melodic rocking segment from there. Other sounds come in as this continues. The guitar really calls to mind David Gilmour at times, but other musical elements keep that Pink Floyd thing down a bit.

The Holy Drinker

As this starts it might feel like you’ve walked into a different album. The cut begins with some serious fusion and works through a number of variants and changes in that genre. That said, there are some moments that again make me think of Rush a little bit. It works out further down the road to something more akin to the melodic, but dramatic progressive rock of the rest of the album. We get shifts from more vocal driven to dramatic power rock. There are definitely more hints at Rush in the mix here. This is another quickly shifting soundscape. It’s also another progressive rock powerhouse. There are some more fusion elements at times, too. This thing is a killer prog rock journey that traverses a lot of territory. There’s another extremely mellow section later. In fact, it’s arguably the most sedate movement of the whole disc. Then a noisy keyboard sound rises up from there. The cut turns almost metallic from there. In fact, this gets very powerful and very dramatic as it continues. In some ways, it’s not that far removed from symphonic metal.

The Pin Drop

Starting with the mellower prog rock that I think of when I consider Wilson’s work in Porcupine Tree, after the first section of vocals it powers out to a more powered up, but still very melodic jam from there. Some saxophone playing brings an intriguing edge to the piece. This goes through a number of shifts and changes. It’s killer stuff. Of course, that statement could be made about everything here. I love the melodic guitar solo that flies over the top of this later.

The Watchmaker

Intricate acoustic guitar opens this. As that builds out, it creates the backdrop for the first vocals of the song. There is definitely an old school Genesis vibe to this. This stays mellow much longer than anything else here. It’s intricate and rather symphonic. It seems quite organic a lot of times. Sometimes it feels a bit like Renaissance in some ways. It’s around the four minute mark before it really rises up much. Even so, it’s still fairly mellow and melodic and that Genesis reference is even more prevalent. More rock gets added a minute later and it evolves out to a killer prog jam a bit like Traffic goes more mainstream progressive rock. There’s another smoking melodic guitar solo on this number. It turns towards noisy space rock later. A bit of jazz seems like it might end the piece. Then the earlier motifs retur from the sedate tones that came after the jam. Eventually, this shifts out to a Yes-like movement. Well, at least the bass work makes me think of Yes. It shifts to a bizarre sounding section as it continues. While it’s odd, it’s also dramatic and powerful.

The Raven That Refused to Sing

This comes in slow and very mellow. It’s dramatic and powerful. It’s also arguably the most like Porcupine Tree of anything here. It’s the most constant, too. That said, while this is not the best track here, it’s also strong and does a great job of bringing the disc back to ground.

 
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