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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

William Shatner

Ponder the Mystery

Review by Gary Hill

The last couple albums from William Shatner have landed in my “best of” lists for those two years. This one might well do so, too. There’s some pretty tough competition this year, so we’ll see. Other than Shatner who provides spoken vocals and lyrics, the main man here is Billy Sherwood and I love pretty much everything he does. This is no exception. I’d say that there tends to be more variety to this than on some of Sherwood’s works. All in all this is a great disc with some exceptional guest performers. It’s often more art than rock out music, but it’s always great.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Red Shift

This powers in extremely dramatic and has some elements of Eastern music laced within the sonic tapestry. It’s a short instrumental introduction.

Where It's Gone...I Don't Know
Acoustic guitar based melodic progressive rock serves as the background. Sung vocals start and Shatner’s spoken vocals run counterpoint to them. Although the sung vocals were the first ones, they echo Shatner on the verses. This is a slow moving number that’s dramatic and quite pretty. It has an understated beauty and majesty to it. The guitar solo (by Mick Jones) is particularly noteworthy. The section later where Shatner’s voice echoes out makes me think of Fish era Marillion. All in all, this is an awesome tune and it turns into a smoking hot jam later.
Manhunt
A somewhat mellower tune, this one makes me think of Open Your Eyes era of Yes quite a bit. That said, there is also Hawkwind-like space rock in this. Of course, when you consider former Hawkwind violinist Simon House plays on this song, that makes sense.
Ponder the Mystery
In some ways the title track seems a bit more sparse in terms of its arrangement. That said, it’s somehow more accessible in some ways. As good as the first couple pieces were, this seems to work better somehow. It’s another great song. There are some almost Beatles-like moments in the arrangement here. It’s also got some awesome guitar courtesy of Steve Vai.
So Am I
A tribute to a four-legged furry friend, as a dog lover I can sure relate. This is quite slow and mellow. It’s also quite magical. The guitar solo section on this one is particularly noteworthy. Of course, it’s Al Di Meola, one of the greatest guitarists on Earth, so that makes sense.
Change
This starts off rather tentatively. It gets more developed as the vocals emerge. Then it powers out into a cool jam that has a lot of symphonic elements, some world music and plenty of pure prog built into it. It’s a mystical kind of mix of sounds that wanders towards Beatles-like territory at times. I really love the keyboard soloing on this. Of course, it’s trademark Rick Wakeman, so that makes sense.
Sunset
A rather dreamy tune, this makes me think of the more melodic and mellow side of early King Crimson. It’s got some real drama and magic built into it.
Twilight
Very jazzy, this is soulful and sultry and very cool. It’s a short tune, though.
Rhythm of the Night
More of a fast paced Yes-like rocker, this is another tasty tune. There are some cool shifts and turns along this road. It does feel a lot like something that might have been on Yes’ Open Your Eyes album.  A saxophone later in the track lends some jazz to it. A flute solo should be mentioned, too. Both of those instruments are handled by former Hawkwind member Nik Turner.
Imagine Things
Acoustic guitar based sounds open this in a progressive rock ballad style. The cut grows into another that’s quite Yes-like. It’s also quite magical.
Do You See?
If I had to describe this one in a short phrase I’d say Yes (perhaps Tormato era) meets psychedelia. There is an awesome instrumental section later and this is one of the more effective pieces here. This gets a little funky later, too.
Deep Down
I really love the groove on this one. It’s got a cool sound and is rocking, but also suitably mellow. Robby Krieger handles both sitar and guitar on this.
I'm Alright, I Think
Dreamy music with some real magic in place, both keyboards and saxophone seem to dominate this arrangement. It’s another with a smooth groove to it. 
Where Does Time Go?
This has a metered approach that’s appropriate for the lyrical content. It’s a mellow and quite trippy number. It’s also got some particularly tasty guitar work later in the number. This is one of the better cuts here. Considering the competition, that says a lot. George Duke (RIP) does a keyboard solo here.
Alive
I love the bass line to this piece. It’s one of the more energetic pieces here and just plain rocks. It’s a great way to end things in style.
 
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