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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Narada Michael Walden

Thunder 2013

Review by Gary Hill

What a cool album this is. I put the other release from Narada Michael Walden under progressive rock because the type of fusion it presented seemed to fit there. This one is definitely not fusion and not prog, but it does have some elements of both. This is more of a pop rock album. The most frequent contender in terms of influence is Lenny Kravitz, but this has more range than that and some songs don’t touch on that sound at all. Whatever you call it, though, this is an especially strong album. It might make my list of best discs of the year.

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
Thunder

This short introductory piece is an instrumental. It’s got some space rock, some fusion and some Hendrix in the mix. It’s a great way to start things in style.

Throw Your Hands Up
This energetic rock has a lot of blues rock in the mix. If I had to nail it with a quick description, I’d say Lenny Kravitz meets Stevie Ray Vaughn. Whatever you call it, this is a smoking hot tune.  The guitar solo is killer.
Shake the House
More on the lines of pure blues, this is still red hot. I love the guitar work on this and the sound overall is great. The understated vocals work well, too.
40 Days
As this comes in it feels a lot like Pink Floyd. It’s a slow tune and it’s definitely blues based. It’s also a bit on the understated side. I’d have to call this thing progressive rock, though. In fact, there are parts of this that make me think of Yes just a bit. It’s a great tune and one of my favorites here. Considering how strong this album is, that says a lot.
Shirley Mae
I’m again reminded of Lenny Kravitz on this tune. It’s got a lot of energy and a lot of charm and style. The guitar solo is a real screamer, too.
New York City
Percussion opens this. As the vocals and some other instruments join, the Lenny Kravitz vibe is definitely there. This has some female vocals and more of a rhythm based arrangement. While it’s not one of my favorites here, it is good and lends some variety to the table. This is soulful and tasty.
We Belong Together
In a lot of ways this feels like it could have come out of the 1970s. It’s kind of like a power ballad that grows as it continues. That Kravitz reference is still somewhat accurate, but this really feels more classic rock oriented than that even conveys.
Down Low
Powered up and fun, this is funky and very cool. Lenny Kravitz is again a valid musical reference but older soul sounds seem to fit as influences, too. The guitar solo is particularly tasty.
Miracle of Fatima
This is quite a pretty and effective instrumental. It really has some soaring moments but remains mostly mellow. It’s a great marriage between rock and jazz sounds.
Dragonfly
Parts of this make me think of Pink Floyd. Somehow the vocals on this (and some of the music) call to mind Peter Gabriel a bit. It’s an energetic rocker with soul music, pop and rock all seemingly merged. This is one of the cooler pieces of music and I really love the guitar soloing.
Movin On
Starting very bluesy, some scat singing is heard on the introduction. Then it modulates into a pop rock tune that again seems to nod a bit to Kravitz. This is classic and yet modern at the same time. It’s another killer tune on a disc that’s full of killer tunes.
Dreams of Vinyl
Female vocals drive this one and it has a real soulful sound to it. There are some almost hip hop like elements here musically. There is even some rapping on this. Still, it lands into a great pop rock kind of sound more than anything else. This is basically a tribute to the musical greats of the past.
Don’t Wanna Let You Go
The hard rocking riff that drives this almost feels like something Led Zeppelin might have created. There’s more of a modern texture and mix to the song, though. That said, Lenny Kravitz is again a valid reference point. The screaming guitar solo is awesome.
Power
There are both male and female vocals featured here. Some of those female vocals are so powerful that it really fits the title. This rocker is another that has a definite resemblance to some of Lenny Kravitz’ music. It’s also another killer cut.
 
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