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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jean-Luc Ponty

Imaginary Voyage

Review by Gary Hill

This is a rather unusual album for Jean-Luc Ponty. There are parts of this that land in the same sort of fusion territory one expects. Other parts, though, seem more like mainstream progressive rock. If there’s a disc of his that fits really well under prog this is it. Of course, I generally land fusion there, any way.

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Track by Track Review
New Country

Percussion opens this and then the violin joins. The rest of the group comes in to launch into a fast paced jam that’s quite strong. It’s a bit on the pop music side, but it’s also great. As one might guess by the title, there are hints of country hoe-down music in the mix.

The Gardens Of Babylon
Ponty’s violin work always shines, but I really love the funky bass on this. The piece is a more serious one with a lot of great musical textures and themes built into it. The piano is noteworthy, too.
Wandering on the Milky Way
Echoey sound makes this spacey. It’s a violin solo and it’s very cool.
Once upon a Dream
Here we get a full group treatment. This is more the kind of killer fusion one generally expects from Ponty. There are some great musical moments on this. There are definitely some space elements at play here at times.
Tarantula
This is a tune that rocks out a bit more than some of the rest. It’s a pretty fired up jam that’s got plenty of progressive rock along with the fusion. Some of the instrumental work here is among the best of the disc.
Imaginary Voyage, Part I
The first movement of a four part epic that ends the disc, keyboards start this. It’s the most purely progressive rock oriented track of the set and at times makes me think of Zappa a bit. I’m also reminded of Yes and Genesis at points during this movement.
Imaginary Voyage, Part II
As it shifts into this section, it takes on more of the typical Ponty fusion sounds. That’s not a bad thing, of course. Ponty puts in some particularly melodic work on this number. As the exploration continues, though, it’s made perfectly clear that this is a group effort as different instruments lead the way here and there. It’s quite a pretty piece, if not as dramatic as the previous movement.
Imaginary Voyage, Part III
Coming out of the previous movement an odd speeding up spins this into chaos. Then it works out to a mellower jam that’s quite cool. As it intensifies, various instruments lead the way. This is another cut that definitely leans more towards the progressive rock end of the equation.
Imaginary Voyage, Part IV
What a cool piece this is. It starts with some spacey sounds and builds out gradually. It’s got some smoking hot guitar soloing and really lands well in the rock side of the equation. After a time it shifts out to a somewhat mellower and more melodic section and then eventually resolves back out to familiar themes from there. Ponty gets some major opportunities to shine as it works its way forward. Then there is another drop back to dramatic, but mellower territory.
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