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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Sean Wayland

Barrenjoey

Review by Gary Hill

The music here works between jazzy rock, pure fusion and a couple of other styles. Musically this is a great disc. The only real issue is the vocals. The thing is, it’s not the vocals are bad. They aren’t. They are very similar to the kind of thing you hear in Steely Dan. The big problem is there’s just not enough variety from one song to another in the vocal department. That means that by the time it’s been going for a while it gets pretty old. This album would have been better with some changes in the vocals or by cutting a few songs out or just including a few instrumentals to break it up. Still, each song taken individually is great and even that monolithic nature is only so detrimental. It’s still an impressive and creative set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Barrenjoey

The title track opens the disc. It’s got a killer, funky rhythm section. The shifts and changes are unusual, yet somehow accessible. The vocal arrangement is top-notch. This is fusion magic. I really love the guitar solo on this thing. At times I’m reminded of Traffic here.

What Do You Know
Take the sounds of the previous tune and turn the whole thing more mainstream and you’ll have a good idea of what this is like. It’s almost got a Steely Dan vibe, but with more pure fusion and progressive rock in the mix.
Better Down South
Even more mainstream than either of the previous pieces, this is very much like a jazzier version of Steely Dan. It’s a great tune. The instrumental section on this is particularly tasty.
Designer Babies
The fusion elements driving this are much less mainstream. It shifts and turns frequently and rather left-turn-like. This song has lyrics that talk about “jazz fusion music” and Frank Zappa. You can’t beat that. It’s a weird one, but also a very cool one. It has some intriguing musical passages and instrumental sections.
Slide on Thru
More of a rock song, this is again like a jazzier version of Steely Dan in a lot of ways. The soulful female vocals are classy and I love some of the keyboard bits here. The guitar solo on this has a lot of classic rock built into it and is particularly noteworthy.
Forgotten
Another set in that Steely Dan turned more jazzy approach, this is another strong cut on a disc that’s full of them. The instrumental sections are more pure jazz for sure. We get some tasty saxophone solos on this one.
Grey Goo
A mellower cut, this one is more of a pure jazz piece. It’s a bit strange, but yet works quite well. Again, the saxophone really shines. The space jam in the middle of the track has more of a rock vibe to it, at times feeling a bit like Traffic and at other times making me think of King Crimson a bit. There’s also a spacey instrumental section later.
Jazztafarian
Here’s another that has some definite Steely Dan elements to it. The music is great fusion really.
Looking at You
Although the rock is not fully out of this, it’s much more of a pure fusion piece. It seems to even have some classical leanings at times.
Mind over Mind
I love the jazz groove on this one. It’s got some of that Steely Dan element here, too, but overall this is a great fusion piece.
Mirrabooka
More high energy than the previous tune, this one is no less jazz-oriented and no less cool. It’s got some great musical moments. It makes me think of Spyro Gyra quite a bit. The keyboards really steal the show for me on this number.
No Credit No Problem
This is more of a pop rock piece, but it still has a lot of jazz in the mix. The jam later in the track, though, takes it to more pure jazz territory.
Repeat Repeat
I love the keyboards on this. It’s a faster paced number with pretty much equal parts jazz, rock and pop music.
Scum Valley
This arguably the most purely rock oriented song on the disc. It’s got some great movements and is a cool tune overall. Even the instrumental section is arguably closer to psychedelic classic rock than it is to jazz.
Tricknology
Steely Dan meets progressive rock here. Yes, there is some jazz here, too, but it’s less dominant than it is on some of the other music.
Under D Tree Restaurant
This one has a lot of reggae in the mix. I can even hear some country music in the jamming here. It’s a good bit of variety.
When Will I See You Again
A mellower and more melodic number, this is back in the fusion meets jazz rock territory. It’s good, but by now the formula is really starting to wear thin. An instrumental or a change in the vocal department would go a long way towards freshening things up here. It’s really a shame because some of the later sections that make me think of Pat Metheny are quite exceptional.
Will We Ever Meet
More energy and groove is delivered in this tune. The keyboard soloing in this is great.
1800 Funk
As it should be, there is a lot of funk in this. It’s also another with a lot of Steely Dan in the sound. This is a cool tune and manages to stand out despite the formula issues. That says a lot. This is really one of the best pieces here.

 

 
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