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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tom Griesgraber and Bert Lams

Unnamed Lands

Review by Gary Hill

What an interesting collaboration this is. Tom Griesgraber is best known for his stick work and Bert Lams is one third of the California Guitar Trio. The two of them together have created a disc that is pretty amazing. The range of sounds is quite wide for instrumental work. There isn’t a weak piece here. Nor does it ever feel tired in any way. This is great music that should please fans of both artists and manage to surprise most of them at least once or twice during the course of the 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
Unnamed Lands

They open this disc with the title track. It’s a pretty and mellow piece. It seems fairly simplistic, but if you really listen, that’s a deception. It’s actually intricate and complex. It just doesn’t feel that way. That’s a pretty impressive feat. It’s also a great accessible piece of music.

Don't Look Back
There’s almost a 1970s classic soft rock vibe to this. Pair that with some jazz and the classic California Guitar Trio sound and you’ll be on the right track toward imagining what this sounds like. It’s more energized than the previous number and a bit more of a rocker. It’s no less compelling or intricate. There’s a pretty, more lushly arranged section later that has more of a pure mainstream prog sound.
Prairie Suite
As great as the first two tracks were, they didn’t really prepare us for the level of magic contained here. It starts with something that reminds me just a bit of the folk side of some of Steve Howe’s guitar work. Mind you, that’s blended with the California Guitar Trio sound. It grows gradually from there. It works through various shifts and changes within that concept as it grows and it features some great soloing. Then around the three minute mark we’re taken into a more rocking jam that has some fusion built into it. This thing is one of the best musical passages of the whole set. The guitar soloing is quite expressive and potent. It keeps growing out from there and later we get some of what Adrian Belew used to call “elephant guitar” or something like that. This is complex, compelling and powerful. It drops to a sedate movement after that.
A Red Glow Against the Sky
This rises up gradually with almost space like atmospherics. As the guitar starts to bring in melody and tension, this gets quite intriguing. Then the bass lends another angle and I’m somehow reminded of the early spacey side of Pink Floyd just a bit. That never gets fully realized, though as the mellow arrangement fades down to end.
Where the Trail Divides
Intricate guitar opens this and it starts to evolve from there. Eventually this gets more of a rock energy as it moves forward. It keeps shifting and changing as more symphonic prog elements weave over the top. This is quite a beautiful and evocative piece of music that keeps reinventing itself.  By around the three minute mark this gets quite powerful.
A Letter Home
Although this has the same level of intricacy and progressive rock concepts as the rest of the music here, it comes across as more homey in a lot of ways. This feels a lot of the time like folk music. Mind you, it does get a more energized and complex telling later and there are also plenty of classical elements (and perhaps a little blues) in the mix, but overall this feels like a folk rock instrumental. Steve Howe is at times a valid reference point again.
Insects
This is the most “different” thing here. It’s not far removed from Rock In Opposition. Psychedelic elements dance around with weird sound effects and musical patterns. This is rather freeform in nature. It’s strange, but it’s also compelling. It has some atmospheric symphonic overtones, too. It’s a short piece.
Vaquero
Here we come back into the melodic and pretty music. The folk elements are again on display here. There are definitely some bluesy down-home textures present on this. It’s another short piece.
Smoke Signals
This short piece is a mostly textural one that’s both a bit weird and quite effective.
War Dance
The blast that opens this makes me think of Belew era King Crimson. The piece drops back for a short time, but then moves out into that same groove. It’s one of the most rocking numbers here. There are twists into world music, hard-edged psychedelic inspired rock and much more. This is an ever growing and evolving number that’s among the best of the set. It’s pretty amazing stuff. Around the two minute mark it just drops off and a new, mellower motif rises up to take it in a different direction. Then it rises back out to another rocking groove from there. This is definitely the musical gift that keeps giving. There are some really dramatic and powerful moments before it ends.
Lumbering Prowlers
Coming in atmospheric, this feels a bit ominous and mysterious. The bass sound emerges amongst other elements. This is echoey and otherworldly. Yet, that bass sound drives this beast as it continues. There is almost a funky fusion sound to this as it gets away from that atmospheric section. There are some distinctly King Crimson-like moments on display here. Yet funk and fusion are constant companions, too.
Unearthly Screams / Scattered
King Crimson, California Guitar Trio and more of a straight rock and roll sound are merged as this killer works outward. That carries it past the minute and a half mark. Then it drops way down and a new intricate movement emerges. It makes me think of Mike Oldfield a bit, but with that CGT twist to it. As this builds up it gets pretty rocking and intense.
Rebecca
This pretty piece is in stark contrast to the power of the previous one. It’s more like mellow fusion. It’s quite intricate and beautiful. There are some hints of country music in the mix on this. It’s really the perfect piece to follow that last one.
Pacific
While there aren’t any surprises here, this is a great melodic progressive rock piece that fits very well with the rest of the music here. It’s got plenty of shifts and changes and is an effective and accessible number.

 

 
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