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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Strange Conversations

Teaching Me To Fish

Review by Gary Hill

This CD is a concept album that is based in progressive rock textures. That said, it's really quite varied. Parts of this land in the territory of metallic prog like Dream Theater. Other things are jazz oriented. There is a lot of mainstream music and even pop here. All in all, this is an entertaining set that's very artsy. Yet, it's still accessible. That's quite a feat.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Lion
An acapella section starts this with a very mainstream approach. Then some rather trippy space rock styled mellow music joins. As it works out to a rather soaring vocal arrangement this makes me think of Pink Floyd to some degree. The cut has a real melodic prog texture in that section. It powers out from there to some crunchy, psychedelically textured stuff. The piece works back out to more melodic song-type stuff to eventually take it to its end.
One in the Same
Mellower, rather symphonic, but electronic, sounds open this. The female voice that opened the album returns here. After this introduction some crunchy guitar takes it into a real AOR sound for the song proper. There are comparisons to things like Dream Theater to be made here. This is a real powerhouse with a number of cool shifts and changes. It has a good balance between the melodic and crunchy ends of things. This is one of the real highlights of the set. It's very meaty.
Old Man and the Sea
Coming in much more light-hearted and mellow, there is a real light, airy quality to this. It drops to a mellower section for a balladic approach for the entrance of the vocals. This powers up to more rocking stuff further down the road. It loses me just a bit at points, though. There is a bit of story-telling as a clip in this song later. That part works pretty well, but seems to far up in the mix. There is a good contrast between mellower and more rocking stuff on this tune.
My Pride
Pretty keyboard based sounds start this cut. The track works out to another balladic approach from there. It's particularly effective and very pretty. In fact, this is one of my favorite passages of the set. The song works forward with some decidedly intricate progressive rock. The piano really stands out at times. There is an electric guitar solo, but it's more of an intensification of the piece rather than something taking it into hard rocking territory. That said, this does shift toward a rather dark and heavier mode after that. Again, it calls to mind Dream Theater just a bit. They bring it back out to the balladic approach after that movement, though. It drops to just keys and voice for a while further down the road.
Casting Away
With the female vocals back, this is a real powerhouse rocker. It's proggy, but has a soulful edge to it. This one again shows a good balance between the more rocking and mellower textures as it works onward.
Strange Conversations
The band's namesake comes in with some real jazz sounds. It works out to an energized mainstream rock approach. The jazz remains and there is a soulful element built into this, too.
Manolin
I love the piano that dances all over parts of this. The cut has a lot of classical music built into it, but also a lot of pure progressive rock. The synthesizer solo is also noteworthy. This instrumental really allows all the instruments to get their time in the sun. The piece really shines. While the guitar and the keys dominate in a lot of ways, don't disregard the bass and drums because they manage to stand tall, too. .
Remember, It's September
A hard rocking number, this has a lot of AOR sound in it. That said, Dream Theater is again a valid reference point. This is driving, crunchy and yet still quite prog based. The tune has a lot of variety and a great balance.
Breathe Steady
More of an alternative rock edge is built into this number. It has some mellower movements, but a lot of it is in a crunchy kind of dark texture. The balladic section at the end brings a lighter sound, though.
Rinse
Jazz, prog and electronic music seem to merge on this killer tune. It has a real melodic and rich vocal arrangement with a return of the female vocals.
Time to Go Home
A mellower, more balladic number, while this is quite mainstream, it's also meaty. Around the mid-track point, this is shifts to jazzy  kind of up-tempo jam that's pretty cool. I'm reminded a bit of Spock's Beard as that section soars.
Sailing to Africa
I like this more or less mainstream melodic tune. It has some jazz and some prog in the mix. It's not far removed from something you might expect from 10cc in some ways, though. It's a classy tune and a good bit of variety.
These Woods
A cool melodic number, this has a lot of progressive rock in the mix. I'm reminded of Spock's Beard again here. They bring some jazzy textures as the horns enter later  and the tempo rises. It really turns to some mainstream jazz rock from there as it continues to drive with hook-laden textures. Then around the half way mark we're taken into a cool jazz prog instrumental movement. This number just keeps shifting, though, working through all kinds of different movements before it's over and done.
 
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