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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Frank Wyatt

and Friends - Zeitgeist

Review by Gary Hill

Frank Wyatt is best known as the keyboardist and saxophonist for the band Happy The Man. This album started as a reunion set for that band, but then expanded as other musicians were added to the mix. In addition to Wyatt, though, other Happy the Man members who play on the disc are Stan Whitaker, Kit Watkins and Rick Kennel. Those are just a few of the musicians on the album, though. So, what about the music. This almost feels like two albums to me. You get the pure progressive rock of the first section, followed by a classic section at the end. I'm not sure how it works in terms of cohesiveness between those two portions. I suppose it creates a bit of a Yin and Yang element, but to me they seem a bit to disparate to work as a cohesive creation. Your mileage might vary, though. Don't get me wrong. Both halves work well. It's just that it seems a bit too much of a shifting of gears between them. I will also say that while a couple songs here feature vocals, the bulk of this is instrumental.

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Track by Track Review
This comes in with a powerhouse prog jam that has a lot of fusion in the mix. As the vocals join I'm reminded of Kansas just a bit. Spock's Beard is a valid reference point, too. The keyboards lead an intriguing instrumental movement as the cut approaches the halfway mark. There are hints of Zappa built into it at times. The cut turns decidedly heavier and darker from there, feeling a bit menacing. It keeps shifting and changing as this extended instrumental movement evolves. It eventually makes its way back to the song proper for the return of the vocals. Another instrumental section takes over from there to eventually end the piece.
Mellower, but quite dramatic and intricate, this has a lot of keyboards at its heart. It explodes out into a killer fusion meets electronic prog jam after a while. This instrumental piece works through a number of changes and has some powerful passages before dropping back to mellower stuff to end it in a similar zone to the one that started it.
Twelve Jumps
There is some killer fusion at the heart of the jam that opens this. I love the oddly timed arrangement. They drop it back after a time and there are some hints of funk in the mix. The cut continues to grow and evolve, though, with more smoking hot jamming ensuing. There is a short drum solo built into this instrumental piece.
Eleventh Hour
Beautiful keyboard textures bring this thing into being. As it works to the vocal movement it takes on a bit of dreamy balladic approach. While this rises up to become a bit more of a rocker, it still remains fairly constant and quite melodic as it does so.
The Approach
Some psychedelia opens this. The cut grows forward from there with killer prog rock jamming emerging to take control. There are hints of fusion in the mix. This is dramatic and powerful stuff. The keyboards feature prominently in this effective and powerful instrumental piece.
Fred's Song
A piano led arrangement opens this cut. It works out into a melodic prog jam that is fairly mellow and very tasty. Around the two-and-a-half-minute mark it shifts to a frantic and rather crazed jam that lands in the zone adjacent to RIO. That doesn't stick around long, though. It drops to even mellower and more pretty zones as it comes out of that. It makes its way back up to a melodic exploration from there to eventually take the instrumental piece to its ending.
To Venus (Perelandra Mvt. I, Andante)
There is a decidedly symphonic element to this as it begins. The cut starts to expand on that concept as it grows. Still, this is decidedly classical in nature, and drops to pure classical music at times. It takes on some dark and menacing tones at times, feeling like the soundtrack to some horror movie. It gets bombastic in a very orchestral way as it continues building upward. It reaches a crescendo and then drops down toward mellower, but no less soundtrack-like textures to continue. It eventually works its way back upward.
The Green Lady (Perelandra Mvt. II, Allegretto con moto)
More classically based music is on hand here. Piano is one of the dominant elements, but symphonic strings feature prominently, too. After the opening section works through, it drops to a bit of dramatic tension, but the piano resolves that, taking control. Other elements rise up as flavorings to the classical music soup that emerges from there. It eventually builds upward to some powerful symphonic stylings. This is definitely classical music rather than rock.
The Golden Feast (Perelandra Mvt.III, Allegro)
Piano is a driving factor as this comes into being. It's another that is fully classical in instrumentation and treatment. This gets quite powerful, and almost leans toward something closer to rock music at times. Yet, the arrangement is of the symphonic variety. Of the classical section of the album, I think this is my favorite piece.
Blessed Be He (Perelandra Mvt. IV, Presto)
While this piece also lands in the classical zone, it has some elements that feel a bit closer to prog rock at times. It's a particularly effective piece of music. As this works through it gets more purely classical, but also more powerful. The closing is so satisfying.
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