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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Djabe

Magic Stag

Review by Gary Hill

There is always something special about the music Djabe makes. They have previously made my "best of the year" list, and they just might land on my "best of 2020" list with this new release. Their music brings in elements from progressive rock to fusion and world music to create something unique and wonderful. This might be their best album to date. As with some of their other works, Steve Hackett guests on the set. This includes both the CD and a DVD that has surround sound mixes of all the tracks and some live videos. It's a nice addition, but the CD shines brightly all by itself.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
The Beginning Of Legends
World music rises up and brings this into being. The cut moves out as a folk prog arrangement with fusion elements in the mix, but the world sounds are the dominant ones on this instrumental introduction.
The Magic Stag
This comes out of the previous one, powering in as a smoking hot melodic fusion piece. The vocals pull it more into progressive rock zones. The bass work on this is amazing, but every musician puts in a great performance. After the halfway mark the cut shifts to more of a world music thing for a time. As it shifts back toward prog and fusion there is a spoken vocal movement. There is some real powerhouse jamming further down the road.
Power Of Wings
I dig the merging of jazz and world sounds as this cut begins. There are definite hints of psychedelia in the mix. It works more toward pure fusion as it continues. There is some killer soloing along the instrumental road of this tune. I love the horn arrangement and killer shifts and changes on this piece. It's a powerhouse that's among the best music of the whole disc.
Down By The Lake Side
Folk prog, world music and more merge on this killer tune. The track has a great melodic vibe and plenty of shifts and turns. I love the horn solo on this journey, and the keyboard dominated movement is great, too.
Far Away
This number makes me think of Pat Metheny to some large degree. It's a powerhouse melodic fusion jam. This is a powerhouse instrumental with some killer jamming on display. The keyboards and horn in particular get real chances to shine. That said, there is also a killer bass solo that really impresses with its funky underpinnings. It eventually drops back to acoustic instrumentation with symphonic layers to bring it back home.
Unseen Sense
Melodic fusion is the order of business for this classy instrumental number. It's a great ride that has some hints of world music in the mix at times. There are some powerhouse moments along this road.
Soaring Hills
Here we get another Metheny like jam, but this has a lot more world music built into it. This is another classy instrumental. While it's on the melodic side, it's energetic.
Two Little Snowflakes
Pretty and melodic, this is a classy instrumental cut. I like the piano that runs along the arrangement. It brings hints of classical music at times. This is very much a balladic symphonic prog styled piece, but there are hints of jazz in the mix, too. It seems pretty devoid of the world music sounds that we've heard on a lot of the album, though. This does get into some soaring zones where those jazz textures are more prominent.
A True Hope
There is a gentle beauty and a real sense of magic to this piece. The cut has a nice flow and really works well. It's a balladic prog meets jazz concept at its heart, but there are some world music hints here. I love the soaring guitar solo.
Rising Horizon
As ambient tones bring this into being there are world music styled vocals in the mix. The cut works out in a somewhat mellow, but also very dramatic arrangement that merges progressive rock sensibilities with world music. It drops back to a sitar and keyboard interlude that focuses the world concepts. Then it rises up into more pore fusion zones. The number gradually intensifies as the instrumental explorations continue. This really does convey a rising horizon as it becomes more energized as it goes. The horn paints some tasty melodies across the arrangement.
Uncertain Time
I love the cool world music concepts on this instrumental piece. The violin brings so much style and charm. The cut has a healthy helping of jazz in the mix, too. It's another classy  number on a disc full of strong music. It gets into more rocking zones further down the road as it focuses more on the pure fusion concepts. The guitar soloing brings a new reality and the cut kicks out from there with some non-lyrical vocals added to it. It makes a nice ending for this ride.
 
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