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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


The Castle

Review by Gary Hill

The Chicago area might not be known as a hot-bed of progressive rock, but maybe it should be. I mean, Styx was really a very prog-based act, especially in the early days. Then you have the band Pentwater, who originally only released on album (that was always a prized possession in my collection) but have since reunited and given us more music over the years including some long lost recordings. There was a band from my hometown of Rockford, Illinois called Albatross that produced one great prog album (which I would love to get my hands on again - my copy was destroyed in a flood years ago), and Rockford is just about the Chicago area (well, not far from it).

Mind you, I'm talking about just the original run of prog in the 1970s. There are many newer progressive rock acts of the modern variety from the area. Another act from the 1970s that must be included is Apocalypse. The band was composed of Tom Salvatori, his older brother Michael Salvatori, Michael’s wife Gail Salvatori and Tom’s classmate Scott Magnesen. They recorded this album in 1976 as a demo, and it was never released. That is until the master-tape turned up in 2021 and work was started on this release.  The music here is very much vintage prog of the time. The recording isn't up to modern standards some of the time, but it's in line with independent releases of the time. This is currently available as a digital version (which is what I've reviewed) and a vinyl release, but a CD is planned for this fall. This is really a long lost gem. I'm glad to see it come to light. I'd love to see this act take a page from Pentwater and launch a second coming with new music.

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Track by Track Review
The Spirit
Intricate and rather neo-classical guitar sounds bring this into being. The cut builds on that, turning into a killer prog jam that twists this way and that for a time. It drifts to a more rock based jam with a soaring prog quality from there. This gets into some cool twists and turns and organ lends something special to the arrangement. The vocals bring it more into a folk prog vein, and I really dig the mixed male and female arrangement of them. Another instrumental movement emerges from there. There is a great turn-on-a-dime moment later when it turns toward something like Nektar for a male only vocal section. The shifts and changes continue as it works out from there. When we get back into another shared vocal movement the track is more driving and purely soaring prog based. This is quite the powerhouse opener. It is epic in scope, and at nearly seven-minutes long, almost epic in length.
Only The Children Know
A balladic guitar part start things here in a rather folky way. The cut works out to a balladic prog arrangement with piano dancing as the vocals (mostly male but with female in addition) come across. The piano gets a short feature after the first vocal movement. The cut begins to build toward more rock zones from there. Synthesizer comes over the top after another vocal movement. The song works through a steady stream of changes and alternate movements from there. There is a fast-paced soaring jam later along the road that is purely on fire. Don't get too comfortable, though, because this piece is perpetual change.
Turning Around
Perhaps a bit less crazed in terms of the shifts and changes, this is no less prog. It's more on the melodic prog end, but it still manages to rock. There is a shift to pretty pure folk prog for a time before it explodes out into more hard rocking modes for a faster paced jam. At a little over five-minutes long, this is the shortest piece here.    
The Castle
Folk music stylings with classical elements over the top brings this into being. The cut gradually begins working outward from there. This is the least dynamic track on show here. It is perhaps more mainstream and less prog, but there is clearly quite a bit of prog rock on this thing. It does get into more soaring progressive rock zones later in the tune, at times making me think of The Yes Album era Yes.
All The People
I love sense of mystery and magic as this number gets underway. This has a pretty and dramatic balladic approach. There is plenty of folk prog in the mix on this. The cut evolves and works through a number of changes with some real old world sound in it at times. The guitar work is so intricate and powerful. There is a twist later (this is the epic of the set at over ten-and-a-half minutes) toward more pure progressive rock jamming. At first that again makes me think of The Yes Album, but it fires out into more incendiary and rocking stuff from there.
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