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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

David Cross

David Cross Band - Ice Blue, Silver Sky

Review by Gary Hill

I heartily included this on my list of best albums of 2023. It is a beautiful sonic tapestry that encompasses classical music, progressive rock and jazz. There are quite a few pieces of spoken voices, like sound bites along with nature sounds and more completing arrangements. David Cross, of course, is possibly best known for his work with King Crimson, and two songs from that act get reworkings here. In addition to Cross and his band, David Jackson of Van Der Graaf Generator appears on a  couple tracks. This is such an amazing work of sonic art. It's also quite the achievement.

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Track by Track Review
Nurse Insane
There is a percussive blast as this starts. Then a sea of voices takes control. Some ambient sounds emerge after that section. Then a dramatic, soundtrack like symphonic arrangement comes in. There are some voices talking like something out of a movie over the top as that builds. That holds the track until well past the two minute mark. Then some driving hard rocking sounds emerge. Those are still proggy, though. The vocals have an almost metal sound at play. There are definitely some metallic elements that show up in the musical arrangement, too. This continues to evolve and grind forward. There is some scorching hot soloing later on during this run.
Ambient sounds of people, the sea and music start this. Mellow, intricate, playing rises up from there. That evolves as it continues. The vocals come in bringing a prog ballad approach. As this get a bit more rocking, there are some hints of reggae in the guitar parts. This song is evocative, dramatic and powerful, even though it remains mellower than the previous number for a long time. There is some killer violin work later, and the track drives out into hard rocking jam that has both classical and rock elements built into it. The track turns toward much more driving rock further down the road. It has plenty of style and fire built into it.
Again, ambient moments bring this one in. There is spoken voice in the mix. This is a mellower number, that feels a bit like King Crimson to me. It makes good use of a balance between natural and electronic textures. This has some cool shifts and changes. It feels a little mysterious at times. It's a very evocative and powerful piece of music. This never gets into the rocking zones as the earlier tracks did.
Percussion serves as the backdrop for a conversation at the start of this. Symphonic mellow music takes over from there. This is an interpretation of the song by King Crimson from Cross' time in the group. It is dramatically different than their version, though. There is a cool violin solo that gets synthesizer as its only accompaniment as it continues. The arrangement fills out without getting harder rocking. It goes through some great instrumental interplay along that road. As it approaches the half way mark, the bass jumps to forefront and heralds the entrance of a more rocking jam. As the vocals return it feels closer to the King Crimson version of the song for a time. After that short vocal section, it explodes out with hard rocking fury that's on fire. This thing continues to explore and evolve from there. It turns more toward the mellower, KC like stuff at times, too. This really is such a great variation on a piece I love so much.
Karma Gain
I really dig this one a lot. It has a bouncy sort of groove to it in some ways. There is a spoken voice over the top at times. Beyond that, this has sort of an accessible jazz fusion sort of thing at play. There are some cool twists that get into more challenging territory. This is quite jazz oriented, overall, though.
Over Your Shoulder
There is some conversation at the beginning of this, but it starts backwards tracked, and then turns around to run forward. Violin comes up from there, and the track builds out with a lot of style and charm. Driving, hard-edged prog rock that feels a lot like several periods of King Crimson take over for the entrance of the vocals. There is a killer dramatic instrumental break beyond the first vocals that gives way to a mellower, somewhat tentative vocal section. Then they drive out to a variation on those Crimson-like concepts. There is some smoking hot bass work during that part. The track continues to driving onward and delivering magic as it continues. It drops to just vocals further down the road.
Another song from Cross' time in King Crimson, a symphonic sort of ambient arrangement gets this going. The spoken voices come in over the top. Some percussion drives outward. The track continues to evolve with trippy jamming. Then, after the minute-and-a-half mark we get into more familiar territory. This has always been one of my favorite King Crimson pieces, so I really love the inclusion of it here. While this section is faithful enough to be instantly recognized, it's also different enough to feel fresh. The more dropped back jam later retains the KC vibes and sounds, but gets some spoken voices added over the top. As that section continues to evolve those spoken voices drop away but then return later. In a lot of ways, they play this one more faithfully than they did "Exiles," but it does still have enough changes to create some moments of surprise. There is also some scorching hot jamming built into this thing. It's a real powerhouse.


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