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Various Artists

CPR Volume 3

Review by Gary Hill

“CPR” stands for Christian Progressive Rock and that’s precisely what we get here (well, I’d argue that one of the tracks is actually metal, but that’s just me). Most of these songs are simply amazing, but there are a couple that fall a little short in my opinion. For non-Christians most of the lyrics are not “preachy,” but there are a couple of exceptions here (those will remain unnamed). The most noteworthy name here is Phil Keaggy, but Randy George of Ajalon produced this and plays on a few of the songs (including the Keaggy track). This should be a huge treat for Christians who happen to also love progressive rock. For those whose interest is solely prog without the religious angle, this is still a good CD and shouldn’t be a big deal lyrically. You can get it at  cprogrock.com.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Unitopia - Lives Go Round
Sound effects and a sound bite of TV news starts this. Then an acoustic guitar pattern starts off and keys bring in the progressive rock sounds. This is a cool piece of music. It’s bouncy and catchy, but still quite progressive rock. The fast paced chorus, with its layered vocals is quite cool. They drop this way back and a car screams by. Then the male voice rejoins and guides this in a way that calls to mind early Marillion – think Fish era. Keys bring this back out and then they surge out into a killer jam from there. This takes us back to the main portion of the song and the chorus is reworked into an even more powerful version of itself. They pull this out afterwards into a keyboard driven reprise of the earlier portion of the tune.
Ted Leonard - The Name of God
This pounds in with a hard edged, crunchy prog sound. A quick burst of notes gives us a bit of a change up and then we are back into this introductory section. It turns funky for a moment and then drops down to a stripped down approach for the delivery of the first vocals. This is taken out into a more powerful version of itself and then we get a guitar solo that pulls us onward. Leonard turns it out into a more powered up vocal segment here. After this works through we get another short guitar solo as they pull it down a bit.
Phil Keaggy – Passport
– A powerhouse progressive rock flourish brings this in. It drops back to a more balladic motif for the vocals and this has plenty of prog rock adornment. Some intriguing changes take it in short order and work it out into a guitar solo segment. It’s dropped back down and when it powers out again this turns quite metallic. The rock and roll meets prog section that comes out next is very much in a Kansas sort of motif. This runs through some intriguing changes and alterations as it carries forward. It turns quite metallic on a chorus later, but still that Kansas sort of texture remains. A couple instrumental solos take it and then a vocal dominated movement that reminds me a lot of Uriah Heep takes over. This crescendos and they drop down to a fusion type sound and Keaggy solos like crazy over the top of this through a couple changes. Parts of this extended instrumental section feel a bit like Yes to me. This whole instrumental motif is a powerful one and eventually takes the song out.

Mike Florio - The Wise Man
This rises up with a noisy guitar sound. Vocals come in over top of this in a rather cacophonous way. They seem a bit loose as they move out from there. This gives way to a more traditional progressive rock sound as it builds up. When the vocals enter I definitely hear a Kansas styling to this. They build it gradually back upward from there. The powered up vocal segment is even more Kansas like, but when they drop it to the stripped down motif that connection is broken. We get a killer instrumental section later that is loaded with great keys, but also features some fiery guitar work. A short burst of keys that’s rather like Keith Emerson takes it back to the song proper. After another verse section they lead out into a cool dropped down motif that’s a little jazzy and has bits of vocals over the top. Then we get a tasty if understated guitar solo. This really has sort of a cool groove to it. This section fades out to end it.
Apple Pie – Solution
This comes in feeling a lot like a combination of Yes and ELP. They drop it way down for the verse and the chorus has an almost bluesy texture. This fires out into frantic hard edged prog from there. Those same elements that presented on the intro return here. These various sections in alternating recurrences make up the majority of this track, but there is an extended variant on the opening motif in the form of an instrumental section. It drops way down to atmospheric keys as this part ends. They start to build it up gradually from there with an almost bluesy feel to it. The next set of vocals come in across this more sedate backdrop. They power up at the end of vocal line with a crunchy guitar solo. This shifts out into a killer prog rock jam from there. They work through a number of variants on the theme is a smoking excursion. This eventually ends the cut.
Greg Wollan - Deep Calls 2 Deep
Intricate and pretty keys serve as the backdrop for the opening balladic motif. The first vocals come in over this and after a verse there are more keys added to bring up the power a little. Some string type sounds are run over as they carry on. Shortly before the two minute mark this fires out into a more powerful progressive rock jam and they carry forward with several variants and then we get a fusionish guitar solo. They shift out to a mellower motif with layers of vocals after a while and then we get moved out into a melodic and rather sedate jam. This is worked and reworked as they carry forward. They take this in an extended instrumental progression moving over quite a bit of territory before they come back into the song proper. This section takes it out.
Mike Lockett - The Dust
The progressive rock meets classical music motif that starts this off is amongst the best music on the CD. It doesn’t stay around long, though. They fire out with metallic fury into a jam that will certainly have the prog purists looking for the bomb shelter. The two opening elements are merged as they continue. They drop it way back for the verse section, but it’s delivered with a very metallic neo-prog fervor. The chorus has a prog meets metal texture, but they turn it out towards atmospheric sounds afterwards. Then piano rises and brings in a new balladic motif. The next vocals come in over this and there are Beatles-like elements (think “Eleanor Rigby” here). As the guitar fires out at the end of this I’m reminded of Clutching At Straws era Marillion at first. This launches into a soaring, angular jam for a short time and then shifts to pure metal. Stripped down for the next segment it feels like The Cars more rocking side goes metal to me. Keys bring in more of a pure progressive rock sound on this as they continue. Still, this is overall pretty basic and metallic. They resolve out to more pure progressive rock, though. The next verse is more in the metallic format and when they fire out into the next instrumental section this is pure metal. They drop it back to pretty keys to end, but really I’d consider this track to be proggy metal, not progressive rock. It’s also the weakest cut on show here. There are some strong moments, but it just doesn’t hold up well as far as I’m concerned.
Pursuit – Quest
Now this is how you do progressive rock with a metal edge. This is a fast paced powerhouse that has equal parts pure progressive rock and symphonic metal. After they severely scream on this intro they drop it to a balladic section driven by piano for the vocals. They take this through a number of variants and we cover pretty much ever angle of the musical structure and neo-prog (and even some classic prog) in general. This is one of the most dynamic pieces on show here. It’s also one of my favorites.

Ad Astra - Angle of Repose
This is a more pop oriented modern prog piece with a rather balladic motif. They power it out into a more potent and fiery jam later and the guitar really shines here.
Time Horizon - Life Fantastic
The rhythm section starts this off rather gradually and keyboards come over the top to complete the picture. This is built up into a sound that is very much in a classic prog mode, perhaps a bit like Genesis. The keys at times resemble ELP as they work it forward. They invent and reinvent this instrumental section several times before it gives way to the vocal section. After the verse we get another smoking instrumental foray. It drops back to a balladic approach and keys solo over the top. The vocals come in over this and carry it for a while until we rush out into another killer music excursion. The pattern of vocals segment followed by instrumental version is broken as the next vocal section gives way to a more powered up recreation of itself. Then we get a mellower instrumental section that calls to mind ELP and Yes a bit.  This does give way to another vocal motif and then a fiery instrumental section. Some vocals come over this and a quick burst of prog wonder ends it.
Everlasting Arms - The Mirror
The first big section of this prog rock tune is more melodic. It’s almost got a Beatles texture to it at times. It’s more “song” oriented, perhaps feeling a bit like early Genesis at times. There is a poppy element to this. The multiple layered vocal arrangement is one of the strong points of this track, but so is the cool keyboard solo. We get some Yes-like music later in the piece and they fire out into a smoking instrumental section. That section is one of the best parts of this song. When they return to the vocals after this jam it somehow feels a little awkward. Still, they take it on some more successful excursions as they carry on and a classically tinged section around the nine-minute mark is very tasty. They bring it back up from there in another vocal portion. They work through another instrumental section after this and it’s quite strong. This eventually takes the track to a keyboard segment that ends it.
 
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