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Paul Cusick

Focal Point

Review by Gary Hill

I like this album a lot. It’s rather moody progressive rock that gets pretty crunchy. It’s very atmospheric. There’s plenty of alteration here and while some of the music borders on metallic, it never crosses into metal. All in all, this is a fine album that should please fans of neo-prog for sure, but I think classic progressive rock fans will dig it, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Focal Point
Starting with some mellower keyboard sounds, this powers out to some harder rocking and insistent AOR styled prog rock from there. In a lot of ways this reminds me of the kind of stuff that Scott Mosher does with Oceans of Night. An instrumental, this drops to mellower stuff to end.
Everblue
A hard rocking cut this comes in with more instrumental work akin to the first cut. As it moves into the vocal section I can still hear some of that Dream Theater thing, but also Porcupine Tree. It’s hard edged, dark and tasty. The cut is taken through a number of changes and is both meaty and quite cool. It gets very intense on the closing segment.
Fade Away
A sharp contrast to the previous one, this is a mellow and very pretty ballad that has a lot of keyboard layers. This definitely reminds me a lot of modern Marillion. I also make out Pink Floyd and even Queenryche and the Beatles at points on this. It’s got a tasty melodic guitar solo. 
Soul Words
This one is simply incredible. It alternates between mellower and harder rocking sections and I can make out Pink Floyd and points on this, but that’s only one small piece of the picture. There’s a killer, almost funky groove to a lot of it.
Scared To Dream
Another killer cut, this is majestic and powerful and yet quite melodic and much of it is fairly sedate. 
Touch

Piano leads this song out of the gate, and holds it in a slow, classically styled mode. The sound of a telephone ringing followed by an operator is heard. As the piece continues more of those sounds are heard. Some bit of synthesizer appear, as well. An answering machine greeting shows up, too. Vocals come in over a slow, mellow musical style. It's moody and very classy. Aftera time the operator returns, but louder. The cut shifts out and really rocks from there.

Senza Tempo
Here we have basically a bluesy hard rocking guitar solo.
Big Cars
This hard rocker reminds me a lot of Hawkwind. It’s definitely crunchy, but also very space rock oriented.
Hold On
A rather dark cut, this is a real rocker that’s quite accessible.
Hello
Sedate and dark, this somehow reminds me of a totally different arrangement on something from Dan Fogelberg. It doesn’t sound anything like Fogelberg in terms of the way the track is done, but the vocal hook and the lyrics make me think of someone like him. It’s a cool song and seems an intriguing contrast.
Touch (GM Mix)
Here’s a different mix of the track that showed up earlier in the set. It’s cool and quite ambient.
 
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