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Canvas

Long Way to Mars

Review by Gary Hill

I really like this album a lot. It’s almost more mainstream AOR rock than it is progressive rock. That said, there are enough purely prog moments and enough variety here to get it set into that style. I like how different songs feature different vocalists. That said, I have to say that my favorite voice of the bunch, the one which really steals the show (particularly on “Brightest Star”) is the voice that belongs to Tammy Lounsberry. All the rest of the singers are good, too, but she really knocks it out of the park. This is a great album that would probably please prog fanatics and those who aren’t as into progressive rock as much almost equally.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Long Way To Mars

This song comes in with a real fusion groove. As the vocals come across it’s got more rock music to it. Still, fusion is definitely a big element of this. There is a great retro sound to this. That’s true of the whole track, but the guitar solo (calling to mind David Gilmour quite a bit) really drives that home. The keyboard dominated sections later are particularly noteworthy, too. They drop it down to a short mellow jazz segment for a false ending. Then it powers back up into the chorus one final time.

Better
There’s a bit more of a mainstream rock sound to this cut. Still, it has plenty of progressive rock built into it, as well. There are some intriguing instrumental forays, but the vocal sections really capture the listener.
Brightest Star
Fusion meets Floyd as this tune works out with a guitar solo driving it early. The female vocals come in with a very sultry, soulful, jazzy sound. The cut really takes on a jazz presence in full at that point. After this vocal section there’s an instrumental portion with some more guitar soloing. That one has a great bluesy rock vibe to it. I love how the guitar keeps soloing as the next set of vocals are heard. The cut really gets powerful and the vocals rise up to keep at an even level. There is some serious wailing going on here, both instrumentally and vocally.
Valkyrie Days
I’m not crazy about the keyboard sound on the opening of this tune. The great fusion groove, though, sells it. It builds out to more of a Pink Floyd like rocker. There are some great guitar soloing moments, perhaps more in keeping with things like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. We get more fusion later.
Johnny Don't Know
In some ways this is more of a straightahead rock song. That said, there are sections that are definitely more fusion-oriented. Some killer guitar soloing is heard later, too. This is another cool song that’s both meaty and accessible.
Scheherezade
One could almost think of this one as a straightforward rocker, but it’s also got plenty of progressive rock in the mix. I really like the melodic movement at the end a lot.
Weather
The retro prog sounds on this are great. It gets into fusion, too, though. Overall, it’s another potent tune combining classic prog and jazz into something that’s quite effective.
The Beginning Is Near
This instrumental has a nice balance between mellower and hard rocking sounds. The guitar lines on it are quite classy. It’s a cool tune.
Starry
There’s a real late 1960s early 1970s vibe to this song. When it powers out later it has a more modern sound, but that classic element still remains. I love the riff driven instrumental section and the flute solo that dances over the top of it. Some scat vocals there bring more fusion to the proceedings. They drop it back to the earlier modes for the return of the vocals, though.
Modern Town
Here we get a cool modern prog tune with both retro sounds and more modern (at times quite crunchy) ones. It’s another sound that manages to put a lot of meat into a pretty straightforward song. That said, the alternating mellower, folk rock like sections with harder edged ones shows off a great understanding of contrast and the drama it brings.
 
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