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RTFact

Life is Good

Review by Gary Hill

If you were to spin this new album with no advance information, you might think that it's some long lost disc from the 1970s. This album features a  prog rock sound that often seems linked to ELP and Gentle Giant, among other acts. This project is the brain-child of Russian-born, San Francisco based Yuri Volodarsky, but he has employed quite a few impressive guests including Jeff Scott Soto (vocals), Oz Noy (guitar) and Nad Sylvan (vocals). I would say that if you like old school prog, particularly the bands I mentioned, you should give this a chance. It's pretty amazing stuff.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Life Is Good
An instrumental fanfare starts this, but then a chorus of voices continue it. From there it drops to a very classical texture before organ brings the prog into being. As the full band joins this has elements of Kansas, Jethro Tull and ELP. It's a powerhouse classic progressive rock sound. There are some distinctly symphonic bits as the cut continues to shift and change. Yet there is also funk and fusion in the mix. I really love some of the guitar soloing on this thing. It reaches a peak around the three minute mark and then drops back to a mellower section to continue. The vocals come in when that drops back to just percussion. It eventually makes its way back to the screaming hot progressive rock jamming from there. They take it out with the more powered up stuff.
Artifact
The sounds of someone moving through radio channels starts this. As it works to the actual music, it is in a motif that's part AOR progressive rock, part fusion and all interesting. They work forward through a number of shifts and turns. I dig the classically tinged organ solo later in the track. The rocking section that emerges from there is all class, too. There is some great keyboard work on this piece, but also some exceptional guitar stuff. As this instrumental works toward its end it gets into some classically inspired stuff that definitely makes me think of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
(I Got) Money in My Pocket

While there are definitely hints of things like fusion built into this, it's built mostly on an AOR prog structure. It's the most mainstream thing to this point. It is the most "song like," too. It's a classic sounding piece that is particularly effective. The instrumental section brings more of a fusion meets prog thing to the proceedings.

Gotika

The mix of classical sounds and metallic crunch on this is great. The shifts and changes are full on progressive rock master-class level. This is a shifting, turning number that's so tasty. It works to a full symphonic treatment mid-track. The only vocals on this are operatic chorale styled ones. The arrangement is a powerhouse with a lot of twists and turns.

Hail to the Winner Part I

Keyboards open this in very pretty ways. The vocals enter over that backdrop. This is another that lands in the AOR area. It is essentially a power ballad, but has both progressive rock and metal elements built into it. The guitar soloing is particularly evocative. There is a definite symphonic edge to this cut.

Hail to the Winner Part II Tarantella

A full classical treatment opens this and holds it for a time. It feels like something from an old Hollywood musical in a lot of ways. It powers out to a rocking version of those musical themes around the 45 second mark. This classically based instrumental definitely makes me think of something ELP would have done. They turn it to the more rock and roll end of the spectrum at the end. .

The King, the Master, and the Timekeeper
Speaking ELP, this number feels so much like something that act would have done that it's just a little scary. At least that's true of the main portions of the cut. There are numerous lyrical references to ELP's music in this cut, making me think that it's the point. They work it out into a killer fusion jam from there. It eventually makes its way back to the earlier sections to take the piece to its closing.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Another with a lot of ELP in the mix, this is a bit more of a bouncy and fun rocker. I love the organ on this, but the guitar is quite meaty, too. There are a number of shifts and changes. There is even some old school blues built into it. They manage to pull some more symphonic stuff into this jam, too.
Life Is Good (remix)
Just one minute and fifteen seconds in length, this remake focuses on the vocal section of the cut. It has an electronic jazzy vibe in this format.
 
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