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Unitopia

More Than a Dream – The Dream Complete

Review by Mark Johnson

I have been a fan of the band ever since I first heard Unitopia’s Garden album. It was the final lines of the lyrics which drew me in to their music from the beginning: “Free..., In charge of my soul again. I can see..., what's outward and what is within. Never alone..., turn my face to the rising sun joyful tears, no more fears, and my mind is finally clear, Ooh, it's good to be back home."

Honestly, they have never reached those lofty heights since, but it has not been for the effort. Mark Trueack and Sean Timms have built one of Australia’s best bands since the great ones of the 1980s and ‘90s. Unitopia have released four studio, and one live album in their tenure. It all began with More Than a Dream, so fittingly it will end with More Than a Dream – The Dream Complete. The three-disc set of albums includes a re-mastered version of the original debut album, along with an additional two discs. Disc two is a band’s re-mixed, re - interpretation of the original album. The third disc is a compilation of other un-released tracks and tracks of their music which appeared on other compilation albums. It is as complete a look at this impressive beginning for the band, as it is a consideration of where they ended up before they moved on to Southern Empire and the United Progressive Fraternity.

Their affinity for nature and the preservation of the planet has rarely been expressed with such fierce devotion before or since More Than a Dream, or by many other bands since. This package is essential for anyone enamored with this band. It is the most complete version of their starting point along with a re-interpretation after years of touring and exploring. The re-mix is interesting and full of dynamic exploration and experimentation, without changing the lyrics or spirit of the original dream. It is a great tribute to where they have been and how much they have grown as a band. As much as they have grown, they still realize this first album had so much to say and share with the world. There is nothing on this disc a real Unitopia fan will not appreciate. Included in this impressive work is more of Ed Unitsky’s wonderful artwork. Ed has been a fan of the music and he is the band’s favorite artist. In fact, he is the “fifth Unitopian." This is a fantastic compilation of mysteries and orchestrations of what is best in this world. Buy this, sit back and enjoy one of the most original sounding recordings you will ever hear. Take in the masterful musical play and singing and be grateful you were able to find it and enjoy it to its fullest. It is well worth your time and effort.


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
Disc 1
          
Common Goal

This is the "welcome" track that invites you into the world of Unitopia’s magical jazz and prog rock soundscape. Timms’ powerful keyboard intro boldly opens the soundscape as Williams’ guitar takes over the lead, surrounded by horns and the incredible percussive power of Ruggiero and Irrgang. "We all have a common goal to protect this Earth we live on," is the message presented throughout this wonderful collection of Earthly treasures. The powerful lyrics are delivered through Mark Trueack’s vocals.

Fate
This is a great display of the band’s jazzier side. The message delivered by Trueack is a thoughtful question, "is it fate that decides our future, or do we have more control?" In the end we all make choices and decisions.
Justify
Here is another powerful ecological statement, begging the world to wake up and confront global warming and make changes, before it is too late. It is my favorite song on the album. It is set to straight forward power vibes and great harmonies. The false choice of zero-sum gain and self-interest are also issues explored within the song’s focus. There is great musicianship during a long, 12:53 minute musical masterpiece of precision.
Take Good Care
This song opens with deep strings and orchestration, another signature talent offered from this band early in their career, and often before many in the prog genre were doing it as often. This is one of the most powerful statements on an album full of epic statements. Australian sounds make this and many of their songs so distinct and personal.
Ride
“Ride” is the heaviest sounding track on the album. Heavy drums and grinding electric guitars propel this track, along with stronger vocals from Trueack.
More Than a Dream
This opens with Timms’ wonderful piano instrumental, before Trueacks’ vocals join in to paint pictures with words. Irrgang’s percussion throughout this and all of their albums is one of the best gifts you receive with this band. Although Trueack and Timms write most of the music, it’s the percussive sounds like those created by Tim Irrgang which give the music life beyond the tradition of rocks’ vocals, keys and guitar.
Slow Down
The song opens with many of Irrgangs’ innovations, before Timms’ synthesizer interlude charms its way on to the soundstage. Trueack describes the need for all of us to slow down and proceed with caution, enjoying each moment we have on this Earth and appreciate it to its fullest. “Time is running out for the planet Earth” is repeated in the background to significant effect. Movie production (like orchestrations) fill the soundscape providing wonderful richness to the overall sound.
Lives Go 'Round
“Lives Go 'Round” includes some of the radio, TV, movie and commercial clips that this band is famous for infusing within the story presented in their music.
Still Here
This uses more of Tim Irrgang’s percussion effects to their brilliant pinnacle to enhance the flavor of this and other songs.
Unitopia (Bonus Track)
Every band should have a song with the band name as the title - a descriptive track that is the anthem of their being. This is Unitopia’s, and it should have been included on the original album. Well, if you are patient, you eventually get what you want, Mick Jagger…or…what you need.
There's A Place (Bonus Track)
Here is a wonderful vocal track from the bands’ bass guitarist, Shireen Khemlani. Trueack later joins in to form a duet bringing even more emotion and feeling to the song.
Disc 2
        
Common Goal (Matt's re-work)

This and the following tracks are re-worked versions of the originals. Mark Trueack told me he wanted to re-interpret the album to update it with more of the newer Unitopia sound of The Garden album and beyond. They had recently changed drummers and other band personal, and he wanted an opportunity to reinterpret the album. This is Matt Williams' (lead guitar) interpretation of the song. Trueack’s vocals are even better and Williams' guitar inspirations are well worth the re-interpretation. The opening, as Trueack warned me, was even better than the original version. The keyboard work by Sean Timms is also extraordinary.

Fate (Matt's re-work)
This opens like an ELO masterpiece. Then, Matt Williams’ acoustic and electric guitar re-interpretations enter the fray. In fact, the melody has changed (almost completely), and Timms’ keyboards enhance the overall production. Trueack told me that when he was making this updated version he felt he sang the songs better…and I absolutely agree. If my memory serves me well, this re-design was recorded at the pinnacle of the band’s achievement, just after the success of The Garden was reaching its peak. The band was receiving more reviews and began being noticed by a larger audience. Trueack wanted this album to receive the kind of attention that the Garden was receiving. He wanted it to be appreciated by the new fans they were attracting.
Justify (Matt's re-work)
This version is a minute shorter than the original, but in no way, is it less impressive. In fact, the opening, with the belled keyboards, Trueack’s softer vocal entrance, and Williams’ acoustic guitar, is a much more riveting opening than the original. Trueack’s lifting vocals and Williams’ harder edge electric guitars roar as the pace picks up, before coasting back down into the starting rhythm. I think this interpretation of the track is an overall improvement over the original. Timms’ soaring keyboards truly lift the orchestration level of this version. The solo “Oh” vocals toward the end of the track bring back memories of the music used in the Lord of the Rings…nice touch. Matt Williams' heavy electric guitar solo towards the end is excellent.
Take Good Care (Original demo with alternate chorus)
The belled keyboards, percussion work and alternative vocal choruses make this even more Australian and personal to the band. It's a nice improvement on the original.
Ride (Sean's re-work)
This opens with delicate keyboard rhythms from Sean Timms, as compared with the heavy electric guitars of the original. Trueack’s echoing and distant vocals are another nice touch. This is a keyboard re-interpretation that is fantastic.
Ride (Extended 321 mix)
This opens with a Genesis’ Duke “Duchess” like opening. It's a very nice touch. This version is longer and full of more keyboard, electric guitar and percussion experimentation.
More Than a Dream (Sean's re-work)
This version includes some more wonderful keyboard innovations along with a more danceable beat. At times it almost veers off toward disco, which was a pleasant surprise. Yes, this band can dance…unlike Genesis…(snark intended - ed.).
Slow Down (Sean's re-mix)
This version has a very cool, deep, dark, and cool tunnel-like, orchestrated opening. It’s Timms’ re-mix, so you know there will be keyboards…and yes, they will be big and bold. This version is even jazzier than the original - smooth jazz for your listening pleasure.
Lives Go 'Round (Sean's re-mix)
Again, this has more influence from Timm’s keyboards and innovations.
Still Here (Matt's re-work)
Matt Williams brings acoustic guitar, and Trueack brings quieter vocals, with Timms singing background and sometimes in duet with Trueack. This has acoustic guitar with rising keyboards surrounding like a Disney, almost Lion King nature at times.
Still Here (Sean's re-work)
Sean Timms' soft electric keyboard rhythms open this synth and keyboard driven interpretation. More of that Lion King soundscape dominates the track.
Disc 3
                
The Outsider (Originally released on The Stories of H. P. Lovecraft)

This is the best new track on this entire package for me. Trueack told me about this years ago (and I think he may have sent it to me), but hearing it again was incredible. Dark and powerful. This is from a compilation of interpretations of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories released back in 2012 by Musea Records and Colossus Projects. Matt Williams' electric guitar is beyond words. Sean Timms' keys are Tony Banks, Keith Emerson level. Trueack’s vocals and lyrics at times take you right back to The Lamb.

Decameron Date 6 Tale 9 (Originally released on Decameron - 10 Days in 100 Novellas Pt2)
This was another collaborative album in which the band was invited to participate. It was a release from Colossus and Musea called "Decameron - Ten Days In 100 Novellas - Part Two." This is full of background instrumentation, movie scenes, sounds and effects, at the opening. Timms’ keys bring back haunting impressions of Alan Parsons’s Turn of a Friendly Card era work. This features very good music along with well inspired emotional lyrical and vocal interpretations.
Haunted Storm (Previously unreleased)
Heavy keys from Timms open this hauntingly beautiful piece of work. One of the darkest songs the band has ever attempted, this is powerful to say the least.
Ride (Dance mix)
A cool danceable version of the original, this features great dancing keyboards from Timms.
There's A Place (Dance mix)
This is a cool danceable version of this track for your next dance party. I'm not sure this deep, emotional song needed a dance beat…but there it is.
Common Goal (Dance mix)
Turn it up and dance! This features echoing Trueack vocals and more disco than you could ever have imagined from this band.
Fate (Dance mix)
Bump and grind and dig that crazy beat. It is infectious.
This Life (1996 unreleased demo)
This is a nice rare unreleased version of this track off their best album The Garden.
Time for Change (1996 unreleased demo)
A very cool Genesis/Peter Gabriel sounding track, Trueack’s vocals rise high. The song includes Mark Trueack singing with what sounds like talk box vocals, like Peter Frampton’s famous “Do You Feel Like I Do" - cool.
The Dream Complete
Another of the best songs on the compilation, this is the new song written especially for this set. “The dream is complete. Have we reached a new beginning? A new journey we will be making” …yes (especially now that Mark Trueack and Sean Timms are working together on a new beginning).
 
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