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Midwest Soul Xchange

Weakened at the Asylum

Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed a previous set from this act and liked it a lot. It didn't prepare me for this, though. This album is a masterpiece that really lands under folk prog more than it does pure folk music. It's a concept album inspired by the Flint Michigan water crisis. It is delivered in such a great way. The vocal harmonies are the one constant from track to track, with a wide variety of styles on display here (sometimes within a single song). This is such a strong release, and all the digital proceeds go to " Flint water-related charities/funds."

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Overture_The Story Unfolds
Starting with a piano based melody, this works out to a decidedly Beatles-like jam that's quite melodic. The vocals come in over the top, and this feels a lot like Klaatu to me. At the end of the song proper, piano and the sounds of a clicking typewriter serve as the backdrop for a spoken monologue that sets the stage for the rock opera that is about to be told.
Fifteen Parts
Here we get a proggy kind of number that continues to story of the album. It has a catchy chorus and a lot of folk rock built into it.
Simple
Starting with a pure folk arrangement for the first vocals, this works to a fast paced folk rock cut that's very classy. There is some great intricate guitar work. It has some solid vocal hooks and great harmonies, too.
The Loser Illusion
A melodic prog rock based arrangement opens this. The vocal harmonies on this section make me think of the band America a bit. The whole tune has a bit of that at play but with some Beatles, Klaatu and proggier sounds. This is one of the highlights of the set, really. It's quite an effective piece of music. There is a trippy bit of theatrical stuff built into this number late.
Dear Sarah
I love this mellow piece. It's sort of a folk prog power ballad in a lot of ways. It has powerful musical elements. There are Beatles-like sections. The awesome vocal harmonies and arrangement are the real selling point here, though.
Molehill Mountain
More pure folk based sounds are on hand here. This is bouncy and fun.
Strangely Exciting
The folky side of Yes merges with America on the instrumental portion of this song. The vocal harmonies call to mind America and Simon and Garfunkel. Some real magic enters as the arrangement gets more layers of instrumentation. This is a powerful cut that is also quite mellow.
Name like a Symbol
I like the bouncy piano element to this. The vocals are quite theatrical and the whole piece has an old world texture to it. This is very artsy in nature. This is equal parts weird and cool. It's also quite proggy.
The Stand
More rocking, this is a complex and powerful progressive rock tune. There is another Beatles-esque movement late in the track that takes it to the short outro.
Trilogy
This cut is nearly eight minutes long. The three parts of this song are "Sarah Donner," "Valhalla Decade" and "Judith." It starts with an acoustic guitar based folk styled section that has a lot of blues built into it. This works to more of a bouncy folk rock cut after the first section. That works through and ends. After it does the earlier styles return for the next part of the piece. More melodic prog based sounds eventually take control as this builds outward in class. This is quite dynamic as it works through a number of changes. There is a drop back to mellower stuff as the tragic ending of the tale is told. They take it back out to bouncy folk oriented stuff from there, working back to the mainstream rock to end.
 
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