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Mark Murdock

The Phoenix Has Risen

Review by Gary Hill

This is an intriguing release. I have to say that I wanted to like it more than I did. Don't get me wrong, all the songs here are effective. It's just that as a set it has a bit of a samey vibe. There isn't enough variation from song to song to make it all feel unique. Matt Murdock was part of the Peter Banks' band Empire, and has done other prog projects over the years. Guitarist Fernando Perdomo is on hand playing guitar. I've been a fan of his works. Nektar's Ron Howden also shows up on the disc. Those are just two of the musicians joining Murdock on this album. The music here has a modern prog sensibility to it with a lot of retro elements. It often reminds me of the kind of stuff Billy Sherwood does. As I said, everything here works well on its own. It just feels a little monolithic when you go from start to finish.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
The Phoenix Has Risen
Fusion and more mainstream progressive rock merge on this cut. The number has good energy. The vocals are rather understated in some ways. The instrumental break is a dramatic twist with some great impact. It works back to the song proper after a time as it drives forward. I did the soaring, fusion-like guitar solo. The number has a drift into space at the end.
Reoccurring Scenes
This is a tasty melodic prog tune that has hints of psychedelia and even 80s styled electronic music. The song is solid, but not as interesting as the opener was.
Heal My Wounded Soul
I love the sound of this cut. It has hints of modern prog but also some leanings toward things like The Strawbs. It's an intriguing cut with some particularly effective passages. I can make out hints of the kind of music Billy Sherwood does. The mellower, dropped back movement creates a good contrast.
Compromised
I love the bass work on this tune. There is a real fusion edge to this, but overall it's more of the same vein of melodic progressive rock. For some reason I'm reminded just a little of Steve Winwood on this tune. The cut has an infectious groove and some great melodies. It's one of the highlights of the set.
Exit Door
In some ways this isn't a big change. There is some cool funky bass work at points, though. We also get some intriguing changes at points that bring some drama and magic. The more driving, harder rocking section is one of those.
The Starfish And The Four Phases Of The Moon
I really dig this instrumental jam. It has some cool shifts and a hint of reggae. There is some killer guitar soloing underway throughout. It's just a fun tune.
When Thoughts Collide

I dig the classy prog groove on this tune. It leans toward 80 electronic new wave music, but it's decidedly song-based progressive rock. It's an entertaining and rather catchy song.

Silence On Empty Streets
A mellower, echoey kind of arrangement brings this into being. The vocals come in over the top of that arrangement. There is a psychedelic edge to this piece. It remains mellower than the other tracks here, too.
All Fools Fade Away
This powers in harder rocking, in a stark contrast to the previous song. The cut has a great groove, and works well. It's another that makes me think of the work of Billy Sherwood in some ways. This things gets pretty crazed and inventive in some of the turns it takes. This is one of the most effective and unusual pieces here.
The Unknown Man
I like the up-tempo energy of this cut. It reminds me a bit of the album's opener with fusion sort of elements dominating the opening movement. The cut shifts to more of an almost pop prog arrangement as it continues. This is another classy tune.
Set Your Heart on Fire
There is almost a jazzy edge to this. It has a real 80s arena rock sound, too. Yet it still works to more typical modern prog rock from there. This is one of the more "different" pieces of the whole disc. It's also effective.
If the Future Of'
I like the melodic groove of this cut. It has some great modern prog textures blended with some hints of 80s rock. The tasteful guitar solo later in the track is very stylish.

 

 
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