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Mike Ian

The Learning Tree

Review by Gary Hill

If you like melodic prog that leans on the AOR side of the equation, you are likely to enjoy this release. It's a solid set that has some moments of sheer brilliance. It does tend to feel a little monolithic at times, though. Still, as something that you don't pay close attention to, it's sure to hold up better. Mind you, that's not a real complaint. Every song here is good. There just tends to be a "samey" quality to a lot of it. Of course, if you only listen to a song or two at time, that will never be an issue.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
A Pirate’s Dream
Percussion starts this track. It works out to a folk prog concept for the opening movement. It's potent, dramatic and so cool. It gets more rocking further down the road. There is a real symphonic prog concept here that's both classic and fresh. This works through a number of changes in a particularly effective song structure.
Happily Ever After
Coming in as a ballad, this is packed with style and emotion. It's a potent piece of music that really impresses. This is another that has some powerful prog moments. It turns a little weird right near the end.
Cast In Stone
Another melodic prog tune with both modern and classic sounds, I like this quite a bit. It's got a great balance between mellower and more powered up sections.
Hereafter
I'm reminded to some small degree of the kind of music Pink Floyd created under David Gilmour's leadership. The song is another dramatic melodic prog piece. It's a bit of an also-ran, though, not really standing out. There is a cool psychedelically tinged movement later in the piece.
Next Stop Anywhere
This one is more rocking. It's no less proggy, though. It provides some variety, but in terms of tempo and tone it feels somewhat samey.
Saved
Now, this is some real change. It has some powerhouse hard rocking prog music. It gets into some soaring territory. This has a decent amount of diversity along its run. It's one of the highlights of the set.
Letter To Home
Into more balladic zones, this is a solid cut. The track gets more rocking after the first vocal movement. It's a melodic AOR prog number that has a lot of style and power. It also has some hints of Beatles-like textures. It gets pretty bombastic and is another highlight.
Something More Nothing Less
This has a mainstream rock sound. Again I can make out some hints of The Beatles. The track has some proggy twists and turns, but is one of the more straightforward things here. It's solid, but not a standout.
Shine On
Another that leans more toward mainstream rock and less on the prog angle, this is a more hard rocking number. It has its moments of progressive rock leanings, though. The guitar solo on this is tasty as it the build-up on the outro.

 

 

 
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