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The Company Stores

Family Album

Review by Gary Hill

This is the third album from this band, but it's the first time I've heard (or even "heard of" them). I have to say that, after hearing this disc, I'm definitely interested in getting to know more of their music. A big part of what makes this band work is lead singer Ileana Ille. Her voice manages to rock with conviction, but also do so much more. She seems very genuine in her delivery and has a lot of stylistic range. That's only one (albeit important) part, though. The band is officially described as "Post-Rock Fusion," and if you can't wrap your head around what that means, let me just say that they seem unwilling to recognize any stylistic limitations. Their sound is artsy, and often proggy (hence landing them under progressive rock) but it works into all kinds of different zones ranging from blues to jazz, blues rock, world music and more. Yet, they weave it all together into a sound that is all theirs. This album is very intriguing, unique and effective.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Savannah
Vibes like sounds open the album. The vocals join from there. They launch out into more of a cool groove as they continue. This has soulful elements, bluesy angles, jazzy textures and more. The end result is a dramatic and unique sound that really does transcend standard expectations and norms. The arrangement gets more layers of vocals and other sounds later in a particularly effective and intriguing arrangement shift. That gives way to a dropped back section that's covered in guitar lines and has a real jazzy edge. That short movement closes the track.
A New Leaf
There is more of a blues rocking groove as this cut gets underway. This is less proggy at the onset, but as more layers come over, and the arrangement fills out this gets some jazz and decidedly art rock based things in the mix. The jazzy elements really begin to dominate in an instrumental movement later that features both horns and killer guitar work. A mellow interlude takes over at the end of the cut.
Ways
A bluesy guitar sound brings this one into being, and the track builds out from there with an almost Kansas sound. It drops to a stripped back instrumental arrangement for the entrance of the vocals. This has hints of country music in the mix at points, but it's also a unique arrangement that's hard to pin down. It's perhaps a little more purely mainstream than the two preceding pieces were, but this is very art-based in its uniqueness.
Maria
This cut has so much drama and style built into it. There is a lot of world music in the mix. The vocal arrangement is evocative and powerful. The whole tune is almost sublime. It has some powerful soaring sections that definitely reach toward progressive rock. This is one of the highlights of the disc. It descends into an almost classical, proggy mellow movement later that serves as the closing to the piece.
Old Dog
Blues, jazz and hard rocking textures merge on this powerhouse tune. This is more straight-forward and less proggy than anything to this point for much of its run. However, they include an artsy excursion into intricate mellow music at the end.
Fathers
A mellow backdrop serves as the backdrop for opening bluesy vocals to start this number. It builds very slowly and gradually from there. This eventually builds to some seriously rocking territory with a real Spanish angle to it.
Blue Tide
Coming in very mellow and artistic, this is understated and so intriguing. It is slow moving and has some trippy classical elements in the mix. This develops into something that merges more proggy elements with pop rock concepts and more. I dig the symphonic elements and the prog-like textures they bring.
There Went the Neighborhood
A piano and vocal arrangement brings this one into the world. The track grows from there into some powerful music that has a lot of prog along with world music, classical and blues rock in the mix.
American Dream Girl
Like most of the album, this thing has so many different musical veins and directions within it. There is plenty of hard-edged bluesy rock here, but we get funk, some metal leanings and yes, some prog aspects. This is, perhaps, one of the most straight-forward pieces here, but it's still based on an interesting and unusual mélange of sounds.
Some Sunday
On the one hand, this number is packed full of jazz, bluesy rock, soul and much more. The other side of that equation, though is that it's also filled up with emotion and style. This might not be the most art-rock or proggy thing here, but it is one of the most powerful tracks of the disc.
Castles & Cain
This comes in mellow, with a real balladic approach. It grows out gradually from there with a lot of style and charm. It gets into more rocking stuff with a real bluesy edge later. It has a lot of power and soul at its heart, and makes for a great closer.
 
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