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December 2006 - Issue 61
Progressive Rock CD Reviews
The Ascent of Everest - How Lonely Sits the City
Review by Gary Hill
When you say “Nashville, Tennessee” it conjures up a lot of things. Country music, Graceland and the Grand Ole Opry are a few of them.
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - with Oral Moses - Extreme Spirituals
Review by Gary Hill
Progressive rock, experimental in nature, has always flirted with unique combinations. Rick Wakeman’s IceCapades type version of the Myths and Legends of King Arthur... album and Jon Anderson’s EarthMotherEarth ballet are two examples that immediately come to mind.
Blackmore's Night - Winter Carols
Review by Rick Damigella
Here is a recipe for a classic holiday album: Add one guitar legend to an angelic voiced alto singer, mix with a backing band of Renaissance musicians, sprinkle with a generous amount of holiday cheer and you will yield a dozen delicious Christmas treats.
Dream Theater - Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with The Octavarium Orchestra
Review by Julie Knispel
Dream Theater closed their 2006 20th Anniversary tour with a sold out show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Joined onstage by a specially assembled orchestra, the band performed two sets.
Dream Theater - The Dark Side of the Moon
Review by Julie Knispel
As a way of providing something different and special to their fans, Dream Theater began a series of cover shows in 2002. Whenever the band were scheduled to perform two nights in the same venue/city, they would dedicate part of their second show to a performance of a classic album, covered in its entirety.
Dream Theater - The Number Of The Beast
Review by Greg Olma
Dream Theater has never been a band that does things without giving 110% effort and value. To beat the bootleggers, Dream Theater has created its own label to release live shows along with studio demos and assorted material otherwise unavailable to the public.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - I Believe in Father Christmas EP
Review by Rick Damigella
There is something about the composing of Christmas music. The ingredients are not equal parts nutmeg, cranberries and peppermint.
Gosta Berlings Saga - Tid Ar Ljud
Review by Gary Hill
This disc should please fans of old school instrumental prog, but it also has definite RIO leanings. You might hear Yes or Genesis in the mix of one track, but then catch an echo of Pink Floyd or King Crimson on another.
Hawkwind - Doremi Fasol Latido
Review by Gary Hill
While I like every Hawkwind album a lot, and often for different reasons, of the early discs, this one might be my favorite. Don’t get me wrong; I love In Search of Space and the self-titled debut.
Hawkwind - In Search of Space
Review by Gary Hill
In Search of Space (sometimes referred to as X – In Search of Space) was Hawkwind’s second album released in 1971. It found the band working through a lot of the same tribal chant oriented sounds as the self-titled predecessor, but also gave rise to the incorporation of some of the more progressive rock oriented textures that would become more common in their sound.
Hawkwind - The Chronicle of the Black Sword
Review by Gary Hill
Hawkwind had a friendship with the science fiction author Michael Moorcock – he actually joined the band at one point. It should seem no surprise, then that they would do a concept album based on his Elric series.
How To Win At Life - The Defilibrator
Review by Gary Hill
Let’s get this out of the way right at the start, this is only loosely prog rock, but there are enough prog elements here for me to put it into that category. If you had to really pin this sound down with comparisons I’d say a mix of Jellyfish, Queen and Pink Floyd would come pretty close.
The Illustrated Band - The Forever of Now
Review by Gary Hill
I know some of the prog purists out there probably occasionally scratch their heads at some of the stuff I classify as progressive rock. The truth is, I think that the spirit of experimentation is a big part of what progressive rock represents as is the breaking down of musical barriers.
Iona - The Circling Hour
Review by Gary Hill
Iona’s blend of melodic prog rock with Celtic elements has always worked quite well. With their emphasis on acoustic instrumentation and the stellar vocals of Joanne Hogg comparisons to Renaissance are obvious – and often times well founded.
Jon And Vangelis - The Friends of Mr. Cairo
Review by Gary Hill
Jon Anderson and Vangelis released several albums over the years. Their merging of musical styles and ideas has always worked quite well from my point of view.
Steve Lukather - and Friends - SantaMental
Review by Gary Hill
While this album technically is probably not progressive rock, it is (mostly) fusion. I’ve always felt the boundaries between those two styles were quite elusive, so I’m including the disc here.
Novembre - Materia
Review by Gary Hill
I really wonder why so many death metal bands wind up turning to neo-prog? Such is the case with this Italian outfit.
Paatos - Silence of Another Kind
Review by Julie Knispel
Silence of Another Kind is the third album from Sweden’s Paatos (Pathos). Led by Petronella Nettermalm chameleon-esque vocals, which can range from breathy sweetness to bitter disdain, this album shows Paatos at their heaviest.
Pallas - The Bringer of Dreams (Special Edition)
Review by Julie Knispel
The Bringer of Dreams is Pallas’s first studio effort in 4 years, following on from the powerful and successful The Cross and the Crucible. Much like its predecessor, this new album could possibly be termed a concept album, but perhaps only in the loosest of terms.
Pilgrim Speakeasy - Moon Emperor
Review by Gary Hill
Prog purists will probably not embrace this as progressive rock, but as experimental and creative as it is, I think it qualifies.
The Red Masque - Feathers For Flesh
Review by Julie Knispel
The Red Masque is an avant progressive band from the Philadelphia PA area. The quartet lists bands such as Bauhaus, Van der Graaf Generator, Gong and King Crimson, among others, as influences, and those bands can certainly be heard in The Red Masque’s music as direct ancestors.
The Road - Drift
Review by Gary Hill
This road is a divided one. At times the vocal arrangements on this disc are top notch, but throughout a lot of the album either due to the performance or the production (and it varies from time to time) they are lacking.
Rush - Permanent Waves
Review by Greg Olma
Back in 1980, Rush was at a crossroads. Having done the concept prog thing to the limit with Hemispheres, Alex, Geddy, and Neil needed to either stay the course or move in a different direction.
Patrik Skantze and the Free Souls Society - Fiction At First View
Review by Gary Hill
Those who prefer their progressive rock more melodic and sedate will really enjoy this disc. There are only a few crunchy moments here, but there are a lot of great melodies and musical concepts.
Skeletonbreath - louise
Review by Julie Knispel
What do you get when you mix bass playing with occasional Zeuhl-ish tone, wildly expressive violin playing, and punk drumming? If you fueled the whole mixture with exceedingly large amounts of volume, and seasoned liberally with beer, and were very, very lucky, you just might come up with Rochester NY’s Skeletonbreath.
Twisted Into Form - Then Comes Affliction to Awaken the Dreamer
Review by Gary Hill
Let’s say upfront – these guys are talented. If you have always thought that you wished Dream Theater were more metallic, these guys are for you.
Jaimie Vernon - Time Enough At Last
Review by Gary Hill
All right, I know right off the bat this disc really isn’t progressive rock. A few songs here are, though. And when you add in the fact that Vernon has been involved with Klaatu (who I consider prog) it’s a stretch, but I’ll take it.
Villebråd - Alla är här utom jag
Review by Gary Hill
Another Swedish prog band, these guys seem less enamored with the older prog than some of their label-mates. Don’t get me wrong, they do lean on older sounds, but if I had to pick a group they sound most like it would be Radiohead, but that comparison only applies to parts of the disc.
Rick Wakeman - The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
Review by Rick Damigella
Who so pulleth out the sword from the stone is the trueborn king of all of Britain. While this greatest of tales of heroism and chivalry has been told numerous times in written and filmed form, only a handful of music based tellings have been done.
Wild Turkey - You And Me In the Jungle
Review by Gary Hill
Never heard of Wild Turkey? That’s probably because you aren’t from the right part of the world.
Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews
Circle II Circle - Burden Of Truth
Review by Greg Olma
I was a bit concerned receiving this CD to review. I have been a fan of Zak Stevens since I first heard him in Savatage.
Grave Digger - Yesterday E.P.
Review by Greg Olma
It has been a long time since I listened to Grave Digger. I remember them from the early days back in the mid 80’s where they fit somewhere in between the NWOBHM and the then emerging death metal.
I - Between Two Worlds
Review by Mike Korn
There are certain bands that are grand masters of "the riff.” Black Sabbath automatically comes to mind and I would also include Celtic Frost in that select group. Right now, the best riff masters are arguably the Norwegian ice demons Immortal, back in action after a 3-year layoff.
Magnolia - Magnolia
Review by Gary Hill
According to the bio information on this group, they took their name from a song by Blue Cheer. In fact, that group is listed as the major influence on this Swedish outfit.
Nightwish - Wishmaster
Review by Rick Damigella
True story - over the summer a friend of mine sends me a link from YouTube and says prepare to rock and to laugh. So I click on it and am treated to an absolutely killer symphonic metal riff and an operatic female vocal which is all at once beautiful, powerful and seductively mysterious.
Jon Oliva's Pain - Maniacal Renderings
Review by Greg Olma
It is really difficult for me to review this and not compare it to Savatage. Jon Oliva being the main songwriter in both bands, it obviously makes the music similar.
A Perfect Murder - Strength Through Vengeance
Review by Travis Jensen
Have you been wondering what to do with that void in your musical life since Pantera has disbanded and will probably never play as a group ever again? Well, this is your band to take the place of what was one of the most influential metal bands of the 90’s.
Philosopher - Laws Ov Form
Review by Gary Hill
German band Philosopher bills themself as a “Lovecraftian Death Metal” band and they certainly fit that role with the works of H. P. Lovecraft playing a major part in virtually everything they do. That was how I got to know these guys (and included them in my book).
Therion - Celebrators of Becoming (4 DVD/2 CD Box Set)
Review by Julie Knispel
A celebration of all things Therion, Celebrators of Becoming also marks the fifteenth anniversary of the release of the seminal black/prog/symphonic metal band’s debut album.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve and Other Stories
Review by Rick Damigella
Christmas Eve and Other Stories is the first concept album from the now world-renowned Trans-Siberian Orchestra. What originally began as a trilogy of albums will likely grow to include a fourth next year from this collaboration of musicians born out of the prog-metal band Savatage.
Twisted Sister - A Twisted Christmas
Review by Rick Damigella
Twas the month before Christmas and all through the stores, not an album was stirring, they were all such bores. The new releases were sitting, all snug in their racks, in hopes that buyers soon would buy stacks.
Unleashed - Midvinterblot
Review by Mike Korn
When a band has a lengthy career lasting more than a decade, they can go in one of two different directions. One: they can constantly shift and evolve their sound to keep up with the times. Or two: they can stay the course and stick with the style that brought them to the dance in the first place.
Zero Hour - Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond
Review by Gary Hill
These guys have developed quite a following over the last few years, but I have to admit that this is my first chance to hear them. With as powerful a version of prog metal as they produce it’s no wonder they have attracted so many fans.
Non-Prog CD Reviews
The Black Crowes - Freak ‘N’ Roll...Into the Fog - The Black Crowes All Join Hands - The Fillmore, San Francisco
Review by Gary Hill
You’ve probably heard at least a handful of Black Crowes songs. Well, this disc shows that unless you’ve caught the band live you have not heard them at their best.
Devon Allman's Honey Tribe - Torch
Review by Gary Hill
I had to check the calendar. Here it is 2006 and yet there have been a number of killer rock based classic rock releases this year leading me to think I had landed back in 1976.
Teddy Geiger - Under Age Thinking “Look Where We Are Now”
Review by Gary Hill
Teddy Geiger’s Under Age Thinking album was just released earlier this year, and now it’s being reissued with some bonus cuts and a DVD of extras.
Jimi Hendrix - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Single
Review by Rick Damigella
During his short tenure as the artist who set the standard for rock & roll guitar playing, Jimi Hendrix released some of the most timeless moments of musical genius ever set down on tape. While much has been written and explored about his well known recordings, rarely is his one-time foray into Christmas music mentioned.
Judah The Lyrical Rev - It Is What It Is
Review by Gary Hill
So you say you don’t like hip-hop because of the glorification of drugs and violence and the degradation of women? Well, you won’t find any of that here. This disc is a very strong album with a positive message.
Willie Nelson - Songbird
Review by Gary Hill
I’ve always had a deep respect for Willie Nelson’s rugged individuality and refusal to compromise his beliefs. Isn’t that what being an American is supposed to be about?
Mark Newman - Must Be A Pony
Review by Gary Hill
Fans of ‘70’s styled guitar rock rejoice – there’s a new hero in town and his name is Mark Newman. If you are a fan of such bands as Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers and Bad Company you really need to get your hands on this disc.
Paul Stanley - Live To Win
Review by Greg Olma
If you are a male and a Kiss fan, I think I can say with some degree of confidence that your favorite member of Kiss was either Gene or Ace. Gene blew fire and spit blood which made all of us think he was super cool. Ace was cool just because he seemed the most rock ‘n’ roll.
Stolen Babies - There Be Squabbles Ahead!
Review by Mike Korn
I don't know what the boss will make of this. It's not heavy metal yet it has metal parts. It's not typical progressive rock yet it is indeed very unique and therefore "progressive" in its outlook. I throw the towel in and defer to his judgment on where to place this kooky and eccentric release.
George Strait - It Just Comes Natural
Review by Gary Hill
Anyone who has followed MSJ for a while will know that I’m not a huge fan of country music. The truth is until a few years ago I didn’t like the genre at all.
Styx - And The Contemporary Youth Orchestra-One With Everything CD
Review by Gary Hill
Recording an album with an orchestra has become almost a clichéd idea these days. Many discs done this way are pretty pathetic or at least trivialized and gimmicky. This album is one of the exceptions to that.
The Who - Endless Wire
Review by Rick Damigella
24 years is a long time. Since The Who last released a full album of new music, entire genres of music have come and gone.
DVD/Video Reviews
Dream Theater - Dark Side of the Moon DVD
Review by Julie Knispel
In an effort to provide more material to their fervent fan base, Dream Theater created their own label, Ytsejam Records, to release a series of “official bootlegs.” These releases include interesting live shows, collections of studio demos, and “making of” collections that present works in progress for past studio album releases.
Dream Theater - Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live With the Octavarium Orchestra DVD
Review by Julie Knispel
Dream Theater has heavily embraced the home video/DVD market over the years, releasing five full-length videos over the past 12 years. Their latest video release, Score, celebrates the band’s 20th anniversary with a full headlining set recorded live at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall on 1 April 2006.
Madonna - An American Artist DVD
Review by Gary Hill
This might be the weakest DVD in this series – and not so much because of this product itself as due to the other material out there. Here’s the rub – this is an unauthorized documentary.
Dave Matthews - Crowded Streets Superstars DVD
Review by Gary Hill
I’ve often said that our experiences with any given thing (a movie, book or CD for example) are colored by our expectations. This is a perfect example.
The Pixies - Live At The Paradise In Boston DVD
Review by Gary Hill
You have to really give The Pixies credit. It’s not often that a group can take such an odd combination of sounds and turn it into something so very catchy.
Slipknot - Maggots DVD
Review by Gary Hill
This series of biography videos is a mixed lot – some border towards the very good end (none reaching great) and some border close to the bad category. The truth is all of them have some redeeming qualities.
The Strokes - Last Impressions of Hell DVD
Review by Gary Hill
I am beginning to feel like a skipping CD (wanted to say "broken record" – but that’s so passé) on these documentaries. There is only so much new to tell here.
Styx - And The Contemporary Youth Orchestra-One With Everything DVD
Review by Gary Hill
For a while it seemed like Styx were making a lot of mistakes and missteps. Starting with the brilliant Big Bang Theory they seem to have the right ideas again.
Various Artists - Bang Your Head!!! Festival DVD
Review by Greg Olma
Ah, summer in Europe; the warm weather, the tourists, and most of all the Heavy Metal festivals. The poor American metal fan has to suffer through Ozzfest while the European audiences get fests that bring together many name acts for a weekend of good music.
Various Artists - Carlos Santana Presents Blues At Montreux 2004 DVD Set
Review by Gary Hill
This whole series of Live at Montreux DVD’s is quite good. The older ones sometimes have some issues in regards to video and sound quality, but as for the ones recorded more recently the production tends to be close top notch.
Interview by Gary Hill
Interview with Von Babasin of OnOffOn From 2006
Stolen Babies
Interview by Mike Korn
Interview With Rani Sharone of Stolen Babies from 2006
Roine Stolt
Interview by Steve Alspach
Interview With Roine Stolt from 2006
Interview by Mike Korn
Interview with Johnny Hedlund of Unleashed from 2006
Concert Reviews
Ian Anderson - Live In Milwaukee, WI, October 2006
Review by Greg Olma
The show was billed as “An evening of Orchestral Jethro Tull with Ian Anderson.” It is sometimes difficult to separate Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull but they are two very different beasts.
The Red Masque - Live in Metuchen, New Jersey, November, 2006
Review by Julie Knispel
The NJ Proghouse series of concerts has been a boon to fans of progressive music in the NY/NJ metro area. Promoter Jim Robinson has presented a variety of shows, ranging from progressive metal to folk to avant progressive rock.
Skeletonbreath - Live in Metuchen, New Jersey, November, 2006
Review by Julie Knispel
The NJ Proghouse series of concerts has been a boon to fans of progressive music in the NY/NJ metro area. Promoter Jim Robinson has presented a variety of shows, ranging from progressive metal to folk to avant progressive rock.
Paul Stanley - Live In Chicago, IL, November 2006
Review by Greg Olma
For those of us in the Kiss Army not stationed in the New York area, it has been a long time coming for this tour. More specifically, it has been 17 long years.
Toto - Live In Chicago, IL, November 2006
Review by Greg Olma
I was lucky enough to catch Toto in Milwaukee this last summer. It has been so long since they played the states that I felt a little spoiled getting to see the band twice in less than 6 months.
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