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Arek Religa

In memory of the Greatests

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve never heard of this guy before, but he’s a great guitarist. He’s also an excellent songwriter. Fans of Al Di Meola, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Carlos Santana and others would be well advised to pick this up. His playing is along the lines of guys of that ilk – yes, he’s that good! Of course, he also plays a lot more than just guitar – he provides all the instrumentation on some of the tracks here and most on some of the others. Guitar, though, is his specialty and he deserves a place among the greats in that field. If I had one complaint here, it’s the same as with a lot of instrumental music. Instrumental music by its very nature can have a tendency towards sameness and this disc, while fairly insulated, isn’t completely immune to that. We could have used some vocals in one or two spots on the CD to shake things up a little. Still, that’s the only real complaint here. All in all, this is a fine album from a man whose name should be spoken alongside all the guitar greats you already know.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hope
Piano begins this in a slow moving, intricate and very pretty melody. Other keyboard sounds join to fill in the arrangement. At around the one minute mark other instrumentation enters and this suddenly feels like a dramatic, symphonic piece of music with a bit (and rather small at that) rock edge. At around the minute and a half mark it drops way down to ambience and an evocative guitar line plays slowly and gently. The keys rise up here and there in accompaniment as the fretboard sings out its heart. The keys regain control at about three minutes in. Then we move back into the symphonic sounds. This takes it to a drop back down to ambient keys that ends the track.
Beyond Horizon
This is far more “rock” oriented. Percussion leads it in and other instrumentation joins after a time. When the guitar enters it’s in a very Al Di Meola-ish motif.             Fusion is written all over this cool track that has a great sort of groove to it. Just before the two minute mark they move things out into something more akin to Genesis meets Joe Satriani. This is worked through for a while until it gives way to the motif that preceded it to carry on. It makes it through several varying themes before closing out.

Viva Carlos!
This song feels like a cross between Di Meola and Carlos Santana. Of course, it is a definite tribute to the latter. This is a cool track, but perhaps a bit less prog like than some of the other material here. It really has a definite Santana vibe to it and CS’ fans should really dig this one.
Island of my dreams
Here Religa brings it in with a lot more sedate motif. This feels like mellow fusion blended with balladic prog. It drops back to a more pure jazz motif, mostly due to the saxophone. Piano leads the way for a time and then the sax returns to carry more melody. At around the two minute mark this shifts out to a killer jazz groove that’s quite intriguing. Then it takes another turn, into more mellow wanderings again. When the guitar rises up later it brings a major fusion sound as the bass churns away with some definite funk edge. It moves through a couple other moods before ending.
Next step to the end
Ambient textures lead this off an hold it for a time. When the music rises up it’s quite mellow, almost to the level of new age music. This is a pretty piece of music. Around the two and a half minute mark it powers up to a more rock oriented sound. Some cool flanged guitar comes over the top. This takes on some territory close to the Satriani type of music. At around the seven minute mark this powers out into a killer, more pure prog, jam. It still has some of the funk and other elements of the earlier sections, but this would probably qualify as progressive rock in just about anyone’s definition. It moves out to a more hard rocking motif later, with the focus shifting back to the guitar. Keys are laced over the top here and there before the track fades out to end. It’s another tasty tune on an album that’s full of them.
Into the future
Here we get a lighter sort of sound. This has an airy funk meets prog and pop music motif. The keyboards turn it more towards pure prog as they solo over the top of the backdrop for a time. Then Relega brings his brand of guitar to the forefront and the fusion elements are more in play.  This turns into a cool groove after a time. It runs through in that motif for a while and then drops back for a more sedate section. Saxophone comes across after a while.
It's going to be better
This one alternates between a rocking sort of fusion meets jam band prog sound and a mellower, more fusion oriented sound. You might even hear a little Allman Brothers on this one. It’s a cool tune. By now I’m to the point where I could use some vocals, though. Still a keyboard dominated section provides some much needed variety.

           

On the road
A backwards burst gives way to a dramatic jam that seems to combine modern progressive rock with AOR and jazz. This is a bit different from some of the other material on show and provides a bit of a change. It’s quite powerful and prog rock oriented, but the bass and overall composition provides a good deal of fusion to the mix.. Then it drops way back to just keys and bass to gradually build up again. I like this one a lot. In fact, it’s one of my favorites on show here. It turns more towards the more rocking sounds that permeate much of the disc.
And the road goes on
Drums lead things off in a more “rock and roll” sort of rhythm. As the other instruments join, though, we get a sort of groove oriented fusion meets Santana approach. This is another highlight of the disc. Although in many ways it doesn’t differ greatly from a lot of the other material here it manages to pack a bit more of a punch than some of the other tracks.
Waiting for the miracle
This has a mellower, more pure jazz sound. Again, the saxophone is greatly responsible for that texture. As this moves along we get more pure fusion and then at other points more pure progressive rock. This is one of the more dynamic and effective pieces on show here. It’s definitely a highlight of the disc. The saxophone ends it.
For all my Angels
“For all my Angels” comes in with a more pure rock and roll approach. A hard rocking riff that’s almost a bit like Led Zeppelin starts it off and holds it for a while. It’s shifted more towards prog rock at times, though. This hard edged section is alternated with a more melodic, fusion sort of sound. It makes for an intriguing ebb and flow approach to the track. While I wouldn’t necessarily call this one a “highlight,” it’s definitely one of the more unique pieces on the disc.
By the paradise
Here we are treated to a more mellow, fusion like jam. The saxophone gets a prominent place in the mix on this track.  The number has a relaxing and quite satisfying texture to it. It’s again one of the more unique tunes offered here. It’s also one of my favorites. I hear a bit of “Father and Son Reunion” in the melody on this. We actually get a little taste of country in the guitar solo.
In memory of the Greatests
A bit more along the lines of Satriani and such musicians, this is still fairly sedate and fusion-like. It has a definite air of drama and mystery at times. It’s also quite pretty.  It moves through a number of alternating musical formats, seeming at times ready to move off into space. We get a number of different textures and moods throughout. This is one of the most dynamic pieces on the CD. At almost nine minutes in length, it is the longest.
 
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