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City of Refuge

Review by Gary Hill

Musically probably half of this disc would not qualify as progressive rock. So, why do I have it listed here? Well, Drumbo’s work with Captain Beefhart certainly pushed the boundaries of musical labels – and isn’t that one of the tenets of progressive rock? This music does the same, so we’re going to put it under prog. Fans of Captain Beefhart should enjoy this, but so should anyone with a spirit of adventure and a love of challenging classic rock.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
A swirling, King Crimson-like riff is brought in and they build a bluesy groove around this. It’s a cool cut and one that’s both catchy and left of center. There’s a fusion-like element to some of the later parts of this and we get some cool instrumental work.
Bus Ticket Outta Town
The harmonica on this brings in a pretty pure blues sound and the band groove in that way. There’s not a lot of progressive rock in this one, but there are some hints here and there. The instrumental section is one of those. There is also some guitar soloing that feels rather like Jerry Garcia. 
Blood On A Porcupine Quill
Harmonica plays a big role on the intro here. This is a cool rocking groove and another that doesn’t have a ton of prog, but has enough to keep it interesting. There’s a cool spoken word section with the instruments just wailing in the background. 
City Of Refuge
Piano starts this in a very classical music meets progressive rock arrangement. That motif grows and evolves but holds the track by itself for almost the first minute. Then they power out into one of the most purely prog rock segments on show here. It’s also a candidate for best song on the album. It has some exceptionally tasty guitar work. We also get a killer horn solo. The closing jam is especially noteworthy, too. 
There’s a more hard rock meets blues approach to this. It comes in with a hard rocking, plodding jam and then drops way down for the verse. They power it up into a jam band meets progressive rock element. There’s a cool instrumental section that combines prog and fusion into a great texture. 
Get So Mean
More of a bluesy jam this is fairly straightforward and not overly proggy. It’s a strong tune and a nice piece of variety. 
Maybe That'll Teach Ya
The harmonica returns on this bluesy number. 
To The Loft Of Ravenscroft
A jazzy segment leads this off, but then drops away. At that point only the rhythm section remains. After a time, though, the other instrumentation rejoins and we are off on a very jazz oriented excursion. There’s a cool fusion oriented guitar solo section here, too. This instrumental gets quite involved as it carries forward and reminds me a bit of early King Crimson or Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. 
The Shirt Off My Back
Here bluesy music is combined with frantic jazzy prog and some Zappa-like sounds. It’s another highlight of the disc. 
Wicked Witch Of War
A less crazed jazz motif starts us off here. They work it through a series of changes and alterations as this becomes more rock oriented. Old school King Crimson is certainly a valid comparison, but we also get some territory closer to the newer incarnations of that band. 
Whose Side Ya On
Careening this way and that, this is another that has some Crimson-like elements. There’s also some fusion in the mix. Add in a soulful sort of groove and you have a good picture of this one. It’s some pretty amazing music and another of the standouts. 
The Withered Hand Of Time
Another off-kilter jam this is tasty. There’s a potent spoken word section and this gets quite jazzy at times. It’s not all that different in terms of musical components than the last piece and yet the overall picture feels quite unique. This is another  highlight of the disc and includes some of the coolest instrumental work of the whole disc.
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