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Shaun DeGraff

Grey Area

Review by Gary Hill

I originally had this one set to go into the non-prog category, but on further listening I think that in many ways it’s not far from a lot of modern song oriented progressive rock. Sure, there are elements that are closer to urban music here, too, but really isn’t the merging of disparate sounds a big part of progressive rock? I know, for most prog purists, only certain types of music can be included for it to still fit into progressive rock. For this reviewer, though, exploration and merging of sounds is a progressive thing – in all senses of the word.

 


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Everything to Me

There’s a ballad-like texture to this. It gets quite progressive rock like, but still with a definite pop rock bent, as it carries on. Strings and other elements add a lot of depth to this track. At times this reminds me of Sister Hazel, at other points I think of Styx and then other things remind me more of modern prog bands. It’s a cool track with a lot going on. There are also sections that make me think of The Buggles – and that’s even before the allusion to “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

Green Man
This one combines some of the prog rock from the previous sounds with hip hop and other urban elements into a cut that’s unique. It should be mentioned that it deserves a parental advisory on the lyrics. There’s a little bit of an allusion to Red Hot Chili Peppers here, too. There’s a cool keyboard dominated movement later in the song that’s got a classical feeling to it at first, but then there’s another musical quote. After that we’re taken out into a space jam.
Summertime
There’s plenty of urban sounds on this, but the keyboards bring more prog elements, too. This is a catchy and quite cool cut that has an alternative pop nature to it. The arrangement gets rather complicated at times.
You Had Me at Goodbye
This is less prog rock than some of the other stuff. It’s more like an electro pop ballad. It’s a cool cut and a nice change of pace no matter how you slice it.
Can't Stop Now
Picture a modern progressive rock oriented Sister Hazel and you’ll have a good idea of what this sounds like. It’s a more energized track and quite cool.
Needing Vibrations
This seems like it rises up from the previous one. An intricate piano solo is contrasted with a hip hop sort of scratching. After a time that hip hop sound drops away and the vocals enter in a powerfully evocative delivery. They take it out into a smoking prog rock oriented jam after the verse. It drops back down to a more powerful take on the vocal movement after that instrumental section. This is a killer track that does a great job of combining progressive rock with urban and pop textures.
Times Like These (I Need You Most)
This balladic cut is sad and beautiful. It’s quite proggy, but also pop oriented.
Not Going Down
There’s a definite old school gospel texture to this ballad. It’s another powerful track, although it’s arguably not progressive rock. This piece does get another one of those parental advisories for lyrics.
Alone
This is an odd, but entertaining cut with all kinds of weird textures and sounds moving around here and there while the vocals skate over the top.
Scenic Route to Die
Here’s another that does a great job of merging urban elements with progressive rock ones. It’s a reasonably mellow number, but it powers up at various points. The vocal performance is especially powerful.
Snow in Vegas (Your Christmas Song)
This balladic piece reminds me a lot of Elton John. In fact, I’d say that with a different vocal performance, this could definitely pass as Elton John. There is another parental advisory earned here.
Stay the Same
Another piano and vocal ballad, there’s a little twist into weirdness in the middle. That gives way to a false ending followed by a reprise. There are parts of this that make me think of Elton John, too. We get a little honky tonk when it comes back in.

Everything to Me (Playa Mix)
This is a remix of the opening cut and it has more of techno/electronica feeling.
Can't Stop Now (BassJunkiez Mix)
Here’s another remix of an earlier track.
Not Going Down (Troutman Mix)
Bet you can’t guess what this is.
You Had Me at Goodbye (Acoustic Version)
And, truth in advertising, here we get an acoustic take of the earlier piece. It’s tasty.
 
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