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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic


Review by Gary Hill

This is arguably the most accessible disc from Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. That said, don't expect to hear the latest pop or rock sounds here. They managed to create a fairly catchy mix here, while still retaining every bit of their exquisitely quirky jazz and classically laden sound. They always have had a knack for taking quirky arrangements and making them feel "comfortable", but certainly much of the material here is more "cozy" than most of their repertoire. This is probably the best first glance at this band for those not in to quite so adventurous music. My bet is that if you give this one a chance, and like it, you will find yourself more in the zone for the rest of their catalog.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
The True Wheelbase
A piano drop brings the cut in, and the band launches into one of their tastiest riffs ever. This cut really has a very solid groove, yet features a lot of frantic jamming, too. I guess the basic description of the riff is that it feels a bit like the Peter Gunn theme, but that doesn't really do it justice. I hazard to say that this is one f the all-time best songs from this band, presenting their chaotic form of jazz0neoclassical instrumental prowess all within a catchy format.
They Walk Among Us
Drumming straight out of Led Zep's "Misty Mountain Hop" starts this, but as the band's weird symphonically techno based arrangement comes in, it's clear that this is not Plant, Page and company. This is another that remarkable and deftly merges an accessible feel with downright weird textures and jamming. It breaks down to chaos later in the number, but pulls back out to the more catchy main riff.
Coco Boudakian
This cut continues in the more catchy format of the songs already presented, but comes across more in the jazz vein. I guess you could think of this as somewhat like Miles Davis meets Al Dimeola and they jam with a classical outfit added to their bands - cool stuff. A more chaotic element emerges later, but the band move back out into what becomes the most pure jazz segment of the number, then taking it into Crimsonian weirdness for the outro.
I Don't Need No Crystal Ball
This feels a lot like Birdsongs of the Mesozoic going Devo. This is weird, yet catchy. It's fast paced and coherent, while still getting chaotic at times.
Chariots of Fire
No, this is not Birdsongs' cover of the Vangelis movie theme. Piano begins this one in somewhat neo-classical ways. Other instruments gradually join, pulling in a sedate and pretty balladic style. Then it begins to reform into a faster quirky progression and violin begins to play over top of this until it drops back to an arrangement of piano and violin. Then a weird texture takes the piece for a while before it emerges as a more hard-edged crunchy affair with guitar laced overtop. That mode becomes the outro to the piece.
Magic Fingers (25ยข)
Sedate tones begin this, but feeling more like King Crimson than anything else. However, when the clarinet joins the texture takes on a smooth jazzy mode. The clarinet remains the focal point throughout the track, although the hammering tones that began take over for a time before it drops back to a sparse piano only mode. The song starts over, building in a new less melodic style. After this interlude, the band move back to the earlier styles for a time, then alternate between these two worlds.
The title track begins with a faster paced melody. This continues, carrying the composition forward, the band working over this backdrop in a fairly chaotic way. This is another that vaguely resembles King Crimson. It gets pretty raucous at times.
On The Street Where You Live
This is a more melodic excursion. It drops back to just piano for a time, then begins a slow climb back up from there. This one moves and grows in strong patterns. It is another that is more accessible than much of the band's repertoire.
Maybe I Will
This has an anxious somewhat off-kilter feeling to it. It is just a little dissonant. This number is fairly dynamic, shifting and changing quite a bit. It is really quite an interesting musical adventure, moving and creating some mellow prog themes and jazz-like textures.
There Is No One
This one is much more noisy, like a jazz band's take on modern King Crimson.
More melodic, but still off-kilter piano tones serve as the early segments here, and as the other instruments join, that mode carries on. It builds slowly, but remains pretty and melodic.
This one rocks out a bit more than some of the other material here, but is still quite accessible. It drops to the more sedate at times, but keeps returning to the harder edged.
Just Say Yes
Atmospheric and ethereal tones begin this, and then the group builds upon this structure in a slow and sedate ways. At times this sounds like music that might appear on a Jon Anderson solo album. It gets very lush at points, and serves as a calming conclusion to the disc.
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