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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Secret Aging Men

Night Mowing

Review by Gary Hill

When I reviewed Secret Aging Men's last disc, Fully Functional, I commented on how their style of instrumental music was good, but there was too little variety. Well, the SAM (that's Secret Aging Men) gods have listened. This new release has every bit as solid musicianship and compositions. It also has the added benefit of a lot more diversity in terms of musical style and overall structures. This makes the disc even better than its predecessor. Consider Night Mowing to be the new and improved SAM album – SAM 2.0 if you will – even more fully functional.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
This rises up with waves of atmosphere and texture. It shifts out to a great, still mellow, fusion sound. This is just a brief introductory piece.
Feeling as if it rises straight from the last track, this one leads off with a killer mellow rock groove. Keyboards come over the top as this builds up, pulling in some great textures and melody lines. This is a wonderful piece of melodic prog rock. This thing moves through several changes and variations and just plain rocks.
Gravity 101
Starting more tentatively, this one comes up gradually with a bit of funk texture to it. It stays quite sedate, but still manages to sway and rock within that volume level. Later in the track they drop it back even further for a time before re-intensifying the arrangement into some killer fusion. This cool track is one of the strong points of the disc. It becomes a soaring, climbing jam later on that works exceptionally well.
Sweet Spot
Here we get almost a Latin texture on the opening. They settle into a great jazz groove from there. This one is almost pure jazz and has a great rhythm and tempo. You just feel yourself wanting to say, “this is cool, man, dig it?” Yeah, that's how tasty the music is. It relocates you to a different time and place. They turn this into a more pure fusion approach for a time with searing guitar soloing, but return to the more cool jazz sounds as the pull forward from there. I'd absolutely love to hear this one live. I'm sure it cooks! It's actually one of my favorites on the set.
Avenue 13
More classy jazz structures serve to power this one up. It's another great groove that has such an awesome retro texture to it. It's another highlight of the disc.
Deep Pockets
This one comes up feeling like it's a bit of more of the same. The frantic walking bass line that drives this, though separates it from the ones that came before. While this still lives in a killer jazz domain it has different flavor than the last couple numbers. This is another smoking jam.
Piece of the Puzzle
Ambient, mysterious keyboard textures rise up to begin this show. Slowly the group work this through, moving into a cool prog rock groove after a while. They bring in some great melody lines and musical textures as they carry along, making this another highlight.
The opening movement is definitely based on what many refer to as “jazz chords.” As they work onward from there piano and other elements work into positions of driving the piece. The percussion particularly shines on this one and the great edgy guitar sound adds a lot to this fusion oriented jam. This becomes quite an energized arrangement as it continues on. While it still maintains its fusion roots a lot of rock elements make their way into this mix of sounds. Later portions of the cut are filled with powerful instrumental lines working their way around one another. Some of the guitar textures remind me a bit of Steve Howe at times. This may well be my favorite cut on show here. They bookend this by dropping it just to keys to end.
Sad Pie
Pretty piano with mysterious keyboards are the first sound here, but when horn textures join this takes a turn towards some killer pure jazz sounds. Piano is added to the mix as they build in a slow moving shuffle. While not one of my favorites, this is tasty and serves as a great change of pace.
Mood Swing
More jazz textures lead this off, but as it seems ready to slide into another smooth groove this turn this around the corner into some oddly angled lines of somewhat dissonant sound, landing it more firmly into the RIO school of progressive rock than anywhere else. This moves through a number of changes and arrangements, most of them slightly off center in approach. This is a challenging piece of music, but one that doesn't really work that well for me. Then again, I've never been a huge fan of the whole RIO movement. Still, this one does manage to pull in some inspired passages.
Leap of Faith
More slightly twisted elements lead this one off, but they pull in the reins a bit better here. Rather than feeling like free-form RIO it comes across more like what you might get if early King Crimson lineups had tried to play straight jazz or fusion. You might here some Frank Zappa on this one, too.
Bass begins here in a dark and mysterious manner. Percussion joins as this builds slowly. Piano enters next and the track begins to build up in a deliberate manner. This retains its mysterious element, but works towards beauty as it continues onward. Intricate lines of melody are woven across the tapestry that is this cut. It becomes more and more fully developed and more evocative with each new measure. While this may not be an obvious choice, if you give it the time to breath you'll probably find it's one of the strongest pieces here.
Out 2 See
With a smooth jazz mode that reminds me a lot of Pat Metheny, this one is a lot of fun. It's quite an interesting and pleasing composition that is another highlight of the CD. They transform this one as they go through increasing and decreasing the pace, adding and subtracting wonderful lines of instrumental soloing and in general working and reworking the themes. This one is quite a powerful track.
A. R. G. E.
The title stands for “A Really Good Ending,” and isn't that what every band strives for – well, maybe not every band. Keys lead this off with percussion quickly joining as the rest of the group gradually rise upwards into the mix. This one sort of washes over you and then envelops you in waves of slowly altering sound. The effect is nice, but I'm not sure how well they achieved their desired variety of ending. It seems a bit like an extended fade rather than a final flash of glory. I suppose the perception of success all depends on their definition of “a really good ending.” This works reasonably well in that regard.
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