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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

James Sudakow


Review by Gary Hill

So, you say you like instrumental music that borders between prog rock and fusion? Then this CD is definitely one you should check out. The power of electric violin drives the compositions here, and brings with it a different sort of take on that style of music. You might hear elements of artists like King Crimson, Genesis and Jean-Luc Ponty on this release, but those just show up in small doses. The full picture of this album is quite unique and original – with echoes of other music. Don't get me wrong, it's not breaking fully new and virgin ground. Instead it is providing a new impression of sounds that we have been familiar with in the past. This modernization revitalizes a genre and makes this disc a real winner. For more information, visit Sudakow's website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Ambient tones rise gradually upward. This has a dramatic, rather mournfully texture as it slowly fills out. Just before the one minute mark percussion pounds in moving the composition in new directions. With dramatic tones forming over the backdrop a screaming violin that feels more like electric guitar enters crying out amidst this sonic tapestry. Eventually it moves out to a more full on jam than the short bursts of sound that the instrument provided at first. This grows organically becoming an extremely powerful jam that combines elements of progressive rock, fusion and jam band sounds in this violin-dominated motif. It's a satisfying sound painting and a great way to start the disc. It gets quite heavy and hard rocking at times. It gets quite cacophonous at times, too.
This starts more classical in a way with instruments creating a new soundscape in sedate ways. It grows by increments for a while then around the two minute mark turns into an arrangement that combines an electronic sort of backing texture with violin soloing over it. The music moves into a more full fledged prog rock jam later and turns a bit more noisy as it does. This one is another powerful piece of sound exploration.
Percussion starts this one, joined quickly by bass in an almost funky texture. As the arrangement fills out a bit more it feels a lot like King Crimson. As this powers out into a more fast paced, rocking jam you might think of a more energized Jean-Luc Ponty. The violin thoroughly soars and screams in this jam. It turns very noisy and heavy later with the King Crimson comparisons coming into play again. It drops down then to an unaccompanied violin solo as it moves onward. With melancholy tones and classical motifs, this serves as a stark contrast to the power that preceded it. After this they crunch out even more with more Crimsonish metallic fury. At over nine and a half minutes in length this is the second longest cut on show here.
Starting out tentatively and quiet on bass guitar, violin rises up over this backdrop after a time. The melodies that are created as the violin works its way around with just the bass and keys accompanying it are exceptionally beautiful and potent. I'm reminded a bit of some of Tony Levin's more textural works. At about three and a half minutes this shifts out into a full prog rock arrangement that has a lot of energy and power. It's an extremely triumphant sounding movement. None of the beauty is lost here, but it's simply intensified. After turning rather cacophonous for a while it drops back to the sedate to eventually end in a pretty and potent manner.
At over ten minutes in length this is the longest cut on the CD. It fires out with a screaming Celtic sort of swirling sound. As the song kicks in for the main part of the ride the feel of an Irish jig is definitely firmly in place. This thing just plain rocks! Neo-classical lines are interspersed amongst those spinning lines of sound. They pound it out into metallic fury later, but return to the earlier themes before a crescendo drops the track to near silence. Percussion and bass rises up from there to move things onward. It turns dramatic and mysterious as the violin and other instruments return. They rebuild this and finally shift out into a smoking reiteration of the earlier themes. This movement calls to mind both Hawkwind and King Crimson a bit. An extended crescendo takes it to atmospheric tones that finally end this.
A very pretty and light hearted melody leads this one off. Other instruments begin to join and they launch out into a movement that feels just a tiny bit like Genesis. This turns heavier as it carries forward. Rather than moving through a lot of drastic changes, this one draws most of its power from reworking and revising the main musical themes in new patterns and combinations. It's in many ways the most catchy piece of music on the CD and is a great way to end the disc in style.
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