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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Harmony Riley


Review by Gary Hill

Two points need to be made right at the beginning of this review. First, just because this band features Rick Nielsen`s sons Daxx and Miles, don`t expect them to sound like Cheap Trick, because they don`t. Second, Harmony Riley are not progressive rock, but more pop rock. However, in regards to the second comment, they definitely feature quirky progressive rock oriented segments, extended song lengths and complex arrangements. This, coupled with a wonderful ability to craft very entertaining, diverse and creative soundscapes, a great taste for retro sounds and an all around fun atmosphere should make this album appeal to fans of progressive rock and classic rock, while still pleasing the modern pop/rock audiences.

Harmony Riley is Daxx Nielsen, Miles Nielsen, Brent Stenberg, Bighed and Jonathon Marks. For purchasing or other info, check out their website at If possible, make sure you tell them that you read about the disc at Music Street Journal.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
The introductory riff to this cut has a quirky sort of rhythmic texture that certainly shows progish tendencies, ala old Yes. After that point, it takes on a more pop oriented nature, closer to the sound of Hootie and the Blowfish, but the percussion work here really stands out. That quirky riff shows up a couple times throughout the song as instrumental breaks, one of those times being an extended and more complex occurrence. That extended version leads into a guitar solo segment that has a Santanaish, Allman Brothers sort of mode. The guitar solo based segment returns after the last chorus before the opening riff ends the piece.
More Santanaish modes begin this cut, with it then dropping into a more modern pop oriented mode, ala Hootie and Dave Matthews. There is a slower segment to this cut that brings on thoughts of `60`s psychedelic music. Actually, this composition features a very intriguing and entertaining arrangement. The guitar solo seems to call to mind the works of Carlos Santana and Steve Howe. In fact, a very prog rock oriented segment, almost in a Yesish mode, takes the song back out of the guitar solo.
Daxx Attack
This tune has a very definite funky `70`s retro approach with good time rock and roll sounds that call to mind bands such as the Doobie Brothers without really sounding like them. It includes another Santanaish guitar solo.
With a rhythmic structure that rather calls to mind Santana, the intro here leans toward prog, but also calls to mind The Doors-The End. The main riff of the song is another that is quite quirky, and the verse segment has a nice `70`s rock sound combined with more modern textures. This one features an extended guitar solo set in a nice jam mode that again calls to mind the Allman Brothers.
Slow and reflective, again with progish textures, this one also slightly makes one think of early Yes in the guitar chordings. More nicely psychedelic modes appear on this cut. Guest vocalist Holland Zander puts in a strong performance, and adds a lot to the potent texture of the song. After her appearance, the song shifts into a quirky instrumental mode that is one of the strongest progressive rock showings on this disc. Some of the guitar work here calls to mind Steve Hackett`s work in Genesis, and in fact, parts of this song, with a slightly altered arrangement could certainly fit on an old Genesis album.
Dynamite Man
Based on fast paced pop rock in modern modes, this one also features an arrangement that feels a bit like the Talking Heads at times. The guitar solo to this one screams with a very retro sound, and takes the number into a funky jam that almost calls to mind the Grateful Dead.
Wooly Mammoth
Overall this is an uptempo rocker, but it features some slower paced segments that seem to echo the sounds of the Grateful Dead.
Only For A Moment
This is a nice slow paced ballad. "Your love is like a string, Pulling at my chain, Only for a moment."
The New One
Essentially a newer styled rock song with retro leanings, this one does have some intriguing musical textures and a nice guitar solo.
Moon Walk
Starting with "wah" guitar much in the mode of Jimi Hendrix, this instrumental progresses in lots of directions from modern rock influences to leanings toward such classic traditions as Duane Eddy. The cut includes Chili Peppersish tones and much more in an entertaining combination that really holds the listener`s interest.
This strong hard rocking number really captures a retro sort of feel, and features a very potent guitar solo. The number shows off more quirkiness and the band`s innate ability to fuse together various musical elements into a cohesive and wonderful musical mosaic.
Hidden Track
This cut is a very retro sort of piece in the mode of late `60`s early `70`s sounds. Starting off as a solid rock number, it features more definite prog leanings. Then, the cut shifts gear moving into styles along the lines of the Grateful Dead, before returning to those hard rocking moments to end it.
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