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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dee Long

Outside

Review by Gary Hill

This solo album from Klaatu's Dee Long doesn't sound all that much like that band. That's actually hard to believe because it has some of the key elements that made up the sound of Klaatu. It includes a great sense of accessibility, demonstrations of how to make complex songs seem catchy, an interest in science fiction and some Beatles influences. Still, Long's music has a distinctive flavor all its own. While some tracks do have segments that feel like his old band, the majority of them don't. While I like Klaatu, I'm glad Long choose to move on and create his own unique musical motif, and a good one it is. While there are no songs that are bad, there are some that are better than others. I really like this CD quite a bit.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Meaning of Life
This quite straightforward rocker is very catchy. At points the vocal line reminds me of "Sun Down" by Gordon Lightfoot, but that's the only resemblance. This is more of a bouncy pop rock number. It drops to a cool jazzy guitar solo later. Another segment of the cut brings in more standard prog elements and a later guitar solo feels a bit like Pat Metheny. This is a quite dynamic cut for as simples as it seems on the surface.
(Make Love) Zero Gravity
Long's sci-fi interests (often seen in Klaatu's music) surface here. A bouncy beat brings in a techno texture. As the vocals enter, bringing prog spacey modes with them, the cut becomes a tasty mellow progressive rock journey. It also does a great job of capturing that Klaatu trademark of a catchy pop oriented prog.
Mad Magazine
This bouncing mellow rocker is all about that famous magazine - not the TV show, but the print version that inspired it. The recurring processed "what, me worry?" reminds me a bit of Art of Noise's "Paranoimia."
Outside
The title track comes in harder than anything thus far, feeling a touch like Alice Cooper. It drops to an ambient techno section, then jumps to the song proper which carries those harder edged elements with a spacey prog jam. This is still catchy, as odd as it is. The more techno aspects take control at times, but the cut moves quite organically through its varying elements. This one is a real winner.
You Are Too Beautiful
As if knowing that that listener needs a break after that one, organic guitar starts this one and it builds into an expansive mellow rock ballad with 60's rock elements. The vocal arrangement and over layers bring in lots of '60's psychedelic type sounds. It drops to a vocoder like section later, but just as a short bridge.
Chromosome Syndrome
This odd jam has some strange electronic elements, but it also has a killer groove. Lyrically it covers subject matter from genetically altered foods to lobbyist influence on government and hypocrisy in marijuana laws. Long puts in some very interesting guitar work on this one.
Time Will Tell
This is pretty and dramatic, but it's also rather melancholy and understated. It has a more electronic take on the sounds of artists like Chroma Key. It shifts to a killer potent prog jam over time, getting both lush and heavy at points on the bridge. The lyrics here are about following your dreams. This is one of my favorite cuts on the disc.
Collecting Icons
Backwards tracked guitar starts this and carries it forward. This has the feel of a prog oriented Hendrix like stomper at first. The chorus is more melodic with a bit less bite and a major prog styling. This is another especially cool one. It's quite dynamic and dramatic moving to more spacey prog jams and a bit of a Floydish texture at times. Long puts in some meaty guitar work in the outro.
Wait For You
This dramatic mellow music is very melancholy and almost creepy. It reminds me of a cross between Alice Cooper's "Steven" and David Bowie's "Space Oddity" on the intro and verses. The chorus, though, has a poppy, yet meaty, somewhat Beatlesesque sound to it. The instrumental break is a very cool Beatles inspired jam. It dissolves into space to end. The lyrics, a tale of someone sitting on Earth waiting for his love to return from a journey to Alpha Centauri, are brilliant and have to be heard (or read) to fully appreciate. This is my favorite track on the CD. At a little less than 7 and a half minutes it's also the longest track on the disc.
It's Good
Distorted feedbacky guitar opens this rambling along for a while, then drifting into space. Moving this way in ambient tones for a time, this suddenly shifts to a fun bluesy jam. The early segments here are in a tongue in cheek simple mode, but this evolves into a killer expansive excursion that rocks out quite well. The instrumental break is a turbo charged prog rock riff fest. It turns back to spacey feedback dominated territory to end. This is another very strong piece.
Good Night Universe
The disc closer is the one that feels the most like Klaatu in a piano based, pretty and gentle ballad approach at first. This also reminds me at times of ELO with its gradually growing progression. The cut keeps reworking its musical themes building them into more thoroughly filled out epic like modes.
 
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