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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Rod DeGeorge

Cosmic Playground

Review by Grant Hill

Rod DeGeorge is probably a new name for most MSJ readers. But, if you love to hear guitar in the tradition of Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, to cite a couple of artists in his style of playing, I think you may want to check out Rod's new release, Cosmic Playground, available at http://cdbaby.com/cd/roddegeorge . I first heard of Rod simply by perusing musicians on Myspace, that vast "cosmic playground" for both the talented and the wannabees, but I can tell you what interested me immediately was the efficacy of this young man's chops. Solid, clean playing and great shredding skills abound, but unlike the modern prog-metal heads who are into shredding without making much of a musical statement, this guitarist speaks volumes in his writing, technique, and phrasing. The other aspect that interested me was the fact that he is from my old stomping grounds, Reading, Pennsylvania, and some of his strong influences are the excellent musicians who have made a significant contribution as performers and teachers in that area, even impacting some of the better known musicians and groups hailing from their more metropolitan neighbor, Philadelphia, just an hour or so away. I ask you to take the time to check out my interiew with DeGeorge, also in this issue, and please buy his CD! You will not regret listening and sharing it with your progressive rock and jazz fusion loving friends!

This is an up and comer to watch for in the future, for certain! Remember the name: "Rod DeGeorge," because I believe you'll be hearing from him!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Dance of the Dragonfly
"Dance of the Dragonfly" opens with an interplay between synth violin and DeGeorges searing guitar. Punchy syncopations emanate forth in this harmonc minor effort, which structurally sounds like an early Al DiMeola piece, but not really derivative in the style of laying. The phrasing and fills are excellent. The statement and answer by the guitar and violin add a nice musical touch to some pretty heavy sounding material. This features spot on perfect playing! The middle section mellows out with a nice background piano counter-melody and great rudimental snare drumming, allowing DeGeorge to really stretch his soloing here. Dynamic control is excellent as the piece rocks out to the end - bravo! This is an excellent number! It will get your blood rushing!
Cosmic Playground
"Cosmic Playground" begins with some solid arpeggio work, then moves into some bright sounding major chordal setups to a beautiful Larry Carlton style melody. This song is tastefully written. The solo section is played very cleanly. Every note speaks and is articulated well.  This is actually quite classically influenced. It could stand as a poppish crossover in the smooth jazz market, but may actually be too good for that! It's another solid, beautiful effort.
Mr. E Train
"Mr. E Train" is a bit darker sounding at the opening. The synth strings are arranged very well throughout. After the open the piece transitions into a great rock feel for the melody line, delivered initially and then up the octave before extending into a nice chorus. The rhythm section maintains tension and interest. I like the octaves in the solo section, plus the skillful dynamic control. I have to point out the solid band playing on the entire CD - excellent! These melodies will grab you and hook you immediately!
Reflections
This slows it all down to ballad tempo. It is a beautiful, soulful melody one might hear from someone like Carlos Santana. I love the way DeGeorge delivers great sustained sound. He has worked hard on his tone, and delivers consistently on both single note sustains as well as those wonderfully clean arpeggios he loves to incorporate into his playing. This song is a clinic for the player! The stylistic changeup with the punchy bass line is nice mid-piece. Great sensitivity is illustrated here!
Hyperspace Cowboy
This song has a bit more distortion edge in the sound, almost a rockabilly sound or edgy, bluesy Robert Randolph kind of  texture.  This would be a fun live piece to hear, because it has a cool groove to it, while really allowing the speed chops to take center stage. Yet, these melodies are incredibly lyrical and worthwhile for the listener to grasp - absolutely great!
Hungarian Foothills
"Hungarian Foothills" evokes mystery and a unique eastern European feel at the open, almost Mediterranean or gypsy-like. Again I must say this is very much like an Al DiMeola styl;e sound and melody without duplicating his playing. Musically, this number is impressively written. DeGeorge clearly knows his theory very well. It has ai skillful piano break followed by cool percussive accents and great shredding! Audiophiles, grab onto this one! John Petrucci, beware!
Techno Difficulties
"Techno Difficulties" is a title that sounds like it could be me every time I reboot my old computer! This opens with a trip hop rhythm that underlies the piece throughout. The melody line is reminiscent of an Irish or Scottish folk theme wrapped around a Liquid Tension Experiment refrain and Petrucci style soloing. This is a cool number drawing on a variety of styles! Isn't that what prog and fusion are all about? Really skillful playing and voice changes emanate throughout. This is very listenable while retaining many deeper musical characteristics.
Dawn/Morning Sun
"Dawn" and "Morning Sun" are included together because they flow so wonderfully into one another as short acoustic pieces, beautifully written and performed. They remind me of some of the material written by Dave Cullen, one of Rod DeGeorge's mentors. These songs signify an excellent command of the acoustic instrument with deep, resonant tonality and solid phrasing - beautiful!
Rondo Alla Turca
This is, yup, "that" Mozart piece. Anyone who can nail an Amadeus number on the electric guitar has my vote for eclectic electric performer of the year!  Marty Mellinger's underlying score captures the flavor of the classical era, and if you're like me, these great classical masters raise my intellectual awareness of music to a much higher level. Why? Because composers like this were the original prog artists for sure! DeGeorge hits this one squarely where he needs to, showing off his great diversity in style and chops with alacrity. You'll want to play this one for your friends, maybe even your mother will become a prog fan after hearing it!
State of Flux
"State of Flux" is the funky groove conclusion to this fine CD. Now here is a very, very fine rock number that almost any modern music fan can enjoy. DeGeorge's playing is once again over the top in excellence, but I also have to remark about Philadelphia bassist Kevin Vecchione, who sounds so much like Victor Wooten on this that it's almost scary. This is a great number and I'm sure you'll hear what I mean!
 
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