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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Tapella

Guitar Knights

Review by Gary Hill

Fans of guitar based instrumental music should like this one a lot. Tapella is a great guitarist and he has created a CD that showcases his talent through a number of intriguing tracks. This disc is in no way a monolithic effort as Tapella works through many varying musical styles in its course. It isn’t even a truly fully instrumental CD as one track has vocals. It’s a strong disc that showcases a great guitarist.

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
Hall
This is an acoustic guitar take on “Hall of the Mountain King.”
Ava
Based at least equally on keyboards as guitar, this is gentle and quite pretty. It is quite classical in nature. It shifts to a more “song” oriented piece and vocals that call to mind Lana Lane enter. This is reborn as a harder rocking piece that’s very neo-classical in nature. That section doesn’t stay around too long, though and gives way to a reprise of the ballad-like structure for the next verse. It does return after this, though. A reprise of the introduction ends this. In some ways this whole cut reminds me a bit of something that might show up on a Rick Wakeman album.
Schubert
As one might guess this is a neo-classical piece based in the mode of the composer Schubert. It’s piano dominated but has some tasty guitar work, too. At times we get some hints of fusion and I also make out some Steve Howe influence here and there.
Sword
Fans of neo-classical tinged metal should find some familiar ground here. Many prog heads will probably argue with this being in the progressive rock category due to this track, but I will stand by the argument. Yes, Tapella shreds. Yes, this is crunchy. It’s also very classical in nature.
Dance
While this has a definite neo-classical nature and turns quite dramatic at times, the keyboard sound in the opening motif is a bit cheesy to my ears. That makes that early parts of the track a little hard to take. I really like the shift into drama that it takes, though.

Fight
Speaking of drama, this is a powerhouse and full of that aspect. It’s neo-classical but also quite nearly straight progressive rock. I can hear a bit Holtz’ “Mars” here, but not as a musical quote but rather as a tone. This moves through a number of changes and is quite an intriguing piece of music. This instrumental is one of my favorites here.
Hall 2
Here we get a more fully arranged version of “Hall of the Mountain King.”
Thrash
From the title one might think we are ready to launch out into Metallica land. Well, that’s not where we’re headed. The first half of this piece is more like the more energized Hawkwind while the second half has a sound that reminds me of Anubis Spire.
Acoustic
Here we get another full on classical treatment with (the title sure didn’t give it away, huh?) an acoustic guitar solo.
Styles
This is a one minute track that is made up of snippets of all kinds of different musical “Styles.” While it shows Tapella’s talent off, it doesn’t really hold up as a coherent piece of music.

Unlisted Track
The CD closes with an uncredited bouncy acoustic guitar solo. It’s Tapella’s take on “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

 
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