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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Sean Malone

Cortlandt

Review by Gary Hill

For my money fusion and progressive rock share so much DNA that they often cross into one another’s territory. Such is the case with this CD. You’ll find here a cool version of instrumental (OK, in truth one song does have non-lyrical vocals) fusion. It’s good stuff and sure to please fans of the genre. I should note that there is stick in play here – that means that when I refer to bass or guitar it might often actually be stick – but I’m commenting on what it sounds like – not so much what instrument is being played.

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
Controversy
An almost Zappa-like riff starts this off and as it is moved out into a fusion jam it’s definitely still got a bit of FZ in the works. When it’s moved out towards more melodic music, though, it’s not really got the ghost of Zappa flitting about at all. I actually hear bits of early Yes (first two albums) at times on this. It moves out to fast paced melodic fusion later and then drops way back down to a bass oriented section. The bass moves through some cool accompanied soloing before they turn their attention back to earlier portions of the track to close it out.
Splinter
Crunchy fusion meets neo-prog on the introduction here. They move this out (after a couple changes) into a frantic bass driven jam that’s just plain cool – even if it’s only bass and percussion.  Eventually guitar returns and takes us on a new crunchy excursion. This reminds me at time of modern King Crimson. A number of seemingly random, more fully jazz oriented (and often dissonant) segments come in here and there until they move it to a short burst of metallic crunch to close things out.
Fischer's Gambit
This comes in more tentatively with an open airy jazz arrangement. The track is one of the most cohesive in terms of lacking in left turns. It’s also one of the more melodic. It’s got something in shared territory with Joe Satriani, but that’s only part of the picture. This is a rather relaxing piece.
Hand Full of Earth
Here we get another one that’s more consistent (at least through the first half) and melodic, yet it’s also exceptional. A great dramatic segment opens this and carries it for a time, but they shift out after a time towards more stripped down arrangements. This moves through a series of changes and alterations along its course. We get some sections on this one that remind me of Frank Zappa meets Al Dimeola. This is one of my favorite pieces on show here. There is some great guitar soloing on this, too – reminding me at times of Steve Howe. It moves to more textural atmospheric territory later.
Sinfonia
Written by Bach, this is an intriguing piece. It’s quite organic and acoustic in terms of the instrumentation. And yet, the timing and execution feels somehow programmed. It’s one of my favorite pieces on the disc.
Giant Steps
Here they take on the classic John Coltrane number. This is a great fusion jam as presented here. It’s got plenty of changes and drama to keep just about anyone entertained.
At Taliesin
Starting percussive, this becomes dramatic and a bit strange as other instruments enter.  Eventually it moves out into more standard fusion territory with guitar sounds wailing over the top. We get a couple sections in this one that call to mind modern King Crimson a bit.
Big Sky Wanting
This begins tentatively and percussively and while other elements emerge over the top the rhythmic structures still rule. At times this has an almost psychedelic feeling to it, particular as it becomes a bit more melodic later. A few minutes in the percussion drops away and weird dissonant, yet atmospheric, slow moving clouds of sound take over. This eventually gives way to a more cacophonic and disquieting jam. That section takes the piece out.
Big Idea
A fast paced tune, this has a happy sort of feeling to it. It’s jazzy, but also quite fun. I hear bits of Steve Howe here and there, but also some country at times. This is easily the most accessible song on the disc. This also includes the only vocals of the disc, some cheery non-lyrical singing that calls to mind the more easy going days of the late 1960’s or early 1970’s – at least easy going in terms of these kind of happy vocals. The cut fades down and the vocals return to end it.
Unquity Road
This makes its way between nearly Crimsonesque territory and more typical fusion. You might hear some Djam Karet in the midst of this. It’s also got some of the tastiest guitar work on show here.
 
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