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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Proto-Kaw

The Wait of Glory

Review by Gary Hill

The second new disc for Proto-Kaw since they reunited, there isn't a bad cut on show here. The band was called "Kansas" in the early '70's and Kerry Livgren took that name with him when he joined another band that was destined for fame. So, when this group reformed a few years ago (with Livgren) they took an earlier name that they had used (because Kansas is still in use). While there are Kansas like sounds on show here, that's not the only thing to be found. The whole album is full of prog wonder, but these guys merge in King Crimson like textures along with straight jazz and other elements to create a texture that is both reminiscent of Kansas, but also unique. This disc will most likely be making a lot of "best of" 2006 lists, as it is that good. It's still early, but I wouldn't be surprised if it makes mine. I've liked the other two discs (one being a release of old recordings of the band), but I think this one is the best of the three by far.

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
Nevermore
Dramatic sounds start this, then it turns into an almost symphonic, movie music textured zone. It quickly turns to near metallic jamming, though with a killer main riff. This takes on rather Tull-like sounds at points, then the introduction is over as it shifts to mellower, but no less dramatic ballad like sounds to carry the first vocals of the disc. They build this ever so gradually in very traditional progressive rock modes. Those Tull elements show up again occasionally, but so do early King Crimson type sounds. The cut shifts later to a harder edged prog groove that has Kansas written all over it. This moves through several tasty changes in a very powerful pattern. A cool neo-classical theme is thrown over top and reworked at points. They move this through a series of very dynamic changes, at times dropping to the sedate, then crunching it back up. They even through in tasty jazz-like jam. It drops back to the vocal section to carry it forward late in the number. This is a great cut, and an excellent way to start the disc.
Relics of the Tempest
A powerful crescendo, then it drops to a mellower segment with more of those Tull-like sounds. They move this forward to the verse of the cut, which is more Kansas-like. This works through a verse / chorus structure, but over tones lend a lot more oomph to this one than that simple structure conveys. Later a neo-symphonic jam takes it back to more laid back tones that begin creating a pretty melody line that serves as a bridge. As they crank it back up the song has less of a dark texture to it, and the guitar takes a tasty solo as part of the instrumental break. They move it back into the verse chorus format, then one short jam ends the cut.
When The Rains Come
A super heavy burst of sound starts this, then it drops to a weird off kilter jam that feels a bit like Frank Zappa's "Slime." They work and rework this killer jam in some very powerful directions that seem to combine that Zappa sound with something a bit like Red era King Crimson. They move this into a mellower ballad type styling, with a lot of intriguing overtextures as it carries forward. But the earlier elements continue to re-emerge. The jam later is a killer with a smoking hard prog jam excursion serving as the backdrop for a number of changes. The bass work on this segment at times is phenomenal. This one manages to get severely heavier than anything else on the disc as they turn those opening themes into a smoking progression later. Then they bring back the Frank Zappa lines to eventually end the track.
On The Eve of the Great Decline
Mellower atmospheric sounds start this, then acoustic guitar comes over top to carry forward. This turns into a prog ballad approach that serves to create the beginnings of this track. They pump it up with evocative and powerful keys later. The cut then works through, building on this texture. They cut it back to more atmospheric again later in a break, then a lead guitar plays over the top of this back drop, followed by other instrumentation in an ever growing instrumental progression. It then drops to just ultra dramatic acoustic guitar for a bit before pumping back upwards. The main song structure returns to take the cut to its conclusion.
Physic
This one is a frantic jazzy prog rock jam that feels a lot like King Crimson as it tears in. They work through like this for a while then drop it to a mellower bridge, then a hard edged Kansas-like verse takes the track forward. They merge the opening sounds with this Kansas texture later as the song moves it's way forward. In some ways this is one of the most Kansas like cut on the disc. They move this later into a killer new jam that's part ELP and part Kansas. This really smokes, and again the bass gets some moments to shine. There is also some killer guitar work in this segment. They come back to the verse chorus segment, but with a more turbo charged approach.
Osvaldo's Groceries
This intriguing off kilter jam feels part King Crimson and part Pentwater in nature. It's odd, but oh so tasty. They manage to bring in some cool old world textures, too. It's an ever-changing instrumental that's one heck of a ride.
The Vigil
They open this one right in the midst of a dramatic ballad style. This grows ever so gradually, but in very satisfying style for a while. Then it shifts gear to a faster prog movement that is also quite tasty. There are moments here that also remind me of early KC. They move through a number of differing, but definitely related, segments as they carry on, and this even resembles Miles Davis at times. This is another that is very dynamic, although it never rises to the musical fury of some of the other tracks. In my opinion some of the coolest points are when the band turns heavily towards jazz, but the main song structure is also pretty potent.
Old Number 63
This one is very different. It's tasty, but a bit odd - it has a combination of progressive rock sounds and a more alternative rock, spoken lyrics verse. They create an interesting jam out of it, though, with Kansas and jazz textures merging on the instrumental segments. This one might take you a little bit of time to warm up to, but it's worth the effort. They turn in some intriguing work on the extended instrumental break that at times feels funky. It seems a nice marriage of modern and retro textures and is another case where they show just how jazz-oriented they can be. They also move it into off-kilter KC like jamming, then up into metallic fusion territory. They turn in another Zappa-like section to close the cut out.
Melicus Gladiator
This one comes in as a dramatic metallic prog cruncher. They move this into a very Kansas-like jam. Those Kansas tones make up most of this cut as they move through several powerful incarnations, but this also turns a bit Yes-like. For hardcore Kansas fans, this will be the one they are most familiar with on this disc.
Picture This
Starting with keys and voice this begins in a mellow ballad style. The group slowly builds on this foundation. They eventually turn a corner to still sedate, but very powerful jamming, then come back to where they were before. Then the track drops back to just piano and voice after a crescendo, and this is a very evocative segment. They pump it up moving the themes into a harder edged jam to carry forward. Then they power this up into a Kansas like prog rock stomper. They work through this for quite a while, then merge the varying elements of the track into a cohesive conglomeration to carry it on until a new dramatic instrumental excursion carries it on. This segment, gaining vocals, moves the cut to its conclusion - a satisfying way to end both the song and the album.
 
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