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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Robin Taylor

Isle of Black

Review by Gary Hill

Robin Taylor has given us quite a cool album here. At times on other releases his music has moved too far towards freeform weirdness for the tastes of this reviewer. Well, here he’s gotten it right. This disc (for the most part) encompasses some of the best of modern and retro prog rock and fusion. There is one cut that really doesn’t work in my opinion, but the rest of the material here is strong enough to make up for it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 5 at

Track by Track Review
Over six minutes in length, the first portion of this is just weird sound effects and processed spoken voices (more as instrumentation than vocals). After a while those vocals (while still processed) take on a more singing approach. At times this whole thing reminds me of Hawkwind. Around three minutes in length a driving rhythm section rises up and begins building. As other sounds join in a retro rock excursion it supplants the previous weirdness, wresting control away. This has a bit of an ELP or King Crimson sort of texture to it and a real grooving rhythmic structure. This is pretty awesome stuff. It has some great retro keyboard sounds and cool careening lines of music. After a time it drops back to percussion and then seems to land back in the center of the extended opener. They add intensity and power to this as the other instruments meld with this backdrop. It ends abruptly.
This starts off with gentle tones and then percussion joins. The track is moved through a slow pattern while the rhythm section drives it. This is pretty and quite intriguing. Retro keys come in after a time and lead this down a different road. Then it shifts to something akin to mid period Genesis. After a time we get non-lyrical voices that call to mind Yes a bit in my book. They work through a number of organic changes and alterations in a lush arrangement that is quite powerful. Again you might hear Yes at this point, Genesis at that. This also cuts off very jarringly.
A weird RIO segment leads off. Then it suddenly shifts out to a swinging jazz groove. This is quite a cool piece and works very well. I particularly like the walking bass line and the horn section. Although the piano soloing is great, too. It eventually moves out towards more noisy weirdness, but makes its way back before it ends.
Isle of Black
This comes in with a more melodic prog rock sound, but quickly shifts towards more heavy King Crimson sort of territory. They work through a number of intriguing changes and this is really one of the cooler tracks on show here. After a while Eastern tones show up in the mix and then this moves towards noisy chaos for a while. It still manages to maintain its central music theme in the process and resolves out to some pretty music as they carry on. We also get some great horn blowing later.
Mind Archeology
At almost ten minutes in length this is the second longest cut on show here. They pound in here, but then crescendo almost immediately with keyboards remaining in atmospheric tones. As this starts to rise up very gradually there are moments where you might think we’re about to launch into Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” It’s over the minute and a half mark before much changes. The change comes in the force of a crunchy guitar texture climbing and soaring above this backdrop in fusion ways. As saxophone comes in to solo it feels like something we might have gotten from Hawkwind’s Nik Turner. They create some intriguing musical interfaces amongst this and eventually launch into a jam that feels like fusion meets Hawkwind. After a time they drop back down as the saxophone continues its noisy journey. Eventually this moves out to more melodic and pretty jazz territory. They bring us to a pretty slow moving jam after some time. They eventually fade this one down to end.
This is the longest cut on the CD (at over eleven minutes). It rises up very gradually with ambient tones holding the majority of the first couple minutes, augmented only by some bass and occasional bursts of other sounds. They take this out into an odd bouncy sort of electro pop journey from there. This doesn’t stay around long, though and they drop back down to the sounds that preceded it. Noisy effects and hints of bass are all that hold it here as it goes on for the rest of the duration of the track like this. Frankly, this song is the sole misstep of the disc and I wish it had been left off. It just doesn’t go anywhere and takes away from the strength of the material that came before it. 
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