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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jim Steele

Neptune Rising

Review by Josh Turner

Apart from Tim Beeler’s bass and Kent Klee’s drums, Jim Steele is responsible for everything. What this includes is spacey fusion comprised of a Rhodes electric piano, a Hammond organ, a Hohner clavinet, an Oberheim matrix-6, a DSI evolver, and E-MU classic keys. Put this all together, and you get sheer fascination for your ears. Because it’s so weird and wonderful, it’s easier said than done to fathom and sometimes harder to believe.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
The instrumentations are subtle. While it’s a wall of sound, it can be both slow and spacious. Its capacity is filled with variety and quantity of noise rather than unilateral aggression. Steele forgoes quantum drives and takes us to the lunar post with the energy requirements of a coffee grinder. Gene Kranz, “Tiger Team” Leader for Apollo 13, eat your heart out.
Neptune Rising
This piece has similar specifications as the first, but does so in a funkier, fickler manner. It’s a distant cousin of Rod Morgenstein and Derek Sherinian’s Platypus. Aspects of its character are shared with The Flower King’s Unfold the Future too. The song is long and begins to drift. Towards the middle, it’s stuck somewhere in the limbo of a black hole. Eventually it gets back on track. Due to its consistency, musical diversity and length, it’s the highlight of the album.
Hallucination 106
This quick quip goes by almost without notice. It’s like the subsequent residue that stalks a comet. All attention will be on the glowing ball of fire that precedes it.
Blue Ice Injection
The upside of this album is that it continues to stay fresh while staying true to its design. While having its own identity, this one is comparable to the title track. In an effort to digress, its syncopated groove is smoother whereas the course of the former follows more of a zigzagging pattern.
Ancestral Wind
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more laidback, this ditty reclines and takes a nap. Not too much unlike a dreamless state that’s further suppressed by earplugs, the only stimulus that’s heard is window shades bustling against their frame and ceiling fans clacking on their axis. Still, Steele somehow finds a way to make such nothingness sound great.
Wraiths of the Woods / Cobblestone Rationale
At the two-tip apex, this trio fights fire with ice to parallel the extremes encountered in “The Outer Limits.” The first part is creepy, and thematically it’s analogous to the opening credits of Tales of the Darkness. The second section, however, doesn’t reach the expected signpost and makes a stop in “The Twilight Zone.” In other words, its twisted in the sense that it goes from tense to faint. Once awoken from the coma, it’s loopier than a cuckoo bird, and like an oscilloscope; it modulates as it nears the story’s arc. While the instrumental narrative would lead one to believe this would be cheerless, the song is finally sated by a joyous streak of high-pitched notes. So, it ends in neither a bang nor a whimper.
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