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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Gun and Doll Show

American Radio Two

Review by Gary Hill

American Radio Two by The Gun and Doll Show is an album unlike any other. It has links to both modern and retro music. Both male and female vocals lead at different points. The mix of sounds is unusual and very effective. This definitely fits into the progressive rock realm in terms of “progressing” music. The argument can be made that the unusual combination of seemingly diverse musical sounds and unique structures qualify it under a more traditional definition, too.

While American Radio Two lags a little in the middle of the set, both ends really work extremely well. Of course, putting the lesser tunes in the middle of the set almost always produces a stronger album. So, this has a real vision of proper disc flow. It’s definitely a winner.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Brick Wall

Percussion starts the album’s opener, “Brick Wall.” From there it becomes a subdued, but extremely cool psychedelic blues jam. In some ways, it’s not that far removed from the kind of music Peter Green’s version of Fleetwood Mac did. It features male vocals and there’s a tasty guitar solo section that brings it closer to progressive rock. It certainly rocks out harder later and that Fleetwood Mac reference becomes even more relevant on the echoey sections that serve as the extended outro.

Can You Feel It
This comes in with a catchy, but punk rock like jam. The vocals are delicate female ones early. Then they become more rocking. This is a slightly off-kilter and hard edged tune that’s very interesting. There are enough twists and turns to qualify it as progressive rock. Some of the guitar soloing brings in more of that psychedelic edge. This is the kind of tune that grows with repeated exposure. It’s got a very dynamic and deceptively complex arrangement.
Cowboy Lingerie Store
A bouncy world music styling opens “Cowboy Lingerie Store.” The really interesting twist on the arrangement here (with male vocals leading and female serving as the background) is a definite, but understated country music air. The rhythm section provides some of that, but the lead vocal also hints at it in places. A contrast is provided by the jazzy arrangement throughout out the song and the jazz meets world music sound on the instrumental section. This is another that’s unusual, but incredibly cool.
First Born
This starts with a retro psychedelic arrangement. It’s got both male and female vocals, although the male ones dominate. It’s a bit understated and doesn’t hold up to the opening numbers. At times it feels rather like Squeeze mixed with Madness. 
Skinny Sad Girls
At different points male and female vocals drive “Skinny Sad Girls.” Musically the piece seems to combine sounds a bit like early Pink Floyd with Radiohead. It’s a step up from the previous number, but still not on the same level as the opening pieces.
Honest Girl
This piece comes in harder rocking with an alternative rock element. When it drops later to the mellower movement, there are definitely jazzy progressive rock bits in play. The cut is catchy, but also rather complex. The male vocals serve as the lead ones, while female vocals back them up nicely.  
White Dove
“White Dove” starts in ballad-like modes, but shifts and turns as it continues. This has some jazz within, but overall fits into a modern progressive rock style. It’s quite strong with an arrangement that changes frequently and includes a lot of layers and drama. The faster paced jam later is particularly effective. This is one of the highlights of the set.
I'm Not Bitter
Imagine combining a theatrical progressive rock arrangement (with a bit of metal) with something from the B-52s. Throw some horns in (add some jazz) and divide the vocals between male and female and you’ll be pretty close to the sound on “I'm Not Bitter.” It is arguably the best tune on the whole set and, by itself, worth the price of admission.  
Women Haters Club
There’s a bouncy and jazzy arrangement on “Women Haters Club.” It’s fun, but not at the same level as a lot of the other music. The short expansive jazz section is a nice touch, though.
Jungle Ho
A more energized arrangement drives “Jungle Ho.” It’s certainly based in a modern progressive rock sound and is one of the highlights of the set. It features a killer vocal arrangement and lots of shifts and turns. It’s got a real soaring progressive rock texture at times.
What I Hate About Punks
This one closes the set in style. It’s got a driving, aggressive punk rock tinged jam at its core. Still, the changes and twists make it land into progressive rock territory. The vocals are female driven and have a bit a B-52s sound. This is definitely different than the other material, but also one of the cooler ones. There’s a weird little spoken section with some bursts of hard rock later in the piece.
 
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