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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mr. Hunter

The First Chapter

Review by Gary Hill

This group talks about their sound being extremely groove oriented. Well, there is groove here, but that really connotes a more R&B type sound for most listeners. This sits somewhere along a union of jazz, jam music and progressive rock. All the music presented here is strong. The only issue is the female vocals. They are on key, but the tone seems a bit harsh at times. That could probably have been fixed with some added attention in the studio. Still, it’s only a minor issue.

Overall, this is a strong disc that should definitely please jam band fans. Many progressive rockers will find a lot to like here, too. Some fans of vocal jazz will even enjoy this. It’s an extremely strong album.

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
Sand

As this starts the disc there’s almost a Grateful Dead kind of arrangement. It drops back after this introduction for a short keyboard dominated interlude. Then it’s back to that Dead like groove as the jazzy vocals enter. There’s definitely a retro soulful groove to a lot of this number. Later they take it out into an extended instrumental section that continues the jam band concept, but also takes them closer to a progressive rock sound. In fact, some of the guitar soloing during that segment calls to mind Yes’ Steve Howe. There are even moments in that jam that feel rather like Yes’ The Yes Album disc.

Welcome
“Welcome” begins with a section that is decidedly progressive rock oriented. The musical progression on this introduction is tastefully quirky and has a bit of a stuttering rhythm section. It drops to a jazz meets blues kind of arrangement for the vocals. The lead vocal is gutsy and soulful and there are some tasteful male backing vocals. In addition, piano and bass both take opportunities for impressive showings as this cut works in different directions by revisiting and expanding on its central musical themes. Another smoking hot guitar solo appears later in an arrangement that blends jazz and progressive rock sounds with jam music.
I Believe
Bass opens “I Believe” and the group takes it into a jazz meets Grateful Dead arrangement for the verse. The chorus turns to more of a soaring hard rock sound. Some great retro keyboard sounds are featured on this tune. Just as they seem about to take of on another extended high energy progressive rock styled jams, they drop it way down for a blues meets country slow paced arrangement. Eventually they take that sound and build it out to more high energy jam band music before switching it back around to the song proper. When they take it out for another instrumental section the guitar really shines. That gives way to a one line vocal section and a short closing movement.
The Corner
Starting with some noisy jamming that features piano and soloing guitar, “The Corner” is the longest track of the set at over nine and a half minutes in length. After the extended introduction it first modulates into a short Doors like bit. The guitar takes it in a more AOR direction, though, with a very classic rock oriented jam. Then it drops back for a jazzy movement that features some killer funky guitar and piano soloing. The vocals come in over this arrangement. After a time it works out to another instrumental section that’s soaring and prog mixed with jam band. It alternates between that style and the more jazzy sounds. Later they take it into a guitar driven jam that’s a lot like something from The Allman Brothers. The closing movement brings back some of that Grateful Dead vibe.
Morse Code
Jazzy piano opens “Morse Code” and holds it for about a minute. Then guitar powers out and as the rest of the band come in the tune takes on a definite country hoe-down sound. The number is an instrumental that features different instruments in the lead at different points. The format isn’t that far removed from something like the Dixie Dregs, moving between southern-fried and progressive sounds.
Things
More of a powered up ballad, “Things” features a fairly straightforward arrangement, but there is still plenty of progressive rock in the mix.
The Light
This starts with a sound that’s a bit like And Then There Were Three era Genesis, but it takes on an almost Vince Guaraldi feeling for a while. Jazz certainly dominates a lot of the arrangement on the extended introduction. Then it moves to a more rock oriented sound (with a good helping of that Genesis element) for the first vocals. An alternating pattern between the two sounds ensues from there. A progressive rock styled instrumental section appears later with some great keyboard sounds.
Roots
Here is an acoustic guitar solo that calls to mind both Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Steve Howe (Yes). At just over three minutes in length, it’s the shortest cut here. It also feels a bit sad at times.
The Stranger
This song has the familiar elements presented throughout the disc. The thing is, it’s arguably the most accessible cut on show here and has a very positive vibe. There’s a decidedly Yes-like bit at the very end of the tune.
 
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