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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Cochrane

La La La: Variations on a Happy Song

Review by Gary Hill

Prog rock with both modern and old school variants is overall the tone and sound of this album. That said, there are other things in the mix like Celtic music and world music. It’s not the kind of set that will hit you over the head and get you saying, “wow,” but it’s more of a sit in the backdrop and gradually work its way into your heart and mind kind of thing.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Alarm Clock Overture

This comes in very gradually, remaining in atmospheric levels for the first minute or so. Then vocals bring it in to a higher sound level before some killer progressive rock powers out from there. This feels a bit like Yes meets Spock’s Beard as it works outward. Continued drop backs and restarts are heard and there is a real cosmic texture later as non-lyrical vocals soar over the top. There’s a cool Celtic guitar bit kind of down in the mix at one point in this ever changing piece. A vocal only section is heard later, too – non-lyrical again. Whatever is going on in this piece, don’t get used to it because the changes are near constant. It’s complex, and yet has some accessible melodies. It’s a bit weird, but somehow captivating, too. A crescendo at the end takes it into the next piece.

Makes Me Want to Sing

This has an old world tavern singalong kind of texture. There is also a definite Beatles air. Still, there’s progressive rock in the mix, mostly as overlayers. That’s particularly true as more layers of sound are added. I really like the soaring instrumental work later in this piece.

Red Sky

Coming in mellow and atmospheric, as this starts to build out it feels a lot like old Genesis. It doesn’t really rise up the first time, though, dropping back down after a short burst of such sound. That sort of rise up, drop back pattern is repeated as this continues to evolve. It never really winds up rising up properly, though, instead acting as sort of an odd little piece in between tracks.

Towards Ideal

A killer soaring progressive rock motif opens this and the song seems to feel a lot like some kind of combination of Genesis, Yes and Spock’s Beard. This is definitely the best tune to this point. It’s more consistent than anything we’ve heard so far and really does feel a lot like Peter Gabriel era Genesis. The soaring non-lyrical female vocals make me think of Renaissance a bit, though. There a number of changes as this evolves and there’s a tasty drop back to balladic motifs mid-track.

A Song
Seeming to come out of the previous tune, intricate acoustic guitar opens this and holds it in a progressive rock ballad motif. Again, early Genesis is clearly a valid reference point. This is a pretty consistent and cohesive piece, and quite a strong one.
Just Clouds
Nearly eleven minutes in length, this is an epic piece. It rises up gradually with atmospheric elements playing in the backdrop. As the vocals join in amidst a sparse, spacey backdrop, old Genesis again seems a valid comparison. It powers out from there, though, into some harder rocking prog that’s among the most powerful of the set. Sure, Genesis still seems like it’s worth mentioning, especially in the vocal department, but there are a lot of other classic prog sounds in the picture, too. It works out later to a cool “wall of vocals” segment and then a guitar tasteful screams out from there. The cut takes on some rather fusion-like elements during that instrumental section before giving way to the type of sounds that preceded it. Then we get a rhythmically dominated movement. They build things out from there. It gets quite dramatic and theatric later, again begging comparisons to Gabriel era Genesis. While this thing keeps shifting and changing, it’s still quite cohesive. It’s definitely a nod to the classic progressive rock era.
Beauty & Defiance

Starting folk-like and mellow, this builds quite gradually. Instead of really rising up, though, it shifts out to a more intricate acoustic guitar motif for a time. That seems to stop and it feels like the track is over. Atmospheric elements come in and build from there. That eventually peaks and a different intricate guitar part takes it. This time it has more energy and “oomph,” even though it’s still pretty mellow and melodic. Percussion joins after a time, followed by more of those Renaissance like vocals. The whole piece just keeps getting more layers added to it from there as it continues to build in terms of excitement and majesty. It rocks out pretty hard later, but those female non-lyrical vocals are the only ones in the whole song. A mellower section ends the piece.


Coming in mellow, this again feels quite a bit like Genesis. It remains mellow, but goes through a few changes and we get the first female vocals with lyrics of the whole set. Then some symphonic progressive rock rises up from there. After there it rocks out a bit more and in some ways it feels closer to Fish era Marillion than it does Genesis. Of course, that’s kind of a subtle difference. It drops way down again for some theatrical vocal bits. Then a folk meets prog acoustic guitar section comes in and is met with more of those lyrical female vocals. It gets quite powerful as it grows out from there to eventually end.

The Day I Found My Wings

As this gradually rises up it almost feels like a continuation of the previous tune. There’s sort of a folk music section before they take us out into more melodic and powerful progressive rock. This is quite a dynamic cut, another of those that seems to just have one change after another. It really has some powerful moments, too. It’s a cool way to end the set.

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