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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Lawton

and Diana Express – The Power of Mind

Review by Gary Hill

John Lawton is probably best known for his time in Uriah Heep and to a lesser degree Lucifer’s Friend. In some ways, this work is probably closer to LF than to UH.  This is symphonic and yet also rocking. The general heading here is progressive rock, but there’s a lot of range within that. Personally, I wasn’t blown away by everything on the set, but there were some real shining moments. Also, nothing here is really weak, either. Overall, this is quite a tasty album.

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

Track by Track Review
Intro

There is definitely a bit of a Pink Floyd vibe to this in terms of the guitar work and overall tone. The spoken bit calls to mind The Moody Blues a bit and the wall of non-lyrical vocals after seems to reinforce that comparison.

Mind Power
Piano opens this and layers of symphonic instrumentation rise up as the cut moves out from there. The guitar again heralds sort of a Pink Floyd vibe here. At times I’m also reminded of Queen a bit. The vocals somehow have both folk elements and classical ones early on, but turn more towards melodic rock from there. This is quite a powerful and complex cut that manages to be accessible, too. There’s a great melodic guitar solo later in the piece.
Two Hearts
This feels like it comes right out of the previous tune. It has an intricate progressive rock ballad arrangement. It’s evocative, powerful and quite pretty. The song structure and arrangement here are quite complex and it works through a lot of changes, rocking more later. Still, there are a lot of symphonic elements at play here. There is a lot of emotion in the vocal delivery and the music really soars in triumphant ways at times.  Later in the piece there is some Spanish styled acoustic guitar work.
Love's Light Shining
Like a lot of the music here, this opens with piano. It builds out to more of a mainstream AOR tune from there. An intriguing section comes in later, starting with multiple layers of vocals over a drum arrangement. It rocks out from there before a segue to the next tune.
Max Rock
This starts off a bit like something from Led Zeppelin, but shifts to more of an old time rock and roll tune. Still, it’s definitely a change from what we’ve heard to this point. The instrumental section later includes some retro sounding organ work. There’s a drop to symphonic later in the piece and a smoking guitar solo rises up from there to take it to its closing.
Fairytale
Piano starts things off again. At times as this builds out I’m reminded a bit of 1980s Chicago. This rocks out more than some of the other material here, but still has plenty of progressive rock in the mix.
Rock 'N' Roll Is My Thing
As the title suggests, this is a real rocker. In fact, this one has an edge that’s almost metal, but the vibe is more plain straight ahead rock and roll. The instrumental section later combines that mainstream rock and roll sound with something that at times leans towards progressive rock. Then it drops down to a more melodic movement for a short time before moving back out into the song proper.
The Search
Mellow, balladic tones with symphonic elements laid over the top makes up the basic concept here. This is pretty and quite classical, but also progressive rock oriented. Non-lyrical female vocals are heard in the background on this, adding quite a bit to the mix. The whole piece is beautiful and quite powerful. More of a folk rock motif, rocking, but still mellow, takes it later. Then it powers out from there in a classic rock sound. An inspired guitar solo takes this one to its closing.
Springtime
The symphonic styled elements that open this feel connected to the previous tune. An intricate acoustic guitar motif takes this into ballad-like stylings to continue. There are some more energized moments, but overall this is a fairly mellow tune.
In Rhythm With You
A bluesy rocker, this has some definite rockabilly in the mix. This is a fun tune with a lot of energy, but it’s clearly not progressive rock. In fact, at times this almost feels like Lynyrd Skynyrd. It shifts out to a different rock and roll segment later in the tune, too.
Now I Know
A crunchy guitar starts things off here and we’re into another real rocker on this one. This is another that’s not really proggy at all. Still, it’s a harder rocking tune that’s just plain fun. There is a cool acapella section later in the tune.
New Rhythm
This starts off mellow, but turns to a real rocker. It’s got a lot more progressive rock built into it than some of the previous tunes. There are some great moments in this cut and it’s a strong one. It feels quite a bit like Uriah Heep at times. That Heep connection is even more apparent with the instrumental section and some of the vocal harmonies later.
Love In The World
Starting off purely symphonic, this moves out into a mellow, proggy ballad. There are some more rocking moments, but overall this is like a prog power ballad. It’s accessible, evocative and just plain cool.
Fin
The melodies on this really seem quite familiar and this is a powerful tune that works nicely to tie the whole thing up well. This is proggy and yet accessible at the same time. There are some great symphonic moments here, but then it rocks out in a killer jam that’s both classical and tied to something like the prog side of Uriah Heep. This is definitely the strongest piece on the whole album, and that says a lot.
 
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