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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


and Steve Hackett - Life Is A Journey: The Sardinia Tapes

Review by Gary Hill

I previously reviewed an album with these two artists. On that one Hackett got the first billing. This time it's reversed. I love the music on this thing. It's part killer jazz, part prog rock and all cool. Only the first song has vocals. Normally it can be hard for albums that are fully instrumental to really hold interest throughout and not feel tired. This set never has that problem. I'm genuinely disappointed when it ends. All in all, if you like fusion with incredible instrumental performances all delivered in service to the song, you will love this. Not only do you get the CD with this package, but also a DVD that has stereo and surround mixes of the whole album, a music video and a live show. I think that would be worthwhile all by itself. The beautiful part, though is that here it's a bonus. You can't beat that. This is likely to make my "best of 2017" list actually.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
Life Is A Journey
The title track starts the disc, coming in with a mellow movement that's part jazz, part world music and all cool. It works forward with that concept driving it. As this continues to evolve I can hear things that make me think of Pat Metheny and other elements that remind me of Alan Parsons a bit. It gets more of a rock nature at times. It works toward space rock. As you might imagine, this has some exceptional guitar soloing. Around the five and a half minute mark (this is over nine and a half minutes long) it shifts toward more rocking stuff, resembling Hackett's solo stuff in some ways. They eventually shift it toward some soaring guitar soloing over a bit of a fusion background. It cools down toward some mellow jazz around the seven and a half minute mark and works back outward within that format. That merges with the rocking section as they approach the end of the piece.
Golden Sand

Starting with a mellower motif, this works forward in a dramatic kind of progressive rock meets jazz texture. Hackett's guitar bring some powerful, lush and dramatic soaring melody to this slower moving number. Some more pronounced and rock oriented guitar soloing emerges further down the road. The rest of the instruments drop down to let it shine for a time. Horn and more power up on the return to bring a dramatic jazzy texture. This arrangement gets dense, soaring and so powerful in a decidedly progressive rock way. It drops way down again around the five minute mark and Hackett weaves his magic for a time. There is a some killer instrumental work beyond his sounds, too. This is just so powerful.

Castelsardo At Night
As this opens with a reasonably mellow backdrop a stand-up bass solos like crazy. It makes for such an interesting opening section. This works through in a fairly mainstream jazz way. It has more of that bass soloing later in the piece, but other instruments get to show off at various points throughout. While this is not as dynamic or blatantly powerful as the first two cuts, it's still incredibly effective.
What's The News Antonio?
An energized fusion jam, this has a lot of class and style. They work through quite a bit of territory on this. There are sections that are decidedly Hackett-like. The smoking hot fusion guitar solo section later is purely on fire. There is a short drop back after that section runs its course. Then we're brought back out to some more melodic fusion to carry the rest of the piece, albeit with several different sections.
Around My Mind
At eleven and a half minutes of music, this is the epic of the set. It has a lot of classic fusion built into it. They work their way through different modes with different instruments leading the way at different points. I love some of the more powered up moments. There is some cool funky bass at points along this ride. The section around the seven and a half minutes is so powerful. It has some killer rocking guitar built into it. The trumpet soloing that follows is intense, too. The whole thing builds out to a powerful jazz treatment as it continues. They bring it back down to Earth at the end of that for a mellower closing movement.
Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains
This comes in with sedate sounds. It moves forward in that kind of way. It has a mellow space music meets jazz vibe. I suppose you could call it "new age," but that really doesn't seem to do it justice. While this remains mellow throughout, it doesn't mean that the musicians don't get to show off, because they definitely do.
Building A Nuraghe

Jazz meets an almost California Guitar Trio, King Crimson kind of circulation concept on this number. As this continues to shift and evolve there is some killer guitar soloing over the top of it. This really has a great groove to it, too. I like the trumpet work a lot, as well. This gets almost hypnotic as it approaches the end.

Buzzy Island
The bass driving this is seriously funky. The horn solos like crazy over the top. Guitar starts its soloing run after that, around the two-minute mark. As it develops toward its resolution it gets into some killer rocking territory.
I Will Always Remember
A particularly mellow jazz approach opens this and carries the early portions of the piece. The guitar soloing on this is acoustic. This whole piece is slow moving and quite sedate. It seems like a bit of an oasis amidst a lot of music that is more energized. It's very pretty.
Wake Up
Speaking of that energized stuff, the bass playing at the start of this is so fast and furious. It's very much a funk jazz kind of thing. The horn comes in to soar over the top of that as it continues. This is well-titled as it really is a wake up call. This is less than two and a half minutes in length, but a great work-out within that time frame.
After Limoncello
More melodic mainstream jazz brings this into being. The bass on a lot of this really shines, but then again so does all the playing. This is a more mainstream jazz tune, but it is not lacking at all. There is a short, but full bass solo at the end, too.


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