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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Joe Deninzon

Joe Deninzon and Stratospheerius - Guilty of Innocence (vinyl)

Review by Gary Hill

It seems so appropriate that this review is running in MSJ's final issue of 2018 because the CD of this was reviewed in the first issue of the year. This review includes a lot of that review as originally published for the sake of consistency because the music is the same.

That said, there is something about the experience of a vinyl release versus a CD. It really is just that, too, an experience. When you put on a record, it seems more like an event versus just listening to a CD. The record here is heavy duty and high quality. The music is particularly well suited to the vinyl experience, too. While I highly recommend owning the CD of this, I'd say that the vinyl is truly the way to enjoy this release fully. As said before, here is the original review of the album in detail.

Joe Deninzon's music is always both entertaining and creative. I have to say that this might very well be the best Stratospheerius album. The songs do such a great job of combining a real classic progressive rock ethos with sounds from other places in the musical spectrum. This is just so effective. There are some special guests on this release, too, including Alex Skolnick. If you've never owned an album by this act, I think this would be the best choice for an introduction. If you are familiar with Deninzon and Stratospheerius, get this as soon as you can. You know how good the past material is. This is even stronger. I will say that I didn't address the lyrics here, but they seem to have a real message that relates to the politics of the world of today.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at:

Track by Track Review
Side 1
Behind the Curtain

In some ways this is a straightforward rocker. It has plenty of progressive rock elements built into it, though. This is catchy and meaty. The hard rocking section mid-track is almost heavy metal. There are parts of this that make me think of King's X.

Take Your Medicine
The fast paced jam that opens this makes me think of a crunchier version of Kansas. The cut drops to an almost funky jam for the verse. This is a meaty rocker that has plenty of modern sound in the mix. This is still decidedly prog rock with its Kansas like breaks.
Guilty of Innocence
The opening of this has an almost reggae vibe in some ways. I love the bass line as this starts. The cut works to a quirky kind of rock approach and turns proggier on the choruses. This is a real powerhouse, particularly on the smoking hot instrumental break that serves as the outro.
There are sections of this that land in rather metallic territory. Still, the shifts and turns are full on prog. In some ways this feels like Frank Zappa does Kansas at times. This is quite a dynamic ride, making great use of the contrast between mellower and harder rocking stuff.
Quirky and very cool, this is a fast paced prog rocker with a lot of world music in it. This is a lot of fun.
There is a lot of funk in the mix on this thing. It gets a bit of a parental advisory on the lyrics. I love the violin fills on this cut. The melodic movement is classy, too.
Side 2
Parallel Reality

This is another song that makes me think of King's X in some ways. It's a fun and rather catchy high energy rocker. This is classy stuff, but then again, so is everything here.

Game of Chicken
They bring the funk on the opening of this. It also calls to mind both Kansas and Zappa. It works out to a more mainstream rocking sound from there. I absolutely love the violin soloing on the closing instrumental section.
Dream Diary Cadenza
This is an intriguing instrumental. The opening is a bit odd, but it settles to a classical violin solo. That holds it for a time until some technical metal styled stuff takes control. The piece is freaky, creative and unique as it continues from there. A cool jam ensues beyond that weird buildup. They play with that a bit in the studio before taking it back to the oddities that opened the cut.
Soul Food
The closer is an epic weighing in at almost thirteen minutes of music. It is a dynamic cut with a number of different sections. It starts with is a powerhouse melodic prog movement that makes up a big part of the number. Then it works out to a fast paced progressive rock jam that calls to mind Kansas to a large degree. Various instruments get the chance to be showcased as this works forward. It turns a bit metallic at times along that road. Around the seven minute mark it drops to just violin. A melodic folk prog styled arrangement rises up from there. It starts to rock with an acoustic based jam beyond that point. That doesn't last long, though. Instead a false ending gives way to a piano melody. That instrument holds the cut for a time with a rather classically tinged arrangement. Around the nine-minute mark, a new prog rocking jam emerges. There are non-lyrical vocals that come over the top as it works its way forward. A chorus of lyrical vocals is added as this really soars. Melodic jamming takes it from there, building on those musical themes. It turns toward noisy space as it heads to the ending. This whole thing makes for a particularly effective closer.
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