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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

L. Shankar

Chepleeri Dream

Review by Gary Hill

This is quite an intriguing release. L. Shankar performs the vocals, the violin (technically double violin) and keyboards. The music here leans on the AOR side of progressive rock, but also wanders into world music and more. My main issue is that there is a tendency toward over-processing on the vocals that kind of detracts from it for me. Still, the music is strong and interesting. Add in a cast of guest musicians that includes Tony Levin and Chester Thompson, and this is just about a "must have" release.

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Track by Track Review
In My Heart
There is a cool melodic prog groove to this. In some ways it reminds me a bit of the kind of thing Peter Gabriel might do. The hooks are accessible, and the song works great. Some horns later in the tune bring some jazzy elements to it.
While the energized musical arrangement on this works well, the vocals seem too high in the mix and a bit processed to me. Still, this is reasonably effective anyway. It feels like an AOR prog type number. I dig the wailing sax mid-track.
Spreading All Over
I love the bass work on this number. The vocals feel a bit over-processed here, but they are further back in the mix than they were on the last tune. This is decidedly prog and that bass work is the biggest selling point for me. It's magic. Of course, it is Tony Levin, one of my favorite bass players on the planet. I dig the violin solo on the number.
Can't Wait
This isn't really a proggy piece at all for the vocal sections, landing more in straight hard rock. The instrumental breaks bring a bit of a psychedelic, prog element. The cut does remind me a bit of Jethro Tull, though. Again, I love the violin work on the piece. There are some particularly soaring moments as it works its magic.
Chepleeri Dream
Fast paced world music vocals are the centerpiece of the bulk of this. Those are set over the top of atmospherics and occasionally augmented by some dreamy non-lyrical vocals. The cut works through a trippy instrumental section, and then works to another world music vocal dominated movement from there.
I like the hard rocking AOR prog sort of concept of this tune. The vocals land a bit too high in the mix, though, and feel a little over-processed. Still, it's accessible and a strong tune.
Knowing You
I like this one quite a bit. It has a hint of jazz along with plenty of AOR prog. It's catchy and entertaining. It's not the proggiest thing here, but it just works really well. The short break mid-track has some hints of jazz.
Ocean Waves
I dig the acoustic guitar arrangement at the start of this cut. The tune works out to an energized groove that has plenty of pop rock built into it. Again, the vocals are over-processed, but the tune works pretty well despite that.  The violin on the cut is great.
New World
There is a an atmospheric angle to this cut. It makes me think of Mike Oldfield in some ways. The dreamy kind of prog vibe is classic and classy. There is a shift later to a different movement that has some non-lyrical vocals more as instrumentation. Beyond that, though, this is an instrumental.
More of a driving AOR prog concept is on display here. This is an effective number with some cool hooks. Unfortunately, the vocals are again over=processed, taking away from what could be a really great tune.
Quite trippy and dramatic, this has a real dreamy element to it. There are non-lyrical vocals, but essentially this is an instrumental.
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