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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


Russian Dolls - Ten Years in the Sun

Review by Gary Hill

Marbin is a progressive rock outfit based in Chicago, my home territory. There music is often jazz-oriented, but they seem to stretch their sound and influence from album to album. This new two-CD set is unusual in a number of ways. First, it's two separate albums. Just the musical concept of those albums make this a departure, too, though. The first disc really goes full into the jazz ideal, with some world music in the mix. The second disc is a solo acoustic guitar set. While this, without the rest of the catalog, would not fit under progressive rock, I've included it there based on the rest of the group's catalog. That said, both albums here have their charms and are quite interesting.

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Track by Track Review
CD 1
Russian Dolls
When There Becomes Here

World music meets jazz as this cut works outward. There is definitely a Russian music angle to this piece. It's an effective and organic sort of number.

Yellow Roman Candles
More of a freeform, experimental jazz angle is on board with this, but still turned toward mainstream jazz.
The Great Rosegray
There is a real old-school jazz vibe here. Yet, there is also an edge of more challenging music in the background as the drums really drive around the backdrop. This is another with some hints of world music, but not nearly as blatant as those on the opener. It shifts toward the more melodic jazz arrangement after the two-minute mark and more world music concepts emerge as it does so.
Years That Ask Questions
Here we get a fun jazz romp. This is very old-school, reminding me a little of Cab Calloway at times.
Ships at a Distance
A slow moving number, the old-time jazz is the core of this. It has some nice melodies and textures.
Years That Answer
More of a powerhouse fusion styled number, this cut still has plenty of more traditional jazz built into it.
Things of Dry Hours
Here we have more old-world jazz. It's a classy slower cut. It serves as a nice grounding point for the end of this disc.
CD 2
Ten Years in the Sun
For Soraya

The acoustic guitar on this song has a jazzy sort of sound to it. It weaves some intriguing melodies and conceptual textures.

Daffodil Machete
Intricate, pretty and rather gentle, there is quite a bit of classical music in this composition.
Ten Years in the Sun
Even slower and mellower, this number seems to convey a lot of passion.
Shadow Waltz
This cut seems to blend classical, jazz and even folk music into an effective arrangement.
Down and Out in Barcelona
I like the quick jabs of acoustic guitar on this number. The track is another slow moving and mellow piece.
Sandbox World
Suitably, this is more playful.
Strong Thing
This sedate piece has some interesting melodic moments and some energy.
Mom's Song
Pretty and gentle, this conveys a simple beauty somehow.
Polish Winter
I love the fast paced classical music concepts on the first part of this piece. The melodies of the number convey a lot of emotion and passion. It has definite world music elements.
November Guest
There is a real jazz aesthetic to this mellow acoustic guitar based piece of music. .
Another mellow acoustic guitar piece, there is a sadness and a European vibe to this number.
The Dark Green Hill
Gentle and pretty, this does feel like a pastoral piece of nature.
A Six Word Story

A jazzy kind of mellow acoustic guitar approach is at the heart of this piece.

The Last Thing
The classical music concepts are in the driver's seat on this number, but it still has some jazz in the mix. It's another satisfying acoustic guitar number.
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