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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Laura Meade

The Most Dangerous Woman in America

Review by Gary Hill

Perhaps Laura Meade is best known as the lead singer in the progressive rock band Izz, but I previously reviewed one of her solo releases, and this is her latest. I love the blend of modern and old-school progressive rock on this release. There is no weak material here. I never compile my "best of the year" list until after I finish the final issue for the year, and the list of contenders is getting rather full, but I'd say that this is likely to make the "best of 2021" list. It's that strong. It's artsy, proggy and meaty. It also manages to be catchy and accessible at the same time.

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Track by Track Review
On the Shores of the Seine

A brief introductory piece, nature sounds are the accompaniment for a female and male vocal duet.

A percussive, electronic vibe brings this into being. The cut comes out from there with a great prog energy and groove. It gets more pure rocking (of the prog variety) concepts as it approaches the halfway mark. I dig the vocal arrangement on this so much, but the driving intensity really creates a lot of magic, too. It drops down to more of a piano-based arrangement for a time before we get a return to the more percussive and electronic concept.
Burned at the Stake
I dig the piano on this a lot, but there if you miss the bass that moves around in the background you are overlooking one of the cooler aspects of the tune. Of course, the vocals are the main thing here, and they work great. The arrangement fills out to a full symphonic prog jam further down the road. I love some of the synth work as it approaches the end.
This number starts on piano. The vocals come in over the top, bringing a bit of a jazz vibe as they do. The arrangement gets filled out as it grows. This is a melodic and dramatic piece of music. The synthesizer does manage some symphonic prog embellishments.
End of the Road in Hollywood
With a lot of electronic texture and percussion as the backdrop, the vocals paint an artistic vision. As the arrangement fills in later and the song intensifies, this really starts to soar. It's another winner on a disc full of strong material.
Doesn’t Change a Thing
Piano is at the heart of this as it starts. This builds in a balladic way as it continues. As the piece gets close to halfway through it gets more rocking and the ballad concept is replaced by more energized progressive rock. This has both electronic and jazz elements in the mix to some degree. As it gets back into mellower zones, there is a synthetic vocal line. Then the track shifts to a dreamscape sort of arrangement. It eventually makes its way back to familiar territory before it's over.
The Most Dangerous Woman in America
Some sound-bites and effects bring this into being. The cut works out to a driving melodic prog jam from there. This piece has some very artistic elements. Yet there are more pure prog things also in the mix, sort of grounding it. All kinds of layers including more sound-bites are heard over the top. This is a great example of how you can both pay tribute to traditional progressive rock and expand upon and modernize it. The contrast between mellower and more rocking is classic, as well. The more purely electronic sections are a classy touch. At close to eight-and-a-half minutes of music, this is the epic of the set. It's also the most dynamic track, and the real highlight of the disc. I love the synth work in the jam as it approaches the end, but really everything about this piece is special.
The Shape of Shock
Piano and electronics bring this piece into being. This is an intriguing number that remains a bit less changing than some of the others. Still, it has enough variety to keep it interesting, particularly when it hits the soaring prog movement around the three-quarters mark.
Forgive Me
Starting rather electronic, this fires out into some smoking hot progressive rock. It drops to a jazzy kind of arrangement and the lower register vocals on this deliver so much style and charm. The keyboards on the tune bring so much prog magic. This is another highlight of the set for me. It's dynamic, stunning and so powerful. It also has a sense of danger in some ways. A symphonic styled mellower arrangement later is interesting. The whole tune is just so strong, and also dynamic. It resolves to a more mainstream piano and vocal dominated movement around the three quarter mark, but it explodes back out from there with style.
Tell Me, Love
Piano brings this into being. The cut gradually evolves from there. While this piece is just over two minutes long, don't think that means it's not prog. Around the halfway mark it explodes into a powerhouse prog movement with some killer synthesizer. The cut is a powerful closer to a strong disc.
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