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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Chantel McGregor

Shed Sessions Volume 2

Review by Gary Hill

I've reviewed a couple things from Chantel McGregor before. That includes the first "Shed Sessions" disc. As much as I've liked her other stuff, this is so far beyond those others in terms of quality that it's scary. I'd say that this disc comes close to fitting under prog rock, too. There are two originals here along with a number of covers. She makes everything her own and does it all with style.

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Track by Track Review
I have always been a big fan of this Radiohead song. McGregor brings it in with just piano. Her vocals come in over the top, creating a magical arrangement of the song. This version of the song really is special. It gets very soaring at times, but it never rises above a vocal and piano approach.
Foolish Games

I'm not familiar with the original version (by Jewel) of this song. I love this rendition, though. The piano is nearly classical, and the vocal performance is all style and class.

Drive Home
We go from strictly piano and vocal arrangements to more of a full thing. This includes both guitar and piano along with the vocals. It's a strong balladic tune with some really potent angles to it. This is a track originally done by Steven Wilson, and it has the moody sort of vibes I expect from him. I really love the section later were a meaty yet melodic electric guitar solo paints line over an acoustic background. When the guitar solos over piano, it takes on some neo-classical elements. There is some scorching guitar soloing later.
I'm a big fan of Tori Amos and this song. I really like this version a lot. The vocal performance here has a bit of a different flavor, but McGregor really captures the beauty and majesty of the tune really well.
Walk On Land
This is a McGregor original piece. I love the acoustic guitar arrangement on the song. The vocals are very strong, too. The instrumental structure fills out later as piano is added and electric guitar solos over the top. This is another powerful song.
Here McGregor tackles an Alanis Morissette song. It starts on piano, and works well in that arrangement. As electric guitar is added to the mix, this becomes sublime with a real art rock edge to it. The guitar turns louder and harder rocking later, bringing a different angle to the piece. This is one of the most powerful songs of the whole disc.
Echoey organ brings this tune into being. It's a version of a classic Gershwin song. This is slow and bluesy. It's also very cool. The suitable guitar solo is a thing of beauty.
Another original piece, this has some scorching hot guitar soloing built into it. It is constructed on a blues rock sort of concept. This is a powerful and classy instrumental that grows upward with some neo-classical elements.
A Joni Mitchell cover, this has some Christmas themes. It's based on piano and vocals. This doesn't work as well as some of the others here for me.
The Raven That Refused To Sing
Here McGregor turns her talents back to the catalog of Steven Wilson. This is based on piano and vocals with some other minor things as it gets going. The arrangement gets filled out with electric guitar further down the road. This is a potent piece, but I think there are songs here that might have made better closers.
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