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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Joe Deninzon

Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius - Beyond The Curtain: Live at ProgStock (four disc set)

Review by Gary Hill

With the recent news that Joe Deninzon has become the violinist in Kansas, it is a safe bet that a lot of people are just now discovering his music. I have been a fan for years. This new box set should be of interest to people in both of our situations. We get two CDs of music, one from a ProgStock appearance in 2019 and another in 2021. Both shows are included in video form on the other two discs, a DVD of the show and a Blu-Ray. The video quality is excellent in both shows and both formats. Rachel Flowers and Alex Skolnick are both guests on a couple songs each at the second show. The mix of rock, jazz, prog and more in these performances works great throughout. It should be noted that hybrid products like this are a little weird at MSJ since we do audio reviews and video reviews differently (track by track for audio, but just overall for video). In this case, i went with the audio review because the CDs are the first two discs of the set, making them seem like the primary item here.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2023  Volume 3 More information and purchase links can be found at:
Track by Track Review
Disc One: CD (2019)
Behind the Curtain

They jump right into it with a cool rocker that has an AOR prog vibe to it. This is hard-edged, energetic and also meaty. There is a cool shift mid-track that gets it into more seriously proggy zones for a time. The instrumental section late is on fire and includes some killer violin work.

I love the bass sound on this cut. There are some cool twists and turns here. This thing is a driving rocker with plenty of prog in the mix. The instrumental break features both killer guitar and smoking hot bass work. There is some soaring, powerhouse violin playing in an instrumental break later in the track.
There is a screaming hot jam that makes up the opening of this number. It drops way down to the first vocal movement. It eventually powers back up from there as it continues driving forward. I dig the more metallic instrumental section that takes over late in the tune, and particularly the screaming guitar soloing on it. It builds outward to more traditional prog jamming before taking us back out into earlier zones for the return of the vocals.
Frame by Frame
Here we get a cover of King Crimson. They put in a great rendition with the violin really adding a lot to it. They do a great job of playing chunks of it faithfully, while also expanding on others and making the track their own. There are some really awesome instrumental sections built into this.
In a lot of ways this is more of a mainstream cut. It has some killer instrumental work late in the game.
The Missing Link
More mainstream in a lot of ways, this is another cool tune. It has its meaty, proggy things at play.
There are definitely some metallic angles at play on this. The cut is a powerhouse rocker that still manages to show off its prog tendencies amidst the more in-your-face approach. It even has some funk vibes at points.
Game of Chicken
I dig the almost fusion-like parts of this cut. It has a fairly mainstream rock vibe in place, too. The instrumental section on this features some killer guitar work and instrumental interplay. It is positively on fire.
The Prism
This has some world music and neo-classical elements in some of the melodies. It's a classy tune that seems to have both hard rock and fusion to bear at different times. The instrumental section later in the number seems to get into some really soaring prog territory.
Disc Two: CD (2021)


Take Your Medicine

Some killer bass playing gets this going. They work out from there to more hot hard proggy rocking sounds. This is another powerhouse.

Cognitive Dissonance
While not a big change overall, this is more cool hard rocking AOR prog type music. There are some cool and quite dramatic shifts and changes on the song. There is a soaring instrumental section around the three-quarter mark that is so strong.
Storm Surge Feat. Rachel Flowers
This cut starts in mellower zones. It builds out into more rocking ones further down the road. There is a drop back movement later that includes Rachel Flowers on flute. She provides piano on other parts of the song. This has a great balance between the more rocking and mellower modes. This has some particularly expressive guitar work on it. The closing movement is another more sedate one that includes more flute.
Spain Feat. Rachel Flowers and Alex Skolnick
At 13-minutes long, this is one of the epics of the set. Rachel Flowers' piano gets us going here. They grow this out in a decidedly jazz based way, working through a number of twists and turns as it gradually intensifies and other instruments join. This remains on the fusion end of the spectrum and the un-electrified. Everyone gets in some moments to shine here, including guest guitarist Alex Skolnick. It's quite the ride.
Starting in a neo-classical way, this fires out into some smoking hot rocking jamming that has plenty of prog in the mix. The cut gets fairly driving and powerful at times.
Heavy Shtettle Fest. Alex Skolnick
Almost 17-and-a-half minutes long, this is the epic of the set. This comes in gradually with psychedelic elements, space rock and world textures blending together. This instrumental takes us through all kinds of twists and turns. It's gets pretty hard rocking at points. There is a killer bass solo section later that's pretty extensive. The drums get their chance to shine, too. We get an excursion into pure powered up ethnic music later for the closing movement.
One Foot in the Next World
There is more of a mainstream rock element for the main song concept here. They really take into some driving space rock meets prog zones for the instrumental section that makes up the closing portion of the piece, though.


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