Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home
Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jef Bek

Distant Starlight

Review by Gary Hill

Jef Bek is a composer and musician from Chicago. He has created an album packed full of intriguing progressive rock music here. There is a pretty wide range of musical territory represented, but overall it's more on the old-school end of the spectrum. This is quite complex and very cool. He's also surrounded himself with a large cast of talented musicians.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2024  Volume 2 More information and purchase links can be found at:

Track by Track Review
Distant Starlight
Keyboards start this in ambient ways. The track eventually bursts out into a driving, rocking jam that's a more full band arrangement. There is some hard rock and fusion built into it. The song continues to evolve, though, shifting toward more melodic stuff from there. It works through like that for a while and shifts to a more balladic approach for the entrance of the multi-layered vocal arrangement. It drives out with more killer prog rock jamming after that section. More vocals join further down the road as this continues to grow. An intriguing instrumental mode takes over again for a short time. Then an acapella movement takes over. From there we get an almost jazzy instrumental groove. This continues to grow with another cool prog vocal section that has some jazzy angles taking over. An instrumental section with dramatic percussion takes over from there. That works through and then gives way to more keyboard dominated stuff to continue. A reprise of an earlier vocal based section returns and then gives way to an almost Yesish instrumental movement. That said, it has a bit of a Flower Kings vibe built into it, too. A very Yes-like vocal segment emerges later. The song really does have a lot of Yes tendencies for the rest of its duration.
Momentary Champion
Coming in with more of a folk rock arrangement, this gets more into psychedelia meets prog territory as it continues. There are some Rick Wakeman like keyboard parts later in this number. This gets more fully prog like during that section and beyond.
The sounds of the water give way to a driving prog movement. Again there are some Wakeman-like keyboards in the mix. It drops way down to a stripped back arrangement and builds back up from there. This works through a number of sections. There are some mellower sections that make me think of the intricate guitar based movements of Peter Gabriel era Genesis. That gives way to another Flower Kings like arrangement. This keeps evolving as it continues, working through all kinds of intriguing prog movements and modes. Everyone puts into some great performances. Different instruments shine at different times, and this is old-school styled progressive rock at its best.
What One Has
Classically inspired music starts this. Then it turns toward a weird old time sound meets blues vibe. It shifts toward more pure prog, but it's definitely on the quirky side. This begins running through a number of changes as it continues. There are some moments that make me think of Frank Zappa. Other parts have more traditional prog vibes, but with hints of world music in the mix.
She Has Started To Drink
Unusual folk meets jazz meets prog concepts are on the menu here. This has a more avant-garde feeling to it. The lyrics to this are creative and irreverent, and the music has some moments that lean toward musical theater. There are a number of weird side-tracks built into this thing. While this track doesn't work as well as some of the rest for me, it's definitely one of the most creative and ambitious things here.
They Are Playing A Game-Jack Is Afraid Of Jill
Coming in understated and suitably strange, this builds on those concepts as it continues. There is definitely a lot of Zappa-angles built into this thing. The lyrics are freaky.
When Silence Calls
More dramatic and traditional prog rock vibes serve as the introduction on this. It gets into more of those Zappa sort of things for the entrance of the vocals. This is an artsy and ambitious number with some intriguing angles to it. This works through a lot of sections and modes. I really like a movement later that feels like 90s King Crimson a lot. There are some parts of this that call to mind Pentwater for me, too. This continues evolving until it's over.
More CD Reviews
Metal/Prog Metal
Progressive Rock

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2024 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./