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3.2

Third Impression

Review by Gary Hill

The history of this act is well-known to some, but perhaps not to others. It should be of interest to all fans of progressive rock, though. In 1988 Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer got together with Robert Berry to create a group called "3." That act only ever released one album, but in 2015 Berry and Emerson made plans to do a follow up project called "3.2." Emerson passed away before that dream was realized, but Berry released an album under that heading in 2018. This is the follow-up, and I have to imagine that Emerson would love it. It's such a strong progressive rock release, focusing on both AOR mainstream prog and more adventurous stuff. Berry does everything on the album, and does it very well. I'd have to say that this is a strong contender to make my "best of 2021" list.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Top of the World
Acoustic guitar brings this track into being. It gradually grows outward with other elements added to the mix, keyboards first. Remaining rather balladic, the vocals come in over the top after a while, lending a new angle. As electric guitar enters and the intensity rises, there is a bit of a psychedelic edge brought to the song. The instrumental break that takes over later is a powerhouse jam with killer keyboard soloing. This is really a prog powerhouse tune. Another instrumental further down the road really reaches for the sky and has some killer guitar work.
What Side You're On
This powerhouse prog tune really has a lot of Emerson, Lake and Palmer vibe. The keyboards are positively Emersonian. The tune has a ton of energy and really rocks.
Black of the Night
I really like this song so much. It's an AOR prog tune that really rocks. It has some great hooks and meaty instrumental work. It's another powerhouse.
Killer of Hope
This is another powerhouse tune. This is harder rocking than what you'd expect from ELP, but also feels a lot like ELP.
Missing Piece
A bit more AOR based, the early parts of this are more of the power-ballad approach, but the number really gets into some killer rocking zones further down the road. This is another winner on a disc full of winners.
A Bond of Union
Starting on piano, this is not the most proggy thing here, in the early portions, landing more in AOR ballad zones. A classical piano solo takes it later, though, and then the cut begins to explore more prog-based zones from there. The chorus returns after that to end the piece.
The Devil of Liverpool
I dig the hard rocking sound that opens this tune a lot. The number turns toward more of an AOR concept, perhaps a bit a bit like Asia. This gets into some smoking hot prog jamming from there, though. The sound has a modern approach, but also an ELP kind of vibe. As strong as everything here is, this has some of the most impressive changes and musical passages of the whole set. Berry really does seem to channel Emerson on the organ solo.
Emotional Trigger
There is a bluesy piano at the start of this. The arrangement fills out just a little before the vocals join. The cut has a real bluesy, jazz approach when they do. The keyboard solo later really reinforces the jazz concept.
A Fond Farewell
Synthesizer brings this into being, and the cut pounds out from there. This is another powerhouse AOR prog tune. It has catchy hooks and plenty of killer instrumental work. The keyboard solo on this thing is so hot.
Never
For some reason Berry's vocals on this song make me think of Manfred Mann's classic era. The music here is proggier than that, though. There is a classic prog sound here with a modern angle to it. This is another killer tune that really works so well. After the five-minute mark the track works to a harder rocking movement, but after a vocal section that gives way to a seriously ELP-like instrumental break. The number continues its hard rocking prog evolution from there.
 
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