The Right Honourable 2019
After three decades of professional career and five years of sailing solo, indefatigable purveyor of prog takes stock of what’s in store and shines fresh light on familiar, and not so familiar, cuts from his back catalogue.
Will the real Dave Kerzner, please, stand up? It’s a legitimate request because, for all his perceived omnipresence on the contemporary progressive rock scene, the American artist’s true identity is rather difficult to define. Masterminding the SONIC ELEMENTS concept, he’s usually involved in a few simultaneous projects, contributing bits and pieces for the kindred spirits’ oeuvres and creating records that bear his name, so understanding the essence of Kerzner wouldn’t come easy. Thankfully, Dave took it upon himself to select songs which represent him best and “Breakdown” – spanning the period from 1995 to 2019 – allows the listener to distinguish the common threads running through everything he’s on and see his melodic core.
Making this collection attractive not only to the unitiated but also to those who’ve been following his main releases for years, Dave interspersed album tracks with live ones and picked alternative versions of the pieces his fans love to spice up regular numbers, so “Breakdown” proposes a thriling sort of journey to aficionados willing to chart various aspects of Kerzner’s path. Thanks to such an approach, a different, piano-led take on “Ocean Of Stars” from Dave’s first solo effort, 2014’s “New World,” reveals cosmic delicasy of his touch, while the roaring stadium rock that drives “Nothing” – where Fernando Perdomo’s guitar licks stage a massive squeal to usher in Kerzner’s ivories wigout – would bare the sharp edge he has rarely gotten close to. To show it more clearly, there’s no studio cuts from 2018’s "Static" because it was given a fully fledged concert outing whence a few pieces come to end up here, including its reverie-like title piece and the solemn, titular composition of the artist’s aforementioned debut under his own name, with Francis Dunnery weaving his six-string lines into the epic, albeit sweet, fiber, as does Steve Hackett on “Crash Landing”: an infectious dance-to-trance track demanding a lift-off from the floor.
Never the one to conceal his influences under his rolled-up sleeve, Dave doesn’t shy away from inviting his heroes to color a cut which references classic era of prog, and he would exert THE BEATLES sort of psychedelia to the likes of “Not Coming Down” whereas an acoustically driven, yet almost orchestral in its uplifting melancholy, “Into The Sun” sounds quite FLOYD-esque. Same can be said of an update of single “Paranoia” that fell between albums to open this anthology’s second disc where the crème de la crème of Kerzner’s projects sit, but if IN CONTINUUM’s “Scavengers” offers an art-pop stampede, an expectancy of larger vistas, that will magically emerge on “All That Is” as co-penned by Jon Anderson and delivered by his YES successor and namesake Davison, “Only Breathing Out” from SOUND OF CONTACT feels somewhat hermetic. Still, the vibrant space of “The Lie” is simultaneously soothing and anxious, creating the soft contrast and quiet tension Daves thrives on, and the raga of “My Old Friend” – dedicated to Kevin Gilbert, Kerzner’s colleague in THUD – is mesmeric.
Rare as these are, “No Readmission” from Randy McStine’s LO-FI RESISTANCE that Dave took part in may be the most obscure cut on display, distilled now to a dramatic instrumental, to highlight his writing method, yet the vivid “Island Reprise” by MANTRA VEGA is all the richer for the spectral presence of Heather Findlay’s vocals. Conversely, stripped of an album context and free of THUD environment, “Joytown” has a singer-songwriter streak, and indeed, that’s who Kerzner essentially should be seen as: a writer of simple, though sophisticatedly arranged, pieces. In stressing this truth, which he will possibly deny, “Breakdown” succeeds on many levels.