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Yngve Guddal and Roger T. Matte –
Genesis For Two Grand Pianos Vol 2
Musea Records 2004
Grand concept? Twice grand! Abetted by Steve Hackett, they do it again.

The concept of playing the grand pianos duet existed long before Elton John and Billy Joel introduced it to pop music – it belonged to a classical domain before; and now, coming full circle, classical musicians have a go at the pop songbook. To be precise, these young Norwegian guys have the second go at the GENESIS domain – with all the elegance you’ve come to expect from such endeavor. The bulk of the pieces covered are, surely, from before when there were three, but it seems deliberate to start off with “Me And Sarah Jane” which lends itself to four limbs’ figures surprisingly nice, appearing even more rich in texture than the “Abacab” original. With the exception of deepened “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” and dramatic, if dry, reading of “Blood On The Rooftops”, the focus here is on the less obvious and, thus, more open for interpretation compositions such as “Eleventh Earl Of Mar” or “The Battle Of Epping Forest” that, in instrumental form, retains all its criminal tension. Attention to detail allowed the pianists to take sub-melodies to the surface to make songs shine with new, previously hidden colors, and you cannot think of a better way for a musician to lend his personality to a popular piece. If that was a real agenda, it’s accomplished with no grandiloquence yet with a grand eloquence.

****3/4
 

TONY GARONE –
Big Star Way
Garone Music 2005
Combined, Navajo mythology, Taoism and obsession with UFO might make an ugly beast – yet with music, it comes off beautiful.

Tony Garone obviously thinks in epic terms, and his records’ gestation is rather long, but the results are so satisfying that time is obviously spent good. Five years on since the "Gilgamesh" project, there’s a new concept based on Garone’s perception of human moral values as viewed through the aliens’ prism. Thrown from the ancient past into fantasy future, his music is not understated anymore, with acoustic guitar of the title track that bookends the album laying out the canvas to weave the yarn on. It’s pure prog now, though the tunes as memorable as they are are not in your face: the colors are revealed in gentle strokes while Tony’s voice comes all frontal, if friendly intimate. Sometimes, like in pastiche ’50s croon of “My Little Grey” and the “Cowboys With Cell Phones” lyrics, there’s a great dose of irony, but counter-vocals render the picture multi-dimensional, and most of the songs can stand out on their own – “The Thing You Say” is a playful folk masterpiece, Richard Thompson could have been proud of – but together, they take on somewhat bigger scale. Not that the effect is down to the clever use of synthetic sounds which in “Oh No” amount to an orchestral swash, it all comes from real emotion beating in the space between the notes and the recurring themes, where only rocking “Would You Believe” gets out of line. But what a fine line it is!

The next five years have started ticking. Bring on more, Tony! More on the project is here.

****1/2
 

THE GREAT KAT –
Wagner’s War
The Great Kat 2002

See the DVD

Fast and furious. Six strings plus four strings plus the orchestral strings. Mini-classic or macro-classicism?

Clocking in just over 11 minutes, this outing of a lady known as The Great Kat might be considered a mini-album – but it’s not. It’s not as it’s whole. Only short. For others, it can take a double album to cram as many notes as Katherine Thomas does, and she bends it with ferocity one can hardly expect from the Juilliard School graduate. And while other classically trained musicians trade their violins for guitars once they’re hooked on rock, The Kat wisely sums the instruments up to take a hardcore approach to the music she was fed on.

This album has a symphonic three-act structure of “War”, “Revenge” and “Victory” and features both classical and the original pieces, starting off in orchestral mode with Wagner’s “The Ride Of The Valkyries” before unleashing the metal beast where shrieking vocals fly over the visceral rhythm section roar, then quote from Bach’s Toccata in D Minor and then… In “Punishment” everything comes together in one delicious pandemonium, for guitar and violin to entwine into a double-edged sword that cuts through the unconscious and tug for dominance when it comes to Sarasate’s “Zapateado”. The lyrics don’t register yet the mood does, while demons dance in Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody”. So forget your clean-cut Yngwies and other neoclassical cats: there’s The Great Kat shred away.

***1/2
 

RENAISSANT –
South Of Winter
Terry Sullivan 2004

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The backside of a rich tapestry can be no less impressive. Wellcome the Renaissance man!

Drumming for RENAISSANCE in their classic – and classical – time never was an easy task, but Terry Sullivan never let the band down, just because he never limited himself to the bottom end only. And this, his first solo release, highlights not Terence’s mastery of the kit and acoustic guitar but his composing talent. Sullivan doesn’t try to plumb the depths that his former band fathomed – how could he, without ANNIE HASLAM‘s soaring voice? – yet, suprisingly, the opening “Carry Me Home” unfurls the familiar feel of restrained drama that lingers on to the very last note of the album. Still, where RENAISSANCE went for captive grandiosity, Terry cleverly chooses the path of charming understatement, so “Burning Bridges” isn’t the epic it could have turn out to be and slowly reveals its acoustic beauty while retaining the trademark orchestral scale.

But there’s neither orchestra on there nor a real band: RENAISSANT is a family affair, with Terry’s wife Christine handling most of the vocals, and sons Kristian, Derrick and Lee helping out with guitar, bass and keyboards. The circle’s wider, though, as Lee Sullivan brought in his colleagues from BOA – including Alex Caird who played bass on the RENAISSANCE reunion album, "Tuscany" – and Sullivan invited his own old friends, John Tout to provide the emotionally charged piano parts like those of the title track, and Betty Newsinger for impressionistic lyrics. In such circumstances even Terence’s unpretentious singing in “Careless” sound almost majestic. South of Winter is a nice place to inhabit – thanks for sharing it with us.

****3/4
 

ELISETE –
Luar E Cafe
Zoola Records 2003
Sultry grooves and silky tones: there’s an ocean of emotion.

They’re by numbers nowadays, the artists who jump on the fashionable Latino bandwagon. Unlike these, Elisete’s the real thing. Born in Brazil and living in Israel, her singing holds that unique hot breeze which can’t be reproduced unless the rhythm lives in your very blood. The lady has it all – check the autobiography that’s “Hoshevet al ha-Pizmon” – and the lava of feelings pours out from the acoustic ringing of the opening “Capoeira”. More so, Elisete has a great way with words, shaping the lyrics in a Portuguese patterns even if they’re in Hebrew – there are songs in both languages on this, her second, album – and sending them along the melodic lines. The arrangements nicely complement her silky tones that make your heart beat faster and your feet stomp even in the slower cuts such as “Samba Do Sofrer”; in the title track the singer sounds uncannily like Sade she could have turned out into with a bigger budget, but in an accordion-splashed “Dancar Con Voce” Elisete comes off larger than life. The music buzzes with the life and oozes class throughout – jazzy strain of “Si Bemol” and the Middle Eastern groove of “Be-Emtza ha-Maagal” show an immense depth to the artist. The samba of “Be-Gilgul ha-Ba”, if put in heavy radio rotation, could make a real hit. So the star is in the making right now – make it shine!

Co-written with Tim Vaulin

****1/3
 

CHARDEAU –
Hors Portee:
Instrumental Selection
Highlight
L Records 2005

New adventures in Hi-Fi: from celestial to down-to-earth. Freefall jump but no groundbreaking

Chardeau’s clearly not keen to stretch out beyond the Francophone world – there’s no information on the man available in English – but the fact he’s roped in the great Jerry Goodman for a “Hors Portee” album is indicative of the maestro’s skills both as composer and keyboard player. The album in question is an ambitious project that shaped into a “Hors Portee InteGraal” DVD-A and intended to be heard in 5.1 sound, yet offers less challenging listening experience as well: that’s why there’s two selections mixed in stereo, one zooming in on voiceless cuts and the other on the songs.

“Instrumental Selection” feels like a work of genius, a deliciously seamless flow of music that runs from classical pieces (“Cyberwaltz”) to progressive rock in the vein of TULL (“Trafic Nocturne”) or FLOYD (“Route Alternative”) to kickin’ blues (“Tard”) and jazz (“Cycle I”), different styles sometimes splicing up in the course of a single track like “Introverture”. Nothing comes off as artificial, this organic fibre is really staggering, and when the harmony vocals kick in, they just add another layer to the complex cake that never tastes sophisiticated even for a casual listener. The music just lifts you up on Gimalayan level of ecstasy and tosses you down only to catch you before the mood hits the ground. Unfortunately, elsewhere the safety net doesn’t cover it all, so the acid house ‘web mix’ of “Data Pulsions” leads astray – too far away – breaking the stream of consciousness that permeats the previous sequence.

The delicasy’s almost absent on “Highlight”. Chardeau’s not the best singer ever, and there’s no charm in his singing which lives in the brightless voices of many a chanteur such as Serge Gainsbourg. Still, it’s warm in tracks like “Le Route”, where vocals supplement the music rather than get in the way of it, and where music serves a melody but not jolts for the sake of a movement like in funky “Trafic Intense” – there, the composer loses his self in the cloying arrangement. Back to the tune, and everything’s back on track, “Pacific Sud” surprisingly entering CRIMSO terrain, while “Mac Maudit Cheri” dances to the Brazilian polyphonic groove and the already familiar “Tard” rocks on. Quite uncomfortable – yet what a span!

**** / **
 

FLUXURY –
Perishable Goods
Fluxury 2003
The music to sink into the kitchen-sink reality. Don’t get lulled, though!

Subtitled “Part One of The Privacy Suite”, the Dutch band’s second album offers a strange journey. The music sucks a listener into an anti-Utopian world that is all our own, a sonic tapestry where “After The Revolution” sweeps away a bad dream only to let the title track’s frivolous ska dance and rumba-like rhythm of the opening “Me, The Enemy” paint a road into a terrorist’s psyche – first, without a hint of anxiety, but then, the tension grows. The world is complex and so is the music, a tight net of guitar and keyboards with Patricia Beerens’ gentle voice inside. It’s impossible to not get caught and go with the classical flow – oh the chamber harmonies of “Heaven And Hell” and “Light Of Other Days”! – so the concentration is not recommended. Relaxation, too – for that’s the trap our civilization’s falling into, and, by reflecting this tendency through fairy-tale vignettes and recurring themes, the band achieve much more than they seemed to plan when they embarked on this journey. At the end of it, one is changed and awaken. In the state of alert until Part Two comes along? But will it come at all?

*****
 

REVOLVER –
Turbulence
Drakkar Records 2004
Out of the doorway the bullets rip to the sound of the beat.

Kick out your associations, whether you think of THE BEATLES or VELVET REVOLVER: here’s a totally different beast with a totally different spin. The Canadian band came to be when Nick Walsh, a man behind SILK TOXIK, decided to channel his producer experience into another project. Cue REVOLVER, swirling and twirling your mind from the off, the hard-boiled title cut. The edge is jagged yet there’s always a good tune lurking in the space between Walsh’s urgent voice and the guitar wall, and the aural viscosity effect of this space feels fine. This steamroller takes on acidic stance in “Juggernaut” selling a ticket to the modern era to SABBATH-lovers: chariot of death or life-affirming kick in the shin? Surely, the latter, as the thick metal gleam allows a lot of space to breathe – get in the rockin’ roll of “Atomic Arcade”. Once it seems to become tedious, “Dead Weight” brings clean guitar lines to glide by and “Blue Sky” switches on the acoustic Americana mode. Twist after twist isn’t so much a revolution but an evolution which can rocket the band to the top.

***1/3
 

EVERPRESENT – E. P.
Everpresent 2002
Singles & Remixes
Everpresent 2003

Velvet electronica with a luring turn, quirky but touching.

To many music lovers, Boston has a good rockin’ blues association. This band, though, hails from a very different sonic place but know so well how to cause the blues. Emotionally, that is.

“You Need This”, the opening cut of their debut EP, “E. P.”, can hardly mean what it says, yet it’s hard not to get hypnotized by the aural canvas’ expanding ornament of nail-like riffs and keyboards’ strokes. The secret of this lies not only in the sounds: it’s spaces between that send a listener’s head in a limbo. If you’re sad, then, cling to DEPECHE MODE; if you feel adventurous enough, stick to EVERPRESENT. Matthew Cahoon, the band’s mastermind, has created an interesting blend of electronica and heavy rock, with a resulting psychedelia which leaks also in the lyrics. And when a dance groove shoots in, like in “You Save Me”, the drift feels close to delicious – untill the questions aimed at the singer’s addressee become too demanding, especially in “Don’t Stop” that rocks the soulboat hard.

Strangely, it’s only this track that the band’s second outing includes in edited form. This collection is quite different from the first one. Here, “Behind Your Veil” flies by much lighter, the darkness isn’t so thick this time, the allure much gentler, and the three versions of “Silence Speaks” show the tide has turned with those demands – now there’s a sort of dialogue. A healthy sign – a sign the band’s presence may last long.

***1/3
 

VIVAHEAD –
Cosmic Dunce
A Pulper Music 2003
Nothing vivacious but the heads will roll – with laughter.

Whoever this cosmic dunce is, he smirks at the listener from the space inhabited – and inhibited – by the strange sounds, so kitchen-sink familiar yet thrown into some other dimension. It’s distance between the cymbal splashes, bass throb and synth tidal waves that drives “Pulper”, and when the drums kick their way in, the dark reverie play its mind games. The name of the game is idiosyncrasy but the nerve – and the verve – here is of blissful kind, so if “Splinter-Run” sends laughter down the spine the release spills out in the form of madful piano chords. Think dead Pepperland, then, sailed to through the Sea Of Time that is “Dim”, and played in – in “Allsorts”. The album’s not for faint-hearted but for those who like to explore the Yin and Yang of their existence and blow away the cobwebs in their minds. They will feel comfortably in 15-minute “Home”. There’s a charm and a spirit in this cosmic jester that grimaces in your face.

****
 

JAUGERNAUT (a .d.) –
Contra-Mantra
Jim Johnston 2005
Some blast from the past. Hark, the thunder comes!

You never can tell what era this music comes from. You’re puzzled from the very beginning, once the musical box lets out a rave groove that breaks into the progressive bombast of “Anthem”, all mellifluous synth strata and ringing guitars and then… gentle, ancient-deep narrative singing. Quite a piece of epic cake. Jim Johnston, a man behind the enigma, is what has remained of the band from Olympia, Washington that made a little splash in the early ’80s when their clever music was already out of time, and the one who decided to try and get back on the track once it’s dawned that two original albums went to become cult. Quite a lot to live up to. But then, no: “Contra-Mantra” begs no looking back, even though “The Damage Is Done” bears an indelible watermark of that post-classic age when it all began. Who cares, still, if it catches and rocks on nicely? It oozes class, and MAGNUM fans must stick out an ear, yet “The Hard Way”, another epic, holds as much folk subtlety as pomp in it. and “Vanity” swings. Quite a balance. Forget your meditations – there’s a contra-mantra.

****1/2
 

SHAWN HARVEY –
In The Hills
Kissy Music 2005
This cat knows what a good lick is. The best English ‘country boy’ nods approvingly.

Think rockabilly’s dead and be proved wrong, as there’s at least one young fella who’s familiar with the magic of Barbarella to sing about her with a classic slap echo, equally classic rock ‘n’ roll set of lyrics and a classic “Brown Sugar” lead-in. Pitching himself sonewhere near Eddie Cochran, Plymouth’s own Shawn Harvey sounds like he’s having the time of his life. “I Drove Up In My Cadillac Car” gently pulls the listener in and takes him for a ride, so comfortable alongside Shawn’s unpretentious, boy-next-door’s vocals and scintillating guitar lines. Half of the tracks here are graced by the great Albert Lee’s presence, which is rather shadowy as Harvey’s competent at six-string end himself. When some blues shape up “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You Soon”, they ram it all home, even though the prevailing boogie pace, most captivating in piano-driven “Howdy Judy”, feels a tad tedious after a while. Fortunately, the album sounds a bit raw, and that’s where its allure lies, in this authentic pre-Fabs rock. Missed that? Run in the hills, then, where a new hillbilly cat’s playing.

****
 

BLACK BONZO –
Black Bonzo
B&B Records 2005
Go sleepwalking in the blackness where a rainbow lurks and hard edges are fun to bump into.

It could be a pastiche were it not so cleverly humorous. While a certain British band is currently specializing in a mock-70s sound, these five Swedes have embarked on a genuine time trip to what was going on, musically, thirty years ago. Yet it’s not the arrangements – nor the association-loaded song titles like “Jailbait” or “FantasyWorld” – that count, it’s the melodies, sparkling and catchy. And there’s more to it than meets the ear on the first spin. While one cannot help but recognize the URIAH HEEP-patented interplay of Hammond and Moog and tight vocal harmonies awashing Magnus Lindgren’s voice on the opener “Lady Of The Light” that, transmogrified as a ballad, also brings it to a close, the music firmly stands its own ground throughout this hard rocking rondo. Therefore, hunting for the past heroes’ shadows is unnecessary, as “There Are The Days Of Sorrow” comes delicious in its own right, though tracking the wail of “Sirens” back to PAVLOV’S DOG draws near a great surprise.

The band’s attention to the instrumental detail is amazing – the progressive vignettes of Joachim Karlsson’s acoustic guitar and Nicklas Ahlund’s piano both coloring the canvas – this rock classicism turns even the deceptively bleak “Brave Young Solider” into a whirlwind of tempo changes and “Freedom” – into a throbbing mind-drive. The depth of it all transcends whatever otherwordly concept there is and leads to something much bigger where one can indeed, as the group implore, leave one’s burdens. Uplifting stuff!

*****
 

BEAU HALL – UNH!
Beau Hall 2005

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He’s funky, but he’s not chicken. His blues are red-hot.

Beavering away for twenty years, Beau Hall is little known beyond Atlanta, GA, which is strange as the music the man produces is appealing to both kids hooked on MAROON 5 and geezers marooned on John Lee Hooker. It’s boiling and bubbling with inebriating effect that sends a listener in a slow jitterbug once organ and harmonica mesh for “Whatchagonnado”. There’s a great dose of soul in the ten songs, “Can I Get Some Lovin'” oozes it in spades. Beau’s ‘guy-next-door’ voice and his careful guitar picking anchor it ear to the ground, and the ground’s shaking. Grounded in tradition, Hall shakes some good action even when it comes to the beaten theme of “She’s Too Rich For Me”, its groove holding a lot of restrained emotion that flood out in hushed desperation of “Sometimes I Cry” dedicated to the friend who passed away. But there’s no load at all: elsewhere, “I Wanna Be The One” charts acoustic waters whereas “Superhot Lady Cop” injects a fun-fuel into the fire. James Brown wouldn’t be ashamed to come up with “Swing Down”. That’s the debut!

****
 

THE DUKE –
My Kung Fu Is Good
Spitfire 2005

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The boasting title, the modest core: the gist of a grown-up man.

It wasn’t Rich Ward’s choice to be called The Duke, it was the critic’s image of the man that’s stuck. Quite rightly so, as either belting out with STUCK MOJO or pulling strings with FOZZY, Ward has a good cloud of panache around him. He ain’t no more. Some personal crisis made him open his soul and, with a little help from the friends, Rich takes a lone path, though not solo, as THE DUKE are a band. “My Kung Fu” is their debut that kicks exploring the quiet / loud dynamics, but never splitting along the lines of lyrical dychotomy. The hidden intimacy doesn’t wait for soulfully breezy ballad “Summer”, it sets in from the boogie piano of the opening “I Give To You” – which proclaims, “the best part of me is in the music” – and nervy, if vulnerable, dance of “Immune” and lingers on throughout this short yet fulfilling record. It sounds rather cliched in places, like in “Breathe” or “Suicide Machine”, but never strays away from the American radio-friendly territory. Organ-buffed “Back To You” packs in a great dose of optimism – packs a solid punch. And it is good indeed.

***4/5
 

SOFT MACHINE –
Legacy
Live In Zaandam
MoonJune 2005
A limited run of the engine, the highlights of unlimited imagination.

Getting in and out of sight, the way SOFT MACHINE roll on seems unstoppable, not least because the band’s many line-ups allow former members come together in any combination and still sound canonical. Or not so canonical, as the band that visited Zaandam on May 10th, 2005 lean more towards highly charged jazz fusion rather than progressive experimentation – judging by this limited edition concert recording which is only a part of what was played on that night. It starts elegiac, with John Etheridge and Elton Dean popping interplay of guitar and sax on “Ash”, gains momentum when Hugh Hopper’s bass and John Marshall’s drums hit the bottom and clicks into Coltrane-esque groove on a new Hopper’s tune, “1212”. Yet the groove and the momentum are emotional, while the rhythmic extravaganza is mostly withdrawn from here. Still, exotic ebbing and quirky patterns are retained in classic “Kings And Queens” and let loose on “Big Cheese” where the instruments jolt as if to get back to the time the legacy of which this MACHINE fully live up to.

****1/3
 

DAVID CROSS –
Closer Than Skin
Noisy Records 2005

Read the interview

No way back to the court of the Crimson King and no gentle pulling the strings.

The KING CRIMSON stint in 1972-1974 was but a chapter in David Cross’ long career – yet what a chapter it was! The violinist never downplayed it nor made it a big issue: David’s just been playing, and still does. Eight years on from "Exiles", recorded with former colleagues and following on from their common ground, Cross is back in a radically different guise. In the pulling melancholy of “Are We One?” there’s no promise of the aggression that drives the album; sonic aggression, that is, as the darkness lurking in the space between electric violin and Paul Clark’s heavy guitar riffing hides many colors just like Richard Palmer-James’ lyrics do. David’s violin doesn’t stand out aurally, getting deep into the textures and making it all the band’s effort, but there’s a crazy fiddle dance in “Awful Law”, while Cross’ synthesizers cloth the songs in comfy garb.

Save for groovy “Counting”, Arch Stanton’s vocals don’t sound bright, too, they’re not supposed to, aiming to insert the words into the arrangement rather than pushing the bare meaning forward, and in the “Only Fooling” balladeering the trick works a delicious treat. “States Of Deception” neatly depicts the music of itself and the whole record: buzzing with energy, it’s very harmonious, in this quirky CRIMSO way, if only more structured to the dictate of here and now. It’s so modern bellowing that fans of metal can savour it unafraid of mellowing. “Tell Me Your Name” catches on, inquiring, and each new spin brings the music closer and closer – under the skin and into the psyche.

****4/5
 

VARIOUS ARTISTS –
Gospel For J.F.P. III
Tribute To Jaco Pastorius
MoonJune 2005
A glorious attempt of getting the music from behind the icon of a musician. No rambling, only ambling.

Namechecking John Francis Pastorius III as the most influential bassist in the world has cast such a long shadow that it covers not only the real man but his music – which is a shame for a musician of any caliber. As great a player as Pastorius was in terms of amazing technique, his talent as a composer never was a cause for a celebration, and, as such, this record is long overdue. Taking J.F.P.’s old friends in its vortex shapes his acclaimed universe into something intimately smaller, embodied in “Microcosm”: a jazz waltz was given to pianist Alex Darqui who originally spelled his buddy’s name as Jaco and who brings it here together with drummer Rich Franks who made Pastoruis move from drums to the bass – he never took it to a studio with the two, and they’re joined here by John Patitucci, all acoustically hushed. There’s no competition with the legend, that’s why this tribute wins where many others fail.

It’s the music that’s the apex, not the musician, and bass, when it’s present at all, takes a back seat throughout, which allows Gil Goldstein to harmonically flourish “Punk Jazz” with his processed accordions, and the Uruguayan choir of CONTRAFARSA to frame Hiram Bullock and Bireli Lagrene dynamic duet on “Three Views Of A Secret” with a spiritual a cappella. The South Americans’ presence on half of the “Gospel” tracks reveals rhythmic richness of the originals’ deep end, be it “Havona” that Pastoruis cut with WEATHER REPORT and, in this version, driven by Othello Molineaux, or jungle-buzzing “I Can Dig It Baby” featuring Felix, Jaco’s son, on bass, and an array of percussionists and singers backing Ines Bergara’s vocal swing. A celebration, indeed. Having listened to this, you’ll think of Pastorius next time you hear the thunder roar from the skies.

*****
 

JON ANDERSON –
State Of Independence
Classic Pictures 2005

Read the interview

The ethereal-voiced singer running the gamut from celestial to earthy.

Single isn’t the most representative format in progressive rock infamous for its epic spaceness, yet Jon Anderson isn’t the most representative of proggers. Outside of YES, his crystal cords have been weaving around world music, pure pop and rolling rock, and the veteran’s “Work In Progress” tour packs it all in one hell of a show. The show is the subject of Anderson’t first solo DVD, of which this single is but a sampler. Three songs, two quite familiar. The title cut, sounding politically charged now, is in fact an upgrade of a song Jon recorded aeons ago with Vangelis… or a downgrade: while children’s choir gives the song an emotional weight, it comes too monotonous to enjoy. This can’t be said of Spike Milligan’s wordless “Ying Tong Song”, linked eternally with English classic comedy series, “Goon Show”, yet lightweight and funny even without this connotation. Linking sublime and hilarious is a marvellous reggae of “Lift Me Up” that glides on the eternal Dylanism, “Don’t think twice, it’s alright”. Quite a motto for the single.

****1/2
 

DIMENSION X –
So… This Is Earth
Unicorn Records 2005
Dandies of the other world come out to play.

It’s been a long way for the Canadian band until they feel confident enough to record a full-fledged album – if only they lost their influences along this way… Not that it’s bad though. The title of the opener, “Why”, sounds rather ironic here as, stripped of David Hoover II’s attacking vocals, the piece sounds uncannily like YES, with choruses bigger than theirs and an immense instrumental dexterity to match the ambition. Deceptively metallic guise can distract from delicious interplay between piano and bass sometimes, but repeated listenings reveal the strata of the quintet’s music; the problem is its complexity shun the sketchy melodies, like in otherwise catchy “Train Wreck”, yet in “Corporate Ladder” tunefulness wins over. Much depends on a certain track’s duration, that’s why the epic “Xena’s Paradox” come exhausting rather than adventurous it might’ve been. The potential can’t be denied, and the next release surely must realize it.

***
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