Shaping their heart through their working hands, the Sonic Elements collective pay homage to prog godfathers.
Presumably a product of “Cruise To The Edge” where most of its participants sailed to the YES realm, this tribute – masterminded and directed by Dave Kerzner and Fernando Perdomo and featuring a loose gathering of kindred souls known as SONIC ELEMENTS – draws a definitive, dividing line between those who followed in the prime movers’ wake and those who ran in parallel with them. It might be difficult to leave a comfort zone of influence and create an original cover version, especially when there’s an obvious choice of a piece or vocals replicating Jon Anderson‘s voice, which is why the least expected selections and combinations work the best here – and vice versa.
There’s quality but not a lot of adventurousness in Leslie Hunt’s delivery of “Long Distance Runaround” or Dr. Danny’s reading of the homage’s title track, yet having Jon Davison post snippets of his routine repertoire on a finely textured acoustic fabric feels plain wrong… As does the presence of Tony Kaye on “Yours Is No Disgrace” that’s sung, dangerously close to the template, by Marisol Koss, or of Geoff Downes on “Machine Messiah” – both keyboard players simply falling in their own old filigree – although placing Nick D’Virgilio at the microphone, instead of drum stool, seems to be a right move. Still, it’ll take veterans to appropriate gems and turn them into something majestic: Steve Hackett who wraps “Cinema” in his patented streamlined harmonies, and CURVED AIR who make the light of “Soon” dark, almost pessimistic. While Francis Dunnery is infusing “Starship Trooper” with dry warmth, and Sally Minnear and Dave Bainbridge are imbuing “Turn Of The Century” with folk-tinctured lucidity by removing the ballad’s grandeur, Marco Minnemann’s drums add carnival flash to “I’m Running” which Robin Schell’s pipes struggle to elevate to a proper festivity, occasional country ripple notwithstanding, unlike Robert Berry who has freed “Changes” from the plastic age.
Musicianship shining throughout, Billy Sherwood basically reprises his take on “The Fish” from another tribute – issued almost simultaneously with this one – yet it’s stellar performances of producers Perdomo and Kerzner that spice up even the too-familiar numbers, let alone effervescent classics such as “Sweetness” which they dusted off for Pat Sansone to freshen up. Had they been less reverent, the spirit of YES would inform this collection more fully.