3.2 – The Rules Have Changed

Frontiers Music 2018

3.2 - The Rules Have Changed

3.2 –
The Rules Have Changed

And then there was one: a progressive glance at the state of the inner and outer world by masters of the trade – a gone-but-not-forgotten one and the one who stayed behind to observe their legacy.

“The work has to be done, will be done”: this line from “…To The Power Of Three” by 3 – an ensemble comprised of Keith Emerson, Carl Palmer and Robert Berry – must have been a motto for its follow-up, because finishing the enterprise they started many years ago, and labored on until fairly recently, became imperative for Berry after Emerson’s untimely demise. That was the duo’s undertaking, since Palmer didn’t join the long-gestating project, which is why there’s a change in the group’s name, yet “The Rules Have Changed” turned out to be a Berry album – in terms of performance, not in spirit – because the Emerson Estate withdrew, for all the wrong reasons, Keith’s recordings that the two planned to use, and Robert had to reproduce them, thus taking a multi-instrumental modus operandi to the limit. Such an approach, and the poignancy of the release, rendered the result rather restricted in scope – with one veteran staying true to the memory of the other and reining in impulses able to ruin the mood and the mold – but at the same time accumulated the music’s emotional impact.

A ripple of classical piano sets the album’s tone on “One By One” to indicate its desperate, if deceptively romantic, agenda, yet the cut’s solemn sadness is compromised when deliberately bombastic chords get peeled from the ivories and ramp up the drama – made all the more intense by Berry’s suppressed feelings filling his vocal delivery with passion making the artist and the listener relive the better times whose silver lining will be evoked when synthesizers join in the mind game where jazzy playfulness and tragic uplift collide and collude. The groove might get even mightier on the ruminative title track which has regret and acceptance enshrouded in lush harmonies and shot through with a bass rumble before six strings and Moog mingle to soar for a solo, but there’s also a pop edge to the record that’s revealed on “Powerful Man” – an effervescent anthem to father’s love and son’s perseverance, given a warm chorus and a bittersweet backdrop – while the ghosts of ELP’s take on “Fanfare For The Common Man” haunt “Our Bond”: the delicate paean to friendship, a tenderly orchestrated homage to Emerson, a quasi-operatic hymn, partially sung in Spanish – the hardest hitting number on display.

Still, the pomp and circumstance behind “Somebody’s Watching” ride the folk idiom in the most elegant way, too, despite the theatrical piece’s escapism typical art-rock extravaganza, whereas “What You’re Dreaming Now” seems superficial, artificial even – the only entry on the album to succumb to underdevelopment, the infectious ingredients notwithstanding – and is contrasted with a romp of “This Letter” that adds acoustic country and electric cabaret inflections to Renaissance-infected prog context. And then there’s “Your Mark On The World” which elevates the nervous grandeur and filigree texture once again, stressing what legacy a man can leave for others to carry as a banner. 3.2 is not a reboot of a franchise; instead it’s a new balance to the weight of this legacy.

****4/5

March 9, 2019

Category(s): Reviews
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