Mike Tiano 2021
From programming to progressive rock and beyond the pale: rock connoisseur crosses over to artistic side of things.
A music lover of certain vintage is bound to be familiar with the results of Mike Tiano’s work – from Windows 95 features of which he was a lead test engineer to the immensely informative YES webzine “Notes From The Edge” that he masterminded, to the pieces he writes for “Something Else!” – all implying a deep understanding of quality. So when the veteran decided to further diversify his ventures and become an artist, there was no doubt Tiano would deliver a worthy set of tunes – otherwise, why bother in this day and age? Yet those who expect Mike’s debut to possess an arrogant art-rock aroma are in for a pleasant surprise, as “Creétisvan” has much more nuances to it.
Of course, prog is present in the album’s grooves, but virtuosity takes a back seat here while alluring melodicism leads the way and, save for the uplifting polyphony of “There Behind You” where steel guitar and organ open the gates of folksy delirium and the jovial finale of “Emerge Triumphant” where David Sancious’ ivories preside over anthemic orchestration, it’s simple, unpretentious, albeit highly inventive, songwriting that reigns on the record. Mike’s vocals are rather soft to carry the romantic whimsy in “The Dark Ages” or philosophical minstrelsy in “On Hold” as his licks and baroque keyboards convey the blissful boredom of waiting on the line, yet his voice turns solid and riffs heavy enough on the reggae-tinged “Automaton” to satisfy a glam metal aficionado.
With the omnipresent Billy Sherwood fleshing out the ever-shifting “Different Drummer” and the ever-robust Randy George facilitating Tiano’s 12-string flutter on the exquisite instrumental “Dance Of The Little Guys” – a mere two facets of his fantasy – only Mike hardly needs a lot of support in “A Natural” which has an idyllic air about its acoustic-to-electric calm, before “The Evergreens” fill this landscape with majestic solemnity. Still, a couple of cuts offer a humorous perspective, and that’s great because taking himself too seriously could mar the veteran’s wondrously eclectic effort. His first in a new field but, let’s hope, not last.