Sweetwater Studios 2020
Art-rock stalwart drums up friends’ support on a deeply personal concept offering.
Given Nick D’Virglio’s prominent presence on a multitude of progressive rock releases, and the percussion master’s initials too, it must have been tempting to title his second solo album “Indivisible” – but that would go against the grain of this work’s theme. Standing almost twenty years apart from “Karma” – the American’s debut as NDV – and inhabiting a different world, “Invisible” is a story-based outing, yet the “looking for a meaning” concept is merely an excuse for the veteran to provide a common context for the variety of songs he amassed when working with Cirque du Soleil which, unfortunately, boil down to Nick’s preferred genre. Unfortunately – because D’Virglio, a very versatile composer, can present anything, as demonstrated here with a lot of style.
The grandeur has been set at the record’s heart from the start, when Abbey Road strings stream threnody into the title track where his soft voice and piano weave between Carl Verheyen’s strum and Jonas Reingold’s elastic bass, creating a cinematic impression. But Nick doesn’t shy away from going for infectious glam on “Snake Oil Salesman” or sprinkling the twirl and riffage of “Turn Your Life Around” with funk, before vocals pitch a top-notch pop tune into “I’m Gone” whose loops are extremely groovy. More so, D’Virglio gives “Money (That’s What I Want)” a new meaning by slowing down this Motown classic and making it sinister, if still soulful, while the brass-smeared power ballads such as “Where’s The Passion” – with Jordan Rudess adding a layer of melancholy to the uplift as opposed to Randy McStine’s rock ‘n’ roll licks on the coda – feel generic in terms of retro arrangement and solemn sentiment.
There’s enviable organ-driven panache to “In My Bones” that’s graced with Rick Nielsen’s solo, but once virtuosity comes into play and becomes the order of the day, the drift gets predictable, even though Nick’s able to handle a whole array of instruments on the electronica-tinctured, frenetic “Wrong Place Wrong Time” and charge ahead on metallic “Mercy” locking into Tony Levin’s armory which is abetting the orchestral overload. As a result, when D’Virglio conjures the ’80s simplicity, he’s fantastic, yet when Nick’s being futuristic in the ’70s or ’90s way, he’s failing at delivering the song’s message, no matter how Beatlesque a melody is. Whereas the album’s finale “I Know The Way” will fare well on many a level, because the veteran does know the way of engaging a regular listener and fellow musician alike, and not for nothing the second booklet inserted in this set details his drum gear. But in order to widen their circle, NDV must cross the prog line – and he still has some way to go to achieve that.