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Lizard’s Tale

Abstract Logix 2012

Hark! new hero comes. Welcome the advent of a fresh major force on the fusion scene.

Lizard, to New Jerseyan guitarist Haklar, is a symbol of friendship and survival, which also is the exact foundation of his debut. Bold enough to share the space here with his tutor Larry Coryell, who he dared show a couple of tricks to and co-write a breezy title piece with, Dennis’ way with strings is mesmerizingly soft and, thus, perfect for this sort of light, if deep, jazz. There’s a lot of impressive electric-acoustic interplay, yet it’s not the technique that induces breathlessness on the anxiously flickering “Leap Of Faith”, it’s the pure melodic beauty turning almost painfully poignant when Jon Anderson‘s pellucid chant floats in. The ex-YES warbler adds color to four compositions, while K.S. Resmi’s voice takes “Low-Lee-Tah” eastwards, to a place devoid of any Nabokov connotations there may be.

A broad geographical stroke involves also the “Angels In Bahia” infectious bossa nova, given some grit by N. Scott Robinson’s percussion, and “Swift Messenger” that explores the fragile fringes of European folk. The more unexpectedly, then, comes a delicate rocking at the end of “Dawn Of An Era”, as Thierry Arpino’s bass and Mark Egan’s drums expand the gentle dynamics with their dark undercurrent which, aided by Anderson, becomes transparent in the soar of “Crossing Over”, whereas sinewy blues enter the rich seam in “Naima” – twangy and nebulous, with a hint of perennial “Sleep Walk”. Here’s a thin line between love and unrest, and Dennis Haklar treads it with grace. Meet a quiet force to reckon with.


The Fusion Syndicate

Purple Pyramid 2012

A multi-tasking producer expands his – and not only his – universe by taking the unexpected alchemy to the next level of art.

Billy Sherwood’s name has been a synonym for prog rock since his short flick with YES. This name graces many an album credit, but Sherwood hardly broke his chosen genre mold be it on his own records, the CONSPIRACY Billy’s in with Chris Squire, or an array of tribute albums he’s been corralling the musicians’ crème de la crème in – hardly broke until now. Hot on the heels of THE PROG COLLECTIVE’s debut, THE FUSION SYNDICATE is a similar collection of Sherwood’s originals, all 7-minute-plus, yet there’s a difference: now, Billy’s usual suspects are joined by the jazz rock elite, the cover’s allusion on “Bitches Brew” a perfect outline of what’s inside – a bonanza of surprises.

The first, and most exemplary, of these is opener “Random Acts Of Science” where Rick Wakeman’s unmistakable piano runs are spiked with equally elegiac violin courtesy of Jerry Goodman, that forms a riff down the line, and gets oiled with Nik Turner’s sax, while Sherwood’s own adventurous guitar sharpens the focus and adds grit to Jimmy Haslip’s bass spank. Elsewhere, in “Atom Smashing”, Tony Kaye provides ivory bedrock for John Etheridge’s six-string, and Jim Beard also employs acoustic keyboard to carry “At The Edge Of The Middle”, but switches to faux-vocal sleaze when Randy Brecker unleashes a sax flight, yet it takes Steve Morse’s axe to kick the balance to the rock side of things.

Disappointingly, Steve Hillage’s jolt gets lost in the jive of “In The Spirit Of”, but improvisational quotient is upped to the max with “Particle Accelerations”, as Larry Coryell passes the strum groove to Chester Thompson’s percussion and Derek Sherinian chimes in for cosmic voltage. In a more silent way, charged, if easygoing, “Molecular Breakdown” hangs in the hot air between David Sancious synthesizer and Jay Beckenstein brass before Gavin Harrison shatters it, but bottom end shifts and trembles when Billy Cobham sends the thunder under Mel Collins’ reeds in “Stone Cold Infusion” and lets Jordan Rudess wander all around the place to build a finely tuned tension. For all the soloists on board, the overall result is surprisingly cool and deep, its mastermind deserving kudos for relentless moving on.



Lavender Catydid 2012

Eclectic entertainer straightens up his act to get reasonable without losing any of his quirks.

If this album’s not-so-original title reeks of Zappa, that’s because Scott Fischer has always been in the affirmative with regards as to whether humor belongs in music and played this music with much panache. Yet FLICKER eschews the hilarity of the Chicagoan’s previous projects – DEJA VOO VOO, POWDERHOUSE and BABAGANOO – for the less Aesopian approach, even though it stings in all the right places. So Fischer’s may be an idiosyncratic world – slightly disturbing in the “Death Of A Dutchman” heartbreaking waltz and in the “Year Of The Locust” jazzy panto – but as intimate as lyrics are in songs like grand, Rachmaninoff-to-Toussaint 9-minute “Three Little Secrets”, orchestral sweep lifts most of it above the mundane. Many will find it easy to relate to the bitter, bluesy sentiment of “Ex-Birthday” following a soft and solemn entry of “Music Is My Mistress”, driven by a piano-and-slider caress, whereas the synth-adorned “Wound Up Being Me” runs from deeply personal confession to radio-friendly rock and back in the riveting way. A serious, in all senses, statement.


Circles And Darkness

Arcrae Media 2012

Mind-bending and bloodsucking of the highest order – or chaos. Fear not when it’s hot.

If the minutiae-connoisseurs remember this band for their appearance in an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, such pinpointing would mean missing the point, as the LA’s trio have moved on since that 1998’s cameo into much more adventurous jingle-jangle. Still proudly wearing the heavy stripes she earned in the ’80s with THE PANDORAS, guitarist Lisa Rae Black and bassist Toni Valena produce a stomping grind but don’t chain themselves to any particular genre. No strangers to delicious mash-up, on their fifth outing, the ladies easily wrap A TASTE OF HONEY’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie” glitterball jive around the “War Pigs” riff and invoke the spirit of other kindred spirits, Cheech & Chong, with “Earache My Eye”. The latter takes in Zappa’s “Apostrophe”, a sign of the ensemble’s dexterity as Jack Bruce’s four-string escapade gets updated, yet retro doesn’t dwell in the grooves of alt-attack of the Harry Potter-inspired title track that hits the hard spot in its climactic end to set the tone for what to come.

The rumble of BELLYLOVE’s own “Stumble” is as nervy as Frank’s “Magic Fingers” that packs a different kind of wizardry and slick enough in the axe work to cuts its way to the most hardened heart, while “(If You) Can’t Fix Me” slides on to the country blues swamp with some style. Elsewhere, “Schmo Boy” hides an iron hand in its girly glove: kittens got claws on that one, especially when funk begs for some scratching. It doesn’t work so well on a triplet of FLOYD’s themes, even though a reggae’ed “Time” features Adam Steinberg’s sensitive drumming and hosts an elegant acoustic solo, and spanky epic “Pigs” connects nicely with the aforementioned SABBATH’s monolith. It cracks with “Stride Song” that RHCP would have been happy to deliver. BELLYLOVE are that strong.


Radio Sessions 1971-1973

Angel Air 2012

Two vintage endeavors of one fantastic ensemble in their prime time and in adventurous mood.

Looks like nobody seemed to care and tape classic STACKRIDGE performances, and their only live album was recorded only in 2007. The more precious, then, are their sole TV appearance and these six cuts laid down in September 1970 and February 1973. Blistering and brilliantly rough, the latter is of special interest because it includes apocryphal pub ditty “The Lyder Loo”, bound to land on the forthcoming "The Man In The Bowler Hat", yet never taken to a studio other to the Beeb one.

More so, “The Road To Venezuela” and “The Galloping Gaucho”, originally split between different vinyl sides, become a sort of vaudeville suite here, while the same Latino rhythm is set in the opener “Three Legged Table” from the group’s debut. And if this glamorous song comes severely shortened, the compensation arrives with the significantly revised “Slark” which laps lazily across its own album mark, as Michael Evans’ violin and Mutter Slater’s flute claim the funny folksy space over from Andy Davis and James Warren’s soft vocal melange. But radio or not, “God Speed The Plough” retains its orchestral beauty while expanding the initial classical quotient… and that’s what the whole of this disc does with STACKRIDGE legacy.


“Let’s Hear It”

Digital Nations 2012

A rumble provider to the stars comes into his own bluesy bloom. Satch chimes in.

In his time, Brad Russell played bass on records of such luminaries as Pat Travers and Rick Derringer who like their bottom end covered nicely but stay their own melodic ground, which the four-string maestro claims back here, on his debut solo EP. And solo does mean a lot soloing in this case as the six instrumental pieces are delivered for the most part by Russo, squeezing all the gamut spectrum, low and high, from his instrument, and stellar drummer Gregg Bissonette, so the groove and tunes vie for focus throughout save for their perfect harmony in the muscular “Hello Jeff”.

While opener “Seven Shred”, as its title suggests, initially puts forward the funky fingers’ prowess rather than the feeling, the drift gets corrected as it progresses into a fusion field, where in the most adventurous, country-shaped, edges of “Native Tongue” lurks the violin of ex-MAHAVISHNU Steve Kindler. On the other side of acoustic ring, the riff-fest of “Beat It” comes on as dry and compacted as any cosmic food – spaced out and tasty in equal measure. As a contrast, lyrical blues reign in the organ-smoothed “Brothers” that features Brad’s sibling Kevin on guitar, yet subtleties are sent to the back seat on “Zattack”, which thrives on heaviness, with Joe Satriani pouring lava into the Eastern-flavored thunder. As much for musicians as for the casual, if well-versed, listener, “Let’s Hear It” signals the arrival of a new four-string star.


Live Atmosphere

Curved Air 2012

Classicism reigning supreme, the AIR still fill the space to burn it hot.

As far as reformed bands go, disappointment sets in all too often, especially if a line-up comes wrapped around singers who can’t match their four-decade-back selves – or could they? In this ensemble’s case the only frustration lies in the fact that CURVED AIR haven’t produce a lot of new music since their 2008 comeback. Since our interview that took place then, Darryl Way has left the fold but Florian Pilkington-Miksa and Sonja Kristina still stoke the engine. And thanks to the dame’s restless experimentation on the side, the group sound fantastically fresh and the songs sometimes drastically differ from their former form, of which “Live Atmosphere” is the immaculate document.

Drawing on their first four albums, yet omitting tellingly the classic rage of “Vivaldi”, the sextet start their show dramatically grand with “Marie Antoinette” but it doesn’t take long before their rock edge sharpens the charge. There are no prog boundaries now, and if “Screw” or “Back Street Luv” feel artsy to the hilt, “Everdance” and “Phantasmagoria” show a new layer of folksy transparency, whereas “Stretch” swings on with a saloony panache. More so, in the heavy fusion of “Propositions” Kit Morgan’s guitar and Paul Sax’s violin come as perfect stringed foil for Kristina’s vocal idiosyncrasies that always made this band special and her tremulous “Melinda” so tender. The latter now features more collective input than ever as does a rather unexpected, if most welcome, inclusion of another heartbreaking ballad, “Easy”, which floats in on Robert Norton’s piano and is embellished with his harpsichord and synthesizer solos, while all the strains tighten for the “Hide And Seek” drama and the elegant extravaganza of “It Happened Today”.

Tremendous vivacity: that’s what mark out today’s CURVED AIR, and now this CD (plus a bonus DVD which adds to the titular atmosphere with bits and pieces, although none of entire performances) takes its place of pride alongside their classic “Live” album.


Sassy Society

K-Klangstudio 2012

From the Reeperbahn to the Sunset Strip: the Deutsch sleaze rockers pack all the right moves… without actually moving so much.

There’s verity in this young quintet’s premise that most of the glam metallers have traded their edge for a bloat and their crown is up for grabs. Whether the band’s six-cut EP, recorded in their first six months of existence, will change the scene is another matter altogether. For all their sharpness, and it’s the backbone of tracks such as “Heat N Hell”, the SOCIETY fail to produce a highly memorable tune to flesh out their catchy blues. Their choruses struggle to embrace the stadium vastness, yet the promise is undeniable, and if the group shook of the falsetto-sprinkled glitter for more prosaic dust, the formula, so generic in “Drug Store”, could be winning and radio appeal would turn irresistible. “Infectious Love” and the second part of “Raincheck On Heartache” come close to that mark – close enough for debut. For the album, though, the ante must be upped.


Highest Wish

Left Angle 2012

Awareness ahoy! The “Smooth” brass blazer trails concrete jungle with a mighty entourage, including his “Supernatural” buddies and rapper cronies, in tow.

Known mostly for his association with Carlos Santana, trumpeter Ortiz, when he’s left to his own shiny devices, cooks a differently flavored gumbo, which should come as no surprise to those who remembers for his blaring cameos with the likes of EN VOGUE and TLC. But, urban to the core, “Highest Wish” holds a lot of sacred fire in its grooves, especially in its two cover choices. While the classic rock fans’ attention will be riveted to Isaac Hayes’ mesmerizing “Do Your Thing” which features Chester Thompson’s organ and Tony Lindsay’s voice, most characteristic of local modus operandi is the latter’s vocal share on Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter In America” with The Grouch. Commercial ante is kicked the highest by the soulful “Since You’ve Been Gone”, where the trumpet vies for the focus with Luqman Frank’s honeyed voice, and “In Every Breath” where flugelhorn basks in Wurlitzer waves, emceeing is an integral part of this album.

Yet more often than not, it lays out its wares in the acid jazz zone, marked by the opener “Ha-Ya (Means Life)”, a reminder of Ortiz stint with Cecil Taylor, but Casual’s rhymes ideally spice up the optimistic fabric of “We Are What We Are”. Loops don’t coil there, though, but samples and electronic buzz go under the heavy-hit skin of “I Still Believe” that sets another Santana sidekick, Linda Tillery’s diatribes side by side with MLK’s Nobel Prize speech and Zumbi’s rap, its sharpness to be smoothed with lyrical flow of “Ease My Mind”. And if the sweet fusion of closer “Full Circle” hints on Bill Ortiz’s more adventurous side, it’s not the point here, as the master’s wished is fulfilled in style.


Adventures In Neverland

Esoteric Antenna 2012

Turning the Peter Pan domain into a sweet, if disturbing, anti-utopia, the Cardiff voyagers paint their biggest, and most alluring, picture to the date.

In a big year for the classic KARNATAKA fans, THE REASONING follow their singer’s fellow splinters, PANIC ROOM’s suit with this, her new band’s fourth album. It might take some time for those who join the quintet’s journey to fully register what’s going on outside their purified prog paradigm, yet the deeper one goes the more engaging it becomes, especially when male voices join Rachel Cohen’s crystal pipes in the RENAISSANCE manner. As Tony Turrell’s organ and Keith Hawkins’ guitar change competition for complementation, “The Glass Half” takes in polyrhythmic fusion swirl and “The Omega Point”, punctured with Matthew Cohen’s bass, comes on as a perfect combination of power and romanticism, a sign of mature artistry.

But while there’s enough of mainstream smoothness in the cinematic opener “Hyperdrive”, a haunted possessor of catchy chorus, it’s in the less streamlined pieces, such as the grandiose, enchanting rocking of “Threnody”, that the titular adventures grip the listener’s very soul. And it’s in “Otherworld” that the genre’s criteria, rather obvious in the acoustic tincture of highly danceable of “No Friend Of Mine” which gets heavy for the climax, get behind the song’s lyrical demands, and the fivesome’s small choir shines in the near-orchestral surroundings of what results in a hard rock ballad. The title epic with its deliberate FLOYDian flight brings the narrative to a close in a concept mode of a peculiar REASONING flavor, and leaves a feeling of Neverland remaining as elusive as ever but the adventure worthy every minute of it nevertheless.



Fab Tone 2012

Blues with a feeling – a feeling of time and place – and the sense of immaculate immensity of a man who the start align to help.

One look at the guest list of this album suggests Ashton – Welsh-born, Oz-raised, Blighty-rooted – belongs to Black Country. And here it’s equally the Wolves territory and the Delta, as guitarist Gwyn delivers his best work to date. Here, he masterfully veers from the stern, if angularly funky, DIY take on Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, with only Kev Hickman for percussion company, to groovers like the seductive “Don’t Wanna Fall”, laced with MAGNUM’s Mark Stanway‘s organ and Mo Birch’s vocal backing. The rougher the better, though: the proudly bristling “Dog Eat Dog” wins over the Hendrix-derived “Angel”, its guitar wing notwithstanding, whereas the main man’s soft underbelly is exposed in “Fortunate Kind” where Ashton makes room for the fellow slide virtuoso, Robbie Blunt, who harks back to his erstwhile SILVERHEAD mellowness.

Still, the coup comes from the off, once the hellhounds get heavy for the “Little Girl” muscular attack which signs off with Fabulous Thunderbird Kim Wilson’s harp solo, and there’s no punches pulled on the molten “For Your Love”, infectious to its Don Airey-oiled singalong core. Yet in the closer “Blues For Roy” another kind of heart beats pure and clear just as Gwyn Ashton’s chosen genre demands. It may skip a beat sometimes, but “Radiogram” is a real contender for the Brit blues album of the year mantle.


Harmogram Suite

Burning Shed 2012

Gorgeous minimalism takes on a 3D shape and gains gravity. Peel slowly and hear.

His pop credentials weaving in the same logical fabric, Marvin Ayres’ solo work is all about elegant understatement which here, on the English composer’s sixth album, pushes the grandeur envelop infinitely. Its title an obvious portmanteau of “harmony” and “hologram”, this six-part suite adds a third sonic dimension, an important feature of today’s musical landscape, to the maestro’s oeuvre but sees him for the most part alone: the virtual orchestra is Ayres piling up 140 layers of overdubs and bringing a small choir that includes his regular collaborator Sonja Kristina of CURVED AIR for the penultimate movement. “Harmogram Suite” gets much deeper than its predecessor, "Eccentric Deliquescence", as the album’s cello-driven soundscapes unfurl many a processed layers into an otherworldly symphony to wrap the deceptively plaintive enchantment around the listener’s very psyche.

The tremulous link, from “Movement One: Underture” on, embraces both wide dynamic range and delicate folk motifs, with the low-end, viola-involving “Movement Two” the most chamber piece of the puzzle which lapses over to the companion DVD which houses, among others, a concert performance, the potential target of all the suite. Taken to the stage, the klezmer strains of “Movement Four” will be the dramatic climax of it all as the sadness this part fathoms borders on unbearable beauty. And it’s only logical that, close to the edge of desperation, “Lament” bring the suite to a close in the scarce, yet emotionally heavy, hopeful setting. There’s real peace and omnipresent harmony in the end.


Fables & Facades

Cherry Red 2012

Into the red and beyond: the ever-relevant veteran lays roses and blood on the tracks.

Looks like after a long absence Trevor Midgley is actively back into action. Earlier in 2012, Beau expanded his classic "Creation" and slotted it between 2011’s comeback "The Way It Was" and this, his new album as if to show the continuity of it all. Holding the tracks laid down between 1978 and 2000, but mostly in the ’80s, “Fables & Facades” is a criminal record, and the artist should really be sentenced for keeping such enchanting music away from public’s reach. Yet sometimes it takes time for disparate pieces to make a big picture.

It is revealing itself in the space from the opener “Seeker After Truth”, a harmonium-oiled, “Space Oddity”-quoting, Ecclesiastic interview with God whence no-one gets alive, to “The Night Before Trafalgar”, a haunting historical myth that Beau is so keen on creating on each of his platters. But there are threads to keep it all together, as both cuts are linked to the medieval glory of “White Knight”, where acid guitar passes for a cello, and the full-on swirl that takes angry “Fight For The Right” to the dance floor before “We Will Be Dancing”, written for a musical, sets hope in the heart of the gloom. And then, wrapped around the poems, are mesmerizing melodies.

They draw on English folk tradition either openly as in the Morris dance of “July Jamboree” or implicitly as in the mnemonic exercise of “Chilli Powder” and turn the censors-burning “Filters” into a pellucid ballad. And it’s not purely acoustic domain out there: “Listen To Me” channels the bopping Bolan spirit into a rather serious missive, while “The Rocking Machine” unexpectedly pitches rhythm-and-blues into the flow, and “One About To Fall” has a psychedelic haze about it. Slowly but surely all these stories make sense not only on their own, hiding behind the titular facades much more than meets the eye, but also as a whole – as those personal details that hang in the crystalline ache of “Gallery” become universal.


Lepers & Deities

Rockular 2012

Aiming arrows at the world’s injustices, the Oxford three try do right the wrongs in their own right.

Over the course of their decade-long career, this small ensemble have been criminally overlooked and it’s only lately that they started to gain critical acclaim. Yet the trio’s fourth album will hardly expand their fanbase. Recorded in the same timespan as 2009’s double offering "Audio Verite / Deceptive Blends", it accumulates the same amount of hooks but lacks erstwhile humorous immediacy which reveals itself only on the punky “Valerie” and seeps through the flute-enhanced ska of “Bougainvilleas In The Sand”. Still, it’s hard to ignore Mike Hyder’s bravado when he transforms SMALL FACES’ “Tin Soldier” for the salvo of “Trust” and pulls jokers on both guitar and vocal fronts over solid organ-and-piano backing only to spill silvery romanticism in “Sparkle” in the same anthemic way.

On the other end of emotional gamut lies “S P T” that caresses the listener’s palate with acoustic balladry, even though its drama sounds a tad artificial until the full-blown electric folksiness draws it closer to Nick Drake’s territory. But whereas the title track marries retro twang to Moroccan orchestra drones only to leave heavy haze as an aftertaste, “Little Treasures” cuts its accordion-oiled chanson with an array of sharp riffs in a Trans-European fashion. Rather timely, if too serious, and for all the grand intent that doesn’t seem like the way to the ever-elusive top.



MoonJune 2012

The Winnipeg Four make a quantum leap out on a limb and into a sweet unknown.

Notching the sixth mark in their discography, the Manitoban quartet found a beautiful way to stand out of the highbrow crowd. If 2008’s "Do5" hung slyly in the art gallery with a cult charisma to it, this album tickles the pop soles of prog, those rarely cared recesses of rock anatomy. “Senna” sets the balance between two meanings of the world: a laxative herb and exchange of insults – all in terms of mood, of course, as the band still stays firm in the instrumental domain. Their ideas may loom large within the scope of two two-part epics, twangy and translucent “Message From Uncle Stan”, which gains enchanting cosmic weight as it flows, and meaty “Houndstooth”, yet the bite of their realization gets smoothed by the majestic Hammond roar that envelopes guitar waves right from the off.

Graham Epps and Jesse Warkentin’s axes weave and spank melodic charms in both slide-caressed and harmonic way, while Andy Rudolph’s drums and Scott Elenberger’s bass give it all a dewy-eyed rave spin without losing the anthemic focus even when synthesizers drop notes on the Euro-disco line and thicken the brew when the gravitas dictates it. Heavy, yet more traditional, strains keep up “Expo ’67” whose retro-futuristic drift would be a perfect soundtrack for a doc about the Montreal science fest that shook all the Canada around the Summer of Love. But it’s “Flossing With Buddha” that marries lysergic grandiosity of ivories to the acid-burnt six-string interplay. But through the melancholic patina of the arrangements, especially so in “Saffron Myst”, shines the FROG’s romantic heart. It goes off the leash in “Aqua Love Ice Cream Delivery Service” to murder any potential doubts in the quartet’s rocking abilities. One killer album.


Recipes And Remedies

Lazy Bones 2012

Sun-kissed heaviness from Hawaii: burning hot but clever.

Talk about contradictions and contrasts here, as the off-shore US state seems more likely a place where reefs, rather than riffs, burst in colors, yet it’s there that this young quartet came into bloom to mark the band’s 10th anniversary with their third album. A definitive expression of the foursome’s collective vision, it’s shot through with a geographically appropriate daydreaming theme but serenity has no place in the tracks such as “WTF” or opener “Recipe” that explores the quiet/loud dynamics on its fullest scale. Those with a penchant for classic grunge will cherish anthemic “Gravity”, and it all gets down to the athletic rhythm section of Jason Paulsen and Frank Bianchini whose groove provides a shifting bedrock for Chris Albers’ guitar menace and Glynn Motoishi’s voice which grows from silky on enchanting ballad “Soul To Sell” to raspy in “The Mess That Ivan Made”. More so, unlike many bands of such ilk, this one ooze out genuine emotions and it’s hard not to get in the desperate loop of “So Long”, while the infectiously serious “We Are The Chain” hammers the drive home with a hint of handclaps-helped club calypso. And when “Need To Breathe” rolls its gentle waves over ebbing acoustic strings, one feels cured and wholesome. A Pacific effect is in motion here.


Live At The NEC
Oct 24th 1989

Gonzo 2012

No chamber feeling or pocket symphonies this time around: the YES-men rock the Brummieland at their most beautifully lax.

That was a strange situation when the forefront melodic part of the quintessential prog ensemble found themselves outside the fold, yet, fortunately, by then Rick Wakeman, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were masters of their own show and, together, could cover all bases. To flesh out their rhythmic rear, the three called for another YES alumnus, Bill Bruford who, with jazzy inclinations for a secret agenda, brought in his KING CRIMSON partner Tony Levin. In such circumstances, the name of their game became “looseness”, and if previous live releases from ABWH oozed regular grandiloquence, this one blows the topographic oceans away.

The change is never more obvious than in “Heart Of The Sunrise” that is the public is teased with before it’s actually unleashed to trade its usual tight rebound for a fusion sprawl, and, of course, in the opening solo workouts from those tuneful three. Of them, only the singer evokes, over his own acoustic strum, a freshly flavored tune, “Teakbois”, having set the contextual scene with “Time And A Word” and cutting short this long-distance glance with “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” (there’s a sound glitch on there yet it came from the stage not the recording). And it’s together that the band deliver most of their only studio album interspersing it with past classics which, save for Howe’s standard showcase for “Clap” and expanded “Mood For A Day”, crisp as ever, are given a very vibrant treatment here. In his turn, Wakeman enhances the mood with his own classical swirl with a hint of “Six Wives” and adds gentle touch to “Soon” (pitched in the heart of “Starship Trooper”) that he originally didn’t play on, while Levin and Bruford engage into a percussive duet within “Themes”, and it’s interesting to see how the full line-up change gears midway through “Long Distance Runaround” or come unhinge in “Order Of The Universe”.

Yet tight but loose is “Birthright” where all the individual threads weave the wholesome seriousness of heavenly Rio, and that’s where additional players, guitarist Milton McDonald and keyboardist Julian Colbeck (whose short film enhances the package, together with a replica of tour program, on DVD) come in handy. The result of the collective effort is paradoxically effortless and, for all its complexity, lightweight. Which, for so called dinosaurs, is a phenomenal feat.


Lonely Art

W.A.R.Productions 2012

Quoth the Raven, “Give us more”: the Ruhr-al one-man band lays claim to a long and winding road.

Currently fleshing out his project with outside musicians to take his debut on the road, when Janos Krusenbaum was sculpting “Lonely Art” he breathed life into the album’s title. Yet, perhaps, doing it on his own helped this young multi-instrumentalist to keep the album both in focus and perspective. As the croak of opener “Searching For Those Eyes” gives way to classical piano and sharp rifferama that spreads across tightly compressed drums, one could be forgiven for thinking SEEKING RAVEN are another doom metal formation with a power fix so obvious in “Prelude Of Truth” or “Momo The Woodfire”. Still, slowly but surely, as fusion and folky threads come to the surface, it becomes clear that the assault is a mere foundation for something larger. More so, the pummeling never obscures melodies: “Untold Stories” and the title track flaunt their powerful progressive stripes with reserved panache and colorful guitar vignettes, while “Becoming The Hermit” sprinkles it all with funk and “Sad Clockwork” brings Renaissance dance to the slaughter. Which is why, when “The Last Waltz” signs the album off in an elegant, chamber manner, stripped of the clutter and clamor, a road forward unfurls – a glorious one.



Acumental Media 2012

Raw but arresting: the legion of female blues-belters gets significantly reinforced.

The title says it all… or so it seems. Not so much work-in-progress – after all, the album’s been produced by John Custer who was Grammy-nominated for his work with CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – that band’s associate Teresa Williams’ songs sound rough here with intention which becomes clear once her husky voice rises to embrace “Three Quarter Moon” and hop on the “Here Today” hymnal crunch. But while there’s irresistible seduction when she rides the country-rock train here and in the twangy “All My Life”, the singer’s full gale comes on in the bluesy mode of the phased-out “Cannonball” or Hammond-oiled and handclaps-enhanced “Did You Tell Her” where Cluster’s guitar rages on. More so, Williams ups the funky anger quotient of THE ROLLING STONES “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” and soothes the storm to the piano of “Shame On The World”, while the gentler ascent of “One Good Woman”, its commercial gloss notwithstanding, places Teresa up there with Maggie Bell and Kathi McDonald: she’s that good. Here’s one lady’s to keep an eye on.



Psych Up Melodies 2012

An Italian bunch delivering a peculiar take on metal: more gaucho rock than spaghetti western.

In the heavy domain bands from the Apennine domain tend to be bombastic but this ensemble look and act their part quite differently, and it takes no more than 20 riff-filled seconds of opener “Ma pure” to distinguish them from the pack. Once Pasquale Setola’s vocals enter the picture, the pampas wind blows and such South American cowboy-isms are generously scattered across the entire album, while the funky raps keep the flow close to classic Italian prog as does the absurdly theatrical title track. It’s all rather humorous, what with the “Immigrant Song” quote in the spanky “Viecchie”. With Latino percussion and a folky flute such mix makes for a combustible combination – perplexing yet pleasant – whereas “Inte” breathes out a bossa nova breeze until the metal cuts it all at the knees again, in a fusion way. Claudio D’Errico’s guitar rolling the ball, “Glob” throws its dry funk at the dirty world with exclamatory diatribe before taking all its weight on the band’s shoulders in the end – and shift its off in the acoustic calypso lace of “Mo l’omme” that gets hard along the way. Quirky but interesting in its palpability, “Materialismus” spices up the mundane just fine.


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