All posts by Professor Mark

Moon Letters – Until They Feel the Sun

Moon Letters – Until They Feel the Sun

Moon Letters is a Seattle, Washington based progressive rock band. I found the band and previewed their new album, Until They Feel the Sun, on the Seattle Progressive Rock Festival’s website: http://seaprogfest.org/artist/index/2019.html.

The band just completed their show at the SeaProg Festival, on the Columbia Theater Main Stage; opening day 2, of the festival at 7pm, on June 8th of 2019. Until They Feel the Sun was released on the same day. The band also played Seaprog in 2017.

This band had a wonderful time at SeaProg and played their new album track by track. Missing the entire Until They Feel the Sun  album live was very unfortunate, however, I had other obligations. After the success of their performance and the coverage they are receiving from critics and progressive rock websites, I doubt it will be their last. I plan to attend as many as I can see in the future.

The band is made up of John Allday, on keyboards, vocals, and trumpet; Mike Murphy, on bass, vocals, and trumpet; Kelly Mynes, on drums and percussion; Michael Trew, on vocals and flute; and Dave Webb, on guitars.

The members came from other local progressive bands with names like: Autumn Electric, Wah Exit Wound, Panther Attack! Bone Cave Ballet, Cumberland Big Band, Bill Green Quartet, Cantrip, Chaos and the Cosmos, and Spacebag.

Until They Feel the Sun  opens with a wonderful instrumental tribute to “Skara Brae”, one of the best-preserved Neolithic settlements in Western Europe. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Royal, high note lead electric guitars, along with the thunder of drums bring regal power to the track. Then the thunder drums get heavier as wonderful synthesizer adds to the chorus of instruments driving the song higher. They finish with wonderful flute and birdsong.

“On the Shoreline”, opens with flute, just like Peter Gabriel played on the first Genesis’ album, From Genesis to Revelation. The flute fills the air as Michael Trew sings his first lyrics. You can hear that perfect G to Revelation, adolescent vocal sound that I remember from childhood. Lyrics that remind you of songs like , “Fireside Song”, “Take your hand, it’s very cold. Take you to my home, sit beside the fireplace”…remember that one. Easily one of my favorites already. The flute and warm guitar brings back so many memories, then Allday lays on the Banks’- like keyboards from ….And Then There Were Three…leaving you drifting on a sea of reminiscence…

“What is Your Country” opens with gulls and thunder. Then harmony vocals that follow, encapsulate a return to that G to Revelation sound. Wonderful vocal harmonies blended well with drums and bells. Dreamy keys and effects that take you to the finish.

“Beware the Finman” has a strong heavy guitar and gut punching drum opening. The heaviest song on the album. Oversize guitar licks meet raised vocals. Is it a warning of the coming of more men like Erik Finman, of Bit Coin fame, or something much more? You decide. The keys and electric guitar solos tell a sinister tale of their own.

“Those Dark Eyes” opens with brilliantly played guitar plucking and cool eerie backing vocals. That driving synthesizer pulsating with the drums is awesome! At times you can hear a Doors/Manzarek organ sound, bringing with it more elegance. Then full power keys and synthesizers. Enough to make both Dream Theater and Genesis fans smile with joy. Some of the notes and sounds on those keys have not been heard for a very long time. Taking you back to the very beginning of prog. Another of the best songs on the album. Excellent lyrics, “And now we have our children three. You take them bathing in the green, green sea”.

“Sea Battle” opens with air raid siren keyboards; before more keys, electric guitar, bass, and drums get the battle under way. Probably my second or third favorite song on the album. I am fairly certain this will also make my end of the year list. It is just as epic its title promises. Like ELP’s “Mars the Bringer of War”, only set at sea. 9 minutes of epic progressive music like it used to be. So much wonderful keyboard work you will want to put it on repeat. I did.

“The Tarnalin” is another interesting story. Does it follow the story of Mr. McDonnell’s novel? Or does it stand on its own? You choose.

“It’s All Around You”, takes you right back to G to Revelation. Some of the lyrics even remind me of those from, “In Hiding”.

“The Red Knight”, is full of more great powerful progressive rock music. Is the songs’ theme Miles Cameron’s book or the game Fortnight, you choose? Whichever, it is full of emotional playing and would sound wonderful live.

They close with, “Sunset of Man”. My favorite song. This deep and powerful closer is one of the best closers I have heard since TPC’s “Vision”. It moved me to rate it as one of, if not, the best songs I’ve heard this year. The lyrics and music are perfect. When everything comes together like this…magic happens. From the warm opening flute to the calming keys that welcome you to the vastness of this anthem, you should and will be amazed. Michael Trew’s vocals are at their best, and the lyrics match the caliber of play on this epic. “Oh Lyonesse, are you really lost? Once did the sun caress your golden shore. I swear it was here. I swear I can hear my mother laughing. I was asking She said, sometimes when you lose, you’re victorious. To forgive is a joy, and a light you can hold in your hand. For, if you do not soften your heart. You’re content to play your part, in the sunset of man” Yes, forgiveness is so important in this difficult world in which we live. Sit back and enjoy John Allday’s keyboards take you away to dream time, like Tony Banks used to do back in the 70s.

Please get this album and enjoy every minute of it, like I did. Right now, it is my favorite prog album of 2019. A wonderful surprise found exploring my backyard, on the Internet.

Track List

  1. Skara Brae – 2:50
  2. On the Shoreline – 3:37
  3. What is Your Country – 2:35
  4. Beware the Finman – 7:47
  5. Those Dark Eyes – 7:36
  6. Sea Battle – 9:00
  7. The Tarnalin – 4:34
  8. It’s All Around You – 1:10
  9. The Red Knight – 4:25
  10.  Sunset of Man – 7:29

All music copyright Moon Letters 2019 
Produced by Barrett Jones and Moon Letters 
Engineered and mixed by Barrett Jones at 
Laundry Room Studio – Seattle, WA 
Mastered by Jeffery McNulty at 
The Pachinko Parlour 
Logo by Suzanna Fisher 
Photos by Hans H. Bjorstad 
Model: Johannsdottir 

Links:

United Progressive Fraternity – Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1

I have been a friend of Mark Trueack’s online since I first heard Unitopia’s The Garden album. He and the band created a world of new progressive music that I think shook up the neo-prog that was dominant at the time, with that album.

Trueack has moved on now beyond Unitopia to assemble the United Progressive Fraternity. A group of musicians that love making progressive rock music, but also love the cause of preventing climate change and alerting the world to the damage we as humans are doing to our Earth.

They have already released their debut album, Fall in Love with the World, in 2014. It was a great debut and introduced the world to what could happen if a huge collection of progressive artists came together to work on such an important project.

Now, they return with the follow up Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1. This is the first part of a group of albums coming with additional guest artists that will surprise many fans.

The collection of artists on this album would take a couple of pages to fill. The main members of the fraternity include: Mark Trueack, on lead vocals, composer, and co-producer; Steve Unruh, on violin, guitars (electric, acoustic 12-string, slide), sitar, mandolin, flute, keyboards, congas, kalimba, floor tom, tabla, percussion, composer, and co-producer; Christophe Lebled, on keyboards, piano, synths, and soundscapes; Cornel Wilczek, on orchestration and conducting; Matthew Atherton, on synth, soundscapes, and backing vocals; Marek Arnold, on sax; Daniel Mash, on bass; Mark Franco, on fretted & fretless basses; and Joe Toscano, on drums, drum programming, and backing vocals.

Guest artists include, (the short list): Jon Davison, lead vocals, (tracks: 1,11); Lisa Wetton, vocals, (tracks:1,3,10,11); Hasse Fröberg; vocals (track:5); Matt Williams, on electric & acoustic guitars, bass, synth & vocals (track:7); Steve Hackett / nylon-string acoustic guitar (track:11); and Michel St-Père, on guitar (track:11).

As always, the out of this world artwork was created in the mind of Ed Unitsky!

The album opens with “Loss Anthem”, and its slow strummed guitar with haunting female vocals from beyond. Narration and synths surround the soundscape as flutes and chimes welcome the listener to the what almost sounds like a morning awakening. Then Trueack and Lisa Wetton duet as a symphonic Lion King like orchestral production rises from the jungle.

Then Jethro Tull like flute and more of that Lion King level orchestration. Trueack sings, “Down, but not out! A world in drought!” Violin supporting as “What Happens Now?” gets in full swing. Lots of interesting guitar and bass soloing. Kind of a jazzy, beat poet, kind of mix of multi-talented musicians chiming in at different times. An amalgam of choruses and music compelling a feeling of excitement.

More narration and mixed soundbites, before a powerful guitar solo. Then Trueack begins to lay out the album’s story and theme, on the third track, “Cruel Times”.  “These are cruel times. We are the ones who can make this right. The shining light”, he sings. Interesting guest violins and instrumental insertions meant to keep you on your toes and listening. Trueack’s voice is low and sounds full of sadness. A rambling caravan of guest musician virtuosity. Hints of ELO, maybe an attempt at later Yes. Great piano solo work mixed well with powerful drumming. Great high-pitched synth augmented with Kansas-like violin.

“What are we doing to Ourselves”, opens with kind of a jazzy rap from Trueack, “Hey you, what are we doing to ourselves”. A funky little beat not heard on most prog albums, innovative and sounding more like an orchestrated movie soundtrack.

“Stop Time”, opens with narration, water, and then the sound of plastic wrinkled. A heavy synth and drum extravaganza. Fun rhymes with Trueack singing. It is full of many time sig changes, definitely alternative prog. The middle has cool funky synths, but I wish for more The Garden level of musicianship. At times this sounds a little like a stab at Kino’s Radio Voltaire.

“One More”, opens with more narration and birdsong. Pink Floyd, Wall – like guitar, then Trueack, “One more drop. One more glacier caves into the seas”. Then, the best lyric on the whole album, Trueack sings, “Take a look around you, don’t hide behind some wall”. Trump needed that, thanks.

“Mercenaries” is my favorite song on the album. Narration and loads of sound effects that Unitopia was famous for using. More sound waves and synthesized music. Powerful lead guitar and some of the best keyboards and synths I have heard on an Unitopia or UPF album yet. A little Tull with flute and synth, before Kansas and violin. The launching violin solo that follows is one of the best on many an album I can remember recently. The Middle eastern rhythm that picks up speed is wonderful, but it is cut off too soon. Then, almost like a Marx Brothers movie, too much gets thrown into the pot near the end. Rather than hearing the  refrain again, I wish they would play more of that Middle eastern music.

“What if” is a lead vocal with horns and soft guitar. This song contains some of the best lyrics on the album.

“Forgive Me My Son” opens with gunfire and soft guitar. The momentum builds preparing for Trueack to unleash the words, “Forgive Me My Son”. A plea for no more war. Trueack’s most dramatic vocal in years. The musicianship is some of the best on the album.

“Dying to be Reborn” opens with Trueack singing to quiet accompaniment of guitar and drums.

“Seeds for Life” tells the story of how seeds have been preserved to repopulate the planet with crops that may die during climate change. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a safeguard for the world to be able to recreate what may or will be lost. A good portion of the song is narration and the story, with synths and keyboards filling the air. The bubbling synths that start after the narration are great. A Noah’s Ark type story lyrically.

This song is probably the second-best track because it includes a blistering guitar solo by Steve Hackett. No one can match Hackett on guitar. He is the master and all boats rise with his presence…even in spirit. A 19:34 minute epic song, that should have been the closer. The piano work is excellent and dreamy.

“Loss to Lost”, is the closer. Piano opens the sound, with sitar and flute. Then back to the power of orchestration, a, la Lion King.

Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1 is another great project from the creator of Unitopia and the United Progressive Fraternity and its members. It captures some of the power of the debut album, but also makes me nostalgic for Unitopia’s past.

Although the UPF is full of incredibly talented musicians, the quirky lyrics, narration, and sound effects take up too much space on this album. The story is important though, and a strong foundation is laid out well, with wonderful music supporting.

The support the band has received from so many scientists and influential people in the field of climate change has been wonderful. The fact that any one band is making climate change such an important issue that they would write an entire album to support and tell the story of its nature is enough to earn your support.

This is a good album in that it was made with wonderful good intentions. Please give it a listen and show your support for protecting the world we share.

Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1 is available for purchase on their label GEP – Giant Electric Pea:
https://www.gep.co.uk/store/

“Mercenaries” Video:

Track List

  1. Loss Anthem – 3:26
  2. What Happens Now? – 4:04
  3. Cruel Times – 8:06
  4. What Are We Doing to Ourselves – 3:19
  5. Stop Time – 6:56
  6. One More – 2:37
  7. Mercenaries – 6:49
  8. What If – 1:45
  9. Forgive Me, My Son – 7:47
  10. Dying to be Reborn – 5:20
  11. Seeds for Life – 19:34
  12. Loss to Lost – 5:16

Foreign Land, an Album for Prog Lovers Who Enjoy Epic Long Pieces

The Far Meadow – Foreign Land (Bad Elephant Music, 2019)

I really enjoyed the Far Meadow’s Given the Impossible, especially “Seamless Shirt”, with Marguerita singing the lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel’s classic, “Scarborough Fair”. That album was a magnificent surprise for someone who had never even heard of the band. When I heard they were working on the follow up I knew I had to hear and review it.

I am pleasantly surprised again by Foreign Land, which stands on its own with innovative sounds thanks to Eliot Minn, filling every corner of this record with legendary keyboard play. The keyboard work absolutely, separates this band from many of their peers globally. The fine tune of the delivery and the inspired choices made, are simply stellar.

The Far Meadow – Foreign Land

With the loss of Keith Emerson, fewer bands seem inspired to use the keyboard as a central instrument of their production. The Far Meadow, with Minn, stand out, holding the line. Place my early vote now for Eliot Minn, “keyboard performance of the year” in progressive rock.

You hear Minn’s work early and often on the opening track of Foreign Land. “Travelogue” opens with soft keys, but later powerful keyboard innovations will bring back memories of Keith Emerson’s highlights. Later, the organ work he has designed will take you back to early Gabriel – era Genesis. It simply must be heard to be believed. And then that piano…oh my. So, brief recap, synthesizers, organ, and piano. A song to make every keyboard prog fan happy. One of the best songs of the year, so far. But wait…there is more.

Foreign Land is an album for prog lovers who enjoy epic long track albums. Only five tracks with enough space to take in the world and its many flavors. The kind of album you have been waiting years to hear. Extended tracks that allow every band member to shine supreme.

The second major weapon this band has is the exquisitely wonderful voice of Marguerita Alexandrou. I loved her voice on Given the Impossible, but she is used more sparingly on Foreign Land, but in places where only the sophistication of her voice was vital to the sound. She drives the music to a higher level with each note she sings. Her elegant voice adds such magnificence to the overall sound the band delivers.

“Sulis Rise”, is a good example of the strength of these two key members of this band. Alexandrou’s voice highlights the story, bringing beams of the light she is describing. Then Minn delivers Genesis – level keys that take you right back to memories of the early ‘70s.

I have neglected the other members of the band far too long. Denis Warren’s lead and rhythm guitars have their excellent solo moments throughout the first two and final three tracks. Keith Buckman’s bass guitar is ever present adding background depth to the sound. Paul Bringloe’s drums are well placed and help keep a great beat.

Then, there is that classic opening of “Mud”! That pipe organ sound just absolutely caught me by surprise. It sounded so fantastic I wish it had continued throughout the entire song. The lyrics at times took me back to Peter Gabriel’s opening story for the live version of “Supper’s Ready”.

“The Fugitive”, is another great story set to those awesome keyboards and some of the best lead guitar work on the album. The buzzing lead guitar and bouncing bass help buoy the mid-section of the song.

“Foreign Land” is one hell of an album closer. Spellbinding lead guitar, followed by Alexandrou’s voice, then deep bass, and keyboards supporting. Alexandrou sounds very similar to Kate Bush in her early days, melded with Barbara Streisand on this and most of the album – excellent!

Then Minn gives us those deep keys and Warren the heavy guitars you may remember from early IQ and Genesis. Stunning.

Foreign Land is a perfect follow up album. The Far Meadow is definitely on my watch list now. Wish I could get over to see them at Summer’s End. Get this album and go back and complete the catalog. If you miss the music, we used to hear on the radio daily, back in the 1970’s, and that we used to take for granted, please don’t take the Far Meadow for granted. There are too few of these stellar bands left on this planet.

The Far Meadow are:

Marguerita Alexandrou – lead and backing vocals
Paul Bringloe – drums and percussion
Keith Buckman – bass guitar
Eliot Minn – keyboards
Denis Warren – lead and rhythm guitars
All titles written by The Far Meadow with Paul Mallatratt (1, 4 & 5), Nok (1, 4 & 5) and Lawrence Pollinski (4).

Mixed by Joe Gibb
Mastered by David Elliott
Art & design by Brian Mitchell

The Far Meadow will be making their debut appearance at Summer’s End in Chepstow in October 2019, with more dates to be announced throughout the year.

Track List

  1. Travelogue
  2. Sulis Rise
  3. Mud
  4. The Fugitive
  5. Foreign Land

The Claypool Lennon Delirium Brilliant Satire and Multifaceted Music

The Claypool Lennon Delirium – South of Reality (ATO records, 2019)

I was intrigued by the formation of this band from its first announcements in 2015/16. I have been a fan of Primus and Les Claypool’s work for some time. I have also enjoyed Sean Lennon’s solo work. When I heard their first album would be from the progressive rock genre, all I could imagine; before hearing the music, was, that it could sound like John Lennon singing on a Pink Floyd album?

Claypool Lennon Delirium – South of Reality

Well, Monolith of Phobos, their first album, from 2016, debuted and it did not disappoint. It sounded indeed, as if John Lennon was singing on a Pink Floyd album. Claypool’s bass intricacies and the warm sound of Sean Lennon singing over the top of the intricate keyboards, bass and lead guitar melodies was perfect. It became one of my favorite albums of 2016.

Then, I heard them play King Crimson’s classic In the Court of the Crimson King live, and I was a fan for life. They later made a studio version of this classic cover on their 2017, EP, Lime and Limpid Green…along with other classic covers like the Who’s “Boris the Spider”; “Astronomy Domine” from Pink Floyd, and “Satori (Enlightenment), Pt.1”, from the Flower Travellin’ Band.

Now they return with their sophomore effort South of Reality, and they have crafted an even better album than Monolith. This album picks up where Monolith left off. It is a bit more accessible than Monolith in the amount of more lyrically driven melodies. At this moment it sits atop my favorite albums of 2019.

On a Claypool/Lennon album, the lyrics to all of their music are simultaneously relevant, memorable and satirical.

The album opens with “Little Fishes”, which starts with some backmasking, quickly followed by a reminder of mercury in the assumed healthy choice of consumable fish. All set to this rockin’ little, unthreatening melody of picked bass thunder. It later discusses many of the changes that we as Boomers and early Millennials have had to contend with daily. Including 3D printers and the effects of an Internet that vastly controls our lives. When they go off on a wild musical scamper, you can only wish you were watching it live.

Next up is my personal favorite song, “Blood and Rockets”. “The Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons”, is a wonderful story set to a fun beat. The story of Jack Parsons is worth a Google search. The fact that this band attempted to describe the story of this legend before the advent of the US Space Program, within a song, and found such a bouncy melody to tell it, is worth many replays. “Movement II, Too the Moon”, is a prominent and valuable instrumental movement section of the song.

“South of Reality”, the title track is another dynamic song about space and all its multitude of adventures. This time, as seen looking up from the Earth.

“Boriska” is an interesting Internet story set to spacey rhythms and music. Google the name of this, at the time, 11-year-old boy, who claimed to be from Mars. The story is fun to read and listen to, set to music.

“Easily Charmed by Fools” is a fun ironic turn of the satirical pen from Lennon and Claypool.

“Amethyst Realm” is a unique story from England. About a woman who claimed to have fallen in love with ghosts. Cool, spacey music with ghostly noises and voices.

“Toady Man’s Hour” is another favorite. I like to think it deals with the story of our current White House resident, President “Orange”. Even if it isn’t it about him, it is wonderful satire.

“Cricket Chronicles Revisited” opens the track, “Ask Your Doctor”, with wonderful sitar and Beatlesque wanderings. Sean sounds like John and George off Magical Mystery Tour. “Psyde Effects” is a cool verbal feast of ideas and sounds.

“Like Fleas”, immediately reminded me of Perry Farrell’s wonderful satire and lyrical twist in the song “We’ll Make Great Pets”. Yes, the Earth may be trying to shake humans off like fleas after all we have done to the climate.

Wonderful satire set to interesting and complex music. Bouncy rhythms filled with thick bass, weird and wonderful guitar and keyboards. Just what the doctor ordered to keep your mind off the current state on the tragic world political stage.

South of Reality was produced by Les Claypool and Sean Lennon. Claypool engineered and mixed the album at his own Rancho Relaxo studio in Sonoma County, California. South of Reality was released worldwide on Feb 22nd, 2019.

Track List:

Little Fishes – 6:07
Blood and Rockets – Movement 1 – Saga of Jack Parsons – Movement 2 – Too the Moon – 6:31
South of Reality – 3:29
Boriska – 5:26
Easily Charmed by Fools – 5:12
Amethyst Realm – 7:49
Toadyman’s Hour – 3:14
Cricket Chronicles Revisited – Part 1, Ask Your Doctor – Part 2 – Psyde Effects – 6:24
Like Fleas – 3:33