Category Archives: CD Reviews

Remarkable Spontaneous Electric Explorations

Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis – The Stone House (MoonJune Records, 2017)

Four of today’s finest progressive music artists got together to record an improvised album titled The Stone House. Although the music was not written or rehearsed, it’s not free jazz. Instead, Wingfield, Reuter, Stavi, and Sirkis treat the listener to remarkable electric musical explorations where the four musicians engage in an ongoing creative dialog.

The four instrumentalists constantly cross musical boundaries, injecting ambient electronics, prog rock machinations, psychedelia, jazz-rock and beyond.

The collaboration features British guitarist Mark Wingfield, multifaceted German musician Markus Reuter on Touch Guitars’ AU8 model; bassist Yaron Stavi; drummer Asaf Sirkis.

The Stone House demonstrates the fascinating results of unconstrained musical exploration.

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Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier’s Extraordinary Guitar Dialog

Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier – The Colours of Time (MGP Records MGPCD019, 2016)

Two of Europe’s finest eclectic jazz guitarists continue their series of collaborations with a double album titled The Colours of Time. The set is divided into two separate formats. The first album is a series of solo original works composed by either Pete Oxley or Nicolas Meier.

The material on disc 1 showcases the virtuosity of the two musicians along with their talent as composers, delivering a set of exquisite guitar duets. The two guitarists use a wide range of guitars and guitar-playing techniques. In addition to the usual solo and rhythm guitar styles, there is an ongoing guitar interchange throughout the album as well as beautiful moments where the guitarists use a beautiful plucking method that makes the guitar sound like a mesmerizing harp.

Although jazz is the foundation on disc 1, Oxley and Meier inject many other influences such as Gypsy jazz on “Waltz for Dilek”, Turkish influences on “Princes’ Island”, Pat Metheny-style guitar synth on “In Restless Repose”, North African/Middle Eastern sounds on “Sahara” and more Pat Metheny influences on “First Day of Spring,” although this time with Oxley on electric guitar.

On Disc 2, the original compositions become more rhythmic and electric with the addition of bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Paul Cavaciuti. Pat Metheny’s influence continues on the opening track, “The Followers.” There is also a delicious ballad that perfectly crosses over into smooth jazz territory.

Some of the best tracks on this disc are the ones with a Middle Eastern flavor, such as “Riversides” and “Fethiye Crossroad.” Lastly, I need to mention a fabulous piece titled “Tales” that has instant classic appeal, with memorable bluesy solos.

 

 

The lineup on The Colours of Time includes Pete Oxley on nylon string, steel, electric, synth, jazz, and electric 12 string guitars; Nicolas Meier on nylon string, steel, acoustic 12-string, fretless nylon, glissentar, and jazz guitars; Paul Cavaciuti on drums; and Raph Mizraki on acoustic and electric basses.

The Colours of Time introduces the listener to a remarkable guitar dialog between two extraordinary guitarists.

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Spectacular Prog Rock by iNFiNiEN

iNFiNiEN – Light at the Endless Tunnel (indie release, 2016)

“Light at the Endless Tunnel” is the third album by an extraordinary American band that delivers a superb style of forward-looking progressive rock that incorporates rock, jazz and world music elements.

Good vocalists are essential in progressive rock and Infinien has one of the best vocalists I’ve heard in a really long time. She uses jazz inflections similar to the work of Esperanza Spalding. In fact, many times throughout the album, it feels like Esperanza Spalding is singing with a progressive rock band.

Light at the Endless Tunnel takes the listener into a wide-range of directions, blending the familiar with unexpected Middle Eastern elements, Indian vocal percussion, soul and lots more.

The band features extremely talented musicians who showcase their talent with looped guitars, creative bass lines, imaginative drum patters, Ethiopian scales, spectacular guitar solos, exquisite keyboard ambience, epic intensity, and Canterbury-ish keyboards plus an orchestra with real strings and horns. In other words, state of the art progressive rock.

The lineup on Light at the Endless Tunnel includes Jordan Berger on electric and upright bass, background vocals, and additional percussion; Tom Cullen on drums and percussion; Matt Hollenberg on guitars, bulbul tarang, tabla, Moog Minitaur; and lyricist Chrissie Loftus on vocals, piano, keyboards, organ and additional percussion.

The iNFiNiEN Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Salmon features Mark Allen on flute, clarinet; Jordan Berger on double-bass; Mary Bryson on harp; Monique Canniere on violins; Maura Dwyer on violin, cello; Gloria Galante on harp; Christen Hooks on viola; Andriana Markano on viola, violin; Ben Mulholland on French horn; Bob Quaile on oboe; Rebecca Schlappich on violins; and Andrea Weber on cello.

Every year, there is at least one progressive music act that stands out from the rest and Infinien is undoubtedly one of the best. This is one of the progressive rock gems of the past few months. Highly recommended.

Buy Light at the Endless Tunnel at Amazon or Bandcamp: https://infinien.bandcamp.com/album/light-at-the-endless-tunnel

Profound Epistrophobia

T – Epistrophobia (Progressive Promotion Records PPRCD044, 2016)

Epistrophobia is the new album by the enigmatic artist named T. The brains behind the project is multi-instrumentalist, producer and vocalist Thomas Thielen. He plays all the instruments. This includes keyboards, guitars, drums, bass, saxophone, sound effects and whatever else.

Stylistically, T borrows from the poetry of Van Der Graaf Generator, the intensity of neoprog bands like Pendragon and others, plus elements of post rock, hard rock and jazz.

Epistrophobia is an introspective album where T explores profoundly the depths and uncertainties of a modern-day individual in the midst of populism, neocapitalism, and digital secrecy.

There is slow paced nuance, sudden intensity, great progressions and epic conclusions in Epistrophobia demonstrating superb progressive rock craftsmanship. Certainly, one of the most interesting progressive music artists in Europe.

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Unpredictable Experimental Fusion by MJ12

MJ12 – MJ12

MJ12 – MJ12 (Gonzo Multimedia UK, 2016)

MJ12 is the new jazz-rock fusion project developed by renowned British bassist Percy Jones. Although parts of the pieces have a certain structure, with jazz, rock and funk elements, there is plenty of room for improvisation and sound experimentation.

For bass fans there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy some great bass work. However, the saxophone plays a very important role in this recording.

The name of the band was taken from Majestik 12, an alleged group of 12 scientists and engineers gathered in the late 1940s to investigate UFO’s.

Percy Jones on fretless bass; Dave Phelps on guitar; Stephen Moses on drums; and Chris Bacas on saxophone.

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Attack of the Martians Expanded

Eccentric Orbit – Attack of the Martians (Eccentric Orbit, 2004/2014)

Although Attack of the Martians was released in 2004, this is a review of the 2014 reissue that includes a 10:12 bonus suite titled The Day the Earth Stood Still. Eccentric Orbit plays instrumental progressive symphonic rock inspired by Science Fiction.

What immediately stands out is that this band is keyboard-focused, featuring two keyboardists and no guitars. The sounds is characterized by abundant use of mellotron, vintage synthesizers and organs; wind-controlled synths; throbbing, heavy Magma-style distorted bass; and drums. There are references to early 1970s Emerson Lake and Palmer and King Crimson as well as traces of jazz and space music, especially on the hypnotic “Forbidden Planet”.

The lineup on Attack of the Martians includes Bill Noland on bass; Madeleine Noland on wind synthesizers, keyboards; the late Mark Cella on drums; and Derek Roebuck on keyboards.

The lineup on the bonus tracks varies a bit. It features Tom Benson on electric violin and guitar synth; Bill Noland on bass; Madeleine Noland on wind-controlled synthesizers; and Rick Landwehr on drums.

Attack of the Martians is an excellent progressive rock album made even better with the addition of a lengthy musical suite.

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Lost in the Ghost Light

Tim Bowness – Lost in the Ghost Light (InsideOutMusic, 2017)

Tim Bowness is one of the most exciting artists in the British progressive music scene who incorporates a wide-range of influences to his music. ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ is an exquisite recording where Bowness’ mesmerizing vocals are joined by beautifully-crafted keyboard and acoustic orchestrations along with fabulous guitar, flute and keyboard solos.

Bowness treats the listener to a wonderful mix of atmospheric songs and superb symphonic progressive rock that will bring joy to fans of progressive rock-era Genesis and other 1970s classic acts. For fans of mellotron, this album is a true delight, with some of the finest mellotron work I’ve heard in recent years.

‘Lost in the Ghost Light’ was mixed and mastered by Bowness’ longtime collaborator, Steven Wilson.

The lineup includes Tim Bowness on vocals, backing vocals, synthesizers and rhythm programming; Stephen Bennett on keyboards and additional guitars; Bruce Soord on guitars and backing vocals; Hux Nettermalm on drums; Andrew Booker on drums; Colin Edwin on electric, fretless and acoustic bass guitars.

The impressive guest list includes Ian Anderson on flute; Kit Watkins on flute and waterphone; Steve Bingham on violin; Charlotte Dowding Violin Ensemble; Andrew Keeling provided the string arrangements, flute and acoustic guitars; David Rhodes on guitar; and The ‘unknown’ Pete Smith on Rickenbacker bass.

Buy Lost in the Ghost Light in the Americas

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Rick Wakeman Plays Favorites on Piano

Rick Wakeman – Piano Portraits (Universal Music, 2017)

Rick Wakeman, the musician known as a pioneer and master of the electronic keyboards has released a solo piano album titled Piano Portraits. The new recording contains covers of well-known rock and pop classics, along with some classical pieces, one original song and a version of the progressive rock-era Yes song Wonderous Stories. Rick Wakeman was the keyboardist in several of Yes’ most iconic progressive rock albums.

The piano Wakeman used was a Steinway Model D concert grand piano. The British keyboardist transforms the well-known songs into classical music-infused instrumental pieces. There’s barely any trace of rock or jazz. It’s piano playing in its purest form.

The song selection includes Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘Space Oddity’, the Beatle’s ‘Help’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and several other popular songs.

Piano Portraits showcases the talent of Rick Wakeman as a virtuoso pianist and a masterful arranger.

Buy Piano Portraits in the Americas

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Guitar Hero and Experimentalist

Lelio Padovani – “Waves” (2016)

“Waves” is a four-track EP by guitar maestro and composer Lelio Padovani. He plays instrumental guitar rock with a progressive edge. Picture Steve Vai or Joe Satriani playing progressive rock-oriented music.

Padovani plays all the instruments on the album and experiments with various guitars. On ‘Time Traveler’ he plays a guitar melody envisioned as a movie score of a guitar player who travels across time using various guitar techniques.

On ‘Siren Song’ you’ll hear a fabulous mix of three guitars playing a melody. Padovani indicates that three are better than one in the liner notes.

‘Sunday’ features admirable solo guitar work and was recorded during a quiet weekend, allowing Padovani to unwind.

The last piece, ‘Waves’ is an experiment based on Rhys Chatham’s concept. Chatham is an American avant-garde musician who created the concept of a guitar orchestra. Here, Lelio Padovani generates a remarkable wave of electric guitars, creating a fascinating cacade of sound featuring numerous guitar layers.

Lelio Padovani plays guitars, bass, drums, synthesizers and virtual string machine.

The album is available from www.leliopadovani.com

Mesmerizing Mix of Prog Rock and Electronica

Leon Alvarado – 2014 Music from an Expanded Universe (Leon Alvarado / Melodic Revolution Records, 2014)

Although this album is listed as progressive rock, I would categorize it as a progressive music albums that brings together prog rock and electronic music.

Throughout 2014 Music from an Expanded Universe you’ll find sections with ambient sounds, orchestral keyboards, Berlin-style sequences and synth melodies along with powerful sections featuring Alvarado’s drums, Trey Gunn’s bass and Warr guitars, and Jerry Marotta’s Taos drums.

Other guests include the ambient music duo known as Cyber Zen Sound Engine who contribute atmospheric guitars and keyboards.

Overall, 2014 Music from an Expanded Universe has a trance-like effect, whether its ambient textures or looped up-tempo patterns.

Buy 2014 Music from an Expanded Universe