Category Archives: CD Reviews

Prog Masters ELP Live in South America

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – Once Upon a Time in South America (Rock Beat, 2017)

For fans of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and keyboards in general, Once Upon a Time in South America is a real treat. The 4-CD (also available on vinyl) collection features live performances in South America by the legendary progressive rock band Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

The majority of the concerts took place in 1993 in Chile and Argentina. Even though most of the pieces that appear on Once Upon a Time in South America are familiar compositions by the band, there is a lot to discover.

One of the great qualities about Keith Emerson was that he used a wide range of keyboards and his variations and improvisations on familiar melodies made his music highly enjoyable and refreshing.

This album features two versions of Pictures at an Exhibition, one of their most iconic works that has rarely appeared on other recordings.

Throughout the album, Keith Emerson delivers stellar keyboard performances. As I mentioned earlier, he liked to modify familiar melodies with new solos and other variations, switching keyboards and sometimes embedding familiar melodies from movies and other sources.

Carl Palmer is an impressive rhythm machine. He is renowned for his creative, varied and powerful drumming style.

Greg Lake also delivered masterful performances, although his voice suffered a little throughout the tour. In addition to his unmistakable vocals, he also played guitars and some great bass lines.

The tracks selected cover the band’s entire musical history, from their early hits Lucky Man and From the Beginning to Hoedown, Pictures at an Exhibition, Tarkus, Karn Evil 9 and Fanfare for the Common Man.

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Mesmerizing Sounds for Real or Imagined Films

Zero Times Everything – Sonic Cinema (ZXE Music, 2017)

Sonic Cinema is a fascinating sound exploration album by Zero Times Everything. The three musicians create a magical world of cinematic sounds that draw influences from various progressive music genres.

The album opens with the industrial sounds of “And Now This.” It’s followed by “Events in a Field” a mix of ambient and minimalist electronics.

On track 3, “Led” Zero Times Everything plays a mix of hard rock riffing and progressive rock lines.

Next is “Accident,” where you’ll find a mix of ambient sounds, effects, drones and distorted guitar.

“Natron 40” presents mysterious mechanical sounds and progressive rock-style guitars.

The eerie track 6, “Ghost” reveals hypnotic enveloping sounds and odd beats.

On track 7, “Kapital” the influences turn towards Berlin and Dusseldorf, with trance like Berlin-style sequencers, symphonic passages and robotic voices.

“Vox Populi” features a cacophony of sounds and voices with underlying sequences and string synths.

Track 9, “Schizoid” introduces nightmarish sounds, child voices and increasingly high pitched psychedelic guitars.

The album concludes with “The Cathedral of All Saints” where you hear a childlike organ sound and reverberating synths that morphs into deep ambient electronica.

The lineup includes Richard Sylvarnes on Kaoss pads, loops, synths, rhythms, guitars, and vocals; Pietro Russino on guitars, loops, and violin; and Tony Geballe on guitars, synths, and loops. Special guest: Sønje Sylvarnes on vocals.

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Life Begins with Argus Revisited

Martin Turner – Life Begins

Martin Turner – Life Begins (Dirty Dog Discs/Cherry Red, 2016)

This great 3-disc live set by former Wishbone Ash bassist and vocalist Martin Turner contains two audio CDs and a DVD. Although the material included here was available at concerts, this is the first widely-available version of this collection.

Wishbone Ash became very popular in the 1970s after the release of their iconic album, Argus, now a classic rock. Martin Turner plays some of the most memorable songs from that era, featuring an outstanding mix of folk-rock, blues-rock, progressive leanings and hard rock.

As with Wishbone Ash, Turner uses two electric guitarists who treat the listener to wonderful interactions and solos.

The lineup includes Martin Turner on lead vocals and bass; Ray Hatfield on guitar and vocals; Danny Willson on guitar and vocals; and Dave Wagstaffe on drums.

The live performance was made in 2010 at the Y Theatre in Leicester.

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Eterniverse Déjà vu

Light Freedom Revival – Eterniverse Déjà vu

Light Freedom Revival – Eterniverse Déjà vu (John Vehadija / Positive Imagination Media, 2017)

Despite the fantasy artwork by the great Ed Unitsky and the participation of Billy Sherwood and Olivier Wakeman, this album does not contain progressive rock. Instead, it’s a collection of sing along pop-rock and AOR songs by vocalist and songwriter John Vehadija.

I’m not sure why these type of recordings are marketed as progressive rock. Anyhow, if you like poppy rock like Asia or Styx, you might enjoy this album.

Richard Barbieri’s Intergalactic Soundscapes

Richard Barbieri – Planets + Persona (KScope, 2017)

Planets + Persona is a new album by British keyboardist, composer and sound designer Richard Barbieri. He’s well known for his work with a new wave band called Japan as well as his keyboard creations for Porcupine Tree.

Richard Barbieri creates remarkable instrumental soundscapes that have a cinematic feel, incorporating ambient electronic elements, ethereal jazz, distant voices, minimalism and other mesmerizing sounds.

Planets + Persona includes a piece titled “Solar Sea.” Barbieri has released a video of “Solar Sea” that has a 360° option, produced by Miles Skarin. To watch it in 360° you will need to view “Solar Sea” using the latest version of the YouTube app on iOS and Android. By moving your smartphone or tablet, you will be able to look around the 360 degree view.

To watch “Solar Sea” on a desktop or laptop computer, you will need the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or Opera. You will then be able to shift the view by clicking and dragging inside the video player or by using the WASD keys. For the most immersive experience, a VR headset is recommended.

Buy Planets + Persona in the Americas and rest of the world

Buy Planets + Persona in Europe

Drawn by the Sounds of the Desert

The Raptor Trail – “Devil on an Indian” (indie release, 2016)

“Devil on an Indian” by American rock band The Raptor Trail is a concept album about a young man that struggles with his American Indian heritage after being raised in a Christian family. The story mirrors the experience of multi-instrumentalist Matt Meyes. Although he has paternal and maternal Native American ancestry, he was raised by a white Protestant family.

Musically, The Raptor Trail crosses various rock genres with ease. The band plays a mix of classic rock, hard rock and sometimes ventures into progressive rock (“Wolf Medicine”) and other territories like in the piece “Dream Catcher” that has a trance-like tribal ambient feel.

The Raptor Trail’s sound is characterized by the outstanding vocals and remarkable solo guitar work of John Meyer, as well as the sound of a new hybrid instrument named guijo. The guijo was developed by Matt Meyes. It has an electric guitar body and a banjo neck.

The album ends with an apocalyptic explosion of the sun featuring a mix of rock band instrumentation and numerous sound effects.

 

 

The lineup includes Gene Bass on drums and percussion; Matt Mayes on vocals, guijo, acoustic guitars and banjo; and John Meyer on lead and background vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, and bass.

 

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Aimless Mary

Needlepoint – Aimless Mary (BJK Music, 2015)

Needlepoint is yet another superb progressive music band from Norway. The Oslo-based group plays a mix of progressive psychedelic rock and jazz-rock with Canterbury influences.

Some of the songs have a well-structured form, featuring charming folk-rock-style lead and harmony vocals, memorable electric organ work and remarkable bluesy/psychedelic guitar solos. Other times, the band goes into jazz-rock territory with exquisite Canterbury leanings and some jam moments.

The lineup on Aimless Mary includes Bjørn Klakegg on guitar, vocals and additional bass; David Wallumrød on clavinet, organ, Prophet 5, percussion and background vocals; Nikolai Hoengsle Eilertsen on bass, additional guitars, background vocals and percussion; and Olaf Olsen on drums.

Needlepoint was formed in 2010 as a trio. Earlier albums include The Woods Are Not What They Seem (BJK Music, 2010) and Outside The Screen (BJK Music, 2012).

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Unpredictable IWKC

IWKC – Cargo Cult

IWKC – Cargo Cult (IWKC, 2016)

The latest recording by Russian band IWKC features four tracks that go off in various unexpected directions.

Track 1, “Survival Instruction” has a cinematic feel, with keyboards playing the leading role. Influences include progressive rock and post rock.

The second song, “Cho Blya!?” is a bizarre mix of pop, funk, reggae and brief rapping with odd tempo changes.

Track 3, “Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti” sounds like a mix of jazz and foot tapping polka with a synth solo.

The final piece is another cinematic composition with symphonic keyboards set to a slow drum beat that evolves into a mesmerizing ambient drone section. The final segment of this piece provides the best music overall in this unusual EP.

The lineup on this album includes Nikita Samarin on drums, percussion and design; Nick Samarin on keyboards and guitars; Andrey Silin on keyboards; Artem Litvakoskiy on bass, cello and samples; Ramil Mulikov on trumpet and trombone; and Roman Karandaez on vocals.

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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.

Buy The Stone House

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.

Buy The Colours of Time