Category Archives: CD Reviews

Fernando Perdomo Tracking the Beatles


Fernando Perdomo – Zebra Crossing

Fernando Perdomo – Zebra Crossing (Forward Motion Records / Cherry Red, 2018)

Zebra Crossing is a Beatles-inspired album by American musician Fernando Perdomo. Although Fernando Perdomo has been involved in various progressive rock projects, this recording is essentially a pop album with some Beatles-style arrangements. The only time when Perdomo shows his progressive side is on the title track Zebra Crossing, an instrumental where he plays guitars inspired by George Harrison.

Perdomo provides most of the vocals and plays the majority of the instruments. Guests include  Kaitlin Wolfberg on Violin; Ruti Celli on Cello; Durga McBroom on Background vocals on “Home”; Zak Nilsson on Backing vocals;  Stephen Kalinich on spoken word; Cyndi Trissel on Clarinet; Danny Ayala on Keyboards & backing vocals; Megan Zeankowski on Bass;  and  Ken Sharp on Guitar and backing vocals.

For Perdomo’s progressive side listen to Out To Sea and Out To Sea 2.

Curved Air Live at Their Prime


Curved Air – The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 (The Right Honourable Recording Company/Cherry Red, 2018)  

This fantastic surprise is a high quality live album by progressive rock pioneers Curved Air at the peak of their career. While most of the first progressive rock bands were fronted by men, Curved air featured the fabulous lead vocalist Sonja Kristina. Another Curved air innovation within progressive rock was the use of violin as a lead instrument.

The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 shows the versatility of Curved Air and the beauty of progressive rock with a mix of exploratory rock, classical music, blues, jazz, and jam rock.  This album is the third volume of the Curved Air Rarities Series and the only recording of its kind, featuring Curved air improvising, with extended, delectable versions of the band highlighting the talent of innovative keyboardist Francis Monkman and groundbreaking violinist Darryl Way supported by an inspired rhythm section.

The lineup included Sonja Kristina on vocals and acoustic guitar; Darryl Way on violin, Francis Monkman on keyboards and guitar; Florian Pilkington-Miksa on drums; and Mike Wedgwood on bass.

The CD booklet includes an introduction by Francis Monkman, who mastered the audio and supervised the release personally, together with two essays authored by attendees at the festival as well as previously unseen pictures.

Mesmeric Electron Birth

Steve Roach – Electron Birth (Timeroom Editions, 2018)

Electronic music wizard Steve Roach recorded Electron Birth in front of a live audience during a remarkable performance at Tucson’s Galactic Center on February 11, 2018.

The album Electron Birth consists of 54:49-minute long progressive electronic music piece titled “Electron Birth” and a second composition called “Cloud Currents.”

Steve Roach’s electronic styles vary from album to album. In this case, Steve delivers a transfixing set of intricate, multilayered and constantly evolving, fast-paced electronic pulses generated by sequencers and other devices along with shape-shifting harmonic layers. This is the new generation of what is known as the Berlin-style of electronic music.

After the high energy construction, Steve takes the listener to another level of consciousness with “Cloud Currents.” It’s a dreamy, peaceful and delightful track of morphing ambient music that lets you sit down and relax.

The instruments used on Electron Birth include Oberheim Xpander, Emu Esynth, Korg Wavestation, Nordlead 2 and 4, TTSH Arp 2600 clone and Eurorack expander, Doepfer MAQ 16 Sequencer, DSI Mono Evolver, and Mackie VLZ 4 – 32 channel mixer.

The John Irvine Band’s Finely Crafted Progressive Jazz-Rock

The John Irvine Band   – Metaphysical Attractions (John Irvine, 2018)

John Irvine is an excellent Scottish guitarist and composer inspired by some of the leading jazz-rock and rock hero guitarists. His music is on the progressive side of jazz-rock, incorporating influences from maestros such as Pat Metheny, Joe Satriani, John McLaughlin and Alan Holdsworth as well as classic progressive rock harmonies.

The guitar sounds are multifaceted, and highly satisfying. John Irvine also plays the bass and keyboards. Guests include Rob Ironside on saxophone; Gwen Kelso on flute; and Rich Kass on drums.


The John Irvine Band   – Metaphysical Attractions

Favorite tracks include “Hymn To The Winter Sun”, full of seductive grooves and memorable guitar work; the captivating “Me And My Idiophone,” where John Irvine uses an impressive arsenal of guitars supported by formidable creative drumming; and the progressive desert blues of “Sahara Yadouin.”

Buy the digital download version of Metaphysical Attractions or the CD from thejohnirvineband.bandcamp.com.

Wonderful Return of The Gardening Club

The Gardening Club – “The Riddle” (Gonzo, 2018)

Progressive rock band The Gardening Club recorded its new album at producer and guitarist Norm Macpherson’s Garry Oak Studios in Metchosin, British Columbia in Canada. This place, encircled by woods and near the Pacific Ocean, was a great place for composing and recording the new record.

Most of the music on The Riddle is by guitarist and vocalist Martin Springett. He delivers a wonderful set of slide guitar performances that add an enchanting bluesy feel to the band’s particular style of folk-influenced progressive rock. The vocals sometimes recall the Strawbs and Echolyn as well.

The Gardening Club – “The Riddle

Guitar play an essential role in this album featuring the slide guitar as well as exquisite acoustic and electric guitar interplay between Martin and Norm Macpherson.

Although we associate heavy use of keyboards with progressive rock, the keyboards here appear in the form of a handful of delightful synth solos.

“The Riddle” also features a few saxophone solos. The smooth jazz saxophone is too sappy and breaks the magic of the album. Having two great guitarists is more than plenty and much more satisfying.

The lineup includes Martin Springett on vocals and guitars; Sean Drabitt on fretless electric bass; Norm Macpherson on guitars; Norm’s son, James Macpherson on drums and keyboards; and Wayne Kozak on saxophone.

Martin Springett is also well-known as an illustrator. He created the beautiful artwork for the CD version of the album.

Buy “The Riddle” in North America

Buy “The Riddle” in Europe

A Celebration of Progressive Rock Bass Mastery

Various Artists – A Life In Yes: The Chris Squire Tribute (Purple Pyramid, 2018)

A Life In Yes: The Chris Squire Tribute honors the work of the late Squire, who was the longtime bassist of progressive rock masters Yes. Chris Squire performed some of the most memorable bass solos in progressive rock history.

This project was produced by multi-instrumentalist and Squire’s friend Billy Sherwood. He did a great job this time, recruiting a truly impressive cast of first rate musicians: Todd Rundgren, Steve Porcaro (Toto), Annie Haslam (Renaissance), John Wesley (Porcupine Tree), Sonja Kistina (Curved Air), Patrick Moraz (Yes, The Moody Blues), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), Dweezil Zappa, Steve Hogarth (Marillion), Larry Fast (Synergy), Jon Davison (Yes, Glass Hammer), Brian Auger, and David Sancious (Jeff Beck, Bruce Springsteen).

The song selection is interesting, with several tracks from Tormato and Fragile, plus pieces from other Yes albums and a few curiosities.

As one would expect, A Life In Yes: The Chris Squire Tribute highlights the electric bass, performed by Billy Sherwood. He’s an outstanding instrumentalist, who shines when he ventures into real progressive rock.

The first track is the solidly progressive rock composition “On Silent Wings of Freedom: which appeared on the album Tormato (1978). This fabulous version features Jon Davison on vocals; Billy Sherwood on bass, guitar, backing vocals; Jay Schellen on drums; and Patrick Moraz on keyboards.

Track 2 is “Hold Out Your Hand” from Chris Squire’s first solo album Fish Out of Water. It is a very Yes-sounding song with superb bass work. The lineup here is Steve Hogarth on vocals; Larry Fast on keyboards; Billy Sherwood on bass, guitar; and Jay Schellen on drums.

The beautifully-melodic “Onward” appeared on Tormato. The Jon Anderson vocals are replaced on this occasion by the great Annie Haslam (Renaissance). The rest of the band includes Billy Sherwood on bass, excellent slide guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals; and Jay Schellen on drums.

Track 4, “South Side of The Sky” is the Yes progressive rock classic from the album Fragile (1971). The fierce rock guitar is played by Steve Stevens. The rest of the band: Billy Sherwood on vocals, bass; David Sancious on keyboards; Steve Stevens on guitar; and Jay Schellen on drums.

“The Fish” is a knockout electric bass fest, also from the album Fragile. Hats off to Sherwood for his bass work here. His colleagues here are Sonja Kristina on vocals; and Jay Schellen on drums.

Track 6 is from Yes’ least appealing era. “The More We Live – Let Go” appeared in the pop-leaning Union album (1991). It features Billy Sherwood on vocals, bass; Steve Hackett on guitar; Steve Porcaro on keyboards; and Jay Schellen on drums

The tribute returns to genuine progressive rock on track 7, “Parallels” from the Going for the One album (1977). Once more, the bass lines are by Sherwood are exceptional. The band: Jon Davison on vocals; Tony Kaye on keyboards; Billy Sherwood on bass, guitar; and Jay Schellen on drums.

Track 8, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” from the album 90125 (1983) was one of Yes’ greatest hits. This was a time when Yes moved away from progressive rock and embraced radio friendly AOR. The best of this version is Dweezil Zappa’s skillful guitar solo. The lineup here: Nikki Squire on vocals; Dweezil Zappa on guitar; Billy Sherwood on bass, keyboardss; and Jay Schellen on drums.

Another classic, and radio hit, is “Roundabout,” from Fragile. This striking version includes Todd Rundgren on vocals; John Wesley on guitar; Tony Kaye on keyboards; Billy Sherwood on bass; and Jay Schellen on drums.

Track 10, “Don’t Kill the Whale” was included in Tormato. It holds special significance now that several countries have disgracefully decided to hunt whales again. The unmistakable Brian Auger provides the stand out organ solo here. The other artists: Candice Night on vocals; Billy Sherwood on bass; and Jay Schellen on drums.

The album contains two bonus tracks. Track 11 is “The Technical Divide” from the supergroup The Prog Collective, featuring Chris Squire, Alan Parsons, David Sancious, Gary Green and Billy Sherwood. By the way, more pop-leaning than progressive.

The final track is “Comfortably Numb” from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The musicians here are: Chris Squire, Alan White and Billy Sherwood.

Buy A Life In Yes: The Chris Squire Tribute

Roine Stolt’s Epic Alchemy and Social Conscience

Roine Stolt’s The Flower King – Manifesto of an Alchemist (Inside Out Music, 2018)

Swedish guitarist, composer and progressive rock marvel Roin Stolt is a prolific artists who has been involved in numerous projects as band leader or as part of super bands: The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Agents of Mercy, and Kaipa DC. His latest project is called Roine Stolt’s The Flower King, which is a subtle way to clarify that this is a solo endeavor rather than a new Flower Kings album.

Although many identify Roine Stolt as a progressive rock musician (which he is), the multi-faceted artists is also influenced by classic rock, blues and jazz.

The album begins with a short atmospheric piece titled Rainsong. This is followed by the least favorite song on the album, Lost America, which is a classic rock/hard rock song with catchy hooks.
Progressive rock starts trickling in with “Ze Pawns,” a track with dreamy keyboards and mesmerizing slide guitar. The introspective vocals recall the work by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

High Road is one of the finest pieces on the album, symphonic progressive rock at its best; full of memorable and beautiful electric guitar work.

Rio Grande is an instrumental epic with outstanding guitar, drums and keyboard work, including evocative mellotron.

Next To A Hurricane is a happy, sing-along song with pop and jazz harmonies.

On The Alchemist, another instrumental, Roine Stolt incorporates jazz fusion, Zappaesque zaniness and blues, including interplay with saxophonist Rob Townsend.

Baby Angels is a sweet song with unexpected ukulele.

Thirty Wakeup sounds like a tribute to Focus’ signature classically-rooted instrumentals, with Roine’s guitar joined by electric organ and flute.

Roine Stolt has a great ability at making epic progressions. The Spell of Money is an instant-epic that feels familiar right from the dramatic beginning. It combines superb musicianship with politics and social criticism about the dark side of money.

The album includes Roine Stolt on lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, ukulele and drums; Hans “Hasse” Fröberg on vocals; Nad Sylvan on vocals; Max Lorentz on vocals and Hammond B3; Zach Kamins on organ, Moog synth and Mellotron; Rob Townsend on soprano saxophone and flute; Michael Stolt on bass and vocals; Jonas Reingold on fretted and fretless basses; and Marco Minnemann on drums

The album is available in various formats: limited edition CD digipak, Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD and as digital download.

Buy Manifesto of an Alchemist

Arabs in Aspic Live At Avantgarden in Trondheim

Arabs in Aspic – Live At Avantgarden (Apollon Records, 2018)

Live At Avantgarden showcases the energy and talent of Norwegian progressive rock band Arabs in Aspic. This the seventh album by the band from Trondheim and its first live recording in a familiar and friendly environment.

Throughout the album, Arabs in Aspic delight the listener with a vintage sound that recalls the finest groups of the early 1970s. The band uses the exquisite mellotron generously and skillfully, along with notable electric organ and guitar work, plus a formidable rhythm section.

The influences range from the memorable progressive rock of Pink Floyd and King Crimson to the classic hard rock of Uriah Heep.

The lineup includes Jostein Smeby on guitar, vocals; Stig Arve Kvam Jørgensen on Hammond organ, mellotron, synths, piano, vocals; Erik Paulsen on bass, vocals; Eskil Nyhus on drums, percussion; and Alessandro Elide-Metal on percussion.

Buy Live At Avantgarden

Dramatic Instrumental Rock

Alizarin – Cast Zenith (2018)

Alizarin is an instrumental rock trio from Los Angeles. On their album Cast Zenith, the band delivers a fabulous set of tracks that showcase the talent of guitar wizard Josh Kay, supported by a formidable rhythm section that includes Jon Damon on drums and Steve Ostaszewski on bass.

The music ranges from progressive rock to fusion, and guitar-hero rock. Although the music gets very intense at times, thankfully there is no prog metal.

Acclaimed keyboardist Adam Holzman makes a guest appearance, playing synths on two tracks.

Guitar Genius Dewa Budjana Dazzles Again

Dewa Budjana – Mahandini (Moonjune Records/Bukalapak, 2018)

Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana continues to demonstrate why he’s one of the finest guitarists in the jazz and rock scenes. He’s a prolific artist who has recorded and collaborated with some of the biggest names in the progressive jazz and rock fields.

Dewa Budjana has explored various musical genres in past albums. On Mahandini, he incorporates harder edged music. He rocks out throughout the album with a dazzling mix of progressive rock, jazz fusion, Indian vocal percussion (konnakol), transfixing Balinese traditional music and some hard rock.

His colleagues this time are multi-faceted keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani), and extraordinary Indian bassist and rising talent Mohini Dey.

The guests include the unmistakable vocals of rock star John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) on two tracks, fusion guitar virtuoso Mike Stern (Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius) and the enchanting vocals of Indonesian singer Soimah.

Dewa Budjana’s wide range of guitar sounds and techniques is truly impressive with masterfully-crafted melodies and solos, spectacular shredding and exquisite slide guitar.

Buy Mahandini