Category Archives: CD Reviews

Breathtaking Static

Dave Kerzner – Static

Dave Kerzner – Static (Dave Kerzner, 2017)

Static is an indie progressive rock project by keyboardist Dave Kerzner. It’s a concept album about the disruptions and disorder in ordinary life and about passing through this “static interference” in our minds towards the goal of lucidity and joy.

The majority of the album contains beautifully-crafted progressive rock with vocal and guitar echoes of David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Steven Wilson and prog rock classic acts plus forward-thinking arrangements that bring together space rock, sound effects and electronics.

As indicated, the majority of the album is highly enjoyable state-of-the-art progressive rock. I would skip tracks 5 and 6, which stray away from the progressive rock vibe and head towards catchy pop. The remainder of the album includes all there is to like about progressive rock: majestic mellotron, memorable synth and guitar solos, exquisite cello, long epics and grand finales.

But there is more, Static features the great Steve Hackett, a musician that deserves an award for his talent and generosity, appearing as guest on numerous progressive rock albums. And Kerzner also used the rising star of prog rock artwork, Ed Unitsky.

The lineup on Static includes Dave Kerzner on vocals, keyboards and guitar; Fernando Perdomo on guitar, bass and drums; Randy McStine on guitar, effects and backing vocals; Derek Cintron on drums; Durga and Lorelei McBroom on backing vocals.

Guests: Steve Hackett on guitar; Matt Dorsey on bass and backing vocals; Nick Mason on drums; Colin Edwin on bass; Ewa Karolina Lewowska on backing vocals; Chris Johnson on guitar; Stuart Fletcher on bass; Alex Cromarty on drums; Ruti Celi on cello; and Nick D’Virgilio on drums.

 

 

 

Buy Static

Simon Phillips’ Exceptional Fusion

Simon Phillips – Protocol 4

Simon Phillips – Protocol 4 (Phantom Recordings, 2017)

Extraordinary drummer and composer Simon Phillips has released a superb instrumental jazz-rock fusion album titled Protocol 4, featuring a significant group of collaborators.

Protocol 4 serves as a drumming master class by Simon Phillips, who delivers a series of remarkable, creative drumming performances throughout the album. The other musicians who participate in this recording are all first-rate instrumentalists with experience in jazz, rock and other genres.

Guitarist Greg Howe is pure delight. He uses a wide variety of techniques, from Alan Holdsworth-style note bending to spectacular shredding. Keyboardist Dennis Hamm masterfully crafts atmospheres as well as dazzling synth solos. And bassist Ernest Tibbs provides solid support throughout the album as well as excellent solo bass lines.

Protocol 4 includes the best jazz-rock fusion has to offer, from high speed dexterity to funk and laid back, bluesy material along with some world music elements. And the best of all is that there is no smooth jazz sax to be seen.

Simon Phillips composed the material while on tour, on airplanes, hotels and backstage dressing rooms.

Buy Protocol 4

Juha Kujanpää on the Wings of Folk and Prog Rock

Juha Kujanpää – Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa – To Where My Wings Will Take Me

Juha Kujanpää – Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa – To Where My Wings Will Take Me (Eclipse Music, 2017)

Finnish keyboardist and composer Juha Kujanpää continues to charm with his fantastic mix of progressive rock and Finnish folk music traditions along with waltes, waltzes, Greek melodies and klezmer scales .

Juha Kujanpää combines a skilled progressive rock electric band format with renowned acoustic folk musicians, including members of innovative contemporary folk music ensemble Frigg.

On the prog rock you’ll find masterfully crafted orchestrations, electric guitar creations and echoes of Pekka Pohjola, Camel and Mike Oldfield. All this elegantly weaved with exquisite Finnish folk virtuosity, inspired by the region of Ostrobothnia, the stunning lake views of North Karelia and in a guest house in the monastery of Valamo.

The artists featured in Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa include Juha Kujanpää on keyboards and reed organ; Timo Kämäräinen on guitars; Tero Tuovinen on electric and double bass; Jussi Miettola on drums and percussion; Tommi Asplund on violin; Alina Järvelä on violin; Kukka Lehto on violin; Joakim Berghäll on saxophone, flute and clarinet; and Teija Niku on accordion.

Buy the digital version of Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa – To Where My Wings Will Take Me. The CD is available from eclipsemusicrecordlabel.bandcamp.com

Nexus, a Relevant Tribute to Virgil Howe

Virgil & Steve Howe – Nexus

Virgil & Steve Howe – Nexus (InsideOut Music, 2017)

Nexus is an instrumental album featuring Yes guitarist Steve Howe and his son Virgil. It’s a sad release in terms of timing. Virgil, who was 41, died unexpectedly on September 11th, 2017.

Virgil developed neoclassical, jazz and melodic piano tracks and later incorporated keyboards, bass and drums. Steve Howe added the guitar parts. And those guitar sectionss are what stand out in all the pieces. Steve Howe uses his arsenal of acoustic, electric and steel guitars, adding his unmistakable, masterful touch throughout Nexus.

Steve Howe used one featured guitar per track in most tracks but on the title track Nexus he used a dual guitar approach, “I start by playing my favorite Gibson ES175D but then move over to a single neck Fender Professional Steel, which has 2 pick-ups, then I move back & forwards between them.”

Steve Howe describes Nexus as a fitting tribute to Virgil’s life and legacy.

Buy Nexus

The Progressive Music Adventures of Lucas Lee

Lucas Lee – Acceptances of Gravitational Collapsing Manifestations (LucasLeeMusic, 2017)

Multi-instrumentalist Lucas Lee showcases his multifaceted progressive music compositions on Acceptances of Gravitational Collapsing Manifestations. Lucas Lee is a formidable musician, deeply inspired by progressive rock and fusion. His style sometimes sounds like a 21st century version of Canterbury masters National Health.

Lucas Lee plays practically all instruments on Acceptances of Gravitational Collapsing Manifestations, except for drums. On the guitar, Lucas Lee switches from skilled jazz fusion techniques to inspired Joe Satriani-style shredding and ambient and avant-garde explorations. Lee also dominates the violin and keyboards, delivering notable piano and electronic keyboard segments. Additionally, Lee uses effects and spoken word to create a superb mix of forward thinking progressive music.

Although some of the promotional material mentions hard rock and metal, do not fear, there is practically no heavy metal.

The drumming couldn’t get better. Drums are played by Marco Minnemann, one of the best and busiest drummers in the progressive rock and fusion music scenes.

Acceptances of Gravitational Collapsing Manifestations features lots of rhythmic and harmonic changes and opportunities for the musicians to have some fun.

Buy the digital download version of Acceptances of Gravitational Collapsing Manifestations or the CD from cdbaby.com/cd/lucaslee14

Cairo’s Say

Cairo – $@Y

Cairo – $@Y [Say] (Heavy Right Foot Records, 2016)

Say is the debut release of rock band Cairo, the latest project of British keyboardist and vocalist Rob Cottingham, not to be confused with American progressive rock band Cairo.

Even though Cairo is described as a progressive rock band, it is yet another project where tired heavy metal riffs permeate the music. Rob Cottingham does great work in terms of effects, atmospheres, keyboard solos, the addition of spoken word and forward-thinking electronics, but it gets lost in a wave of predictable heavy metal and hard rock guitars and pop vocal hooks. I’ve said it before, how about a prog mix for progressive rock fans and a heavy metal mix for metal fans.

The band includes Rob Cottingham on keyboards and vocals; Rachel Hill on vocals; Lisa Driscoll on vocals; James Hards on electric and acoustic guitars; Paul Stocker on bass and acoustic guitars; and Graham Brown on drums and percussion. Guests: John Mitchell on backing vocals and Nick Yarris on spoken word.

 

 

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Rising Talent from Brescia

Il Paradiso Degli Orchi – Il Corponauta (AMS Records, 2016)

Il Paradiso Degli Orchi is a new progressive rock band from Brescia in northern Italy that has attracted a lot of attention. Il Corponauta is the band’s second album, based on Il Corponauta, a book by the late Flavio Emer.

With the assistance of rock progressivo italiano icon, musician and producer Fabio Zuffanti, Il Paradiso Degli Orchi delivers a formidable, masterfully-crafted album.

From the very beginning, Il Paradiso Degli Orchi engages the listener with superb layers and mellotron, guitars, drums and assorted percussion. The vocals are in Italian, which always adds to the charm of Italian bands.

The instrumental skills are what stands out in Il Paradiso Degli Orchi with great interplay between the guitars, flute, keyboards and bass, supported by creative rhythms.

Stylistically, Il Paradiso Degli Orchi incorporates exquisite, classic progressive rock of an epic nature, jazz fusion, forward-thinking electronica and some Italian folk music inspirations. Influences include prog rock era-Yes, Banco, King Crimson, PFM and Jethro Tull.

Il Corponauta is a long album with a mix of short songs and extensive pieces, including an 18-minute long suite and the final epic aptly titled Il Gran Finale with guitar and mellotron that will send chills down the spine of progressive rock fans.

The lineup includes Marco DeGiacomi on drums and vocals; Michele Sambrici on guitars, keyboards, mellotron and vocals; Andrea Corti on bass; Sven Jorgensen on lead vocals and guitars; Stefano Corti on percussion; and Andrea Calzoni on flute and saxophone. Guests: Iran Fertonani on percussion; and Giorgio Presti on synthesizer.

Buy Il Corponauta in Europe

Buy Il Corponauta in the rest of the world

Keith Emerson at the Piano

Keith Emerson – Emerson Plays Emerson (The Right Honourable Recording Company, 2017)

Emerson Plays Emerson is a piano album by progressive rock legend Keith Emerson. The album, originally released in 2002, was out of print and a collector’s item until.

The new edition is a remastered version approved by the estate of Keith Emerson.

On Emerson Plays Emerson you’ll find a set of piano tunes that represent various influences. There are classical music-inspired pieces, jazz, joyful honky tonk and cinematic works.

This album primarily focuses on solo piano tracks so you won’t find Emerson’s other side: organ and electronic keyboards.

The CD booklet includes notes in English, German and Italian.

Emerson Plays Emerson showcases the talent and musical background of one of the greatest keyboardists in recent rock history.

Buy Emerson Plays Emerson

Focus’ Renaissance

Focus – The Focus Family Album (In and Out of Focus Records, 2017)

Acclaimed Dutch band has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years with superb progressive rock albums, international tours and artwork by iconic illustrator Roger Dean. The Focus Family Album is a 2-CD set with 15 previously unreleased pieces and alternate adaptations.

Disc One opens with Nature Is Our Friend, a great flute solo piece by founder and bandleader Thijs Van Leer.

Track 2, Song For Eva, is one of the best compositions in the album. It begins with a spoken word part taken from Lord Byron’s “They Say That Hope Is Happiness.” The rest is a masterful instrumental with admirable bluesy prog guitar work, nearly eight minutes of guitar goodness by Menno Gootjes.

Each member of the band has solo pieces in The Focus Family Album. Riverdance is a drum and percussion work by Pierre Van Der Linden, from a drum album he made from friends.

“Victoria” is an anthemic Focus instrumental that appeared in the album Focus X. This is a vocal remix version with vocoder.

Menno Gootjes picks up the acoustic guitar on Two-Part Intervention, recorded after the Focus 11 sessions.

Mosh Blues is a powerful blues jam recorded in Brazil while on tour.

Raga Reverence 1 is a piece by Swung, an improvisational jazz-rock trio formed by Focus members: Menno Gootjes (guitar), Pierre Van Der Linden (drums) and Bobby Jacobs (bass).

The Fifth Man is a hard rocking track recorded in 2014 that nearly made it to Focus 11.

Bassist Udo Pannekeet, who joined Focus in 2016, delivers a masterful fretless bass performance on Song For Yaminah.

The last track on Disc 1 is the laid back Clair Obscur featuring masterful guitar work by Menno Gootjes. It’s an early version of the piece that appeared in Focus 11.

Disc Two opens with another classic Thijs Van Leer flute solo, a mesmerizing piece titled Let Us Wander? That includes birds and other nature sounds.

“Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)” was released in Focus 10 with vocals by Ivan Lins. Here, the song features the original vocals (and his unmistakable trademark whistling) by Thijs Van Leer. It has a Latin American flavor and features superior guitar work by Menno Gootjes.

“Spiritual Swung” is the second solo drum piece by Pierre Van Der Linden.

Brazilian singer Ivan Lins sings in Spanish on “Santa Teresa” a song by Thijs Van Leer dedicated to Chile. Originally meant to be included in Focus X, it only appeared in the Japanese edition of Focus X. Great work by Lins on vocals, Van Leer on flute and Gottjes on guitars.

Hazel is an exquisite, skillful acoustic guitar solo by Menno Gootjes.

Focus plays the blues on “Fine Without You,” featuring vocals by Jo De Roeck and superb blues organ by Thijs Van Leer and electric guitar work by Menno Gootjes.

Instrumental trio Swung returns with a second improvisational piece titled “Raga Reverence 5.” The three musicians experiment and create new parts during Focus soundchecks and downtime.

“Five Fourth” is classic Focus, a symphonic progressive rock instrumental with delightful guitar and organ interplay.

Udo Pannekeet performs a funk jazz bass solo titled “Anaya” on his 6-string bass, along with drum programming.

The last track, “Winnie” is another wonderful instrumental from the Focus 11 sessions featuring memorable guitar by Menno Gootjes and flute by Thijs Van Leer.

The Focus Family Album physical edition comes in an 8-panel digipack with artwork by Roger Dean. The booklet includes credits, lyrics, photos and illustrations.

Buy The Focus Family Album in Europe

Buy The Focus Family Albumm in the rest of the world

The Knells II on the Leading-Edge of Progressive Music

The Knells – Knells II (Still Sound Records, 2017)

The Knells, the groundbreaking progressive rock ensemble from Brooklyn, New York is releasing The Knells II in November 2017. The Knells dazzled the progressive music community with its self-titled debut album and the talented musicians do it again with their second recording.

The Knells II moves forward with the unique mix of polyphonic vocal traditions drawing from western classical and Early Music and cutting edge progressive rock and psychedelia.

Composer and guitarist Andrew McKenna wrote all the music and lyrics. The Knells’ sound revolves around the interaction between the female vocalists and the fascinating multifaceted sounds of the guitars that deliver gliding and experimental sounds along with epic progressions.

In addition to drums, bass and keyboards, McKenna brought in an additional guitarist on slide guitar and lead guitar. The slide guitar provides a mesmerizing new element to the band’s sound.

The personnel on The Knells II includes many y familiar faces: Nina Berman, soprano; Charlotte Mundy, mezzo-soprano; Blythe Gaissert, contralto; Paul Orbell on slide and lead guitar; Andrew McKenna Lee on guitar; Jude Traxler on percussion, Rhodes, electronics; Jeff Gretz, drums; and Joseph Higgins on bass.

 

 

The album is available on CD, vinyl and digital from theknells.bandcamp.com