Category Archives: CD Reviews

To the Coldest Depths of the Soul

Anathema – Weather Systems
Anathema

Weather Systems (The End Records TE251-2, 2012)

Anathema is a band that captures the true spirit of progressive rock. Throughout the years, it has experimented and evolved. What started long ago as a doom metal band is now one of the finest progressive bands from the UK with a philosophical message.

Weather Systems incorporates elements of post rock as well as alternative rock and classic progressive rock. The heart of the band are the brothers Cavanagh. Most of the songs are by keyboardist Daniel Cavanagh, while singer and multi-instrumentalist Vincent Cavanagh provides the musical direction and arrangements.

At this stage, Anathema’s sound is centered on the expressive male vocals of Vincent Cavanagh and the captivating female voice of Lee Douglas. The best vocals appear on the track ‘The Gathering of the Cluds’, where Lee Douglas and Vincent Cavanagh showcase their talent with skilled intertwining vocals and overdubs that are just as good as what Yes’ Jon Anderson did in his best recordings.

Weather Systems presents a mix of keyboard atmospheres and sound effects along with orchestral arrangements and acoustic and electric guitars. The electric guitars are in general subdued, sometimes creating a minimalist wall of sound. My main complaint about post rock groups is their focus on vocals and the rejection of instrumental solos. Thankfully, as the album progresses, Anathema builds a climax on pieces like ‘The Storm Before the Calm’ and ‘The Beginning of the End,’ where the band slowly and skillfully builds the music up to a highpoint, with a very welcomed electric guitar solo.

The album concludes with delightful vocals and beautiful melodies and atmospheres on ‘The Lost Child’ and mesmerizing spoken word on ‘Internal landscapes.’

It feels like we are at a creative peak right now, and this album reflects that,” says Daniel Cavanagh. “Everything from the production to the writing to the performances are a step up from our last album…This is not background music for parties. The music is written to deeply move the listener, to uplift or take the listener to the coldest depths of the soul.”

Weather Systems showcases one of the finest talents in the current progressive rock scene with passionate songs about the struggle of life, with its highs and lows, optimism and despair, vigor and gloom; the straightforward realities of life.

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Electric Violin Journeys

Noel Webb – Journey With Me
Noel Webb

Journey With Me (Red Lab Records, 2012)

Electric fiddler Noel Webb makes a big splash with his EP Journey With Me. The recording includes a mix of styles that meander in various directions. One of the best cuts is the title track Journey With Me which has much in common with the contemporary instrumental jazz-rock sounds that were made in the 1990s, during the new age music boom. If you liked Jerry Goodman’s violin adventures, you’ll enjoy this piece.

Another highlight is Webb’s fiery shredding version of the Led Zeppelin classic ‘Kashmir’. This is electric violin rock at its best.

On the last piece, ‘Scream,” Webb takes his electric violin into frenzied techno dance territory.

The rest of the pieces on the EP go into a hip hop and smooth jazzy direction that has less appeal.

Noel Webb has had a successful career as an actor. He was a principal actor on the television soap opera General Hospital. He was also a frequent character on Mad About You, and a co-star on FBI, The Untold Stores. He appeared in many films and Movies of the Week including The Alamo, Young Riders, The Menendez Brothers, and Reluctant Agent. He also took part in on commercials by McDonalds, Honda, Emery, TV network promos, and narrated more than 50 A&E Biographies, TNN Biographies, and movie trailers.

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Of Sun and Moon

Overhead – ‘Of Sun and Moon
Overhead

Of Sun and Moon‘ (German Progressive Promotion Records, 2012)

Finnish band Overhead plays an unconventional mix of heavy metal, pop, retro psychedelic and progressive rock.

Although the metal side dominates and they sound like all the other Nordic metal bands, their latest album ‘Of Sun and Moon’ has some interesting moments for the progressive rock fan.

The highlights are the three progressive rock-infused pieces in the central part of the album. ‘Syriana’ introduces vintage-sounding keyboards, psychedelia, and creative guitar work. ‘Grotte’ has notable flute and guitar interplay with more psychedelic elements; and ‘Last Broadcast’ is a mini epic combining slow tempo post rock, psychedelia, anthemic vocals and a grand finale.

Overhead’s debut album titled ‘Zumanthum’ came out in 2002 on Mellow Records. The second recording ‘Metaepitome‘ was released in 2005 on Musea. ‘And We’re Not Here After All‘ (2008) was their third album, also on Musea.

A live concert was videotaped in 2009 at the Prog Rock 2009 festival in Poland. ‘Live After All’ was released on DVD.

Overhead’s lineup includes Tarmo Simonen on piano and Polysix; Janne Pylkkönen on bass; Alex Keskitalo on Vocals and flute; Jaakko Kettunen on guitar; Ville Sjöblom on drums.

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Electronic Soundtrack For One’s Own Road Movie

Steve Roach & Erik Wøllo – The Road Eternal
Steve Roach & Erik Wøllo

The Road Eternal (Projekt PRO00259, 2011)

The Road Eternal is the second intercontinental collaboration between renowned American synthesist Steve Roach and one of the finest musicians in the European electronic music scene, Norwegian guitarist Erik Wollo.

The album contains six lengthy pieces. While Roach develops his characteristic hypnotic electronic ambiance, percussion and creative sequences, Wollo contributes mesmerizing melodies and patterns with his processed electric guitars and guitar synthesizers.

Wollo and Roach bring their difference perspectives and environments to the music. Whereas Steve Roach lives in the expansive desert southwest of the United States, Wollo has his home in the land of majestic fjords and mountain rivers.

We are both passionate about the observation of nature and the poetic character of natural surroundings,” says Wollo. “The ways in which we relate to this, as well as the awareness of the ongoing passage of time. These ideas have been a driving force behind our whole artistic careers, and it is strongly reflected in this collaboration.”

In our music,” indicates Roach, “a central pulse and steady momentum is present. The sensation is a consistent feeling of travel. Whether you’re driving, flying, riding a train or some other form of transportation, the sound and vibration enters your body and becomes part of the meditation of the travel experience. Listening to these tracks while traveling allows the music to merge with the experience arriving at an integrated place where thoughts and imagination are unified as a soundtrack for one’s own road movie. The metaphor of ‘the road eternal in the creative process’ is the other element of the album title: the road the artist travels with the allure of discovering what is next around the corner.”

Erik Wollo and Steve Roach started to work on The Road Eternal at the beginning of 2010. The final sessions took place in the fall of the same year, when Wollo traveled to Tucson (Arizona) to play at the SoundQuest Fest. After the concert, the two musicians finalized their ideas in Steve Roach’s famed The Timeroom Studio. The sessions lasted several days. “This is the music I have wanted to create with Erik since I first heard his classic Traces release way back in the 80’s,” says Roach.

The Road Eternal exhibits the talent of two of electronic music’s most recognizable masters. It is another excellent ambient-trance album to add to your collection.

Listen to samples, buy MP3s or buy the CD The Road Eternal in North America.

Buy The Road Eternal in Europe.

Chris Thompson Live in Berlin and The Colos-Saal

Chris Thompson
Berlin Live & Live At The Colos-Saal
Chris Thompson

Berlin Live & Live At The Colos-Saal (Gonzo Multimedia, 2012)

Fans of legendary British rock band Manfred Mann will immediately recognize Chris Thompson’s voice and many of the songs included in this triple set. Thompson delivers a passionate and memorable collection of songs backed by an excellent rock band.

Even though the Manfred Mann that I liked was the progressive rock-era version, the band was also known for delivering great rock songs and some radio hits. Some of the most recognizable featured in this live set are ‘Blinded By The Light’, ‘You Angel You’, ‘Spirits In The Night’, ‘Don’t Kill It Carol’ and ‘Mighty Quinn’.

Berlin Live & Live At The Colos-Saal contains two CDs and a bonus DVD. It is a combination of a live radio concert and a previous rehearsal and concert that took place in Aschaffenburg. The Aschaffenburg material was retrieved from a completely concert film and recording and is included as a bonus as the producers felt that the salvaged footage expressed the enjoyment of the concert. The Berlin concert remains just as it came from the radio transmission and as such is the complete concert as fans heard it at the concert and also on the radio broadcast.

Born in the UK, Thompson grew up in New Zealand. He returned to the UK in 1973. He became Manfred Mann’s Earthband’s vocalist after Mick Rogers left the band. His voice first appeared on the 1976 Roaring Silence album which contained the hit single ‘Blinded By The Light.’

Thompson appeared on Jeff Wayne’s concept album War of the Worlds recording the track “Thunder Child” which was also a UK hit song. Thompson recorded the Manfred Mann’s Earthband LPs Watch and Angel Station, which featured the hit singles ‘Davy’s On The Road Again’, ‘Mighty Quinn’, ‘Don’t Kill It Carol’ and ‘You Angel You.’

Chris is backed by a full band which includes Mads Eriksen on guitar; Frank Hovland on bass, backing vocals; Gunnar Bjelland on keyboards; with Szolt Meszaros on drums for the Berlin concert and Steinar Krokstad as drummer on the Aschaffenburg material.

Berlin Live & Live At The Colos-Saal is an extraordinary collection of live songs by one of the unforgettable voices of 1970s British rock.

Tracks:

DVD: Live At The Colos-Saal, The Aschaffenburg Remains

1 Martha’s Madman , 2 Land Of The Long White Cloud , 3 Whole Lot To Give , 4 If You Remember Me , 5 Demolition Man , 6 Redemption Song , 7 Don’t Kill It Carol , Fan Cam Dexheim , 1 Mighty Quinn , 2 Drum Solo ( Zsolt Meszaros ) , 3 You Angel You , 4 Davy’s On The Road Again , Plus Interview : , Chris And Band By Jon Kirkman ,

Cd 1: Live At Radio Berlin 88.8

1. Father Of Day. 2. Wasting Time. 3. Hot Summer Night. 4. Spirits In The Night. 5. Martha’s Madman. 6. Land Of The Long White Cloud. 7. Whole Lot To Give. 8. If You Remember Me. 9. Demolition Man. 10. Redemption Song. 11. Don’t Kill It Carol. 12. Runner. 13. Mighty Quinn.

Cd 2: Live At Radio Berlin 88.8

1. Piece For The Wicked ( Mads Eriksen ) . 2. You Angel You. 3. Davy’s On The Road. 4. Blinded By The Light. Encores. 5. For You. 6. You’re The Voice. 7. Questions.

Buy Berlin Live & Live At The Colos-Saal in North America.

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Charles Darwin Vol I, II and III, a Work of Art

XII Alfonso – Charles Darwin Vol I, II and III
XII Alfonso

Charles Darwin Vol I, II and III (XIIALF 07 08 09, 2012)

French progressive rock band XII Alfonso has released a colossal project dedicated to the life, work and travels of Charles Darwin. The hard cover book+CD contains three audio CDs and an extensive 76 page color book with lyrics, credits, photos, historical details and fascinating illustrations. There is attention to detail throughout the whole project, which took two years to complete.

The three CDs follow Darwin’s life and achievements in chronological order,. XII Alfonso divided the pieces into songs and instrumental compositions. “Songs tell us about his youth, his house, his dreams, his doubts… ,” clarifies the band. “Instrumental pieces are an attempt to musically translate the major concepts of his thoughts : The Coral of Life, Descent with Modification, Struggle for Existence, On the Origin of Species…”

XII Alfonso has been around for 15 years. They develop their music at a home studio in Bordeaux. Band members include the Claerhout brothers, Philippe and François, who come up with the ideas and compose most of the music; drummer Thierry Moreno; and flutist Stéphane Ducassé.

For the Darwin project, XII Alfonso invited an impressive cast of singers and instrumentalists, including vocalists Maggie Reilly (Mike Oldfield) and Huong Thanh; Supertramp’s legendary saxophonist John A. Helliwell; flutists Terry Oldfield and John Hackett; guitarists Francis Dunnery (It Bites), Robin Boult ( Fish), Ian Bairnson (Alan Parsons, Kate Bush), Tim Renwick (Pink Floyd); bassist Michael Manring; and keyboardists Mickey Simmonds (Mike Oldfield, Camel, Fish ) and Ton Scherpenzeel (Camel, Kayak).

With such tremendous talent, XII Alfonso delivers a brilliant mix of state of the art progressive symphonic rock as well as tantalizing world music pieces, folk-rock, classic rock, and evocative jazz-infused music.

XII Alfonso is known for its concept albums. The first CD was The Lost Frontier (Muséa, 1996), dedicated to the historical border between the northern “Barbarians” and Roman Britannia. Next came a musical illustration of human adventures titled Odyssées (Muséa 1999). The third and fourth albums were dedicated to Claude Monet: Claude Monet Vol. I and Claude Monet Vol. II (Muséa, 2002 and 2005). At that time, François Claerhout wrote a biography about Monet titled L’œil et le monde (Editions thôt, 2005).

The completely instrumental album, Under (Muséa, 2009), looks at the subterranean worlds. In addition, XII Alfonso released the live album This is (Muséa, 2003) and recorded an experimental album played on stalactites and stalagmites in a French prehistoric cave. The music is presented at the prehistoric museum in Altamira (Spain).

Hats off to XII Alfonso. With Charles Darwin Vol. I, II and III, they have recorded one of the great masterworks of the current progressive rock generation.

But the album from CD Baby or from the band’s website at: xii-alfonso.com/boutique-shop

Driving Towards the Daylight

Joe Bonamassa – Driving Towards the Daylight
Joe Bonamassa

Driving Towards the Daylight (J & R Adventures, 2012)

Be prepared because Joe Bonamassa’s latest recording Driving Towards the Daylight is a right jab, a left hook, and a roundhouse kick all rolled into one. Kick ass to the core and laced with savage licks, Driving Towards the Daylight goes a long way to prove that rock music still has got the moves, and with some sharp elbows, and that the blues are just as deadly as the edges of a broken bottle. And, baby, it’s all good – deeply, deliciously good.

Coming on the heels of a 2011 Best Rock Blues Album for his Dust Bowl release and an appearance with Billy Gibbons and Derek Truck for Freddie King’s induction into the Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mr. Bonamassa is hitting the airwaves with his 13th recording on his own J & R Adventures label along with producer Kevin “Caveman” Shirley of Black Cowes, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin fame.

Pooling a collection of Bonamassa originals and goodies by the likes of Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon and Tom Waits, Driving Towards the Daylight sizzles in familiar Bonamassa tradition. The wicked guitar licks, razor sharp vocals and sneaky, low down rhythms on this recording are enough to make one drive too fast, drink too much and love the wrong person.

Opening with “Dislocated Boy” before moving on to such goodies like “Stone in My Passway,” “Who’s Been Talking?” with an spoken intro by Howlin’ Wolf himself, “I Got All You Need” and “Lonely Town Lonely Street,” fans get well-deserved doses of Mr. Bonamassa’s signature guitar brilliance and his edgy vocals. Add to that a little dobro, organ, brass and Anton Fig’s percussion, well, it just doesn’t get any better.

Bonamassa fans can soothe their ravaged souls with tracks like “Driving Towards the Daylight,” “A Place in My Heart” and the deftly bluesy “New Coat of Paint.” If that weren’t enough there’s the spectacularly good closing track “Too Much Ain’t Enough Love” with vocals by Jimmy Barnes and rhythm guitar by Brad Whitford.

Wrapped tighter than a bunch of Hell’s Angels on Saturday night and saucier than a juke joint honey, Driving Towards the Daylight is unabashedly good.

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Buy the album in Europe.

Fast and Vigorous

Tohpati Bertiga – Riot
Tohpati Bertiga

Riot (Moonjune Records MJR045, 2012)

A fascinating fusion music revolution is taking place in Indonesia. Riot is one of the latest examples of some of the impressive combinations of vigorous rock, jazz fusion and virtuosic performances coming out of the Asian nation. Tohpati is a growing star in the world of electric guitar players. He is comfortable rocking out, shredding or improvising.

On Riot we find Tohpati Bertiga using a power trio format that includes Tohpati on guitars and guitar synth; Indro Hardjodikoro on bass; and Bowo on drums.

Tohpati demonstrates that his taste is eclectic adding other elements to the mix, such as funk, Middle Eastern melodies, and blues rock.

Riot showcases the talent and spectacular solos of one of the rising stars of fusion music.

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Purveyors of Fine Space Music

Broekhuis Keller & Schonwalder – Red
Broekhuis Keller & Schonwalder

Red (Manikin, 2012)

If you fell in love with the Berlin-style electronic music of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Ash Ra Temple, you are in for a treat here. Broekhuis, Keller and Schönwälder is a trio that brings together three of the finest musicians in today’s progressive electronic music scene, drawing from the masters of the past and updating the music for the 21st century.

Bas Broekhuis is a Dutch drummer and sound technician, Detlef Keller is a German keyboardist and sequencer programmer and Mario Schönwälder is a German synthesist and sound designer from Berlin. Red is the latest of the trio’s albums. It is divided into three lengthy space music suites, Red One, Red Two and From Red to Green.

The perfectly synchronized pieces developed by Broekhuis, Keller and Schönwälder build up slowly and gradually. What makes up Red attractive is the brilliant combination of mesmerizing electronic ambiance, pulsating sequences, evocative melodies and rich palette of percussion.

The trio is a live band. They have performed throughout Europe and visited the United States recently. In addition, Schönwälder runs the business side of the group, managing the record label and tour planning.

Schönwälder is the organizational mind and is taking care of CD releases, concert planning and the so beloved bookkeeping.

Red is a spellbinding album of vital space music by three of the finest electronic music makers of our time.

Ordering information: http://www.manikin.de/en/main.html

Hasse Fröberg’s Powerplay

Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion – Powerplay
Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion

Powerplay (Reingold Records, 2012)

Hasse Fröberg is well known as the vocalist for Swedish progressive rock band The Flower Kings. Fröberg has another project called Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion. Although Fröberg has background in heavy metal and progressive rock, his project turns out to be good old hard rock.

Don’t expect the complexity of progressive rock or the crushing riffs of metal. Instead Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion offer a fine collection of rock songs with a hard edge. The closest they get to progressive rock is when Kjell Haraldsson adds some of his fine keyboard solos and atmospheres.

The line-up includes Hasse Fröberg on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Anton Lindsjö on lead guitar, backing vocals; Kjell Haraldsson on keyboards, backing vocals; Thomsson on bass, backing vocals; and Ola Strandberg on drums, backing vocals.

Powerplay is definitely a fine hard rock album worth checking out.

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Buy the CD: Powerplay