Tag Archives: pop

Masterfully Crafted Pop Meets Prog Rock

Mancunian Candidate – Mancunian Candidate (Pancake Repairs Music, 2017)

Mancunian Candidate is the new project of British-born, San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Matthew Swindells. He was the drummer and vocalist with much-admired American progressive rock band Moth Vellum. Swindells was also lead vocalist for Matt Bissonette’s Raising Lazarus project and live tour drummer for celebrated English electronic music act Fila Brazillia.

The album Mancunian Candidate has a relatively short song format. The first half of the album sounds as if pop band The Police had gone progressive. The vocal style and part of the song structures are definitely closer to pop, but the arrangements and instrumental sections are totally different. In those parts, Mancunian Candidate delivers highly-skilled, masterfully crafted and climactic symphonic progressive rock, inspired by the great masters like Genesis and Yes.

One of the highlights of the album is track 5, “AnikusDominuscrappedonfactor” that has a progressive rock-era Yes flavor with notable drumming, keyboards, bass and guitar.

Another high point is “Circle lies Unbroken,” where Mancunian Candidate opens with a fabulous Mahavishnu Orchestra-style intro. It’s great to hear jazz-rock fusion added to the mix. Overall, one of the most “progressive” pieces in the album.

Other highlights include “The Air Has Changed” and the climactic “Fanfare for the Dammed,” where Matthew Swindells uses vocals that lean heavily towards progressive rock instead of pop. There is even a fabulous church organ section that recalls Rick Wakeman’s masterful work.

The last song is another goodie. It’s a progressive rock reprise of “Garden Party” with wonderful mellotron and an outstanding guitar solo.

 

 

The remarkable lineup includes Matthew Swindells on drums, vocals, keyboards and acoustic guitars; Matthew Charles Heulitt on electric guitar; Johnny Heyes on guitar; Andy Shepley on bass; Neil Fairclough on bass; Ollie Collins on bass; Jon Evans on bass; Matt Bissonette on bass; and Jasper Wilkisnson on mandolin.

Mancunian Candidate is an impressive recording that straddles pop and progressive rock and I look forward to listening to more of the progressive side of Matthew Swindells.

 

The album is available from MancunianCandidateMusic.com.

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.

Insipid Asia

Asia – Phoenix
Asia – Phoenix

Asia – Phoenix (Asia Music, 2016)

Asia is a band that I really dislike so normally I would feel inclined to ignore any of its new releases. Since Phoenix was a new album to me, I gave it a chance and found very little to attract my attention. Even though the four band members are known for their work in progressive rock bands Yes, ELP, King Crimson and UK, Asia delivers something between AOR and pop, with simple songs, toe tapping rhythms and cheesy keyboards. The only notable work is Steve Howe’s guitar who demonstrates that he’s too talented to stick to simplistic guitar work.

Steve Howe is an enigma to me. He could be collaborating with so many progressive rock and jazz musicians doing great things, but he insists in joining rock projects that aim for the top of the pop charts.

The lineup includes Geoff Downes (Yes / The Buggles) on keyboards; Steve Howe (Yes) on guitar; Carl Palmer (ELP) on drums; and John Wetton (King Crimson / UK) on bass and vocals.

The 2 CD re-issue includes the original European version of the album, the two bonus tracks and the US only remix. The artwork is enclosed in a six panel digipack with artwork by the great Roger Dean.

Peter Gabriel Classics Reconstructed

Security Project – Live 1 (7D Media, 2016)

The Security Project is a superband featuring members of King Crimson, Shriekback and Peter Gabriel band musicians. They have just released a live album titled Live 1 that recreates iconic Peter Gabriel songs. Once he left Genesis, Peter Gabriel drifted away from progressive rock so his solo work was primarily pop and mainstream rock songs. Security Project transforms Gabriel’s songs and delivers a mix of modern pop and progressive rock-infused arrangements.

When you hear the vocals on Live 1, you will immediately think of Peter Gabriel. Brian Cummins sounds remarkably similar Peter Gabriel. He’s a member of one of the best Genesis tribute bands called Carpet Crawlers. On the other hand, the instrumentalists are some of the finest rock virtuoso musicians in the world.

The first six songs are the most pop-oriented tracks. Well performed, but I lost interest in pop a long time ago. Naturally, I gravitated towards the songs that have a closer connection to progressive rock, which includes several of the pieces in the second half of the album. In addition to Brian Cummins’ captivating vocals, the guitarists and keyboardist deliver memorable, although brief, instrumental moments.

Peter was always great at setting the table for us as musicians. He always got us started with great ideas,” says drummer and vocalist Jerry Marotta. “As we were creating Security we had no idea we were making something so unique… I’m proud that with Security Project we’re able to deliver the deepest of those songs, and do it with real conviction — playing them live.

Highlights include the outstanding vocal performances of Cummins and the backing vocals in “The Rhythm of the Heat”; the beautiful keyboard and guitar work in “San Jacinto”; the fabulous transition of “Games Without Frontiers” into “Of These, Hope” which is full blown state of the art progressive rock; the epic version of “Here Comes The Flood”; progressive-era Genesis song “Back in N.Y.C.” (from the remarkable The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album).

 

 

The lineup includes Jerry Marotta on drums and percussion, backing vocals, and lead vocal on Back in NYC; Trey Gunn on touch guitar, backing vocals; Brian Cummins on lead vocals; Michael Cozzi on guitar, backing vocals; and David Jameson on keyboards, Eigenharp.

Buy Security Project – Live 1 in north America

Buy Live 1 in Europe