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Time Horizon – Living Water (2011)

This album brings a lot to the table.  Catchy melodies, excellent lead (and harmony) vocals , high quality musicianship, professionally effective production and engineering.  One foot is planted in Prog Rock territory – while the other ventures into accessible AOR realms not entirely unlike deeper album tracks from bands like Boston, Toto or Styx (except more progressive).  If you like SUPERNAL ENDGAME, KERRY LIVGREN or PHIL KEAGGY, DON”T MISS THIS EXCITING NEW CD!!!  The packaging is first-rate too – with full song lyrics & cool CD cover art by Ken Westphal! 

Be one of the first 1000 to purchase this new CD, and the proceeds from your sale go to support the outreach charity Living Water International (” helping communities acquire desperately needed clean water, and to experience “living water” – the gospel of Jesus Christ – which alone satisfies the deepest thirst)!

OK – well.  You know what you need to do now! 

But don’t take my word for it!  Click here to request the song “Life Fantastic” from “Living Water” on ProgPositivity Radio! Let your own ears tell you whether this music speaks to your heart or not!  (http://progpositivity.com/playlist?mode=4&id=67537)

God bless and Prog On!

Mark Stephens
ProgPositivity Radio – The Best Prog and Fusion – Positively!
http://www.progpositivity.com

CProgPositivity Radio – On-line Christian Progressive Rock Radio 24/7
http://loudcaster.com/channels/674-cprogpositivity

YES – Fly From Here (2011)

Proving once again that “Prog-life” doesn’t end at 60!!

Although the BUGGLES are BACK with a vengance, the delivery is more natural, mature and deliberate than it was 30+ years ago on the last genuine “Panther” Yes album.  Dare I say, the songs are more drama-tic this time around? 😉

“We Can Fly from Here” was the name of the original demo that Buggles Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes gave to Chris way back in 1980. An expanded version (with a second part) almost made the Buggles album “Adventures in Modern Recording”.  While it was still a candidate for that Buggles album, Horn and Downes “fleshed out” various ideas for the
piece, some of which ended up becaming the basis for other sections of the Title Suite (“Sad Night at the Airfield” and “Madman at the Screens”). 

Horn and Downes’ compositions graciously redeem their presence by allowing plenty of room for Steve Howe’s guitar and Chris Squire’s bass guitar performances to shine like diamonds.  Horn also deserves credit for delivering perhaps the best produced and engineered Yes album since “Talk”. 

Although G. Downes certainly provides his “fair share” of keys, even Rick Wakeman fans can bask in the fleetingly etched familial glory of Oliver Wakeman’s keyboard performances on a few tracks here and there.  (Those keeping score at home may also note a songwriting credit to Oliver for his part in the creation of the strong group effort album closer “Into the Storm!)

Steve Howe writes and manages to coax a rich on-key baritone vocal harmony for “Hour of Need”. His solo guitar piece “Solitaire” may not be pack quite the razzle-dazzle of “Clap” but it is beatiful and wondrous with a graceful magic all its own. 

Chris Squire’s vocals take center stage on “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”, a pleasant song with delightfully playful little time signature shifts in the verses.

And although I truly HATE that Jon is not the lead vocalist for Yes on this album…  I must confess that Benoit David’s vocal performances on this album are simply superb.  Not only is he an incredible vocalist in his own right, he is THE RIGHT man for this job at this moment in this place and time.  Quite amazingly, he has somehow managed to find Yes’ 2011 “sweet spot” vocally.  He isn’t so unlike Jon – especially whenever the songs require him to reach angelic high notes as to make the band sound “out of character”.  But neither is he so like Jon as to sound like a pale imitation.  He is every bit as comfortable in a lower register as a high one.  And while I had approached the album 100% prepared for Benoit to do his best to approximate the tone and cadence of a certain previous vocalist for this UK supergroup of Prog, I was totally surprised to discover that the name of this ex-Yes vocalist would far more often be Trevor Horn than Jon Anderson!

On first listen, the album’s “prog-suite” sounded more like a small collection of tunes pasted together than an organic whole.  The second and third spins, however, revealed a synergistic sympathy from one section to another.  These separate songs really did inter-relate with one another after all.  They really do create a greater whole, even if their transitions from one section to the next sound leave something to be desired.   

Oddly enough, the one portion of the suite that feels most contrived is the most “progrock” section, Howe’s “Bumpy Ride”.  If I didn’t know Steve better, I’d think it had been concocted as part of a cynically gratuitous plot to appease the “pure proggers” among us with a “15/8” section. “See?  Now get outta my face!  You can’t say this 21 minute longe suite of songs isn’t ‘prog’ now!”  😉

Truth be told, you might be better advised to start this album on track #7.  Take in the straight-forward Chris song “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”.  Move onward to the more diverse and emotional “Life on a Film Set”.  Flow into Steve Howe’s sincere folk rock on “Hour of Need” before deeply drinking in his solo acoustic guitar piece “Solitaire”.  Allow
yourself to appreciate and enjoy the strong band composition “Into the Storm”.

By the time you arrive back at Track #1, you will already know what this album is going to be about.  You won’t get “teased” by the first 90 seconds of a 20+ minute “suite” into thinking the album might be a Prog Masterwork or even a Drama type rock-fest.  This album is a gentler, less ambitious set of high quality songs from a mature group of gentlemen with nothing left to prove.  And while this album is far from the most “progressive” thing currently
on my mp3 playlist, neither is it the most lifeless or uninspired. 

In the grand scheme of things, this album, although very good, is non-essential.  Even so, anytime a classic band from Prog’s yesteryear releases a set of songs this inspired, I can’t help but think it makes an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.  Just be sure to buy “Close to the Edge” first!

Pressing Forward!

Here’s our new WordPress page. You’ll see that there’s a Now Playing and Playlist button right above this. Enjoy!

Kevin Bartlett – Glow In The Dark

Glow In the Dark Cover

It’s about 2:45 AM. I’m at work. There’s nothing much to do except check on the kids every half-hour, do a little paperwork, and occasionally give one of the kids permission to use the bathroom. So I’m listening to the CD that just arrived today – Kevin Bartlett’s “Glow In The Dark” album. This is probably a bad idea, since I’m not used to staying up all night and this chair is rather comfy and the music is rather mellow. The slip that came with the disc mentioned that it’s supposedly “Soundtracks to the movie in your head.” So I wouldn’t really call what follows a “review,” just thoughts on the music and the images that occurred to me while I was listening to it for the first time.

  1. “Nothing Really.” Actually, there’s something there. It’s a slow-moving, atmospheric piece featuring a few different synths. Kind of an introductory soundscape of sorts. Sounds like night time in an old abandoned part of town with a full moon and someone lurking about.

  2. “The Sorrow, The Fish, and Glastonbury Hill.” This one has some vocals – but not in English. There’s also some sense of a beat in the arpeggiated synth part, which soon gives way to some harpsichord and drums, along with more synths and vocals. It doesn’t even feel the need to stay in 4/4 the whole time, giving 7/8 a try for a while. There’s also a bit of guitar in there but it’s processed to the point where I can’t really tell if it’s supposed to be a guitar sounding like a synth, or a synth emulating a guitar-ish tone. I’m trying to figure out if the title refers to the different parts of the song, or if it’s just a title. If that’s the case, I think I liked “The Fish” part the best.

  3. “God’s Little Do-Over.” I’m not thrilled with the title. The God I believe in doesn’t need a do-over, but regardless, this is a review of Kevin’s music, not theology. So, the music is again rather slow and mellow, but not completely devoid of a beat. This one sounds like the docks at night. That guy is still sneaking around for the first half of the song, then apparently he finds what he’s looking for because the drums kick in and things get happy – in a dreamy sort of way.

  4. “Chauncey Saucer Survives 2012” might take place on a different night altogether. As you might expect from the title, it’s got a mysterious sci-fi sort of feel to it. I hear an occasional Eastern scale being used in here, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing them here and there in other tracks as well. Anyhow, this is the most spirited track so far, with an upbeat tempo and a few guitar parts, which now I’m relatively certain are real guitars. With lots of delay and echo on them.

  5. “Moon v. Moon.” I really like that title. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe on a planet with two moons, one of them might eclipse the other. At nearly 12 minutes, this is the longest song on the disc. The first few are very soundscape-y again, with the eventual introduction of a piano, followed by some other instruments. It sounds like a slow-motion scene in a movie where someone is mourning a recently-lost loved one. Of course, after writing that, the drums kick in and it becomes a lot happier, kind of like one of those summer rainstorms where the sun comes out immediately afterward and makes everything seem okay again. But we soon return to the soundscapes at the beginning, making for a nice musical sandwich.

  6. “Stethoscope” has some underwater-type sounds accompanied by a low rumbling wind and a high-pitched soft feedback-ish sound. Not at all what I expected from the title. The chord structure/melody is laid down by a nice electric piano with a cool vibe effect. Sounds a bit like a desert on a hot dry day. Yes, I know, deserts are almost always hot and dry during the day. It’s just my interpretation, don’t worry about it. Feel free to buy the album and make up your own interpretation. In fact, I rather encourage it, this is a neat exercise, although possibly one I’ll look at after having had some sleep and decide it isn’t worth publishing.

  7. “Resuscitation” is a definite departure in that it starts off with drums and guitars. The tempo is still fairly slow and the mood is still pretty dark. But the song is short (2:21) and it’s gone before it can really develop much.

  8. “Glow In The Dark.” The title track feels like something that would fit in on a Peter Gabriel album. The tempo is a bit faster and there’s a beat and the instruments move and the guitars strum rather than drone. Wait a minute! There’s an abrupt change of mood in the middle! It totally caught me off guard and I made an odd face at the laptop. I like how he changed it so abruptly and then took the next minute or two to slowly and subtly bring it back to where it was. It’s exit music for a film – perhaps the one we’ve been watching the whole time. The credits are rolling, the good guys have won, and all is right with the world. Then why are there two more songs? Perhaps you should listen to this on shuffle and hope that this one ends up last.

  9. “Something Probably” is – I’m guessing – a follow up to the first track. It does seem to have a more definite, clear picture than “Nothing Really.” Still, it’s quite relaxed and after the organ intro there’s one of those “ahh choirs” I never really know what to do with on my keyboard. Which is perhaps why I play the guitar instead, or at least more often than the keyboard. A little more than halfway through some bell-like sounds come in and the pace picks up. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t stay for the whole rest of the song. What did come as a surprise was the odd change in mood in the last few seconds of the song. Nice touch.

  10. “Next Life… Let’s Just Wave To Each Other.” I’m pretty sure Van Der Graaf Generator didn’t do anything even remotely related to this. We’ve got more soundscapes, which gradually build up into a sort of lullaby. Sounds like there’s a gentle rain outside and you’re sitting pensively in the window just letting the rain fall and you’re completely at peace, even though something sad happened but you’ve accepted it.

Par Lindh Project – “In Concert – Live In Poland.”

This is a real treat for anyone who misses ELP-style neoclassical prog.  Par Lindh has taken up the reins of that style and continued in the tradition of both covering classical music in a keys/bass/drums trio format, and creating new works for just such a trio.  Par Lindh plays surrounded by about 6 or 8 keyboards, often switching back and forth between them with lightning speed for only a few beats at a time on any one.  William Kopecky plays fretted and fretless basses with impressive precision and feeling, and Svetlan Raket pounds away on the drums in tasteful and powerful style.

Not only are we treated to over an hour of Lindh’s original compositions and classical covers, there’s the mysterious “Suite In Progress.”  As Lindh explains, “this is so new it doesn’t have a name yet.”  But he promises that it will be on the next album, with vocals added.

Check it out.  Good stuff for all you ELP-style neoclassical prog rock trio fans.  Go to Par Lindh’s website for more info. http://www.parlindh.com/

RC2 – Future Awaits

RC2 – Future Awaits

New to the station – RC2’s “Future Awaits.”  This promo from ProgRock Records just arrived the other day, a couple of weeks before its release date.  They promote themselves as a prog metal band reminiscent of Dream Theater.  Now, I think that many DT fans will enjoy this RC2 disc, but for the most part I don’t hear much of a similarity.  It’s heavy in places, and certainly progressive, but a bit too broad in its influences to be pigeonholed as prog metal in my mind.  There are some instrumentals (which I preferred over the vocal tunes, but that’s typical for me) that show off the bands prowess on their instruments and creative abilities.  The vocals aren’t bad but I must admit I would have really loved this if it were 100% instrumental.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – Grand Opening and Closing

Grand Opening and Closing

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is in my opinion one of the best new bands in prog and music in general. They push the boundaries just like Magma, Frank Zappa, and King Crimson. That I have dropped the names of those three bands is no accident, because Sleepytime is on par with those three greats. Grand Opening and Closing is one of the best debut albums I have ever heard, but like every debut it suffers from inexperience.

Sleep is Wrong: completely chaotic, yet completely organized. This could be considered the essential Sleepytime song. The way this group changes tempos and beats so suddenly is just amazing and the stop in the middle adds to the effect. Throughout the song, you can hear a rumbling bass which completely overpowers the listener without overpowering the song. My favorite part is at about 1:50; Nils Frykdahl’s barking of the lyrics fits perfectly in this section, and in the entire song as well. The finale has so much energy and the bass gets a boost in the mix, completely overpowering both listener and song, in a good way. Of note is just how well Carla’s beautiful voice contrasts with the grating of Nils at the end.

Ambugaton is a much more controlled song. It is quiet through the first 3 minutes, slowly building up until the guitar and drums reek havok. A very good instrumental track until around 4:35, when Nils cries out ‘Ambugaton!’, which means ‘Extreme chaos resulting in a community that was once peaceful.’ If one listens to the track again after knowing this, then everything makes sense. One word has never meant so much.

Ablusions begins with Carla’s first lead vocal performance. The track could almost be considered ambient until the wind chimes come in. Another good duet between Nils and Carla. One thing which could potentially be annoying is the whispered counting after the duet. But it works in the context of the song. The interplay between instruments to vocals is great, not to mention the more standard instrumental interplay. This song is quieter than the previous two because it is meant to be a lullaby, or if its the Sleepytime I’m thinking of, a satire of a lullaby.

1997, my favorite track along with Sleep is Wrong and Powerless, starts off with a siren in the distance, coming closer until the guitar takes over in an incredible riff. Their most accessible track, and only straightout rocker on the album. Unfortunately, its flaws show after repeated listens. Whereas the rest of the album is a grower, this is a great song which gets bland instead of improves after listening to it. Reason being that it does not have the subtleties of the other songs. Still an amazing track for its catchy riffs and interaction between guitar and violin.

The Miniature is a short little interlude with cartoony violin work. Pretty entertaining actually.

Powerless is interesting from the first bass hit. Guitar and random sounds work around the bass for the two minutes until Nils jumps in with vocals, from then on the song gets very heavy, its probably the heaviest on the entire album. Best part of the song: the bassline at 3:59. Nils gets my vote for best vocalist because of this song. Despite the title, this song is VERY powerful. It potentially could drag on because it is over nine minutes long, but that is only if you do not enjoy avant-garde music. It is nine minutes well spent in my opinion because it stays interesting and changes itself up throughout. Probably the best song on the album.

The Stain has the most simple lyrics, presented humorously. The riffs that tie this song together sound random, but when Sleepytime uses random, the result is a completely organized and logical song. Again, the bass’ prominant lines blow the listener away. Near the end though The Stain kinda gets into an aimless improv but it picks up in the last minute. More interesting than mindblowing. Not as good as the songs which preceded it.

Sleepytime is an odd song. It builds up slowly for a few minutes and climaxes, sounding almost jazzy, the drums, guitar, and that amazing bass all doing their own thing, fitting in a part of the puzzle. The arrangements are weaker on this track than anywhere else on the album. All in all, a little bit of a disappointment, but worth listening to for the climax I mentioned.

Sunflower…should have been left off.

Grand Opening and Closing has something many great albums lack, an almost impossible amount of energy and emotion not just from the vocalists, but from the instruments themselves. Each song sounds different and unique, from the hard rocking 1997, to the powerful ballad Powerless, to the ‘lullaby’ Ablusions. The bassist, Dan Rathbun, is a god! By the way, the inexperience I said earlier that it suffered from: it is only noticable when you listen to their next album!

Neal Morse – “?”

Neal Morse – “?”


Neal Morse - ?


The other day, my roommate told me that eating an apple will wake you up more than a cup of coffee. I tried out the “apple in the morning” trick today and I’ll say I definitely didn’t have any problem with falling asleep on the way to work.

Of course, that might have been due at least in part to the extremely invigorating (and I must admit… LOUD) listening to Neal Morse’s “?” album. I’m not sure if it’s a song, a story, a sermon, a musical, or all of those tied together. Did I mention it’s invigorating? Wow. Yep.

In progressive music, the music is as important – in some cases, more important – as the lyrics. The music here is incredible. Neal has surrounded himself with extremely talented musicians and gives them free reign to go nuts within the framework of his compositions. Well, to put it more accurately, they were co-written with Randy George and Mike Portnoy, but Neal is the primary singer, songwriter and composer here. The music is a bit heavier than his previous work, but not so heavy that I’d call it prog metal. It’s getting close though. I like my music heavy but I’m not into metal, and this is right there on the edge between the two in places. Which is not to say that it’s not still melodic and it certainly has its more mellow sections that you’d expect from Neal’s work.

Did I mention that it’s all one song? Not all one CD track, but the whole thing goes through for about an hour without stopping. The different tracks have different styles and all but they’re skillfully woven together into one composition like a patchwork quilt.

Now, the lyrics. It has long been my opinion that Neal is a good lyricist. Not really a great lyricist, but still quite good. That hasn’t changed here, but it feels like he has dug quite a bit deeper in his bible reading for the content on ? than on his previous effort, One. The concept deals with the tabernacle in the wilderness, the sacrificial system, the differences between the accepted and unacceptable sacrifices and people, and the Savior who did away with the old system through his substitutionary atonement.

Somehow he manages to do all this without sounding preachy or going over the listener’s head. And it’s entertaining! It switches between a story of a cripple who can’t enter the temple (due to his disability) but longs to, and teaching sections that explain a little bit about the hows and whys of it all. I’ve never heard anything quite like it, and I’m guessing neither have you.

Coste Apetrea – “Rites Of Passage”

Coste Apetrea – “Rites Of Passage”
(c) 2006 Lion Music
Coste Apetrea - Trickster

Who or what is Coste Apetrea?  That was the first question I asked myself.  You have to understand that when the package arrived from Lion Music (http://www.lionmusic.com), the discs enclosed were all promo copies without any artwork.  So, being the uneducated progster that I am, I didn’t know if it was a person or a group or what.  Instead of doing research first, I popped it in the car CD player (my regular critical listening environment) and let my ears do the research.

My first reaction was one of surprise.  I had been led to believe that Lion Music was a prog metal label, but while this was heavy, it was not metal.  It screams “prog!” and in places whispers “fusion!” so it was right up my alley.  The amazing thing about it is that it is such a varied yet cohesive album.  The songs differ from each other, and of course the beginning may be entirely different from the end, but yet it doesn’t make the listener feel like he’s being dragged from one extreme to the other.  The music is complex, but not in a math-rock sort of way, and it’s all infused with a certain degree of fun which brought a smile to this reviewer’s face many times.

So, who or what is Coste Apetrea?  After doing some internet research, I found that he is (or was) the guitarist from Samla Mammas Manna, the acclaimed Swedish prog band.  Cool!  That’s the second amazing thing about this album.  It’s a guitarist’s solo album, but not in the same vein of something Joe Satriani or Steve Vai would do.  These aren’t “listen to me play guitar in multiple styles” songs, they’re full band songs.  The compositions aren’t guitar solo vehicles, they use the entire group and allow for interplay and solos from other musicians.  And the other musicians aren’t bad either.  Two of the songs have vocals, and they sound good (not always the case with guitarists’ solo albums) and they don’t detract from the instrumentals one bit.  That said, if they hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have missed them or felt the album was lacking even a little bit.

This is truly progressive music.  It has gone beyond what I’ve heard before.  That, in my opinion, is the best thing I can say about an album.

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