Short-Take Reviews: All Those Other Discs - Page 4

Crack the Sky – Machine (2010 Aluminum Cat Recordings) Being a long-time Crack-Fan it’s always a delight to discover the band’s new music even when it’s not heavy on the prog-quota. That’s certainly the case for Machine, even though it starts off with a track called Overture this is not one of their overly proggy discs, unlike their previous disc The Sale. This is a band that goes through a lot of pendulum swings. Sometimes they pull out the stops and craft some very symphonic material and other times not so much. This is yet another concept album, something they’ve been doing a lot lately and yet here, the songs seem to stand more on their own. One doesn’t get a sense of musical gymnastics. That said there are quite a few longer songs, six, seven and even eight minutes, but I say again, the overall tone of these compositions tend to be just a little more straight forward in terms of structure. The musicianship is as expected first rate and Palumbo’s vocals are as always cool. There’s a fair bit of acoustic guitar in spots, which gives a bit of a different vibe for the band. And songs that tend to build in fullness going from soft and delicate to lush and orchestrated. And that’s really what it’s all about for Crack the Sky…fitting a good group of songs together to tell an interesting story. And they accomplish that very well here.

Anderson/Wakeman – The Living Tree (2010 Gonzo Multimedia) With Yes out on the road in yet another permutation, long-time members Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman took the opportunity to come together and record some songs, just the two of them. The nine compositions here are a personal, quiet, almost intimate collection of songs that are all around the four-minute mark, give or take. Anderson wrote the lyrics while Wakeman composed the music. The arrangements are intentionally sparse. In some cases its Jon’s voice and a piano. While listening one can’t help but hear musical references to each of their styles. It’s not music you might mistake for someone else. Their sound is unique and distinctive regardless of the structure of the piece. I’d hardly call this a progressive rock disc, but that’s really beside the point. It was not intended to be that, but rather a collection of tunes relevant to the two players right now. It’s a musical snapshot of two accomplished musicians. These pieces beg for your attention. They’re begging not only for your attention but your contemplation. There is no question that this is a disc that will be welcomed by fans of Yes and Jon and Rick.

Soft Machine Legacy – Live Adventures (2010 MoonJune Records) There is no question that Soft Machine’s legacy is held in high regard by progressive fans around the world, and thanks to the efforts of fan and MoonJune Records founder Leonardo Pavkovic that candle is being kept burning. Since their inception in 2002 as Soft Work, now Soft Machine Legacy, the musical inspiration sparked oh so long ago is being kept alive in releases such as this. Not only are fans treated to reworkings of the band’s classic material but they’re getting to hear new music that is every bit as vibrant, alive and experimental as the original. This disc captures the best of both worlds and does so in a live setting, that ads to the emotional tension of the musical performances. This is not easy music to play and yet the band consisting of John Etheridge (guitar), Theo Travis (sax, flute), Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums) manage to capture all the essence and feel of the original performances and more. Fittingly this disc is dedicated to Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean past members no longer with us. There is no question, based on what you hear on this disc, the legacy of Soft Machine is in good hands. If you’re a fan…this is well worth adding to your collection.

Salim Ghazi Saeedi – Iconophobic (2010 Independent Recording) There’s not much Progressive Rock coming out of the Middle East which is why this CD is going to stand out. Iconophobic is an instrumental concept album created by multi-instrumentalist Saeedi who’s based in Tehran, Iran. This is his fourth CD in a career that dates back to 2006. There are 13 tracks, most of which are in the three-minute mark, Each track comes off a little quirky, with many minor notes and chords cascading over keyboard strings or a flurry of distorted guitar notes is interrupted by some ethnic styled percussion or clean surf styled electric guitar layered over jazzy piano runs. One moment the music is upbeat and playful and the next it’s haunting and dissonant. It’s a fascinating and accomplished set of music that goes from being slightly symphonic, to trance, to ambient and then to something more jazzy and improvised. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. This is a very adventurous and experimental recording that will have instant appeal to fans of electric chamber rock.  Check out more at 

The Frankenstein Consort – Classical A-Go-Go (2006 SFZ Recordings) Many of you will be aware of pianist and composer Erik Lindgren from his work in Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. This disc is part of his rather prolific solo career. What we have here is the third contemporary classical recording that is just as much fun as it is stimulating. Calling upon a rather eclectic crowd of musicians Lindgren performs music that, and here I borrow from his promo material, “integrates scored acoustic chamber music with a rock aesthetic, reinforced by the use of drum kit scattered throughout the CD.” Bottom line is this is a way cool CD full of essentially classical material but performed with classical instruments in such a way that prog fans will love. It’s a bit chamber music, it’s a bit serious and then it’s a whole lot wacky. Take for example their version of Edgar Winter’s classic hit “Frankenstein”, or the heavily re-arranged Beatles tune “Tomorrow Never Knows”…ya gotta love it. This disc is as I said one part heady musicianship and one part smile. If you need a boost of flute, clarinet, bassoon and acoustic piano then this is just what you are looking for. Again paraphrasing the promo material this is art music that is both elevating and entertaining. I really enjoyed this. Check out the samples at .

Peter Princiotto – Life’s Mystery (2010 North America East Recordings) Many of you will be familiar with the prog band However who released a couple of well received CDs in the early eighties before going into somewhat a hibernation period. Founding member Peter Princiotto, himself a multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer has taken the opportunity to remaster both of However’s early releases (and included bonus tracks and expanded liner notes) and has produced a lovely new disc entitled Life’s Mystery featuring a selection of odds and ends that have been kicking around for some time. The promo material calls them a collection of revamped and previously unreleased original compositions. Besides showcasing a bevy of guest musicians, three of these tracks are performed with the other members of However marking kind of a reunion. The music runs the gamut of solo voice and piano or guitar, to more band oriented compositions. A wide range of musical styles are on display; everything from folk-rock, jazz, more proggy things. More than anything the musical feel here is warm and fuzzy. This is an intimate collection of tunes and they’re presented that way. Well-crafted and arty in its own way it’s a great disc to sit back to and appreciate the musicianship on display. For more details check out  

Inna Zhelannaya – Cocoon (2010 7d Media) Imagine if you will a blending of Peter Gabriel, Enya, Kate Bush and then add some additional Eastern European ethnic textures and influences and you’ll get a sense of what to expect on this disc. It’s an intriguing mix of old world and new world influences. Co-produced by Trey Gunn he also lends his Warr-guitar tones throughout. The music features long ambient passages punctuated by Armenian chanting. Zhelannaya is well known for her world music efforts having won many awards with releases that have charted well. This is her first North American release and features primarily old Russian Folk songs. The music on these nine, longish tracks is all rather moody and repetitious given the nature of the songs. The lines of a song are repeated with echo and start blending into each other building into walls of melody. The overall atmosphere is soft and delicate. Interesting stuff. Check out more at 

Robin Taylor’s Free Universe – Two Pack Minis (2010 Marvel of Beauty Records) Back with another set of great tunes is Robin Taylor, this time in an interesting 2-Mini-CD set. Disc A features three tracks recorded in 2010 with many of his current band members while Disc B features two 11-minute tracks. The music, especially on Disc B emphasizes the more jazzy, improvised side of the band. These compositions are long musical excursions with the emphasis on saxophones. Both the older tracks are quite intense, wall to wall notes, with everyone vying for attention. And it all works pretty well. On the newer material there’s a little more variety, softer interludes where the music becomes almost pastoral or ambient before picking up tempo and moving onto the next segment of composition. But again the primary sound here is the saxophone with everyone else providing the rhythmic foundation of one form or another. The newer material does feature a more proggy almost symphonic landscape in some sections such as the ending of “The Ghost of Goran” [9:56]. It’s always great to hear new stuff from Robin Taylor and hear his musical experiments. Find out more at

Theo Travis & Robert Fripp – Live at Coventry Cathedral (2011 Inner Knot Records) This is the second outing for Travis and Fripp following up on 2008’s Thread. The two of them performed four improvised concerts in May of 2009 and this is a recording of the fourth performance. As such we have Travis on flute and sax while Fripp of course handles the guitars. As you might expect, technology plays a major part in bringing their musical vision to life, with loops and echoes employed to craft some amazing sonic passages. Musically the sound is wispy, dreamy, ethereal even. The layers of subdued almost ambient musical tones float in and out of the spotlight. Rather than one solo while the other provide support, these two tend to share centre stage equally, each providing the yin for the other’s yang and yet the solos rarely if ever collide, rather they compliment. At one moment it’s smooth and melodic and the next a bit angular which is to be expected given the jazz heritage or interest from each of these players. There are nine tracks on the disc, five of them on the longish side, with the longest being a full 19-minutes. All in all quite an amazing set of music and certainly one fans will relish. 

Copernicus – Cipher and Decipher (2011 MoonJune Records) If you’ve never heard the music and poetry of Copernicus but are ready to take on something quite challenging this is a disc you may want to pick up. Typically filed under the Jazz heading, here the music is handled by a 13-piece group who improvise their notes around Copernicus’ vocal lines spoken rather than sung. His poetry style is one that hearkens back to the days of psychedelia, all free form and somewhat random. The music too this time around compliments that psychedelia although the jazzy flavor is still quite prominent. Like his other releases the music carries on its path while Copernicus takes his lyrical cues from it. His lines are delivered packed with emotion betraying a man almost tortured by the grander concepts of the being of the universe. He is definitely a “big-picture” guy. The disc features a total of 10-tracks mostly in around the 5-minute range. If you are up for the adventurous check it out.  

L’Impero Delle Ombre –I Compagni Di Baal (2011 Black Widow Records) This is the second release from the Cardellino brothers Giovanni (vocals, percussion) and Andrea (guitars) here with the musical assistance of Oleg Smirnoff (keyboards), Fabian Oliver (bass) and Dario Patrelli (drums). Musically there is a strong connection to Black Sabbath especially in the sound of the guitar. They even include a Sabbath bonus track – “Snowblind” which is spot on. This is a concept album inspired by a French TV series of the late sixties. As such there are a number of spoken word passages that sound as if they may have been taken right off the TV show. A few of the tracks offer up some great keyboard orchestration with the inclusion of some nice Mellotron but don’t be fooled this is first and foremost a hard-rock album with a great seventies vibe that sits very nicely next to your Sabbath collection. If this sounds intriguing you’ll want to check out

Trey Gunn - Modulator (2011 Gonzo Multimedia) I’m always intrigued with how creative people get their musical inspiration. It can come from anywhere and when you factor in what drives them to actually BE creative you end up with some fascinating stories. This is the latest recording from Gunn and it features him performing as the liner notes tell us “on top of a single, 51-minute live drum solo by Marco Minnemann.” The music goes from being groovy to angular, all of which is very much in keeping with Gunn’s musical approach anyway having spent time in King Crimson there is no question he knows the drill. So here, if you can imagine, the drum/percussion solo is going on and all the while Gunn is layering all manner of sounds and musical riffs on top to match the time and tempo. It’s quite surprising how well it fits. In fact if I hadn’t told you, you may not have gleaned it from the music. All of which I think says a lot about Gunn’s musical ability. You can count Modulator as yet another successful entry in his musical catalog and if you are a fan, you’ll undoubtedly want to add it to your collection. Check out more at:

Boris Savoldelli - Biocosmopolitan (2011 MoonJune Records) Now this is something you don’t hear every day. Other than a few instruments like bass, piano and trumpet all other musical “instruments” here are created vocally by Boris. This is his second release and it is really quite captivating from beginning to end; catchy riffs, moving vocal melodies, stirring musical hooks, they’re all over this disc, and it just sounds so cool. All sorts of technology is brought to bear in the creation of this music and yet, you never lose track of the fact that for the most part we’re listening to a guy’s voice make all these sounds and carry the tune. The overall musical vibe is influenced by a smooth jazzy feel, but you’ll also hear elements of blues, soul, South-African, psychedelia and rock music. The vocal lines are nicely layered with the right amount of contrasting harmonies and the “instrumental” foundation carries the tune. This is a really neat disc that I’d easily recommend to music fans open to listening to new things. That probably means you. Give it a spin. Check out more at: 

Gudars Skymning (2011 Black Widow Records) This is a neat trip back in time with a modern twist. If you enjoy the music of bands such as Mountain, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and other bands from the seventies this will be right up your alley. It’s all here for your pleasure, the crunchy guitars, the bluesy riffs, the searing guitar solos from twin guitarists trading off licks all layered on top of a percolating bass/drum rhythm section. Long chord openings building all kinds of tension and dramatics that then open up to more fluid lyrical portions, only to return to the riffs a little later. The lyrics are in Swedish, but that doesn’t really take away from the enjoyment as it’s the overall mood that is so captivating. Vague seventies musical reference points pop up all over the place and while the music is all very serious and moody I have to admit it’s also very engaging. Perhaps it’s that nod to nostalgia that I find so appealing. These are all pretty straight forward blues-based songs all-be-it with plenty of room for instrumental soloing. File this under seventies heavy blues rock. For more check out:

DVD REVIEW: Gong on French TV 1971-1973 (Gonzo Multimedia 2011) It was perhaps a strange twist of ‘fate’ that back in the sixties Daevid Allen who was touring as part of Soft Machine was refused entry back into the UK and thus was stranded in France only to form Gong. The band quickly adopted a bohemian hippie ethic, both in terms of music and lifestyle releasing a number of zany concept albums in quick succession. Much of that world is captured on this DVD collection of rare French television performances and documentaries that include both live gigs, interviews and even some of the spirit of the band following them around with hand held cameras. It gives a true glimpse into their world of the early seventies. There are five different programs or segments featured on the disc ranging in length 24-minutes, 12-minutes, 7-minutes, and the last two bits almost 5-minutes each. As the title states this is material from the very early seventies, the earliest being May of 1971. Two of the segments are in colour while the other three are B/W. For fans of Gong this is a treasure trove of vintage material showing the band at perhaps their most experimental best. I’m sure some of it has been floating around in fuzzy bootleg fashion as is typical of early TV material, but here you have the opportunity to see it in about as pristine shape as you can ever expect. It’s another great release from the folks at Gonzo Multimedia. You can find out more at