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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Security Project - Contact

It’s been a good while since I reviewed another live release from one of the most mind-blowing tribute bands honoring the solo career of Peter Gabriel. Last year, they released their third live album entitled, Contact. The concerts were recorded between the States in November of 2016 and in Japan in April of last year. I’ve always admired of what Security Project has been doing by honoring Gabriel’s work to show more and staying true to his vision.

In October of 2016, Happy Rhodes took over vocal duties and taking over Brian Cummins who appeared on the first two Security Project releases (Live 1 and Live 2). When I first heard Security Project’s music back around that time frame in 2016, I was completely spellbound on how they captured Gabriel’s career work. And while they threw in some of the work he did with Genesis including two of the tracks from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, I knew right away this was not just a tribute band, but keeping the vision of Peter Gabriel’s machine going.

There are 11 tracks on Contact. One of which is a Kate Bush composition from her fifth studio album in 1985, Hounds of Love. The reinterpretations of the classics bring new life and seeing where Security Project will take them next into. Happy Rhodes’ vocals on Mother Stands for Comfort, is one of the most smoothing and ominous compositions thanks to Trey Gunn’s touch guitar that creates this jazzy scenario as Cozzi’s marching guitar rhythm takes a walk into the unknown.

The walking into the mysterious jungle of the wild on No Self Control is walking through a dangerous maze with traps. Jerry Marotta’s percussion adds the tension and the danger that comes with it and watching your step after the maze. If you make one wrong step, you’re dead. The music adds the tension as the vocals of the titled line is a chilling response and knowing that the pain can be excruciating.

Security Project delve into the waters of King Crimson’s THRAK-era with the song, Intruder. Rhodes makes you feel as if she’s hypnotizing you while Cozzi, Marotta, and Jameson created these visual mysterious effects as if something terrible is creeping up behind you and the danger is towards the victim and there’s no chance in hell of escaping.

Jameson’s keyboards set up the scenario of the News crew arriving to see what is happening to know what is true or false and knowing that the killer is ready to hunt its next target before the rhythm section sets up the intensity of what he’s doing next on the haunting version of Family Snapshot. The seguing between Games without Frontiers and Of These, Hope from the score of Scorsese’s 1987 controversial classic, The Last Temptation of Christ, is an interesting combination.

You have the twist of war along with the diplomacy being a children’s game and the line “Jeux Sans Frontieres” and becoming this cat-and-mouse section of what to do in case of the dangers the politicians doing one thing wrong after another it suddenly changes as the atmosphere becomes ambient as Marotta and Cozzi follow suit and knowing that the rope is close to being loose and there’s about 25 seconds to climb up.

It gave me chills when I listen to this. It felt at times like a suite of the two Gabriel compositions and knowing that Security Project got it nailed down on wood. This is my fourth and fifth time listening to Contact. And I have to say I’m very impressed of what they’ve accomplished and I hope one day they come to Texas. This is worth checking out and they’ll start touring at the late end of May on the 24th at Woodstock, NY at the Bearsville Theater to a two-day gig in Canada between Toronto and Montreal.

So if you admire the first four albums of Peter Gabriel's solo career before hitting the big time with So, please check out Security Project which they'll appear at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY on Thursday May the 24th. You won’t be disappointed.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Chris Squire - Fish Out of Water

By 1975, Yes already achieved success with The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans, and Relayer. By that time period, the band took a hiatus after they finished touring during the promotion for Relayer as they decided to focus on solo projects. Steve Howe released Beginnings, Patrick Moraz did The Story of I, Alan White released Ramshackled, and Jon Anderson did his mind-boggling release of Olias of Sunhillow.

But then Chris Squire released his debut Fish Out of Water. Originally released on the Atlantic label in November of 1975, Chris’ debut album was like a breath of fresh air. And for him, on the album showing Squire’s support including Bill Bruford, Patrick Moraz, King Crimson’s Mel Collins, Caravan’s Jimmy Hastings, and childhood friend Andrew Pryce Jackman, who was with Chris in his first band, The Syn, worked on the orchestration for the album.

Hermann Hesse once said, “Solitude is Independence.” Squire knew he achieve his independency both of the bands and now in the solo chair. And since dawning upon this album back when I was in Houston Community College 11 years ago, and nearly forgot about until Esoteric making the announcement of reissuing Chris’ magnum opus, it was time to ride up on the ship once more by both discovering and the understanding that he was more than just an incredible bass player, and more than just being a member of both The Syn and Yes.

The name, Fish Out of Water, means that Chris whose nickname was “Fish”, wanted to be away from the Yes context and be “Out of Water”. For him to open the door to show the landscapes and beyond the topographic oceans that were close to the edge.

This year, Esoteric Recordings have brought the doors open and bringing Chris’ legacy alive with the amazing 2-CD reissue set that the first disc contains the new stereo mix by King Crimson’s Jakko Jakszyk, the second disc containing the original mix, and four bonus tracks including single versions (Lucky Seven and Silently Falling), and A and B-sides (Run with the Fox and Return of the Fox) of a Christmas single that he did with Alan White.

The opener Hold Out Your Hand, featuring the St. Paul cathedral organ done by organist Barry Rose and Squire’s killer introduction from his Rickenbacker before Bruford kicking into overdrive thanks to Jakko’s mix as the clavinet come to the center as Chris sings “You can feel it/coming with the morning light/And you know the feelings/gonna make you feel alright/Almost close enough to Hold Out your Hand/span the distance/store resistance/to attack is to retreat.

The lyrics have a spirituality vibration as if Chris is giving the listener to search for their inner self and be at peace with themselves to move forward. Jackman’s orchestration is lifting and soaring to be following Squire’s vocalizations and heading upwards to the heavens before coming back down to Earth by seguing into a romantic ballad of You By My Side.

Chris and Jackman share this emotional walking line that they do between their instruments. Chris’ lyrics tugs your heart as he’s bringing love and hope throughout his singing. And knowing that he’s always by your side and understanding that a brand new day is upon them.

The flutes are clearer in the new mix along with the Tubular Bells and its gives this warmth feeling that is almost letting the listener that everything’s going to be okay. The horn sections that Jackman’s arrangement gives, is in one word, hope. Silently Falling feels like something straight out of the sessions between Close to the Edge and The Moody Blues’ In Search of the Lost Chord.

I feel this nod to Ray Thomas’ flute playing that Jimmy Hastings does as if he’s honoring Ray’s improvisation as Chris opens the door to see what lies ahead between the band and the piano work as if the heavens are opening up for us to see what is to come. The improvisations shine brightly throughout the midsection as Squire gives each of the members some free-rein including some incredible organ work.

While Jackman helps out, Chris is very much like a conductor. And what he does is that he gives them ideas and some brainstorm moments by giving directions on where he wants them to go next. And it’s a great opportunity for his support team by letting him know, they’ve got his back. Lucky Seven is the song being in the time signature of 7/8. First it starts off with some Rhodes-like intro before Squire, Bruford, and Jackman go into space and time.

Mel Collins helps out on the controls through his sax while you hear this clapping rhythm in the background throughout the midsection as Bill himself is laying down some incredible work on his kit. Mel creates these improvisations throughout his sax as if he’s making sure the ship is ready to head back towards Earth. Knowing that he’s got back up, he and the members give Chris an amazing landing.

The closing track, Safe (Canon Song), is taking an example of closing the book and starting a new chapter. You have this amazing pastoral introduction from the string and harp section before Chris sings “When your savior lets you down/who will mind?/when your lover turns around/joy in the morning/love in the stars/peace and understanding/standing right beside you when you’re walking down the street/walk in time.

The symphonic beauty gives this warmth sun rising atmosphere as if a new day has arrived. And everything has to come full circle. Jackman’s arrangements really bring the hope of the new beginning. It’s a shape-shifting composition clocking in at 15-minutes and it is a great finale to close the album off. The bonus tracks on the second disc as I’ve mentioned earlier contains the original mix, single versions, and two bonus tracks that were released as singles in October of 1981 containing Run with the Fox and the instrumental version of Return of the Fox featuring Nikki Squire on vocals.

The song has this pop flavored touch that you can imagine this could have been written during the sessions for Supertramp’s Crisis? What Crisis? Squire and Alan White do well on the Christmas single and makes you feel that you were home on that December snowy evening to watch the trees, having hot cocoa, and opening your presents while seeing the snow coming down outside.

The 24-page booklet contains liner notes by Sid Smith describing the history of the album, interviews with Bill Bruford, Gregg Jackman (Andrew’s brother), Patrick Moraz, and Jakko Jakszyk about the album. Jakko’s new stereo mix on disc one is like a breath of fresh air. He’s not trying to re-write history on the album, but to honor Squire’s legacy and staying true to the multi-tracks on disc one.

He brings clarity that’s on Fish Out of Water. And I can imagine Chris would have been thrilled of seeing his 1975 solo album bring another life and Esoteric Recordings brings it back to give Chris the recognition he deserves. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Melted Space - Darkening Light

I can’t remember whether I’ve done a review on the genre of Metal. Whether it’s the Progressive or Symphonic genre, so it’s about time. And it’s been way overdue. This is a new area for me to discover this project called Melted Space. The brainchild behind Melted Space is French composer is Pierre Le Pape. Launched back 11 years ago, it was originally going to be an instrumental project, but Pierre wanted to take it as a step towards a potential ultimate in the style of The Divine Comedy.

The first release that Melted Space did their debut album which was self-released back in 2012 entitled, From the Past, then in 2013 they released an EP with Between, and then a second album in 2015 with The Great Lie. And now, this year, they’ve released their third album entitled, Darkening Light on the Sensory Records label which is a division from The Laser’s Edge.

With Melted Space, it’s not just a project, but a who’s who that appeared including; Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), Kobi Fahri (Oprhaned Land), Clemetine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis), Ailyn Gimenez (Sirenia), Attila Csihar (Mayhem), and Lisbeth Cordia (Eve’s Fall) to name a few. On Darkening Light, they include; Jeff Scott Soto (Sons of Apollo, Journey), Silje Wergeland (The Gathering), Oyvind Haegeland (Acturus), Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ) and Catherine Trottman.

The musicians on the new album includes; Pierre Le Pape on Keyboards, Adrian Martinot on Guitar, Brice Guillon on Bass, Mike Saccoman on Drums, and Gildas Le Pape on Guitar with a track called, Trust in Me. With the sounds being menacing, lifting, eruptive, and classical, Darkening Light combines these elements into this gigantic globe with this story reflecting the story of the creation of the world and rejected by the gods of man. Not to mention the killer artwork done by Adrien Bousson. And with five highlights on here, it’s peaked my interest.

The Void Before begins with this spacey operatic vocalization as if setting up the scenery on the creation of the earth featuring some Oldfield-sque piano, booming electronic drums as if they’re bringing the thunder as the climatic strings set up on what is to come in the segue with Newborns. Trottman’s vocals give you the scenario of the beginnings of Earth with its operatic vocals.

Soto and another female vocalist comes in setting up this duel on where do we go from next on another planet Earth before the synths and guitars set up the construction before Trottman sets this angelic arrangement. It’s a great introduction to start the album off with a bang. Then you have The Dawn of Man (I’m Alive!) which starts off with some fast-paced guitar intro on the frets before getting the guns rolled up.

Describing on who you can trust and knowing that you’re alive and not knowing who you are and taking control of the world whether god or creation, it comes with a penalty. It’s knowing that the tension it is not going to be easy to try them out and feel the anger and rage inside your body and get rid of it with one single shot. You have the beauty and the beast vocalizations on here.

There’s some elements of Power Metal and nod to Within Temptation’s Mother Earth-era thrown into the mix while the devastation of the tempos going into a fast-mode with some sing-along momentum From The Beginning to the End. You can feel the epic boundaries around you as the drums and guitar go into some rapid firing as the snarling cookie monster vocals chants come out of the blue.

Gildas does these incredible guitar lines as if he’s got the machine guns ready to reign fire on Trust In Me. He’s firing in a rapid range and shows no sign of stopping by going through the riffs and killer improvisations he brings to the table of Melted Space. He’s not just an amazing guitarist, but bringing the energy and electricity as a guest musician on the album.

This is my third time listening to Darkening Light. I will admit the death metal vocals didn’t grab me. I’m not that crazy about the vocals on here, but this album almost grabbed me at times. Now am I saying is this a great album? No, but Pierre has brought like a movie inside your head and showing on what is happening with the creation of the earth. All in all, Darkening Light is a not-so-bad release from the Sensory label.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Marbin - Goat Man and the House of the Dead

Now the title of Marbin’s sixth album, sounds like something Hunter S. Thompson could have used during one of his chapters either in Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 or in one of his essays, The Great Shark Hunt. But then, I begin to realize it sounds like one of those double features as a Grindhouse during those drive-in cinemas of the late ‘60s, early ‘70s.

Released in 2016 on the MoonJune label, they see themselves as if they were scoring a film set in the Spaghetti Western-era in Italy filled with an epic adventure that would have given the folks at Disney, the big giant middle finger on how a real western should be done instead of a singing princess in a frozen castle by letting it go.

They did the same thing on a track called Breaking the Cycle from Last Day of Dreaming released in 2013. And listening to Goat Man and the House of the Dead twice now, Marbin pays nod to the legendary filmmakers of Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci. The music captures some of the late ‘60s vibe by tipping their hats to Ennio Morricone and most of the time it’s showing how a real spaghetti western score should be done in the right way.

You can almost feel the essence of Uma Thurman’s character The Bride from the Kill Bill series returning for one last fight before returning to being a mother again on Goatman. This time it’s vengeance and Marbin’s nod to the Man with no Name and the Bride as if they teamed up together for a final showdown who have wronged both of them and ending to the sunset in black and white.

I love how in Whiskey Chaser that there’s a Malaguena riff intro that Dani does as jiracek’s galloping section on his drums before it transforms itself into a Surf sound reminiscing the late ‘50s/early ‘60s nod to The Ventures and Dick Dale with an intensive paced/speed-driven arrangement. But then Carnival comes along. There is this ominous/moody atmosphere that Rabin and Markovitch do as if they are driving into a ghost town.

You can feel the pins dropping at any moment by going into the abandoned locations as Dani’s guitar has these clean tones that sounds almost like Tony Iommi during Planet Caravan. It feels like an aftermath of the bloody aftermath of gunfight that had happened for the first 3 minutes and 12 seconds. It then changes into gear between the guitar and bass ready for another duel at the O.K. corral as if the Man with No Name isn’t done yet.

Markovitch comes in for another dualistic melody between him and Dani. Markovitch takes some of the middle-eastern vibes to follow pursuit between Rabin and Nadel by going in the lead. Not to mention some of the Coltrane improve he does on the sax. The last three minutes heads back for one last view of the dead as Rabin drives off into another sunset for the night to come down.

Goat Man and the House of the Dead, what a killer title. Again it sounds like a Giallo Spaghetti Western that Lucio Fulci could have used by collaborating with Dario Argento, is a very interesting release that Marbin released two years ago. But it shows the cinematic vibes they brought on here and the futuristic setting as if an Italian Horror Western film was made in the late ‘70s would have been the perfect choice for the movie inside your head.