Ted & Majella, Better Together, 2017

ted & majella - better togetherThe Ted in this release is famed guitarist Ted Turner, whom you might know from his days in Wishbone Ash, or the couple of tracks he played on John Lennon’s Imagine album. Majella is not only his wife, but also a singer and together they invented a new genre called new age soul.

Well I will be honest as always, to me this sounds like a singer songwriter album with lots of pop sensibilities and with heartfelt guitar playing (imagine a bit more rocking version of Mark Knopfler). Yes, there is lots of soul present in the songs, but coming from inside, not akin to the musical genre. And I guess the new age bit refers to their look at the world we live in today. “Everything has a relationship, we are nature, and systems only exist through collaboration. And are bigger than us.”

Nothing wrong with that of course and despite my critique about the genre tagging, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the music. It might be more light-footed compared to the stuff I usually listen to, but everything, from the playing, to the sound, and to the delivery oozes class.  Majella has a pleasant voice and her melodies work. The result of all this, is that the album radiates a passion. For life, for each other, and for nature.

So this is beautiful from start to finish and in my opinion suited for the majority of the people. Dreamy and sometimes intense!

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XSyntax, Watermusic, 2017

xsyntax - watermusicXSyntax is the alter ego of fellow Dutchman and synth enthusiast Richard Aardenburg. Richard claims to be influenced by Rick Wakeman, Jean Michael Jarre and Tomita and describes his music as a mix of EDM, ambient, downtempo and urban. And this is his first release.

Alas I am not an expert in these genres. All I can say is that since most of the songs have beats in them, EDM seems closest, with a bit of ambient here and there. But maybe that’s just me.

For him, music is like water, so it can come in different modes and shapes. So where I was expecting songs around a theme of water, this is not the case here. Instead we get songs like the calm Dream On, the uptempo Technix V where sequencers and beats dominate, or the mid tempo Caravans In The Desert.
There are 11 songs and a bonus track on the album, and most of the songs are around 3 minutes.

I think the ideas are there, but XSyntax needs to work a bit more on finding a good balance in the mix. In some tracks certain parts are so much louder, they drown out the rest. What is good is that he keeps trying to find new sounds to use. Also he always works with melodies, but could sometimes do with a bit more arrangement. A drum computer and a melody does not always give enough body to the songs. But again, that is just my opinion.

If you are into the genres mentioned, check for yourself!

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Hadal Sherpa, Self Titled, 2017

hadal sherpaFrom Finland comes this 5 man instrumental progressive rock band. And while we have discussed instrumental prog here before, Hadal Sherpa manage to add a new dimension to the sounds previously under scrutiny. The album came self released in June 2017 and landed on my desk earlier this year.

So what sets these guys apart from for instance Sunrise Auranaut or Murder And Parliament? Well, one of their main melody instruments is the flute. I think that this not only gives a sometimes folky feel to the melodies, but because of the nature of the instrument, also creates leads that are easy to follow and very melodic. Some of their work has a wonderful Eastern flavour to it. Check for instance Chafa Azeno.
And now on to the guitar. It is of course obvious to use the guitar as a solo instrument. But these guys treat their rhythm guitars a bit more different than usual. It’s often more about the groove and feel of the songs, than it is about power. One could consider it more funk than rock, but in this case it works just fine.

I think the best thing about an album like this is that you never miss the vocals. All songs grab you, with good melodies, from whatever instrument they chose to put central stage.  So the 8 tracks and over 68 minutes entertain me with ease.

Great job, beautiful artwork too by the way, and an album that crosses borders so should also be of interest to people outside the prog community.

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Sunroad, Wing Seven, 2017

sunroad - wing sevenSo while we are talking about Fred Mika, I might as well tell you about the latest effort from Sunroad as well (thanks Fred for sending it to me!). Obviously already album number seven for this band and when you listen to it, it is crystal clear they are an experienced outfit.

The band play a mix of hard rock and metal with slight progressive overtones. Singer André Adonis has a bit of a raw edge to his voice, but nowhere near as sharp as one Axl R. And because of the added vocal harmonies, it stays melodic. Guitarist Netto Mello is an absolute find who combines flashy shredding with melodic phrasing. Listen to the instrumental Day By Day and be amazed. The band is rounded out by bass player Akasio Angels and of course Fred on drums.
That the band know how to write classy tunes is clear from the start. Destiny Shadows and White Eclipse waste no time in introducing a band on fire. In The Sand has also been released with a video on YouTube and combines a firm riff with all the qualities the band has to offer.
They also not shy away from a surprise like Tempo (What Is Ever), which is a full a capello intro to Whatever. Skies Eyes on the other hand is a ballad typed song with acoustic guitar and keyboards in the intro, after which the band takes over.

This is a band that many would enjoy, they deserve a much bigger audience. I include the In The Sand video to help spread the word 🙂
Also, Rock Company has limited quantities available.

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Lesoir, IV Latitude, 2017

lesoir - latitudeWhile I had heard about the band Lesoir, this is actually my first time hearing one of their albums. And the album in question is (probably) their fourth. In case you are unfamiliar with the band, they operate in the progressive rock genre, are Dutch, but have managed to enlist John Cornfield behind the mixing desk for this one.

The result is an album that, despite deservedly being tagged as progressive rock, breathes a very open atmosphere. This has a mighty (and) transparent sound. The dynamics are awesome and the band really shine. In fact, I found it so hard to find a name that would give you hints about this, I just gave up. As far as my knowledge goes, this is unique.
The best thing about it however, is that the music and melodies keep reaching out to you. The melancholy infused in the writing is impossible to resist, I just have to give it my full attention every time I play it. And whether they rock out or give you a sparse accompaniment of the beautiful singing, it feels good and accomplished in every sense.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the flow throughout the album means you have to hear it from start to finish. It is almost like all the songs need each other to exist.

By now I am sure you will have understood I am very impressed. And if forced to give you a song that showcases all of Lesoir’s talents, try Eden’s Garden. Wow!

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Murder and Parliament, Self Titled, 2017

murder and parliamentNot sure, but think this is the first Bad Elephant release on the blog. With more to follow, rest assured 🙂 Murder And Parliament is in essence Tom Slatter, with the help of Alun Vaughan on bass and Chrissie Caulfield on violin.

What Murder And Parliament bring is instrumental music that most people will categorize as progressive. When comparing this to for instance Sunrise Auranaut, this turns out a completely different animal. This goes from ambient soundscapes to thriving rock.
I guess for many the complexity will come across as similar to that of SA, but I think the biggest difference is that Murder And Parliament more often use recurring themes and melodies. Sometimes to such an extent that the melodies overcome the complexity and songs like Crookedness or Firecracker nest themselves pretty quick in your system. Which will surely help them to find their audience.
While I understand that instrumental music is not for everybody, when the melodies are good and recognisable, this helps to connect to the music. So in that light, this is a release that should find a home with many prog heads.

It never gets too heavy or too complex, shows a clever sense of arranging and the songs are just too good to ignore. Yes you need to keep an open mind about it, but it will be worth it. Job well done!

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Syzygy, Misconnected Man, 2017

syzygy - misconnected manFrom Gainesville Florida, USA, comes this trio, an alignment of 3 celestial objects (which is what Syzygy literally means). And while this is not their first release, this is de facto their official full length debut. And when I add that it contains 6 tracks and totals almost an hour of music,  all bets are off as to what musical genre we can expect. But beware of confusion, I know of another US band called Syzygy that released for instance A Glorious Disturbance in 2012, but that seems a whole other band.

I don’t think any progressive rock trio can avoid being compared to Rush, and in this case we are talking pre keyboards Rush. So the music is an amalgam of styles yet will stay firmly within rock territory. In first song, the title track Misconnected Man, we are not only treated with more twist and turns than the average coastal highway, it also features a great lyric! Talking of lyrics, most of them are fairly short, the band seem hooked on throwing in a bunch of instrumental ideas and go places. Luckily they know how to keep it all together so they never lose the plot. Another good thing is they not only vary themes and rhythms, but are not afraid to put dynamics to good use either. So a song can go from almost whisper soft to metallic and will keep you on your toes.

All in all I really enjoyed listening to this and am confident that prog aficionados will too.

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Vantomme, Vegir, 2017

vantomme-vegirAh, another Moonjune Records release. And featuring none other than the mighty Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Stick Men) on bass! Vantomme is the project led by Dominique Vantomme (keyboards, Ana Popovic, Vaya Con Dios, Viktor Lazlo)) who wrote all the songs/ jams that Tony contributed to, together with Michel Delville on guitar (The Wrong Object, Machine Mass) and Maxine Lenssens on drums.

Now this introduction should tell you a couple of things. First, yes it is instrumental and probably falls into the jazz / fusion category. Yes, this music takes time to digest as most of the themes incorporated in the songs will not show themselves in the first (few) rounds. Still, some songs do have a fairly quick impact, like opener Double Down or the haunting Sizzup. Other songs remind of the soundscapes King Crimson do. Something Levin is of course very familiar with.
Guys like this are ace players, capable of taking everything that is thrown at them into their own hands and turn it into something special. Yet in all honesty, the result is not always easy on the ears. So people expecting  straight forward songs should be beware that this might disappoint them. For the adventurous amongst us, this is a discovery that will last you a long time. And not only for funny song titles likes The Self Licking Ice-cream Cone!

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Marygold, One Light Year, 2017

marygold - one light yearOh, this must be the wet dream for those progressive rock lovers that keep stuck in the seventies. Italian band Marygold have delivered an album that sounds modern and up to date, but is filled to the brim with the musical concepts that formed that classic era of prog.
And is that a bad thing? Well, I suppose that depends on where you stand on the matter. Is it really progressive to play music akin so much to that fruitful period in time? But let’s not get trapped in that discussion and focus on what the band deliver.

And what the album brings, besides the unique vocal delivery of Guido Cavalleri (who also adds flute), is 7 songs with a total playing time of over 56 minutes. So yes, there are two 10 plus minute epics present. But most of all, the release has depth and attracts the listener with well written and executed songs. I hear a lot of influences from the neo-prog of early Marillion, so it is no surprise various members once started in a Marillion cover band.
But no all too obvious copying here, the band convince in every department. The songs flow, and are kept in balance with clever arrangements and solos and or breaks on the right spot. All enhanced by a transparent, yet powerful production.

So in itself a very pleasing album to listen to, and one that will be lapped up by the prog community.

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Dawson Rutledge, Monsters, 2017

dawson rutledge - MonstersOne of the best things about doing this is that you get to hear a wide variety of music. And since variety is the spice of life, this album is been making quite a few rounds in my CD player lately.
The 19 year young Dawson Routledge is a fairly new name on the scene, delivering his first official album here, the 9 track album Monsters.

Probably best described as a mix of soft rock, pop, jazz and folk, Monsters has turned out to be quite the laid back affair. But of the kind that grabs you with an unique voice, clever lyrics and a delivery that is beyond Rutledge’s years.
Sometimes a song starts with a hook that makes you wonder if you have heard it before, but in the end this is all original. The overall sound is warm and does justice to the songs that are carried by their pop sensibilities and folky arrangements. It is clear that he is serious about his craft, especially since his picking skills are on par with his vocals. And the subtle rhythmic changes are often the icing on the cake.

Personal favourites are When Life Gives You Monsters and Heavy Heart, but there are enough choices to please many.

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