Doris Brendel & Lee Dunham, Mass Hysteria, 2020

Doris Brendel & Lee Dunham - Mass HysteriaRegular readers of the blog will surely have noticed the Doris Brendel name a couple of times. Her output in recent years has always been with Lee Dunham, who both also write the songs. And for these people it will not come as a surprise when I say I really like their music. So it gives me great pleasure to discuss their latest output, Mass Hysteria. Especially since I think this is one of their strongest efforts ever! (Not that they ever released anything sub-par)

Opener Takes One To Know One sets the tone for one of the most progressive albums of the duo. But that does not mean they sidetrack you with songs that take time getting in to. On the contrary, tracks like the opener, You Took My Breath Away, You’re Everything or On The Other Side nest themselves in your brain in an instant. And if there was any justice in the world, It Can Only Get Better would become the massive hit it deserves to be.

This is a great album from start to finish. One that people who normally do not listen to “progressive rock” will enjoy if they give it a chance. So maybe I should just call it a pop rock CD and send you on your way to get it?

Prime example of what to do when you’re stuck at home and cannot tour the world. Deliver class!

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Hepcat Dilemma, Art Imitates Life, 2019

hepcat dilemma - art imitates lifeTo the people that are into progressive music, especially when it borders on avant garde, and who miss hearing new ideas coming from Frank Zappa; fear not, because now there is this band whose music is as strange as their name: Hepcat Dilemma!

Built around the songs of Bob Loiselle (guitars and piano),  this trio (with Chris Colpo on bass and vocals and E. Hood on drums) prove they are not afraid to confuse you anyway they can. With songs like The Chauffeur Will Have The Last Word, Night Of The Spiders, Persian Monkey Treatment or What Will Her Kiss Mean Tomorrow? they keep firing idea after thought after break at their listener. All glued together in instrumental unison and with the machismo of scene veterans who play just for the fun of it and do not really think much about how they will be received/ perceived.

In a time where too many acts sound alike, these cats sure are a breath of fresh air. Probably not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you like a challenge, this sure is a collection worth diving into. Kudos gentlemen!

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Elaine Samuels & Kindred Spirit Band, Elemental, 2019

elaine samuels - elementalIn all honesty, for me this is a tricky one. Despite several spins, I am still unsure if I like what is going on on this album.

But let me take a few steps back first. I guess musically speaking, the progressive folk rock tag is fairly correct, There are flutes and violin, the music is dynamic and diverse and the lyrics are “percesptive and intriguing” to quote the press sheet.

But the problem for me lies in the fact that I think the flutes and violin often come too much to the forefront in the mix. And for me Elaine sings a bit too clinical. Somehow she sounds more focused on singing in tune than on singing with emotion. And for me that kind of kills the joy of listening. It might be just me though!

So if you are into female singers and like folk mixed with prog, you’d better give it a few spins yourself…

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RPWL, Live From Outer Space, 2019

rpwl - live from outer spaceAfter their 10th album Tales From Outer Space, RPWL made the rounds in Europe, often playing sold out venues but always to enthousiastic crowds.
So no wonder they decided to record their seventh live album (!). Released on double CD, vinyl as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, this set of course features their sci-fi inspired Tales tracks, as well as songs from their extensive back catalogue.

CD 1 holds 8 tracks, and CD 2 delivers 6 more. And with this experienced band, you know you get quality. Nice touch is these versions are sometimes extended with on the spot jams.

Not sure if it will bring them new fans, but I sure do not mind listening to this band!

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Yogi Lang, A Way Out Of Here, 2019

yogi lang - a way out of hereYes, the RPWL frontman has released another solo album. Since it is now a year old, I guess most of you will already have heard it and/ or picked it up. For those not yet familiar, if you like latter day Pink Floyd, you will like this too.

But in all honesty that is a bit too easy even when Yogi does have a vocal sound not unlike that of David Gilmour and the overal vibe is similar to PF.
But Lang again proves to be a creative songwriter who is able to churn out great melodies and who can pack melancholy in songs of love and hope. After all, when there is a way in, there is a way out…

So Floyd fan or not, surely worth listening to, and not only for prog lovers!

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Moon Letters, Until They Feel The Sun, 2019

moon letters - until they feel the sunOpener Skara Brae will tell you a lot about the music on this album; music that flows from neo prog to technical prog metal to more intimate almost folky music. But it wasn’t until the vocals started that a name from the past kept popping up in my brain, that of Klaatu! Moon Letters have the same knack for melody but have expanded the sound into a mix that many lovers of prog will surely embrace.

Worth noting is that they avoided the trap of over producing the album. So the technical proggy bits still sound fairly dry and sit remarkably well with the more neo prog and or folky segments. So when they move from a moog inspired synth solo to a more heavy guitar part, the album still breathes.
As a result the album impresses with quality songs and playing and above all melodies that stick. The fact that their songs range from 1 tot 9 minutes only adds to the many colours.

That’s a job well done!

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Life in Digital, Signs To The Far Side, 2019

life in digitalVia his busy social media activities, I have been following the steps of John Beagley for quite a few years now, even buying several of his releases. So it was nice to receive the promo for his second Life In Digital album. Which is John and singer Robin Schell (who is a dead ringer for Jon Anderson).

Knowing that John not only comes from an Eighties pop/wave background, but also is a massive prog fan, it will not come as a surprise that this album is an amalgam of those influences. On this, fans of the Trevor Rabin era of Yes will find many things to their liking. And for avid proggies who think nothing is prog unless a song is over a quarter long, the album opens with the 22+ minutes epic Karma. Nice thing about it is that they were not afraid to add more ambient soundscapes. The other songs are more in the 5-6 minute range but also showcase their talent.

This is a very melodic prog album with obviously a strong Yes reference. Thankfully the music can stand on its own and turned out to be entertaining!

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Suns Of The Tundra, Murmuration, 2019

suns of the tundraWhile I was working my ass off the last couple of months, in the very limited free time I had, this album was played quite often. And while it might not be an album that everybody will enjoy, I must confess I keep being very intrigued by it, and that is not because of the artwork. After numerous plays, I am still not exactly sure what its charm is.

Is it the prominent bass throughout, that keeps reminding me of Chris Squire and Geddy Lee? Is it the melodies that are slowly nesting themselves in my brain? Is it the diversity on display?

Well in any case this is a progressive album by name and nature. But based on songs with head and tail, rather than by an abundance of technique. Kudos for that.

So in the end I guess it is not really important what its key features are. What is important is that I never minded hearing it over and over again.  Job well done!

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Yuval Ron, Somewhere In This Universe, 2019

yuval ron - somewhere in this universeLet me first set the record straight on the title. The official full length title of this album is Somewhere In This Universe, Somebody Hits A Drum. Featuring Marco Minneman.

With that out of the way, a confession; I have played this album many times now, and I still hate the title track that opens the album. The wordless “singing” from Ron destroys it for me. And there are other spots which keep putting me of. Something to do with the label name; Wrong Notes… On the other hand, there are also moments that I enjoy very much, like in Wifi In Emerald City and The Discovery Of Phoebe.
The strange thing is that it is advertised as a progressive rock album while for me it is above all a fusion record. And while it is less free form as some other albums discussed on these pages, in my current mood I have a hard time connecting to this.

No discussion about the musicianship on offer, technically this is great. Guess my expectations were just wrong, and I might also not be in the right state of mind. For me it is now time to move on. Sorry!

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Bryan Beller, Scenes From The Flood, 2019

Bryan-Beller-Scenes-From-The-FloodSome musicians are so talented it’s almost inhuman. And when they often work with other guys whose chops are also out of this world, I get suspicious. Maybe the aliens are already amongst us and just dazzle us with their musical capabilities…

Well one can never tell for sure, but Bryan Beller sure is a guy that has talent in spades. And not just as a bass player, the job he’s best known for.

This double album proves he is much more. And thus delivers another album to prove people wrong who do not believe instrumental music can be as entertaining as vocals songs. (There are some vocals present on the albums by the way).
A lot of diversity on offer too, and all packed in Songs, not just your (above) average rifferama. From catchy to spectacular and everything in between, the album delivers! And accessible too, I loved it at first play. But that is not surprising or else I would have chosen other words to describe the joy of listening to this. Stellar!

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