Interview with Robert Berry about 3, 3.2 and his dear friend Keith Emerson

3.2Robert, I am a huge fan of 3 and bought “To The Power of Three” right when it came out in 1988. If I remember right, it started out with you being produced by Carl Palmer. After that, Keith Emerson came into the picture. Help me with my memory on this one. How did 3 come together?

First off Rob, I appreciate your interest in the new album and I thank you for the kind words on the first 3 album. As you know, it was an incredible time in my life. To start, Carl had received my cassette tape from John Kalodner at Geffen Records. John was grooming me for a solo deal and he felt I would be a good fit for ideas Carl had. Carl called me at my studio Soundtek. We tried to start a few bands. First off we had a meeting with Joe Lynn Turner but that didn’t work out. I flew to the UK and we tried a few rehearsals with Don Airyes (spelling?) but that didn’t work out. We were looking for the perfect combination of personality, skill, and to be honest, rockin’ enegy. Since we couldn’t find the missing link I joined Steve Howe in GTR replacing Steve Hackett. That was an amazingly good band. But internal struggles lead me to quit that and start the move home to California. The day before I left my manager at the time, Brian Lane, asked me if I wanted to meet Keith Emerson for lunch. HUH? well yeah! I was a little nervous to say the least. I thought Keith would be some mad genius that could barely speak in words I could understand. LOL. He was the exact opposite. Such a warm, sincere, and of course dedicated guy. We hit it off immediately. We had about a two hour lunch talking about the possibilities of starting a new band. HIs final question and the one that sealed the deal was “Robert if we toured this new band would you be opposed to playing a few ELP songs?’ Whew! that was an easy one. I simply said that I would never expect him to leave behind such a rich legacy in music. I would be honored. Of course I was thinking how hard could it be to sing Lucky Man lol. Nope, we did Rondo/America, Hoedown . Some tough stuff. But of course those were my roots from my early prog days with my band Hush. All indications from that first meeting were that I had met a guy that was not only one of the most famous players I had ever known, but a guy that was looking for something new and wanted to include me in that. To say I was excited, well you can imagine.

Emerson-Berry-Palmer

Musically, the songs came from you for the most part, but you did write with Keith. How was that for you?

It was a total group effort to be honest. Geffen had been grooming me as I said with songs like Runaway and Do or Don’t. They wanted those on the album and really we were trying to leave behind a bit of the old style prog of long songs and lengthy instrumentals. That said we knew we had to retain the musical integrity and still do some major musical pieces. We worked two ways. Keith would take my already written songs and arrange them to be suitable for his playing and ideas. That was not only a thrill for me but it was a lesson in Emersonizing I’ll call it. Truely an amazing thing to hear. Then there were pieces like the fantastic Desde La Vida that developed during rehearsals and I wrote melody and lyrics to what Keith played me. Also of course was the excellent addition of the Spanish which was Carl’s idea. We had fun writing that together. In the end that piece was divided into 3 writing sections but we really developed it together in the rehearsal room. Of course that all started with what Keith had presented. I want to make sure that everybody knows that Carl Palmer is not only a great drummer but he is never at a loss for ideas when songwriting is happening. He may not play a chord, but he can lead you to one he is thinking about. He may not be a lyricist but he can dive into the meaning and the image of what we were trying to get across. And he is so full of energy that it just makes the whole process that much better. The three of us were definitely a team. We were never at a loss for ideas.

R-9776153-1486171559-9203.jpegI loved the album and still listen to it to this day. I was surprised that the band fell apart. Was it just the spectre of ELP looming that did it?

Again I have to be completely honest here. There were two things that broke us up. The first was the criticism that was pushed on 3 as a band that played “songs”. The die hard ELP fan wanted the fancier, more complicated stuff. We did some of that but in general the ELP fans also wanted Greg back and only thought of 3 as the rock songs. This was hard on Keith. Fans wrote him letters that he really took to heart. They criticized everything from him playing on songs to having female backing vocalist on our tour. He took this very hard. You have to understand that he wasn’t only the greatest keyboard player in the world, he worked everyday on what he loved which was playing piano. It defined him to us, it defined him to him. You don’t get that good by doing it part time. Carl and I could feel the pressure he was feeling when we would be waiting to go on stage. The crowd would be chanting “Keith, Keith, Keith” and Keith would say , “listen to that, they are booing us”. Carl would look at him with a smile on his face and say “Emerson, don’t you realize they are chanting Keith”? He’d smile and we’d go on to a fantastic response.

The second thing was that we had a top 10 hit with Talkin’ Bout’ and Keith was excited about that success. Everywhere we went the radio stations would say how good that song sounded on their station surround by what was getting popular then , hard rock in a more grunge style. Then Geffen pulled the plug on releasing a second single with Lover to Lover and Keith was very disappointed. He said if they didn’t support us with a number 9 song on the charts they wouldn’t support us for a second album. At that point it all came crashing down and he was done.

cover_53261629122009You had material written for a second 3 album and some of it (or all of it?) wound up on your amazing solo album “Pilgrimage to a Point.” It also has songs from the second GTR album that you were going to be a part of as you had replaced Steve Hackett! How far did things get with the second 3 album before things ended?

Thank you for the vote for Pilgrimage. There were a lot of unrealized dreams contained in that album. As far as the second 3 album in 1989? not far Rob. I was flown to London to have a meeting with the team to end the company we had formed. My idea was to present the two songs I had written for the next album and of course – magically all would be ok. I played Last Ride into the Sun for them and Keith said “well that sounds like me”. I told him yes just think how it’s going to sound when you get ahold of it. He wasn’t impressed. Remember Keith’s dedication to music followed him in his decisions in life. He had decided this was not the right way to continue and there was no changing his mind. I actually got to know him in a different way after 3. Being in the band together we all had the same goals, the same drive, wanting the same outcome. But remaining friends over the years I was to see his dedication to what defined him. He wasn’t a business man, he wasn’t a relentless promoter, he wasn’t in it to make money. He was committed to his art on his terms. That’s why he was so great and why we loved his playing so much. That is also why criticism was hard on him.

Did you consider using any of those songs for the new 3.2 album, “The Rules Have Changed”?

No we never did. That chapter was done and to be honest we had so much unused part from 1987’s rehearsals and a bunch of new digital files from Keith and songs of mine from which we were making the updated 3.2.

3-1I have to say I was thrilled when I heard you were reviving 3 as 3.2. How did 3.2 come about?

Over the years I knew that there was no way that Keith would want to revisit 3. He had left it behind. Then a record company released the 3 live in Boston CD in 2015. Honestly to release that record it was just a pay check for Keith. Then a copy arrived at his house in LA and he decided one night while alone at home to sit down with a glass of wine and listen to it. He immediately called me so excited. “Robert” he said, “we were really a good band. No I mean really good”. I couldn’t believe my ears. Now I’ve told you that Keith had left 3 behind but in my mind I had always wanted to do a follow up. I knew we had it in us to do one more really great album together. This was my chance. I slowly said “well, what would you think about possibly doing a follow up with me?” He simply said, “maybe”. Well there it was. The president of Frontiers Records had been asking me for years for a 3 album and I had told him there was no way. I called Serafino immediately and asked if he was still interested. He said yes, I called Keith, Keith and I laid out the parameters of what that deal should look like, I called Serafino, he said “let’s do it”. I called Keith, he was impressed that they would meet our demands and ——- well, do I still sound excited when i’m writing this? I can still remember how I felt when Carl called me in 1986, I can still remember when Keith and I decided to rekindle the flame and start 3.2. It was a 26 year old dream at that point.

I will tell you that I wasn’t going to continue after Keith left us. I felt it wasn’t the right thing to do. We had carved out a place in our musical history, we had planned the new album, we had started working together. Now he was gone. It took me almost a year to get past the grief and get an idea that set the spark afire again. I thought, what if Aaron Emerson would play on the songs. I talked to Aaron. He said he’d be interested and please send him a song. Once he received the song he said that it was a little much for him as his dad had played it and it was quite difficult. In hindsight I should have sent an easier song. LOL When I finally had to replay that piece it was a monster to master. That said, this exchange with Aaron ignited the spark that fueled the flame that started the fire burning again. I had to finish it. I originally was not planning on having it released. But as time went on I realized it was coming along with everything we had talked about and with that new 3.2 sound and energy we had wanted. It was a tough decision but I decided it was done and I was ready.

I know that Carl is quite busy with Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy. Was he going to be involved?

No Carl had giving me his blessing to use the name 3 and do whatever I wanted but he did not want to be part of it. Originally his ELP legacy was doing quite well and in the end his ELP legacy is the only true bearer of the ELP music torch. I am proud of his commitment to it and I think he is doing exactly what he was born to do. He is playing better than ever. If you haven’t seen him go. His band is incredible.

f9ce34b0292d212b298eef521976e081_800_420What contributions did Keith make to the new album before he passed away?

We had mapped out the 5 songs we wrote together. We had a cassette tape from 1987 and some new digital files Keith had sent me. But the really cool part was during our phone calls. I have a digital piano right in front of my ProTools screen that I use to correct singers or show clients different chords or whatever for their songs. Keith had a new Casio, real piano action, digital piano that he loved in his room. We would talk on the phone usually after 7 or 8 when he was alone and in a very happy, creative mood. He would play me a little something, I’d try to copy it, he’d correct me – I’d only get it close. But close enough to put our idea sessions down on the protools and use those writings to work from. So if you would have looked at the ProTools screen it looked like a Halloween pumpkin. Lots of missing teeth that I needed to fill in. But the parts Keith had done to my songs back in 1987 and the pure genius of his style and personality was already there in about 20% of what I had for writing songs. That may not seem like a song to you. But to me it was the important parts. I am never at a loss for song ideas. A verse, a chorus. Not hard for to sit and write. So you put that together with these amazing bits of Emersonizing and you get —3.2. Done together but finished by myself. It wasn’t the way I had wanted to finish it, but the structure was in place.

You and Keith were good friends, was it difficult emotionally to finish this album without him?

In one phone call I lost a great friend, my most famous friend. I lost the guy that I had a top 10 record with, my only top 10 record. And I lost the dream of a second 3 album. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I miss those phone calls the most. He was full of corny jokes and stories from the past. Still hard for me to believe he’s gone. In fact since I’ve worked so hard to complete the album and I have been preparing and doing so many interviews it almost feels to me like he is alive. That is how it felt when I was finishing up the album. I’d say, “what would Keith do here?” and in many ways that guided me. I found myself doing things I never thought I could do or never even thought of doing. Like some of the solos. Those weren’t talked about because they were to be done last when everything else was done. But there they were flowing out of my hands. And to play some of those piano parts we had talked about using. I had to revisit my 10 years of piano lessons and really work to do them justice. I could feel his presence and our history guiding me. Then last week I visited his grave site in the UK. That was a tough one. Hard to explain why 2 1/2 years later it hit me so hard.

You’ve done many albums over the years. Where does “The Rules Have Changed” sit next to all the rest?

Good question Rob. I have been very lucky. I always have ideas and always seem to have an outlet for them. But I have always known that I had one more, really good, progressive album in me. I called it my Sergeant Peppers. I knew someday it would come along. My roots are in progressive music. I had a prog band called Hush when I first started. We started as a prog cover band and eventually release an original album with a record company. That was my first major release. I feel that everything I know in music, everything I was trained for, everything I’ve learned along the way, and everything I was hoping my Sgt. Peppers would be is in this album. That’s not my ego speaking. That’s my capabilities. If you like it or if you don’t, this is what I’m capable of at this point of my life. Lyrically it speaks of how I feel, musically it challenges the very top of my skills, and production wise it is the culmination of years in the studio perfecting equipment, recording skills, and production techniques. When the album is released I hope to get into some recording magazines to talk about some of this. And some guitar and amplifier reviews too. I used the best of everything. Including getting my Memory Moog rebuilt and sounding great. Keith wanted to bring the big Moog into the studio and I told him I’d get my Moog up to snuff to start with. I’ve had that in the studio. I don’t want to lift it or have it take up all that space until it was really necessary. LOL He was fine with that.

Can we expect a 3.3 album? Or is this the final call for 3?

Hard to say. This is the only chance to do my last effort with Keith. Those phone calls sadly can never happen again. I have lots of music we didn’t use and some ideas I didn’t include from those conversations. But right now I am feeling the love for the man, the loss of the man, and the love for the music we were to finish together. I just want to honor that. The important piece that has come along now is that I am thinking of doing a tour next year and presenting this live. We’ll see if that is possible very soon.

Robert, thank you for releasing this great tribute to Keith. Thanks for all the great music through the years as well!

I appreciate your time Rob. This is so exciting for me. The fans have really given it lots of love and are listening to the album with the exact intent I had finished it for. It’s about the music. It’s about a sound we created that I think is unique to 3. And it also is honoring one foot in the past of 3 and one foot in the updated present of 3.2. I am hoping when you listen to the album as a whole you will feel the spirit of all that. It has been difficult emotionally but the challenge has been very rewarding personally.

Cheers,
Robert

Robert

3.2 – “The Rules Have Changed”
All Instruments: Robert Berry
Songwriting and arrangements: Keith Emerson, Robert Berry
Label: Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: 10 August 2018

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Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy – “Live”

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Carl Palmer is the final living member of the legendary prog group Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Prior to the untimely passing of both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, Palmer formed a power trio called Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy. Not only do they play many classic ELP tracks but also ELP related material as well. In addition to Palmer on drums he is joined by Simon Fitzpatrick on guitar and Paul Bielatowicz on bass. As you know, that’s a bit of a difference from ELP’s configuration.

Replacing Emerson’s trademark keys with guitar is definitely a bold move. But isn’t that what ELP was all about? On their new live album, the trio have one show from 2014 on CD and another show from 2016 on DVD. I love this because too often, artists just release one show on both formats. While there’s some overlap in the setlist, it’s minimal which is also very cool.

Palmer still sounds incredible. Drumming is a young man’s game but it’s clear from each show that he has lost nothing over the years. This is VERY challenging material and he plays each part that he wrote as a young man perfectly. Bielatowicz fills in for Lake quite nicely and almost makes sure that there are no gaps in the sound. Fitzpatrick has the most daunting task of replicating Emerson’s keyboard virtuosity on guitar. And yes it does it!

I’ll admit it’s strange to hear classics like “Tarkus” and “Karn Evil 9” with a guitar in place of the keys but in other spots like their cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” and even “Knife-Edge” sounds just fine. The DVD was intended to have Emerson as a guest performer but he took his own life before the show happened. So this show became a tribute to him. The end of the set has a notable appearance by Steve Hackett.

As you all know, I’m not a big fan of live albums. It seems like lately that’s all I am getting to review! But this package is very interesting and well done. These versions won’t ever replace the originals. But it’s interesting to hear all of these songs done as instrumentals in a classic power trio format. It not only shows the timelessness of the songs and the talent of the band but also the vision of Carl Palmer as well. This is a fitting tribute to his fallen bandmates and hopefully Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy will keep that legacy alive going forward! Highly recommended for all ELP fans!

Tracklist:

CD: TRALF MUSIC HALL BUFFALO, NEW YORK, U.S.A., 25TH NOVEMBER 2014

1. Rondeau Des Indes Galantes / Ride Of The Valkyries
2. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
3. Mars, The God Of War / 21st Century Schizoid Man
4. Tarkus (Full Version)
5. America
6. Knife-Edge
7. Trilogy (Short Version)

DVD: PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION – A TRIBUTE TO KEITH EMERSON. OLYMPIA THEATER,
MIAMI, FLORIDA, U.S.A., 24TH JUNE 2016. SPECIAL GUESTS: STEVE HACKETT, MARK STEIN & DAVID FRANGIONI

1. Introduction
2. Peter Gunn
3. Karn Evil 9 (Welcome Back My Friends)
4. The Barbarian
5. Bitches Crystal
6. Jerusalem
7. Romeo & Juliet
8. 21st Century Schizoid Man
9. Clair De Lune
10. Knife-Edge
11. Hoedown
12. Take A Pebble
13. Carmina Burana
14. Pictures At An Exhibition
15. Fanfare For The Common Man / Drum Solo
16. Nutrocker

Website: http://www.carlpalmer.com
Release Date: 29 June 2018

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Karmic Juggernaut – “The Dreams That Stuff Are Made Of”

a1730082866_16There are plenty bands who play music that is tough to digest but, after a few full-spins of Karmic Juggernaut’s newest recording “The Dreams That Stuff Are Made Of,” I’d have to classify this as more of an acquired taste as opposed to tough to digest. Lots of folks start with Pad Thai before heading for the curry options, right? I can proudly say that I never go less than 4 of 5 on the “how spicy do you want it?” scale and this very flavorful conglomeration of sounds would sit right about there on that scale.

Of course when a person is acclimated to spicy food, spice from one cuisine is usually similar in effect to spice from a different cuisine. Hearing Mr. Bungle’s self-titled CD in the early-90s was like serving Kung Pao Chicken to a Swedish grandmother. Having that under my belt made hearing Frances the Mute from the Mars Volta not only easier to understand but I was more quick to appreciate it even if it was out of left field for most of the music-listening population.

I was tipped off during my first spin there were “a few guys from Thank You Scientist” in this band (I’m still not sure which guys yet) but that piece of intel opened up my mind even further. Granted, “Bottomless Gypsy Pit” has some pretty eclectic vocals (a clown-faced Geddy Lee was my initial mental image) but once you ride that wave and let the music unfold, one gets some pretty excellent syncopated full-band acrobatics with dynamics that ebb-and-flow and deliver right into the next track. Horn section, flute, walking basslines, bongos and other percussion, odd meters – there are tropes of the musically-sophisticated jamband as well as tenets of jazz fusion in “Krokodil” while facets of disco and hard rock appear in “Robotnik.” An early highlight washed over me at the halfway point of this third track. Vocal harmonies over organs, synths, and Casio keyboard percussion evoke a trance-like moment which was totally unexpected.

Enter the first of three total palate-cleansing interludes which introduces the beast from the next track “Frunobulax.” I’m beginning to think this CD is a concept album. The odd meter makes a return during the verses and it’s apparent the rhythm section is a tightly wound machine when necessary. Surf-rock, art-rock, even if it’s dork-rock, it’s still progressive rock to me. For me, “Circles” links back to the trance-like ending of track 3 with pitched percussion and keyboards then slides into “Moving” which is a highlight if not centerpiece of this recording. With as much fusion you can hear, there is evidence of the highly composed nature of this track, the longest on the CD.

This music isn’t complicated for the sake of being complicated and it isn’t silly just to be silly. It is fun and it is challenging. I keep thinking about Mr. Bungle, The Mars Volta, and Frank Zappa.

What I would consider “side 2” begins with “On Your Mark,” a more plaintive-sounding delivery which could have been written 40 years ago that keeps me thinking of Gentle Giant and Yes with some great jazzy chords and guitar arpeggios. The wah-wah guitar solo at the end is properly placed IHMO.

ASMR fans anyone? “Living in a Lucid Dream” gives the listener an opportunity to experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response with a minute-long monologue that could either bother the living hell out of you or give you brain tingles.

Track 10 and 11 may be expository as far as any concept goes they are not a favorite of mine; too much whimsy. For me, track 12 starts with a call-back to “Circles” with some tribal percussion and eventually opens into full-on legato prog-rock synth/guitar lines and settles into an odd meter verse with a frantic bassline. The song dissolves at the half-way point into a sound collage then comes rocking back into a riff-fest which connects back into the opening legato lines and busts into a hefty guitar solo. This one is a journey.

You will fully understand the vocalist’s range on the last track “Museum Museum”; I think only Cedric could hit those notes and but I’m not positive about that. Props for the bass harmonics on this track along with the swelling guitar notes. The feeling this is a send-off is well-executed. The second half of the track has an outro feel to it; it must be the descending chord progression. The dual guitars and organs are important to this track and have been throughout this whole experience.

I’m only going to mention the production to state that it’s rock-solid even with all the instruments used (can you find the banjo?).
With only a few missteps, “The Dreams That Stuff Are Made Of” is thoroughly enjoyable and retains its’ excitement after multiple listens. I might cut out a pair of tracks but that still leaves over 50 minutes of interesting, high-energy, rhythmic and sonically dense progressive rock encompassing a buffet-full of genres and influences.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:

1. Bottomless Gypsy Pit
2. Krokodil
3. Robotnik
4. WKRM Emergency Broadcast
5. Frunobulax
6. Circles
7. Moving
8. On Your Mark
9. Living in a Lucid Dream
10. Goons, Buffoons, and Carnival Barkers
11. Psycho Billy’s Downtown Adventure
12. Be Careful Loading Camel
13. Museum Museum

Bandcamp: karmicjuggernaut.bandcamp.com

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Devin Townsend Project – “Ocean Machine: Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv”

Cover_artwork“Ocean Machine: Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv” is the latest live album from Devin Townsend and his last under the moniker the Devin Townsend Project. He disbanded the group last year so this live set, recorded with an orchestra, serves as an epitaph for DTP. It marks a couple of firsts with the orchestra being one and the full performance of “Ocean Machine” being the other. But ultimately it’s the last thing from this lineup.

To start off things, Dev does what he has done a few times. He took song requests from fans to create a setlist. This means that many deep tracks get played along side, new material and long time favorites. The added bonus of this first set is the orchestral accompaniment. The orchestra adds a LOT to tracks from the last Devin Townsend Project album “Transcendence” because the songs on that album are more epic than ever. “Stormbending,” “Failure,” “Truth” and especially the massive “Higher” sound even better here.

Doing songs like “Om” and “Bad Devil” are nice to hear along with some of my favorite Devin tracks like “Gaia,” “Deadhead” (a song Devin says he wrote for his wife) and “Deep Peace.” It’s a well balanced set and the band sounds great along side the orchestra. One slight disappointment is that the orchestra is not part of the “Ocean Machine” set. But they are joined by original bassist JR Harder who played on the album. I LOVE that album so it’s really cool to hear it in its entirety.

As I’ve said many times, I am not a big fan of live albums but I will say this: of all Devin’s live albums, I think this one is special. With all of the uniqueness (orchestra, Ocean Machine, song selection), and that this album closes a massive chapter in Devin’s career, it’s really essential for all of his fans. It also can answer the question to those wonder “what’s the big deal about Devin Townsend?” The answer is right here.

Tracklist:

By Request with Orchestra
1. Truth
2. Stormbending
3. Om
4. Failure
5. By Your Command
6. Gaia
7. Deadhead
8. Canada
9. Bad Devil
10. Higher
11. A Simple Lullaby
12. Deep Peace

Ocean Machine
1. Seventh Wave
2. Life
3. Night
4. Hide Nowhere
5. Sister
6. 3 A.M.
7. Voices in the Fan
8. Greetings
9. Regulator
10. Funeral
11. Bastard
12. The Death of Music
13. Things Beyond Things

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 6 July 2018
Release Info: “Ocean Machine – Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv” will be available as a limited deluxe 3CD/2DVD/Blu-Ray artbook (with liner notes from Devin and a special documentary dubbed ‘Reflecting The Chaos’ on the second DVD & Blu-Ray), Special Edition 3CD/DVD Digipak, standalone Blu-Ray and as digital audio download.
Website: www.hevydevy.com

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Mark Wingfield – “Tales From The Dreaming City”

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My string of reviews covering instrumental albums continues with guitarist Mark Wingfield’s Tales From The Dreaming City.

Mr. Wingfield is British, with an established music career, and yet he might have passed under my radar if I wasn’t following his label’s Bandcamp. And then the boss offered me his latest release to review.

Bandcamp is a wonderful music resource, with many artists offering physical media to go along with the digital downloads and streaming. There is much to be discovered there.

Mr. Wingfield’s music style is described as jazz, but I feel this album is more than just that genre. The tonality I hear is unique, and this can be confirmed by this quote from the man’s press release – ““Most of the unusual tones I get are from the way I play. I use a lot of unusual slurs, attacks, vibrato and pitch bends. I often don’t play any notes in a normal way. And because I’m not using the expected phrasing and I’m concentrating on creating different tones with my fingers, it tends to sound like I’m using a really unusual guitar sound or a lot of effects, whereas in fact I’m not. My approach to phrasing and tone is something I’ve worked on for a long time and continue to work on. And the key to finding my sound was learning how to really let go when I played and then teaching my fingers how to create the sounds I was hearing in my head.”

The guitarist’s playing style is appealing to me on this recording, as it strong enough to carry a song as a singer’s voice might. As in the other albums I’ve reviewed, I feel this is a wonderful asset. Mr. Wingfield’s tone is so clear and melodic, effortless to listen to, with every note as it is meant to be.

One of the tracks i most enjoyed is Ten Mile Bank, which, to my ears, leans toward a progressive rock sound.

You can hear the love Mr. Wingfield has for his craft in his playing.

I think if you enjoy the guitar playing of Allan Holdsworth, you would certainly like the style of playing featured on this album. Or if you are a guitar fan of almost any stripe, there is much to be loved here.

If you are willing to open your ears to a journey of discovery, I strongly suggest you check out Tales From The Dreaming City.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklisting

The Fifth Window
I Wonder How Many Miles I’ve Fallen
The Way To Hemingford Grey
Sunlight Cafe
Looking Back At The Amber Lit House
This Place Up Against The Sky
At A Small Hour Of The Night
A Wind Blows Down Turnpike Lane
Ten Mile Bank
The Green-Faced Timekeepers

The players:
Mark Wingfield – guitar, soundscapes
Yaron Stavi – fretless bass guitar
Asaf Sirkis – drums, konakol singing (10)
Dominique Vantomme – synth soloist (3, 5, 9, 10)

Label: MoonJune Records
Bandcamp:markwingfield-moonjune.bandcamp.com
Facebook:www.facebook.com/MarkWingfieldGuitar
Website:www.markwingfield.com

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Fog Light – “2nd Impression”

news-foglight-2ndimpressionInstrumental prog metal is a very well populated sub genre. But it takes a lot of skill to really pull it off. However, skill is a lot more than just being precise and technically adept. How good are the riffs and how good are the melody lines? Those are the key questions. For Finnish metallers Fog Light, the skill is there but the riffs are not quite up to the task.

Think of a car that is revving up in neutral versus speeding down a highway. On “2nd Impression,” Fog Light are stuck in neutral. Whether it’s beating a weak riff into the ground for two minutes like on the opening track “Alkutila” or the lack of additional riffs on the next track “Kyllä/Ei,” Fog Light just don’t have enough weapons at their disposal.

For me, you start with a riff that introduces the song before moving fairly quickly into one or two more compelling riffs. Fog Light tend to get stuck on the first riff for WAY too long and then once they emerge from it (assuming they do), the next riff is essentially more of the same. This is not something that ALWAYS happens which is why it’s a little frustrating. Fog Light have a TON of talent and sometimes they click.

The band draw inspiration from shredders like Tony MacAlpine and John Petrucci while trying to incorporate a more jazz fusion approach as well. This comes to the fore on tracks like “Mystinen viiksimies” which is one of the stand out tracks on the album. This is the one that got me to add this album to my review queue. The fretless bass alone make this one really cool. I think it comes down to tempo of the song too. “Aika” is another slower groove and it works better as well.

The questions re-emerge though. “Kiven möyhennystä” has some heavy riffs that feel more repetitive and there are some parts that are more annoying than interesting. It’s Fog Light trying to be Blotted Science and missing. “Tarkista totuus” sounds more like a Joe Satriani outtake. While the closer “Väärä ovi” isn’t the climax that I was hoping for.

There’s no questioning the potential of a band like Fog Light. At times, they really sound amazing. Unfortunately at other times, they get stuck in neutral and nothing happens. “2nd Impression” didn’t make the best FIRST impression with me. But I do think fans of instrumental prog metal should give this a shot to see if it works well for them.

Rating: 5.5/10

Tracklist:

1. Alkutila
2. Kyllä/Ei
3. Mystinen viiksimies
4. Aika
5. Puun ja kuoren välissä
6. Ei (ihmis)kontaktia
7. Kiven möyhennystä
8. Naamion takaa
9. Tarkista totuus
10. Väärä ovi

Label: Inverse Records
Release Date: 15 June 2018
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bandoffoglight

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Gabriel Lucas Music – “The Dwelling”

a4251062464_16EPs such as “The Dwelling” by Gabriel Lucas Music are a sign of the times. An indie artist seeks out the help of more established musicians to bring their music to life. The more established musicians offer their services for a fee to those willing to pay it. I’ve seen this more than ever lately thanks to how fucked the music industry is in today’s world.

In most cases, the musicians hired are more experienced and overshadow the artist that hired them. “The Dwelling” is a bit of an exception to that rule. Sort of. Lucas has the assistance of Dave Young and Ryan Van Poderooyen, both formerly of the Devin Townsend Project. They are joined by vocalist Erik Severinson and bassist Mike Young (Dave’s brother). The four of them were in the band Ten Ways together. So the four of them have chemistry. The problem is they don’t have it with Lucas.

The 3 of the 4 songs are all fairly short and that’s part of the problem. By the time you get into the opening track “Absolution,” it ends. In fact the first time I heard it, I actually said “Oh that’s it?” out loud. “To Neso And Back” is along the same lines in that by the time you have a grip on things it’s over. The one track that works best is the title track which is 6 minutes. It has room to grow and breathe. The instrumental closer “Die is Cast” is also over before it does anything.

Performance wise, Severinson isn’t a good fit for the music. He is on the first two tracks and tends to over sing on music that doesn’t require that. He’s got a good voice but just doesn’t connect with the vibe of the music. Similarly, Van Poderooyen seems to overplay at the wrong times and under play other times. It’s not until the mid point of the title track that he seems to pay attention to what Lucas has written.

This is the biggest problem when you employ people to play your music, versus write things as a band. Granted all of this, including having underdeveloped songs, would be fixed by a good producer. Since the Young Brothers are listed as the producers, it falls on them. They seem more like they just collected all of the performances and put them together rather than pushing for the best possible outcome. If not, then I’d be curious to know why these songs weren’t allowed to grow more.

The songs have some very solid moments and like any seed, they could have bloomed if watered properly. Lucas has talent but this feels like musicians who just did their job rather than connect with the music itself. It’s 15 minutes long altogether and perhaps it’s a case of this was all that could be afforded. I don’t know but I feel like Lucas deserved better. It feels incomplete to be honest and that’s probably the most appropriate rating I can give. This is not on Gabriel Lucas though.

Rating: incomplete

Tracklist:

1. Absolution
2. To Neso And Back
3. The Dwelling
4. Die Is Cast

Bandcamp: gabriellucas.bandcamp.com/album/the-dwelling

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