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 Amputechture by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.86 | 538 ratings

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Amputechture
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The third full album by Mars Volta is a very dense album, hard to penetrate because of the extreme amount of music going on throughout most of the release. The lyrics are very cryptic, the vocals are somewhat extreme and the music is complicated, dissonant at times with melodies playing against each other and a lot of experimental and improvised solos, sometimes played at the same time. But with some time and patience, your brain will start to make sense out of all of it.

The closest comparison I can think of that many will be familiar with would be 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' by 'Yes' which is also their hardest album to access. A lot of this is for the same reason. On both this album and Yes's album, you won't really understand everything, because there is so much going on. Dividing the songs up into subparts, like Yes did on 'Close to the Edge' makes it easier, but on ''Oceans' they don't do this, so you just have to sort it out yourself. The same is true with 'Amputechture'. One advantage here though, is that there are a few shorter tracks which are a little more straightforward, even though they can also be quite involved. I found the best way to approach this album by Mars Volta is to find a lyrics site and try to follow them. This gives some insight to the music and will help you in dividing the longer songs into subsections.

After the first few listens, I thought I would never understand this album, but soon I noticing returning themes in the vocals and the music. Also, reading the lyrics will help you locate the returning themes thus helping you analyze what you are listening to. This album's main theme is how religions can affect society, mostly in negative ways. Knowing that is a good start.

The first track 'Vicarious Atonement' is a good start to the album in that you get a good sense of how the rest of the album will be sounding, but it doesn't have the multilayerd wall of noise that you will get later. The song is more mid tempo which also helps. You will notice that the lyrics are hard to understand, but knowing the theme of the album will help shed some light. Next up is the 16 minute epic track 'Tetragrammation'. The music in this track is quite dense and without any help, can make you think that you will never understand it. The song is full of rhythm changes, hard to follow melodies, impossible to understand lyrics, and counterpoint solos going on among the instruments during the many instrumental breaks. The subject of the song is the torture and exorcism of a Romanian woman who was thought by a small congregation to be possessed by a demon, when in reality she was mentally ill. The congregation tied her to a cross and left her overnight with the parish leader thinking this would exorcise the demon. In the morning, she was found dead. The lyrics in this one were made up on the spot and not read from a pre-written lyric sheet. The band wanted the feeling of the vocals being similar to 'speaking in tongues' as this mentally ill woman was doing during her torture, which explain the tone of the lyrics and the way they don't make a lot of sense toward the middle of the song. There is also sections of the vocals that are treated to give the singing a 'possessed feeling'. Of course you get a lot of excellent performances from the other members of the band, plus a lot of rapid fire drumming. There are quieter breaks throughout the song, many of them sudden and unexpected. This song is an absolute masterpiece of progressive music.

After this often chaotic track comes a more accessible one called 'Vermicide'. This one to me is the weakest on the album, but it gives a short reprieve to the heaviness of the two long tracks that come before and after it. 'Meccamputechture' comes next and runs for over 11 minutes. This one deals with the use of saints or holy figures as pieces of jewelry or on clothing items, or in other words what is known as Iconography, using 'humans as ornaments'. Again this one is quite dense, but is built similar to the 2nd track with many passages with a lot of things going on all at once and other quieter passages. But I find this one is a little easier to follow as far as where the subsections are. There are once again sudden changes in mood and style with hardly even a breath or a pause between them.

'Asilos Magdalena' is completely sung in Spanish and accompanied mostly by a Spanish sounding guitar, but with non- traditional melodies. It's not until 4 ' minutes in before this changes and things seem to get more chaotic towards the end. The translation to English reveals that the lyrics are still quite hard to understand. The subject of this song is about the Roman Catholic asylums that were created to rehabilitate fallen women. 'Viscera Eyes' contains both Spanish and English lyrics, both equally confusing, but well sung regardless. This one is actually based off of a repeating riff in the percussion and bass section, so it seems more structured, but the other instrumentation over the top of this repetition is still complex as well as the vocal parts. This repeating base changes after more than halfway through to another riff which then repeats to the end with all the complexity going on around it.

After this, we return to form with 'Day of the Baphomets' which is about a group of cult members invading the homes of Christians with the hope of getting them to realize their way of life is wrong. The methods they use are strange which includes stealing their items and kidnapping their children. I told you this was the dark side of religion. The same style is used on this as on the other tracks over 10 minutes on this album, excellent progressive styles with what seems to be everyone soloing at once. You also get a sax added in to the mix. Very nice sounds and textures are used throughout this track. Last of all is a very slow and more ambient style track called 'El Ciervo Vulnerado' which means 'The Wounded Shepherd'. Even though the title is in Spanish, the lyrics are all in English. This is a very dark sounding, brooding track. It deals with how religion can get into your mind and how hard it is to completely lose it later. It also deals with the second coming and how the narrator is not going to be saved.

All through this album you get sudden solos, sometimes played at the same time and other times on their own, this also includes some percussive solos. There are some interesting sounds played on the instruments along with more traditional styles and some of the vocals are treated and some are not. I can pretty much guarantee most people will not get this album on the first sitting and probably not even on the tenth listening, but if you give it time and patience, you will get it. This is also how I felt with 'Tales from .Topographic Oceans' (and, by the way, with 'Relayer' also by 'Yes',which is why I make the comparison at the beginning of this review. Eventually, I understood that album and I grew to really love it. This also applies to this album. I also understand that many people might not want to take the time to understand this music, and maybe won't even like it once they do start to understand it. That's okay. But I can tell you, that I love this album and consider it a masterpiece, even through it's chaos and thickness, but it took some time to get to that point. I have to give this 5 stars, because it is quite a groundbreaking album, and for this to be as inaccessible as it is, it's quite amazing that The Mars Volta has got such a large fan base. That is a huge feat in and of itself.

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 Seventh Story by FROM.UZ album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.60 | 73 ratings

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Seventh Story
From.uz Eclectic Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars This is a five piece band from Uzbekistan, between 2008 and 2013 FROM.UZ released 4 studio-albums and one live CD/DVD entitled Audio Diplomacy (2007). This review is about their second effort entitled Seventh Story from 2010, two years after their highly acclaimed debut album Overlook (2008).

On Seventh Story the band features two musicians who play on keyboards. The seven tracks can be divided into two sections. Three shorter ones that sound pretty atmospheric with acoustic guitar and vocals (like the opener Perfect Place and the final song Perfect Love) and wonderful classical orchestrations and Grand piano (like Bell Of The Earth). And four longer compositions that I would like to analyse piece by piece.

First the long Parallels (20 minutes) in which a lot of tension and dynamics (evoking a sound between Rush and King Crimson) featuring powerful electric guitar and spectacular synthesizer sounds.

Then the alternating Desert Circle (16 minutes): from soaring keyboards with howling guitar runs to a swinging rhythm with jazzy piano and acoustic guitar.

Next my highlight entitled Taken (18 minutes) with excellent work on keyboards (from tender piano to sensational synthesizer flights) and a heavy and blistering guitar solo, the climates shift from compelling bombastic to a tight rhythm with propulsive rock.

And finally the track Influence Of Time (close to 12 minutes) that again evokes Rush (to be more specific: YYZ) with strong shifting moods and great saxophone and wah-wah guitar.

I am delighted about my first musical encounter with Fromuz, an interesting band to discover, FROM UZbekistan.

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 The Eleventh House: Introducing The Eleventh House With Larry Coryell by CORYELL, LARRY album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.03 | 44 ratings

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The Eleventh House: Introducing The Eleventh House With Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Another solid Jazz/Fusion album from Larry Coryell. Not as good as the previously released "Barefoot Boy" but comparible to the next one with THE ELEVENTH HOUSE called "Level One". A five piece here with Alphonse Mouzon on drums, Randy Brecker on trumpet and of course Coryell on guitar plus a bass player and keyboardist playing electric piano and synths. This was released in 1974 and the compositions were written by Coryell, Mandell and Mouzon plus the song "Yin" by Wolfgang Dauner.

"Birdfingers" is a tune where each member gets to share the spotlight and strut their stuff I guess you could say. After a brief drum solo the keys and guitar trade off then the trumpet starts to come and go trading off with the guitar. Soon electric piano, guitar and trumpet are trading off.

"The Funky Waltz" is a top three for me. Just a trippy sound here with the drums and bass as trumpet and electric piano help out in this relaxed song. Guitar to the fore around 1 1/2 minutes and it sounds really good after 2 minutes. Electric piano leads at 3 1/2 minutes as the guitar steps aside then drums lead a minute later. I like this one a lot.

"Low-Lee-Tah" is my favourite. Just love the opening with that guitar and bass, so laid back and atmospheric. Drums and trumpet join in just before a minute. So good. Trumpet comes to the fore before 2 minutes then it's the guitar's turn around 2 1/2 minutes. Nice. More trumpet follows but it's more laid back this time.

"Adam Smasher" has trumpet blasts over the drums, bass and e-piano then the piano leads as the drums and bass support. The trumpet is back again around 1 1/2 minutes then the guitar a minute later. "Joyride" is laid back with keys, bass and a beat often leading the way. It's brighter when the electric piano comes in before 2 minutes, the guitar follows. it calms down again before a big finish.

"Yin" opens with drums and bass that impress with the trumpet over top, electric piano too. The guitar arrives just before 2 minutes. Synths start to lead before 3 1/2 minutes. These guys are ripping it up here. "Theme For A Dream" does have a dreamy sound with trumpet leading in a reserved way with outbursts of drums. Raining piano comes and goes as well.

"Gratitiude "A So Low"" is acoustic guitar melodies throughout. "Ism-Ejereicio" is my other top three. It opens fairly powerfully before settling in with drums and guitar. Great sound here. It settles into more of a slow groove after that around 1 1/2 minutes in with some adventerous trumpet over top trading off with the guitar. Nice. The tempo picks up before 3 1/2 minutes as it gets really impressive. "Right On Y'All" ends it opening with drums then the trumpet leads as the piano pulses before an extended synth led section. An energetic track with the guitar leading late.

Another excellent release from Coryell and company and a must listen for Jazz/Fusion fans.

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 Modern Primitive by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.21 | 10 ratings

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Modern Primitive
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars For true STEVE VAI fans who have kept up with his output since the beginning, one of the most amazing transmogrifications in music history occurred between his debut album "Flex-Able" and his second "Passion And Warfare." So much so that for much of the time both albums seem to have been recorded by completely different artists, however that's somewhat of an exaggeration since both albums contain more than enough of the trademark VAI-isms that transcend compositional style as well as exhibiting his Zappa roots however the debut was more experimental whereas the sophomore release showcased a much more developed technical shredding style.

This evolution makes more sense with the release of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Passion And Warfare which hit the market in 2016. While VAI has always been generous in the addition of bonus tracks when he re-releases an older album, this one was the greatest gift of all as it came out as basically a double album called MODERN PRIMITIVE / PASSION AND WARFARE (25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION). The unreleased album's worth of material covers those mystery years between his first two albums when he scrapped solo albums in order to work with David Lee Roth and Alcatraz.

A double album indeed as the double CD release contains two cardboard sleeves attached and in yin yang fashion with each side acting as an independent album albeit in Siamese twin fashion. This review will only cover the MODERN PRIMITIVE album since PASSION AND WARFARE will be covered in its own review however i will cover the four bonus tracks attached to the end of P&W. While MODERN PRIMITIVE is indeed technically a bonus album for P&W's 25th Anniversary release, it can also be thought of as an album in its own right since had destiny not intervened, this material very well could've been VAI's second album.

The title MODERN PRIMITIVE refers to the fact that these tracks were started but never finished. VAI wrote "Flex-Able" between the ages of 20-23 and PASSION AND WARFARE between the ages of 27-29. The material on MODERN PRIMITIVE was started when he was between 23-26 but were never finished. At the age of 55, STEVE VAI finally found the time and the excuse to finally complete these tracks and release them as bonus material. Some of the tracks were destined for P&W but didn't make the editing cut and thus sat in the vaults for two decades plus.

Many of these tracks emerged under the intent of being released in a period band called The Classified, a vocal jazz rock group that featured Sue Mathis on keyboards and vocals, Tommy Mars also on keyboards and vocals, Stu Hamm on bass and Chris Frazier on drums. This material was played live at many successful gigs but never recorded at all, so these recordings for the most part were written in the 80s and finally recorded in the second decade of the 21st century. While most of the musicians would return, Sue Mathis did not.

Like "Flex-Able," MODERN PRIMITIVE still exhibits a healthy dose of Zappa influences, especially from the "One Size Fits All" era which becomes quite apparent as the schizoid vocal jazz scat opener "Bop" bursts onto the scene. Belying its title, there is nothing one would consider hard bop in the least but rather immediately provides a link between VAI's first two albums as it retains all the quirky whimsical charm of the debut while developing the technical prowess of the second. How much of this resulted from its initial birth pangs and how much is the addition of VAI's modern perspective will probably remain the biggest mystery of his career.

"Dark Matter" shifts completely in a Hendrix type rocker with a lot more wah-wah and shredding techniques added. Not to mention the PASSION & WARFARE production magic. "Mighty Messengers" musters up the funk bass groove but ultimately becomes a rather by-the-books vocal rock track that exhibits some guitar wankery and sound effects. "The Lost Chord" is one of those cheesy ballads that i find underwhelming and this one is no exception although Devin Townsend is the vocalist. It indeed sounds like some mellow track off one of his albums albeit with VAI's sensual guitar antics. It's ok but seems like a waste of Townsend's dynamic vocal range. "Upanishads" is another chilled out progressive slow burner. It never really goes anywhere despite some guitar soloing. OK and that's it.

"Fast Note People" is yet another chilled out rocker with some snazzy instrumental backing. VAI's vocals turn me off but this has lots of backing vocals and turns into a more Zappa inspired fairy tale of sorts. "And We Are One" is once again a slow chilled out ballad with VAI and a female vocalist performing a duet. Yawn. "Never Forever" finally picks up some steam and sounds like one of those spacey P&W tracks with soaring guitar runs but VAI's weak vocals ruin it for me. "Lights Are On" is finally a true rocker with some real good VAI guitar action going on. It reminds me most of P&W and seems like it was destined for that album but got nixed. It would've fit in perfect and better than weak tracks like " I Would Love To." "No Pockets" sounds completely different and is more of a garage rock track which is a Bob Harris track where he is vocalist.

The final three tracks are the "Pink And Blows Over Suite" with the second part hitting over the thirteen minute mark. "Part 1" slowly fades in with pleasant sound effects and then becomes a female vocalist ballad with lots of smooth backing vocals. Obviously part of the vocal jazz group years. Even this short intro to the suite is rich and dynamic with lots of VAI-esque time signature deviations at his most extreme and a rich lush production that offers beautiful counterpoints to the vocalists. "Part II - Mars Attack" continues seamlessly with the music melody from "The Nutcracker" backed by a deep drone in key. It remains ambient with whistles and in jazzified classical mode with electronic overtures. In fact it sounds more like a show tune piece than anything VAI would have released. There are some stellar classical piano runs but no guitar really. The tempo remains slow and the mood darkened. For an attack from Mars i would expect more musical drama! The shorter "Part III" closer finally picks up the steam and turns into a more festive jazz-rock-funk mood with VAI's sizzling guitar soloing. It ends in the same vocal jazz style that began the three part journey. Probably the best part of the album.

PASSION AND WARFARE is included in its entirety. There was really no need for remastering since the album was cutting edge at its time of original release in 1990 and sounds modern even by today's standards however there are four bonus tracks tacked onto the end. "Lovely Elixir" is a slow guitar ballad. It's like many tracks distributed throughout VAI's musical career and rather uninteresting. "And We Are One (Alternate Solo No. 2)" is pretty much just another version of "And We Are One" from the MODERN PRIMITIVE album. This version is just as slow and uneventful as the original. "As Above" is a resurrected demo and has a military march percussive drive with VAI's soaring guitar sound. Sounds like something that may have been nixed from the original P&W lineup because it sounds a little like its opener "Liberty" but pretty decent overall. "So Below" is actually a Niels Bye Nielsen Orchestration and sounds more like a movie soundtrack in a classic John Williams fashion than a STEVE VAI track. Ok but nothing OMG.

It has to be remembered that this album is a combo package. Although i'm reserving my review for PASSION AND WARFARE on its own page, as a rating these two cannot be separated. P&W is a guitar classic but has some obvious flaws but one that i easily give four stars because the strengths far outweighs the weaknesses. The bonus material on this P&W 25TH ANNIVERSARY album is pretty much throwaway material but the MODERN PRIMITIVE does have some decent stuff on it although nothing that i would consider lost treasures therefore this disc really only deserves a two star rating but since this is a combo package i'll give it all a three. If you already have PASSION AND WARFARE, there's really no need to run and get this if you haven't already. But as a true STEVE VAI fan i feel obliged to have all this extra stuff because of the few interesting tidbits and for those who want some historical context then this one does deliver the goods.

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 Amor Vincit Omnia by PURE REASON REVOLUTION album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.00 | 116 ratings

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Amor Vincit Omnia
Pure Reason Revolution Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

2 stars PRR's debut full album called "The Dark Third" showed a very promising band which was inspired by the sounds of Pink Floyd. I remember being very excited about this band after first hearing that album, but the overall feeling of excitement does tend to cool off over time. There are still good songs on the album, and the musicianship is great along with the unique harmonies, but it does tend to grow stale by the end of the album. But, there was still a lot of promise. However, their second album, "Amor Vincit Omania" does not deliver on that promise.

I respect the fact that the band wants to try other styles, but this was a step in the wrong direction in my opinion. The unique harmonies are there, and there are plenty of electronic hooks that would be great if the rest of the material stood up to the hope that was felt from the debut album. This album however, ventures too far into poppy territory for my taste. It's not a complete write-off, but it is close unfortunately.

Right off the bat, you know you've got a less adventurous sound with the first track. It's just a more electronic trip hop feeling, not that that is completely bad. But the songs that follow don't really venture into new territory, you get the same vocal harmonics as before, and some interesting vocal interplay, but like I said, it started growing stale after time on the previous album, and now it only gets stale quicker. The only prog sounding song is track 4 "Apogee/Requiem for the Lovers", but it's hard to really make it stand out that much because the same overall sound doesn't deviate much. Other than this, you get a trip- hoppy sound but without the tripy-ness. There is a band that does the electronic Trip hop sound while remaining (for the most part) progressive and that band is Archive, but PRR fails miserably at this making a more plastic sound.

Things even get embarrassingly tacky as you move towards the middle of the album, you still get the poppy dance sound. "Disconnect" comes off as an attempt to have a little variety in the sound, but it's just plain awful with a robotic voice which is annoying and boring vocals and goofy synths. There is hope that "The Gloaming" might show some prog traits boasting a + 9 minute run time, but don't get your hopes up much. It's more of an attempt to sound like a rave dance style, but it ends up sounding like a poor 80s disco band.

It's too bad that a band that showed a lot of potential would move in the wrong direction. If they want to explore electronic trip hop, then they should listen to "Archive" to hear a better way to do it. It involves retaining at least some prog elements to keep things interesting and a lot more variety. By the end of this album, you are wondering where all of the highlights are, and if you are trying to remember what any of the particularities of any songs were on the album, you won't be able to, except for how obnoxious "Disconnect" was. I can only give this 2 stars, and that is only because the production is still good.

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 Essential Recollection by JARRE, JEAN-MICHEL album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2015
3.43 | 5 ratings

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Essential Recollection
Jean-Michel Jarre Prog Related

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars "FIRST REVIEW OF THIS ALBUM"

'My review # 200 is dedicated to the genius of electronic musician JM Jarre'.

At about 50 years ago, in 1977, I was one of the many millions who was mesmerized by the videoclip from a certain Jean-Michel Jarre, with his single Oxygene 4: first clouds of cold ice and the sound of blowing wind, then a young, well dressed musician appears under a curtain, surrounded by keyboards and playing on a modular synthesizer, a magical moment! It was a huge hit in Holland and gradually JM Jarre also conquered the rest of the world, with his accessible blend of pop and electronic music. Fuelled by his fame and fortune he organized open-air concerts on a very large scale in Paris, London, Houston and Moscow, most were attended by over a million (in Moscow even 3,5 million), with a happy and enthusiastic JM Jarre as the focal point, performing his pioneering music, and embellished with jawdropping visuals. This has a history.

As a very young boy he grew up in a wealthy environment, got piano lessons, was interested in many forms of art and, a skilled painter. But emotionally the young Jean-Michel suffered, after his father (famous composer and conductor Maurice Jarre) and his mother Francette (French resistance in WW2 and a concentration camp survivor) decided to divorce when he was only five years old. During the years music, art and experimenting with devices became very important for Jean-Michel, it helped him to battle his deep sad feelings about missing his father. So first there is the very young Jean-Michel Jarre, sitting alone in in his boyroom, missing his father. But as an adult and succesful musician he is the centre of massive open-air concerts, attended by millions who embrace him. You can analyse this as the ultimate sublimation of loneliness.

Back to his music, JM Jarre was a pioneer in scouting the border between electronic - and pop music, inspired by the Moog synthesizer driven composition Popcorn. On this comprehensive CD compilation most of the tracks contain the 'JM Jarre trademark' : cheerful synthesizer runs with catchy beats, blended with lush synthesizer strings and typical electronic music 'beeps and bleeps' and subtle spacy - and fat bass sounds. Like in Oxygene Part 4 (propulsive sequencer), Equinoxe Part 4 (distorted sounds and use of the Theremin in the end), Magnetic Fields Part 2, Equinoxe Part 5, Chronology Part 4 and Rendez-Vous 4.

JM Jarre also delivers pleasant variety.

Spectacular use of the arpeggiator (basic sequence of notes) in Arpegiateur (evoking early Vangelis and Synergy).

Dreamy atmospheres in Souvenir Of China (melancholical strings and Chinese voices) and Oxygene Part 6 (beautiful layers of strings).

A techno sound in the swinging Bells, featuring the sound of bells and distorted voices. And the composition Last Rendez-Vouz (Ron's Piece), a wonderful tribute to astronaut Ron McNair, victim of the horrible Challenger disaster. Ron was also a skilled saxophone player and had worked with JM Jarre on a piece of music for Jarre's then-upcoming album Rendez-Vous. It was intended that he would record his saxophone solo on board of the Challenger. The saxophone solo in Ron's Piece is played by Frenchman Pierre Gossez. His very emotional solo starts sensitive and ends with screamy outbursts, expressing the destruction and agony, very moving.

My conclusion. This CD compilation is entitled Essential Recollection but this should have been extended to Essential Recollection Part One : 1976 - 2000. Because it spans the time between the 1976 album Oxygene and the 2000 album Metamorphoses, it's not a total overview of his work. To me the tracklist looks comprehensive, although I miss the funny single The Last Rumba and the special single London Kid (featuring guitar legend Hank B. Marvin). The emphasis is on the more catchy, pop-oriented electronic music, I miss Oxygene Part 5 (from his magical Oxygene album) and the track Magnetic Fields Part 1 (my favourite JM Jarre composition) is an abridged version, from 17.49 to 6.33. A good compilation but I am sure that within a few years Sony Music will release a compilation entitled Jean-Michel Jarre - Essential Recollection Part Two : 2000 - 2020.

My rating: 3,5 star.

Finally a personal note. A few years after watching the Ogygene 4 videoclip in 1977 I bought my first synthesizer, a Roland Juno 106, inspired by JM Jarre his videoclip. I still love his first albums but lost my dedication for JM Jarre since Zoolook. In 2016 I attended for the first time a JM Jarre gig, I was blown away by not only the jawdropping visuals but also by the Electronica 1 and 2 tracks. Especially the sensational, modern sounding Exit (tribute to his hero Edward Snowden), one of the best electronic music compositions I have ever heard, what a genius!

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 Lies And Butterflies by MYSTERY album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.42 | 44 ratings

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Lies And Butterflies
Mystery Neo-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Metal / Heavy / RPI / Symph Prog Team

5 stars "Lies and Butterflies" is the logical suite to "Delusion Rain" with seven tracks from 6 to 15 minutes. The line-up today is the most stable since the beginning. The band has never been so in control live, and this could have influenced their studio performance. The sound has never been so polished, the playing better and after listening to the cd many times, the songwriting of this one could be the best the band has released. The airy guitar of Michel St-P're is gorgeous as the magnificent flute and vocals of Jean Pageau. The music is going from the emotional ballad atmosphere to the heavy guitar riffs sometimes in the classic rock style. The Neo-Prog of Mystery delivers some long instrumental symphonic parts with orchestral arrangements, strong choirs, and beautiful piano lines. The album is not very different in terms of songwriting style from previous albums, but there's at times a strong melancholic mood and at other times a dark feel that grabs me a little more in this album. First, how enjoyable is the piano-acoustic guitar/flute break in "Something to Believe In". And what about the dreamy keyboards lines with a crescendo building up with the drums and the guitar in the song "Dare to Dream". In the suite "Where Dreams Comes Alive", it's time for the bass to steal the spot before the flute break where the music goes into a pure IQ style. The album ends up with a song of epic proportion starting with acoustic atmosphere first part and a heavy second part in an intense final section. Only the 5 minutes song "Come to Me" did nothing for me with is straightforward style. Solid 4.5 stars!

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 Flex-Able Leftovers by VAI, STEVE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1984
2.64 | 29 ratings

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Flex-Able Leftovers
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars STEVE VAI's debut album "Flex-able" was the result of his time between several years as "stunt guitarist" for Frank Zappa and his future as a rock / metal guitar god once he joined David Lee Roth and Whitesnake which helped launch his career as one of rock's greatest solo shredders of all time. The material presented on his debut album which appeared in 1984 was the result of two years of recording (82-84) of which only eleven tracks appeared but STEVE's output was quite prolific. What started out as a project to record goofy nonsensical tracks only intended to be heard by his friends resulted in a debut album with the excess of eight more tracks appearing on the FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS EP that was released the same year.

This EP may be a source of confusion since it was released twice in 1984 by two record labels and then again in 1998 as a full length album with an additional six tracks recorded during the same period with all three releases sporting completely different cover art. Yikes! The first release of FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS appeared as a vinyl 10" with only 1000 editions appearing on the Urantia label which featured fairy tale cover art that had a yellow impressionist background with a hand tugging on a heart in water. The second pressing of also 1000 editions was released on VAI's newly created Akashic Records and featured a similar cover as the original "Flex-Able" album cover with a jet black background with a pinkish purple logo and in the EP's case a similarly colored VAI playing guitar. Both of these EPs had the exact same track order which was changed up for the 1998 re-release.

IN SIDE (aka Side One)

One "You Didn't Break It" Two "Bledsoe Bluvd" Three "The Beast of Love" Four "Burnin' Down the Mountain"

OUT SIDE (aka Side Two)

One "So Happy" Two "Details at 10" Three "Little Pieces of Seaweed" Four "Chronic Insomnia"

The EP was expanded to a full-length on Sony Records released in 1998 with a completely different track order which included six unreleased tracks that were recorded during the same period of 1982-84. This one was released on CD only and included one major change of recording live drums to replace the original drum machine on "You Didn't Break It." All the tracks received a complete re- editing and mixing. To make it even more confusing four of the tracks appeared as bonus tracks on the CD release of the "Flex-Able" album that appeared in 1988. These four tracks include: "So Happy," "Bledsoe Blvd," "Burnin' Down The Mountain" and "Chronic Insomnia." Whew! The 1998 track list is:

One "F.u.c.k Yourself" (Listed as #[email protected]! Yourself) (Bonus Ed. 1998) Two "So Happy" Three "Bledsoe Bluvd" Four "Natural Born Boy" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Five "Details at 10" Six "Massacre" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Seven "Burnin' Down the Mountain" Eight "Little Pieces of Seaweed" Nine "San Sebastian" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Ten "The Beast of Love" Eleven "You Didn't Break it" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Twelve "The X-Equilibrium Dance" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Thirteen "Chronic Insomnia"

These tracks contained many but not all of the same session musicians as "Flex-Able" with Mike Keneally and Stu Hamm joining in from the Zappa crowds. The instrumentation once again ranged from the standard guitar, bass, keyboards and drums to the more exotic which included coral sitar, violin, piccolo xylophone, bell lyre and vibraphone. Also in the mix were various vocal effects from many guests as well. While "Flex-Able" was a stand alone eclectic moment in the rock universe, FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS has even more bizarre concoction which include some of the most foul mouthed profanities that STEVE VAI has ever uttered in his predominantly PG-rated career therefore this is the one album that received the Parental Advisory label most due to the 1998 add on "F.u.c.k Yourself," a shockingly hilarious critique on society and the world in general, guaranteed to either offend you beyond belief or have you rolling on the floor laughing so hard that tears are rolling out of your eyes!

FAVORITE TRACKS include: The opener "F.u.c.k Yourself" and the second track "So Happy." A very bizarre WTF spoken word oddity that shows VAI's uncanny ability to replicate spoken words in perfect pitch and tempo on guitar. "Massacre." A bitchin' guitar workout fretted over a techno beat that performs some of VAI's best guitar antics of this era. "Little Pieces Of Seaweed." OMG. This is just too much! This is INSANE!!! Yes, it's got Zappa written all over it but it is filthy, raunchy, brash and experimental as hell. VAI unleashes all the production techniques including backmasking, torturous fret abuse and freaky compositional liberties. Aspects of VAI's entire career can be heard in this one. The ultimate summary in one track. "The X-Equilibirum Dance" is a funky chunky bunch of proggy weirdness! The funk bass finds a guitar slinking in and out of sync with it and while the guitar goes to la-la land, so do the drums and bass join in offering a weird in-and-out-of focus strangeness. "Chronic Insomnia" is pure experimental guitar that would sound more at home in a no wave band like DNA. It's actually quite frightening as a bunch of guitar sounds emulate an exorcist or something. It's two minutes of pure mind f.u.c.k.e.r.y.

OK TRACKS include: "Details At 10." Despite a quite cool track. This is too much straight outa the Frank Zappa playbook. Perhaps a rejected track from the "You Are What You Is" album. Nice but it's not outstanding either. "Burnin' Down The Mountain" is a slow acoustic guitar track with shakers that offers a pleasant melodic development but never really gains steam. "You Didn't Break It" offers a Van Halen type of guitar riff. It was written by Bob and Suzannah Harris and features Bob on vocals. It's not bad and VAI's guitar adds some sizzle to an otherwise meh sort of rock song.

THROWAWAY TRACKS include: "Natural Born Boy." One of those boring rock instrumentals that has no memorable melody and displays a generic lead over rhythmic guitar. "San Sebastian" is another one of those boring melodic tracks that chimes along and never really goes anywhere. "Beast Of Love." One of those ballad type tracks with VAI's awful vocal style. I can handle his voice when the track is interesting but this one is rather bland.

Overall, a great bonus for true fans. There is some excellent material on here that i could not possibly live without however this one falls short of the essential tag. As expected the term LEFTOVERS implies material that didn't make the original cut for a reason. In many cases, it was because the material was obviously too weird and that's the material i love the best, but some as stated are rather meh while some are just ok. However, the cream of the crop on here means this is well worth checking out if you love the most weird Zappa influences of VAI's early work as well as his impeccable production and guitar playing skills.

3.5 but rounded down

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 Eno & Cale: Wrong Way Up by ENO, BRIAN album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.78 | 43 ratings

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Eno & Cale: Wrong Way Up
Brian Eno Progressive Electronic

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is truly an underrated album. It is also very unexpected. When you hear of Brian Eno and John Cale doing an album together, you would expect maybe ambience or at least very experimental music. You would be mistaken. This album has some of the most accessible music either artist has been involved in. But, believe me, it does not make it a bad album. Yes it is lacking somewhat in progressiveness, but the faster songs are so cheery and catchy that you have to sing along. And the harmonies, mostly based on heavy layering, are excellent to the "nth" degree. That is what I love about it most is the harmonies, sort of like a more modern Moody Blues type harmony, but better.

The first track is sung by Eno, but I would imagine it involves auto tune, because I have never heard him sing like this. The violin and keyboards are exiting and catchy. The same feeling melds into the next track "One World", even more upbeat with Eno and Cale both sharing vocals with lots of harmony. "In the Backroom" is a slower tempo and more of what you would expect with the vocals more subdued and no harmonies, just singing by Cale. The rhythm is consistent throughout, but there are some interesting things going on in the instrumentation. "Empty Frame" has a nice mid tempo swing feeling to it. Eno has lead vocals on this and there is some brass involved in the background and there are some harmonies here, but not as choir like as before. The guitar towards the middle is nice, but it's mixed a little deep. Vocals again seem too perfect for Eno, but it still sounds great.

"Cordoba" is a very laid back slow song lead by Cale. This one is more ambient and slightly experimental sounding, but it is not typical enough to be considered pop. It is a lot darker than anything that has come previously, so probably more what you would have expected from these two. Very sparse and the voice is solo with limited harmonics and some distortion in the orchestration towards the end giving it a unsettling feeling. "Spinning Away" is more of a nice, funky feeling with that feeling being provided by a strumming guitar while the keyboards are smooth creating a nice contrast. Eno has lead on this one and the beautifully layered and uplifting harmonics are back. The stings are back on this one too, and give this song great atmosphere. "Footsteps" is a mid-tempo song sung by Cale and is very 80s sounding especially with the synth melodies going on here. This one would have fit well on any Wang Chung album, in other words, I don't care for it as much.

Cale leads again on the next song "Been There, Done That". This one is upbeat and was released as a single and actually had some success. It is decent, but I would have picked one of the other previous upbeat songs for the single. But it has memorable lyrics that are easy to sing along with. "Crime in the Desert" has a nice piano hook that plays though the song, upbeat once again and a return to the layered harmonics that are so appealing. The synths are reminiscent of a more upbeat Vangelis tune. This one is the 3rd in a row lead by Cale. The last track on the original release is "The River" and is lead by Eno. This on has an annoying computerized drum and keyboard loop that changes chords with the vocals. It is more subdued like "Cordoba", but not as experimental. Eno's voice has an echo to it, giving it a slightly mysterious sound. The chorus is nice with the vocals, but it can remind you of sitting around a campfire singing and once you get that visual, it gets a little corny. Since the original had only 10 tracks, by this time it was starting to wear out it's welcome, so it ended at the perfect place.

The remastered version released in 2005 had 2 bonus tracks, but 1 of those tracks was different in the UK and the US. "Grandfather's House" was the UK bonus track. It is a slow ambient song, but the electric piano or vibe is a little annoying and reminds you of the terrible late 70s, early 80s Chicago albums. However, the lyrics are nice. "You Don't Miss Your Water" was the track available in both the UK and US versions. This one is better, but it is still slow with no percussion. It is driven with guitar this time, so it's not tacky like the previous one. It also has the layered harmonics. "Palanquin" was the bonus track in the US that replaced "Grandfather's House". Out of the two different bonus tracks, "Palanquin" is better in that it uses acoustic piano instead of electric, so it's not so dated sounding. It is a beautiful, atmospheric track, all instrumental, and with a new age feel, but still nice.

Overall, I really love this album and I did the first time I heard it. I do admit that it tends to wear itself out towards the end, but the bonus tracks, at least on the US reissue, do breathe life back into the album at the end. I know there isn't much there that is considered progressive, but the harmonics push this far and above any typical pop music out there. I consider it an excellent addition to my collection, but not to my prog music collection. So I have to settle for a "Good" rating, but it's pushing the 4 star rating.

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 Amnesiac by RADIOHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.63 | 418 ratings

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Amnesiac
Radiohead Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Radiohead recorded more than 20 songs in a more experimental vein than what they had done previously. These songs were originally going to be released by the band on a double album, or possible as a series of EPs. They eventually decided to release the songs across two standard albums because the music was thought to be too dense for most listeners to listen to in one sitting. Thus, "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" were born. "Kid A" was released first, and many fans and listeners were surprised at the sound that was being produced from a band that was considered to play guitar-based rock. The band definitely took a huge risk, because most of these songs were more electronic and experimental than what their listeners were used to. But people accepted the changes and embraced "Kid A" and this was followed up by "Amnesiac" where most of the remaining 20 songs were included.

"Amnesiac" as described by Thom Yorke, is a different way to look at "Kid A", sort of an explanation. It contains music that is highly experimental and even approaches the sound of Krautrock at times. Along with the typical guitar-based music, you get looped recordings, electronic manipulation, vocal manipulation, and drum machines. It was important to the band that no one of the members felt left out of the songwriting/recording process because of the new ways they were writing and producing music on these songs.

So while "Kid A" seemed more cohesive, this album does not seem to be as much of a concept that was evident in the previous album. But that's okay, because the style of the music is cohesive. I love the fact that the band expanded their horizons on these two albums, they were not content to ride off of past successes, and because of this, their fan base grew even more. It also opened up a lot of listener's minds to experimental, non-typical rock. However, "Amnesiac" is still a very misunderstood album. Many listeners skip past the more repetitive songs to listen to the ones the like the most. This ends up creating a lot of different viewpoints on the overall acceptance of the album. So hopefully shedding a little light on the tracks will help with the understanding of what the music was trying to convey.

"Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box" starts out the track list with a more upbeat rhythm and with processed vocals from Thom. The rhythm is a tinny-sounding beat which sounds like someone beating on a pot. This one to me is a bit weak for a starting track, but it does work as a preface to what is to come. Lyrically, it's sort of a warning that if you didn't find what you were looking for previously, maybe you should try something different, which is what the band was doing here, going against being labeled as a certain kind of band. The next track is the amazingly beautiful "Pyramid Song". This was one of the singles from the album, and is probably one of the less experimental tracks. However, it is driven by piano and keys and it has a very strange rhythm. This is one of my favorite Radiohead songs, completely full of emotion and beauty. The orchestration sounds like someone pleading to the listener, and some eerie sounds soon come along, but only add to the yearning of the music. Out of nowhere, rhythm kicks in when you least expect it, but it doesn't detract from the song, it enhances like you wouldn't expect.

"Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" has Thom's vocals processed again, and is a strange one indeed. The lyrics are based on a text about different kinds of doors as explained by a "Childcraft" book. The song itself is about choices, how some are important and some are not. Probably one of the weaker tracks here. It utilizes a looping track from much earlier sessions from a song that wasn't released until much later called "True Love Waits" as the sound backing the lyrics. "You and Whose Army" uses strange items like egg crates and etc. to create the effects of this song. This one is a politically based song about betrayal of leaders that had been trusted, specifically Tony Blair in this case. Much more interesting than the previous track and also more accessible even with the strange objects that were used.

Next up is the track "I Might Be Wrong." This is based on a blues guitar riff written by Greenwood, the band's guitarist, which acts as the foundation of the song. It is played under a more robotic beat, so is actually a combination of electronic and standard instrumentation. The lyrics are sparse but portray hope that a change for good is coming. "Knives Out" was another single from the album. It is less experimental and really packs a wallop as far as emotion. Strangely enough, the lyrics seem to be about cannibalism, but they are likening big business, specifically the record industry, to preying on the weakest in the human race. The guitar work on this track is influenced by The Smiths guitarist's style.

Next is "Morning Bell/Amnesiac" which is a more experimental version of "Morning Bell" from the album "OK Computer". Yorke said it was included because it came from a different place than the original and it just felt right. The lyrics are mostly the same, but it is a slower tempo accompanied by a chiming sound. "Dollars and Cents" is the next track. This one was originally over 11 minutes and was inspired by the krautrock sound. Yorke wanted Jonny to write a Coltrane-inspired track and this was the result of that. The guitar has a warped kind of sound and there is an orchestral passage in the background that has a far away sound to it. It is also a more traditional meter than most of the songs on the album. The next track "Hunting Bears" is a very sparse instrumental piece with a looped guitar sequence played underneath another guitar and synth. It acts as a link between the preceding track and the following one, but interesting enough to not just be considered filler.

"Like Spinning Plates" is probably the most interesting tracks on the album as far as experimentation goes. The song "I Will", which at the time was an unused track and would later be used on the album "Hail to the Thief", is played backwards as the accompaniment. Yorke liked the melody that the reversal of the song created, and he wrote lyrics to go along with this new melody. He then learned how to sing the lyrics in the first verse backwards, which he did. The backwards vocals were reversed and then recorded against other instruments, and that is why the first verse has that backward-sounding effect, yet you can still understand the lyrics. Kinda neat trick, huh? The remaining lyrics are sung normally, but many listeners wondered how that first verse sounded so strange. The last track is "Life in a Glasshouse" and is the only one written after "Kid A" was released. The band was unhappy with this song was sounding, because it sounded to much like funeral music. They contacted famed jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttleton, and asked him to listen to a demo of the song. He suggested they make it into a New Orleans Jazz Funeral style. They recruited his brass band to play on the song, and that is the sound you get. You still have that funeral march beat, but it sounds cheery against the bright horns. Humphrey's horn part is mostly improvised against the original track.

So, there you have it. Radiohead at their most experimental, and in my opinion, it works well. With only a few exceptions, the music here is very interesting, even ground breaking at times. It had a great influence, along with "Kid A" in getting a new generation interested in music exploration and opened the doors to other bands wishing to explore new musical avenues. I don't quite consider it a 5 star album, but it is close. There is just a slight feeling of not being as cohesive as it could have been, and a couple of the tracks are a little too repetitive and weak, but for the most part, it is still an excellent album.

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