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Proto-Kaw - Before Became After CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 151 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Every once in a while I find a group that really satisfies the progger in my soul and Proto-Kaw definitely meets all the requirements in spades. Right off the bat I have to give serious kudos to Kerry Livgren for his exemplary engineering and production on this album. It sounds fantastic and features the deep, cavernous resonance that I love to immerse my mind into when I listen to fine progressive rock. And I want to emphasize that this is a prog ROCK band in every sense of the word. Just the way I like it.

"Alt. More Worlds Than Known" with its varying time signatures is a great way to kick things off. It offers a majestic musical tag line that grabs your attention immediately. The middle part features flute, keyboards and guitar revolving around each other tastefully. Sometimes a vocalist in prog can be too affected or limited for my palate but Lynn Meredith's confident voice is strong and straightforward throughout and he briefly shows off a rare whistle register here as the song fades out. "Words of Honor" is an excellent prog rock ballad with smooth, bright acoustic guitars strumming underneath heartfelt singing and Kerry Livgren's biting electric guitar lead. The longer "Leaven" is next and it begins dramatically with big drums and some inspired fretless bass work. Dan Wright's organ and Kerry's guitar join together as they build the tune up to a rockin' strut before the vocal melody takes over. Again, I feel compelled to mention the incredibly spacious tonal character they achieve here. It's huge. And the triple-time segment at the end bristles with high energy.

An interesting trait this album has is how they mix things up by tossing in a more standard rock song between the expansive cuts. "Axolotl" is one of those and it starts with some decent harmony flute but to my ears the tune is a little too formulaic in contrast to most of the other more inventive songs. "Quantum Leapfrog" has an upbeat, jazzy feel to it with lush harmony vocal lines that bring to mind Toto's approach. Brad Schulz absolutely shines on the drums and Livgren turns in another hot guitar solo. Another change of pace is "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones," a cover of an obscure oldie by The Cryan' Shames. It's for anyone who's ever had a beef with a pack of greedy lawyers. They turn this catchy tune into a bonafide rocker and the tightly knit vocal chorus will stick in your head longer than you might want it to. Craig Kew's slick bass guitar performance is killer stuff. "Gloriana" is over nine minutes of quality progness and it really lets the underrated John Bolton loose on flute and saxophone. It's a large piece of music and he, along with Lynn's outstanding vocal, boosts it up and over the top. The band also delivers a beautiful, classic closing.

"Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming" has a southern flavor akin to something you'd expect from a group like the Marshall Tucker Band. The three-part harmony singing is warm and smooth all the way through. "Heavenly Man" features yet another competent melody and they wrap a distinctive Native American atmosphere around it. It flows into a funky groove after a few minutes and then Livgren tears it up on guitar before booming tribal drums set the stage for some haunting, mystical music. I have to say these guys certainly know how to end a song and this one's a doozy. The epic "Theophany" begins with a marching beat then evolves into a grand symphonic theme before Meredith's commanding vocal seals the deal. What follows is a smooth saxophone ride before they lead you back through the song's multi themes once again. And then they treat you to one hell of a finale.

If you look at their pictures you might form an impression that they're just some old geezers trying to relive their rock and roll youth but don't fool yourself. It's obvious that the combined experience and maturity of these musicians adds a unique quality rather than being a detriment. Their music sounds anything but dated or old- fashioned. It just goes to show that great composing, arranging and ability knows no age limit. If you enjoy symphonic progressive rock that knows how to drive then you owe it to yourself to check these guys out soon. I give "Before Became After" 4.3 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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