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Vertical Alignment - The Trail Of Tears Suite CD (album) cover


Vertical Alignment


Symphonic Prog

4.03 | 4 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Steve Conrad
4 stars Nu Na Da Ul Tsun Yi (the trail where we died)

Vertical Alignment

Mike Florio? vocals, Keyboards Doug Bowers? backing vocals, keyboards, guitar Michael Adams? drums and percussion, fretless bass Phoen1x? backing vocals, guitar, keyboards, Cherokee flute

GUESTS on Trail of Tears Suite:



RANDY GEORGE: Bass and Keyboard



RANDALL REEDER: Will Rogers Impersonator

ROSS RORIE: Narration

Album released December 1, 2017

The Trail of Tears Suite

What is it that spurs us towards learning about our roots, our heritage?

According to Phoen1x, it was a trip to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, USA, for the memorial service when his mother died.

Here in the heart of the Cherokee Nation, which had been forcibly relocated from their ancestral homes in the southeastern regions of USA, he was confronted with his own story.

The Trail of Tears Suite flowed from his pen, song after song, as he immersed himself in that tragic tale of dominant culture oppressing indigenous peoples?yet indomitable spirits who chose to survive, thrive, and ultimately to forgive.

The Music

To these ears, a clear example of vintage symphonic progressive music- filled with growling Hammond organ, synthesizers, mellotron, orchestration, acoustic and electric guitar work, sophisticated arrangements, multi-layered vocals, changing tempos and keys, keeping a high level of musicianship.

The vocals were outstanding. I wished at times that there might be a change in lead vocals simply for some variety. Steve Walsh, for all his massive musical gifts, sometimes allowed Robby Steinhardt to take the lead, or the two would do powerful duet-vocals.

The KANSAS reference is deliberate as I was reminded at times of their earlier albums, especially those tunes that focused on Native themes.

I've rarely cared for spoken words or narration during albums, and there were several of these sprinkled throughout. Although the Will Rogers portions furthered the lyrical themes being explored- and I happen to love his witticisms, most of that seemed superfluous to me.

The Lyrics

There are several ways to convey a message.

I prefer having things suggested rather than literally spelled out- as they are here. I prefer "Long distance runaround/ Long time waiting to feel the sound?", to literally saying what is happening.

Granted, it's subjective, but for me, I'd rather make my own connections, feel my own feelings, get my own references.

That said, a lot of emotional ground is covered in these lyrics, and the story is unfolded bit by bit- people being forced to leave their ancestral homes, march in severe conditions, suffer great deprivations and loss. By some estimates, nearly half of the more than 16,000 people perished in the Cherokee relocation.


This is a worthy consciousness-raising, thoughtful example of symphonic progressive rock played at a high level.

Steve Conrad | 4/5 |


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