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Birth - Born CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.20 | 80 ratings

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4 stars Out of the ashes of San Diego's ASTRA project comes a new album, reuniting Astra founders Conor Riley and Brian Ellis (yes: THE Brian Ellis--of recent West Coast psychedelia pop fame) with new rhythm section of bassist Trevor Mast and drummer Paul Marrone. The product is, in my opinion, even better than the previous band's two excellent albums, 2009's The Weirding and 2012's The Black Chord.

1. "Born" (4:48) impressive start: the four band members are definitely in sync. Organ takes the first lead but Paul Marrone's drums are mighty impressive. (Great sound, too!) The weave is sophisticated and the soloing supreme with a sonic palette that is similar to me of bands Procol Harum and Nektar as well as modern bands like Brighton's own Diagonal. And it's a full instrumental. (9/10)

2. "Descending Us" (6:56) a bluesy 1970-sound song with some fiery lead guitar play and great lead vocals that sound like some great vocalist from the infancy of the psychedelic rock movement. (13.75/15)

3. "For Yesterday" (9:14) a slowly-developing Crimsonian song ("The Court of the Crimson King" repeatedly comes to mind) with alternating delicate passages for the psych-folk vocals and hard-rocking parts for searing instrumental expositions--including a lot of Roye Albrighton-like guitar leads. Unfortunately, the vocal passages end up being inconclusive; it's the instrumental contributions that do their best to win us over. (17.25/20)

4. "Cosmic Tears" (7:41) this just has to be a Brian Ellis song, it sounds so much like his funked up psychedelia from the past ten years. ARGENT's "Hold Your Head Up" also comes to mind. When Brian gets cooking over the syncopated drums, pulsing bass note, and Mellotron, you think you're back listening to or Randy California, or Robert Fripp. When Paul Marrone starts to go off, you think you're listening to Ginger Baker or Keith Moon. When Trevor Mast gets moving he makes it feel as easy as Richard Sinclair or Nick Greenwood. (13.25/15) 5. "Another Time" (5:36) slowly arpeggiated electric guitar is joined by vocal and organ. This sounds like KHAN (Space Shanty) until it breaks into a Deep PURPLE/Procol HARUM/Wakeman-era YES passage. Flute-sounding electric guitar is a nice touch before Conor's GRAND FUNK RAILROAD vocal section takes over. But then there is shift into a more modern TED NUGENT/MOTORPSYCHO-like escape to the song. Brilliant! (9/10)

6. "Long Way Down" (7:17) part Red-era KING CRIMSON, part 1980s UK/ASIA, it's all John Wetton's voice (though a little bluesy at the beginning like early Robert Plant--he gets stronger as the song goes on--where he becomes JW)! Definitely a more hard-rock/early "Heavy Metal" inspired piece--though there is a floating jam-like section in the middle that sounds modern before the music descends back into the blues-rock chord progression and sound la Diagonal's debut album all of 14 years ago.. (13.25/15)

Total Time 41:32

Born's retro sound took me back to late 1960s-early 1970s bands like Procol Harum, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Cream, Nektar, and even Pink Floyd and The Eloy. Brian Ellis' searing guitar solos are so Clapton-Albrighton-like that they're stunning. The keyboard play of Conor Riley is on a par with Jon Lord, Gary Brooker or Matthew Fisher or Taff Freeman. The rhythm section is as tuned in that they could be from Cream or first generation King Crimson, even Camel. And the vocals could be from the first two KING CRIMSON albums or else some other psychedelic treasure. This album took several listens to be able to dive deeply into the depths of the music, the styles, the intricate weaves, the nuanced performances from each and every one of the players, but the sound engineering choices (and clarity) are fantastic! Great retro sound, great power in the imitation of some of psychedelic rock's progenitors, and great instrumental performances, but not enough fresh, new melodies and hooks to warrant masterpiece status.

B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you like superb retro imitation of the early masters.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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