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3.28 | 165 ratings

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3 stars I find "Aura" to be a pleasing if not particularly "progressive" rock album. The thing I appreciate most about it is John Payne's voice. When "Aqua" debuted I found his singing over the top, representative of the heavy metal milieu. By the time of "Aura" Mr. Payne had learned restraint and many of the songs feature beautiful vocals and superb vocal harmonies. I thoroughly enjoy his singing on this album.

All the players are top notch and the guitar work varies between understated and pyrotechnical which suits the mood of the various sections of the songs. Steve Howe appears on some songs but is for the most part drowned out by the flashy pyrotechnics of the other guitarists (not that Mr. Howe can't play with fire; he just seems more restrained here when he does show up).

Geoff's keyboard orchestrations are lush and varied and intelligently conceived. The chord progressions are rather standard for the most part, however. Some jazz-tinged harmonic bits here and there do liven things up, but some songs are only a few chords that repeat for long stretches ("You're The Stranger" for example). But somehow the groove, playing and singing make them work.

"Free" is the "big epic" although again it is fairly simple in its harmonic and rhythmic approaches. Still powerfully performed, however.

My favorite track is one of the "bonus" tunes: "Come Make My Day" which has a very nice instrumental middle section that modulates a bit and takes you on a brief journey before bringing you back to the rather conventional chorus.

If you're in the mood for conservatively composed, expertly performed symphonic rock, "Aura" should fit the bill.

bdenim | 3/5 |


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