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Izz - Ampersand, Volume 1 CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.07 | 37 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a hard one to rate. It should be somewhere between two and three stars. Since the stars have five points I'll give it a 2.3/5 rating. Why? There are some great songs here which are strong and deserve a wider audience than just a Collectors/Fans only rating.

Ampersand is a collection of studio tunes which did not appear on Sliver of the Sun or I Move and a few "Live" versions of other songs. This amounts to an EP with the "Live" tracks used to flesh it out to a whole LP.

The good stuff: Basically the best parts are the new full band tracks, the EP part of the disc. Ancient Memory has some CSN styled harmonies over a nice tight chord arrangement, which blossoms into a wild keyboard solo and syncopated drumming then a blistering lead from Brems. It's one of my favorites here.

Afraid to be Different has a very Beatlesque vibe, straight from Abbey Road. A solid track, but could have used some harder moments to break up the rythym.

The Wait of it All features some vocals by Annmarie Byrnes, which elevate the tune above the electronic drumming. Tom Galgano's keyboard solo brightens things up using some Keith Emerson style patches.

Confusion, a concert regular, finally gets the studio treatment and is one of the best tracks to sum up the IZZ sound. It places an emphasis on their vocal harmonies, Annmarie Brynes guest here too. Galgano plays some piano here, before adding some synth sounds during the middle section and melts into ambient washes on the close.

The Bar Song flows along with introspective lyrics, more wonderful harmonies, this time Laura Meade fills in. This is the type of song that gets stuck in your head, slow but melodic and thoughtful. Understated solos flow through the sections, never really hitting hard. This could have been opened up with some stronger soloing and a keyboard break.

The problem here is the lack of continuity, the pieces don't fit together. The full band tracks are strong and have some wonderful moments. Guitarist Paul Bremner's solo piece "One Slice to Go" is a jazzy acoustic number that seems so out of place that I regularly skip it so as not to break up the flow. Maybe it was an attempt to add a Steve Howe-like guitar piece to add some diversity to the album? Here it just doesn't work.

My Best Defenses, a solo vocal and piano piece by Laura Meade, really makes you scratch your head. It's a beautiful song, but it's a Laura Meade tune, no IZZ members play on it. Is she now a full member? It just doesn't fit.

The Live pieces are great re-creations of older IZZ tunes, but the standout here is Molly's Jig from Paul Bremner's solo album Wombsong. Similar to the Mists of Dalriada from I Move, this Irish flavored tune is really uplifting and shows the facility of Brems playing.

This is not THE place to start with IZZ, but it's still a good rewarding listen that has regularly found it's way back into my CD player.

Dan Bobrowski | 3/5 |


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