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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Leonardo - The Absolute Man CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)


Various Genres

3.46 | 72 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Andy Webb
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin
2 stars We've seen it all before

Trent Gardner is a known name in the progressive rock community. The instigator of a large number of projects, bands, and supergroups, he is one of the more prolific members of the prog rock community (although not nearly as much as say Rick Wakeman or Senmuth). He is most well-known for his band Magellan, but he has also started the supergroup Explorer's Club, he has worked with James Labrie on his solo project MullMuzzler, he has worked with Jack Foster III for his solo project, and he has made a vast number of collaborative concept albums, which we have here. Leonardo: The Absolute Man is what the title implies: a concept album about the great scientist, inventor, artist, and thinker Leonardo Da Vinci. Gardner recruited a number of well-known prog rockers to make this album, including his former workmate James Labrie, his brother and bandmate Wayne Gardner, and Kansas veteran Steve Walsh. Gardner fills out the lineup with a large number of session musicians (most of whom are "nobodies" to the prog world). The music of the album sadly is quite similar to the vast majority of Gardner's other works: grandiose and complex (but overall kind of cheesy) compositions, full of lush synthesizer runs, wide soloing across the instrumental board, and powerful (but seemingly strained) vocals. This album, although containing some nice tracks, is very much just more of the same.

One thing that really annoys me across the board with Gardner's music is his insistence on using orchestral voices from his keyboard, most of which have a horribly cheesy MIDI twinge going for them. While the orchestral pieces Gardner writes may be symphonically and music theoretically phenomenal, full of lush counterpoint, various parts and movements, and other classic twists, the use of his keyboard to execute them irks me. If he can hire such a vast amount of singers and studio musicians, he could at least hire a few orchestral musicians!

The music that's not an attempt at classical on the album has a very similar vibe as the former. Gardner is obviously a wonderful progressive rock musician and composer, but his execution isn't the best there is, and I have to say mostly due to his keyboard atmospheres. The compositions in their own right aren't bad; they are traditional Gardner-esque compositions, full of compositional flares and influences from classic prog giants such with plenty of modern twists and turns thrown in. However, for some reason this style kind of grates on me. Although I enjoy much of Magellan's output, this album still has some cheesy quality that grate against my skin. Tracks like "Reins of Tuscan," "This Time, This Way," and "Inventions" are slightly better and are highlights for the album, but overall I feel the album is lacking in depth and quality.

In the end, the album isn't bad. It has a nice concept, a well-arranged production, and some really nice moments. Labrie does a great job vocally on this album, which can be a rare thing to find outside of his work with Dream Theater. Amongst the slew of tribute, concept, and supergroup albums Gardner has done, I can't say this is the best, but in the end it is a good album. 2+ stars.

Andy Webb | 2/5 |


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