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Von Hertzen Brothers - Love Remains the Same CD (album) cover


Von Hertzen Brothers


Crossover Prog

4.20 | 161 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is what crossover prog should be; this is the sort of album against which all other crossover albums should be compared. This is music without pretension, music that is content to forgo lengthy technical sections or extended instrumental show-offs in favor of irreplaceable composition. Every song is incredibly melodic, with infinitely sing-able choruses and vocal lines that will give you chills. This certainly isn't particularly difficult or challenging music, but it's darn good, and some of the most listenable stuff I've heard in a long time.

"Bring Out the Sun (So Alive)" begins the album with a slow buildup. A slow repeated melody that's repeated over and over, being added onto by various instruments until vocals enter and the track takes on a spacey, laid back feel aided by psychedelic keyboard parts and great vocal harmonies. At about 5 minutes in the track abruptly changes tone, taking on a much more up-tempo feel and launching into a scorching organ solo that helps introduce a new main melody. Despite the fact that more or less the same melody is used throughout the track it never feels repetitive, which is due largely to the strength of the melodies used and the brilliant pacing. Small changes are made in the music throughout to give the song a sense of drama and it works brilliantly, with the result being that "Bring Out the Sun" comes off sounding like a bona fide prog epic despite its generally homogeneous composition.

"Spanish 411," as its title might suggest, has a bit of a Spanish folk music flair to it, though it's also quite a rocker. The vocal melodies are again spectacular, as are the use of harmonies, and there's some rather understated but still very effective horn playing that eventually increases in its intensity as the track goes on. This all results in a kind of prog-rock mariachi sound that culminates in a great reprise of the vocal melody. A stellar track and some of the catchiest prog music I've ever heard.

"Freedom Fighter" is another highlight of the album. Beginning with a punchy, syncopated guitar part, the track quickly develops into a driving, upbeat little song that's as charming as it is easy to sing along with. Excellent interplay between keyboards, guitars and strings really helps to bring out the melodies as well, ensuring that this song is one that will likely get stuck in your head. How much prog can you say that about? Add to this the fact that every note in the song hits like a train despite its catchiness and you've got all the makings of a pop-prog classic.

"Somewhere In The Middle" takes the tempo down a little bit, trading in driving guitars and cheery horns for a melancholy introductory verse backed by tender piano. Once the song gets to about the three minute mark, however, the grandeur of the previous 3 tracks returns, with vocals soaring towards the heavens and spot-on perfect interaction between guitar, percussion and piano. Again, the vocal harmonies cannot be overlooked, with multiple voices blending together to transform great melodies into holistically great sung parts.

"In The End" opts for a slightly darker sound, with some spookily atmospheric keyboard parts faintly lurking behind a guitar and piano part that wouldn't sound out of place in a neo-noir film. The vocals in this section are suited to the music perfectly, with a proper degree of restraint and mystery; however, the real high point of the song is the chorus. Guitars crash in and the already spot-on singing ascends to new heights, with incredibly passionate and raw delivery. Following this is a bit of an interlude section, with a slower tempo and lower, more restrained vocal harmonies that eventually build back up to reprise the chorus. It's an incredibly effective compositional technique, so much so, in fact, that by the final chorus there's a strong urge to simply stand up and belt along with the singer. The end of the track returns to the slinkier, darker motif for a brief moment before a brief but very good keyboard duet closes out the song and leads into the next.

"Faded Photograph" begins with a brief instrumental section that can only be described as triumphant. While the track overall is essentially a simple verse-chorus number, the fantastic instrumental interplay, wonderful melodies and stellar vocals ensure that the song is the farthest thing from ordinary.

"Silver Lover" begins with a wonderfully carefree strummed guitar part that's quickly elaborated on by percussion, keyboards and even some faint wordless vocals. The song on the whole is far more stripped down than some of the other more symphonic numbers, relying primarily on fairly simple instrumental parts and the charm of the vocals to keep the track going. There is, however, a gorgeously spare instrumental section in the middle that proves the old idiom that "less is more." The end of the track does crank up the orchestration quite a bit, but the pacing of the track is brilliant and the extra arrangement never sounds busy or forced.

"I Came For You" again starts off subdued, with an almost martial percussion beat and a low, almost sinister vocal part. This more restrained approach, however, is juxtaposed against some brief guitar parts that offer sledgehammer chords. The contrast is brilliant and helps to emphasize the heaviness when it is used. Midway through the track switches gears and introduces a repeating motif that is elaborated and built upon for the rest of the song, much in the same way that "Bring Out the Sun" was structured. The effect is much the same, as well, despite this latter section's repetition it's incredibly powerful, with multiple voices and a large variety of instruments having joined by the time the song draws to its close.

"The Willing Victim" begins much the same way the album did, with a softly repeated instrumental motif that is built on until vocals enter. When vocals do enter, they're high and ethereal, effortlessly serving as the center of the track without needing to overpower the instruments behind them. The introduction of strings confers upon the track a sense of cinematic finality, and after a brief instrumental break that features an excellently dramatic synth solo, the vocals re-emerge stronger than ever. There's another brief vocal section, and then the track drops down to nothing, briefly leaving the listener to wonder whether the album has ended on an early anti-climax. Fortunately, this is not the case, as the final three minutes of this album contain some of the finest music I've ever heard. Very faintly, guitar and vocals re-appear before building to a stunning climax that features typically soaring vocals, wailing guitars, and of course all manner of other instruments. It's a breathtaking climax to an album that comes as close to perfection as music is capable of coming.

Thus, if you are looking for a pop-prog fix, look no further. This is one of those albums where every song seems better than the last and where my favorite song is the one that happens to be playing. A stellar example of songcraft and proof that music doesn't need to be mind- bendingly complex to be good. As I said, as far as crossover prog goes, this is the standard for the genre to live up to.


VanVanVan | 5/5 |


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