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Explorers Club - Raising the Mammoth CD (album) cover


Explorers Club

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5 stars The wait was far too long for me for another EXPLORER'S CLUB album I loved the first one and "Raising The Mammoth" is unquestionably a serious prog-rock opus from some of the best performers in the genus. It never ceases to amaze me how these wonderful artists consider all this prolific and thought provoking work as side projects. That is an indication of the level of professionalism and talent that we are dealing with here. Lord knows how they all find the time to juggle their busy schedules to contribute to these projects. Just look at the names involved in Trent Gardner's newest onslaught for your ears ... Steve Walsh, Kerry Livgren, James LaBrie, John Myung, Terry Bozzio, Gary Wehrkamp, and a host of others that are very recognizable names in the industry today.

Note that there are 44 tracks listed, do not let that be a misunderstanding; it still manages to clock in just under an hour. This is your representative progressive rock format with explicitly long and drawn out soloing, and one song lasting nearly half the album. It's overkill, overindulgence, whatever you want to call it, it is the way it should be. It all works like a charm thank you very much. It turns out sounding like one big jam session that never ends, it's great and I loved every minute of it. This CD is leans heavily on the instrumental continuum, and rightfully so. Everyone needs to strut their stuff, and they do it in a big way. This is a decidedly keyboard oriented recording, which comes as no surprise, after all its Trent's gig. It sounds like everyone is having the time of their lives on this session, even though the intensity level is so high. You can tell that the atmosphere is one of camaraderie. Walsh and LaBrie sound great, former Megadeth lead guitar slinger Marty Friedman is allowed to go nuts; he is all over the musical map from beginning to end. It seems as though Marty was able to purge his soul after the untimely break up of his legendary group.

I am just beside myself every time I listen to music like this. It sucks me right in and mesmerizes me. I always find myself craving for more once the CD stops. That is what the entire purpose of music is, to sweep you away to some far away place where nobody can see you or communicate with you, it's just you and the music. I don't know about you, but prog-rock like this always does it for me. I never feel like I can do the music enough justice with my words on an emotional level. It always moves me so, at times beyond any words that I could possibly express. If all of that is not enough motivation for you to check this CD out then I think its time to put your stereo in the attic. Now with that, I bid you farewell until the next prog-rock masterpiece comes out that I can gush about.

Report this review (#10920)
Posted Monday, January 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Edited 09/28/05

Second output of this supergroup is in some way better than "Age Of Impact", because it's not based mainly on "technicality for technicality's sake", but therefore it has its weak point in the second track "Broad Decay" which is too much in a R&B vein, at least for my taste. But the rest of the album is quite well done and certainly more versatile than the first one. There are again excellent musicians involved, instead of Derek Sherinian we have here the pleasure to listen to Mark Robertson of the great band CAIRO, Petrucci found a really good replacement in Marty Friedman and bass is now in good hands by John Myung known from his activities with PLATYPUS, KING'S X and THE JELLY JAM. And besides Friedman we have two more excellent guitarists with Kerry Livgren from KANSAS and Gary Wehrkamp who played already for AYREON and SHADOW GALLERY. Plus two great vocalists provided by KANSAS and DREAM THEATER. MAGELLAN's input on this release is reduced to only one of the Gardner brothers, but since there are already three great guitarists, Wayne is not really missed. Keyboards (I think Robertson's) remind me sometimes very much to that ones of Keith Emerson. A very good record and I'd rate it as well with 3,5 stars!

Report this review (#10921)
Posted Friday, March 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Man thank god for side projects lol Dang i will say i thought this album was going to be dissappointing since certain members aren't in this album like Petrucci and Sheehan. But with a few new guys like how about Steve Walsh, Kerry Livegren, Gary Werhkamp, Marty Friedman, and John Myung man how could i refuse. And i must say no matter what reviews say I LOVE THIS ALBUM almost even more than the first Explorer's Club album. Raising the Mammoth has the great elements that was sponsered on the last album heaviness, melody, jamming section, and amazing solos. Though the is alot more layering in keyboards and soloing with keyboards than there was in the last album which is something i love. I thought The Tangent were the master band to use layers of Keyboards in there albums well these guys definitely have what it takes as well which is awesome. But what's crazy about this cd is well there's four songs and 44 tracks lol who does something like this. Well it doesn't matter to me cause I love it. There is a strong evidence of some 70s prog rock in some of the songs but not quite all the way which is cool cause i love that but anyway Raising the Mammoth starts off with one of the best songs Passage to Paralysis which is great awesome drums, cool guitar licks, and the vocals GAH i love them Walsh, Labrie, and Gardner make such a great team. Then things slow down with Braod Decay a very nice track full of melodic sections, lush keyboards, and a cool guitar solo at the end. Kinda makes me wish who is doing the guitar solos but for some reason they didn't mark solos like they did for the last album. Vertebrates starts off soft for a nice vocals use but then you get this heavy HEAVY riff to come in while everybody just strets there stuff. the crazy random guitar solo that ends the song is pretty neat too. But probably to me the best song is the 20 minute instrumental Gigantipithicus which is just awesome from aggressive to melodic to sounds where the keyboards sound like Mammoth OH MAN its good its rare to find a long instrumental these days but let me tell if your like me and love awesome jamming songs, with grooves and diverse soloing this is the disc for you trust me its worth it. I loved the last disc and i love this one Explorer's Club has definitely become one of my top favorite side projects.
Report this review (#84981)
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sad, but this album for me is totaly aimless. When i saw the musicians of the highest calibre on this second effort i said to myself. wow is gonna be a great one. But what a lack of everything on this album. Boring, without head or tail, totaly diseppointment to me. Nothing to add but once again it's clear that you don't have to be only a very good musician as individual, but you have to be good in a team, and the team here simply don't work together. What is on Raising the mammoth is only 2 stars, sad because the musicians are among the best in prog music.
Report this review (#140862)
Posted Friday, September 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars So that's what happens if a successfull project is urged to get a follow-up. Obviously Explorer's Club was mainly founded for the Age of Impact concept because that was a terrific thought out and worked out idea but it lasted 4 years before the successor arrived. I had been waiting anxiously for this successor and hoped it would be a match for the great debut.

But eventhough it has become a highly original concept album which is also loved by quite a number of people (or at least appreciated) I can't help being disappointed about it but that has also to do with the inevitable comparison with its predecessor. I mean there are no high quality mindblowing guitar solos on this one and also hardly any brilliant instrumental passages like on Age of Impact. The vocals are more dominant on this album than on Age of Impact. And a genuine piece of criticism I have is the in some cases repetitive passages that are annoying to me really.

This is more like a piece of art to me. And you know what it is with art. You have to feel the idea of its creator and if you don't it mostly doesn't mean anything for you. That's exactly the case for me here. I have no connection with this album, I can detect a lot of original music but nothing for my personal taste. Then again, I'm a Philistine so that probably explains.

So I wouldn't be too disappointed with this review if I was Explorer's club or a great fan of this album. It's (like always) just an opinion. I still give it 3 stars because I know it's something special.

Report this review (#158712)
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars A Prog-mammoth

Explores Club is obviously a project strongly inspired by the classic Prog bands of the 70's. But they are not only inspired by these 'Prog-mammoths', they include some of them within their ranks. On the first Explorers Club album, Age Of Impact, we could hear Steve Howe and on this second album we can hear Steve Walsh and Kerry Livgren from Kansas. The presence of these two gentlemen together with the fact that I very much liked Age Of Impact made me very interested in Raising The Mammoth. While I think that it is not up to par with the first, I was not disappointed by this album.

Steve Walsh sings lead on major parts of the album and he is in good form here. Other parts are handled by James LaBrie and some by project leader and producer Trent Gardner himself. Like on Age Of Impact we also hear contributions from some other members of Dream Theater (but not John Petrucci this time). Guitar duties are taken over by Marty Friedman which is not a bad replacement. Still, Raising The Mammoth is a bit more keyboard oriented compared to Age Of Impact. Terry Bozzio of UK fame (among other bands) is also once again aboard. The presence of Prog legends like Bozzio, Livgren and Walsh really lends this project some classic credibility that often lacking in most new Prog bands.

Explorers Club manages to create something interesting of their own; heavily informed by the classics, and sometimes by them, but not copying them. So while Explorers Club clearly belongs to a genre and a tradition, I do not find them derivative. At least not in the blatant sense of so many Neo-Prog and Prog Metal bands trying to sound exactly like their older heroes without having the direct relation to them like in Explorer's Club.

There is a slight Metal sound and feeling on several passages but much less so than in Dream Theater, for example. As I said, Raising The Mammoth is slightly more keyboard dominated reminding of Emerson Lake & Palmer. But there is even a slight New Age/World Music influence in this music but not as much as on Age Of Impact.

The album is divided into two main parts called Raising The Mammoth 1 and Raising The Mammoth 2 (AKA Prog-O-Matic) Gigantipithicus. Raising The Mammoth 1 is in turn divided into three parts. Somewhat confusingly the tracks on the CD do not follow this division, however. The albums having as many as 44 tracks! This makes it the case that hearing this album is mp3 format becomes tedious with a slight glitch between every track. You therefore really need the CD. Might this be the motivation behind having so many tracks?

Raising The Mammoth 1 very good and is up to par with the material on Age Of Impact. Raising The Mammoth 2 (AKA Prog-O-Matic) Gigantipithicus, however, does not only have a very silly title but it is a 28 minute long instrumental that I feel lacks any clear direction. It is not awful by any means but it is not very memorable. This brings this album down a bit.

Still, this is recommended for those who liked Age Of Impact and for those who follow the careers of the individual musicians involved. For the average Prog fan, however, this is a good, but non-essential album.

Report this review (#206927)
Posted Friday, March 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars The second and final release (possibly) from the EXPLORERS CLUB is once again led by keyboardist Trent Gardner. Mark Robertson helps him out on keys while John Myung (bass),Terry Bozzio (drums),Wehrkamp, Friedman and Livgren (guitars) , LaBrie and Walsh (vocals) fill out the lineup. So once again a steller lineup with KANSAS and DREAM THEATER well represented.

The suite Raising The Mammoth is divided into three sections. What's a little confusing is that both my stereo and computer show 44 tracks for this album instead of the four long ones that are shown on the back of the cd cover.Yup something like this drives me crazy. It is interesting though as you listen to the music there are distinct changes after each part, so the 44 songs or sections are warranted I suppose. Instrumentally this album is impressive much of the time. I can't say the two vocalists are my favourites by any means but they are both fine. I like when the sound finally settles down on the 13th part and we get some atmosphere. From here on out the tempo and mood shifts quite a bit. Not a fan of the backing vocals that are prevelant. Lots of synths too. Love the guitar opening the 27th section though.

I think I like this a little more than the debut but it's still a 3 star album at best.

Report this review (#297466)
Posted Saturday, September 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars REVIEW #15 - "Raising the Mammoth" by Explorer's Club (2002). 08/19/2018

I was surprised to see that Explorer's Club, a prog side project supergroup headed by the late Magellan keyboardist Trent Gardner, operated out of nearby Vacaville, California in Solano County. Being just about thirty miles away in Sonoma County, it is always pleasing to see some prog come out of the San Francisco Bay Area. With Gardner passing away in 2016 due to unknown causes, "Raising the Mammoth" will be this band's second and final album, being released in 2002 on Magna Carta Records with a slew of guest names.

I admit that I never heard of the band Magellan prior to this random review, but immediately a lot of the names which Gardner was able to feature on this album are extremely familiar. Numerous musicians take part in this project; among them are vocalist James LaBrie and John Myung of prog metal icons Dream Theater, vocalist Steve Walsh and guitarist Terry Livgren of Kansas, the band which brought us one of the most commercially successful prog singles in 1975's "Carry On Wayward Son", drummer Terry Bozzio who did work with the late great Frank Zappa, and even Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman, who I was surprised to see has his works featured here on the site despite being a name associated with thrash metal. All of these names immediately create intrigue as to what "Raising the Mammoth" may contain.

Being created long after the constraints of vinyl records were lifted, this album can be best described as a constant stream of highly excessive prog rock for roughly an hour. There are two parts to "Raising the Mammoth", the first being a THIRTY-SIX MINUTE LONG epic split into three movements ranging from eleven to fifteen minutes in length. Gardner does not hesitate to challenge both the listener, and the pre-existing boundaries of what is considered progressive as this album is very expansive and borderline pretentious. This is considered a concept album, although the concept is not clear; if anyone can interpret the lyrics and come to me with a definitive answer I would be greatly thankful. The first movement of "Raising the Mammoth 1" is titled "Passage to Paralysis"; we start off with an epic and grandiose three-minute introduction that eventually meanders between wordless chants a la Jon Anderson on "Close to the Edge" and a wild flurry of guitars. Walsh starts off on vocals as the music mellows down; while I inherently prefer LaBrie's dynamic and modern-sounding voice to the Kansas frontman's, I have to admit that his sound suits the overall mood of this album very well. While I may not understand the point of the lyrics, I think they were more suited to augment the sound of the music, rather than further some sort of concept. We get two solid verses before the music evolves around the six-minute mark into this fast-paced tempo with almost incomprehensible harmonized vocals which I'm not too keen on. Gardner makes it evident to the listener that this is a progressive album with several harsh tempo changes interspersed by his own keyboard solos; if you're a fan of keyboard music in the vein of some sort of modern ELP, this is the album for you. I am not too big a fan of this style, but I still gave this album a chance with an open ear. At nine minutes we get a reprise of the "In my experience..." verse style which I appreciate; still no sign of LaBrie at this point, but Walsh is definitely within his groove in the allocated time for lyrics. From the twelve- minute point the music seems to transition towards this ascending coda overlaid with vocals which radically changes and breaks down all the way to the end of the first part. For a prog album of this stature, Gardner makes very liberal use of vocals, a practice which is expanded upon in the second movement "Broad Decay" where Explorer's Club makes greater use of chant. Walsh remains on vocals; keep in mind at this point we have not heard LaBrie yet, which made me initially think that Gardner was saving perhaps his greatest weapon for some sort of grand finale. The lyrics on "Decay" seem to be somewhat socially conscious and political to an extent, even though I still have no idea what the lyrics actually mean on a literal or figurative scale. This movement starts out very mellow, but still makes room for Gardner's keys, while moving progressively more symphonic into the middle section; near the end we get this sort of gospel chant that concludes the movement which is definitely unique and memorable, but not necessarily good. So far Explorer's Club has provided a rich amount of instrumentation, but much of it has gone in no direction whatsoever. Gardner attempts to make a solid Keith Emerson impression with hordes of keyboard solos, but none of them are particularly memorable.

The third and final movement of the first part of "Raising the Mammoth" is titled "Vertebrates", and it is here that LaBrie finally makes his first appearance of the album. Let me just say that I was totally underwhelmed with how LaBrie was handled on this album; he appears for this weird duet with the backing vocals of Gardner himself, but after this not only does he never appear again, but all vocals cease to exist. Yes, the remainder of this album, at just over thirty minutes, is entirely instrumental. The rest of "Vertebrates" isn't bad; we have this really metal guitar riff with a visible bass line which serves as the foundation for a synth solo, but the entire second part of "Raising the Mammoth" known as "Gigantipithicus" is a twenty-one minute instrumental which features more of the Gardner keyboard solos in addition to some pretty epic musical movements and Friedman ripping guitar solos. One major issue with this issue, at least from what I'm hearing, is pretty mediocre production value. I can barely hear or feel Bozzio's drums; he is just in the background far overshadowed by the keyboards and vocals. Same applies for the bassist Myung; it seems that even though Dream Theater is listed as being on this album, they seldom make an impact, which is disappointing. The heavy emphasis on Gardner's musicianship does not help this album out in the slightest; with such notable names you would think that they would be appropriately used. Nevertheless, much of the epic instrumental is largely forgettable, dotted with the aforementioned solos and some fake endings which just become apprehensive over time. It's like the band is teasing me at this point with the prospect of this album finally being over. Eventually it does end, and it ends in rather unspectacular fashion much to my disdain.

I tried to find things to say about this album, but ultimately I came up largely empty. This will unfortunately be one of my shorter reviews, which is a bit sad considering I had very high hopes for this album to be something along the lines of a four-star performance given the array of names on Explorer Club's roster. Perhaps more listens could awaken a love in this album in the vein of "Tales from Topographic Oceans" but frankly "Raising the Mammoth" is not essential enough to ever really return to. I had no clue of this collaboration's existence prior to hitting a random review, and now I can see why. The music on this album is not bad or even bland, but it just rather falls victim to the textbook prog malaise of having no direction in the slightest. It would have helped to have a decent concept to allow me to ponder while listening to the grandiose modern "earthy" sounds of this LP, but even then the lyrics have even less direction than the music, and the format in which the lyrics are presented in the album booklet is just awful; it is impossible to read as a diagonal block of text. I understand that Trent Gardner, the leader of this project, was attempting to go for a modern approach that was extremely progressive, but there really is nothing to go alongside this music. I considered giving this album a two-star review, but I felt that the strong vocals of Steve Walsh combined with the advanced instrumentation and effort into making a challenging album should just barely save this album from being relegated into being a work for just collectors and fans. It is at least a breath of modern prog, but it is by no means essential and easily forgettable. If you're a huge fan of keyboard-dominated prog and can tolerate a heavy metal tinge to your music, then you may appreciate this album more than I did. I give "Raising the Mammoth" a three-star (70% - C-) rating; does not really factor much into the grand scheme of prog outside of being a supergroup collaboration between a blend of older and modern progressive musicians.

Report this review (#1988482)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2018 | Review Permalink

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