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Mike Visaggio - Starship Universe CD (album) cover


Mike Visaggio


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3 stars Mike Visaggio is a keyboard player based in Virginia, USA; and Starship Universe is his debut solo album. But although this is his solo debut, Visaggio has an extensive background as a band musician, being involved in numerous bands from the late 60's until the mid eighties, and then returning to the scene after the millennium after a 20 year long hiatus from making and performing music. And it is easy to hear that he still is a skilled musician, despite his long hiatus from the scene.

Musically the classic prog bands from the 70's; Yes, Genesis and ELP are named as some of his influences. And the musical output on this album has a distinct 70's sound to it, in style as well as in production and mix. Of his named influences, ELP may arguably have had the greatest impact on the music on Starship Universe but other influences will most probably be noticed by listeners more familiar with 70's prog than myself. The music here is all keyboard based, which generally is a weakness. Even the best of melodies will sound better performed by "real" instruments than they do from keyboards alone, and Mike's music do suffer a bit from it. The mixing and production isn't high tech either, which may be off-putting for some.

In many aspects this release reminds me of the German one-man band Soniq Theater, both play symphonic prog heavily influenced by the 70's in general and ELP in particular. The main difference between the two is that Visaggio not too often emulates other instruments, while Sonic Theater emulates other instruments in most songs. And of course the vocals; Soniq Theater is a mostly instrumental project, whereas Visaggio does have vocals on quite a few songs.

And that last element will affect some potential buyers decision about getting this release or not. In my ears the pitch and timbre of Visaggio's voice too often sounds wrong, and I could have sworn (although my better half with a long choir background disagrees) that the vocals are off-key with the melody a few times too many. Visaggio has an ok voice, but somehow the vocals just don't sound right to me.

Apart from that, there are some cool songs here, with the cover of ELP's "Blues Variation" being the most interesting. And if you are a fan of retro-sounding symphonic prog, this could be worth checking out. Sound samples can be found at Mike's homepage as well as on CDBaby, so that you can hear for yourself whether or not this music is to your liking.

Report this review (#194963)
Posted Thursday, December 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars First of all: don't expect anything like straightforward neo prog when playing this album. It's more like a mix of neo, crossover and progressive electronic if you listen to the whole thing. Starship Universe is mainly instrumental album by keyboardplayer Mike Visaggio. When I heard it at first listen I even wondered if it was in the right place here on progarchives but after more spins it's more in between prog related and crossover because the style is very accessible and almost poppy at times (f.i. 5th track !).

But after more intensive listening and correct judgment I have to admit Visaggio does play his music in a quite complex way and therefore deserves the inclusion in the end. His playing style has some similarity with Vangelis but he plays his board pretty fast and so he makes a nice virtuoso impression because of that. In a few songs Visaggio also does the vocals but they aren't really great I have to say.

I'm pretty ambivalent about this release and have a hard time to decide for the ultimate rating. It's right in between 2 and 3 stars for me because I'm not very impressed with this album where the content of progressiveness is concerned. It's almost borderline prog to me and that's the reason I will round down. Nevertheless nothing really poor here so if you like your prog not too complex and enjoy the more easy listening/background style within music this could be for you.

Report this review (#304965)
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Mike Vissagio may be un unknown name to many prog listners, his career has more thn 30 years, being parts of some unknown acts across the years but aswell he has an album under his name and aswell he formed 10 years ago Kinetic Element a symphonic/neo prog band worth to be investigated. The album under his name is Starship universe released in 2007 and is sounding like a tribute to Rick Wakeman, ELP or Greenslade, kis manner of composing is influenced big time by those musicians. The vocal parts are provided by himself, are decent but far from fantastic, the arrangements aswell, good but lacking is some bursting moments. The best pieces are: My Elders' Son and The Synchronized Life, these two tracks are to me excellent showing the potential this keyboardis has. All in all decent ok album, nothing special but I think every fan of symphonic prog can take some spins. 3 stars

Report this review (#1427590)
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2015 | Review Permalink

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