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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Classic rock presents: Prognosis 6 CD (album) cover


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2 stars No doubt most people on this site are attracted to the idea of a stand alone prog-focused magazine, especially one with the budget and distribution of Classic Rock Magazine. That said, I've heard a few of these compilations and have been left underwhelmed at best. If prog is to truly thrive as a viable, "living" form of rock and not just another recycled genre from the past, it needs to promote new bands and scenes. And that's where this particular compilation falls short. Other than Steve Wilson who needs no further introduction to the initiated, the groups being featured generate little excitement. The musicianship, production and themes being explored have their heart in the right place, but there's an overall lack of exciting melodies and a real dearth of talented vocalists. Vocalists might not be at the top of the prog food chain, but this magazine tends to really promote vocal-heavy bands, so as such they need to do a better job of quality control. For me personally, I'd prefer a mix of new bands and older re-released material, given that the prog landscape is so vast. Anyway, the magazine is good step in the right direction and hopefully the quality and mix of bands given exposure on the free CD improve over time. In a simpler sense, I've always judged free CD's from music magazines in a very simple way - how often do they make me want to go out and immediately buy a new band I would have never heard of? On this CD it might just be one band, possibly two.
Report this review (#279621)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Not as diverse as other compilations and more risk taking would be welcome

One of the best things about the new "Classic Rock Presents Prog" magazine is the 'free; CD with lots of prog music to indulge in, and on many occasion it has been a pleasurable experience listening to new prog and of course the artists have one main intention in allowing their music to be compiled on these CDs; and that is, to gain public attention that may result in the sale of their albums. Occasionally these tracks on the Prognosis CDs have indeed led me to buy the whole album and I have been delighted with the material. Unfortunately in this CD the compilation is not as inventive or innovative with only a few highlights.

"Prognosis 6" begins with an Australian prog band and they are fabulous, complete with male and female vocals, an Eastern mystical feel, and very ambient textures, almost pastoral soundscapes. I was delighted with their sound and would be interested in hearing more from The Merlin Bird. The fact they are from Melbourne Australia is exciting, being an Australian, as prog is sadly an untapped genre in my country in comparison to the plethora of prog from places such as US and UK.

The second track is Steven Wilson with 'Harmony Korine' from his solo "Insurgentes". I am into Porcupine Tree but have avoided this thinking it would only be crossover prog but this is the real deal, and I loved the melody and it was more like Porcupine tree than I suspected. So another album that peaks my interest, and I will eventually get this due to listening to this track. Mission successful so far.

Onto Steve Thorne's 'Granite Man' which is extreme atmospherics and strange hieroglyphics in narrative form. The real drawcard is these crystal clear vocals reminiscent of Neal Morse at times. The uplifting lyrics are very good and the melody tends to grow on you with each listen. The sound is high quality, I mean this could be mistaken for Transatlantic quite easily. It is a similar sound to the aforementioned tracks albeit very solid musicianship once again. The instrumental is driven by piano and lead guitar trade offs, almost spacey and ambient.

The Tangent are represented by 'Paroxetine (20mg)', a song with strong keyboards that soar high and then the music breaks to low key sounds as a soft voice sings an off kilter melody. The saxophone is welcome on this making it slightly different but at this stage I was hoping for something different and it was similar to the other track I had just heard. The Neal Morse style vocals, the keyboards, the melodies, at this point bring on some Zeuhl or female fronted prog or even space sonic drones. Everything is becoming so similar in sound and it needn't be as there's so many experimental prog artists out there, something that just blows me away like Diagonal, Magma or Devin Townsend would be a welcome relief, refreshingly and ferociously original without apology.

DeeExpus offers 'Greed' and there is some risk taking on this particularly on the vocal technique which is phased out and unique. The chorus melody is infectious and this took a while to grow on me but it tends to on each listen, and this is a great song from the British 6 man band. The metal riffs are well executed and the keyboards soar and are an uplifting addition to the music.

Simon Davies presents 'Lux Aeterna' an instrumental, with a guitar melody strumming and a lead riff that dominates while lead guitar solos are overworked into the mix. The textures of light and shade are inherent in the music creating the sound and I am particularly taken with the Van Halen style hammering pull offs on the guitar. The hammer offs continue for a length of time until it breaks into al all out assault with fender screams and bends played to expertise standard on the lead. Certainly this is a guitar blitzkrieg and I love Steve Vai therefore, this being similar, I am always going to enjoy this type of guitar driven music.

Lime Shark's 'Not Quite Nashville' is another guitar heavy rocker and if this is Nashville country then it is subliminally backmasked, somewhere hidden beneath. The distorted guitars are grungy and the vocals are more aggressive. It is a real heavy sound generated, not metal but standard AOR, but this is not my style at all and I was rather perturbed with this entry on the compilation. "Shoot me down in flames", the singer pleads, so I will. Much of the same of what I have heard before; it just doesn't standout as anything special. Having said that the high pitchy lead break is very cool.

Times Up are selected with 'Snow Queen' and I like this band a lot and hope they become well known in prog circles sooner or later. There is a lot of depth and emotion in this music and the band are rock solid tight and yet have isolated moments where individuals are given a chance to shine. The tempo picks us pace and the time sig is completely different half way through and there are some awesome keyboard up sweeps. This is a well oiled machine that stands out on this CD. The guitars are riffing elegant, and I have to mention the strong vocal delivery with vibrato, which is different to the run of the mill soft gentle delivery. Times Up are unsigned but not for long I prophecy. The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band's 'Strings to the Bow' is stylish and creative if you like prog folk with a psychedelic atmosphere. It was like Bob Dylan meets Pentangle. The violins were a nice variation, but those vocals just didn't cut it for me. The lyrics were interesting, "singing glory glory hallelujah". The instrumental break is a fine example of progressive shapes and multi instrumentation. The vocals are where it falls down for me, though the violin slicing is an inspirational touch.

Lee Abraham is represented with 'The Mirror', which is a slow meandering song with some scintillating moments. He was bassist of Galahad but on his own there is a very unique sound, ambient, multi layered, a wall of sound that is oblique towards a space rock sound albeit very heavy. The obligatory lead break is incredible and really impressed me with huge arpeggio sweeps and licks that are as good as it gets. The angular guitar riff is yet another great addition. This is a highlight and I would like to get hold of more from this artist.

Jupiter Society have an intriguing track called 'Rescue & Resurrection' which begins with mellotron sounds, atmospherics that transport you to Jupiter itself. It is an ethereal otherworldly sound and so different to everything else on this compilation that it jumps out and bites me. I love the strange vocal style that flows lucid and loose on the track. It builds to a heavy metal sound maintaining the space rock feel. At 10 minutes this song really has power to draw in the listener and it took a while, but now I am very keen on this and wish to hear more. There are a myriad of time sig changes and it has a majestic feel. The multi layered harmonies are full and engrossing, but the musicianship is the key to this band, and it is virtuoso quality. Very original approach and pleasantly surprising.

The CD ends bookended with the Australian proggers The Merlin Bird's short reprise this time called 'Reason to Rhyme' cleverly enough. A nice way to end a fairly standard CD.

The problem is that all the songs are so similar in feel and style that it is a bit of a disappointment although there are highlights namely The Merlin Bird, Jupiter Society, Lee Abrahams, Steven Wilson and Times Up. I would like to have heard some more diverse material that we have heard on other Prognosis CDs for example CDs 1, 2 and 3. However as usual there is enough here to hold the interest. It took a while, and I was prepared to award this only 2 stars, but it grew on me like osmosis so 3 stars is a more realistic rating.

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Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | Review Permalink

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