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Presto Ballet - Invisible Places CD (album) cover


Presto Ballet

Crossover Prog

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4 stars "Invisible Places" is the 3rd album of American retro-prog formation Presto Ballet, led by Metal Church guitarist - Kurdt Vanderhoof. This time more than half of band's musicians were replaced, we have new vocalist, keyboardist & bassist here. Anyway I have to admit that these changes are very welcome because after very solid debut album and slightly weaker (but still good) second output, "Invisible Places" seems te be their pinnacle! Everything seems to work perfect here and their retro-style shines more than ever. I especially have to praise Kerry Shacklett who is a truly fantastic keyboard-player, his wide range of old school equipment (Hammond organ, electric & acoustic pianos, mellotron, Moog synthesizer etc.) is astonishing and he always manages to "stay on top", never being overshadowed by Kurdt's electric guitar wailing.

1. "Between the Lines" - album begins with great track driven by fat organ chops and analog/digital synthesizers + metallic guitar riffs. Very catchy & memorable tune with fantastic vocals by new member - Ronny Munroe. All in all it sounds very much like Kansas from early 70s but with more aggressive vocals and harder edged guitar delivery. Some fantastic mellotron/organ interludes in the middle! And lots of great acoustic guitar moments! Overall stunning piece.

2. "The Puzzle" - electrifying intro with swirling Hammond and crunching guitar riffing, followed by lovely piano tune makes a good start for "The Puzzle". In general piano plays very important part in this song and it's a very welcome factor. After almost 3 minutes Ronny Munroe starts to sing and it's another solid performance. Refrain is very memorable and has almost sing-a-long feature, but it's miles away from being cheesy/poppy of course. Good Moog runs (near the end of the track) included.

3. "Sundancer" - it's softer composition compared with previous ones. More synthesizers than organ-driven this time, but in the middle section we can can still listen to some fast tempo Hammond runs so everything's as it should be. To sum up: proggy ballad a la Uriah Heep's "Circle of Hands" and alike. Probably the weakest track on the album I'm afraid.

4. "Of Grand Design" - begins with birds' sounds so "Close to to Edge" springs to your mind but it's not the case here. "Of Grand Design" is the first 12+ minutes epic on "Invisible Places" and I really, really like it but it has nothing in common with "Close to to Edge" except the beginning. It sounds more like mix of Kansas, early Styx, Uriah Heep and Birth Control. Kerry Shacklett's Hammond organ runs are especially heavy & they're driving this piece perfectly, while his organ solo showcase in the middle is especially worth to be mentioned. But don't be mistaken, "Of Grand Design" included also many calmer moments with synth/piano passages.

5. "One Perfect Moment" - the shortest song of this release isn't bad at all too. Very enjoyable heavy prog/hard rock in the vain of Deep Purple or Birth Control (and you can find this kind of songs in Don Airey's & Ryo Okumoto's last solo albums too). Quite straightforward but with highly entertaining organ & guitar leads.

6. "All in All" - this one surprisingly begins with Pink Floyd-ish synthesizer sounds but after few seconds everything comes back to standard Presto Ballet style. It's still interesting composition where slow & dynamic fragments are incorporated perfectly to keep listeners happy. Organ solo is a top notch here, it has truly 70s "feeling" for me. Crazy organ/Moog crescendo in the end is also great.

7. "No End to Begin" - second, the longer epic is probably my favorite track of the album. It's a real multi-part mini-suite which begins very mellow (acoustic guitar, synths, relaxing vocals) but as the time goes on "No End to Begin" shows its "claws". Especially long, elaborated Hammond organ solo in the middle of the suite is a wonderful culmination of preceding "tension". In the second part we can also witness some fantastic piano melodies & glorious mellotron waves.

To summarize: "Invisible Places" is definitely my favorite album recorded by Presto Ballet. It sounds like culmination of their career but I still hope that they will be able to "beat it" in the future. All fans of Kansas, early Styx & Journey, but also Uriah Heep, Birth Control & Deep Purple should check it out. If you like such analog keyboards oriented heavy prog you should also check such retro-prog bands like Wicked Minds, Standarte, Black Bonzo, BigElf, Cosmic Nomads, Storm at Sunrise or The Divine Baze Orchestra.

Best tracks: "No End to Begin" & "Between the Lines"

Fully deserved 4,5 stars from ozzy_tom

Report this review (#414581)
Posted Saturday, March 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Kurdt Vanderhoof returns with a complete line-up change for Invisible Places, the third album from Presto Ballet. You'd hardly notice though as he's assembled an equally fine collection of players to deliver this compelling collection of American seventies style prog.

On a musical level it's pretty much business as usual with no real leaps in style over 2008's The Lost Art Of Time Travel. That's no bad thing though considering what a fine album it was and Invisible Places while not necessarily bettering it is certainly its equal. Once more a seventies prog retro feel is present though more in an American vein than the kind of stuff that was coming out of the UK at the time. Fans of the likes of Kansas and Styx will find much to enjoy on the seven compositions with some great instrumental interplay present amongst the melodic hooks. Sundancer could be Rush around their A Farewell To Kings era, the synths reminiscent of Geddy Lee's work and Vanderhoof's guitar sound strongly in the Alex Lifeson vein at the time. Throughout the album there plenty of great Hammond organ to keep vintage keyboard lovers happy, Kerry Shacklett being a particularly excellent player.

Two longer tracks around the twelve minute mark, Of Grand Design and No end To Begin capture the band at their best, shifting between busy dextrous musical workouts and memorable vocal sections. I may have a slight preference for previous vocalist Scott Albright but Ronny Munroe is a worthy successor with an equally histrionic rock style. The band still manage to fit a lot in on the relatively shorter pieces, in fact the aforementioned Sundancer may just be the finest moment on the entire album but opener Between The Lines is not far behind with some busy and impressive drumming from Bill Raymond with bassist Bobby Ferkovich locked into every twist and turn.

Overall then another impressive effort from this most consistent of bands. Hopefully this line- up might manage to stick together long enough for album number four.

Report this review (#416049)
Posted Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Preso Ballet is no longer an unknown band to progressive rock fans, they manage to create 3 great albums, at least for me, and since their second release they proven that they are among the best in this filed in last years. Invisible places is their latest album , issued in 2011 is again a great symphonic, eclectic heavy prog album smelling of '70's greates progressive rock period but with a touch of moder sound. I realy like this band, own all 3 albums, each one having something for real intrest to offer, this one is no exception. Even they bring nothing new releated with previous 2 albums in manner of composing and sound, they known and manage to keep that excellent fresh sound first 2 albums, I mean the album sounds very happy, well produce and with perfect musicianship. More then half of the original members are gone, remaining still only the drumer Bill Raymond and the master of the band Kurdt Vanderhoof, the rest are unknow musicins to me, but what a great job they done here. The music from the start was reminiscent of Kansas, Rush in places, and even Styx, but Kurdt Vanderhoof succede to creat something realy intristing in amoder progressive rock scene, the freshnes of the compostions are still present at this third album like on previous 2. Enjoyble arrangements where the mellotron, keybords , bass all are melted very very well and surprisingly fresh in sound, or at least is how i see this album. The ne voice Ronny Munroe is perfect for Presto ballet, fits like a hand on glove to their music, that why I realy like him here. Lenghy pieces, some of them, 4 out of 7, with complex arrangements, excellent musicianship and perfect balance between mellower parts with more edgy ones.All pieces are great, special The Puzzle who has a great keybords intro that reminds me of Renaissance (Prologue or Turn of the cards era) So, another worthy album from this excellent band, worth 4 stars for sure, very positiv, happy and pleasent album in today progressive rock scene, they are like a fresh air tot his scene. Recommended, all 3 albums, you can't go wronng with any of them.
Report this review (#490684)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Invisible Places' - Presto Ballet (6/10)

Founded by former Metal Church guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, Presto Ballet sees the man pay homage to the greats of 70's prog rock. 'Invisible Places' is the third album by this band, and it is a well-performed and decently composed effort. However, like so many prog rock acts nowadays, the feeling of deja-vu I get when listening to it seems to rob the music of its legitimacy, especially when the bands who made these sounds first did it a lot better.

Presto Ballet's music is an upbeat mixture of Hemispheres-era Rush and Kansas, heartwarming melodic prog that gets the tenants of being 'prog' down, without necessarily crossing over and getting truly inventive with it. The compositions here could be labelled as being neo-prog in the sense that they are very melodic, and rarely get too complex, despite the fact that the song lengths here occasionally tip over the ten minute mark. Possibly the most notable thing about Presto Ballet's sound is their vocalist Ronny Munroe, who sounds like he should be fronting a heavy metal band rather than a retro-prog outfit. He howls in a generally higher register, at times sounding similar to Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, and though his voice wears thin at times, there is a lot of power to be heard when the rest of the band allows him space to really belt out.

The production is decent, although passing me as being mechanical at times. While I am not too much into this retro-prog direction that Presto Ballet takes, I love the range of keyboard sounds that are heard on 'Invisible Places'. From rich organs to lead synths, Kerry Shacklett adds some great depth to the sound of the band. Vanderhoof is obviously a very good guitarist in his own right, but he rarely lets loose and shows the listener his talent; his riffs are always kept within the context of the song. Once again, it is quite pleasant to hear, but this band's work is far too tame for my tastes. The talent and skill is here, but the excitement is not.

Report this review (#553917)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2011 | Review Permalink

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