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Unitopia - Covered Mirror Vol. 1 - Smooth As Silk CD (album) cover



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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The first time I listened to this cover version album I was impressed with its interpretation on "Easter" which tome it sounds better here than its original version by Marillion. It's probably the inclusion of dynamic percussion work throughout the song. ANother thing is the guitar solo is really stunning and it makes the song fly!

The key to enjoying this cover version album is to enjoy the music as it is without comparing to the original artist. I am lucky that some of the artists I do not know the songs at all so that what comes into my ears is really this Unitopia's work. So when I heard 'Calling Occupants' (Klaatu) I have no reference on its original song so I find this first track after the Prelude is really good to my ears. Easter was my first entrance to enjoy this album. But then come 'Man Of Colours' (Icehouse) which I never heard before and I really enjoy the music. and when it flows into "Genesis Medley" I can feel how brave this Unitopia makes this kind of arrangements with totally different style especially on vocal line that sounds really relax - no pressure. Even though it's a medley with short versions of many songs but it has beautiful cover of 'Carpet Crawlers'.

All songs are performed with vocal ini low register notes even with Led Zeppelin's 'Rain Song' which results a very good rearrangements - I do enjoy the full set of The Rain Song. In 'Even In The Quietest Moments' (Supertramp) the band performs its music excellently with powerful vocal in relaxed mode. I also enjoy 'Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime' (Korgies) which I never heard the song before but it sounds really excellent right here. What really surprised me is with Yes medley where original high register notes of Jon Anderson have been converted into low register notes that sound weird at first listen like 'Awake' and in fact with 'Owner of a A Lonely Heart' which usually performed in uptempo style.

Overall, I really appreciate Unitopia's interpretation of legendary tracks so that it sounds unique and enjoyable overall. I recommend you this cover version by Unitopia. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#884929)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars When any band that I enjoy declares that they are going to release a covers album, my heart generally sinks. I didn't have great expectations of this covers album by Unitopia after absolutely loving 'The Garden' and 'Artificial'. However, there are some really fantastic covers here. Prelude and Calling Occupants give the album a great start. I had heard both the Klaatu and Carpenters version of this song before and this version meanders between the two of them with some really nice orchestration and some beautiful vocal work from the marvellous Mark Trueack.

'Easter', I believe is better than the original version and 'Man of Colors' is a nice track that I had never heard before. I am a massive fan of Genesis and was worried that Unitopia would really mess the medley up, but the arrangement is actually really good and works much better than I had imagined.

Truth be told, the whole album flows nicely. It's the first covers album I have ever listened to that doesn't sound like a covers album. Unitopia made all the songs their own and it is an album that I continue to listen to regularly. It has also got me excited for the reworked version of the band's first album 'More than a Dream' which is due for re-release in 2013 as well as more new material due in 2014. The future is looking bright for Unitopia. They are a group whose material I buy without question and without hesitation. As far as covers albums go, this is the only one I would recommend purchasing. It really is rather good!

Report this review (#900668)
Posted Sunday, January 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars There are many ways to fail a cover album, but Unitopia falls to none of them. Track selections don't have clichés (although some parts of the Yes and Genesis medleys could be considered such, but don't we all love those classics?), instrumentation is splendid and professional all the way, and doesn't include any mindless soloing. Still the versions here are pretty original sounding and interesting, my favourite being the downbeat Owner of a Lonely Heart at the end of the Yes Medley. Other great ones, of which I have yet to hear the original, are the catchy Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft and the beautiful and Even In the Quietest Moments. The side title "Smooth as Silk" fits the cd perfectly, as the mood remains sweet, calm and acoustic-based throughout the album. This is those ones that you like to put on in the evening, preferably served with a cup of green tea (as I did right now).
Report this review (#919782)
Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have fantasized back in the late 80s that one fine day, when the trends and fads would gently get gobbled up by the technological future, that there would be old prog classics revisited with new renditions from 21st century musicians. Not because their creative kettle would be empty (it clearly is not as recent years have provided some amazing progressive releases) but from sheer and genuine respect for the great classics from the golden age. So I went about getting Nektar's A Spoonful of Time and the markedly less commercial "Covered Mirror Volume 1-Smooth as Silk" from Australia's Unitopia. The Aussies have put together a stellar list of fine prog, pop and rock classics, wrapped in wonderful artwork courtesy of the brilliant Ed Unitsky, songs that have inspired them to forge their own musical identity. And what a line-up it is!

After an opening self-composed prelude called "Signs of Life", the lads delve deep into music history. Klaatu's remarkable "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" is most extraordinary, a lush symphonic version that will stick in your mind for ever, showcasing orchestral aspects combine with the original Beatlesque melody. Resounding success!

Marillion's "Easter" has a lower register than the Hoggarth inspired tune, certainly a classic modern prog song if there ever was one, garnished with some sizzling synth soloing courtesy of Sean Timms and deep searing axe grinding from Matt Williams. Expanded with groovy backing vocals giving lead vocalist Mark Trueack room to moan and groan, the voice is actually closer to Peter Gabriel than anyone else. As good as the original.

Fellow Australian icon Iva Davies once fronted a remarkable 80s band named Icehouse that had strong prog flavorings within delicious melodies. "Man of Colours" is one of many stellar Icehouse classics, a brooding, emotional and uplifting tune, here given a more symphonic sound with heady doses of sultry sax that heats up the fire. Another "stick in your mind" tune with a superb backing choir.

Unitopia has no fear of slapping together a mighty Genesis medley of well-oiled snippets , incorporating the lesser known and early "The Silent Sun", attached lovingly to classic "Supper's Ready", blending into the majestic "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight", then veering into the New York-esque " The Lamb" and finally concluding serenely with "Carpet Crawlers". We all know the songs, their respectful interpretation combines genuine awe whilst doing a spicy take on the specifics, Trueack doing some magical Gabriel voicings in the process. Magnificent job, really, different but delicious.

Led Zeppelin, really? That takes balls to say the least, a feat rarely attempted in prog circles but having opted for the Celtic-tinged folk tune "Rain Song" only highlights the band's rather unique sense of inspiration. What's so cool is that Trueack's voice is obviously way deeper that Plant's unique shriek, giving the recognizable tune a different glow that is most entrancing. Having two percussors certainly gives a rhythmic pulse to the breezy guitar shadings, especially when the mood gets funky and heavy, bloody brilliant! Growl, baby Growl and moan??Orchestral finale with a vibraphone outro!

Supertramp? Really? "Even in the Quietest Moments" is what Unitopia chose to interpret and once again, they do a crack job! Birds singing, special effects and the majestic piano theme crackling through the clouds, the sultry saxophone recalling the melody once again, the lower register vocal shimmering like if a new tune, yes, this is another winner. Snap those fingers, oy!

Todd Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends" is a well-known radio tune, here lush with hushed vocals, certainly less assertive and commercial than the original. A fluttering flute solo allied with a pounding piano and vocal "lah-lahs" make this an interesting ditty.

"Speaking the Truth" is another brief instrumental interlude where the flute takes control, charging up the batteries for another segment of stellar covers , none better that the classic The Korgis mid-80s pop hit, "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime", a slow dance symphonic love song to die for. Some will find this inclusion surprising which is rather sad, as it's a fabulous piece of pop genius. Not as saccharine as the original, Unitopia again deliver a different shade for us to enjoy. My highlight track here, as I loved the original and well, it's a hard track to mess up, so deep is the beauty within and the gargantuan chorus. Contrary to The Korgis' version, here we have a scintillating guitar solo that stings and bites!

Balls? Yes, I mean ?..YES! A seamless medley of classics from the once crown jewels of symphonic rock, the Oz band takes on "Awaken/Close to the Edge" as an intro, flowing into the famous "Soon" section Of "Gates of Delerium", back to "And You and I", onward to "Onward", dive deep into "South Side of the Sky" and wave g'bye to a dignified, almost otherworldly version of "Owner of a Lonely Heart", turning all of these snippets into a 12 minute joyride. What makes this so grand is the deep voice, so completely the polar opposite of the heavenly Anderson wail. To me, that shows respect as well as artistic freedom, which is what inspiration is all about! They also stay away from any silly grandiose soloing, just like on the earlier Genesis medley, sticking to the song's inherent qualities! Smart and classy move that deserves recognition.

"To One in Paradise" is an Alan Parsons Project classic, given a total work over, less mechanical and sounding almost like a Beatles version with a slower, more deliberate orchestral coating. Perhaps the only slightly weaker piece on the album, but still very listenable and enjoyable.

The bonus track is a Flower Kings piece "The Way the Waters Are Moving" from the Paradox Hotel album, with a melancholic, vocal-oriented display of anguished pain. Trueack's delivery is stunningly fragile and utterly convincing. Bravo!

I mean some short sighted people and staunch purists will probably disagree with my assessment but if you really look at the context, this is a loving tribute to some amazing songs that I agree does not always succeed such as Fish's critically lambasted "Songs from the Mirror" but the Unitopia intention is clear and the result is simply fascinating.

4.5 Hidden reflections

Looking forward to a Volume 2!

Report this review (#938163)
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Covered mirror Vol. 1 is a record from last year where the Australian group Unitopia performs a bunch of more or less known prog songs from different styles, groups and times. I think it's brave for a prog band to release a cover album, when the essence of prog is to be unique and perform your own music. The assumption then is to play those songs in a totally new way, or in your own style. The record with its under title Smooth as Silk was released 2012 and done by Mark Trueack (vocals), Sean Timms (keys), Matt Williams (guitar), Tim Irrgang(drums) Daniel Burgess (sax, clarinet, flute, didgeridoo, piccolo), Craig Kelly (bass) and David Hopgood(drums).

First of all I want to say they do a great job and their performance has a flow of honesty, great instrumentation and vocals. What I don't like so much is their selection of songs, I can't find it so astonishing and I don't find this very interesting. It could have been better without those Genesis and Yes medley's. They didn't got my acceptance, perhaps because of their structure or just the thought to "destroy" a couple of good songs. No, certainly I'm wrong, but THOSE medleys were'nt what I wanted them to be.

I shall praise the record's best moments. "Even in the quietest moments" (a Supertramp song) is perfect and gives me as a listener a wonderful time. It is also full of new thinking and in the end we can hear an exotic tune of perhaps didgeridoo but it also sounds Tibetanian or Mongolian. I like the record's prelude "Sign of Life Prelude" and the Marillion cover "Easter" is great. I also like Led Zeppelin "Rain song" very much which they did their own thing of and "Speaking the truth" is also more than approved. "Calling occupants of Interplanetary craft" was also a song I liked. But the rest is unfortunately quite disappointing.

I recommend you the mentioned songs, especially the Supertramp song, but perhaps not the whole album, certainly not the two medleys. This will get three stars from me.

Report this review (#1025174)
Posted Thursday, August 29, 2013 | Review Permalink

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