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5 stars NAVIGATOR have been absent from the scene for eight years. But now, to celebrate their return, Marcangelo Perricelli, Rob Thurman, Michael Soro - all together with new fellow, Rick Catanese - united for the group's third wayfaring. The material on CD 'Phantom Ships' displays explicit sympho prog characteristics, and extended almost 66 minutes. The album kicks off with a 17+ minute epic 'Life', embracing the varying time signatures and complex arrangements. Beside ambitious blocks of power, there is a plenty of soft interludes. As pipe organs combine with guitar licks, pulsating bass and solid drums keep everything to move along. Tremendous musicianship is accompanied by the vocals. Utilizing his soulful voice, Marcangelo Perricelli creates a special aura. The second track, 'Open Air', sounds completely different than the rest of the bunch. It's a sort of enjoyable British neo-progressive style. This composition wouldn't have been out of place on any Jadis release. Rob Thurman provides the lead singing here. Next up, 'Burned', which appears to pay some homage to rather aggressive intensity. Halfway through the song, heavy parts change places with a gentle intermission. Then, we have a nifty instrumental 'Beautiful River', where Michael Soro leans towards Joe Satriani ('Not Of This Earth' period). To keep a mellow pace, Navigator segues into graceful signature of 'Now That You're Gone'. This pearl starts with a gentle sequence to get into balladic mode full of sincerity and passion. Most closely, it resembles classic Genesis, whilst floaty traces of Pink Floyd can be heard in purposeful soloing. Another instalment is finely crafted 'Snow Angel', a feel going back to Kansas. The band follows this up with a title track, 'Phantom Ships', incorporating a blend of drifting bliss and grating feedback. The versatility is brimming with a bevy of twists and turns, dynamics and rich melodies, topped by Marco Perricelli who gives a meaning to the lyrical content. The atmospheric magnitude gradually changes to become proggy in nature, bringing to my mind the 70's Genesis, Rush, Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. The CD ends on a short instrumental, 'Rinascimento', clocking in only 2 minutes. It's a real showcase for Michael Soro's approach. The delicate guitar lines fit nicely in between Steve Hackett and Steve Howe. Just a wise decision to wind up the excellent album, feeling at ease... Welcome back, Navigator!!!
Report this review (#1362281)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the third spin I put this CD to. There's nothing remarkable on It, nothing hideous too. It is simply OK. And It is strange because there's all the elements there from the right amount of Mellotron and the no lead guitar to speak of ( a good thing sometimes).

Of course You will notice some different hidden influences Rinascimento (Mike Oldfield), Phantom Ships (Genesis) and some IQ specially on the ballads but overall there's no grandeur, no big plans.

If You receive the CD as a gift, keep It (my case) otherwise I advise to go to the originals. A solid 3 stars.

Report this review (#1395748)
Posted Wednesday, April 8, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US band NAVIGATOR was formed back in 1998, and released their debut album 4 years later, with a second studio production following in 2006. Following this the band had a longer spell of inactivity as a recording unit, but following an 8 year long hiatus from such ventures they returned with their third full length studio production, "Phantom Ships", which was released towards the end of 2014.

It doesn't take all that long to decide which context to place this band in, at least as they appear in 2014. Opening epic length creation Life doesn't use all that long to present us with sounds, moods and atmospheres that reminds perhaps more than a little bit of classic 80's era Marillion, and while they don't hone in and focus on that particular sound throughout the material remains accessible, compelling and melodic throughout the album. Initially with something of a typical neo-progressive vibe to it, but also with gentler details reminding of bands like Camel and some spirited keyboard maneuvers that at least for me makes me think of late 70's and early 80's Eloy. Third track Burned is a tighter, harder edged excursion into those realms, with a classic and compelling guitar riff and organ combination leading the way, in this case with less of a direct comparison at hand in terms of references for me, and the following instrumental Beautiful River is another somewhat harder for me to give a direct reference on to any specific band. This latter also comes across as a creation that, at least to some extent, heralds a change on this production as a whole.

The second half of this CD, starting with Now That You're Gone, presents us with a band that appears to know their way around the various phases of progressive rock giants Genesis. In three compositions they explore quite nicely some of the typical moods and atmospheres fans of Genesis will find to be intimately familiar, albeit void of the complexities and more focused on staying compelling and accessible. The epic length title track Phantom Ships also includes sections sporting more intricate keyboard arrangements however, of a kind an nature that should please also the more dedicated fans of old school symphonic progressive rock. This latter crowd should, presumably, also appreciate the inclusion of a nifty, dramatic classical symphonic orchestra interlude around the halfway stage of this creation. Final song Rinascimento isn't quite as striking, a dual acoustic guitar piece, calm and well controlled, but it functions quite nicely as a relaxing lead-out marking the end of the journey we have partaken.

Those fond of accessible, melodic progressive rock should have a field day with this album. Perhaps not a production that will be heralded for it's novel take on progressive rock, nor one that will be chosen as an example of a band treading new ground or breaking genre conventions, but if solid, quality compelling progressive rock in the manner of bands such as Fish-era Marillion, IQ and Pendragon is what you're looking for, Navigator will provide you with just that on this album.

Report this review (#1544149)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2016 | Review Permalink

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