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North Star


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4 stars This band worships 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.' According to their description they borrow heavily from Gabriel-era Genesis. I definately agree with that, but when I heard "Dr. Pill's Backlash Ballroom" I immediately thought none other than the LAMB. It's very RIO approach harkens on the sound and style of "The Waiting Room" down to a T! Some may think this band lacks in originality for their Gabriel-era Genesis style sound, but I do not think that is a bad thing. Picking up where Genesis left off after the lamb, North Star could be part of anyone's collection that enjoys the sound Genesis created in the early 70's. Though, Extremes does have mediocre production...I almost want to think that they tried to record with the same equipment Genesis did back then. HaHa! Overall this is a decent record that has its flaws, but epic songs and enjoyable keyboards with a nod to Genesis goes over well in my book!
Report this review (#38466)
Posted Monday, July 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Extremes" Ive been listening to this band for over ten years.They have been around double that.I generally do not review rock music. In this case , It must be done. We have a quartet here that must be discussed. Id like to start by stating the obvious.These guys listened to a lot of Genisis.However, while opening ones mind , and allowing for the same discrimination one uses when discerning between Nirvana and over a thousand similar sounding bands, or between Sonny Stit and Bird, or between Frank S. and the hundreds of male singers who was imprinted with his voice or the other countless acts who took their favorite sound and built upon it.THIS IS NO DIFFERENT.The fact is is that so little bands have successfully built upon the complexities of Peter and Genisis , that NS gets the wrath. Prog listeners; Please demonstrate to the world that we can hear differences , not only similarities. Newman is a tenor/baritone ; he sounds similar to many singers , but I believe he is far above many of the rich rock stars in the world.I read on the internet that he is a music teacher for children. Leonard uses many similar approaches to the boards as Banks , Emerson eTC. But listen real close to the harmonic structure in relationship to the drums and melody. I think you will hear the genious, not just the genisis. Johnson plays a completely different style of guitar than anything Ive heard on Genisi albums. Listen close to the rythmic relationship between the vocals and the drums. You may be hard pressed to hear such consistancy in other bands. For years I have read reviews of this band nailed for just sounding like Genisis.This does not only demonstrate the limited listening abilities of the critics , but exposes the irony and unfairness of the non-commercial music industry.As non-commercial listeners , we should be praising bands like this.They hold the tourch , and do not hide behind crappy technique and song writing abilites.I saw these guys in PA back in 2000 and walked away with one thought; North Star has gotten the worst wrap of any band I know.I find them more interesting than Merilion, and 80"s Genisis. I love IQ , and feel North Star deserves the same level of success. EXTREMES is a fantastic CD.Its a concept record , so enevidably it will now be regarded as a LAMB sound alike. With all due respect to the neo-prog critics: Try to utilize some artistic perception while listening to this cd.I can personally hear the difference between NS and ANY other prog band. Im sure you will too if you try.I believe the parts that are very similar to Genisis is the ultimate tribute to this icon. Not a rip off. Theres a difference. Extremes is a record of high integrity. It demonstrates that these men do not care about being rich , famous , and they compose from the heart.I believe it tells a story on MANY levels , including the historical dynamics of this group. As neo-prog critics, we have limited the expansion of this genre. Lets open doors for bands like this , not slam closed the doors by stigmatizing them as mere sound alikes. This record will make prog history, for this I have no doubt.If they do not tour this music around the globe , it will be a travesty.I for one want to see this album performed live on stage.It is both a tribute and original and is demonstrative of true progressive rock musician's passion for evolving this genre. RIGHT ON , Musea Records. Other companies have much to learn from you.Yet still , careful of the sounds like... and sound like........thing. Describe the art with new ears. Its our responsibility. -Terri Townsend
Report this review (#60985)
Posted Tuesday, December 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars My hat goes off to this band.While they are obviously restricted by financial limitations regarding recording capabilites, they put tremendous thought and musical expression into this production. I figure that this was yet another "home" recording for this band. (all the other albums were as well ,to my knowledge).I appreciate that to the fullest.I agree that it has audio limitations due to this , but if one figures that the recording equipment costs were probably less than the "food and snack" budget of every band North Star is compared with, one must realize the expert technical skills of K. Leonard/producer,keyboardist. Newman's voice never really appealed to me on previous recordings of North Star, except for cuts on "FEEL THE COLD", and a cut called "circle" on Power(1992). I never liked Getty Lee's voice and compared it to Mr. Newnam's nasally sound (which I think is can partially be attributed to less than desirable studio reproduction).BUT....Newnam's voice on EXTREMES is world class. His sincerity, maturity and richness of expression gives me shivers at times.He obviously has been developing his vocal technique!I always enjoyed his bass playing , and was suprised to see that he does not play bass on this one. I imagine this is due, for he might be acting out much of his part when performing this record live.Johnson, however, did a fine job of playing the bass on this one.I am curious who WILL be playing bass on the live shows.Perhaps Newnam? As a theme album , not only does the lyrics and melodies have multi-levels of continuity, the compositions utilize a tremendous sense of artistic flair. The recapitulated themes surfacing throughout the record can only be compared to the best of the European composers of the past several hundred years. The drumming lines up with every aspect of the music in a way that is almost scarey. You can tell these guys have been musical compadres for many years. I tend to think that there are INTENTIONAL references to these guys mentors(Genisis) in select areas of the album. For instance, in the opening tune, it seems the central character is explaining his world of living on the street. Then, out of nowhere a very familiar riff from "watcher of the skies" surfaces several times.There are more hidden goodies like this , but I encourage all progressive rock lovers to seek these out for themselves. Ive only had the record for 3 days and have found several. Musea and Bernard, kudos for grabbing on to this one............
Report this review (#61546)
Posted Saturday, December 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars NORTH STAR are an American band who've put out 5 albums beginning with the debut in 1984. This is the fifth release from 2005.They are very much in the GENESIS realm and they would make a good tribute band.

"Midnight Soldier" has these marching style drums and prominant bass with keyboards leading the way early. It fades out 1 1/2 minutes in then a new soundscape takes over with vocals and lots of synths.Vocals stop before 4 minutes as acoustic guitar then a variety of keyboards take over. Some electric guitar here too. "Starchild" has some great sounding acoustic guitar to start before the organ and vocals take over. It settles some 3 minutes in with synths and relaxed drumming. "Sometimes In The Suburbs" has no "Be cool or be cast out" lines but I like the guitar and atmosphere to start. It picks up before a minute and vocals join in. A nice instrumental section follows 3 1/2 minutes in. Vocals are back late. "Battles Waged Before" has some more really good sounding acoustic guitar to start. Vocals and synths 1 1/2 minutes in.The tempo picks up before 7 minutes. Love the guitar late to end it. "The Form" has some good chunky bass, acoustic guitar and organ before the vocals join in. It's very GENESIS- like after 2 1/2 minutes with those pulsating keyboards.

"Dr. Pill's Backlash Ballroom" is my favourite with the dark haunting atmosphere, spoken words and other sounds that come and go. "Unleashed" has a pulsating rhythm as synths join in. Vocals after 2 minutes then it settles after 3 1/2 minutes to a very GENESIS-like section to the end. "Live With Liberty" is delicate and again GENESIS-like.Vocals before a minute with synths. Not a fan of this part. It's better though when the vocals stop. "Stained Glass Door" has lots of synths and drums and it's fairly uptempo. Guitar 3 minutes in as the synths back off. "Living On The Fringe" opens with lots going on, vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. It settles a minute later then kicks back in around 5 minutes with guitar too. It settles back as we get some lazy guitar then it picks back up to the end.

A good album but nothing more in my opinion. If you like GENESIS inspired bands you should check them out.

Report this review (#306236)
Posted Saturday, October 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars North Star's fifth album to date from 2005 named Extremes issued at same lable Space monster optional entertaiment but aswell at Musea records, is to me their best album for sure. They needed 5 years to come with another offer after previous one Tempest from 2000, this time they change direction or better said they come back to what they know best symphonic prog like on Power. No more experimental moments here, this is pure symphonic prog a la Genesis. They worship a lot Genesis here Wind and wuthering era, special on keyboards arrangements, but is not a bad thing at all, because Kevin Leonard variety use of synth and keyboards is excellent, some fantastic passges here that I really enjoy. The album beggins with great Midnight Soldier, excellent keyboards, very reminescent of Genesis, seams that Kevin Leonard study a lot Tony Banks use of keyboards, very good druming aswell. Other highlights to me are . Sometimes in the Suburbs and Battles Waged Before , very good instrumental arrangements, even to some listners North Star is a Genesis rip off , to me they sound very good , the musicianship is top notch, a thing that I appreciate here a lot here. Joe Newnam is back behind the mic, a thing that gives them a far better atmosphere overall. So, a very pleasent album for me at least, I will give 4 stars for the excellent keyboards parts, Kevin Leonard is a really good keyboard player and here is in the best form. Underrated band and album I must added, they need a better view in my opinion, nice art covers front/back.
Report this review (#637725)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars In fact, this is the DEBUT studio album from North Star. Yes it was first released in 2005, I didn't forget about that. But more than 10 years ago I was in email contact with Kevin and Glenn (I bought old North Star vinyls from them for my collection, including the test press of Feel The Cold). And when I expressed my delight about Extremes (I had just bought a copy of the Mals official CD version in Gorbushka), Kevin wrote in response that the album was recorded back in 1980 and remained unreleased until 2005. That's why - as many reviewers note - Extremes sounds much closer to 1970s prog than Triskelion or Power, that's why its sound quality and production is not top... and that's why (here I start to talk about subjective matters) personally I feel the lack of North Star when I listen to this album. Yes it's more complex, more 1970s-like etc than their next releases, but genuine North Star began with Feel The Cold. That's why 4 stars only, though the album is brilliant.
Report this review (#1007923)
Posted Monday, July 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pennsylvania's North Star return with their first release since the 2000 comeback album Tempest, which was their first record since 1991's Power. For those who are not familiar with this US prog band, they have been around the scene since the mid-70's and first made their mark in 1984 with the release of Triskelion, which was a strong mix of Genesis & ELP styled 70's prog with some of the newer influences of the neo-prog movement of bands like Marillion and IQ. Well, fast forward to today and Extremes, which is more of a full-fledged band effort after the mostly instrumental Tempest. Back once again is the classic line-up of Kevin and Glenn Leonard on keyboards and drums, guitarist Dave Johnson, and vocalist Joe Newnam. Bass on the album is handled by Johnson and Kevin Leonard. Once again, the sound is rooted in classic keyboard-led symphonic prog, with Gabriel era Genesis as the main point of reference. As with other bands of recent memory like The Watch, Mangala Valis, and Citizen Cain, North Star are able to successfully scratch that Genesis itch that many of us seem to have, with Newnam's effective Gabriel-ish vocals, Leonard's wide array of keyboards, Johnson's multitude of electric and acoustic guitar patterns, and Glenn Leonard's intricate drum work. Add that together with melodic and symphonic songs that also happen to be pretty lengthy, and you have the recipe for a formula that works.

The opener, "Midnight Soldier", kicks things off in grand fashion, and at nearly 9-minutes long gets the progressive blood pumping with plenty of majestic keyboard passages, tasty guitar licks, and addicting vocals. "Sometimes In the Suburbs" is a real emotional ride, with wonderful Banks styled keyboard melodies from Kevin Leonard that just screams the Selling England By the Pound era of Genesis, as does the pastoral and atmospheric "Battles Waged Before". Just close your eyes and pretend that this is a lost Genesis track, as Newnam's vocals and Johnson's lush guitars lead you in to some wild Moog solos from Leonard, which makes for an intoxicating brew. Quirky lyrics and intricate keyboards lead the way on "The Form", and the whole band fires up some bombastic sounds on "Stained Glass Door", featuring some molten guitar solos from Johnson. The ultra complex and symphonic "Living on the Fringe" is another tour-de-force for Leonard's acrobatic keyboard passages and Johnson's nimble yet muscular guitar leads.

While Extremes might not be the most original sounding prog album that you'll hear this year, there's no denying that these talented veterans know their niche and turn out quality 70's influenced art-rock that lovers of the genre can enjoy. For me a solid 4 stars maybe 4+

Report this review (#1292609)
Posted Thursday, October 16, 2014 | Review Permalink

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