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Jean-Luc  Ponty - Mystical Adventures CD (album) cover

MYSTICAL ADVENTURES

Jean-Luc Ponty

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars It's amazing to see how your perspective changes when you are involved in some project, since last year I asked repeatedly for the inclusion of Jean-Luc Ponty in the Archives mostly because of his work with Mahavishnu Orchestra and the first 4 albums posterior to this experience with Mr. McLaughlin and Co.

But after working on his bio and discography for Prog Archives, started giving a second chance to most of his later releases.

Mystical Adventures is one of his first albums I bought but hardly played it more than five or six times in 15 years, yesterday I had to make short business travel of about 4 hours driving, so charged this release in the CD cartridge and great surprise, it is amazing, this is the only album I played since then, has become almost an obsession.

Jean-Luc Ponty's career is very interesting, his first four releases after he left Mahavishnu were really excellent, but the next two (A taste for Passion and Civilized Evil) were not in the same level, so for any reasonable Prog' fan that knows a bit of history (most bands reach their peak and after that everything is downhill) it was pretty obvious that his career was declining.

But Mystical Adventures is a very pleasant surprise, almost a re-birth, if any person had doubts about his music being Prog' and believed he was a Jazz player, this album surely should make him change his mind, even more is not just a Fusion album (What is enough to be considered Progressive), but with a very clear Symphonic edge, strong keyboards almost as important as his classic violin, amazing changes, one epic suite and a multi part long song. What more can a Proghead ask?

The lineup couldn't be better; he works again with two keyboardists himself and the very efficient Chris Rhyme who does an excellent job. For the second time he works with Randy "The Emperor" Jackson instead of Ralphie Armstrong, and to be honest the guy is an amazing bass player (Will never understand how after working with giants as Ponty, Cobham and Aretha Franklin he ended being a session musician for N'Sync, Madonna, Destiny's Child and even worst as an American Idol judge).

Paulinho Da Costa (Ex Miles Davis and Dizzie Gillespie) jazzy percussion is also impeccable and a great support for Ponty's new drummer, the young Rayford Griffin, who's partnership with Jean-Luc lasted for six tears, later played with monsters as Stanley Clarke before having an accident that left him with a very serious spine injury that made him evaluate his life and start a career as soloist.

Jamie Glaser doesn't have the versatility of Daryl Stuermer with the guitar but he's very strong with Jazz style, after a couple of years after Mystical Adventures he left Jean-Luc Ponty because as he said, his music was getting too Rock oriented.

The album starts with Mystical Adventures Suite, a fantastic 20 minutes with five movements epic, I used to think Aurora was his closest experience to Symphonic Prog', but I was wrong, the whole structure, sound, changes and movements have an evident influence of his Classical violin training and his work with John McLaughlin. Ponty reaches the perfect balance between Jazz and Symphonic.

I don't pretend to describe the five movements (or parts) of this epic because it's a whole and complete work that must be listened as an entire song, but part III is simply incredible, it's the longest of the five, and clearly the central piece of the epic.

Starts absolutely jazzy with a violin solo, but the rest of the band make their entrance one by one, Jamie Glaser's hard rock guitar semi-solo efficiently supported by Ponty on the organ is simply breathtaking, even Rayford Griffin, Paulinho Da Costa and Randy Jackson (all mainly jazz musicians) seem to get absolutely involved in the Symphonic atmosphere, until Ponty starts again with violin leaving clear that he's mainly a Fusion musician, a perfect lesson of how a real songwriter with an efficient band can jump from one genre to another as easy as we change clothes. Amazing part of an amazing epic.

"Rhythms of Hope" is a totally different track where Paulinho Da Costa proves what a complete musician he is with any percussion instrument. This song is a typical Ponty track, 100% progressive Fusion with incredible work of the rhythm section, flows gently from start to end.

"As" is a very unusual song, sounds almost as a Paganini Capriccio with Jazz interruptions and vocoder (One of the few times Jean-Luc Ponty uses human voice), the mixture works perfectly and again flows gently all along despite the dramatic changes.

The second multi part track is "Final Truth", more in the usual sound of Ponty and quite similar to his work in Aurora, the Piano sections in Part I are simply delightful.

Part II is more mysterious and atmospheric, a new chance for Jean-Luc to have fun with his violin with the confidence that the rest of the band especially Chris Rhyme will support him always. Too short in my opinion but it's better to leave the audience wishing for more than bored because of unnecessary length.

"Jig" closes the album and as any Fusion musician he wants to end it with the style he feels more comfortable, Jazz but again with a subtle Symphonic touch provided by Chris Rhyme playing short sections in a way that reminds of Wakeman.

I know the few people who read it may find this review contradictory with the one I made about Aurora, but only a stubborn ignorant wouldn't accept his mistake, this album is at least in the same level of his first four Prog' masterpieces (Before he was in Mahavishnu was mainly a Jazz musician) and closer than ever to Symphonic Progressive, so I will run to modify my Aurora review and rate this album with 5 very solid stars.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#55998)
Posted Saturday, November 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The new technology of the keyboards allowed to create new, fresh & urban atmospheres, and it is really the case here! This record is a mix between Ponty's traditional fusion with violin and complex bass, and a completely new, clean & atmospheric sound that is so present on his "Open Mind" record. Surprisingly, Ponty uses an electronic voice in some bits. The bass here in the faster parts is particularly good. Sometimes, the music flirts with a mix of fusion & relaxing New Age. The piano, the violin, the guitars, and the modern keyboards make a very varied album having smoother floating parts too. Maybe many people find the Ponty's music of the 70's a bit redundant, but be sure that "Mystical Adventures" remains an album full of surprises and varieties.

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#57208)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A True Masterpiece Jazz-Rock Fusion!

When this album was released, prog music was in the stage of dying and it was terrible time for most of us who were chasing record stores on new prog albums. Jazz-rock fusion type was not the kind of music that I put as first priority. It's not that because I didn't like it but it's because of my taste was more on symphonic prog music. My first in love with this kind of music was through Return To Forever and explored many albums by Chick Corea until I found "The Mad Hatter" album. In this album I found great jazz-rock tune titled "Tweedle Dum" - "Dear Alice". I think this is the best jazz rock composition song with no comparison of similar quality. Since then my ears got used to jazz rock fusion type.

Since there was nothing new on symphonic prog music at that time and the fact that I could enjoy Chick Corea and Return To Forever, I purchased this album anyway. To my surprise, the music offered by this album was really great. By the time I also knew another violin player Didier Lockwood and David Cross (King Crimson). This album contains five (5) compositions in which one of them is an epic "Mystical Adventures Suite".

What a "title" means to you? I think each of you would have different reaction and attitudes toward this question. As for my case, it means a lot. Specific to this album, I'd rather focus on the second word "Adventures" than the first one. Why? It's basically coming back to my proposition that "music is emotion". If I combine the emotion and the title, I would have different atmosphere when enjoying the music, compared to if I'm hearing the music (for example at hotel lobby) without knowing the title and the artist. The "adventures" word gives me a nuance that is close to "exploration" (of music), "journey" (of a mankind in any profession) or "taking risks". Having this in mind, I would relate myself in the mud of struggling or (use a better word) striving for excellence. Why not? There is a song titled "Rhythms of Hope" which basically stem from the "wish" that any mankind requires to progress. "Without Hope You Can Not Start The Day" that's what Yes told you at "Union" album, right?

The combination of title, emotion as well as cover artwork would create unique listening pleasure for me. I do appreciate the high standards of album artwork in "Mystical Adventures" which reflects surrealist ideal, typical with Roger Dean's at Yes artwork or Ed Unitsky at The Tangent's artwork.

Having the above background - in a long write-up - it suffices to say that I'm a big fan of this album by Jean-Luc Ponty. There is couple of reasons. First, the combination of album title ("adventures") and cover artwork that I decipher in my mind when I listen to the music creates such a wonderful musical adventures that satisfy my expectations toward this album. Therefore, I'm emotionally engaged and satisfied with this album. Second, I need to back up my first statement with rationales on why I say it that way. The composition of all tracks in this album is top notch! Jean Luc Ponty does not revolve this album around his virtuosity. He gives it away to many other soloists - even he gives it to the bassist who usually provides the beats or keeps the gates on time signatures and scales. Take "Rhythms of Hope" as an example - you would here a really stunning bass guitar work by Randy "The Emperor" Jackson in the middle of the track. While he plays the bass guitar as melody, drums keep the beats augmented with synthesizer. There are also piano solos like in "The Final Truth".

Third, if we look at this album on track by track basis, this album can be considered as "song orientated" album and there is no track as bad track at all. All tracks featured here are excellent even the simplest one "As" (5:49) which has R&B style with some solos. Even if we look at deeper and we jump into further exploration of the "Mystical Adventures Suite" (20:28) there are many song orientated passages that make up this epic a great one to enjoy.

So, what do you expect from a jazz-rock fusion album like this?

Yeah! It's definitely a full five star album with no major comments on the downsides. What do you really expect? Can you have something better than this at album level? It's really hard to match with this album. That's why in my humblest opinion, this album deserves a full five star rating. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#97121)
Posted Sunday, November 05, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars

First of all we really have to appreciate the virtuosity of Jean Luc Ponty. What gives originality to this release (and the others from Jean Luc Ponty) is the usage of the violin on a fusion album. It is simply hard not to remember the specific sound of Ponty's music once you listen to it.

The best song is for sure Mystical Adventures (I enjoy the most first part and the last one) which gives also the name of the album. Is important to mention also the solo guitar from the beginning of the third part which seems to me the only moment when another instrument(other than violin) is in front of the other instruments. What I find somehow uninspired is the rhythm which is somehow too predictable and repetitive in comparison with the violin which is always very adventurous.

We don't have anything really revolutionary (maybe just original) here but just a well played and elegant album.3.75 stars

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Send comments to petrica (BETA) | Report this review (#124099)
Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars this has a Yes-like cover that fits the music perfectly. the entire Side 1 (Mystical Adventures) and Track 1, Side 2 (Rhythms of Hope) are easily worth the album. i do not like the remake of Stevie Wonder's "As". i always lift the needle over that one.

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Send comments to r b-j (BETA) | Report this review (#148232)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars MYSTICAL CAREER ,, in fact ......... Jazz fusion was adopted by many talented musicians in the middle 70' as a feedback to prog rock . it was perfectly clear to any prog lover that Ponty , Mahavishnu, di meola , ZAPPA , Santana ( in few releases , and so many others , wakeman , Vangelis took the choice of introducing a new age of music , It was in fact a good combination of melodious Classical - jazz - rock fusion . but , no one reaches the perfection in touching the high red point to introduce this idea to proggers ,, ( specially during the 70's ) with the exception of Zappa & John , there was 2 releases for Ponty namely ( Aurora & Mystical ) ( elegant gypsy & electric rendez - vous of De Meola ) - ( oneness & caravanserai fr Santana ) not to tell you proggers about Love , Devotion ... santana's ,,, and , Yamashta's various artist double album live namely GO ... live //////// Between 1975 & 1981 , many bands were competing to create a new image of classical - jazz fusion in form of new age to satisfy the hunger of proggers . but no one ,in my opinion reaches this point except few releases at that time . And ,Surely MYSTICAL ADVENTURES was one of them it reaches the top in openning a new windows between rock & jazz in a smooth , clear , harmonious , talented performance from a team that i really respect . Remark == Ecm was the producer of mainly 80 % of the best new age releases between 1977 & 1988 as far as i know in this matter . So , we must all go for hunting ........

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Send comments to trackstoni (BETA) | Report this review (#164826)
Posted Monday, March 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is not jazz rock/fusion. It has elements of those genres, but to limit it to those two styles oversimplifies this incredibly unique and complex masterpiece. At times, it draws from funk at other times it draws from symphonic rock. But, in the end, this album subscribes to no specific genre; it is just amazing music. The moods and textures presented on this album rewards hundreds of listens. This album always holds a fresh and exciting adventure.

The album begins with the Part 1 of the title track, instantly unleashing the spirit of the album to come. Ponty layers violin, electric piano and synthesizer in an almost minimalistic approach, conveyed by Rayford Griffin's tight drum groove. As the album progresses into Parts 2-4, the group offers many distinct timbres. Every listen will expose a new layer of the groove for you. Every part is essential to the group's signature tightness. The band combines the perfect blend between spontaneous improvisation and concise orchestration. At some moments the group showcases the skill of classical musicians, staying well-grounded. At other moments Ponty's violin solos swirl into controlled pandemonium while bassist Randy Jackson and drummer Rayford Griffin enhance Ponty's solo with complimentary rhythms.

Part 5, the last section of Side A, is an especially powerful moment in the album. The piece's strong 1 and 3 feel, overlapped by an emphasis from the Chris Rhyne's Prophet-5 on 2 and 4 is pleasantly disorienting. Randy Jackson keeps the piece grounded without interfering the clear forward momentum of the group as Side A head towards the finish line.

Side B begins with a slight change of pace. Gone is the ominous tone of Side A, replaced with an infectious groove-fest. Nonetheless, the feeling of mysticism remains just as strong as ever. On Rhythm of Hope, Randy Jackson is clearly the star of the show. His solo is one of the best I've ever heard and I consider it the pinnacle of this album.

The inclusion of Stevie Wonder's As certainly made me skeptical upon first glance. However, with one listen I can hear that Ponty arranged the piece with respect to the original version while still adding his distinct approach to music. The replacement of vocals with a vocorder is one of these distinct approaches and certainly is a powerful facet of this track.

Final Truth seals the mystic ideas presented on the title track (that is NOT to say the previous two tracks are only filler tracks). Griffin and Jackson lay down their tightest and most intricate groove yet. Rhyne's piano solo in Part 1 is truly incredible and the rest of the band compliments his intensity. Ponty's solo is none less magical and the entire group presents the same sort of complex but controlled intensity. Once again, several rhythmic layers are introduced on Part 2. I enjoy picking out just one piece of the puzzle and then standing back and seeing how it fits into the overall groove. Approaching the piece in this way rewards hundreds of listens. The album ends with Jig, which upholds a style firmly rooted in both jazz and symphonic prog but remains starkly original.

In short, this album is a true masterpiece and showcases Jean Luc Ponty's distinct but versatile style. The album's title and cover live up to their grandeur; this work of art truly is a Mystical Adventure.

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Send comments to progvortex (BETA) | Report this review (#228853)
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mystical Adventures by JLP is a hidden gem. Hidden in that it took me a while to "get it". I must admit that I wasn't completely into this one when it first came out (27 yrs ago). I always placed it in a second tier behind other JLP records. But over the years my appreciation for this excellent recording has increased and I now have it in the same echelon as the other JLP classic recordings.

On Mystical Adventures you won't find the heavy funk of Civilized Evil or the shredding jazz-rock fest that's Enigmatic Ocean. Instead, you have a record that offers some jaw-dropping jazz keyboard work from Chris Rhyne(synths, keys and acoustic piano) and some excellent jazz drumming from Rayford Griffin. Notice the emphasis on JAZZ. Please keep in mind that JLP is first and foremost a jazz musician. For all of the classical training he may have had and for all of the heavier rock he experimented with on Enigmatic Ocean, JLP is a jazz musician and he makes a BIG jazz statement on Mystical Adventures.

As can be expected on any of his records, JLP's playing is sublime and at times superhuman. His legato technique on some of the soloing is.....well.....BEYOND GREAT! If it's even possible to say such a thing.

Some may argue that a few of the pieces are too close to new age or world music for the album to be considered a progressive work. But I would disagree with that notion. JLP's approach invariably incorporates a handful of softer, synth-sequenced tunes where he will solo over them with his violins or layer more synths to create his own brand of tehcno-space-fusion. That's always been the JLP style and you either like it or don't. I love it!

I recommend Mystical Adventures to proggers who are willing to give jazz a chance. This is not a "rocking" jazz-fusion album, but instead a record that leans heavily toward the jazz side of the fence. You will find that the musicianship is EXTRAORDINARY and the songs, although shorter than on your epic prog albums, are impeccably composed and executed.

Mystical Adventures gets an easy FIVE STAR, masterpiece rating.

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Send comments to wbiphoto (BETA) | Report this review (#251901)
Posted Friday, November 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars This is a tremendous hidden gem, certainly among the very best from the legendary French violinist whose Enigmatic Ocean and Cosmic Messenger albums remain among my dearest possessions. This was a period where Jean-Luc was particularly creative in prog terms and left a series of extremely original and explorative prog-fusion for fans of all progressive ilk. Yes, it's slick and ethereal but it has a rawness that refuses to be overproduced, in favor of soloing style that fits the immense talents displayed. I admit being an avowed Ralphe Armstrong salivating fan, having seen him live and being blown totally and utterly away! Randy Jackson (yeah the Idol judge, eek!) was a fantastic bassist with a variety of big time session work that sold zillions but here, he smokes BIG TIME. Add drummer Rayford Griffin (who hints at Billy Cobham at times) and you have a miraculous rhythm section, a very necessary foundation that needs to cook in this technical genre known as jazz-rock. The recording begins with a gorgeous epic suite subdivided in 5 parts, a supple shortie followed by a more awake one, just as brief but with a little more meat . When the heavenly Part 3 breezes in, the listener is crucified instantly by the shimmering brilliance of the music expressed, a blossoming revelation and arguably, one of the finest 7 minutes and 30 seconds in prog history, a bedeviling bass that weaves, burrows and slides with ruthless abandon, leashing the others along, the Ponty violin screaming , Chris Rhyne ushering in the fizzing synths and Griffin thumping seriously .Electric guitarist Jamie Glaser has a very linear technique that prefers the lower registers but his solo is deadly. The atmosphere is blatantly confident and really lets the musicians to express themselves in playful freedom. What a track, dearest me! There is a brief violin flutter for Part 4 and then, another swift curled shot into the old onion bag, the luxuriant Part 5. A sadistic piece of ambient jubilation that has the listener stunned, jaw agape and drool trickling fluidly to the floor. The unique beauty of Ponty's violin is clearly defined and demonstrates a terrific sense of musicality and I daresay, restraint! The guest percussion from session veteran Paulinho Da Costa permeates the next rack, the rather joyous and upbeat "Rhythms of Hope" but you must really focus your attention to the lethal Randy Jackson bass work here (the solo is to die for, melodious and fast !), while the violin slithers along elusively , almost hypnotic and cocooning .The next track is the Stevie Wonder composed and a substantial world-wide hit, a reworked "As" where the vocoder replaces the incredible blind man's voice and does the piece justice knowing it could have been swiftly expedited as muzak! It basically rocks and then it rolls along , a ray of sunshine which I am sure the author approves, as it travels within the jazz highway to the stars! Ponty on violin does what Carlos Santana succeded so brilliantly on his own albums, spraying huge leads that dazzle the mind. The 2 part "Final Truth" has the rowers paddling hard to some internal beat, truly way jazzier than ever, gliding over the pristine aquatic arrangement , Rhyne's piano is exuberant and stylish (he played in Santana's band, I believe!), Rayford shuffling madly and yes, Jackson is still rumbling about , in a zone! The wee second part is mesmerizing. "Jig" puts this puppy to bed with an Irish inspired (obviously. you ninny!) flourish that takes traditional sounds, electrifies them and gives it a decidedly American feel: country violin solo, a slippy synth still in a down home style and a feel good ending! This is a masterpiece recording and a true winner. I am glad to have Mystical Adventures as an escort CD to my tired vinyl LP. 5 paces of expectancy

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#277957)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Jean Luc Ponty one of the major figures in jazz fusion world in last almost half century with a vast discography and long career always delight my ears. Mystical adventures from 1981 is among his better albums and for sure among the best in jazz fusion. The virtuosity of the musician is top notch but aswell he puts his heart and soul in every tune he compose and plays. This album together with Enigmatic ocean are my fac releases from him. THis is a very pleasent ride, where he shines on every piece, from the lenghty opening track Mystical Adventures Suite, who goes from smooth and elegant passages to more up tempo, the violin is proeminent and very solid all through out. I presonaly find little more intresting the rest of the pieces on athe album Rhythms of Hope, As or Jig are extremly well crafted and inventive, complex and complicated but never geting boring one second, he manage together with the rest of the musicians to create a very elaborated and pleasent album all the way. In the end a beautiful album that will pleases every serious jazz fusion fan and goes recommended for sure. 4 well desearved stars, excellent cover art aswell, remind me at first glance of Yes cover arts.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#840003)
Posted Thursday, October 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I must admit I was really surprised to see this album with the exact same rating as "Enigmatic Ocean" which Ponty released four years earlier. Of course my rating is going to drop this down but in my opinion "Mystical Adventures" isn't even close to being as good as "Enigmatic Ocean", although even on the RYM site they have them close in ratings. I'm in agreement with the Gnosis site though which has this rated significantly lower than what most feel is Ponty's best album. Yes i've played this longer than normal wondering if it would eventually click with me but I just don't enjoy this a whole lot.

Things start off really well though with "Mystical Adventures Pt. 1" where we get a surprising electronic vibe going on while the violin eventually comes in over top in a relaxed manner. My favourite track right here. I just really enjoy the vibe here. A deep atmosphere is added before 3 minutes which is excellent. "Mystical Adventures Pt. 2" is laid back and enjoyable. They kick it up a notch a minute in with drums and violin being added. The violin becomes prominant then we get some marching styled drums later. "Mystical Adventures Pt. 3" opens with drums and violin then it builds. A good groove arrives around a minute then the guitar starts to solo over top. This is my favourite part of the album just not my favourite track overall. Love the guitar though. "Mystical Adventures Pt. 4" is less than a minute long but it's quite dreamy and relaxing. "Mystical Adventures Pt. 5" continues with some atmosphere and I like it. Keyboards and deep sounds help out. The violin after 2 minutes doesn't do a lot for me though and this will continue the rest of the way.

"Rhythms Of Hope" is more uptempo but i'm not liking it at all as the violin plays over top. Some nice bass here though from non other than Randy(Dog) Jackson the American Idol judge. "As" opens with what sounds like synths pulsating then it picks up with violin and what sounds like processed vocals. It's okay. "Final Truth Pt. 1" is more of the same really but I do like it. Lots of piano before 2 minutes and the bass is prominant as the violin will come and go on this one. "Final Truth Pt. 2" is much shorter than part one at just over 2 minutes and we get what sounds like pulsating synths here as the violin joins in. I like the drum work after a minute. Good tune as it's more dynamic than most of the other tracks. "Jig" ends the album as we get some uptempo violin over the percussion. It does get fuller. Again i'm not big on the violin that settles in after a minute.

Sorry to all the fans of this one but i'm just that into this. Sure there's no Allan Holdsworth on guitar or Steve Smith on drums like on "Enigmatic Ocean" but that's not the problem for me, I just find this uninspired, especially the constant violin playing what sounds like the same melody throughout.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#1181563)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2014 | Review Permalink

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