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EZRA

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Ezra biography
In 1990, a progressive band from South Wales was formed by the name of Ezra (name taken from a Jewish scribe and prophet of the 5th century b.c., who with Nehemiah led the revival of Judaism in Palestine). The main band consists of Andy Edwards (vocals & guitar), Gareth Jones (vocals and bass) and Darren Jospeh (drums). Ezra's music sounds more like guitar rock than prog rock; more towards the style of bands like Therapy and Soundgarden. Very powerful and energetic though. Nevertheless, the music of Ezra has also been compared to Rush, Saga and It Bites by their label.

With influences ranging anywhere from Genesis and Pink Floyd to Ben Harper and Neil Young, it's no wonder that Ezra grabs different traits and combines them into their own special blend of progressive music. They put together their first demo, New Horizons, and the follow-up, A Thousand Days, before producing their first full length album a couple of years later.

1994 gave us Shapes, which has been compared to It Bites. The core band of Edwards, Jones, and Joseph intact, they also added Rob Reed (of Cyan and Magenta), Sue Manley, Steve Hughes and The Red Hand Band. In 1999, Big Smiley Sun was released. Again, Rob Reed comes in to lend a hand, and although the music is sturdy, many complain about the bad mixing. In some tracks the guitar or vocals are so far in the background that they can hardly be heard. With better mixing and some more keyboards the sound would really improve.

The band didn't record again until 2006's Songs From Pennsylvania. With the addition of Colin Edwards on keys, the album was met with mixed reviews. Tom De Val of DPRP writes, "The major downfall of the album is probably the fact that the songs are rather overstretched in terms of length which, given the lack of complex song structures and the aforementioned mid-paced nature of much of the set, leads to a feeling of samey-ness which means the attention starts to waiver around the halfway point. In addition, whilst there�s some good harmony work on the album, the lead vocals (courtesy of Edwards) are not the strongest you�ll hear, and thus fail to carry the weaker material (such as the rather aimless closer Lazy) over the finishing line."

Ezra have yet to make a substantial splash in the world of progressive music; however, they are still making music and a fourth album is coming soon.

Eric Walker

Ezra official website

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EZRA discography


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EZRA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.38 | 17 ratings
Shapes
1994
3.32 | 19 ratings
Big Smiley Sun
1999
3.30 | 32 ratings
Songs From Pennsylvania
2006

EZRA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

EZRA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

EZRA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

EZRA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

EZRA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Songs From Pennsylvania by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.30 | 32 ratings

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Songs From Pennsylvania
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This so far latest release by British Ezra is mentioned hidden gem of neo prog for a long time now. I already knew the band from their debut Shapes and believed they were good enough to go for this one as well. But a hidden gem, hmm....

I already believed Shapes was touching the boundries of prog but these Songs from Pennssylvania is probably an even better exapmle of that. I don't want to go that far to say Ezra is one of those bands that give neo prog a bad name but they can't be called a high flyer either I'm afraid. Or like our prog reviewer Southsideofthesky already stated: A little bit more ? No thanks. He was referring to the opening song which is hardly more than plain pop to be fair. But on the other hand the successor Everyday is much much better all over sudden. Third tune Summer Again is a nice ballad but not much prog to be discovered here either. A good guitar solo towards the end provides the fun on this one. Underground delivers in the atmosphere department, it's a merry tune but again the prog is missing here especially in the first half of the song. 5th track Chances works much better in that sense. It's by far the longest track, almost an epic, and it recalls Floyd in their heyday with the opening tones. This mood is kept for the larger part of the song, one of the best of this album. 6th song Lazy returns to the easy listening style earlier on making it almost impossible for the album to reach the excellent status with just one song to go. Only if that one (Alive) would have been masterpiece material it might have been possible but alas, it's just average so:

The conclusion will have to be: a versatile album with strong leanings to crossover prog. There is also neo prog to be found (Everyday f.i.) and as a fan of that subgenre I prefer those clearly. I can think of only one outcome and it fits our sites description perfectly: 3 stars, good but non- essential. SfP is not poor by any means but it's far from excellent (3,2*).

 Big Smiley Sun by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.32 | 19 ratings

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Big Smiley Sun
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Is this supposed to be a Prog version of Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun?

Big Smiley Sun was Ezra's second album, released in 1999. The style of music found here is very different compared to the debut album, Shapes, and closer to the third Ezra album, Songs From Pennsylvania. The latter album as well as the present one bears no relation whatsoever to British Neo-Prog or indeed any strong relation to Prog of any sort. This music has more to do with the Grunge scene and Alternative Rock; it comes across as somehow American and definitely so very 90's. It is pretty clear that Ezra wanted to sound contemporary here, but now, more than a decade later, this sounds dated to my ears, more so than most music from the 70's and 80's. The It Bites influences found on the debut album were all gone at this point, here they instead sound a bit like Soundgarden! Maybe Big Smiley Sun can be seen as a more cheerful version of that band's hit song Black Hole Sun?

There are some discrete keyboards in the background on many songs and a Didgeridoo on one track(!), but apart from that this is pretty straightforward guitar Rock. Despite the fact that some songs are quite long there is a distinct lack of interesting arrangements or complex parts. This music is not really my cup of tea. Even so, I must say that I enjoy this slightly more than Songs From Pennsylvania. I would, however, not recommend this to Prog fans in general.

If you are interested in Ezra, the Shapes album is all you need. Only those with some special interest in the band need to go beyond that.

 Songs From Pennsylvania by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.30 | 32 ratings

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Songs From Pennsylvania
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars A little bit more? No thanks!

Songs From Pennsylvania is the third, and to date the most recent, release by Ezra. Ironically, given the album's title, Ezra is a British band hailing from Wales. Whatever the reason was for the title, this album does indeed have something of an American sound. At least it is - in contrast to the very different and much better debut album, Shapes - completely and utterly disconnected from the British Neo-Prog scene. I hear Alternative Rock, Blues Rock and Psychedelic Pop, but little or nothing in the way of progressive Rock here. If it wasn't for the discrete and occasional presence of keyboards and some Pink Floyd-ish guitar lines here and there, I don't think anyone would even dream of associating this music with Prog in any of its many varieties. Almost needless to say, this is not my cup of tea at all.

Ezra is a band that has been around since 1990 and they caught my attention by sporting a guest appearance by the great Rob Reed of Cyan and Magenta fame on keyboards on their 1994 debut album Shapes. Reed is not featured here, but apparently he was the sound engineer for this 2006 recording. While I very much enjoyed the nice mix of Neo-Prog and Crossover Prog on Shapes, I was disappointed with what I found here. The choruses are overly catchy in a way that makes them almost annoying and despite the fact that some songs are quite long there is a distinct lack of interesting arrangements or complex parts. It is the kind of album that you need only a single listen to fully get a hold of and already on the second or third listen you get bored of it. The lyrics are simplistic and naïve and the whole comes across as a very average Rock record, not bad as such, just average and forgettable.

The band's official website states that Ezra are still together and have recently been joined by Steve Paine of Legend on keyboards. Let's hope that Paine can inject some real progressive attitude into this band and perhaps bring them closer to what we could hear on Shapes (which according to the same website also seems to be Paine's favourite Ezra album).

Songs From Pennsylvania is a very so so release to my ears, only recommended to those with some very special interest in the band

 Shapes by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.38 | 17 ratings

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Shapes
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars First light

Ezra is a band that has been around since 1990 and they caught my attention by sporting a guest appearance by the great Rob Reed of Cyan and Magenta fame on keyboards. Shapes was the band's first release and it is quite different from the subsequent two albums by the band. Personally, I like this one a lot more. This is somewhere in between Crossover Prog and Neo-Prog. It Bites seems to be an influence on (early) Ezra, but I think they have their own style with some unusual sounds, unusual vocals and unusual lyrics (with some rather weird lines like "The Smith's have got a new carpet" and "I hope he's got some jacket potatoes"). Comparisons with Cyan can also be made, especially with their excellent The Creeping Vine album.

The first two tracks of the album are good but rather straightforward Pop-Prog songs with something of an 80's flavor to them and as such they are a little bit deceiving as the album as a whole offers some more interesting material. Red Sky is the first sign that Ezra were more ambitious while still maintaining the melodic edge. Falling is again a Pop song - a good one, but not great - but after this the album only gets better and more interesting. It is thus the second half of the album that makes the difference for me and pushes Shapes up from a good to an excellent effort.

She Cries is the absolute highlight of the album for me. What a wonderful song that perfectly straddles the divide between Neo-Prog and Crossover Prog and features some subtle but interesting folky/World-Music sounds and female backing vocals to great effect. First Light is another winner with a folky/Celtic-sounding ending. Grand piano and acoustic guitars forms part of many songs here and balances very well with the energetic and edgy electric guitar play and the electronic sounds and the occasional symphonic keyboards in the background.

Shapes might not be the kind of album that takes most Prog fans by storm, but anyone who accepts some more accessible tracks among the more ambitious ones will find much to enjoy here. I was not impressed on my first few listens, but this is an album that invites further listens and I don't seem to get tired of it even after hearing it on repeat for hours! While not revolutionary by any means, I cannot think of any other band that sounded quite like this. It is subtle, but Ezra has something special. The songs are all well written, well recorded, well produced, etc. the sound is very good. Fans of Crossover Prog in particular will not be disappointed.

This is Ezra's best effort and just about deserving of four stars, I think

 Songs From Pennsylvania by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.30 | 32 ratings

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Songs From Pennsylvania
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Purveyors of nicely-understated pop-prog, Ezra's third album finds the Welsh group mining the same feelgood vibe that adorned both of their previous efforts, only this time the music sports a slightly harder-edge and a more confident air. The stand-out track is the rocky 'Everyday'(a track available on this website for free)which features some catchy riffs and throaty vocals from lead- singer Andy Edwards and sounds not unlike a soundclash between IQ's poppier moments, Peter Gabriel's first album and hints of super-proggers Transatlantic, showcasing Ezra'a love of catchy melodies and the simpler side of prog. Bright, brash and breezy, 'Songs From Pennsylvania' may not exactly be 'Close To The Edge' or 'A Trick Of The Tail' but it is a perfectly serviceable slice of modern prog which fills an hour nicely and hints that there may just be bigger and better things to come from this enterprising four-piece if given the chance. One to keep an eye on then, Ezra certainly have potential. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
 Songs From Pennsylvania by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.30 | 32 ratings

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Songs From Pennsylvania
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I thought I had this connection with these guys from Pennsylvania and their singing about Winter being over and that Spring has finally arrived when I noticed they're from Wales ?! So much for that. In the liner notes they thank "Alex, Geddy and Neil for the stag night". Not quite sure what that means (haha). This album was engineered in part by Rob Reed (MAGENTA). The music itself has this feel-good vibe to it, very enjoyable and uplifting at times. Not complex or challenging in the least mind you, just music to put on to change your mood I suppose.

"A Little Bit More" opens with organ before a full sound kicks in. Vocals a minute in. It settles after 3 minutes then kicks back in after 5 minutes. It's an okay tune, not the best start. "Everyday" is an improvement. Guitar to start before a full sound with vocals takes over. Some vocal melodies here too after 3 minutes followed by a guitar solo, then themes are repeated. They slow it down on the next track

"Summer Again". This is the one with the lyrics I can relate to about spring being here after a long cold, dark Winter. Good tune. "Underground" is a catchy song. The guitar really lights it up before 4 minutes. Nice. "Changes" has a dreamy FLOYD-like vibe to it as reserved vocals join in. It does kick in as contrasts continue. "Lazy" is an okay song that's led by piano, bass, drums and guitar. Vocals after a minute. "Alive" features some violin and a children's choir later on.

A good album that Neo-Prog fans will enjoy, I know I did.

 Songs From Pennsylvania by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.30 | 32 ratings

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Songs From Pennsylvania
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by dmwilkie

5 stars This effort marks a big jump in quality from 'Big Smiley Sun'. It is a superb example of typical British neo-prog. It ticks all the boxes; catchy tunes, great guitar and keyboard work,changes of mood and tempo, fresh sounding and having an up-beat yet laid-back attitude. All the tracks display consistency of quality, and there are some great moments,e.g the change in tempo followed by synthesisier solo in 'Summer Again'. Listen to 'Everyday' on this site and you will hear a representative piece which got me first interested in the album. Rumour has it that another album is in the pipeline. I can't wait!
 Songs From Pennsylvania by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.30 | 32 ratings

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Songs From Pennsylvania
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by JgX 5

4 stars wow!!!,i dont have Words to describe this piece of art...

Starting with A little Bit More,a lot of move here,we have the begginning of the album,what sounds like a funky song,but with a good chorus..and the piano sounds very good..the next ONE is very different: Every day,wow!,men,thats what i am talking about,the start pf this song is very catchin,amazing,the guitar sounds a little Heavy,and then the vocals start to sing..this one is perfect!!,a lot of energy here...and a lot of progressive elements,the solo section of the guitar is beautiful..

Another one that i have to tell you is CHANGES... The best song of this Album,this song sounds like pink floyd,some parts,but obviusly with ezra's type.the emotion of the lyrics and the lead vocal are awesome..you have to listen to this...very nice,very beautiful...my question is..this is really neo-prog? really?,ok....,don`t Problem,High recommended,really,check it out...by the way,Strange Name EZRA....4.2 stars..

 Songs From Pennsylvania by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.30 | 32 ratings

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Songs From Pennsylvania
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars This is a band that makes the limitations of genre categorization so evident. Ezra are a band that has been floating around the ‘new’ (but not neo-) progressive scene since the early nineties, although they have managed to release only three full-length studio albums in that period with somewhat fluid lineups. The sound is without a doubt intended for small, live audiences of the park festival and pub variety, but that doesn’t make them any less a legitimate progressive band.

The three acts that I can’t help but associate Ezra with are, sort of in order: Salem Hill, the Tangent, and Proto-Kaw. If you take the mature, loose-fitting rhythms and rock harmonies of Salem Hill; some of the unaffected pseudo-pretentiousness and inescapable Yes influences of the Tangent; then mix in some of the time-stopping guitar flights of fancy and unconventional biography of Proto-Kaw, you have a sense of what Ezra is all about.

This, their third studio release, came out around the time the band would have celebrated their silver anniversary, if they are into that sort of thing (which I doubt). The core group of guitarist/vocalist Andy Edwards, drummer Daz Joseph and bassist Gareth Jones appear here, along with keyboardist Colin Edwards who may or may not be related to Andy. Keyboardist Robert Reed left the band after their second album ‘Shapes’ to front his own band Cyan. Jones and Colin Edwards would depart following this release, and the band now includes bassist Jim Bradley, keyboardist Gareth Hill, and a couple of comely female backing vocalists (Lizzie Buckwell and Janine Stobart-Knapp).

I’ve no idea what the title ‘Songs from Pennsylvania’ means since these guys are actually Welsh as far as I know. The album was recorded at Briar Bank Studios, a small former train signal station that if I’m not mistaken is featured on the front cover artwork. This must have been recorded in autumn as the studio photos on the inside cover show the band members in the studio wearing long sleeves but with the doors open and the foliage lush and green outside. The overall mood is one of fall as well, lazy and unhurried but rather upbeat and reflective. This is somewhat in contrast to their second album which was rather depressing with lyrics that seemed mildly fatalistic and negative. Not so here, as most of the lyrics speak of friendship and carrying on and just generally engaging in the act of being alive. There are even a couple of pictures of Andy Edwards that look remarkably like me – I’m thinking of sending him some photos for him to get a kick out of.

Musically the album shows a definite influence of a youth spent spinning Yes and Rush vinyls, and probably some CSNY as well. The overriding instruments are the vocals as well as Andy Edwards appreciable guitar licks, with Jones’ bass being somewhat understated and possibly even tinged with a bit of funk persuasion, probably honed from a childhood of Motown and pop favorites.

The opening “A Little Bit More” is a bit of a misleading introduction as it gives the impression of a fairly straightforward rock album at the onset, belied only by a lush organ sequence. But the band can’t help but wander off on an instrumental tangent behind Edwards’ guitar for several minutes anyway once things get going. The lyrics speak of that friend who seems to have a bit of a problem with moderation on the weekend, if you know what I mean (“I’ve watched you at parties off your head; I knew that some day you’d wind up dead”). But the tone isn’t all that serious, and the keyboard/guitar instrumental passage leaves me wanting to hear more.

Which comes with “Everyday”, the quintessential unhurried anthem of aging rockers everywhere: “we’ll miss the last bus home but we don’t care, everyday we give a little time away”. Much more bass on this one, but still it’s the keyboards and guitar that drive the arrangement of the song.

“Summer Again” is slow and lazy like a summer song should be, and this is the one that reminds me totally of a Salem Hill tune set to a slow pace and performed with eyes closed on a sweaty summer stage in the park. Great stuff, with excellent throwback keyboards to boot.

And speaking of anthems, “Underground” seems like it was meant as a tribute to those bands like Ezra and the others I’ve mentioned who continue to ply their trade unaffected by time and trends:

“I remember when music stirred my soul; no one’s bothered saving rock and roll – we’re still around, making it underground”

There’s some gratuitous piano rolls and an extended building repetitive chorus with a children’s choir backing that just makes you feel good about buying this record, and a blazing guitar blast of energy from Edwards just to prove that old guys can kick it up with gusto when they feel like it.

The long and meandering “Chances” may be a bit of a downer as it reflects on a life spent as a leisurely musical nomad, building as it goes on into a series of guitar and percussion crescendos that really show the influences of the seventies prog gods, delivered in a reverent and patient pace. This is probably my favorite Ezra tune from any of their three albums, and one that could have been committed right alongside a Tangent song on a Progfest compilation CD with no trouble at all.

“Lazy” is just that – a slow, keyboard-driven slacker tune: “Think I’ll just sit here and crack another beer, Mr. Windy will help my mind to clear”. The harmonized vocals are reminiscent of forgotten seventies rockers like the John Hall Band, Greg Kihn, and Tom Petty. I won’t say you have to be over forty to really appreciate this one, but it wouldn’t hurt.

“Alive” wraps things up with lots of piano and keyboards, mature vocals, and an introspective feel. There’s also the great line – “there’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is, what you believe”. A musical celebration of survival and the thoughtful wisdom and appreciation that comes from being one of those who made it through the gauntlet of growing up and old. Sad, but in a pragmatic and realistic way that is rather palatable.

I’ve had this album for a while now and still play it at least once a week, which is more than I can say for probably three-fourths of the rest of my collection. For that reason and because the songs here are full of personal reflections accompanied by some very skilled if rather un-complex musicianship, I’d say this is deserving of four stars.

So that’s what I’ll give it and recommend it pretty highly, especially to older prog music fans who will surely see themselves behind the mike jamming away when they listen to it.

Enjoy.

peace

 Shapes by EZRA album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.38 | 17 ratings

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Shapes
Ezra Neo-Prog

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Ezra is a typical British neo prog band of the early nineties. In the shadow of Clive Nolan and his projects this band tried to get their name on the board as well and I wanted to give them a chance so I bought this album. It was surprisingly good without being outstanding by the way. I especially like their instrumental passages and since these are mainly found in their longer tracks it will be no surprise that I think Red Sky, Raingods and Tea at Cyrils are my favourite tracks. The rest is good, Falling is a somewhat commercial sounding track, but non essential. 3.25 overall.
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Eric Walker for the last updates

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