Guerin, Shaun - The Epic Quality Of Life

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Clearlight 888 Music
Catalog Number: C8M-401
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:20:00

The Epic Quality Of Life is the second release from Shaun Guerin, who sadly passed away in July of 2003. The vocal tracks on this album, aside from the opening, title track, have the feel of the album Genesis didn't make after Foxtrot and Nursery Crime, though bringing in elements that Genesis might not have ? a harder edge, a bit of King Crimson in a way, and a bit of Yes. Guerin was the drummer and vocalist in the L.A. based Genesis tribute band Cinema Show, and released his first solo album By The Dark Of Light in 2002. So the Genesisisms don't come unexpected.

TEQOL fairs better than BTDOL, and is an overall much more enjoyable release. As with BTDOL Guerin has not rewritten "Watcher Of The Skies" or "Supper's Ready" ? and at no point do those songs come to mind. Rather, Guerin picked up where Genesis left off, took a general feel and style, and took it another direction.

Guerin is joined by two thirds of Cinema Show ? Matt Brown on keyboards, mellotron and vocals, and John Thomas on electric and six and 12 string acoustic guitars. He also joined by Dan Shapiro on bass (who also produced this release for the Clearlight Music label, which he heads). The vocals here, mainly Guerin, are an eerie combination of Gabriel and Phil Collins, and sometimes both in harmony, which is kind of weird to hear, but in a good way.

Where Guerin doesn't evoke Genesis of any one period entirely is during the instrumentals, which, counting the bonus track "Red Zone," there are three. Sure, you still have a sense of Genesis, but it is either of no one, or of various, periods in the band's career, all delivered with a freshness that doesn't rehash classic Genesisisms. The first of these instrumentals is the impressive "The Edge Of The Earth." It does begin as from Genesis' later, post-Gabriel years (but pre-Invisible Touch) with a hint of We Can Dance period Genesis (the guitar recalling "Driving The Last Spike"). Because Guerin was a drummer, this is the most prominent element here, but piano and guitar flourishes just add to the whole package. Of course, Thomas does provide some nice solos, dark around edges, precise without cutting in too sharply. "The Edge?" is a jazzy fusiony rock mix.

The second instrumental is "5 To Go" which is also a bit fusiony in spots. Here the dominant instrument is brightly toned, open, effect-laden keyboards recalling for me again, Mannheim Steamroller, though a particularly energetic and lively MS, and Emerson to do a degree, as fingers fly up and down the keys, and yet it is not overly wild. This gives this piece a strong feel of the epic. We also get some fleeting fingered guitar playing (recalling Howe). In one non-keyboard lead sections, we get something much darker, churning, recalling Crimson. And just for contrast, this is followed by a string-like mellotron passage, leading to a heavily percussive bridge to a return to the main keyboard section. The last few moments remind me of Planet X a bit.

The third instrumental, the bonus track "Red Zone," begins sparsely with strummed guitar, which gives way to often twiddly keyboards and throbbing bass. Here mostly percussion is used to accent the piece, the drum parts back further in the mix. Another segment brings in a more classical feel, especially with the use of piano, as the song builds in intensity, adding guitar to the sharp toned keyboard phrases. It is a very symphonically proggy piece ? simultaneously recalling Yes, ELP and King Crimson all at one go. It features some spacey, bloopy keyboard phrases, which might suggests a bit of Emerson, but they are a little too light in weight and color, and even too light for Banks? or even Wakeman? though the guitar phrases here often evoke Hackett.

The remainder of the album contains vocal tracks. The first song, the title track, plays like an homage to a great many prog greats ? a dash of Rush here, plenty of Yes, some hints of Genesis? and it is, unfortunately, the weakest track on the album, sounding a little washed out and under produced. It starts out with a percussion flourish, but rather that expoding when the rest of the instruments come in, it sounds muted, restrained. There are some nice gliding guitar textures, however.

"A Queen's Tale" is probably the most classic Genesis influenced, certainly the track that gives you the impression of the period that most interested Guerin. This is where the album really gets going. From a production point of view, the sound is much brighter, much clearer. The piece itself turns the medieval setting on its ear, and in a Gabriel like fashion, has an amusing ending? without giving it away, it is one of those moments where the unexpected happens? just like in life. The feel is classic Genesis through and through, given a twist in that it sounds as if Keith Emerson makes a guest appearance on keyboard. It is the piano and keyboards that are up front, just behind the vocals, with drums and bass further back in the mix. It would nestle nicely on Nursery Crime. It also features some smooth and silky guitar leads from Thomas towards the end. And, like classic Gabriel fronted Genesis, is vocal heavy ? though not overly weighed down by them.

"Monsters In My Room" is dark and moody, dirge-paced piece recalling mid-period Genesis, circa Trick? -- or Lamb? ("Carpet Crawlers," say) maybe. It's here where Guerin's Gabriel-like voice is joined by Brown's Collins'-like voice. Guerin's drums and Shapiro's bass are the driving instrumental force here, though streaks of distorted guitar are threaded through the mix, accompanied by the muted grays of the keyboards.

My favourite track is the fragile, emotional "Juliet," featuring voice and piano and keyboards. Though folks might think it is vintage solo, balladic Peter Gabriel. It is softly drawn as are parts of "Biko," for example, or a much mellower "Red Rain." Let's say, as the outro to "Red Rain." It is a warm and intimate track.

"Inside Of This" is a livelier, poppier track that includes at one point some nice, Hackett-esque guitar parts. In Genesis timeline, I'd place this somewhere around And Then There Were Three (which would preclude Hackett, of course) and Duke, but, in a strange way, that period if Gabriel hadn't left.

"Say Goodbye" (referred to as "Missing Friends" in the booklet) is a mellower, reflective piece ? arranged as you might expect that a concluding song would sound. Piano, plaintive vocals? recalling sunsets and dusk, warm, melancholy feelings. Spock's Beard come to mind with this piece, but Spock's Beard by way of Genesis. I'd say maybe this is Guerin's more Collins' leaning piece, his "Afterglow."

The Epic Quality Of Life is, but for the first track, a strong release, the whole package immensely enjoyable to listen to, not only to pick out the Genesis influences, but as a prog rock release in and of itself. The Genesisism are just the means to an end; if Guerin and company didn't have the talent to pull it off, it would otherwise have been crass derivative. It goes beyond tribute to become something unique.

The Epic Quality Of Life (5:46) / A Queen's Tale (5:51) / The Edge Of The Earth (5:22) / Monsters In My Room (4:45) / 5 To Go (6:13) / Juliet (4:16) / Inside Of This (7:46) / Say Goodbye (5:59) / Red Zone (6:21)

Shaun Guerin ? vocals, drums, keyboards, guitar, bass
John Thomas ? electric guitar, 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars
Matt Brown ? keyboards, mellotron, vocals
Dan Shapiro - bass

By The Dark Of Light (2002)
The Epic Quality Of Life (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 4th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1752
Language: english


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