Berry, Robert - Prime Cuts

Year of Release: 2006
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA 1009-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:54:00

Way back when, Magna Carta put out a series of tribute albums to honor the music of ELP, Tull, Yes, Genesis, Rush and Pink Floyd.. A bevy of musicians, some from newer neo-prog bands and some luminaries of the Golden age took part in these projects. One name that appeared on every one of them was Robert Berry. For some unknown reason, his tracks on each of these discs somehow turned out to be the highpoint of each of them. If you've already heard these discs then you know what I mean. He always seemed to get the best tunes to cover, "Roundabout," "Minstrel In The Gallery," "Watcher Of The Skies," "KarnEvil 9," you get the idea, right?

Just a little aside here, please? The version of Genesis's "Watcher Of The Skies," probably the best cut on this compilation, has Berry backed up by his old band Hush. Just to put this in historical contest, I used to go see Hush all the time at what we used to call "dance concerts." That was when I was fourteen and I'm forty seven now, so that was ... oh my God, never mind.

This disc begins with a very different, very interesting arrangement of Yes' "Roundabout" that takes the tune into a half time feel and ends with none other than Steve Howe playing the acoustic ending. Next comes Berry's take on Tull's "Minstral In The Gallery," and believe it or not I also remember this one from Hush. They used to open with this tune, albeit not this arrangement. The opening slashing Barre chords have been rearranged for mandolin and the tune comes across nicely, but with much less power than the original.

Next comes Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" which is performed in its original form and sounds like it could fit perfectly into Dark Side Of The Moon. The following cut is my personal favorite, the awesome version of Genesis' "Watcher Of The Skies" performed by Hush. There are numerous variations from the original including a chunk of "Los Endos" main theme that comes just before the furious ostinato ending. This cut alone is worth the price of this disc and I find myself listening to this more often than the original.

Next comes a tune from Berry's solo album Soundtrack For The Wheel Of Time. A bit later comes another track from this solo work. Both of these tunes, "Winespring Reel" and "A Theme For The Wheel Of Time" unfortunately sound to me more like outtakes from the soundtrack to Riverdance. When I listen to either of these I can almost see Michael Flatley dancing in my living room. I hate Riverdance, but maybe you love it, so don't go by my opinion.

Well, back to the good stuff; Berry's great adaptation of Ambrosia's "Life Beyond LA," which appears nowhere else but on this new disc. I always thought when I heard this long ago that with a bit more rocking arrangement this would be a killer tune. It has one of the best hooks ever written and Berry's take on this song is exactly what I had longed for. This is indeed good stuff.

Someone must have thought it would be funny to juxtapose the light weight Ambrosia tune with something enormously heavy, so the next tune is a bone crushing version of ELP's "Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression". This features a truly kick ass performance, with Berry accompanied by Simon Phillips on drums, Jordan Rudess on keys and Mark Wood on violin, who pulls off some terrifying solo work. If you've ever wanted to hear a slightly metalish version of this tune with more frenetic keyboards than even Emerson himself did, then this is the song you've been waiting for.

A beautiful version of Rush's "Different Strings" features Berry taking the vocal range down to a low tenor which works very nicely. Most of the guitar soloing is performed on nylon stringed acoustic guitar and this song really sounds like it was meant to be heard like this. This collection ends with a cut from The December People's album Sounds Like Christmas, which is not a Berry tune at all, but an example of his production skills. Anyone notice that this tune ends with Howe's introduction to "Roundabout"? Nice touch to an otherwise wasted effort. Perhaps this is why none of the musicians on this track chose to identify themselves.

If you don't already have the collection of Magna Carta tribute discs, this may prompt you to go out and get them. And if you want only the best tracks from these discs, you may as well just get Berry's Prime Cuts and save a few bucks.

Roundabout / Minstrel In The Gallery / Brain Damage / Watcher Of The Skies / Winespring Reel / Life Beyond LA / Karn Evil 9,1st Impression / Different String / Theme For The Wheel Of Time / Carol Of The Bells

Robert Berry - vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums
Stu Hamm - bass
Mike Mangini - drums
Jeff Feldman - keyboards
Simon Phillips - drums
Jordan Rudess - keyboards
Mark Wood - violin
Lief Sorbye - bodham
Paul Keller - guitar
Mike Wibble - keyboards
Roger Bonasera - drums
Gene Perrault - pecussion
Steve Howe - acoustic guitar
The December People - Sven, Klaus, Rudolph, Prancer, Vixen (obviously pseudonyms)

Hush (1976) (never released)
Hush '79 (1979, released 1997)
Hush - Hot Tonight (~1982)
Back To Back (1985)
3 - The Power Of Three (1988)
Pilgrammage To A Point (1992)
In These Eyes (1995) (South Africa only release)
Takin' It Back (1996)
Alliance - Bond Of Union (1996) (Japan only)
Alliance - Alliance (~1996) (Europe only)
Alliance - Missing Piece (1999)
A Soundtrack For The Wheel Of Time (2001)
The December People - Sounds Like Christmas (2001)
Prime Cuts (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: April 23rd 2006
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 1143
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]