Tassler, Steve - Alive Beyond Recognition

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Sunsinger Records (dist.)
Catalog Number: 8003
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:10:00

This solo CD by Starcastle drummer Steve Tassler, Alive Beyond Recognition is a mix of progressive rock, rock and pop styles ? I'd say progressive AOR, but the proggy aspects don't really kick in until the latter half of the CD. While the album has many nice moments, it all seems rather tame. While the term "hooks" is more associated with pop, even prog needs "hooks," though of a different sort ? those elements that make you keep coming back again and again. And this doesn't really have that. It's pleasant, but overall very bland. Being a drummer, you'd think that the prominent element would be the drums, but they're not. In fact, while one knows the drums are there, they just never really seem to be the focal point. They are, for a time, in the intro to "Aeon's Arrival," (and later in "Interregnum") but after that beginning rumble of tribal drumming and crashing percussion ? all quite exciting, I might add ? they give way to synthy, spacy keyboards and deep, dark, fat bass. Not that these elements are bad, but one expects something with a little more punch, given the opening.

Truly this is a solo CD in the strictest sense as it's Tassler on drums (naturally), guitar, keyboards, vocals (and backing/harmony vocals) and bass (and programming). As a guitarist, his leads are nice, suitably nimble-fingered, his playing style reminding me often of Steve Howe; the keys are widdily, symphonic, organic (that is, use of organ sounds) all when it seems they should be, all very classic 70s prog sounding. Tassler is nice vocalist who has a pleasant, easy on the ears voice that has elements of say John Wetton, more in terms of how he sings rather than the tone; on the latter, it's a kind of blues-rock voice. Not a whiskey-soaked tone, but there is some "having lived" undertone to it. (Okay, he sounds like Hasse Fröberg of The Flower Kings).

Production-wise, we are given some distance by the hazy, gauzy soft-focus quality the whole album has. With a title like Alive Beyond Recognition you'd expect something a little more up front, in your face. I don't mean metal, but clear, crisp, attention grabbing. Instead, the result seems uncertain, as if the gauze will filter out any anticipated criticisms (or to keep the "sounds like Yes" contingent out). On the other hand, this soft-edged approach results in some very beautiful moments, such as the acoustic "And Still She Wonders." Whatever complex arrangements and instrumental interplay is present -- which is sometimes hard to pull of when you're ?um ? playing with yourself -- is obscured by this misty veil.

While the expectation, given his association with Starcastle, is that the music would be influenced by a certain positively monikered UK band ? and some elements can be found here ? you're just as likely to find jangly 60s rock here, too, in tracks like "Liquid Euphoria" and "Bring The Promise," both of which remind me of a Crosby, Stills and Nash/The Byrds hybrid, especially in terms of the vocal harmonies ("Liquid?" also with hint or two of The Who). Or you're just as likely to find atmospheric electronic passages, such as the the opening track "Reunion," or parts of "Interregnum." The most AOR moment would be "In The Night," which wouldn't have surprised me if it were an 80s piece, really.

The 13-plus minute "Interregnum" is a piece that reinforces the idea of a Yes influence, though the instrumental opening passages seems more new-agey/electronic, recalling Tangerine Dream a bit, for example. And there are some some very neat and interesting instrumental passages here ? I especially like that darker, percussive heavy passage about 2/3 of the way in? (and there are parts that remind me of Yes' "Hearts" (90125) and not just because I just reviewed that, too ? it's the Asian-toned flute-like keyboard passages specifically.

I'm sure, given the Yes comparisons that Starcastle received during their career, I'm sure Tassler won't appreciate them continuing now, but well? there's something Yes-like in this mix, and I don't think Tassler has tried to avoid it.

Alive Beyond Recognition is an average, pleasant, but flawed, release that certainly has its charms, but could have used a little more punch.

Reunion (5:53) / Liquid Euphoria (4.55) / Firebirght (6.49) / And Still She Wonders (3.49) / Bring The Promise (4.46) / Aeon's Arrival (4.44) / Interregnum (13.45) / Foreshadow (0.42) / In The Night (6.27)

Steve Tassler ? drums, percussion, programming, guitar, bass, vocals

Alive Beyond Recognition (2002)

Genre: Melodic Rock-AOR

Origin US

Added: February 23rd 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.starcastlemusic.com
Hits: 953
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]