Visual Cliff - Lyrics For The Living

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Big Balloon Music
Catalog Number: BBM901
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

There's a context in which Visual Cliff wish you to listen to their album, and that is whilst reading the Psalms of King David. This religious subtext might worry you that Visual Cliff will be a ultra-positive, simpering, ultra-religious band - well, if such things worry you, that is. Maybe it's just me - I just find them all too cheery, unnaturally cheery. However, one needn't worry. If you don't have the same, or any, religious point of view, you can still enjoy the music on it's own terms. It's all instrumental, for one thing. Secondly, the music that Visual Cliff creates on Lyrics For The Living is a mixture of contemporary instrumental and guitar rock, often venturing into fusion and hard rock, depending on the track. Which might put off those who view contemporary instrumental as the long version of saying new age (or smooth jazz), though it shouldn't. And the guitar rock pieces aren't just wankery. Visual Cliff find the right balance between the two styles.

The album opens with the bold declarative statement of the powerful track "Piercing The Skies (Psalm 33)." If you love guitar-centric contemporary instrumental with a rock edge - meaning this is often much harder than, say, Paul Speer (to name someone who came to mind) - then this is for you. Visual Cliff's palette includes electric and acoustic guitars (Rob Perez), drums and bass (Rick Mals) and keyboard (Rob Klan). It's sort of a short hand, but if this had been released by a label like Hearts Of Space, Narada, Miramar, none of this would surprise you. And certainly these labels and the artists on them (at least some of the artists) will come to mind with "The Endless Generation (Psalm 49)." It begins light and lyrical with floaty and light guitar phrases, bubbly keyboard effects (more prominent during the second "verse"), it's only with the acidic, churning "chorus" do the drums come to forefront -- though throughout they are heard and felt. Fans of progressive rock/fusion will find a lot to like about Visual Cliff. I even thought of Steve Morse during this second track. On the other hand, you might think of mid-period Rush on "Conquering Mind (Psalm 118)," and of latter day Rush on "Leap Of Faith (Psalm 150)" (except for that lyrical guitar that rises up out of the acidic rhythm).

"For All She Is" is another with guitar out front and every once in a while, there are notes that reminded be of the high, sweet tones that Gerry Rafferty used on his classic "Right Down The Line." This has much more of a contemporary instrumental feel than the Rafferty track. Yes, most of this material would feel at home on a new wave/smooth jazz station, but recall that some artists get drawn into the categorization based on their label rather than their particular style. A track like this does have smooth edges, giving it an upbeat and romantic notion, without being surgery or too-cutesy-sweet. It's on these softer moments? well, I have tried to avoid making this comparison, but it just keeps coming to mind - Craig Chaquico, only there isn't a lot of strongly identifiable steel string guitar here.

"Wisdom's Call" takes the genre in to tougher, beefier territory. Listening to Perez's incendiary solo about a minute and half in, you'll wonder if this is the same band that's on the softer pieces. Here, instead of thinking of contemporary instrumental artists, you starting thinking of well, Steve Morse, Planet X (without the strong keyboard presence that Sherinan gives that trio), of many a guitar rock artist. Not that Perez's sound is like any one artist, but certain in a genre. Fusion comes to mind even more so with the muscular "Rapture." Ironically, actually, as you'd think something called "Rapture" would be ethereal and epic. Here, well, I hate to use the word again, but Visual Cliff are incendiary? here they rock!

The label that has released this is Big Balloon Music, which is home to such diverse artists as The Red Masque, Eric Kampman, Dreadnaught and Lyle Holdahl. Visual Cliff adds another element to the label's broad palette. The production on Lyrics For The Living is terrific, allow all details to be clearly heard, from the small percussive accents to keyboard accents to the big guitar leads. All resulting in some very, very good music sure to appeal to the progressive palette.

Side 1: Piercing The Skies (Psalm 33) / The Endless Generation (Psalm 49) / Spirit Filled (Psalm 96) / Conquering Mind (Psalm 118) / Leap Of Faith (Psalm 115) / Side 2: For All She Is / Wisdom's Call / Rapture

Rick Mals drums & bass Programming
Rob Perez guitars and acoustic guitars
Rob Klan ? keyboards

Lyrics For The Living (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 23rd 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 801
Language: english


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