Tangent, The - The World That We Drive Through

Year of Release: 2004
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 186/SPV 085-40522
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:27:00

With all the hype, this was setting itself up to be the disappointment of the year. So, how good is The World That We Drive Through? Does it live up to the expectations?

After weeks of shuffling through new releases like an attention-deficit teen in history class, I finally found an album that has kept my attention for several days (and counting). Yes, I'm talking about The Tangent's The World That We Drive Through. While previously sitting towards the back of the room in a state of limbo, I'm now glued to my seat at the head of the class. My ears are tuned in to every lyric in the lesson.

The album is everything I hoped it would be.

The teachers from Tangent High are astute in both contemporary and progressive music. Immediately, I hear jazz and orchestral arrangements along with influences ranging from classical to modern progressive rock. The ELP element is much more obvious here than in the debut. Furthermore, The Flower Kings bring their special style into the mix.

Who could ask for anything more?

Rather than boring us with the world that we drive through each and every day, this is some alternate reality where dreams actually do come true. While The Music That Died Alone may have been album of the year when it came out, the sequel is equally engrossing. If The Tangent truly died, trust me, the band has resurrected itself big-time on this release.

To pull off such an astounding album requires a plethora of talent.

Andy Tillison, Sam Baine, Guy Manning, and Theo Travis are sterling silver. The Flower Kings are the polish that makes it shine ever so brightly. Jonas' bass is bold and beautiful. Roine's vocals are one of a kind and his guitar is simply gorgeous. Zoltan's drums dazzle twice as much as they had on the last. Together, these seven individuals combine to make one big shiny gem.

Without fixing what isn't already broken, one tweak works greatly in its favor.

While David Jackson's absence could have caused a major catastrophe, Theo picks up the fumbled ball and keeps the momentum going. He scores many times with consistent contributions and puts the game completely out of reach. In a way, Theo's style melds better with the music than David's. This remark is not meant as blaspheme. Theo shows so much skill and finesse with the flute and sax that it somehow manages to surpass the performance of this legendary predecessor.

Inquiring minds probably want to know whether or not The Tangent has created another album of the year.

With material this good, it seems the only way they can lose is by putting out another release in the same year. Playing devil's advocate and splitting hairs a tad bit more, Karmakanic's Wheel Of Life is another outstanding release that could ultimately edge it out. In the end, it's a toss up that's too difficult to call. The red flag should be thrown to challenge whatever call results from the polls. The decision can only be fleshed out through many instant replays. Only then can one surely find the answer.

Whatever the case might be, two is better than one and the excellence of this release is hardly an issue.

In some ways, this is a more mature album than The Music That Died Alone. While this says a lot, The World That We Drive Through isn't necessarily better, but it is definitely different. It lacks the layer upon layer of keyboards found in the first album. The keyboards are more balanced between both sides of the spectrum. While the premiere album may have followed more in the footsteps of Rick Wakeman, the more aggressive parts found here will invoke images of Keith Emerson. When the keyboards aren't busy doing showy solos, they glide with a swan's grace. The sea of tranquility created by the other artists is rarely disturbed by the wake of Andy's keyboard. In addition, Sam's classy piano acts as a soft cradle for the others to play inside. The bass and guitar make their mark and the vocals are shared by almost everyone involved. One of the members even makes their vocal debut.

Together these musicians climb a stairway to heaven, build a bridge across forever, and travel in a time warp between all eras of progressive music. The material they use is meticulously engineered and the outcome never fails to entertain no matter how many times the journey is ventured. The trip takes the listener to a place beyond this dimension in a vehicle made from revolutionary parts.

After swift deliberation, the verdict is in. This is an open and shut case from this juror's perspective. The Tangent has created another winner that can contend with any of the all-time greats. I doubt any fan will disagree with this judgment once they have all the evidence before them.

Here are five compelling exhibits to contemplate:

Track 1: "The Winning Game" - While The Music That Died Alone has an opening that is instantly bombastic, this album begins with an orchestration that is more of a slow climber. The flutes and sax peep out from the impending forest. Shortly thereafter, the music takes an abrupt descent before settling at a coasting altitude. Theo's sax really adds a lot of depth to this song. This is a cross between Transatlantic, The Flower Kings, and Kaipa. Roine's stamp is all over this track. Some elements of the earlier album crop up here as well.

Track 2: "Skipping The Distance" - This is a clear reminder of Karmakanic. Jonas' bass fizzes like freshly poured champagne. This is confirmation that The Tangent is by no means a one-hit wonder. The song has tight melodies and twisted transitions. Not only is this a highlight of the album, it is one of the best songs of the year. I put it right up there with Karmakanic's "Where Earth Meets The Sky" and "At the Speed Of Light." I hold these two songs in high regard and "Skipping The Distance" joins them both in happy matrimony. Early on there are aspects of Spock's Beard. In the middle, one will hear the Flower Kings from their earlier era. Later, Unfold The Future is found. The song finishes in the kingdom of Kaipa's Keyholder. Theo once again adds some unusually clever bits. As accessible as this track can be, it is still completely uncommon and quite intelligible.

Track 3: "Photosynthesis" - This is the slowest and gentlest piece. It is mostly vocals with a piano. The drums are jazzy while the sax makes an occasional appearance. The remaining instruments are muted most of the time. The vocal harmonies offset by Andy's solo vocals make this a tasteful tune. Towards the end, this dish is spiced up a bit. The instruments come forward to season its conclusion with some brisk whisks of the pepper shaker.

Track 4: "The World That We Drive Through" - The title track is a great song. The length is perfect and it follows an outline with many recurring themes. The ELP moments are charismatic and debonair without getting too pretentious. It is an adventurous track with many fun sequences. There is even a passage that seems a lot like "Snow's Night Out" from Spock's Beard's Snow. Much attention is given to the lyrics. While it is very easy to make out what Andy is saying (he carefully enunciates each and every syllable), the meanings behind the words takes some thought. This is a track that deserves many listens.

Track 5: "A Gap In The Night" - While the vocals are similar to what is found in Parallel or 90 Degrees' music or Guy Manning's The View From My Window, the instrumentals have closer relations to Transatlantic in the family tree. This epic takes us many glorious places while Andy's keyboard-playing style continues to bear a resemblance to Keith Emerson. This track goes through cloud nine and seventh heaven before reaching a destination that is pure paradise. In a disc that has been solid up to this point, the album brings out its best characteristics in the final few minutes.

[Parallels can be heard between Transatlantic and The Tangent. Hopefully, The Tangent won't suffer the same demise as Transatlantic. While a live album would be welcome, one can only wish The Tangent continues to make a bounty of studio records. Their first two albums are a tough act to follow indeed. It is no mystery why they were chosen for the headline act of ROSfest 2005. Rumor has it that Roine, Jonas, and Zoltan will be unable to attend due to numerous commitments. It should be a great show nonetheless. Andy, Guy, Sam, and Theo bring a lot to the table; however, The Flower Kings put their patented pixie dust into this well-crafted music. While Roine and his Flower King compatriots cannot keep their talent on loan indefinitely, one can still ponder what this group can bring us next - JT]

Released in North America by InsideOut Music America (IOMACD 2095)

The Winning Game (11:10) / Skipping The Distance (8:57) / Photosynthesis (7:40) / A Gap In The Night (18:20) / The World We Drive Through (13:00)

Andy Tillison - keyboards, vocals
Roine Stolt - electric guitar/vocals
Sam Baine - keyboards, vocals
Jonas Reingold - bass
Zoltan Csörsz - drums
Guy Manning acoustic guitars, vocals
Theo Travis - saxophones, flutes

The Music That Died Alone (2003)
The World We Drive Through (2004)
Pyramids And Stars (2005)
A Place In The Queue (2006)
Going Off On One (2007)
Not As Good As The Book (2008)
Down And Out In Paris And London (2009)
Comm (2011)
Le Sacre Du Travail (2013)
A Spark In The Aether (2015)

Going Off On One (DVD) (2007)
Going Off On Two (CD/DVD) (2010)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin VA

Added: October 24th 2004
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website: www.thetangent.org
Hits: 837
Language: english


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