Various - Progressive Ears - Earsongs

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Progressive Ears
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:43:00

Progressive Ears ( is a forum site (and more, including reviews) that has produced two compilation CDs thus far, this one being the first. All of the artists are members of Progressive Ears and proceeds from the sale of the CD help support the site. There are a few tracks that appear on albums that I've reviewed already -- "Tidal" from Philadelphia's The Red Masque, a track that appeared on their debut EP Death Of The Red Masque (angular, avant-garde); "Re-Define," from Scott Mosher's Virtuality CD (Rush inspired cyber-rock); "Labyrinth Suite" from Lyle Holdahl's Prog 2 (the ghost of 70s Genesis as if lead by Collins trying to mimic Gabriel); and "The Desert" from Eric Kampman's The Well (keyboard led prog; Tangerine Dream with vocals) -- thus, I'll focus in on the material new to me.

However, I do want to say that the pieces that excited me most were "Tidal," "The Desert" and "A Gift Unopened" by Phil McKenna (aka Prog Owl). This latter is at first a classical-inspired dramatic and somber thing, before bursting open. The drums seem soft and silvery, where percussion is used more than drums. The dominant instruments in the mix are the keyboard washes and throbbing bass. It is reminiscent of In The Court Of The Crimson King, and the title track specifically. Which is to say its arty and bit avant-garde. Tight guitar solo that seems at first swallowed by the synths (mellotron?), but thrusts through to squeal and honk its message. And add in Mosher's "Re-Define," which I also liked.

What plagues this CD for me is often the hazy production, giving the drums a soft, squishy sound. More like they are hitting sand than skin, but it may be the source material instead of the production work by John Reagan (of Big Balloon Music), since the pieces I mention above sound much clearer. The track that suffers the most from the lacking production is Menayeri's "Tiempo De Volver," the third track in (from their full-length album Tiempo Fugitivo). The production puts everything at a distance, with steady thump of the drums at the forefront, except during solos. This is clearly modern progressive rock, and as much as I cannot name anyone they sound like in particular, there is also nothing particularly distinctive about the band. The piece is played in mid-tempo. There is, as you might expect, a tinge of Latin-ness to the music, more so during the solos section. The guitarist plays quite nicely, and the music itself is good. It is, perhaps, a little too mellowly played. Towards the end, it does make me think a little bit of classic Galahad.

Mellow also is how you could describe "Castaway" by Random, as it is a gentle piece that shimmers and undulates like a calm sea, but seems more pop than prog. A guitar that could easily be found in a roots rock piece - REM or their imitators, fronts a steady drum rhythm and bass. While they don't sound like Marillion at all, it is like where Marillion were headed with Afraid Of Sunlight. It does give you a strong sense of sitting in a metaphorical boat on a metaphorical sea, bobbing up and down, bright sun beating down burning face and hands. Maybe not strictly prog, but I've no complaints about this track, though it might be a little too mellow if there aren't livelier tracks before and after. And album played at that pace might send to you sailing into the land of nod.

"Trolley" by Mindworm is another track plagued by some production problems - the drums seem squelchy and muted and there is a fuzzy haze overall (like looking - listening - through a window screen). Influences on the music include more than hint of Genesis (Gabriel period). You'll think of Spock's Beard often, too. Not a bad piece, with some very nice solo performances - an interesting piano interlude about a third of the way through, followed by a guitar solo about two-thirds of the way through.

"The Waves That Tell You Nothing" - acoustic guitar takes the lead, supported by an electric guitar and drums. This has a 60s-70s psychedelic-prog feel about it, like the German prog re-issued by the Garden Of Delights label. At three minutes plus, it's at pop song length, and does have a catchiness that also hints at artier 60s pop. Cream, maybe. At the appropriate place there's a guitar solo, nicely done, but somewhat expected.

John Curtis appears twice on this CD, once with the jazzy, upbeat instrumental "Get Thee Behind Me, Santa," which is sure to get you into a happy mood. I thought of Yes a little bit, specifically of Wakeman. This is a very short track at just about 2 minutes, sort of an interlude. Curtis appears again, with notallwhowander, in the slightly smooth jazz "Kirchenrahmen," a piece that is really mostly mellow American prog a la Echolyn that ends with a sweet, emotive guitar solo that lasts only a few seconds. The piece itself is also quite short.

There is certainly enough in each of these bands to warrant a closer look - though I can already highly recommend The Red Masque, Scott Mosher, and Eric Kampman. If you don't like Phil Collins, then you won't like Holdahl, although there is more to his music than just the vocals. I do like Collins and I gave the CD good marks. As for the others, as I said, Phil McKenna sparked the most interest for me, though I'd be interested to hear what Curtis does in a longer format.

Tidal (The Red Masque) (10:38) / Re-Define (Scott Mosher) (6:28) / Tiempo De Volver (Menayeri) (7:46) / Trolley (Mindworm) (5:55) / Get Thee Behind Me, Santa (John Curtis) (1:48) / Labyrinth Suite (Lyle Holdahl) (9:25) / A Gift Unopened (Phil McKenna (aka Prog Owl)) (8:12) / The Waves That Tell You Nothing (Stiles) (3:25) / Castaway (Random) (4:23) / The Desert (Eric Kampman) (12:44) / Kirchenrahmen (notallwhowander & John Curtis) (1:05)



Genre: Various Genres

Origin VA

Added: April 20th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow

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Hits: 1377
Language: english


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