Canvas - Avenues

Year of Release: 2002
Label: self-released / Canvas Productions
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 112:33:00

Canvas' second release is the 2-disc Avenues. Most of the pieces here appeared on their The Rhythm And The Rhyme demo release of 2001*. The tracks have been remixed and remastered for this release ? and the sound quality is pristine without loosing any warmth. But then, Matt Sweitzer runs CP Productions, which provides a variety of audio services. Now, that statement might have another producer/performer leap into your mind ? Alan Parsons. And well it should (if it didn't, think of him now). At times it is as if Sweitzer and company have channeled Parsons. Not only does much of the music here sound like Alan Parson's Project, but we even get a hint or two of Pink Floyd, from whom Parsons produced Dark Side Of The Moon. Here, in "Neon World," the reference is to "Fearless" (Meddle, which wasn't produced by Parsons). An added fluttery guitar part bears a strong resemblance to REM's "Crush With Eyeliner." Listen carefully, and you might find a few other references in there, too. Folks into guitar rock will find interest in this CD, too as Sweitzer plays some beautiful leads, in a countrified David Gilmour way rather than Vai, Satriani, etc.

No pun intended, but Canvas' music travels many roads? such that Canvas gives us a lot of different "looks" ? or in this case "hears" ? as they run the gamut of styles, "roads" running as an undercurrent to each of the 20 pieces (you can view the lyrics at the Canvas website). Those styles include pop-jazz, Midwest rock, as well as the Parsons' brand of proggish rock. You have to like the Midwest rock style though as that is what predominates this release. But Sweitzer and company do each style equally well.

Canvas gives us a mix of urban and rural settings, the two coming together in the instrumental "Highways & Byways," an instrumental that takes pages from both the smooth jazz and jazz fusion books and mixes them together. It truly does evoke the open road, especially in the smooth jazz guise. Well, not exactly smooth jazz? contemporary jazz, let's say, as that's more accurate. Excellent guitar work from Sweitzer here, bending notes, making them cry, longing for that freedom. It's terrific and one of my favorites. The urban landscape is evoked in "Astral Lighthouse," another instrumental, here strung with silvery bits of guitar accent. "Getting There" will at first make you think of late 80s Peter Gabriel, but it soon settles into a groove where a measured vocal delivery plays out over a throbbing beat. The image spread across the tri-fold booklet overlooks a busy freeway, cars merely glowing streaks of yellow and red light. This is what is evoked by this particular piece. Also in this urban setting is the moody "Deep Blue Sea." The smooth, psychedelic-world-jazz piece "Me" sounds like something from the band Chicago during their early years. As I mentioned in my review of the demo, think of "Colour My World," that same mellowness, warmed by brass (Cobel on trumpets), and ethnic percussion. This followed by another storming instrumental, here called "Departures."

We might call the APP category the slightly ethereal, though it truly bridges the two other styles. "Liberal Son," the first track on disc one, is where you will hear immediately what I mean by The Alan Parson's Project ? the Eric Woolfson-like vocals of Joe Dzuban are given a slightly soft focus during the choruses, as are the drums (programmed by Sweitzer), plus the prominence of the keyboards (Sweitzer) all hint at 70s APP. Throw in some cool guitar leads from Sweitzer and warm, brassy, jazzy trumpet from Chris Cobel, and the package is complete (the final trumpet solo is from Brad Cotner). "Smile" also has an APP feel despite the jangly guitars and swirly/sci-fi keyboard effects... here too is an PF element.

The other colors you'll find on this canvas are bright orange, red, yellow, and blue ? dots. Yes, colored dots against a white canvas. On the nostalgic "And It Grows?.," which is so upbeat and happy -- well, you know the kind of song, the kind of songs that are so sappy you have to love 'em even if you hate 'em ? Cobel's playing adds air of sophistication and feels as if Herb Alpert lent his talents. It's a pop-jazz piece that Canvas plays no sense of irony ? it is straight up (unless I'm missing something).

"Home" and "Time's Running" are very much Middle America, the bread basket of the country. This is MOR that evokes the plains states (Kansas, Nebraska, etc), where the music doesn't have the twang of country but has a western, "open spaces" feel. Bruce Hornsby and The Range, for example, might be a good reference (all with a hint of APP, too). "Crow" will evoke thoughts of Crosby, Stills, and Nash and of Neil Young (of course, of CSNY, too), though the watery keyboards bring in another texture. I also thought of the Eagles' One Of These Nights album, and the darker tone their music had there. Much the same could be said of "Twilight Journey" (and a hint of early Floyd). This is another one that I really like ? but then I am a long time Eagles fan so I've already got a taste for this style. As I noted in my review of the demo, "2000 Miles Away" fits in this category as well, evoking Bob Dylan, Bread, and The Band all at once, with a bit of Bruce Springsteen.

Because there's so much music here, even my usually wordy review couldn't hope to cover it all. It's not entirely prog but there are many moments and textures that a prog fan can appreciate ? the guitar playing of Sweitzer for one. "Twilight Journey" and "Not Far From Pathfinder" are the closest to what might be considered prog, but that definition changes so often, who can say. Not that it really matters. This is a great sounding album that shows variety even in pieces of a similar style. At two discs, you might think there's filler, but there really isn't. I'd say only the bland, generic-sounding "Educate Your Soul" would fit in that category.

In closing, I need to mention "Not Far From Pathfinder" as well, which is a terrific instrumental that combines all but the pop flavors together.

*the caveat here is that you'll find I repeat myself a bit in commenting on those pieces. Sweitzer hosts the "The Canvas Prog Hour" on various stations, including Delicious Agony,,, and as well as running CP Radio

Disc One: Liberal Son (5:38) / Crystal Daydream (4:03) / Neon World (4:23) / My Apologies (4:29) / And It Grows (3:50) / Highways & Byways (5:32) / Getting There (6:39) / Astral Lighthouse (4:31) / Home (5:16) / Time's Runnin' (4:51)

Disc Two: Another Day (7:17) / Crow (6:16) / 2000 Miles Away (7:22) / Deep Blue Sea (4:58) / Smile (4:42) / Twilight (7:51) / Not Far From Pathfinder (4:42) / Simple Dream (5:27) / Educate Your Soul (4:37) / Me (5:32) / Departure (4:30)

Matt Sweitzer ? guitars, basses, keyboards, drum programming, percussion, and e-bow
Chris Cobel ? trumpet, keyboards, piano, electric piano, and vocals


Joe Dzuban ? vocals, acoustic guitar, violin, organ, and harmonica
Brian Pierce ? vocals,

The Rhythm And The Rhyme (promo) (2000)
Avenues (2002)
Digital Pigeon (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: May 4th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1294
Language: english


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