Year of Release: 2001
Label: Red Fez Records
Catalog Number: FEZ-005
Total Time: 55:14:00
I'm writing this on Dec. 16, which means it's late in the year to be adding stuff to my "Best of 2001" list, but The American Standard by the U.S. trio Dreadnaught appeared in my mailbox just in time to be considered, and -- what do you know -- it's fabulous enough to make the cut. No kidding, this is some of the most original music I've heard in a long while. As you may guess, considering its originality, describing Dreadnaught's offering is a bit difficult. In fact, somewhere along the line, someone had to coin a brand-new term for this band's style: progabilly.
Other reviewers have described Dreadnaught as "Zappa meets Yes at Willie Nelson's BBQ" and "King Crimson at a hoedown." I like the latter best, as I hear a huge helping of Crimson influence in their compositions. To my ears, though, there's also a good amount of Dixie Dregs, a touch of Kansas, and even a dash of the Grateful Dead. Whatever comparisons fit best, don't let the "abilly" part of the progabilly term throw you. This stuff is pure prog of the best kind.
Most of the tracks here are instrumental and often crank like your favorite highway album. But don't expect long guitar jams or sustained grooves. The meters and arrangements are in continual flux, suddenly changing direction at every opportunity. The intricate arrangements overflow with clever playing and boundless energy. Justin Walton is a most creative guitarist, and bass player Robert Lord's savage bass lines sound like Chris Squire of Yes crossed with Les Claypool of Primus. Drummer Richard Habib works so skillfully hard powering the band and guiding the arrangements that one can imagine him all bulging muscles and drenched in sweat from his drum workouts.
The album isn't entirely instrumental. All three members sing, although the vocal parts are sprinkled throughout the mostly instrumental arrangements. The vocals, however, don't come across as afterthoughts, thrown in by instrumentalists who are wannabe singers, but are instead well done and often include multiple harmonies.
If there ever was a must-hear prog album, Dreadnaught's The American Standard is one. The tracks are instantly likable (to prog aficionados), yet plenty deep enough to keep you coming back again and again. You'll need to take this disc on a lot of spins before all the notes are fully etched into your musical memory. In case it isn't obvious, I love this album.
Ballbuster (4:28) / Deus Ex Machina (20:30) / Popeye (2:25) / B?nnaschidt (4:50) / James Thresher Industries (0:57) / Welding (4:51) / Kim Philby (3:33) / The Pumpha?s Suite (8:13) / Clownhead (5:25)
Robert M. Lord - bass, synthesizer, organ, kazoo, background vocals
Richard R. Habib - drums, percussion, vocals
Justin S. Walton - electric and acoustic guitars, piano, saxophone, organ, kazoo, vocals
Shaun Frenchie Michaud - drums loops and synthesizer (3)
Andy Happel - violins (1,5,9,11, 13) and organ (4)
William L. Walton II - French horn (7)
Jay Williams - euphonium (7)
Daria J. Blake - flute (13)
Una Vez Mas (2000)
The American Standard (2001)
Musica En Flagrante (2004)
Live At Mojo (2005)
High Heat And Chin Music (2007)
Genre: Progressive Rock