NDV - Karma

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Ear Candy
Catalog Number: ECRCD 004
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:26:00

Remember when Relayer was released it was followed in its footsteps by no fewer than five solo albums, one by each of the then five members of Yes? The odd one out certainly had to be Alan White's Ramshackled album which had little or nothing to do with prog altogether. It looks like history is repeating itself, with Spock's Beard taking over from Yes. Once again it's the drummer delivering the more pop oriented album of the bunch, helped out with Beard mate Ryo Okumoto and friends from Beer for Dolphins.

Recorded at the famous Lawnmower and Garden Supplies studio, which for Nick d'Virgilio has been like his second home ever since he got in touch with the late Kevin Gilbert, no fewer than fifteen songs have been worked on, whereas only eleven made it to the finished album (or thirteen as the final track consists of three separate parts segued into one). Most of the ideas for these songs were started when Kevin was still around and one of them has even been co-written with Gilbert.

Acoustic guitar and tribal drums set the pace for "The River Is Wide" which soon turns out to be a cross between Spock's Beard and Jellyfish with a healthy dose of Phish to top it all. I especially like the quiet, experimental part where vocals accompany a loose groove before picking up the rhythm once again. Having been behind the drum kit not only for Spock's Beard and Genesis but also for more pop oriented icons such as Tears for Fears, Roland Orzabal, Beer for Dolphins and even David Hallyday (son of French -- in fact he's Belgian as he was born in Brussels! -- number one singer Johnny Hallyday), Nick has tried to write a fair amount of radio friendly tunes as well as more 'lavish' compositions. Needless to say the lyrics are not first in line to win a Nobel prize for literature, yet "Dream In Red" is a catchy tune and the first time where I notice how close Nick's voice gets to that of Nik Kershaw. Title track "Karma" is a percussive highlight with Nick's voice sounding like Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon on acid, lurking behind the rhythmic outbursts. Powerful and overwhelming have to be the words that typecast "The Game" best. Written together with the late Kevin Gilbert, Nick has used some "old" recordings, so even after his death Kevin Gilbert is guesting on good old Nick's first solo album! The wonders of technology!

An experimental intro makes way for the piano of "The Waters Edge" a splendid ballad with a melodic voice just the way we like it and with just the right dose of surprises to keep you on your toes all of the time. Like a classic Beatles track, the atmosphere of the song changes once cello (or something sounding like a cello) is introduced. The song was co-written with Will Sexton when Nick and Will were in David Barewald's New Folk Underground. The same inventive vocal approach creeps into the acoustic "Come What May" where suddenly the ghost of Gerry Rafferty enters the room! By using the slightest arrangement possible all of the attention remains focussed on this wonderful song which was written by David Barewald and Kevin Gilbert. What "Dance On A Volcano" is to Genesis, the instrumental "Untitled" will be for Nick, although he introduces a fair amount of shredding guitars to get it even more explosive. The more laidback "Will It Be Me" is the kind of material that has earned Don Henley some extra money for when he's retired! Pure daytime radio material.

During "Anything" Nick's voice once again rubs shoulders with Nik Kershaw and Simon Le Bon, trying to reach those high notes whilst his drumming adds to the climax. The final three songs are combined into the epic "Paying The Price". In a way the percussive intro for "Dysfunction" kind of reminds me of the inventiveness of Peter Gabriel, incorporating electronic wizardry with subtle singing, piano and strings. The funky bass pulls the mellotron aside in order to make way for a groovy song that continues right into "Paid The Price". This part changes into laidback fusion with some outstanding improvisational outbursts on guitar leaning heavily towards Steve Lukather. The final part "Unknowing" is the longest song on this album containing more funky interventions with loads of cool wah-wah guitar also enabling Nick to let off steam where drumming is concerned. The song evolves into a hypnotic chant kind of thing whilst the arrangement gets thinner and thinner only leaving Nick's drumming to shine. After a short silence Nick has added a short jam session as a hidden track. It gets really wild, almost getting out of hand, even sounding like a fusion battle in an asylum!

I had my doubts about this solo album as I thought Nick would certainly want to illustrate both his prowess as a drummer and as a singer. Luckily this album hasn't become a collection of technical examples nor has it become an ordinary pop album. Instead Karma is an album that combines the Kevin Gilbert legacy with the d'Virgilio talent. D'Virgilio has always wanted to be Donny Osmond. Dunno about his teeth but I guess he has far too much hair on his chest to beat Donny at his game. Maybe that has been Nick's karma all along!

Also released by SPV/InsideOut (SPV 085 41682) and the now defunct InsideOut Music America (IOMACD 2026)

The River Is Wide (7:12) / Dream In Red (4:35) / Forgiven (3:09) / Karma (3:12) / The Game (4:07) / The Waters Edge (6:29) / Come What May (5:11) / Untitled (3:26) / Will It Be Me (4:16) / Anything (3:55) / Paying The Price - Dysfunction (4:32) - Paid The Price (5:45) - Unknowing (8:45)

NDV - vocals, drums, guitar, keyboards, programming, percussion, bass
Mike Keneally - guitar, piano
Bryan Bellar - bass
Rick Mussallam - guitar
Dave Carpenter - bass
Peter Plumeri - background vocals
Kevin Gilbert - piano, guitar
Alan Morse - guitar, cello
Ryo Okumoto - keyboards
Mike Johnson - Wurlitzer

Spock's Beard - The Light (1991)
Taja Seville - Fountains Free (1991)
Kevin Gilbert - Thud (1994)
Various - Tales From Yesterday - Yes Tribute (1995)
Spock's Beard - Beware of Darkness (1995)
Spock's Beard - The Beard Is Out There Live (1995)
Spock's Beard - Official Live Bootleg (1996)
Various - Supper's Ready - Genesis Tribute (1996)
Spock's Beard - The Kindness of Strangers (1997)
Kim Cuda - Waiting For Solace (1997)
Genesis - Calling All Stations (1997)
Spock's Beard - From The Vault - 1995-1998 (1998)
Neal Morse - Neal Morse (1999)
Spock's Beard - Day For Night (1999)
Spock's Beard - Live At The Whiskey and NEARfest (1999)
Jonatha Brooke - Live (1999)
David Baerwald & The New Folk Underground - A Fine Mess (1999)
Sasha Sitkovetsky - Emtpy Arena (1999)
Spock's Beard - Don't Try This At Home (2000)
Neal Morse & Nick D'Virgilio - Two Seperate Gorillas ? Live In Europe (2000)
Duncan Faure - Pronounced Four-Uh (2000)
Spock's Beard - V (2000)
Kyle Vincent - Wow & Flutter (2001)
Roland Orzabal - Tomcats Screaming Outside (2001)
Neal Morse - It's Not Too Late (2001)
Karma (2001)
Spock's Beard - Snow (2002)
Paul Alan - Fall Awake (2002)
Ryo Okumoto - Coming Through (2002)
The Rubinoos - Crimes Against Music (2002)
David Baerwald - Here Comes The Folk Underground (2002)
Kaviar - The Kaviar Sessions (2002)
Lana Lane - Covers Collection (2002)
Spock's Beard - Feel Euphoria (2003)
Bryan Beller - View (2003)
Various - A Fair Forgery (2003)
Spock's Beard - The Light - The Artwork Collector's Series (2004)
Mike Keneally Band - Dog (2004)
Live And Acoustic (2004)
Spock's Beard - Octane (2005)
Spock's Beard - Gluttons For Punishment (2005)
Spock's Beard - Spock's Beard (2006)
Big Big Train - The Difference Machine (2007)
Spock's Beard - Live (2008)
Big Big Train - The Underfall Yard (2009)
Spock's Beard - X (2010)
Big Big Train - Far Skies Deep Time (2010)
Big Big Train - English Electric Part One (2012)
Big Big Train - English Electric Part Two (2013)
Big Big Train - Make Some Noise (2013)
Big Big Train - English Electric: Full Power (2013)
Big Big Train - Wassail (2015)
Spock's Beard - The Oblivion Particle (2015)
Big Big Train - Folklore (2016)
The Fringe - The Fringe (2016)
Big Big Train - Grimspound (2017)
Big Big Train - The Second Brightest Star (2017)
Spock's Beard - Noise Floor (2018)

Spock's Beard - The Beard Is Out There Live (VID) (1995)
Spock's Beard - Don't Try This At Home & The Making Of V (DVD) (2002)
Spock's Beard - Live And Acoustic (DVD) (2004)
Spock's Beard - Live (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 31st 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Hits: 721
Language: english


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