Alaska - Alaska

Year of Release: 1998
Label: independent
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:55:00

A lot of people out there who consider themselves fans of progressive rock are usually referring to symphonic rock in the tradition of British greats such as Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis. Furthermore, the vast majority of that particular group of prog enthusiasts holds a special place in their heart for Yes and the inimitable high-pitched voice of a certain Jon Anderson, so it may come as a pleasant surprise to them that Al Lewis, in charge of vocals in Alaska, is mere inches away from sounding exactly like Anderson (although bordering quite often on an annoyingly strained quality). If you are already deducing, however, that Anderson-alike voice symphonic rock = Yes, you better stop in your tracks and think again.

Alaska is an American duo consisting of keyboardist John O'Hara and vocalist/drummer/percussionist/guitarist Al Lewis ... uhmmm, yeah, you read correctly, it's only two guys that play all this, and before you start asking, it does sound as though an entire band were playing throughout the record. Additionally, as a curious bit of data, the band plays live without the use of prerecorded tapes or sequencers, which is something that I just had to write down because it was fairly impressive when I read it. This, however, is a review of the band's debut album, and not of its instrumental abilities, so let's cut to the chase already.

The deal here is symphonic rock with an approach that is equally reminiscent of Eddie Jobson and Jon Anderson, and thus remains mostly on the sweeter side of the subgenre, with very little melancholy or harshness showing up throughout its course and disrupting the essential dichotomy of Alaska: a sense of joyous adventure vs. a feeling of wondrous and peaceful contemplation. At any rate, it's an approach that seems to work well during certain segments of the record, such as in the prog manifesto of "Museum Dreams" and the wonderfully serene "Reason To Wonder," but the novelty is soon lost and the band loses focus easily throughout the album; particularly on its lengthiest tracks.

Alaska, however, is not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, and the band does indeed show an uncanny knack for producing active symphonic rock that is rich in emotive turns, instrumental passages, and keyboard flash. What's more, the album's two instrumentals, "Bardanes" and "Mesa Extrana," are delightfully elegant and put all of Alaska's obvious abilities on display, with the latter of the two being undeniably splendid in its use of chamber instruments and drawing the listener's attention to itself as the album's absolute highlight. Unfortunately, however, Alaska also suffers from what is a common plague in the genre of progressive rock, that being the lack of a certain element of surprise that relegates music to a pleasant, but never really attention-grabbing, plane.

Yes, Jon Anderson, Eddie Jobson

IceSpirits (5:56) / Museum Dreams (6:55) / Two Shades of Grey (4:26) / Anyman's Tomorrow (8:20) / Bardanes (1:53) / Reason To Wonder (3:57) / Mesa Extrana (1:59) / Tiananmen Square (11:52) / WellsBridge (11:12) / Caring (3:29) / Forests of Heaven (9:38)

Al Lewis - Vocals, drums, percussion, guitar
John O'Hara - keyboards

Alaska (1998)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin US

Added: August 25th 2002
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website:
Hits: 888
Language: english


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