Salem Hill - Puppet Show

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Cyclops
Catalog Number: CYCL 126
Format: CD
Total Time: 109:31:00

Sometimes it takes a while for a band to get noticed. All good intentions aside you still need a great deal of luck and ? the Internet. Having been together since 1991, Salem Hill has continued to grow and have taken step by step in order to create their unique blend of great melodies and wonderful craftmanship. The band delivered several superb studio albums but strangely enough never got the media attention that a band like Echolyn used to have. So maybe now was the right time to look back at their impressive career by means of a neatly packaged 2CD live set. In the liner notes the band says they hope it wasn?t an omen that most of the recordings were taped the day Lady Di died. Rest assured guys, 31st August is the day I got married, so you have to look at the bright side of life sometimes as well!

With recordings taken on numerous occasions whether during festivals or in small smoky venues, played over a span of five years, this set most certainly gives an ideal view of what Salem Hill is all about. The harmonies during "Real" already show that these guys offer more than your average prog tea party, delivering kind of CSNY meets Phish! This CD release most certainly could have been called ?Certainly no overdubs? because there?s more than one bum note when "Between The Two" kicks off. The band decided to keep it as it was that night, illustrating the fragile nature of the band! Notice the "carpet crawlers" feel of the keyboards during the middle section! This collection of tunes also contains some recordings that were made during the band?s appearance at Progday in 1997, when they were lucky enough to have ex-Kansas violinist David Ragsdale on board as a guest. Apparently David never rehearsed with the band, just hopped on stage and delivered his own tunes which remarkably work very well. Just listen to "Brave New World" and "Awake" on disc one to be amazed as well! Especially "Brave New World" sounds like an unreleased Kansas tune, a true classic!

Salem Hill is the kind of band that not only is able to deliver great melodies but also has a professional hand at putting true epics together. In their own words "The Judgment" is the all-time Salem Hill composition, so if you like this one you will love their entire output. So maybe you better start with this track first then when you get the chance to check this album out? Me, I don?t like this track ... I luv? it! With "Overture" it?s like listening to the intro for Rick Wakeman?s "Catherine Parr." Instead it?s part of a selection of material from the band?s The Robbery Of Murder album which, due to the fact that it concerns a concept album, is seldom played as part of a "regular" set. Although "When" doesn?t reach the "goosebumps" stature as on the studio version, it does remain a fantastic song. It would have sounded so much better with a real muted trumpet in the solo section but then again who has the budget to bring an extra guest on the road just for those couple of seconds?

Disc two opens with the fast and furious "Golden Crosses," which once again contains some Kansas references. Maybe the total of three different voices does the trick here? What is rather weird with Salem Hill is the fact that most of the members do write and deliver their own compositions, yet they all tend to contain the SH trademark. Patrick Henry?s "Listen To Me" contains loads if different atmospheres yet they all sound like authentic SH material to me. Sometimes you need to still work on existing songs as well to see to what extent you can change them to other, and who knows maybe to better things. "To The Hill" is one of them, having electronic percussion here as opposed to real drums on the studio version. It can work to such an extent where you will find it difficult to imagine the song with normal drums ever again. "Invisible" probably is Salem Hill at its loudest with drummer Kevin taking over lead vocals. The song finally ends in kind of a "free" form with the guitar getting every possible angle to shine. To end this incredible collection of live takes the band has recorded a brand new studio track called "Waiting For Wonderfulness." Once again all attention goes towards the vocal lines in order to make the arrangement as logical as possible. In the end you?ll be able to detect some Styx and/or Supertramp elements turning this song into a pleasant composition but surely not the band?s strongest effort.

Puppet Show is a double album with a varying result where quality is concerned. Due to the fact that it contains such a wide range of material and is recorded over a five year period it nevertheless gives a perfect view as to what Salem Hill is all about. For those with very good ears you can even detect the progress as time evolves! It most certainly is a wonderful testimony and proof that Salem Hill has wrongfully been rejected from the list of current prog icons as I don?t see any reason at all why they shouldn?t be seen as one of the world?s top ten prog bands of the moment!

Disc One: Evil One (5:11) / Real (5:47) / Here And Now (5:36) / Between The Two (5:57) / Brave New World (3:28) / The Judgment (10:) / Overture - When - Someday (12:17) / Awake (6:26)

Disc Two: Golden Crosses (4:56) / Aceldama (5:24) / Listen To Me (8:44) / January (5:46) / To The Hill (4:59) / Trigger (6:23) / Invisible (11:18) / Waiting For The Wonderfulness (6:51)

Michael Dearing - guitar, backing vocals
Carl Groves - keyboards, guitar, lead vocals
Patrick Henry - bass
Kevin T - drums, lead vocals

Salem Hill (1992)
Different Worlds (1993)
Catatonia (1997)
The Robbery Of Murder (1999)
Not Everybody's Gold (2000)
Puppet Show (2003)
Be (2003)
Mimi's Magic Moment (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: September 8th 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 625
Language: english


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