Phreeworld - Boost The Signal

Year of Release: 1994
Label: Friends In The Garden Productions, Inc.
Catalog Number: FG 19941-1
Format: CD
Total Time: 21:57:00

Recently Brian Phraner and I had a brief exchange of emails regarding my review of their Crossing The Sound release, which I reviewed in September 1999. While I'm not going to reiterate what was said, you can imagine that he took as a dim a view of my review as I had taken of their album - though, admittedly, I was far more harsh with the latter than he was with the former.

Since I had liked Boost The Signal when I first bought it, I was hoping Crossing The Sound would be similar in nature. This review of that EP isn't an attempt to "win favour" with Phreeworld, but I did say to Brian that I had recently reheard "When You Hold On To Me" on a comp tape I made some time ago, and had plans to review the EP in a future "issue." The future is now.

I must begin by saying that there isn't anything here that's totally original, in that there are comparisons that can be made. While that bothered me about Crossing, as the way influences were put together didn't work for me, here there are no complaints about that. I find this EP so much stronger, so much more focused than Crossing. If I were going to sell someone on this band, this is what I give them to hear. So, yeh, it's a bit derivative sonically, but sounds great and shows such promise. Let me put it this way, I've had no problem playing it over and over in writing this review.

The EP begins with the spacey "Solar Spectra" which sounds like a melding of Mike and The Mechanics, Electric Light Orchestra, and Spock's Beard, though much more of the former two. The harmonized vocals give this sort of a dreamy feel?actually, the ELO comparison is the strongest. It starts with an explosion of keys and percussion - actually, it starts with a descending tone so familiar in the space rock (the sound that might accompany a comet streaking across the sky). Percussion and bass really take the lead on this track, almost a galloping rhythm at times. Not having Crossing The Sound anymore, I can't go back and tell you how this compares to the version that appeared there, but my comments on it suggest it is far different.

"Cruisin' London" is a bit strange, but likable. It sounds eerily like another band that I can't place at the moment. It begins with a sound byte from Hosni Mubarak, which leads into a gentle guitar intro. This song builds slowly, but generally stays mid-tempo, quite atmospheric at times. There's a blistering guitar solo here that sears across the otherwise calm backing, but really should have been brought up a bit in the mix as it when it reappears for the latter third of the track.

"When You Hold On To Me" is bit like Saga. It starts with a bright and jangly keyboard phrase. It's a bit poppy, but I do like it. In fact, it's my favourite track here, though each has its charms. It certainly is the most accessible, and probably would have done well on radio.

"The Whispering" is a very dark track that is mostly atmospheric keys, guitars, and deep, sonorous vocals ? very slow, very low key. The vocals aren't great on this, as the voice seems a bit flat, but the swirling guitar and keys make for a very nice bed for them to play off of. It is a track that's waiting to break free; it never quite does, but there are some truly beautiful passages here, both with keys and guitar. I really like the arrangement, especially the heavy, dark tones.

A remixed "When You Hold On To Me" closes out the EP; what seems to be the difference, and accounts for it's longer running time, is a guitar solo which doesn't go wildly away from the rest of the track, but does keep the momentum going. It is joined by guitar and backing vocals, the latter of which I didn't notice on the earlier version of the track.

Overall, this was a good debut EP, falling somewhere between neo-prog and pop. If you're like me and didn't care for Crossing (I've been told there is one other out there), you should like Boost The Signal. Plus, this gets my recommendation to those who've not heard any Phreeworld at all.

Solar Spectra (3:38) / Cruisin' London (4:49) / When You Hold On To Me (3:44) / The Whispering (5:21) / When You Hold On To Me (remix) (5:05)

Brian Phraner - vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards
Mark Phraner - vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
Dave Wheeler - vocals, guitar
Don Freeborn - drums

Boost The Signal (1994)
Phreeworld (1996)
Crossing The Sound (1998)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 870
Language: english


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