Alaska - Alaska

Year of Release: 1998
Label: Lifescape Records
Catalog Number: LSAL077CD
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:57:00

Two things immediately stand out about Alaska on their self-titled debut: the vocalist sounds a lot like lower pitched Jon Anderson (Yes) and this is mostly a keyboard dominated album. Both of which are fine by me, though I like the latter aspect more than the former. This is another one of those lush symphonic albums that can be considered both progressive rock and new age. It's the Yes influence that keeps it this side of the line.

The third thing that is probably often noted about Alaska, is that this is music made by only two individuals, Al Lewis on drums, percussion and guitar and John O'Hara on keyboards. Once you get past Lewis slightly flat vocals, you realize this is really sonically rich music. In fact, Lewis is more spot on than off, and I really like his tone.

From a production point of view, this is well mixed, and a very good job for a self-produced debut. In fact, the whole package is well done, nice graphics inside and out.

"Bardanes" is a dark and moody piece, with deep bass chords and heavy, slow percussion - almost a funeral march. This blends into "Reason to Wonder" which is equally moody, and somewhat abstract. There is a metaphor being played out, with Joan of Arc at the center of it.

"Mesa Extrana" is the sole instrumental, which opens a bit discordant but ends up being quite a nice keyboard lead piece - O'Hara plays piano here along with a guest string quartet, and other assorted orchestral instruments.

"Tiananmen Square" takes on a very involved political position that I won't reiterate, except to say that isn't just about the...incident at Tiananmen Square in China, but uses it as a microcosm example.

This is a very strong debut that gets better and better as it progresses. And, it isn't fair to compare them with Yes, with whom they only slightly bear any stylistic similarities. Classical influences can be heard as well, as well as a touch of neo-progressive. There is a nice acoustic guitar touch in "Anyman's Tomorrow," which may be either Lewis or guest Kent Wells (who plays in country artist Reba McEntire's band, if you can fathom that). Dave Fowler (Rhett Akins) contributes bass.

Recommended for symphonic progressive fans.

Ice Spirits (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) / Tiananman Square (11:52) / WellsBridge (11:12) / Caring (3:29) / Forests of Heaven (9:38)

Al Lewis - vocals, drums, percussion, and guitar
John O'Hara - keyboards
Kent Wells - guitar (4)
Dave Fowler - bass (4)
Lisa Boorse, Dave Friedman - violins (6)
Cheryl Blumenthal - viola (6)
Lori Savage - cello (6)
William Weber - bassoon (6)
Mary Ann Kasko - oboe (6)
Leo Schott - flute (6)

Alaska (1998)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin US

Added: October 11th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1324
Language: english


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