Alaska - Alaska

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

After listening to the band's Alaska album one would certainly not suggest that this "band" only consists of two members. Al Lewis on drums, guitar and vocals together with John O'Hara on keyboards, deliver some superior symphonic rock where we are able to note a substantial amount of superlatives. First of all take Al Lewis' voice which is captured right in the middle between that of Jon Anderson (Yes) and Terry Luttrell (Starcastle). On top of that the duo knows exactly what it needs to produce some over the top orchestral arrangements. One of those examples surely has to be "Two Shades of Grey" which gets close to Solaris. The pompous approach, which in a way is sort of the trademark of Rick Wakeman, shines through during "Anyman's Tomorrow" where once again the sound is very symphonic and bombastic.

As the album evolves, Alaska puts on various faces. In "Mesa Extrana" this turns towards a serious face because they are augmented in all of their classical approach by real violins, cello, oboe and flute which sort of steers them in the direction of After Crying. It certainly illustrates perfectly the craftsmanship of our two friends. Unfortunately (probably due to financial reasons) this classical ensemble is only used on one short song but don't despair as John O'Hara knows exactly how to create those orchestral sounds from his many keyboards. "Tiananmen Square" evolves in a rhythmic way flashing at times towards an ELP direction. Although the voice of Al Lewis places the music firmly in the symphonic tradition, the instrumental backing often changes towards a more electronic approach. It's ELP once again in "Wellsbridge" and although our friends continue to overwhelm us in the instrumental department they seem to have some difficulties in the vocal section here. I guess they want to use lyrics that are way too difficult to integrate and therefor result in difficult vocal lines that don't fit the music very well.

The classical approach on the keyboards is fingerlicking good and makes me think of Nick Magnus. So in future we can all singalong to "Caring" on Christmas Eve whilst you see the snowflakes before your very eyes. The album closes with the long "Forests Of Heaven" which gets close to Canned Rock (without the thin voice). The powerful "wall of synth sound" and the repetitive banging of the drums result in little variation, something that Alaska seems to have problems with in the longer tracks. Yet if you think of the fact that this entire recording is the result of just two individuals then all of us should be sending the duo an expression of thanks. ELP meets Starcastle. And we all saw it was good!

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: September 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 2093
Language: english


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