Madmen And Dreamers - The Children Of Children


Year of Release: 2000
Label: MadElf Productions
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 122:33:00

I had put off reviewing this 2-cd release for one reason only - this looked like a project that required more than a just a evaluative listening, and I knew I was going to have to devote more time to it than to other releases. That isn't to suggest that other releases have been short-changed, but when you are dealing with a concept project of this scope, extra attention is necessary. This production is the debut by Madmen and Dreamers, more theater group than band, released by MadElf Productions. The musicians involved are Mark A Durstewitz on keyboards, Vince Genella on guitars, Mario Renes on bass, and Bob Dunleavy on drums and percussion. In addition, the characters of the production are Dennis Johnson as the Father, Christine Hull as the Mother, Ben Rauch as the Son and Erika K. A. Crocco as the Daughter.

The music is built around the titular concept The Children Of Children, but it isn't entirely about teenage pregnancy and parenthood, if you extend the child image out to the idea that we are all the children of God. But as the album cover artwork suggests, it is also how what happens in our lives affects our children, which affects their children, which affects their children, and so on. So this works on multiple levels. But let's focus on that that inner level, so to speak, which is young adults having children before they've even had a chance to live their lives. The characters of the story here are just such a couple who have let the events of their lives control them rather than they controlling the events of their lives, and they resent themselves and each other for the "might have beens." As it seems most marriages do these days, this one splits and takes toll both on the parents and the children. Anyone who has been through divorce and the pain it causes, from whichever perspective (mother, father, or child), will find a little of themselves here. Those who haven't been through a divorce, myself included, will still be able to understand, but from a far different perspective

So, that's the concept in a nutshell, spanning two disks, told in both instrumental and vocal tracks. When the first CD cued up and began playing, on my first listen, my first thought was that music was very much Pink Floyd influenced, and here and there throughout that holds. There are tracks that break away from that, such as bluesy "The Big Belly Blues," which is both humourous and spot on (though again I do not speak from experience). Another is "Another Joyful Day," which is a galloping track that matches the hurriedness of the characters lives - routines, traffic, jobs, kids, etc. There is a wistful break in this one that only serves to underscore the frenetic pace of the rest of the track. "Tell Me" on disc two is a rockier, barroom blues number, with a bit of a swagger to it with it's searing guitar leads, driving piano, and sinewy percussion. The deeper into the album we go the Floyd sound is less and less, though it is no less rock.

Though unrelated thematically and different stylistically, this has the same dramatic feel of some of Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous works, Jesus Christ Superstar is the one that comes to mind. But as Webber has a particular and easily identifiable style (with Tim Rice), you might think of anyone of his works, excepting Phantom. Which means that both Johnson and Hull have very theatrical voices, by which I mean a heightened enunciation, a clearer delineation of notes. In musical theater, so much must be conveyed by the libretto that having a mumbling or slurring vocalist would defeat the purpose. This is, in no way, a criticism. In fact, it's rather refreshing to not have to necessarily look at the lyric book to understand what is going on, which is as good musical theater should be. There is also a youthfulness to the voices that lends authenticity, but at the same time, makes this feel also like a university production, at least where Johnson's voice is concerned. That isn't to suggest unprofessional by any means, just that Johnson has a very youthful voice - and as I said, perfect for the material. In fact, he sounds a little bit like John Denver at times (on "The Life You've Given Me" is where I thought it). By the end, you detect a change in the father's voice, as it becomes richer and more mature.

Hull's voice on the other hand takes on various characteristics, which also help to underscore the nature of the character. It starts out much higher in tone than throughout the rest of the album, and for me, too high. Unfortunately, this made me think of an SNL skit with the married teachers singing at the assembly, though, but for a few moments here and there, not during the rest of the album. At least at the end, Crocco sounds a bit like, well, my first thought was Annie Haslem, but I'm going to say more like a higher, sweeter Sylvia Erichsen of White Willow.

There are many points throughout where the characters here are talking to God - nearly all of the performers include God in their thanks to others, so these aren't references in the abstract. As I was following along, I expected the conclusion to be preachy, but it isn't at all. Different people will draw their own conclusions as to what the message is, as there are many. Take responsibility for your actions, which includes looking further down the road than the here and now. Another might be that if you bemoan what you have not got and ignore that which you have, you not have that either.

The presentation of this package is worth mentioning as well, as there are some terrific pieces of artwork by Simon Berson that illustrate each lyric page. Some of it is impressionistic, some of abstract, some of it photos of wireframe sculptures, and a couple that evoke thoughts of Roger Dean, though the drawings aren't as detailed as all that.

This is an interesting release, as listening to it is like seeing a performance or watching a movie (more so the former). You become involved with and come to care about what happens to the characters, and part of that is because there is something that resonates within you.

Aside from the rock arrangements there isn't much that would put this in the progressive rock category. Yes, there are the Floydian influences, whether intentional or not, but is that enough? This isn't your expected prog rock concept, if we use Yes, say, as the barometer. Of course, having said that, someone with a broader sense of what makes rock, and music more generally, progressive will surely disagree. And maybe that alone does make it progressive rock - taking a storyline that isn't typical of the prog rock genre and marrying it to a style that, where this merely instrumental, would fit right in with some of the less esoteric prog rockers out there.


Tracklisting:
Disc One: Act 1: Overture (5:44) / The Children Of Children (part 1) (3:00) / Conception (1:02) / The Big Belly Blues (2:57) / Birth (1:53) / The Children of Children (part 2) (2:18) / What About Me? (1:59) / Love At A Distance (5:46) / Madmen and Dreamers (8:42) / Another Joyful Day (3:29) / I Will Not Fight (5:11) / Retreat (11:19) / Running Wild (parts 1 - 4) ((0:58) / (2:48) / (2:07) / (0:59)) / Listen To Me (4:35) / The Shell (2:22) / Your Fault (2:47) / I Don't Know You Anymore (2:54)

Disc Two: Act 1: Cont: Why Did You Stay? (3:23) / All I Need Is Life (5:10) / Act 2: Listen To Me (reprise) (2:11) / The Shell (reprise) (2:20) / Your Fault (reprise) (2:43) / One Moment Please (1:58) / Such As It Is (3:44) / An Eagle And A Dove (4:35) / Tell Me (4:52) / The Life You've Given Me (4:09) / And As For Me (2:02) / Where Are You Now? (5:13) / Daddy, Can We Talk? (7:23)

Musicians:
Dennis Johnson - Father
Christine Hull - Mother
Ben Rauch - Son
Erika K. A. Crocco - Daughter
Mark A Durstewitz - keyboards
Vince Genella - guitars
Mario Renes - bass
Bob Dunleavy - drums and percussion

Discography:
The Children Of Children (2000)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: December 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.madmen-and-dreamers.com
Hits: 804
Language: english

  

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