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(32:03, ‘NXU Music’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Politician 7:18 2. Seventeen 8:25 3. The Composer 6:38 4. Mother Earth 9:52 LINEUP: Chris Smith – guitars; violin & other strings Warren Dale – keyboards; winds; mallets George Gregory – piano; vocals Scott Towne – drums Earl Schrader – basses Cynthia St. Clair – vocals With: Paul Thompson – trombone, tuba Steven Dale – trumpet
Prolusion. The US ensemble BEYOND INFINITY was formed in 1976. In 1982 they finished recording their debut album, but it was issued only some fifteen years later. Comprised of four semi-epic tracks, “Mother Earth” is the second album by them and was released in 2009. Both of the band’s multi-instrumentalists, Chris Smith and Warren Dale, are quite famous musicians: they have another, more widely known group, Trap, and have been members of French TV – for several years.
Analysis. As I haven’t heard the first Beyond Infinity album, I can’t make any comments about the steps taken to reach this one nor can I make any comparisons between them. What is instantly striking is that “Mother Earth” has such a glaring vintage feeling (including the recording’s sound as such) that I would’ve been sure it was recorded sometime at the dawn of the ‘70s if I were not in the know as to the real state of affairs. The instrumental focus of the group is Warren Dale’s keyboards, with a significant contribution from Chris Smith’s guitars. All of the compositions presented abound in sympho-prog arrangements, some of which echo Jethro Tull, Yes and Kansas, all circa ’77, although the latter band only comes to mind when Chris plays violins within the moves of a full-band sound, such as in one of the sections of The Composer. Here are more details on the topic. On each of the tracks some of Warren’s synthesizer and organ leads are clearly in the vein of Rick Wakeman, while George Gregory’s singing (when he sings alone, to be more precise) most often evokes Ian Anderson’s. George shares the vocals with Cynthia St. Clair, and – save Seventeen, which is basically the male’s eparchy – they in all cases sing both separately from each other and together, less often as a duo than as a virtual choir in the latter case, as some of the vocal parts have been overdubbed. Cynthia has a warm quasi-operatic voice, and her delivery is a nice contrast to the more energetic instrumental passages, since it’s certainly mellower than her partner’s one. Upon the first spin, it may seem there’s a bit too many singing, but the effect will change soon. The overall arrangements within the vocal sections are for the most part as eventful as those within the instrumental ones, so it seems like the vocalists are only singing on about 20 percent of the album. As to the music as such, on the disc’s first two tracks, Politician and Seventeen, the sound is classic symphonic Art-Rock all the way, although the latter at one point reveals an interlude that might evoke classical music with marching drums (which fairly well imitate orchestral ones). Then follows The Composer, and its first movement, driven by Warren’s mallet percussion and saxophone, is Jazz-Fusion of the first water, whilst otherwise only bits of the genre can be found here. Of course, the title piece consists for the most part of sympho-prog arrangements too, though there are also elements of RIO, Classical and Celtic music plus a hard-rock move to top it off. Keyboards and guitars drive the show here too, but not throughout. When Chris plays chamber strings, he at times leans the music in a classical direction, such as in the piece’s fourth (almost like Gryphon sounding) movement, which also features some woodwinds as well as what sounds not unlike a harpsichord. As to the bass and drums, they provide a solid supporting structure everywhere on the album, with the exception of a few acoustic episodes, like the said one.
Conclusion. This album is a symphonic art-rock festival that breathes new life into the old style. The band adds few stylistically to the genre, but refines it in a way that makes it sound fresh and exciting again. Top-20-2009
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