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Brand X (UK/USA) - 2003 - "Trilogy"(3 CD, Backyball)


Prolusion. The new Buckyball Records release: Brand X - "Trinity" (3 CD) is a testament for the last three working lineups of the band, which spans (within these releases) 17 years. The set is packed in a superb digipack and includes: "Live in New York" (1979) and the last two studio albums by the band: "X Communication" (1992) and "Manifest Destiny" (1996). Please notice that unlike all of the band's previous studio albums, these two were out of print until now. The other Brand X-related materials available on ProgressoR can be read by clicking > here, > here, > here, > here, > here, and > here. Next time, read the review of Brand X's "Timeline" (2CD).

Disc 1 - 1979 - "Live in New York" (54 min)



1.  Algon 6:48 (Lumley)

2.  Dance of the Illegal Aliens 11:23 (Jones)

3.  Don't Make Waves 6:04 (Goodsall)

4.  Malaga Virgin 13:15 (Jones)

5.  And So to F 9:12 (Collins)


Phil Collins - drums; vocals

John Goodsall - guitar; backing vocals

Percy Jones - bass 

Robin Lumley - keyboards

Peter Robinson - keyboards

Produced by Brand X.

Engineered by J. Franco & Marc Wagnon.

Synopsis. "Live in New York 1979" presents one of the last shows of the last regular Brand X tour before the reformation in 1992. The show is presented on the CD in its entirety and, apart from five long tracks with a total playing time of about 47 minutes, features brief commentaries (by Phil Collins and Robin Lumley). As always, the band was in excellent form at the time the album was recorded (on September 27, 1979), though here, the group sounds less jazzy and more symphonic than on the other three live albums Brand X recorded in the 1970s: "Livestock" (1977), "Live in Chicago" (1977), and "Live at the Roxy LA" (1979, released in 1995), which is especially evident in comparison with the first of them. Indeed, the stylistics of both of the songs here: And So to F and Don't Make Waves (both from "Product") represents nothing else but Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of Jazz-Fusion. Furthermore, each of them could've been used on any of Genesis's albums released from 1976 to 1980, and not only due to Collins's immediately recognizable vocals and style of singing, by no means. It seems long-time friendly relations between the members of Brand X and Genesis, their combined live shows, etc, didn't pass without leaving a trace. And by the way, three fourths of the very first Brand X lineup consisted of Genesis musicians and included John Goodsall on guitar, Phil Collins on drums and vocals, Mike Rutherford on bass, and (former Genesis guitarist) Anthony Phillips on keyboards. What's interesting about this album is that the guitar solos 'rule' on the songs, while keyboards, including a piano, and bass are mostly at the helm of the arrangements on the instrumental compositions. The first two instrumentals: Algon and Dance of the Illegal Aliens are crafted in Brand X's house style - a highly original intensive Jazz-Fusion with elements of Symphonic Art-Rock and clearly cognizable moods, most of which are dramatic. All four of the described tracks are notable for completely structured arrangements with pronounced melodic lines. The remaining instrumental piece: Malaga Virgin (4) is more atmospheric and more improvisational in character than any of the other tracks on the album and is somewhat Percy Jones's benefit performance. "Live in New York 1979" is above all an album that clearly shows that Brand X were the only band of the genre in the 1970s whose music was (and still is) really close to the lovers of Symphonic Progressive, too.

Disc 2 - 1992 - "X Communiaction" (50 min)



1.  Xanax Taxi 5:57 (Goodsall)

2.  Liquid Time 4:39 (=)

3.  Kluzinski Period 7:00 (Jones)

4.  Healing Dream 3:51 (Goodsall)

5.  Mental Floss 3:17 (=)

6.  Strangeness 3:23 (Jones)

7.  A Duck Exploding 6:47 (Goodsall, Jones)

8.  Message to You 0:25 (Goodsall)

9.  Church of Hype 5:54 (Jones)

10. Kluzinski Reprise 4:25 (Goodsall, Jones)

11. Zero DB 4:53 (Katz)


Percy Jones - bass; keyboards 

John Goodsall - electric, acoustic, & MIDI-guitar 

Frank Katz - drums & percussion

Produced by John Goodsall & Percy Jones.

Engineered by M. Cantarella at "Grampa", NY.

Synopsis. Being the true Titans of Prog, Brand X could never become a parody of 'themselves', and on "X Communication", the reformed band bravely moved forward towards a new sound. This album, released twelve years after the band's break-up in 1980, is radically different from anything created by them before. Although Jazz-Fusion is still one of the most important constituents of the band's music, its role here isn't unconditionally central. "X Communication" is a highly innovative ProGduction and is stylistically a very diverse album. Apart from those typical for Jazz-Fusion, it features structures that are in many ways concerned with a guitar-based Art-Rock, Space Rock, and Prog-Metal. The elements of atmospheric, and also industrial or, to say better, urbanistic music, are present here as well. In short, the breath of Fifth Element is sensed throughout the album. To describe the contents of "X Communication" more precisely, I must divide them into a few parts. A (unique!) blend of guitar Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion with either elements or the bits of Space Rock is the predominant stylistics of the album and, in a pure form, is presented on four out of the eleven tracks here: Liquid Time, Strangeness, A Duck Exploding, and Kluzinski Reprise (2, 6, 7, & 10). The second of these pieces is in addition filled with flavors of music of the East, and the latter contain solos sounding not unlike those of flute. There are three more compositions on the album that, overall, are done in the same stylistics: Kluzinski Period, Mental Floss, and Church of Hype (3, 5, & 9), but these also contain elements of Prog-Metal. The very short atmospheric Message to You (8) can hardly be regarded differently than as an intro to the next composition. The album's opening track: Xanax Taxi really rocks and represents an amazing Jazz-Metal. Healing Dream (4) is a 'concerto' for (highly virtuosi) passages and solos of acoustic guitar that has nothing in common with jazz music as such. Zero DB (11), in its turn, consists exclusively of solos of drums and percussion. Due to the pronouncedly jazzy specificity of this piece, it was really a wise decision to place it at the end of the album, and not somewhere in the middle of it. Otherwise this masterpiece would've been deprived of that excellent stylistically compositional balance, which makes it sounding so coherent in spite of the very polymorphous nature of structures that it consists of. (The highly underrated) "X Communication" will make happy everyone whose musical horizon isn't limited by some specific genre framework.

Disc 1 - 1997 - "Manifest Destiny" (51 min)



1.  True to the Click 5:22 (Goodsall, Push)

2.  Stellarator 6:14 (Jones)

3.  Virus 7:53 (Goodsall, Push)

4.  XXL 5:51 (Goodsall)

5.  The Worst Man 4:32 (Jones)

6.  Manifest Destiny 4:10 (Brand X)

7.  Five Drops 3:51 (Wagnon)

8.  Drum DDU 5:47 (Jones)

9.  Operation Hearts & Minds 4:39 (Goodsall)

10. Mr. Bubbles Goes to Hollywood 2:27 (Katz, Jones)


Percy Jones - fretless bass; keyboards

John Goodsall - electric, acoustic, & MIDI guitars 

Frank Katz - drums & percussion (+ vocals on 4)

Marc Wagnon - MIDI-vibes

With guests:

Franz Push - keyboards (on 1, 3, & 4)

Danny Wilding - flute (on 5)

Produced by Brand X.

Engineered by Marc Wagnon at Buckyball Music, NY.

Synopsis. On "Manifest Destiny", Brand X had once again successfully transformed their style and sound, so there is little in common even between this album and "X Communication", not to mention all of the band's previous albums (all of which, though, are also quite different among themselves). Those who are well acquainted with Brand X's creation, and yet, haven't listened to "Manifest Destiny", prepare yourself to here something unexpected about the music on this album. With the exception of the last two compositions, to which I'll return later, this is not 'your typical' Jazz-Fusion, and not even a blend of Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion. Furthermore, Jazz-Fusion is not even one of the main constituents of music presented on any of the first eight tracks here, all of which are entities of Fifth Element based on Modern Symphonic Art-Rock with (only!) elements of Jazz-Fusion and, sometimes, those of music of the East and Prog-Metal. As for the most specific particularities, XXL (5) is the only song on the album with a ritual-like singing by Frank Katz, while Five Drops (7), in its turn, is the only track here that was performed without drums and features the parts of acoustic guitar. Well, the music on Operation Hearts & Minds and Mr. Bubbles Goes to Hollywood (9 & 10) is jazzier and, perhaps, a bit less innovative than that on any of the other tracks here. Nevertheless, both of them are masterpieces, too: at least in their 'genre category'. Thanks to the active use of keyboards and MIDI instruments, the sound of "Manifest Destiny" is very rich and is more saturated than that of "X Communication" (which, though, doesn't diminish the values of the latter album at all). Innovation and classicism, complexity and accessibility, obscurity and transparency, contrast and hypnotism: all of these seemingly contradictory conceptions (but everything is possible in the non-material world that music lives in!) are features of this album. Having summarized all of them however, we'll get two compatible conceptions: mystery and magic, and these are the key words to describe "Manifest Destiny" on an emotional level.

Conclusion. "Trilogy" is a unique pearl in the crown of Prog that, moreover (and assuredly), is destined not only to the connoisseurs of Jazz-Fusion, but also to all the open-minded lovers of Art-Rock and, perhaps, even Prog-Metal, not to mention those who are just eager for anything new in progressive music. Many of the contents of the album are marvelously both complex and accessible, though with saying this, I imply only profound Prog-heads, of course. The album gets my highest recommendations without any reservations.

VM: Agst 8, 2003

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