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(68 min, MALS)
TRACK LIST: 1. Desert Winds 10:02 a. Simoom b. Zephyr 2. Spiral Vortex 10:03 3. Alien Nation 6:08 4. Pearl of Great Price 4:43 5. Battle Zone 5:30 6. Final Victory 10:47 7. The Journey Home 20:41 a. Transparent Darkness b. Total Lucidity c. Nellysea d. Borderland e. Flying Music by: Progressor (1-a, 1-b, 4, 7-a, 7-b, 7-c), Jeremy (2, 3, 7-d, 7-e), Jeremy & B. Hircsh (5, 6). Produced by Jeremy & Progressor. LINEUP: Progressor - keyboards, synthesizers, bass, percussion Jeremy - guitars, bass; drums; mellotron, piano Brian Hirsch - synthesizers, keyboards, drums With: Rob Wessel - guitar (2)
Prolusion. "The Pearl of Great Price" is the collaborative effort of Jeremy Morris and Vitaly "Progressor" Menshikov. Jeremy has released albums ranging in style from acoustic guitar, piano, pop-style worship songs to progressive rock. Progressor is best known for his work with the band >X Religion, based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Jeremy lives in Portage, Michigan, USA.
Analysis. "The Pearl of Great Price" is an instrumental album, the sound of which is best described as a blend of Space Music and Guitar Hero, with a dose of Kraut Rock thrown in for good measure. The atmosphere is full of synthetic sounds, befitting the space genre (blowing winds, slowly changing keyboard textures, electronic twittering and chirping), but is often overlaid with soaring guitar work. Jeremy & Progressor have put together a good number of pleasant themes and melodies, though nothing overly complex. The most successful tracks on the album are Desert Winds, Alien Nation and Final Victory. Desert Winds features some majestic guitar playing that at times reminds me of Andy Latimer of Camel in its beauty, especially in the second section, entitled Zephyr. Piano lays down the initial theme for the guitar in Simoom (part 1), but is almost lost behind the percussion and blowing wind sounds and occasional electronic horns tooting and triangle dinging. This is really a shame, because the first half of Desert Winds is dominated by an overpowering slow dance beat, thudding along. The keys are simply too far back in the mix, when the piano line just begs for the spotlight. Thankfully, that is resolved with Zephyr and the percussion trades places with the keyboard for the limelight. When the guitar comes in it is beautiful. Alien Nation also uses a strong beat, but this time advantageously. The bass and drum drive forward with a syncopated staccato, machine gun-like rhythm to the start of a crying guitar solo that melts into soothing chords played by a phase-shifted organ, overlaid with glockenspiel. This pattern repeats until sequenced steel drums bring the ending measures, reminding me a bit of parts of Phaedra by Tangerine Dream. Final Victory is solid Kraut Rock, with its throbbing, driving, sequenced bass, rhythmic underpinnings and atmospheric keyboard work; some of the best represented on the album. This is by far the most complex of all tracks on the CD. About 3/5 of the way through, the storm that has been brewing throughout opens up, resolving into an uplifting and hopeful theme that has the sound of triumph in it, carried by the guitar. Ironically, the weakest track is called Battle Zone. Just the title suggests dynamism and bombast, which are fairly lacking here. Battle Zone begins with a single snare drum sounding as if it's in a room, not out in the wide-open spaces destined for conflict. It would have been appropriate to have an entire drum corps here, sounding the advance and not one lone drum. Also, I would prefer a true acoustic drum. When the musical skirmishes do occur, the drum machine kicks into double time. This is the moment the listener has been waiting for, when musical battle is engaged! However, only the drums produce the fury expected. What could have been a dynamic organ solo shows no fervor at all and is simply overpowered by the drumming, which is doing nothing spectacular, just pounding out a fast beat. The skirmish over, the march resumes to the next engagement. This time the guitar enters the fray, with much more enthusiasm than the organ showed, Jeremy's fingers in flight up and down the frets. All in all, with a title like Battle Zone, I expected more. The other tracks on the album lie somewhere between the rating that I give to Battle Zone and the several given top honors, listed above. Spiral Vortex has some of the most distinctive keyboard work and features the only guitar solo on the album not done by Jeremy. The synthesizer solo is spacey and has plenty of chirping sounds flying around it, but the song just seems to go on too long for its own good, repeating itself needlessly. It would have been better to cut the length by half. Keys sounding like accordion and strings lay down the theme for Pearl of Great Price for about a minute before the guitar solo begins, lasting the rest of the track. The Journey Home is the final and longest track on the CD. It has some of everything from the rest of the album (but no wimpy marching drums). It takes the most twists and turns thematically if only by virtue of being the longest track, something of a musical journey. There are numerous brief themes, a couple with Mid Eastern flavor. The Journey Home even takes us to the beach, complete with the sound of surf and gulls before heading back out into space for the end.
Conclusion. This is a good first effort by two seasoned professionals, but not without its shortcomings. The album is dominated by guitar, but although there is much keyboard work underlying it, the keys are extremely understated, very restrained. They introduce or enforce the melodies, but never rise to the same level of domination as the guitar. In texture and sound the keyboards are heavily synthetic. Although "The Pearl of Great Price" is more akin to Space Rock than anything else, it has the twist of featuring guitar solos, which are much more raucous than anything you would hear in New Age Space music. This is not an audio tranquilizer. Recommended for open-minded prog fans, as this doesn't fit neatly into an easy pigeonhole. Think Space Music. Think Kraut Rock. Think Guitar Hero music. Roll them into one and you should have a pretty fair idea of what Jeremy & Progressor sound like on their debut collaboration. I hope there will be more collaboration in the future and that they will do more with keyboard and organ, explore the Symphonic sound and rely less on a synth sound.
KW: July 15, 2005
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