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Jef Bek - 2023 - "Distant Starlight"

(60:10; Jef Bek)


1. Distant Starlight 14:06
2. Momentary Champion 3:59
3. Riptide 14:59
4. What One Has 4:46
5. She Has Started to Drink 7:43
6. They Are Playing a Game-Jack Is Afraid of Jill 2:49
7. When Silence Calls 11:48


Jef Bek - drums, keyboards, vocals, slide guitar
Callum Crush - vocals
Chris Block - bass, guitars, mellotron
Bill Henshell - bass, guitars
Jeff Libersher - guitars
Jill Marie Burke - vocals
Dan Sweigert - guitars
Thymme Jones - trumpet
James Musser - guitars
Joshua Finkel - vocals
Greg Schultz - guitars
Rick Zaccaro - bass
Saskia Chen - vocals
Steve Karolus - bass
Cody Blake - tuba
Dan Burke - guitars, sounds 

Prolusion. US composer and musician Jef Bek has been a professional musician for decades, albeit outside of the regular field of recording artists first and foremost from what I understand. He has released a small handful of solo albums over the years though, with his first solo production appearing all the way back in 1991 and with a second solo album seeing the light of day in 2000. Towards the end of 2023 Bek appeared with his third and so far most recent solo album "Distant Starlight", which was self-released by Bek himself.

Analysis. It doesn't take all that long before you start to suspect that Bek is something of a fan of progressive rock in general and the classic era of the form, style and tradition in particular. With an album consisting of three songs that stretch beyond the 10-minute mark that all share the same characteristics, being atmospheric laden creations with a clear symphonic intent, orientation and execution, references and associations will obviously be knocking at the door. In this case I'd say that classic era Genesis is a very likely suspect, with the more appealing parts of their classic era legacy as plausible points of reference, with a little bit of a dramatic swagger of the kind where I'd typically name-drop ELP as a possible source of inspiration. And for those with a passion for these types of symphonic progressive rock, these epic length constructions come with a ton of charm, and that listener demographic will probably appreciate the use of vintage sounding instrument sounds just as much as a mix and production that appear to be more aligned with the classic era traditions in those departments too. For my sake I found the shorter cuts on this album to be a bit more interesting, with a few of these more concise creations being more expressive and quirky in form and function, and with associations going towards early days Gentle Giant and in one case also towards bands of a similar kind that included a little bit of a flirt with the avant section of the progressive rock tradition too. Otherwise I do note some details that I associate with score music throughout this album, while other details gives me the impression that this is a composer that do know his way around a few of the legacies the world still enjoys from the classical music composers that have written themselves into the annals of western music history. Not that those are elements uncommon inside of a progressive rock context, but they may be a bit more up front and audible in this case than in the landscapes explored by other creators inside this specific corner of the progressive rock universe.

Conclusion. I find this album to be a charming creation more than anything else. For those with a great passion for classic era and vintage era symphonic progressive rock the music, instrumentation and production will all be points of interest, and those who tend to favor the more atmospheric laden but still undeniably symphonic aspects of this legacy strikes me as the most appropriate audience at least for the longer compositions here, and those among that crowd that know and love early days gentle Giant and bands of a similar nature are probably in for a bit of a treat. For me this is a good album with many charming details, but one that falls a little bit short of being a solid or a great production.

Progmessor: February 2024
The Rating Room

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Jef Bek


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