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Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella - 2018 - "Pieces To Remember"

(76:21; Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella)


TRACK LIST:                  

1. Can't Fight This Feeling 5:08
2. With This Heart 4:38
3. Be Good to Yourself 3:47
4. Message in a Bottle 4:48
5. Sledgehammer 4:47
6. Mission Profile / Stars and Satellites / Snowblind 9:11
7. Land of Confusion 4:45
8. Like a Prayer 5:09
9. Lay It Down / Carie 5:12
10. Valley of the Queens 2:39
11. Amaranth 4:08
12. A Touch of Evil 6:11
13. Wasted Years 6:14
14. We All Need Some Light 5:01
15. Love Will Keep Us Alive 4:43


Melanie Mau - vocals, handclaps
Martin Schnella - vocals, guitars, bass
Lars Lehmann - bass
Fabian Godecke - drums, percussion
Simon Schroder - percussion, handclaps
Niklas Kahl - percussion
Jens Kommnick - whistles, pipes, cello
Eric Brenton - violin
Martin Huch - guitars
Leo Margarit - vocals 
Johan Hallgren - guitars
Kristoffer Gildenlow - bass
Rolf Wagels - bodhran

Prolusion. German musicians Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella have been a working team for a good few years it would appear, with a joint past in German progressive rock bands Flaming Row and Frequency Drift and with a couple of albums in what I believe is a cover band named Gray Matters. For the last couple of years they have been releasing music also as a duo, and the self-released album "Pieces to Remember" is the most recent one.

Analysis. Unlike their first album as a partnership, this second CD is a covers album. Mainly covering progressive rock and related fields, but also slipping in material from more of a mainstream tradition. Madonna and The Eagles can be mentioned as examples of the latter, while Threshold and Transatlantic are good examples of the former. Most people will probably recognize the greater majority of the songs on this album when seeing the song titles at first glance. This is a bit more than a regular cover album however, and that the entire album is acoustic is perhaps the most striking trait at that. Covering a song that has been a rock or pop tune with acoustic instruments calls for the songs to be rearranged to some degree, and the due and the friends helping out here have chosen to do so in a few different manners. This is, perhaps, first and foremost a question of style and direction, and to that extent my impression as that this album is revolving around a few key style orientations. We get toned down, sparse singer/songwriter material, with the acoustic guitar and the lead and backing vocals as the sole elements. Then we have the songs sporting a full band heading into more of a roots or Americana oriented landscape, as well as the ones coming across as more of a straight forward acoustic rock band. On some occasions, especially in the second half of this album, Mau & Schnella hovers closer into landscapes with more of a Celtic or possibly Irish folk music orientation, while the concluding song is a rather obvious trip into the heartland of the music most often described as Country, complete with liberal amounts of what is or replicates lap steel. Whether or not this is material that resides inside or outside of a progressive rock context remains an open question to me, also if progressive folk rock is taken into accord. Much depends on the song, as for me a few are and some are obviously not at all inside that particular sphere of reference. Not important as such of course, but all things considered this album is one that probably will sell a lot more to a regular acoustic and mainstream-oriented audience than to a progressive rock interested one as such. Hopefully it will do just that, which would be a good thing for the artists as well as those with a strong affection for progressive rock, considering that many on this album will be exposed to songs penned by contemporary progressive rock bands for possibly the first time ever. Other than that, this album will be a good to perfect hit depending on personal taste in music more than anything else. The lead vocals are stunning, much the same can be said of the vocal harmonies, and the instrumentalists are of a solid, high quality as well. Personally I was rather impressed with the work of the bassist and percussionist that delivered some truly remarkable work at times, at their best elevating the total experience up a notch or even two by their contributions. The standout songs for me were the ones that in their original shape also relied heavily on vocals though, cue 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Like a Prayer', and reference back to the description given of the vocals on this album a few sentences earlier. Other than personal taste, a minor detail that distracted me somewhat is when a choice had been taken to replicate some of the more technically challenging or odd details of certain songs. While impressive to listen to from a technical point of view, I would have preferred to have those toned down or arranged otherwise in this acoustic take on them. Still, that as well as taste in music is very much a subjective stance and opinion.

Conclusion. Those who are fond of high quality acoustic rock, folk and singer/songwriter material in general and listening to well known songs rearranged in these and related genres in particular appears to me to be the key audience for this album. With a good handful of progressive rock songs thrown into this mix, and with the main musicians history in this specific genre, fans of progressive rock with a taste for music that includes acoustic music as described are also well advised to take heed of this album.

Progmessor: July 10th 2019
The Rating Room

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Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella


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