Every week I listen to a number of new albums and lament deep within my heart that I will never have time to review them all. I tell myself, “if only I could throw in my two cents about some of them without the huge commitment of a full-blown review.” As a proposal of getting done what I would otherwise never accomplish, I present to you Bite-size Prog. I suddenly realized, how bout I throw out the big writing investment and just review them as shorts? And so, Bite-size is born and delivered to you in this, the first edition of its publishing. Be warned, if you are looking for a thorough scouring of your favorite/least favorite album, you will not find it here. What I attempt to provide is merely a glimpse and snapshot of my overall impressions of a few (generally) new albums I’ve heard recently.
Be warned: Bite-size Prog is always presented in order of highest to lowest rating.
Glass Hammer – Cor Cordium
Glass Hammer’s Cor Cordium is an album that simply made me smile from ear to ear. In the vein of classic Yes on crack…err…on steroids, Glass Hammer carves out a musical path which is familiar yet exciting in new ways. There’s something that very much goes beyond their seventies influences in their brand of ultra-symphonic rock that unapologetically exploits the sonic spectrum with tons of texture, great synths, and nice melodies and grooves. If you don’t mind hearing a band that takes a classic sound and improves on it in modern ways, this is a great listen. If you’re stuck on Close to the Edge being the only album you enjoy, then you’ll hate this.
Neal Morse – Testimony 2 – Live in LA
This release is basically what you’d expect from a Morse live album: song selection is fantastic, as is the musicianship. The new tracks are performed very well, as are the old. On the downside, I think it’s one of those albums where the mix and production works so much better if you just watch the DVD instead, like you have to the performers for it to sound just right. Definitely can’t complain about the length and quality of the tracks though. This is truly epic. My only true complaint is that I just wish Neal would release a CD version and a DVD separate so you don’t have to pay so much money to get the whole package. Good album, but I’d be happier pocketing a few bucks and just keeping the DVD.
Herba D’Hameli – Girafes A Siberia
The Catalan symphonic act, Herb D’Hameli has delivered, in my estimation, an enjoyable, yet fairly standard progressive album in the 70’s symphonic style. This is an album that doesn’t really take any risks, but is an enjoyable listen from start to finish. There are some very nice jazz fusion elements present and the vocals are solid, definitely above standard. Although the multitude of grotesque eyeballs which make up the cover art immediately grabbed my attention, I ended up hoping for a bit more when it came to the mix; a more crisp, dynamic approach (a la Wobbler) would have suited this album very well and taken the enjoyability level up several notches. Regardless, in the end, those who are interested in the scene of Spanish or Catalan progressive should definitely check this out.
Damien Wilson – I Thought the World was Listening
First, I am going to apologize for my low rating and state that perhaps I am harshly judging an album from a prog point of view when it wasn’t probably intended to be a prog album; it’s probably closer to indie/symphonic pop. Honestly, I love Damien Wilson’s voice and believe that he is one of the finest singers around, both in progressive music as well as in metal. He has such a unique and likeable tone and dramatic style that I have yet to find someone who didn’t like his singing. I wasn’t familiar with his solo work, and my immediate reaction when I heard this ‘best of’ was that I was going to hurl. I was definitely not prepared to hear ‘singer-songwriter’ soft folk/pop. While the arrangements can be pretty, and even a little symphonic, but it just has too much indie-folk hipster in it for my taste. The melodies are too poppy for my taste and Damien does not sing epically and theatrically like we are used to. I understand he’s doing something different here, but it made me sad. The combination of sappy lyrics and alternative/indie folk approach made it hard for me to sit through the album. As a credit to Mr. Wilson though, I still think he is a fantastic musician and I respect the fact that he has wanted to participate in various styles. For the readers, you may or may not love this, just depends on what you’re looking for.