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The Art of Rush by Hugh Syme: On Sale tomorrowush,

Art-of-Rush-slipcaseSheesh, this looks gorgeous.  And, to make it even better, the narrative is written by one of the best music journalists anywhere, Stephen Humphries.

The Art of Rush is a 272 page coffee table book that delves into the 40 year relationship with Rush and their longtime artist and illustrator Hugh Syme. The stunning book begins with a foreword penned by Neil Peart, and contains original illustrations, paintings, photography, and the incredible stories behind each album that he has designed with the band since 1975.

New World Man: Dave Kerzner

New World Deluxe by Dave Kerzner

By Alan Dawes. Rating 10/10

Kerzner's debut solo album, NEW WORLD (deluxe).

Kerzner’s debut solo album, NEW WORLD (deluxe).

The standard version of New World was released last December, even though it was released so last in the year it had enough impact to finish in the top 10 albums for 2014 in Prog magazine readers poll. 

The deluxe version of this incredible album has just been released and I truly believe it should top the readers poll this year.  It would be an amazing achievement as it faces tough competition from Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett and David Gilmour.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr Kerzner and this project, here is a brief history lesson.

Dave Kerzner first came to peoples notice as a member of Thud and then Giraffe which were both projects by the late, great Kevin Gilbert.  After Kevin’s untimely death, Dave continued to write songs but mainly spent his time working at his Sonic Reality company recording sound samples for keyboard software so if you want Nick Mason, Neil Peart, Keith Emerson and many others playing on your own material it is possible with SR  software.

A meeting with Simon Collins led the pair working together and eventually to the formation of Sound of Contact with Kelly Nordstrom and Matt Dorsey.  The band recorded Dimensionaut , which was released to critical acclaim  and the band went on to receive the best newcomer at last years prog awards.   Upon returning home after The Night Of The Prog festival in Germany, Dave set about writing new material.  It didn’t really come as a major surprise when it was revealed that he had left SoC.

After spending a few months writing and recording demo’s it was time to put a band together and set about creating his debut solo album.  A kickstarter campaign was created on 27th June to try any raise $17.000 to fund the album by 6th August.  The backers responded and nearly double the required amount was raised in the required time.

Dave recruited his old Thud bandmate Nick D’Virgilio on Drums and another friend Fernando “The Fretmeister”Perdomo on guitars.  They were soon joined by several guest artists.  

New World is a concept album that follows the story of “The Traveller” a man stranded in a vast desert after his ship has crashed and his journey to safety. I won’t go into the full details of how this journey progresses.  I think if you gave the story outline to a dozen sci-fi authors, you would end up with twelve completely different books. So listen to the music, look at the artwork and write your own story.

So why should I buy the deluxe version instead of the standard?  Well unlike most deluxe versions of albums this isn’t just the basic album with an extra cd thrown in with a few out takes and rough demos.

The deluxe version is an extension of the standard, the original 11 tracks are spread across the 2 CDs and another 12 tracks were added.  As a follower of the kickstarter campaign I know that 3 of these tracks were originally meant to be on the standard release. The extra tracks have enhanced what was already a superb album.

I think to get the best from this album, put on some headphones, crank the volume and enjoy this incredible cinematic masterpiece.

New World opens with an extended version of Stranded a five part epic that sets the scene for the album.  If this was a movie it would be shown as a series of flashbacks as The Traveller makes his way to safety. This track features A brilliant guitar solo from Steve Hackett and has backing vocals from Ana Cristina, Durga McBroom from Pink Floyd and Jason Scheff from Chicago.  I must mention part five The Darkness,  the vocal work on this part is amazing.

The recording sessions were still in progress when Dave was contacted by Keith Emerson to say that he was doing a radio show in the UK and that he wanted to play something from New World.  As Stranded was the song closest to being finished, Dave did a quick mix and the whole song was played on Planet Rock Radio.  After Dave’s initial mix he then took Stranded to Tom Lord-Alge to be re-mixed for the single release.

Next up is Into The Sun, once again extended from the standard release.  Colin Edwin plays fretless bass on this track and the wonderful Heather Findlay provides backing vocals.  The track builds in intensity throughout its nine minutes until Fernando Perdomo takes centre stage and unleashes a killer combination of solo and bass line.  The original plan was to finish with a keyboard solo, but the guitar work was just too good to ignore.  

The Lie is the first track on the album that I think could appeal to mainstream radio. At just over five minutes and with a really catchy chorus it isn’t too long.  This song features the core band of Kerzner, Perdomo and D’Vigilio

The Traveller is the first of the new tracks and features Dave on keyboards while Heather recites some lines from Into The Sun.

The Secret was originally pencilled in for the standard release.  It must have been an extremely hard decision to leave this out.  Songs this beautiful are a rarity.  Once again the song starts out calmly and builds in power throughout.  The slide guitar on this is stunning.

Reflection is another short piece which could compete with any chill out album you care to mention. Really nice orchestration on this track which leads into Under Control which is very powerful. Both of these tracks are just Dave on his own playing all the instruments. This one is perfect for all the paranoid people out there.

Premonition Suite is mainly instrumental.  The five parts link different parts of the album.  Dave shares the writing credits on this track with Francis Dunnery who provides killer guitar on part two Resilience 1.  It’s Dave’s turn for a solo on part four Altered State, sheer brilliance.

In The Garden is another work of art, beautifully written and performed.  I love the acoustic guitar on this track and the vocals from Durga McBroom are superb.  

The same can be said for the last two tracks on CD1, The Way Out and Recurring Dream are both excellent and could quite easily have been chosen for the standard release.  The vocal work on the last track is incredible.

CD2 opens with Biodome which is a short into track with David Longdon reciting part of New World.  This leads straight into the instrumental masterpiece Crossing Of Fates.

When Dave was recording Keith Emerson’s modular Moog for Sonic Reality, Keith played a solo part which Dave built this piece around.  This is keyboard heaven as Dave and Keith take turns to show their skills.  The rhythm section on this track is a change from the rest of the album.  Billy Sherwood was recruited on bass and drums are provided by Simon Phillips.

Theta is another instrumental with backing vocals by Durga and Maryam Tollar who has an amazing voice.  Also on board for this track is another musician from the days of Thud.  Satnam Ramgotra plays tabla which gives the track it’s mystical feel.  This leads into My Old Friend which is dedicated to Kevin Gilbert.  Once again Maryam provides stunning vocals.  Russ Parrish from Steel Panther sheds his Satchel persona to reunite with his Thud band mates and provide a blistering solo.

Ocean Of Stars wasn’t originally meant to be on the standard album but it couldn’t not be.  Everything about this track is perfect.  If the Grammy’s or Brits handed out awards for songwriting instead of just being a popularity contest between record companies, this would take some beating.

Solitude is vocal heaven.  They are provided by the beautiful songbirds from Aussie Floyd. Lorelei McBroom, Lara Smiles and Emily Lynn join the band for this chilled track. Drums are by Nick Mason via Sonic Reality.

Nothing is another song that could be played on mainstream radio.  Co-written with Fernando this has an ELO feel to it and I think it could be a big hit.  It features great solo’s from Dave and Fernando.

Erased is a short cinematic instrumental which leads into Realign.  Both this and the following instrumental Nexus were originally meant to be on the standard release.

The next track is New World and this is another contender for the songwriting awards.  The lyrics are sheer bloody poetry.  Francis Dunnery plays lead guitar and David Longdon does an excellent job with the backing vocals.

The album closes with Redemption (Stranded parts 6-10) another five part epic clocking in at over twenty minutes. Francis plays lead guitar and gets co-writer credit for Resilience 2 and Steve Hackett plays on the last two sections Mirage Of The Machines and To The Light.  The album closes with  Hackett solo which is a great way to finish any album.

I must mention part eight. High On The Dunes is destined to become a concert highlight on par with Dave Gilmour on top of the wall or Genesis playing Afterglow, the section is spine tingling.  It is so powerful that it is bought back as a secret track at the end of the album.

I asked the question, why should I buy this instead of the standard. Simply put you would be mad not to.

This is different to a lot of recent releases from progressive groups,  we don’t get fifteen time changes within the first two minutes, strange off tempo drumming that sounds like he’s completely forgotten what song he’s playing or solo’s that seem to be nothing more than someone trying to tune their new 37 string bass guitar.

What you do get is a collection of well crafted music.  Every track plays it’s part in the story, there is nothing that can be regarded as filler.  The musicianship is first class as is the production and packaging.

The brilliant artwork was done by Christine Leakey, who also provides vocals on Ocean Of Stars and Premonition Suite and this is a good reason you should buy the CD instead of download.

Albums this good are as rare as hens teeth. For me this is the best album I’ve heard in a very long time.  I know when it comes to handing out the awards at the end on the year, Steven Wilson will sweep the boards but in my opinion there is not a single track on Hand.Cannot.Erase that is anywhere near as good as anything on New World.

A University Lecture on Prog: Big Big Train


This coming Tuesday evening, I will have the great pleasure of giving an academic lecture on the meaning of progressive music as best expressed in the work of Big Big Train.  Unfortunately, this lecture will not be open to the public.  I will, however, make an audio recording–should any progarchists be interested.

For the same event, I’ll also be giving two lectures on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and one on the same of G.K. Chesterton.

So excited about this!

TUPVR 14: Dave Kerzner, NEW WORLD

Well, it’s been about a year since I’ve done a TUPVR (Totally Unprofessional Video Review).  Where does the time go?  Of course, Chronos is insatiable.

This TUPVR went about two minutes longer than I meant, but such is life.  If you’re brave enough to look at my aging, graying, wrinkling face, have at it!  Five minutes of joy about Dave Kerzner’s stunning solo album, NEW WORLD.  It is certainly one of the best albums of 2015, and, frankly, one of the best prog albums I’ve ever heard.

To purchase it (standard or deluxe), go here:

Thank you, Paul Lester and PROG

Progarchist mastermind and mathmaster Tad Wert just sent me the following via email.  Thank you so much, Paul Lester and PROG.  What a nice mention!

Prog 02_2015

The Photography of Alan Cox

The photography of Alan Cox.  So very, very good.

The photography of Alan Cox. So very, very good.

Alan Cox was the promoter of the Neal Morse Band concert in Aurora, Colorado, on February 28, 2015.  It was a truly glorious evening.  Here are Cox’s amazing photos from that night–posted with his kind permission.

Neal Morse Band Denver 19 Neal Morse Band Denver 23 Neal Morse Band Denver 46 Neal Morse Band Denver 48 Neal Morse Band Denver 99 Neal Morse Band Denver 101 Neal Morse Band Denver 142 Neal Morse Band Denver 213 (1) Neal Morse Band Denver 234 Neal Morse Band Denver 247 Neal Morse Band Denver 271 Neal Morse Band Denver 278 Neal Morse Band Denver 309 Neal Morse Band Denver 315


AllthingsAndyTillison™: Sparks in Yorkshire

The Tangent, A SPARK IN THE AETHER (Insideout Music, 2015).

Tracks: A Spark in the Aether; Codpieces and Capes; Clearing the Attic; Aftereugene; The Celluloid Road; A Spark in the Aether (Part 2)

The Tangent: Andy Tillison; Luke Machen; Theo Travis; Jonas Reingold; and Morgan Agren.

Birzer rating: 10/10

The new album (Insidious Music).

The new album (Insideout Music).

“If Neal can find God. . . what’s in it for me?”

I’ve never hidden my admiration for all things Andy Tillison. I almost feel like I should always be writing AllthingsAndyTillison™ whenever I mention any aspect of him. For, as we all know, this redheaded and motorbiking mischievous Andy does nothing halfway. Like almost every person in the prog world—artist or fan—he’s a perfectionist. Andy’s not just a perfectionist, though. He’s a perfectionist-plus.

It would be nearly impossible to re-do or even try to top The Tangent’s 2013 masterpiece, Le Sacre du Travail, itself a celebration of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring from exactly a century before. The Tangent reached a fascinating peak (at least, thus far) with that one. It sold well, and well it should have. Le Sacre is a thing of true beauty and grace, a tangible piece of eternity, here and now. On it, Tillison combined—almost impossibly—the mundane with the sacred, and he did so in a way that philosophized without preaching. Not an easy task or accomplishment for anyone.

“Careful with that sax!”

Tillison is a restless man, and we all benefit from his need to make, to produce, to continue, to create, and to communicate.

Nothing stands out as much on this new album, A Spark in the Aether, as the almost-signature energetic restlessness of Tillison. This is not to suggest that we don’t also revel in his many satisfactions. Spark, however, ultimately reveals Tillison’s deepest longings, and his greatest (and quite lovely) imaginings and his desire for justice. Tillison is not just the definition of restlessness and perfectionism, he is also the spirit of charity itself. Whereas the last album considered the routine and liturgy of work, this album explores what might and what could be. It’s every bit as subtle as the previous work, but the subtleties are found in the musical passages, especially the ones that linger, rather than in the structure of the album as with 2013’s Le Sacre.

“Struggling with a Hammond until my fingers bleed. . . to an empty room.”

Tillison has rather famously proclaimed progressive rock as the sum of all music. You want jazz? So be it. 1950’s rock? Great. 1960’s bubble gum pop? Not a problem. Combine them in any way you see fit, and you have one of the many glories of prog, the ability to fuse and meld, the combination of infinite diversity within infinite possibilities. On Spark, one hears funk, funkadelic, rock, prog, jazz, and folk. There’s a bit more Pink Floydish influence than is normal for The Tangent, but, of course, it’s all done so very tastefully.

As mentioned above in the header, six pieces make up Spark. The first, “A Spark in the Aether.” Swirling keyboards and sax open the album. This is a rambunctious piece, a prime example of “prog n’roll,” as Tillison likes to call it. The title and the music fit together perfectly. Truly, there is a small fire that sets off something much larger than itself.

The second piece, “Codpieces and Capes,” could lyrically be the sequel to “Supper’s Off,” the fifth track of the 2013 bonus cd, L’Etagere du Travail. Tillison’s lyrics are at their wittiest, a series of comments about pretentions among the first generation and wave of prog stars. Tillison rightfully mocks the self-indulgence of the era.

“Clearing the Attic,” the third track, is the most fantastic of all the songs, a carefully structure dream wondering (and wandering) what would happen if every thing went perfectly well for those Tillison admires and loves most. Interestingly enough, parts of the track somewhat resemble “Feelin’ Groovy” by Simon and Garfunkel as well as Santana’s version of “Oye Como Va.” This, however, is 2015, not 1966 or 1970, for better or worse. In Tillison’s reality, Guy is famous, Cliff spins tracks for the BBC, and Sally gets to ride horseback across the vast and almost limitless plains of North America.

The fourth piece, “Aftereugene,” I misunderstood at first. I thought this might be Andy’s filler, as it were, a way to connect the first half of the album with the second. Upon several listens, though, I’ve come to realize just how complex this piece is. The best moment is Tillison whispering, “Careful with that sax.” The quality of his voice at this moment–the drama of it–is just brilliant, as is the atonal solo that Travis immediately provides. This is a sleeper song, and it will, I predict, one day be regarded as a Tangent masterpiece.   It has everything a prog fan craves—weirdness, beauty, and a connection to our rather glorious prog heritage.

Perhaps the centerpiece of the entire album is “The Celluloid Road,” a full journey through and across America. Not the real America, but the America as understood by a non-American receiving his information from Hollywood. Every one from Clint Eastwood to Jesus makes an appearance in this song, and it really is the perfect road music for traversing the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains en route to the West Coast and the Pacific. The story ends in San Francisco, with talking apes and giant lizards destroying everything. As Tillison notes, he gets to observe it all from the haze of Yorkshire.

The last song brings us back to the first, and it becomes obvious that though Tillison has not created another concept album, he has certainly created a song cycle. And, the song cycle takes us back not just to the first song of this album, but to the very first Tangent album ever, The Music That Died Alone (2003).

As a crass American, I often wonder if the English realize how lucky they are to have Andy. I know the Germans understand his brilliance, as do the Scandinavians. The English-speaking peoples of the world have an incredible treasure in Andy Tillison. Add his significant other, Sally, and they’re basically unstoppable.

Andy, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.  It’s such an honor to be a part of AllthingsAndyTillison™.

To order the album, please go here.

Loving Mike Portnoy

Let me just say: thank you, Mike.  Your level of professionalism and integrity is nothing but an inspiration.

Let me just say: thank you, Mike. Your level of professionalism and integrity is nothing but an inspiration.

For what it’s worth, I’m amazed at the questioning of-and anger at-American drummer, Mike Portnoy.  A controversy about him seems to be raging on Facebook with various members of the Neal Morse Band offering explanations and Mike offering an official apology.

First, I truly hope Mike is feeling better.

Second, I respect him immensely for playing despite being incredibly sick.

Third, his tweet yesterday came as he was INCREDIBLY SICK and trying his best to keep his composure.  I pray for that kind of grace when I’m feeling so nasty.  Looks like you did just fine to me, Mike.

I offer this post for no other reason than to say: Thank you, Mike.  Your dedication to your craft and your fans is a sign of immense integrity.  And, really, I hope you’re feeling better!

Tillison/Tangent News

Andy Tillison just posted this to Facebook, about 26 minutes ago.

The new album (Insidious Music).

The new album (Insideout Music).

A Bunch of info for a Saturday Evening……

1. – Pre-orders are now open from the Tangent Website on BOTH editions of “A Spark In The Aether” – the CD and the DOUBLE LP which has THREE and a HALF Sides!!!. For those of you across the Atlantic, the CD we sell is the European 6 panel Digipack version…. We are not selling either of these cheaply as we are no longer really wanting to be an online record store, we fully expect people to buy from cheaper sources unless they wish to have a signed copy through the post and pay a bit more to help the group function…. and buying these from us IS a major help. 

2. We will only be stocking 50 copies of the Vinyl Edition. We will number these 50 and I will sign and write a short personal greeting on them to everyone who buys one. Although the price is at a premium, this is because importing these very heavy double LPs, buying them from IO stock and reposting them abroad is a pretty costly affair. We made a LOSS on COMM vinyl editions and we don’t wish to repeat that exercise! So the Fifty are for sale, right now and when they have gone, they will have gone. Other suppliers will of course be selling these at a better price without signatures, messages etc…

3. I am happy to announce that an official promotional Video filmed “on Tour” with The Tangent will be released by Insideout this coming Tuesday. We’ll link to it from this page of course. The video is for the title track of the album and is – just good vibes man!

4. I’m going to be presenting a monthly radio show on Cliff’s Progzilla radio station, the first episode of “Dance On A Volcano” will be on SUNDAY March 22 – more details to follow. The show will (as it used to do when I presented it on Radio Caroline in the late 90s) feature prog old, new, obscure, forgotten and dishonoured, also Jazz Fusion, Jazz Rock, Zeuhl and Canterbury a-plenty. The show will not be a long advert for any bands I might be in!

5. OK. I’ll ring Jonas about doing some gigs….

Hand. Cannot. Erase. Perfect.

Ok, I was a bit hasty a few weeks ago in an initial review of the new Steven Wilson album.  My actual, physical, honest-to-goodness copy of the CD arrived yesterday.  And, what a thing of excellence it is.  With apologies to Brian Watson, I must gush a bit.  The “flow” is especially strong.  Listening to the album is akin to watching the intricate and unpredictable patterns in nature–perhaps the cracks that develop on a frozen body of water.  There is a hidden symmetry in its revelations.  Indeed, this album shows a real maturity, a sort of combining of the best of the first and second solo albums.  And, as always, Wilson is an audiophilic genius.  This I’ve never questioned, and his talent manifests itself galore on this album.  Ok, enough gushing.  If you’ve not bought this album yet, do so!  It’s probably even worth paying the $3.99 for expedited delivery.


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