Progarchy Interviews Casey McPherson @alpharev

Alpha Rev, Case.e Sessions Volume 1, 2019.

Tracks: Changeling (6:35), My Evolution (6:47), I’m A Refugee (4:02), White Matter Recess (4:24), Everyone’s Charade (5:19). You are the Peacemakers (4:33), Song of Aleppo (10:08), Silence (4:58), Write Your Name (4:22), Help Me (4:21), Silence For Humans (14:26)

Casey McPherson’s latest Alpha Rev album, Cas.e Sessions Volume 1, sees the extremely talented singer and multi-instrumentalist tackling music-making in a unique way. Modeled loosely off Neal Morse’s groundbreaking Inner Circle concept, the Cas.e Sessions membership program finds Casey making one song per month, creating a mini documentary about its creation, and presenting it to the members. After receiving positive feedback and seeing that the songs meshed together fairly well, he decided to release season 1 (2016) of the Cas.e Sessions music as a new Alpha Rev album.

Some might call this album pop, but I see it as prog in the vein of a band like Muse. There are a lot of similarities between this and Muse, such as the melodies and vocal lines, but this is a unique album that clearly comes from the heart. One might call this group of songs eclectic, but they work really well together, even though they were all written separately as a single project per month.

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In Concert: Progtoberfest 4, Part 1

Due to the delights and demands of daily life, my second annual visit to Chicago’s Progtoberfest couldn’t be as extensive as last year’s three day blowout. Originally, I was only going to take in Sunday, in order to experience Soft Machine’s 50th anniversary tour of the USA. But an unexpected schedule opening let me check out the Saturday night action at Reggie’s Rock Club on the Windy (and Sleety) City’s south side.

One of the reasons I added Saturday night to my itinerary was the return of North Carolina’s ABACAB – The Music of Genesis. This ambitious tribute band charmed Progtoberfest 3 with a complete run-through of 1977’s live Genesis album, Seconds Out. This year, the brief was even more demanding: celebrating Genesis’ 50th anniversary by counting back down the years a la Rush’s R40 tour.

IMG_5793Given their time constraints, ABACAB opted to start with the 1981 Genesis track that gave them their name, then go back, back, back … Jaws dropped throughout the audience as they scaled the challenging heights of And Then There Were Three’s “Burning Rope,” Wind and Wuthering’s “Eleventh Earl of Mar” and the title track from A Trick of the Tail, never originally performed onstage. These choices all had special meanings for me: not only did I play “ABACAB” with my Alma College band The Run-Outs (shout out to Gadz, Jenny, Beef and the late great Joel Kimball), but “Burning Rope” and “Earl of Mar” were highlights of Genesis’ set when I saw them in 1978 at my first rock concert (also my first date)!

And the upward climb continued — Nick D’Virgilio (among his numerous credits, drummer on the final Genesis album Calling All Stations) hopped onstage, taking command to sing “In the Cage” from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway with flair and power:

IMG_5804From that point on, ABACAB had the audience completely in their grasp, cruising through highlights of the Peter Gabriel years in high style, then finishing with “In the Beginning” from the 1968 schoolboy album From Genesis to Revelation. Singer Pete Lents, bassist/guitarist Cliff Stankiewicz, new guitarist James Nelson, keys man Patrick Raymaker and drummer Matthew Hedrick played with brio and precision throughout, and got an enthusiastic standing ovation for their sterling effort.

Another cool thing about Progtoberfest: how organizer Kevin Pollack draws on the incredibly talented musicians based in Chicago, including many who’ve played crucial roles in the development of jazz, rock and prog. Dinosaur Exhibit was a shining example of that talent on display — a seasoned “where are they now” octet featuring members of area bands The Flock, Aura and The Mauds; the prime draw was violinist Jerry Goodman, best known for his founding stint with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra.

IMG_5830Given Goodman’s pedigree and track record, I’m not sure the Rock Club crowd (including members of Soft Machine leaning back against the soundboard) were ready for the horn-powered blue-eyed soul that kicked off Dinosaur Exhibit’s set. It was driving, vivid stuff , as vocalist Ben Cothran testified with the best and Goodman fiddled up a storm — but you could almost see the “is this really prog?” thought balloons forming over the audience’s heads. The rest of the set (pioneering Goodman fusion originals like “Brick Chicken”, an admirably psychedelic take on “I Am the Walrus” and a viciously swinging “Theme from ‘Perry Mason'” finale) were more in that expected wheelhouse, though, and DE ultimately got the extended applause they deserved.

Which left Neal Morse as the evening’s closer, climbing onstage for a solo set on vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboard, percussion and looping software. As always, Morse was engaging and impressive, using his sonic arsenal to present songs from his new Life and Times, along with impressive takes on solo material (the multi-layered overture/finale sequence from ?), tunes by Transatlantic (“Stranger in Your Soul,” an impromptu “We All Need Some Light”) and Spock’s Beard (“Thoughts Pt. I & II,” done entirely with vocal loops).

Morse’s improvisatory opener “Songs of Freedom,” incorporating riffs from both Black Sabbath and Yes, established a loose, fun tone for the set — best encapsulated when he brought “Selfie in the Square” to a shuddering halt, then spent 10 minutes pulling tunes by Coldplay, Donovan and The Beatles out of his head, all because he couldn’t help singing the word “yellow” with an British accent! This wasn’t the high-energy, goal-directed path of concept albums like Testimony and The Similitude of a Dream; it was a relaxed, meandering vibe, in keeping with the smaller crowd, the quieter sound palette and the lateness of the hour. It was delightful to catch Morse off his guard and having more sheer fun than usual, with every bit of his heartfelt lyricism and musical brilliance still there for us to enjoy. (After I left to catch the train, Nick D’Virgilio hopped back onstage to harmonize with Neal on Spock’s Beard standards “The Doorway” and “Wind at My Back.”)

The other great part of my Progtoberfest sojourn was catching up with fellow fans I connected with last year from West Michigan, Kentucky, St. Louis, Wisconsin and beyond.  More about that next time, as well as covering the lineup for Day 3 — sixteen bands on two stages in twelve hours.  Stay tuned …

— Rick Krueger

Prog More, Spend Less: Radiant Records 3-Day Sale

radiant recordsRadiant Records–the company founded and owned by Neal Morse–is having a three-day sale, with the wonderful tagline, “Prog more, spend less.”

The sales are on cds/DVDs/ and/or blu-rays of MORSEFEST2015, SNOW LIVE, SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM, ALIVE AGAIN, KaLIVEoscope, TESTIMONY 2, MOMENTUM, GOD WON’T GIVE UP, and SO MANY ROADS.

Frankly, all specular releases.

To go to the sale (which ends this Friday), go here: http://www.radiantrecords.com/category/191735-bargain-bin.aspx

Streaming Music (Editorial)

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Prog art at its finest–Jim Trainer’s Winchester Diver for Big Big Train.

A great DJ is just a step below a great producer and sound engineer.

From time to time, I’ve considered joining a streaming service permanently.  I’ve toyed around with Spotify, Pandora, and iTUNES.

I just can’t understand the attraction.

There was a time in my life, I really loved radio.  From the years between late grade school and the end of high school (class of 1986), I listened faithfully to Wichita’s KICT-95.  The station introduced me–rather gloriously–to album rock radio, back when radio actually played entire sides of albums.  I got to know the DJs, the music, and their various programs.  I knew when to expect a full album side, and when to expect the latest news in the rock world.  I knew when T-95 broadcast concerts, and I knew when the radio station sponsored bands to play live in Wichita.  It was a golden age of rock.  I was always far more taken with prog than I was with acid or hard rock, but T-95 presented all as a rather cohesive whole, thanks to the quality of the DJs.

But, streaming?  I just don’t get it.  It’s bland.  It’s tapioca.  There’s no personality, no matter how great the music is.

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Neal Morse Considers Streaming Service

radiant records

Now, first of all, I’m not against streaming. I think it’s wonderful! I love to sit in my recliner and choose whatever songs or whatever albums I want to listen to from my chair and be able to adjust the volume without having to get up. I’ve recently gotten into vinyl again, but, man, every 20 minutes you have to actually get up and WALK ACROSS THE ROOM to change the record! Unthinkable! This is much too difficult. So, I love streaming as well as anyone. It’s tremendously convenient and sounds good as well.
   Of course, streaming is great for the listener but doesn’t compensate the artists much, if at all.
   Just for an example, here’s a screen shot of a recent royalty statement I received.
Notice the $0.0004. I can’t even figure out how to SAY how small of an amount that is. Is that one fourth of one thousandth of a penny? Who decides these things? Crazy. Anyway…As an artist who is not Metallica or Taylor Swift this doesn’t really make any sense…or to quote a song, it makes…”zero sense”. Or “zero cents,” haha.
   So, like everyone in the entertainment business, I have been wondering, what do we do now? How do we survive? How can we pay the tremendous costs of making quality albums and live? Mega-skilled artists such as Steve Hackett and Rich Mouser don’t come cheap. And they shouldn’t.
  Answer: create my own streaming service. My objective is simple: to provide a great streaming experience that is complete, super high quality and easy to use on multiple formats. Not to compete with the big streaming services, but to give fans of my music a similar experience, anywhere in the world.
My current plan is to build my own thing, then use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon etc. as a kind of advertising tool and put a smattering of material there so people can become aware and hopefully sign up for the streaming service. Or get the actual albums. Whatever they prefer.
    What we want to give people is the supreme experience of being able to listen to any of the music from my catalog, including classic Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and the Neal Morse Band, anytime from anywhere and not have to get out of their recliner. This is the great goal of modern life!
I NEED YOUR HELP:
I’m taking a poll! Please let me know if you would be interested in subscribing to the proposed music app at a cost of, let’s say, $5.99 a month. (Of course, there will be a special discount for Inner Circle members. No obligation of course!)

SNOW by Spock’s Beard: Two Stories

Snow LIVE
From Radiant Records.

As I am sure is true for all of us, albums I love and cherish and listen to, repeatedly, carry with them fond personal memories.  For better or worse, almost every single Neal Morse album and Spock’s Beard album comes with a story, and usually more than one.  As I’ve mentioned on progarchy before, I’ll never forget the release of the first Spock’s Beard album, THE LIGHT.  Being a prog fan since as far back as I can remember, I had no idea about the arrival of neo-Prog in England, and I had to content myself in the early 1990s with jam bands such as Phish and jam pop bands such as the Dave Matthews Band to satisfy my not so easily satisfied prog desires.  I had purchased so many CDs and had had so many discussions with the manager of Tracks in Bloomington, Indiana, that she remained on the lookout for me.  Anything that even remotely smacked of prog, she let me know.  She rather gleefully handed me a copy of THE LIGHT when it first came out.  To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.  I was just plain elated, inserting that cd in the tray, putting on my Sennheizers, and falling into prog bliss, attempting to follow all the nuances of the album and to figure out all of the lyrics.  I mean really, who is the catfish man?

And, why did this guy with such a great voice have to cuss so much?

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