Reviews roundup ~ Laura Meade ~ Chris St. John ~ Black Banjo ~ Mike Tiano
The Most Dangerous Woman In America
I rather enjoyed the debut album from Izz vocalist Laura Meade. “Remedium” that was. And it was an enjoyably eclectic set from Ms Meade who normally plys her trade in out and out prog.
This follow up also isn’t out and out prog although it’s more prog than her solo debut. It’s still enjoyable mind and it’s a concept album (huzzah!) about those “whose stories remain untold, whose lives have been neutralised by those with unchecked power”. It’s just as well I was told that as I’d never have worked it out for myself. Seriously. All the songs have been co-written with her Izz bandmate John Golgano and those other Izzers Brian Coralian and Tom Galgano also provide instrumental support.
As well as the obvious prog there are some extremely melodic moments as well as (more surprisingly) almost eighties electro-pop. All of which works really well together. Those latter mentioned electro moments are best displayed on ‘Leaving’ and ‘Burned At The Stake’ and they’re actually highlights on an accomplished release.
If you have arrived here looking for a dose of Izz like prog then you’ll warm most to the lengthy title track which manages to cover an awful lot of ground in its eight minutes. It’s beautifully recorded, sounds fabulous and comes heartily recommended.
CHRIS ST. JOHN
Here come the judge! He was, you know. But over his years as a lawyer and a judge he’s been quietly writing songs. Mainly about a horse.
Actually, I’m kidding, they’re not all about a horse. Although ‘I Need A Horse’ is about a horse.
It’s mainly fairly gentle country with a few diversions into seventies soft rock. But he’s good at what he does and if you disagree then I’m sure he’s an expert at litigation. The songs cover a lot of ground with songs of birth, death, depression, addiction. And horses. The music itself rarely gets out of a canter so you’re really listening to the words which narrate a fine set of stories. Vocally, he’s got a warm and inviting voice. He’s not got a great range but, fortunately, he seems very well aware of it and doesn’t try to do anything daft.
It’s interesting listening to songs that have formed over a thirty year period as it actually makes this as much an autobiography as a record. There are probably three songs too many on this fifteen track release but if you are partial to seventies singer songwriters with access to a steel guitar then you’ll find this a good way to spend an afternoon. Favourites of mine? Well that would be ‘I Called You Rose’ and ‘Never Forget The Day/Walk Through The Forest’, the latter of which I found intensely bittersweet. A good one.
Out Of The Skies
Italian blues meets southern rock, eh? Go on. Impress me.
And they did because this is rilly, rilly good. It’s their debut album although I think it’s safe to say that the various band members are “experienced”.
Apparently, the name of the band is inspired by Rhiannon Giddens (ex Carolina Chocolate Drops), as a tribute to the blues and Afroamerican culture’s roots.
Oddly enough, this record sounded really familiar but it took me a few spins before I realised that Alex Alessandrini (lead vocals./guitar) was that Alessandro Alessandrini. You know. The one from the Experienced Zydeco Riders aka E.Z.Riders who’ve been reviewed on this here site a couple of times over the years. Which explains why Black Banjo sounded recognisable.
This time around he’s gathered some similarly seasoned musicians around him with Francesco Caporaletti (bass) and Archelao Macrillo’ (drums) along with keyboard player Massimo Saccutelli for this debut. And it’s very enjoyable blues rock. A couple of the tracks have guest musicians helping out including Nathaniel Peterson (Savoy Brown, Hubert Sumlin, Eric Clapton), and saxophonist “Blue Lou” Marini, from the original Blues Brothers band.
The music is really good but if I stretch my memory back in time I’m sure I said that Alex Alessandrini was a much better guitarist than he was a singer and the years that have passed haven’t changed my mind. But when the band locks in and hits a groove, especially when the keys are up front and centre, then songs like the title track, ‘If It Wasn’t For The Music’ and ‘Youth of the Nation’ are well worth the price of admission.
Dedicated Yes fans will know who Mike Tiano is because he created their official web site YesWorld, and for well over a decade was their web site manager. We won’t mention the years he spent at Microsoft.
And now he’s released an album of, wit for it, progressive rock! Yes, really. He’s written all the songs and it won’t be a tremendous surprise to learn that his music leans towards seventies symphonic prog. What might surprise is it’s actually rather good. So it may be a vanity project but it’s a good vanity project.
He’s not the worlds greatest singer but he can mainly carry a tune and his guitar playing is really excellent. That said, I wonder how much better this would have been with a good vocalist. There are also, literally, hunnerds of additional musicians who’ve been brought in to flesh out the material but I would imagine that prog fans will be most interested in the cameos from Yes member Billy Sherwood, Randy George (Neal Morse Band) and David Sancious (everybody).
Mr Tiano also produced the album apart from ‘Dance of the Little Guys’, a delightful instrumental produced by the aforementioned Randy George and album highlight ‘Different Drummer’ which Billy Sherwood was responsible for. The latter is far and away the best of the songs here with only ‘Automaton’ coming close to matching it in composition and musicianship. A labour of love for Mr Tiano, an enjoyable prog diversion for the rest of us.
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