Park Sipes – Rise Above
Album Review of Park Sipes: Rise Above
Park Sipes has appeared in a variety of recording projects, but Rise Above is his first solo, full-length release. And he has delivered a fun, well-constructed, catchy collection of progressive rock that combines his faith with his musicianship. Park is both a worship leader and a rocker.
Park has had brushes with the big names. He was one of the vocalists on Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s 2015 album. And his Rise Above album features some big names, with Joel Hoekstra (Whitesanke, Night Ranger) serving as lead guitarist on three tracks and Marty Paris (Paris Keeling) on another. Park also co-wrote “Life (Revisited)” with Marty Paris and Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge, MSG, King Kobra, Paris Keeling), though the rest of the album – and the songwriting is tightly-structured, well-considered, and impressive – is written solely by Sipes.
The album opens with “Anytime, Anyway (Rise Above),” an inspirational, energetic, hope-filled rocker that mixes soaring vocals with forceful and occasionally blistering Joel Hoekstra guitarwork. Compared to much of the somewhat progressive-influenced hard rock on the album, this track is relatively straight-ahead.
“This Love” is a particularly catchy number, as it utilizes Park’s high, powerful vocals across building verses and soaring choruses, with occasional soft stretches that serve to emphatically contrast to the rest of the song’s power.
You can hear Park’s classic rock tribute band days (with the band Sunset Strip) showing through on heartfelt ballad “Don’t Chase the Night Away,” which sports a serious FireHouse feel. Placed right after the soaring “This Love,” the song ordering is well-considered. Shall I rant about why it’s so much better to listen to a full album in the order it’s intended? I won’t, but this would provide me with a perfect opportunity if I was so inclined.
Instrumental “A New Horizon” holds my attention better than most instrumentals, featuring some scorching Marty Paris axework. It fits well within the disc musically; the continuity on Rise Above is exceptional, with each song varied but belonging to a cohesive family.
Somewhat-rocking slow- and mid-tempo power ballads (or part-ballads) are a strength of Park’s, and he showcases a few more of them on the album in “Midnight Ride,” “Breathe,” “Life (Revisited),” and “Burn Into the Night,” each with its own vocal and tempo change nuances, typically with an encouraging or inspirational message.
Worth noting are the two versions of “Caught in Your Storm.” The first rendition is song number two on the CD, and it is very crisp and clean, but album-ender “Caught in Your Storm (Original Version)” is much grittier. I rarely hear two versions of the same song on an album that feature such different approaches. I’m really glad they were included here; they almost single-handedly show Park’s versatility and range.
A mix of late ’80s-style melodic hard rock and classic progressive rock, Park Sipes’ Rise Above calls upon a variety of hard rock musical influences. The result is a rock album that’s emotional at times, pleasant to listen to throughout.