Album Review: Circuline – Counterpoint

Circuline

photo by Rob Shannon of http://fotopic.com/; photo courtesy of Circuline

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Circuline: Counterpoint (Inner Nova Music)

Circuline is a NYC-based progressive rock band that blends theatrical vocals with a very vivid and cinematic fusion-esque approach. The personnel includes keyboardist Andrew Colyer, drummer/keyboardist Darin Brannon, lead vocalist Natalie Brown, lead vocalist/guitarist William “Billy” Spillane, bassist Paul Ranieri, and guitarist Beledo. What’s nice is that they augment the ten tracks here with a series of special guest guitarists from some of the finest progressive sources on the planet. And, to the band’s credit, those guest artists add something extra and unique to each track.

Circuline - Counterpoint

image courtesy of Circuline

“New Day” opens the disc, with a sound collage of musical snippets and taped speaking voices. Atop that is a cacophony of multi-layered guitars courtesy of Beledo and Randy McStine of the band Lo-Fi Resistance.

Guest guitarist Doug Ott, of the band Enchant, and Fright Pig’s Alek Darson trade off solos and ornamental riffs on the personally reflective track “Who I Am.” This cut kind of sets the pace for the inventive and eclectic pace of this disc.

Circuline

photo by Rob Shannon of http://fotopic.com/; photo courtesy of Circuline

“Hollow” is a standout track that not only features great vocal harmonies from Brown and company but puts a spotlight on Colyer’s Keith Jarrett-like melodic fluidity. The lyrics are quite insightful, as well, and could be applied to what’s going on in society at the moment: “Rest your head… no one said it would be easy to change the ways of the land… casting your lines from sinking sand. I don’t want to follow you. I don’t want your hollow view.”

Circuline

photo by Rob Shannon of http://fotopic.com/; photo courtesy of Circuline

“Stay (Peter Frankenstan)” is another highlight that features guest guitarist Stanley Whitaker of Oblivion Sun and Happy the Man fame. This track has a very Pat Metheny/Jeff Beck kind of quality to it atop jungle-induced rhythms. In it, the futility and fragility of life is discussed, with dynamic vocals from Brown that reach the stratospheric range.

Just like the movie, their song “Inception” is abstract in content and execution, with crazy drums and a trance-like mid-tempo feel. Glass Hammer’s guitarist Alan Shikoh adds tasteful depth to Beledo’s lead guitar riffs.

Circuline

photo by Rob Shannon of http://fotopic.com/; photo courtesy of Circuline

“Summit” closes the disc with a smooth, mid-tempo, swinging groove. Colyer’s creative comping behind Sound of Contact guest guitarist Matt Dorsey is textbook in how it’s done.

Counterpoint is an album that works well on a number of fronts: as a collection of individual songs, as a compendium of some of the best and brightest in progressive music today, and as a soundtrack to your adventurous musical and spiritual soul.

Album Review: Richard Palmer-James – Takeaway

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Richard Palmer-James: Takeaway (Primary Purpose Records)

Musician Richard Palmer-James may not be that proverbial “household name” one thinks of in recording artist circles, but he has quite a colorful pedigree. He was a founding member of Supertramp and probably had some of his greatest international success as a lyricist working with British band King Crimson on three of their key albums. The singer-songwriter collaborated with long-time associate bassist John Wetton on the King Crimson releases Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red.

Richard Palmer-James: Takeaway

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

According to Palmer-James himself, “ Having spent the last few decades writing words for other people to sing, and thus being obliged to comply with the ambitions and sensibilities of others, I wanted to present a collection of songs that are uncompromisingly my own.” And on his latest solo effort Takeaway, that’s exactly what he’s done. Armed with his trusty arsenal of guitars, mandolin, and words, Palmer-James gets back to his roots. Vivid storytelling draped in flourishes of blues and folk-oriented rock is the order of the day. This is music for grown-ups; sophisticated, yet never snobby or pretentious.

Takeaway is a collection of songs that seem very cinematic and stand alone as little “movies” in and of themselves. The lead track “Aerodrome” depicts a dichotomy of past wartime versus modern time where an aircraft hangar, which once housed fighter planes, now serves as a venue for trance or rave parties. In it Palmer-James sings, “Sad to say the world we knew went down in flames… you’ll understand it’s hard to understand your fun and games.” In two lines he summarizes a generational divide to a T. The next tune, “A Very Bad Girl,” is a rousing blues-tinged rocker with a wry and clever lyrical twist. Here he takes the position of initially criticizing this “bad” girl’s behavior but actually has more in common with her than first realized. There are also songs like “Dance for Me” which, on the surface, seems like an innocuous folk song about cutting loose but appears to have a deeper side that deals with persevering in the face of adversity.

Palmer-James is joined on this album by a crack unit of, primarily, German musicians from Munich, where the British singer-songwriter has resided for many years. Co-producer Evert van der Wal does a great job of capturing his mellow honey-dripped tenor voice to perfection. As a result, his vocals add a tinge of vulnerability and world-weariness to many of the subjects in his songs. It’s a performance style he’s obviously crafted after years of singing in pubs, taverns, and intimate spaces. And, perhaps, that is exactly Richard Palmer-James’ appeal, that you will listen to his words and delivery and feel like you’re connecting and sharing a drink with a very dear friend.