Music Morsels

May 2007

by Mark Waterbury

Starcastle - Song of Times
ProgRock Records - PRR380

Of course one wonders what to expect when a band puts out their first album in nearly a quarter century. Seminal 70’s prog rockers Starcastle make no apologies about keeping their sound from that era intact, eschewing any modern influences. No apologies are needed. The music is quite simply brilliant and stunning, with new vocalist Al Lewis filling Terry Lutrell’s shoes nicely with the same Jon Anderson inspired airy croon. The band’s songwriting shines incredibly bright, the musicianship is no less than phenomenal, and the stand out tracks include - well, the whole album. “Song of Times” provides an excellent chance for a comeback, and also a fitting epitaph for the late Gary Strater, who literally finished his bass parts days before he passed away.


  Puppet Show

Puppet Show - The Tale of Woe
ProgRock Records - PRR 370

This band from the Silicon Valley of California has been around for over a decade and with “The Tale of Woe” prove that they deserve to be in the upper echelons of prog rock. Intricate songs often featuring time signature and key changes display the immense musical chops that all the players possess. The overall vibe is on the mellower shade of prog ala Kansas and Yes, but the intensity is still there in a more subtle fashion backed by the stellar songwriting. Add to this the thought-provoking lyrics and emotive vocals, and you have a recipe for music that can be savored from start to finish - like a fine wine with just the right kick.



Pownd - Circle of Power
Nightmare Records - NMR 282

It is good to know that some metal bands still pay attention to vocal harmony. Still, the vocals of Michael Duncan from Pownd soar powerfully, somewhere in a more melodic Rob Halford/Ozzy midground. The music is incendiary, with influences ranging from the Priest-esque “Still Bleed” to the Ministry fueled industrial edge of “Blind” and a more modern metal feel in “The Stand.” To sum it up this is blistering music that is well written and rates high on the musical integrity scale.



Suspyre - A Great Divide
Nightmare Records - NMR 292

Suspyre injects an indelible prog rock heart into the soul of this explosive metal beast. Don’t let the symphonic passages and acoustic guitar lead-ins fool you. There is a serious powerplant churning under the surface, always chomping at the bit to be unleashed. Triphammer rhythms and frenetic guitar work are balanced by harmonic vocals and lush keyboards. This is intelligent and intense metal without being too noisy or common, kissed with classical and jazz flourishes.


  The Fijis

The Fijis - Illusion

The first aspect of this CD that will surprise you is that all four band members are only fifteen. Surprising because the music has the feel of being created by more experienced musicians. There is quite a broad spectrum of influences felt; from Metallica and the Foo Fighters, to Blink 182 and even the blues edged classic rock feel in “Still Rainin.” Perhaps the most intriguing factor is the stellar songwriting, heralding a possible bright future for these kids once they flesh their own signature sound out a bit more.


  Swift Ships

Swift Ships - Rebel Renaissance
New Boy Records

If Tom Waits had gone punk, it may have sounded something like this creation from Virginian’s Scott Loving and Ben Shanaberger. Moody, throaty vocals with lyrics that are often darkly humorous are highlighted by edgy, growling guitar riffs and driving rhythms. Some tunes have a slightly alt country twang, while others throb like they came out of Minneapolis in the mid 80’s. Fresh, inventive, and entertaining music.



Conveniens - self titled
Convenience Records

Avoiding the usual modern slant of electronica that tends more towards noise, Chicago’s duo of John Maz and Sterling Smith stick more to their roots with wonderful results. You can tell these guys listened to Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, and maybe even ELP while growing up, and the way they fuel their music with these influences actually makes it unique. Adding to this their musical talents and a subtle respect of melody and song structuring makes you think retro may be the future in electronica if these two keep it up.


  Walt Ribeiro

Walt Ribeiro - I.I

Not too many people have a true grasp on doing original classical music today, It always seems to stray towards new age or something else. Walt Ribeiro has that grasp. Producing, composing and orchestrating the entire album, the music is reminiscent of Mozart, Chopin, Liszt and others, while having a certain background feeling that tells you it was created in modern times. Extremely talented and versatile, this Jersey native is one of the most adept classical music purists around, sure to satisfy even the most stringent fans of the old masters.


  Scott Allen Project

Scott Allen Project - What Lies Beyond Words

Sacramento based instrumental guitarist Scott Allen creates blistering magic, weaving virtuoso stylings ala Satch with a flat out rock shredder soul that is uniquely Scott’s. Take a listen to the smoldering “The Cool Breeze” and you get a dose of both flavors within the same song. The bluesy “We Watched the Sunrise” and latin tinged “Under The Mexican Mood” flaunt other sides, but mostly this guy is a hard rocker capable of blowing the roof off. Production and engineering by Tesla’s Frank Hannon adds further depth to the sound.


  Bossa Nova Beatniks

Bossa Nova Beatniks - End Civil Twilight

This foursome born in Greenwich Village cooks up a spicy stew of styles ranging from jazz, island and beach, to rock, jam and R&B. The binder that holds the flavor together is the wonderful vocal croon of chief songwriter Tom Gould, whose voice is in an ear opening midground between Roy Orbison’s airy timbre and Sting’s inflections. The jam crowd will probably really dig this because the songs have this happy-go-lucky jam session vibe to them. This is fleshed out by tight musicianship - with an especially talented percussionist, and interesting lyrics.


Adam Rich
Division of Serge Entertainment Group