Archive for August, 2011

Ahvak – same

August 22, 2011


Left to Right – Dave Kerman (long hair, drums, percussion), Roy Yarkoni (tall guy, keyboards), Yehuda Kotton (beard, guitars), Ishay Sommer (very long hair, bass), Udi Koomran (black short hair, sound/computer), Udi Susser (French beard, horns, keyboards)

I can’t believe it’s taken *cough* seven years to get around to reviewing this awesome album. I’ve had it since its release, and I’ve listened to it a few times over those years. But though it was obviously a technically brilliant album, it just never spoke to me. It seemed like too much chaos and no structure. It didn’t sink in. But this past week, with my life in utter chaos … my daughter going into labor, taking my precocious (read: hyperactive) three-year-old grandson off her hands so she could concentrate on that, an angry customer screaming at me at my job, and finally my refrigerator conking out … I chanced to put Ahvak on again. Guess what? It’s not chaotic at all! It’s carefully and precisely structured, with every note and percussion hit fulfilling its necessary role, and every noise, sound treatment and special effect meticulously placed for maximum effect. If I ever needed a lesson about how, in music, context is everything, this would be it. I actually found Ahvak to be calming.

Ahvak, I’m told, means “Dust” in Hebrew. Pertinent, since most of these band members are Israeli with the exception of Dave Kerman, who I believe was visiting Israel during this time. Fortunately for all of them, they teamed up with Israeli sound/production icon Udi Koomran (who, you’ll notice, is granted full “band member” status on this album for his contributions) to create what will surely be recognized by those who decide such things as one of the all-time masterworks of the RIO/Avant-Garde genre of prog. If I’ve never before quipped in the GEPR that RIO is simply Avant-Garde with drums, then I’ll do so here. It would be hard to argue that this is really modern classical music played on rock instrumentation, and of course with drums. It has a lot in common with bands like Thinking Plague, Yugen or 5UU’s (and I don’t just mean Dave Kerman), but without vocals. That just makes it even more difficult to carry off without the human element of voices.

Ahvak‘s sole release is an absolute masterpiece, and if you’re a fan of RIO at all, it’s a must-have in your collection. If you’re like me, it may take a few listens before it registers with you, but if you have the right ear for this style, it’s a thrill ride. Superb. — Fred Trafton



Click here for an excellent fan web site review
Click here to order Ahvak from Cuneiform Records

Rolling Stone Reader’s Poll – Top 10 Best Prog Rock Bands

August 11, 2011

Top 10 All Time Prog Bands

Rolling Stone Magazine did a reader’s poll to find out who they thought the top 10 prog bands of all time are. Some of the results may surprise you … but remember, this is a poll of “regular” people, not prog-heads. Still, they’re all solid choices. Just probably not the choices I would have made. At least not all of them. Before clicking the link, make your prediction for who won the #1 slot, remembering the magazine who sponsored it. I guessed right! It is pretty obvious.

Click here to go to the Rolling Stone poll site. — Fred Trafton


Derek Sherinian – Oceana

August 9, 2011

In the last release of the GEPR, I added an entry for Derek Sherinian with a bunch of blathering about his tenure with Dream Theater, etc. To this I should have added his credentials of playing with lots of famous rockers in a supporting role, including Billy Idol, Alice Cooper (Cooper dubbed him “The Caligula of the keyboards” whatever that’s supposed to mean), Kiss (backstage, black and white face paint and silver platform shoes were not required) and tech-metal icon Yngwie Malmsteen. In addition, he’s the keyman for “Classic Rock” super-group Black Country Communion. But I didn’t have much to say about his solo albums because I hadn’t actually heard any of them. Well, now that’s changed because I’ve now heard the soon-to-be-released (Sept. 5, 2011) new album Oceana. I have to say, I’m quite impressed, though not for the reasons I thought I would be.

I expected to hear keyboard work and soloing similar to what I heard from his (former?) band Planet X. This is very guitar-like in the way he bends pitches, trills and makes fast speed-metal-like arpeggios. There’s a little of this on Oceana, but overall I’d say it reminds me more of Chick Corea from the Return to Forever / Elektric Band days, or maybe even a bit of Eddie Jobson from the first UK album. In other words, fusion, not speed metal at all.

Well, OK, when guest guitarist Tony MacAlpine cranks up, it gets pretty speed metallish sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes the guitar work really reminds me of Allan Holdsworth, though I’m not sure if this is MacAlpine, one of Sherinian‘s other guests, or possibly even Sherinian himself playing in “guitar mode”. Whatever, Oceana is a collection of really good fusion pieces with influences from other musical genres also playing in “guest-starring” roles. Production, composition and technical execution are all second to none. It doesn’t get any better than this. Highly recommended!

One more thing – the album cover is great! Right-click the cover photo to open it up full-screen and check out the detail on the vintage keyboards at the bottom of the ocean. — Fred Trafton


“Watcher” by Yes w/ Peter Gabriel vocals?

August 4, 2011

So, the claim here is that Yes was warming up for a TV performance and Peter Gabriel walked by, so they just did their own impromptu version of “Watcher of the Skies” and let Gabriel sing it. There’s even bits and pieces of “Close to the Edge” in here. The guy who uploaded it even claims to be the DJ that can be heard talking in French before and after the clip.

The dates don’t seem like they line up right for this to be genuine. Also, as my buddy who sent this to me Ted Zeppelin pointed out, it’s hard to believe us prog-heads had never heard of such a performance before, even if the original recording had been lost. Ya know, I hardly care if it’s real. It’s unbelievably cool. I just wish the quality wasn’t so grungy (perhaps to disguise the fakery?) I’d love to hear someone do a cleaned-up version with some “Gabriel Clone” singer. Heck, this could end up being an epic cover song, like when Yes did their cover of “America”. I liked the Simon and Garfunkel version too, but Yes really made it their own. Nad Sylvan, are you listening? Maybe Karmakanic could do it just for fun?


ProgRock Records changes identity

August 2, 2011

The following is a press release from Shawn Gordon, proprietor of both the ProgRock Records label and the Mindawn download site:

“We’re transitioning ProgRock Records in to a genre at The Record Label. As part of the transition, we’ve added a lot of new features to make it easier to find material and listen to previews. If you go to http://www.therecordlabel.net you’ll see in the upper right a quick search and ability to switch between the various genres. The home page now features a particular artist and new releases instead of the latest news.

“The menu navigation on the upper left gives you the basics you’d expect, but if you click on Albums you can search, filter and sort on things like genre, artist, album and price. When sorting by price, during the sale in particular, you can quickly find material by the lowest price. Our sale has items all the way down to $1. The Albums list gives a short summary on the album and the ability to add to cart, or you can click on the album and read reviews, hear samples, etc.

“We take credit cards and paypal and you can choose from a list of shipping options. The sale will run for the first week of August 2011. Due to the volume of orders we typically get during a sale, please allow a few weeks for delivery. The sale is live right now, some items are limited, we’ll do our best to de-activate them as they run out”.

I wasn’t quite sure what this meant, so I asked Shawn for some clarification. Here’s what he told me:

“I launched TRL in 2005 but didn’t do much with it, then re-launched it about 15 months ago with signing Steve Morse to it. This is really a matter of just consolidating things on the corporate end. Mindawn will also get its own corp soon (they are all DBA’s under my software corp at the moment). The PRR site is 9 years old now, so it’s part of the whole upgrade and such. The transition is just putting everything in one place”.

There you have it. Click over to the new web site and check it out.