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Brand X

Live at the Roxy LA

Review by Gary Hill

This is a newly reissued live album from Brand X. It should be pointed out that the sound quality is pretty good, but not great by modern standards. The performances, on the other hand, are pretty awesome. They really run the gamut from the fusion type stuff normally associated with Brand X to things that feel similar to Phil Collins' other band, Genesis. There are even songs here with vocals. However you slice it, this is well worth having.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disco Suicide into Algon

This comes in gradually with atmospheric tones and a persistent drum beat guiding it early. It’s after the three minute mark before it powers up substantially. It gets into some serious rocking sounds as it continues. By around the five minute mark it’s drop back towards atmosphere. Then piano takes command of the piece creating some delicate and intricate melodies. It powers back up from there into some seriously energetic and rocking fusion sounds. The guitar really creates some awesome lines of melody over the top. Then they drop it back again, but not as far this time. The cut continues evolving work out to some seriously furious progressive rock after a time. It rises and falls in terms of intensity and volume, and seems to wander between the more jazzy and more rocking side of fusion. It’s definitely one heck of a ride. It ends with some talk to the crowd.

Dance of the Illegal Aliens
A cool jazz groove opens this as the group work forward from there. I really love some of the bass driven sections of this, but the whole thing is awesome. It’s got less pure prog, perhaps, focusing more on the fusion side of the equation. Still, there are some prog moments. Like after the section end around the three minute mark. When they power out from there it resembles Frank Zappa for a moment or two, and then fires out into more definite rock territory. A burst of Zappa-like sound drops us down to a mellower, piano based jam that has both the prog and fusion sounds in place. It continues to shift and change, moving more towards a somewhat mellower fusion motif for a while. The energy rises up without bringing it really into the hard rocking territory. The piano gets more opportunity to show off in this section. That said, the guitar works well here, too. It does eventually build up to more rocking sounds, though. That guitar drives it when it does. Then it explodes into some freeform fusion for a short burst. It drops way back down from there. The piano comes up creating the melody. Then they fire back out into a rocking fusion jam. Some scorching hot guitar soloing emerges further down this musical road. It even gets almost metal later. That section eventually takes it to the close.
Don't Make Waves

This song is different for the Brand X catalog as it has vocals. It definitely lands in healthy progressive rock territory. In some ways comparisons to Genesis wouldn’t be out of the question. Of course, Collins’ vocals beg that reference, but it’s more than just that. Some of the music feels similar. It’s definitely not fusion. In fact, I don’t really make out a lot of fusion at all here. It’s just a good rock tune that alternates between mellower and more rocking sounds. Some parts of this even remind me a bit of Rush.

Malaga Vergen

They waste no time here as a frantic bit of fusion starts it. Then it drops way down as Percy Jones bass creates some cool melody sections. That instrument holds it in a solo until after the one minute mark when the whole group power out into some serious fusion. It works forward in a somewhat straight line for the first six minutes or so. That said, there are shifts and changes and different instruments lead the way at different points. Then it drops way down for a mellower motif in which the musical explorations continue, just at a more sedate level. At times this section makes me think of some of the mellower side of Pat Metheny’s musical catalog. After continuing in this more sedate way, it works out to a fast paced jazz jam around the eleven minute mark.

...And So To F...
A cool fusion jam opens this and then it drops back to a keyboard heavy section. As it builds out from there, comparison to the proggier side of mid-period Genesis are valid. The guitar weaving melody lines over the top brings it more into fusion territory. As it launches into a rock groove (with some vocals) this definitely makes me think of Genesis. The guitar soloing during this section is more rock and roll than either the fusion or Genesis comparisons convey. It drops way down after that solo. Then they fire back up into hard rock with a return of those vocals. This really is quite a good combination of that Genesis type sound with more straightforward rock and some fusion. After they leave the stage the crowd creates lots of noise to encourage their return.
Nuclear Burn

The encore starts with introductions of the band members. Then a burst of sound is heard and they take it out from there into some classy fusion. This is quite a cool ride. At times it leans toward mellower sides. At times it rocks out in screaming passion. Each member of the group gets a chance to shine here with little mini-solos built into the beast. I particularly like the funky jam around the eight minute mark. The piece continues to evolve but remains fusion throughout. It’s a great way to rap things up.

 
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