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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Duke

My Kung Fu Is Good

Review by Gary Hill

Rich Ward is The Duke. Ward is also better known for his work in metal bands Stuck Mojo and Fozzy. While this disc shows off some minor metal leanings, it is certainly not going to be confused with an album by either of those outfits. Well, what is the music like, then? This is probably some of the best modern alternative rock you will find. It has elements of nu-metal, fusion, rap metal and even a healthy dose of progressive rock. The result is a collection of songs that are easy to latch onto, but still manage to hold some of their secrets out for repeated listenings. For prog fans looking for something a bit easier to absorb, this might be a great choice. For fans of modern hard rock, this one is a definite winner. The disc features great songwriting and exceptional arrangements and performances. There is not a weak track on show here, and I can't argue with any of the song placement. While this one isn't my favorite genre, it is one that I'm sure will find it's way back to my CD player over the years.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Give It To You
This one comes in funky, then turns hard edged, still with that funky texture. The cut drops to the balladic main song structure, feeling like a cool modern pop rock cut. The hard-edged elements return for breaks at the end of the verses and as an extended segue into the somewhat proggy bridge. That bridge also includes some potent female backing vocals and a killer prog like guitar solo. It returns in a smoking instrumental break later that gives way to a jazzy piano based segment that has only those female R & B like vocals and serves as the outro - what a great opener!
Immune
The sparse arrangement that starts this feels like The Police. This mode carries it through the first verse in bouncy fashion. Then a different take on that arrangement makes up the second verse. They pull it through another Police-like section then a harder edged mode takes this one in a modern alternative rock vein. This is another catchy, yet substantial rocker. It shifts to a rap metal verse later. Then this drops back down for a short time before jumping back up to the hard-edged modern rock styling that led to it. A killer metallic jam takes it after that to serve as the closing segment to the piece.
Used to Be
An electronic sounding rhythmic pattern gives way to a piano based balladic style that serves as the backdrop for the opening evocative verse. They jump it up to more solid modern rocking textures for the chorus, then drop back to the verse section. The song alternates between these modes, but a more fully arranged short bridge takes it for a short time.
Summer
A backwards tracked ambient psychedelic texture serves as the intro here. The verse comes in as an evocative duet between male and female voice with piano as the backdrop. They pull in electronic keyboard based elements as they carry forward and eventually ramp it up to an expansive, slightly Beatlesesque fusion like rocking jam. The vocals start trading off lines rather than shadowing one another here. They move this back to where they came from. The expansive segment returns later. It drops to piano and female vocals after that to serve as the outro, just keys finally seeing it out.
Suicide Machine
Pretty piano starts this, then vocals join. This is a short intro, though; the group launching into something that feels like a cross between nu-metal, rap metal and Joe Satriani. This is a more straightforward and less diverse cut, but is still quite cool.
Running
This is another ballad based one, evocative and pretty, but not fluffy. A harder edged chorus continues the musical themes. This feels like a neo-prog anthemic ballad gone mainstream. The arrangement gets rather complicated at times.
Show You The Way
This has a meaty modern rock texture, not hard edged, but also not whimpy. This one is quite powerful. It turns into an expansive almost prog arrangement on the chorus. This is another winner and turns into an all out prog rock take on modern rock textures in the bridge/instrumental break.
Breathe
This is a pretty keyboard based ballad. It's appropriately a nice breather and is quite a pretty song.
Back To You
In a total turnaround, this rocks in hard, then shifts to a mellower verse segment. This is a modern pop rock stomper. It includes a cool keyboard dominated neo-prog like break.
At This Moment
This is another pretty ballad aft first. It moves into a fairly expansive rock jam for the choruses. This is an effective and strong ballad in its early incarnations. Its arrangement is quite complex and it includes some very powerful vocals. There is one short section where the "na na na…" backing vocals call to mind Journey a bit. The outro here with killer female R & B like vocals and smoking guitar soloing really elevates this one, and makes it into a great choice for closer.
 
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