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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Lands End

Natural Selection

Review by G. W. Hill

 

 

Lands End is Mark Lavallee, Fred Hunter, Francesco Neto and Jeff McFarland. This album is a wonderful piece of music which deftly combines elements such as Pink Floyd, Marillion, Genesis and Yes and comes up with an original and very intriguing work. This album combines complex and well thought out arrangements, powerful lyrics, solid musicianship and strong vocals to create a piece of work which really gets to you. The drumming on this album calls to mind the dramatic percussion work of Phil Collins on the older Genesis albums.

 

 

If not available in your local Tower Records,all Lands End albums are available in the US from Lands End, 5532 W. 119th Place, Inglewood, CA., USA 90304 for $12.00 each, including shipping.  

 

 

The comments in dark yellow after each track are comments from Lands End drummer Mark Lavallee

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

Track by Track Review
Strictly Speaking in Geographical Terms
This piece is an extremely brief (just over a minute in length) textural intro to the album, which serves very nicely to make the dramatic intro to From the Ruins of a Fallen Empire seem that much more dramatic in contrast.  

Mark Lavallee:This title came about when I was discussing cover ideas with Fred, I blurted this out, then wrote it down cause it sounded so "grand" LOL, the piece was originally about 6 minutes longer, we had to chop it down to make the CD under 74 minutes.

From the Ruins of a Fallen Empire
Jumping right in, this track takes on influences of Genesis and Marillion, while introducing unique progressive rock elements at the same time. Lyrically, this is a strong commentary about the inherent cruelties in the American economic and political system. "We will make a system where, the strongest shall survive, and on the backs of weak ones, the powerful shall ride, I am here to tell you that, something's gone awry, the machine is so insatiable, it eats us up alive". This song is poignant, pretty and incredibly well conceived and performed. Weighing in at 14 minutes plus of progressive rock brilliance, this piece is wonderful.

Mark Lavallee:This piece came about roughly the same time the bulk of the album Terra Serranum did, which is why it has a different feel to the rest of the album, we just couldn't get it together for the album Terra Serranum, so we finally finished it and used it on NS. Came from Fred and I jamming, most of this came to us before we finished recording Pacific Coast Highway.

Love Through the Winter and Blood in the Spring
Beginning in a mode which seems to blend Pink Floyd and Genesis, the number eventually moves into the central structure of the song, which is a strong and quite catchy sort of progressive rock treatment, perhaps still a bit Genesisesque, but actually quite unique. I defy you to listen to this one a few times and not find yourself singing along to the chorus. This track contains an instrumental break which is based on keyboard drone, percussive wanderings, and effects guitar mayhem. A seamless segue links this track into the next one.  

Mark Lavallee: Most of this is jammed, at least what I do, it's my favorite piece to play live, it goes all out there, and sometimes never comes back, goes all over the place, the version coming up on the live album I think is a million times better (and I love this one) this came about from us trying to design something that could be easily jammed on, and have a more "modern" feel.

An Emptiness That's Never Filled
Based on a picked acoustic guitar line, this song is very pretty and also quite melancholy in mood. Once the other instruments begin to join in, the effect is extremely dramatic and emotional. The conclusion of the song takes us back to a section quite similar to the opening strains.  

Mark Lavallee: This one Jeff brought in, and we added to it, I tried to make the drums a lil more interesting (all the toms over the vocals and things) oddly enough when we first played this live we were doing some acoustic coffee house shows, and everyone was sick, so we did the show as a duo, me and Jeff, I brought 3 drums and we improvised new arrangements of the songs, was very strange, but real fun...

My Home
This piece starts off feeling almost like an extension of the mood of the previous track, but soon in, the mood and tempo of the song changes dramatically. Powerful and energetic progressive rock structures emerge from the laid back emotion of the intro and serve to bring us into the central themes of the song, which is essentially a solid rock ballad with definite progressive rock and even `70`s funk leanings. This one contains some wonderful guitar work. Eventually, the piece begins a major building, the tempo and intensity climbing ever higher in a wondrous ascension, before dropping back down into a moody sort of progressive rock format. This moody section gives way to the returning central theme of the song. The conclusion of the composition brings on a section which feels incredibly triumphant and powerful.  

Mark Lavallee: The more rocky parts of this came from jams, and we actually meticulously worked on the more song oriented sections of this one (the vocal bits) and pieced that all together by jamming those, then listening to tapes of jams, with the song, and seeing how they'd blend, writing out charts such as "link this with this, then this, then this" that's the way 90% of our songs are written, we make up silly names for each section of a song to give it an identity learn where they go, and get em down and go from there...

Natural Selection
Mark Lavallee:This was worked out over a huge period of time, the jam section was completely improvised, nothing about it was written or planned, just seemed to come together perfectly so we used it (the German vocal over it is overdubbed), the first part (the conga bit) was actually jammed out with me playing my snare turned off and with my hands, the "discoey" section came from a jam, the very end part "awaiting extinction" had it's title come from Andy Clegg who does our web site, that section came together from a jam as well. Lemme think, the title "unraveling the threads of a waning moon" came after watching the movie Ikiru, that was my summary of the movie to Fred, when he asked "what's it about ?". The album was going to sort of be based on the movie, very dark, about post war Japan, which is why the titles of the songs have that feel/theme to them, but Jeff wrote about government, but not exactly what we had in mind, course it would take a lot longer to work a concept like that out.
l. Unravelling the Threads of A Waning Moon
This piece is essentially a sound effect and guitar based, short introduction.
ll. Meridians of Time
The next section begins with percussion, shortly joined by guitar and jazzy piano, then vocals. This is a uniquely jazzy sort of section which seems to dissolve and break down, in almost Grateful Dead space jam sort of mode(albeit with some very jazzy guitar work) into the next section.
lll. The Theory and Practice of Hel
This is an instrumental section which leads into the next segment of the song, possessing characteristics of both the last segment and the next.
IV. Practice
Featuring lyrics in German, the liner notes describe this section as "a jam recorded with 2 microphones set up in a live room direct to DAT." This is quite a nice section, very well conceived and performed. The recording here is not of the same quality as the rest of the album, but I believe that the spontaneity represented makes the minor drop in sound quality worth it.

VI. Theory
Beginning with a keyboard sort of texturing nearly in a Hawkwind sort of mode, this segment drops back down to a moody, ponderous progressive structure, which focuses the lyrical concepts of the entire piece quite well. This one seems to be more of the social commentary which first showed up in From the Ruins of 
a Fallen Empire with hope of a change on the way. "I know I'm not alone, we're growing one by one, the calm before the storm, the future is ours to form".

Vll. Hell
This instrumental section seems to combine elements of Genesis and Hawkwind in a unique blend, and serves as a nice transition between the Theory segment, and the final Awaiting Extinction movement. The energetic conclusion to this portion of the song is quite dramatic, somewhat spacey at times, and builds this 30 minute piece to a very satisfying point before dropping in intensity. A laid back and nicely moving section, which features wooshing keyboards (ala Hawkwind) at times, follows, eventually moving into a rather powerful and intense jazz influenced segment. The melody here keeps reinventing itself in creative and intriguing directions.

Vlll. Awaiting Extinction
The ending segment here concludes the themes of the song by looking forward to the end of the corrupt system "And when the system tumbles down, no I won't shed a tear, the world will be a better place, without us monsters here". The very ending of the track reminds me of a guitar ending sequence that Steve Howe might have played circa Going For the One, and signifies the conclusion of a wonderful musical journey.

 
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