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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Under The Big Tree

Under the Big Tree

Review by Gary Hill

Under The Big Tree is an art rock concept album by Nick Peck and several other musicians. The album chronicles a series of visions that Peck had while in a deep trance. The sounds on the album touch on many art rock bands such as Yes, ELP, King Crimson, etc, while also encompassing eastern influences and The Grateful Dead. This is a well-produced, performed and arranged album and an interesting musical journey.

Musicians on the album are Nick Peck, Gary Morrell, Mike Bemesderfer, Yasuo Keays Sonoda, Eric "Doc" Kampman, Gary Scheuenstuhl, Don Tyler, Harvey Salem, Tim White, Danielle DeGruttola, Chris Bohn, and Pauline Oliveros.

The album can be ordered by sending a check or money order for $13.00(including shipping) (payable to "TyeDye Records") to TyeDye Records, 37 Matilda Avenue, Mill Valley, CA, 94941.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Prologue
A very pretty piano segment starts this song, bringing a nice beginning to this musical journey. Once the other instruments join in, the texture is somewhat in the mode of ELP and Yes, quite majestic and powerful. This section carries on for a while, until dropping down in intensity to start the main section of the cut. This main segment is quite emotional and dynamic, containing a lot of quite interesting progressive/art rock type instrumentation. The vocals here are considerably strong and the textures present include minor Native American influences. In fact, much of the lyrics here show these Native American themes.
Mouths and Frogs
This track starts off in a mode which is quite tense and dramatic and the intro contains some rather Steve Howeish guitar work. In fact, this Howe influenced guitar work returns from time to time throughout this song. This is a very nicely moody piece, and when the singer says "I`m floating", you really feel like you are. This number maintains a good texture, while still focusing on some very solid melodic work. At times, the vocals to this one call to mind older Moody Blues. The song also has moments which are a bit reminiscent of older Genesis. After a time, the composition drops into a very Grateful Dead influenced jam, before dropping to a short spoken word segment.
Writer in a Rainstorm
This tune combines elements of the more rock oriented Moody Blues with Yes and other progressive bands into a nice art rock stew.
The Teepee Morgue
A pleasantly moody piano and spoken word section begins this track, moderately in the style of old Marillion. The piece actually builds somewhat in that style as well, although with more jazz based sensibilities. The latter sections of this track is a jam which encompasses both the stylings of The Grateful Dead and old King Crimson.
Into the Opera House
Primarily based in piano and vocals, but with other more unusual stringed instruments, this piece does tend to call to mind old King Crimson. The structure of the song itself, however is more based on old Genesis or Yes. A ways into the song, this Yes influence becomes quite apparent as the number breaks into a much higher energy segment, which is arranged in a vaguely Yesish manner. Eventually, this section runs its course and the original piano based section makes a return to bring us to the conclusion of the piece.
Mars
Mars is in a more modern jazz influenced progressive rock mode, perhaps vaguely UK-ish, but does include a break or two which are very catchy, and, in fact, these sections have a bit of that Genesis sort of feel for a moment or two at a time. This is definitely a stand out cut and includes some very interesting and intriguing changes and instrumentation.
Boulder And Cactus
Beginning with spacey sound effects, eventually sitar and other instruments join in, bringing a very Eastern sort of feel to this piece.
The Mountain, The Mirror, and the Pocket Watch
This track features some more of that Steve Howe influenced guitar work at times, within a song structure which could be considered vaguely Yesish. However, sections have a more Genesis influenced tone and there is at least one organ solo which calls to mind Keith Emerson.
The Candle Card Game
Featuring tape loopings, and weird sound effects, this track is a very odd sort of piece featuring only a few lines of spoken lyrics.
Portrait/Bow in the Cabin
A dissonant sort of keyboard sound starts this number off. Eventually some sparse and spacey guitar work joins the fray, before the other instruments begin to make their appearances in a seriously bizarre and spacey sort of jam, at times calling to mind the Grateful Dead and at times old King Crimson. Eventually a true melody line emerges from this confusion and the song evolves into a very solid and energetic progressive rock piece, with a rather hard edge. Guitar and bass are the dominant instruments in this section, but then the focus again shifts and keyboards begin to drive this piece. Eventually, the Genesis sort of influences really make a solid appearance, only to be replaced by very heavy ELP sorts of leanings, before this intriguing instrumental draws to its abrupt conclusion.
Where do We Connect?
Almost falling out of the finale of Portrait/Bow in the Cabin, this piece seems to merge the sounds of Frank Zappa with Jethro Tull and Traffic. The vocals on this track are very emotional and the piece contains several fascinating changes.
Finale:Into the Trunk
A lovely piano piece begins this number. Eventually guitar and vocals join in, the song taking on a laid back old Genesis sort of sound. As the track builds toward its conclusion, more of the Grateful Dead influences come to the forefront. However, in this case, at first, it is more the actual song structure form of the Dead rather than the space jam type format. The piece does eventually move more into that space jam kind of mode, though.
 
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