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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Urban Spacemen

Plainsongs

Review by Gary Hill

There seem to be some interesting new prog rock hybrids coming out these days. This disc definitely falls into that category, combining space rock sounds of Hawkwind and jam band type elements like The Grateful Dead with early Pink Floyd and more traditional prog textures. The disc is a very entertaining one and shows some definite promise for these guys. I'm looking forward to see what they do next.

For more information or to order this CD, stop by the band's website at http://www.urbanspacemen.org.uk/. Tell them you read about it at Music Street Journal.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Rising Light
A massive keyboard build up starts this. Acoustic guitar joins, then a spacey keyboard wave comes overtop. The cut modulates out into a bouncy space rock melody that feels like early Hawkwind meets early Pink Floyd. Some of the guitar solos accenting the vocal lines feel like The Grateful Dead. The chorus is almost totally early Floyd, but then they drop into a jam that feels a lot like the Allman Brothers. This rocker is quite fun and quite cool. As it carries forward the combo of Hawkwind, Floyd and the Dead are pretty complete. An expansive jam later adds early Yes to the mix. The ending sequence feels a lot like Starcastle.

Cosmic Blues
A more jam band like segment starts this and the cut feels a bit like the Allman Brothers and the Dead. A cool retro keyboard solo lends a nice touch. This turns into a very Sugarloaf '70's progish sort of approach at times. This rocks out quite well and includes more Yes like structures later. This turns more jazzy and jam band oriented later. It is a very effective piece.

City Song
A tentative playful guitar section starts this. The vocals come in and the texture is jam band like, but it shifts to a more neo prog take on that kind of sound after a time. This one has more the Hawkwind like textures at times. It also includes some very tasty guitar work. A jam band like romp appears later to take it in new directions. This instrumental segment includes a very tasty retro keyboard section and some great bouncing bass guitar.
Taking Control
A backwards masked part that feels a bit like the intro to Yes' "Roundabout" starts this. As the acoustic guitar ballad like segment enters this has a texture that calls to mind a Pink Floyd take on David Bowie's "Space Oddity". As they take it forward, though, this is all Meddle era Floyd, down to the vocals. This one has a killer textures and you can almost swear you are listening to PF most of the time. The guitar solo is only a little Gilmour-like, though. They drop it to keys to end.
Plainsong
A Starcastle like keyboard segment starts this, then a bouncy Dave Matthews like guitar segment enters to move the song proper in. As it does this feels like the Dead with Hawkwind and Starcastle like keys overtop. When the vocals enter this takes on a Pink Floyd meets the Dead vein. They move this into a cool, almost funky jam band like movement, but resolve back out to the earlier segment to carry forward. The jam section returns later to take this to a false ending. A spacey texture comes in to carry this on to an almost ambient prog like take on a Dead space jam. They move this onward with the occasional Hawkwind like over-texture. They eventually ramp the intensity way back up, turning this into a killer space rock jam compete with washes of Hawkwind like keys. Then it explodes into a jam band take on Starcastle like prog to carry forward. They move this one along quite a ways in this manner, then drop it back towards the more sedate spacey tones to continue. Hawkwind like keyboard sounds continue to rise and fall as the band move this through many incarnations of musical excursion. After a long with they transform this into a fast paced, almost funky jam that carries into the outro fade down. At almost 14 minutes this falls into the epic category.
Brand New Day
Birds and nature sounds begin this and the group carries it forward in a bouncy fun Deadlike jam. This turns to early Floyd type territory later. But it bumps up to an almost soulful bouncy jam. It eventually drops down to a cool, funky Floyd influenced trip with both Dead like textures and some great space keys. This jam is incredibly tasty with nothing out of place or missing. They turn it very frantic later, but eventually return to the fun loving main verse chorus structure to pull it to its conclusion.
The Little Peace at the End
Pretty ambient keys are the beginning focal point here, gradually working their way forward. This runs through a number of moods, then at about the minute and a half mark the bass joins and Pink Floyd textures take it to new territory. This builds ever so gradually like something from Meddle, finally reaching a fast rhythmic line at the 2 ½ minute mark. Then heavier, but still Floydlike textures enter accompanied by Hawklike keys. A quick burst of metallic chording gives way to a new short bouncy melody, but the drop it back to a Floydian verse. After the vocal segment a quick paced melody takes over for a time before it moves into another space oriented excursion, this one quite expansive. Various lines of instrumental soloing take it to new destinations and eventually they ramp the intensity way up again. After a while they work thorough this and drop it back to the Floyd like vocal section. The fast paced jam returns after this point to move into a Yes like movement that has a great texture. That mode is the outro that takes it to its conclusion at just over 12 minutes.

In the Garden
Triumphant prog sounds merge with more Dead like stylings to start this, but the band move it through a number of changes, weaving an intriguing trail of sound as they do so. They crescendo this in a powerful keyboard dominated way after a couple minutes. Then lush, rather ambient keys take over and wind sounds come over the top of that. Then a synth creates a sound that moves ever upward, seemingly to above the range of audible sound to end both this short instrumental and the CD.
 
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