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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Modest Midget

Crysis

Review by Gary Hill

I’m a big fan of Modest Midget, so I was looking forward to this CD. I was not disappointed. Their unique blend of progressive rock sounds is still intact here. I don’t think it surpasses their last disc, but that’s more about how strong that one was than any deficiency of this one. This is a great disc and well worth having. I recommend it highly to any fans of adventurous (but fun) modern progressive rock.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Grand Gate Opening

The atmospherics that open this almost feel ominous. As it gets more melodic, though, there is a sense of majesty and wonder. This keyboard only instrumental introduction is fairly short, but tasty. 

A Centurion's Itchy Belly
Imagine the Beatles doing pure progressive rock. It might sound a bit like the first part of this. The cut works through several prog treatments before moving out to some bouncy world music. It feels a bit tongue in cheek. From there it works to some jazz and the piece just keeps evolving. This is bouncy and fun, but also quite impressive in terms of scope and musicianship. This instrumental keeps shifting and changing. It also keeps entertaining.
Rocky Valleys of Dawn
The bouncy rhythm guitar on this has some reggae built into it. The vocals lend a more alternative rock vibe. The song structure, though is pure progressive rock. Some of the bass work on this is especially impressive. This is fun and also prog. The closing section has a lot of classic progressive rock sound built into it.
Praise the Day
This starts as a folk-styled acoustic guitar based ballad. It feels very 60sish. That motif holds it for the first verse. Eventually more musical layers and instruments are added to the mix, but the overall song structure and concept remains intact. It’s a nice respite and an entertaining piece.            
Now That We're Here
The first section of this makes me think of Spock’s Beard quite a bit. They take it to a short bit of playful weirdness. Then it works out to a psychedelic rock tinged progressive rock jam. It has a bit of a Beatles vibe to it. Still, there is as much ELP to this as there is Beatles. Spock’s Beard is a valid reference as it continues, too. There is an extended left turn section that takes it towards Rock in Opposition, too. That works through several twists and turns before taking the song to its end.
Periscope Down
Imagine a proggier Steely Dan. It would likely sound a lot like this song. There is a great jazzy groove to this.
(Oh) Pretty Woman

 Yes, this is a cover of Roy Orbisson. It’s got that reggae kind of texture to the rhythm guitar. This is fun, but a little odd. If there’s an unsuccessful moment here, this is it. That’s not a given, though. This has its moments. The lush prog section later in the track does a lot of work towards keeping this from being a “skip it” song.

Flight of the Cockroach
This playful instrumental seems to have elements of things like ELP, Henry Cow, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and Pentwater. It’s a fun romp, but is also tastefully weird.    
Secret Lies
The vocals on this remind me of Todd Rundgren a bit. Musically, this seems a combination of Rundgren with Spock’s Beard in a lot of ways. I’m also reminded of Queen a bit on the harder rocking sections.
Gone Is
Very much a psychedelic rock styled piece, this feels like it could have come out in the late 1960s or early 70s.
Crisis (Awake of the Sheep)
A powerful progressive rock jam gets alternated with a downright creepy piano section as the main structure of this piece. It has some sections that again call to mind Rundgren a bit. There is a short classical interlude and also a powerhouse progressive rock movement. That is short, too, though and gives way to more of the piano music that eventually works back to the song proper in a Rundgren like way. The piece keeps shifting and changing, but those varied elements are the basis for the sections, just with more variants on the themes. This is a really powerful piece and one of my favorites of the set.
Birth
In terms of progressive rock, this is a pretty straight forward journey, gradually building as it works its way ahead. In a lot of ways this one also makes me think of Spock’s Beard. It’s not as powerful as the previous tune, but it is one of the best here.
 
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