In light of the fact that I seem to be getting an inordinate amount of religious themed Cd's to review, I jokingly suggested to Ron that I be awarded the unofficial Prognaut title 'progressive rock theologian'. A brief recap of past reviews include: "Cold Star Quiet Star" and "The Kindred" (Farpoint), "Powered By Light" (Kinetic Element), "AD Sangreal" (Mandalaband IV), and "The?Book" (Seven Steps To The Green Door). Upcoming reviews on my agenda include the epic Old Testament concept album "The Exodus" from Telergy; as well as the inspirational CD I'll be reviewing today - "Celebration", from the talented Estonian composer and multi-instrumentalist Indrek Patte.
In retrospect, it should come as no surprise that the genre would resonate with Christian musicians since the inspirational message of faith, hope, and charity lends itself to the ethereal passion and grandiose elements of symphonic rock.
Just experiencing Genesis perform the closing moments of "Supper's Ready" was like a transcendental encounter with the Divine. An inexplicable out-of- body euphoria swept over me as Tony Bank's Mellotron and Hackett's wailing guitar soared to an emotional crescendo elevating my spirit somewhere above the concert hall ... and to be perfectly honest with you I don't even know what the Hell that song is actually about. But the combined visual and musical elements of the performance converged, and for a brief moment I was a convert of the 'Church of Genesis'. Alleluia!
Indrek Patte's album "Celebration" is not just a celebration of his faith - but a celebration of progressive music and a heartfelt tip of the hat to the many bands who inspired him throughout his life ... bands like Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, Marillion, Dream Theater, and Neal Morse.
The lyrics extol Patte's spirituality and unfaltering belief in God, Christianity, and the hereafter; while the compositions are deeply rooted in the symphonic prog/rock epics of the pioneers.
And if what they say is true, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Indrek Patte is a 'serial flatterer'. It's as though he studied a specific band - say YES - then wrote his variation of a YES song. When that song was completed he moved on to another progressive artist he admired - possibly Genesis - and composed a song with them in mind. And so on.
If a band's lack of originality poses a problem then Patte's "Celebration" might perturb some. But I must admit - on occasion is his compositions outshine the artist he is emulating. So for me, this was never an issue. And since many of the bands he's paying tribute to are no longer performing ... well ... it's nice to hear a new tune by Genesis, Gentle Giant, Supertramp, or National Health, even if it's not by the original artists. How's that for spin'?
The album opens with the cinematic number "Resurrection", bringing to mind the classic Italian prog group PFM and their early English language albums released on the Manticore label: "Photos Of Ghosts" and "The World Became The World". Patte's vocal inflection even mirrors Flavio Premoli's accent and impassioned wavering tremolo.
"Learn To Live" on the other hand is just a little too close for comfort to the Genesis tune "Trick Of The Tail". Same type of piano intro, spot on tempo, similar structure and instrumental pallet, with only the slightest tinge of Supertramp to keep this from being little more than a restructuring of the Genesis tune.
Shame, shame Indrek - for being a Christian artist you're teetering on the edge of breaking two of God's Ten Commandments - "Thou Shalt Not Steal" and "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbors Goods" ... or in this case "Thy Neighbor's Song". There is a fine line between paying tribute to an artist by emulating their style - and modifying an existing song to call your own.
"The Journey" is a great hard-rocking song which should appeal to fans of 80s' era Genesis, Mike And The Mechanics, post-Fish Marillion, and John Payne era Asia.
On the fourth tune "One Way", Patte revives the spirit of the great Canterbury groups like National Health, Gilgamesh, Soft Heap, Hatfield And The North, and Egg, as well as the intricate madrigal-style vocals of Gentle Giant. The unlikely combination of electronics, medieval chamber music, and jazz should resonate with fans of Dave Stewart, Alan Gowen, and Gentle Giant. Patte captures the essence of the Canterbury movement without imitating a specific band or piece of music.
"Shine" is the perfect example of Patte's attempt to clone a YES tune in his own image, complete with Wakeman's "And You And I" styled synthesizer solos and Steve Howe influenced guitar textures. If you enjoy vintage YES tunes this should put a smile on your face and pump a little 'happy' into your ears.
For the horror fans among us you might recognize the opening bars of "You Stay With Me" as the theme of the movie "Phantasm". Then the song kicks into gear as the type of hard-driving power ballad which made the heavy metal 'hair bands' of the 80s' so popular with the MTV crowd. The album "On A Storyteller's Night" from the band Magnum immediately comes to mind. The music on that album was among the best and most powerful ever recorded by the group - and "You Stay With Me" could easily have fit on the disc. An excellent rocker with a great hook and an inspirational message.
"Mount Meggido" hearkens back to the epic Kansas showstoppers like "Magnum Opus". You can almost see Steve Walsh performing handstands on his stack of keyboards as the song propels ahead with savage fury. For fans of Kansas, Dream Theater, and progressive metal bands like Symphony X.
On his closing track "Celebration", Patte comes perilously close to infringing upon the Steve Hackett tune "Shadow Of The Hierophant" from the album "Voyage Of The Acolyte". The song structure is nearly identical, with instrumental passages like John Hackett's flute trills seemingly lifted directly from the recording. But just as the "Hierophant" connection takes hold the tune makes an abrupt detour breaking the link. But in doing so Patte dives headlong into a Genesis/Pink Floyd amalgamation, blending the instrumental break of Genesis tunes "Cinema Show" and "Supper's Ready - Apocalypse in 9/8" with the closing moments of Pink Floyd's signature tune "Dark Side Of The Moon". And while it's a beautifully orchestrated tour de force finale - it might prove to be a little too familiar for the prog-snobs among us who crave originality over familiarity.
The line-up on the album includes: Indrek Patte (vocals, background vocals, keyboards, 12 string guitar, drum composing, music arrangements), Raul Jaanson (guitars, acoustic guitars), Vladislav Reinfeldt (bass guitar), Priidik Soon (flute, bass flute), Edward Soon (cello), Hendrik Soon (violin), Kristjan Mazurtshak (tenor saxophone), Toomas Vanem (guitars on "Mount Meggido"), Margus Kliimask (bass guitar on "Shine"), Taavo Remmel (bass guitar on "Celebration"), Jüri Mazurtshak (drums on "Mount Meggido"), Annabel and Elisabeth Vardja (background vocals on "Celebration").
Indrek Patte's first solo album "Celebration" is a wondrous celebration of the 'spirit' put to music. And what Patte may lack in originality he more than makes up for in execution. "Celebration" is a finely crafted collection of cinematic epics that encapsulate all the elements that make symphonic rock so appealing.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on March 9th, 2012