This CD was a really tough one for me to review since I have mixed feelings on it. I tend to either like or dislike an album, leaving little room for middle ground. After reviewing an album it’s either part of my listening rotation, or exiled to the ‘Never Again Gulag’. But “Powered By Light” the debut recording from KINETIC ELEMENT has me in a quandary.
At first listen I assumed this was a lost recording from an early 70s’ US prog/rock group just finding release, it has all the great retro-prog sound and instrumentation of the era including a Mellotron.. Bands that immediately come to mind are EASTER ISLAND , ATLANTIS PHILHARMONIC, THE LOAD, ROOTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS, and PENTWATER, as well as Keith Emerson’s pioneering group THE NICE . Another comparison can be made to the GLASS HAMMER concept album “Journey Of The Dunadan” as well as the solo projects from Mike Pinder of THE MOODY BLUES.
Instrumentally KINETIC ELEMENT is at the top of their game. The driving force behind the group is keyboardist Mike Visaggio who is positively brilliant, some of the most energetic keyboard work I’ve heard since the Golden Age of Progressive Rock when Wakeman and Emerson were producing their best work. Yes, he’s that good. And his surrounding cast of players are equally adept: Michael Murray (drums & backing vocal), Tony d’ Amato (bass), and Todd Russell (guitars).
Unfortunately the vocals leave me cold. It’s not that Mike Visaggio has a bad voice, quite the contrary, but it the vocal style, which to my ears came across as a mediocre Off –Broadway musical. This strange combination of symphonic progressive rock ala ELP or YES meets the 60s’ hippy musical “Hair”, with a touch of Pat Robertson’s ‘700 Club’ tossed in left me wishing I could isolate and silence the vocal track and just enjoy the instrumental tracks.
The musical arrangements, production, and performances are top notch; yet that having been said I hesitate to leap aboard the KINETIC ELEMENT bandwagon because of the vocals. But it’s impossible to simply write-off the band because they are so damn good.
So here is my quandary. How do I rate an instrumentally brilliant concept album like “Powered By Light” in which the vocals are vitally important to the storyline on a 1 – 10 scale when I don’t like the vocals?
Unlike other self-righteous music reviewers who feel their infallible opinion trumps all others I’ve come to the conclusion that in this case the problem lies with me. It’s a simple matter of personal taste. And it would be a travesty to dissuade anyone from experiencing the great keyboard work (as well as the tasty acoustic guitar track “Meditation”) displayed throughout the album “Powered By Light”.
So I’ll recommend it with an 8 out of 10 rating and give the album a little more time to grow on me.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on November 8th, 2009
Kinetic Element was originally formed so that vocalist/keyboardist t Mike Visaggio' could continue music from his solo album Starship Universe, released in 2006. The result of the new band is a album that pays homage to the bands of the 70’s without falling into the “retro” camp. Their debut, Powered By Light was released in 2009 When I reviewed Mike’s Starship Universe, I made note that he should expand from a solo output to a full blown band. I’m sure others wanted to see that happen.
Powered By Light has been reviewed by one of my staff, Joseph Shingler and I was asked to add my feelings about this release. I hear a hybrid of Yes and ELP on each of the songs combined with Mike’s unique and mellow vocals which reminds me of Richard Sinclair and Andy Latimer all in one. Another vocal influence I can hear is Guy Manning. There are other influences the band had, like Genesis and Procol Harum to a lesser extent.
Just like Starship Universe, the songs on Powered By Light contains a positive and full of hope message. I noticed that lyrical messages have a universal spirituality to them, which doesn‘t close off any faith. The songs range in length from 5 to 16 minutes. The album contains two long tracks, “Peace Of Mind, Peace Of Heart” and “Reconciliation”, that in my opinion shows off Mike’s talent in instrumentation.
In closing, I'd recommend Powered By Light, to the fans of classic progressive rock that want a timeless vibe about it. I would love to hear where Mike takes Kinetic Element next. I can honestly say that I will revisit this album often. Had I reviewed this back when it came out, I would have included it along side my top 40 favorites of that year.
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on May 9th, 2010