Fast food franchises and restaurants are always trying to reinvent the classic American hamburger. Beef can be substituted with ground turkey, chicken, bison, or some vegetable protein commonly referred to as meat analogue (a meat substitute comprised of Tofu, wheat gluten, beans, grain, and assorted veggies mashed into patties).
Exotic fruits and vegetables like avocados, pineapples and kale replace lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions. And then for good measure the whole thing might be smothered in guacamole or chipotle sauce. But try as they might ... nothing beats a good old fashion hamburger. It's called a classic for good reason. Same holds true for the original classic sound of 70s' progressive rock.
There is a growing movement among the New Millennial artists to disassociate themselves from the classical fusion of 70s' progressive rock to completely reinvent the genre, eschewing the grandiose pomposity of 30 minute side-long epics heavy on soaring synths and Mellotron choirs for scaled back simplicity, with guitar driven alternative/rock influences now as the driving force.
Where once bands like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, and ELP were the standard bearers for aspiring prog/rock musicians now artists like Tool, Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta, Muse, Coheed And Cambria and Dream Theater hold that distinction. Over the years I've found myself deluged with CDs to review dominated by Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater clones.
Classic symphonic, or 'Neo-Prog', is something of a derogatory term among the elitist ... 'progressive means to progress' ... progsnobs who dismiss the sub-genre as some antediluvian museum piece to be displayed alongside dinosaur bones and mummified pharaohs, but the genre is neither dead - nor stagnating.
Need further proof of that - then listen to the 2015 release "Travelog" - the latest release from accomplished keyboardist Mike Visaggio and his band Kinetic Element, which includes Todd Russell (guitars and triangle), Michael Murray (drums, percussion and whistling), and Mark Tupko (bass).
Like the hamburger ... nothing beats an original classic - and Kinetic Element delivers the type of classic retro-70s' progressive rock that endeared me to the genre over forty years ago.
"Travelogue" encapsulates all that was right with fledgling progressive rock genre - superior musicianship, adventurous compositions with extended instrumental interplay, and thought provoking lyrics that challenge the listener. And unlike their 2009 release "Powered By Light" which lacked a strong vocal presence, the band has now been fortified by a talented trio of accomplished vocalist whose vocal prowess matches the power and passion of the compositions. Guest vocalists include: Dimetrius LaFavors of 'Odin's Court' on tracks 1, 2 and 5; Michelle Schrotz of the band 'Brave' on track 3; and Mike Florio of 'The Mass Dream Project' on track 4.
Everything about the album predates the digital age. The production value has the ear pleasing warmth of an analogue recording pressed on 200 gram audiophile virgin vinyl.
I'm immediately reminded of the excellent 70s' American progressive bands whose work was rescued from obscurity by Greg Walker's Syn-Phonic label between 1998 - 2004 when he released a series of CDs from regional cult bands like Babylon, Yezda Urfa, Cathedral, Mirthrander, Infinity, Lift, Pentwater, and Quill.
"Travelog" is a great listen from beginning to end with no throw-away tracks - but there are a few real stand-out tracks deserving special mention, including "Into The Lair". The song immediately grabs the listener with a majestic faux-Mellotron choir and synth fanfare -ala- 'IQ', before transitioning into a hook laden melody featuring vocals from Michelle Schrotz. The song brings to mind the band Citadel and their epic album "The Citadel Of Cynosure & Other Tales".
"War Song", a 20 minute multifaceted opus combines elements of ELP , Focus, YES, and a touch of Glass Hammer tossed into the mix.
The track "Travelog" is a showcase for guitarist Todd Russell, opening with a tasty acoustic intro, it then sets the tone for one of the two beautifully ballads he penned for the album. The other, "Her" has something of a Bloodrock or White Witch flavor to it.
"Travelog" is peppered with impressive keyboard flourishes, inspired guitar work, a solid rhythm section, and strong vocals, making for an exceptional follow-up to "Powered By Light". And welcome addition to any music collection.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on August 10th, 2015