1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“Lee Abraham is a musician from the south of England. He started playing guitar and bass guitar at the age of 15 after listening to Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Metallica records and thinking “I can do that!”
“Lee played in a succession of local pub/club bands throughout his teenage years into his 20’s and always dabbled in writing his own songs. In the end frustrated with the small local scene, Lee turned his attention to just writing music and entered the world of music recording and production”
“1997 was an “awakening” year for Lee as he listened to modern progressive bands such as Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard for the first time and dived headlong into writing his own complex and epic music”
“Now with his own recording studio Lee has lent his services to a small but select range of other musicians looking to record similar music in a creative atmosphere. He is always looking for projects to record and mix…” (Source from Lee‘s website, 2009)
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
This is Lee’s third album.
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
1. ….And Speaking of Which – Imagine if someone combined the opening of Tubular Bells with the opening to Wish You Were Here. That is what this brief song sounds like. One of the best instrumental pieces I have heard from Neo prog all year! Keys and strings building a strong effect and then that bell sound of keys right before the launching guitar riff. Amazing opening and it really sets the stage for the rest of the album well. I just wish it was longer.
2. Face the Crowd – Strings, then silence, then rocking full gun guitars! Nice opening. Powerful guitar and drums in front of the crowd. A rock stadium anthem and I’m sure a real crowd pleaser. “Stop the clock and wind it back, the world will cease to turn.” “Time to start it over, time to live again, a second chance to get it right.” The picture in the CD book shows Barack Obama extending a hand with a Change We Can Believe In sign in the background. The opportunity to change and start over. “Time to face the crowd and never fade away.” The acoustic guitar solo at 4:20 is wonderful. Then a blistering electric guitar run with powerful drums supporting. “Bring on a brand new day.” You cannot sit still to this one. It really gets you moving.
3. The Mirror – Slow keys open this one with cool guitar riffs in the background. Like water falling, that Tubular Bells kind of rhythm, then drums come in to support. Nice quiet song of reflection at the beginning. Then the Dream Theater - like keys in the background with a building guitar and drum rhythm. The power getting more and more intense as the song builds. The synthesizer solo and guitar at around 4 minutes is awesome. Excellent guitar riffs and instrumental experimentation to finish off the last three or four minutes of the song. Another solid song building the power of this album.
4. Celebrity Status – The picture of Paris Hilton in the CD booklet says it all. “I read the news today, the same as before.” “Full of greedy nobodies I find it such a bore.” Then why write a song about it? The weakest song on a very strong album. Sounds very popish and is full of all of the classic Neo Prog clichés instrumentally. I’d have left this one off the final album.
5. Black – One of the albums epics. The effects of dark and negative energy are all over the lyrics here. Yet, some of the best lyrics on the album. Especially, “never live half of your life, never live lying to yourself.” Good words to live by. The music is good as well. Guitar, keys and softer drums. “Never look toward the sky, never look back at the past.” Great instrumental organ section to the song around the 5 minute mark. It picks up pace and begins a whirlwind effect before collapsing into a power guitar cord and launching rocker. The speed intensifies and the rhythm continues to build with more powerful guitars and slamming drums. From slow quiet at the beginning of the song to dark and loud at the end. The piano at the end really highlights this epic along with the launching guitar riffs. The piano takes over. Great vocals delivering the lyrics with support of piano and electric guitar. The synth and keyboards near the end of the piece are simply wonderful. Guitars and drums grinding down to a powerful ending.
6. White – We had the dark, now the light. The second epic of the album. The sun peeking through a double tree trunk in the CD booklet perfectly sums up the feeling of this song. Light synths with pounding drums open this song as we move out of the dark and into the light. The majestic rising synths with power guitar and strong drum support. Lee credits Neal Morse for inspiration and this song sounds very Neal. Then the childlike, chiming synth and acoustic guitar blend in to welcome the first vocal sounds and lyrics. “My fading memory’s gone. I’m starting once again.” “When you think it’s lost and there’s no turning back, there is always time to reach out once again.” The most powerful lyrics on the album. Steve Thorne is credited with part of the lyrics on this song. Steve sings the entire song. The harmonies in the middle of the song remind you of Jon Anderson, but not as high pitched. The instrumental workings that occur from here on in the song are wonderful to sit back and enjoy and words would only spoil it.
Just when you think this one is over, it comes back for a short interlude. “An endless destiny.” Perfect way to close the album.
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
A wonderful compilation of strong musicians performing at the top of their game. Excellent, innovative music which sets a new standard with two powerful epics back to back. This is one of the best Neo Prog albums of the year. The story of Black and White and the artist collaboration make this a prize worth purchasing and owning. Restores my faith that there are still innovators left in Neo Prog, after a dismal year of repetition and clichés from some of the leaders in the genre. I have added Lee to my list of artists to look for in the future. I am busy now trying to order the rest of his catalog for review. Stay tuned!
4. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Yes, the story from black to white is a great transition and leaves the listener in such a great mood that you will want to play this one over and over again any time of year.
Rating: 8/10 – The epics and the first song make this one of the most memorable albums of this year’s Neo Prog crop. Celebrity Status is the only thing that keeps this from a near perfect album. Can’t wait to hear the rest of his catalog!
Reviewed by Prof on December 9th, 2009