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Gravitas
Gravitas
Price: $12.99
49 used & new from $3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Asia in transition ... and safety first?, April 10, 2014
This review is from: Gravitas (Audio CD)
I've listened to this album for two weeks straight ... only the occasional radio tune, Saga-The Human Condition, and Black Country Communion-Afterglow has popped in from time to time ... and I feel that now is a good time to chime in on a verdict.

Being a biased, John Wetton supporter for thirty years, and depending on the day, this album goes either one of two ways for me. Is this Gravitas album really a good Asia album, minus the distinct guitar of Steve Howe while adding in a new member, or is it seemingly the most consistent batch of great Wetton/Downes ICON-sounding tunes, a possible ICON IV?

Sam Coulson certainly brings some great solos to the table, for sure he has enough technique, but his rhythm guitar textures are rather-anonymous throughout--he certainly doesn't have Steve's tone and he's also not quite the overt, riff-merchant that Mandy Meyer was for that one-off Astra album all those many years ago. Hence, the ICON-like sentiments where the guitars only seem 'to do their talking' in those corded-off, specific places within the song. Indeed, I wonder if the three, remaining founders contrived it to be this way for this one album: "Shall we give them a taster ... still go for the XXX vibe again (since it's the most recent of the new stuff, the one we're most proud of and/or everyone seemed to like it more than both Phoenix and Omega) but only give them a limited dose of the new guitar player?" Regardless of my state of mind, it's an album I will repeatedly listen to in the future. And why?

Without getting into the specific tracks--give them a listen for yourselves!--I like them all for what they are. They are what I want to hear; the typical Asia tunes with a few quirks thrown in for good measure: thoughtful lyrics passionately delivered by JW, all the 'larger-than-life' choruses, and the immaculate instrumentation provided by all the players involved--Carl Palmer's drums are finally sounding a bit more 'heavier' in the mix. Okay, my fave is Heaven Help Me Now--the most-pronounced riffing-guitar track in the whole lot, set-up with a classically-influenced intro by the indomitable Geoff Downes.

My only criticisms of the album, aside from the previously mentioned lack of riffing, are that some of the choruses tend to get dragged out in certain places--my same beef with XXX. Also, if not wanting to buy the Special Edition issue, another song or two, and preferably faster-paced ones, should have been added to the playlist--again XXX!

Four stars, IMO ... I did get the two disc-set, BTW, and enjoyed all the bonus material ... and on par with Astra while slightly behind the brightly produced, punchier-sounding XXX. 1982 remains peerless.


Queensryche (2013) (Deluxe)
Queensryche (2013) (Deluxe)
Price: $15.41
39 used & new from $6.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Ryche it to the tune of ****, September 20, 2013
A half-star deducted due to the short length in this offering ... IMO, add two more new tunes when trying to secure a return to the 'Promised Land' in this ... the age of value for the consumer---the bonus tracks were well done though.
A half-star deducted for missing that one or more barn-burner/mega-tune/anthem per album ... no Take Hold Of The Flame, Walk In The Shadows, Eyes Of A Stranger, Silent Lucidity, etc---kinda why Promised Land fell short in comparison to Operation Mindcrime and Empire.

Still, a very solid recording. To me, it sounds like a cross between Rage For Order--- in that it's a little more on the artsy side in delivery ... and not quite commercial-sounding like Mindcrime and Empire with the catchy hooks and 'bigger' choruses---and the thick, lusher-sounding production of the also-chaired, Jimbo Barton, Promised Land.

Trying to keep an economical review: Rockenfield seems rejuvenated behind the kit with some great fills and crashes while Wilton and Lundgren successfully attempt to bring back the harmonizing guitars that defined the 'Ryche-sound' of yore. EdBass holds down the bottom-end with class and contributes quality to the songwriting that has been somewhat-lacking in recent years. And La Torre? Good job, new guy ... great sounding voice and lyrical contributions for the new role in such a talented outfit! Can't wait to see how he evolves as a front-man in two albums.


Sprocket Sessions
Sprocket Sessions
Offered by skyvo-direct-usa
Price: $16.15
27 used & new from $7.65

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gem for the fans ... you know who you are!, March 5, 2013
This review is from: Sprocket Sessions (Audio CD)
What a great demo for the upcoming tour of '86 with Powell in the drum chair. Rough in patches here and there-- production, different arrangements, missed vocal assignments, etc.. -- but again, it is a demo after all. Highlights for me were Mars, nice to see a Powell drum solo in the mix, and Pirates.


Black Country Communion 2
Black Country Communion 2
Price: $13.76
42 used & new from $3.95

4.0 out of 5 stars ****1/2 BBC 2 ... best of the trilogy ... hands down!, March 5, 2013
I have listened to each album a few times and this is the most focused studio offering from this super band--and I haven't even seen Live Over Europe yet. A lot of attention to detail, by every member and producer Kevin Shirley, seemingly-went into EVERY song on this platter as opposed to the other ones ... there is not one duff track as compared to a slip here and there on the others.

For me, Bonham's drum-sound sounds fuller, and quite more Zep-ish, being the main point with Bonamassa even outdoing his first performance being the secondary point; and Sherinian contributing a few more crucial keyboard textures being the tertiary add-on to the mix. And that's not taking anything away from Hughes' great singing and fluid bass-play! With repeated listens this album seems like it could get an elevated review.

I sincerely hope that the Communion will have a reunion within a few years now that I know that they called it a day after the Afterglow album.


XXX
XXX
Price: $16.37
47 used & new from $6.44

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four-and-a-half XXX ... A winner!, August 5, 2012
This review is from: XXX (Audio CD)
There is nary a duff song on this album, the eleven-track import. A few of them, however, could have used some editing with regards to some repetitive choruses and some of the lyrics come off as being a little trite in places-- hence, the slight deduction for my part.

There are great instrumental sections in every song-- 'poppier-seeming' productions, courtesy of Mike Paxman, in relation to the previous two 'reunion' albums-- especially the outros to Bury Me In Willow and Face On The Bridge ... reminding everyone one of the four individual talents comprising this band. John Wetton's voice sounds as strong as ever and his bass-playing seems to be a little more prominent these days-- I like his work on Astra the most though, being the most active. Steve Howe also seems a little more engaged in the mix this time around as well--still not as strong as on the debut album-- and all of his solos are top notch, absolutely delightful. Carl Palmer only has a few places to really showcase his chops-- Tomorrow The World, Bury Me In Willow and Faithful-- in keeping tradition with the recent past, but his sensibilities are in tune with this 'poppier' direction of 2012. Geoff Downes' keys are still the mainstay in every song-- driving the melodies to and fro, AND home-- and his parts dovetail very seamlessly with those of the guitar-- again, check out Bury Me In Willow!

Highly recommended ... and second in the pantheon of Wetton-fronted albums, IMO, trailing the debut by only by a few points and slightly ahead of Astra, Alpha, Omega, and Phoenix-- in that order. Enjoy!


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