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Unikorn on the Cob
Unikorn on the Cob
Price: $12.24
18 used & new from $3.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars These guys are the real deal, August 19, 2001
This review is from: Unikorn on the Cob (Audio CD)
A compelling and convincing release filled with intriguing compositions and light-hearted authenticity. With an eclectic mix of campy and heartfelt songs (all of which being at the very least entertaining when not inspiring) _Unikorn on the Cob_ has an awful lot to offer. Songs range from light and lazy jazz cuts to harder and busier prog rock pieces. The CD is, for the most part, song-oriented, with shorter tracks that average about 5 or 6 minutes in length. In truth, I would have preferred vocals that were slightly less monotone and lyrics with perhaps a little more creativity to them, but on the whole, this is one very good release. My favorite tracks are "Musical Findings", "Double Standard Booth" (meaning of the title anyone?), "Walk Fast", "We Love You Lots" (one the best songs of the year), and "Making Friends". This should be an exciting band to watch in the years to come.

Time Lost
Time Lost
10 used & new from $12.54

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, August 19, 2001
This review is from: Time Lost (Audio CD)
_Time Lost_ is an album consisting of four unreleased _Wounded_-era tracks and three songs from the band's days before _A Blueprint of the World_ debut. The first four songs (all from the _Wounded_ sessions) are, in plain terms, nothing short of amazing. They're easily on par with the best material that album had to offer, and walk all over such songs as "Below Zero", "Hostile World", "Armour", and "Missing", in my opinion. How these four tracks were justified in being left off the album, I'll never know. Seriously, _Wounded_ might have been one of the best albums ever recorded had some of its weaker tracks not been given precedence over these gems. The last three songs (all from the band's early days) are less outstanding in comparison, but are still quite valuable in there own right. "Interact", at nearly 11 minutes, if a little stretched out, is still the longest song the band has ever recorded, with a unobtrusively melodic sound that I think would have fit in very nicely on _Blueprint_. "Standing Ground" is another very nice track, shorter than the band's norm at just five and a half minutes, and written (with more of the brilliant lyrics I've come to expect from the band) about the temptation of selling out in the music business (or life in general?). The finale, "Mettle Man" is essentially an eight minute instrumental (I say "essentially" because there's one short verse recited at the very end). It's quite the progressive piece, which ends up being surprisingly catchy considering its length and complexity. If you've been following along you'll note that I've praised every one of the seven songs on this album. Truth be told, front to back, this grab-bag release is a definite winner that should not only delight any fan of Enchant, but all other fans of prog rock, as well.

Metal Opera
Metal Opera
16 used & new from $6.72

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sammet continues to impress, August 19, 2001
This review is from: Metal Opera (Audio CD)
Despite having more of a Helloween-inspired power metal sound than I was hoping for, this release is still destined to be one of 2001's best releases. The vocal line-up is quite impressive, featuring a cast that is at least equal to, if not better than, any Ayreon assemblage. Apart form the stellar vocals of Tobias Sammet as the main character, the remaining characters on the album are played/sung by such notables as Michael "Ernie" Kiske, Andre Matos, David DeFeis, and Kai Hansen. As a sleeper, Rob Rock's time at the mic is also quite inspiring, if short-lived. Musically, as I said above, this is essentially a power metal album, albeit with the grace, taste, and elegance found in the releases of such bands as Edguy, Angra, and Virgin Steele. The guitar performance of one Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray) is exceptional, doing everything from Kai Hansen impersonations to Al Pitrelli-like torrents. Other performers of note include Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody, Sieges Even) on drums, Markus Grosskopf (Helloween) on bass, and Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius) lending his voice for some spoken word. Of course, it takes more than just putting together a who's who among power metallers to make a good album. Luckily, the music on _Avantasia : The Metal Opera_ provides sufficiently. I felt the biggest pitfall with Edguy's _Theater of Salvation_ was too much repetitive, sing-along speed metal, and while I don't think this album completely remedies this, it is much better in this regard. Not a song on here is blatantly skippable, while some like "Farewell" and "Avantasia" are bound to be among the top of my list of favorites for the year. To attempt to be more of an "opera", there are a couple of short transitional instrumental pieces, much like Virgin Steele did on _The House of Atreus_. These help make the album more than just a power metal album, though aren't really going to fool anyone into thinking it is some kind of refined masterpiece. The story, itself, is an epic fantasy tale that gratefully hinges more on quests, honor, and nobility than on battles, swords, and sorcery. Furthermore, Sammet's lyric-writing ability is noticeably improved. I very much look forward to part two.

Price: $16.80
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, not great (I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could), August 19, 2001
This review is from: Eurasia (Audio CD)
Somewhat akin to Vanden Plas' _Far Off Grace_, this one comes across as something of a Dream Theater-meets-Dokken blend (maybe with a little acoustic Extreme thrown into the mix). A greater amount of variety on _Eurasia_, Avalon's fourth release, makes this one a stronger release, however. Meant as an exploration of "historic personalities and countries of the largest continent of the earth - Eurasia", this album contains a distinct tribal, East-Asian theme that pervades the album, courtesy of traditional rhythms, Buddhist chants, spiritual female vocals, and Indian sitars -- performed by a wide array of expert guest musicians. Personally, I could take or leave this exotic aspect of it, though it does succeed in giving the album a unique, ritualistic flavor. While some of the album's efforts may be unavailing, expect crisp vocals, mean riffs, and sweet solos from almost every one of the album's twelve tracks. Highlights include "Temujin", "Eternal Flame", "The Stranger", and "The Painting" -- the 7-minute "Eternal Flame" in particular, which is probably one of 2000's 10 best songs (though not in my Top 5). Also of interest is the band's cover of Mr. Mister's "Kyrie" which stays relatively true to the original, adding a splash of metal edge and slightly trimming the introduction. As a side note, Sascha Paeth's (Rhapsody, Angra, Luca Turilli, Kamelot) production work on the album is top notch, as one would expect. Some purely average songs and a few less than exhilarating instrumental segue tracks hold the album back a bit, though there is still enough quality material on here to make it a worthwhile purchase. Vanden Plas fans definitely need to check this one out.

6 used & new from $11.50

5.0 out of 5 stars All the Rage, August 19, 2001
This review is from: Ghosts (Audio CD)
In only my first couple of listens to _Ghosts_ I could immediately tell that this album was something special. While the album still had not been fully absorbed, it was obvious that I was just going to just love this album. After now having digested the album completely, I can safely say that my initial impressions did not fail me. This is a concept album about the transcendence of one man's soul into the afterworld and his reflections on his life (reportedly similar to "The Celestine Prophecy") ... and it is one brilliant release. A fine example of metal done right. The album actually reminded me quite a bit of Angel Dust in their approach to music. Lots of crunch and power in the guitar department, strong but clean vocals (that, in the case of Rage, even sound like Hetfield at times), and graceful use of keys and piano. Balancing out blistering heavy metal tracks with sentimental ballads, Ghosts is awash in sweeping melodies and hooks that just won't let go. Simply a masterpiece, with variety enough to make this one an incredibly easy listen, start to finish. No disposable moments, no forgettable tracks, no lyrics that make you cringe. I suppose the only real negative comment I have towards the album is that its lead guitar work seemed lacking -- in quality, not quantity. This drawback is certainly not something that can really make or break an album, however. Those who enjoy the heavier breed of power metal bands like Blind Guardian and Angel Dust need to have this album. Bravo!

Poets & Madmen
Poets & Madmen
17 used & new from $3.56

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not as good as any of the band's 90's work, May 18, 2001
This review is from: Poets & Madmen (Audio CD)
I greet Savatage's long-awaited _Poets and Madmen_ with somewhat mixed feelings. Gone from the band are my two favorite members, lead guitarist Al Pitrelli (to Megadeth) and lead vocalist Zak Stevens (to his family). Both are among my favorites in the genre at their respective positions, and I speculated that their absence would hurt my appreciation for, and the production of, the band; and I believe I was right. With their two "biggest bats" out of the lineup, the band calls upon the talents of its second-string. Former rhythm guitarist Chris Caffery takes over the lead duties nicely, yet there still seems to be something missing. Former lead vocalist Jon Oliva (who's had brilliant moments in the past, but has never been a favorite of mine) tries his best, but comes away sounding exhausted in many places. And overall, the general execution of the music seems down a notch from their most recent releases. Following suit, song-writing is slightly less interesting, as well. In a conscious effort to take the music in a new direction, the band has pulled away from their rock opera trademark sound a bit. While at first I was fully behind this notion of diversifying the band's catalogue, this was before I knew songs like "Drive", "Awaken", and "I Seek Power" would be part of this "progression". For the most part, these songs (with a few others besides) sound like they could have been done by just about any heavy metal band (if they weren't swamped by so many glaring Savatage-isms, that is), though I can find something to enjoy in just about every single one of the album's 11 tracks. These aside, the band does pull through with some very good songs such as "The Rumor", "Back to a Reason", "Surrender", and the ten minute epic "Morphine Child". All in all, Poets and Madmen is a solid listen, though far from attaining the same degree of captivating wonderment that the band has charmed me with in the past. (By the way, this really isn't a concept album as much as it is an album containing a couple of related songs with a Paul O'Neill story slapped in the liner notes)

14 used & new from $3.62

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liked it better than the debut, May 18, 2001
This review is from: Aria (Audio CD)
I wouldn't have guessed that I'd be ranking this one higher than the band's beloved debut. _Asia_ is generally considered a time-honored classic with the band's most progressive sound, featuring the legendary talents of Steve Howe and Carl Palmer. This one, on the other hand, comes from their later and more sneered upon years. That said, the better song-writing, more vibrant sound, and better vocals found in _Aria_ beat out the self-titled debut in my eyes. I actually picked this one up used after discovering that this album came from the brief period of the band's history when their lineup included one of my favorite guitarists, Al Pitrelli (Megadeth, ex-Savatage/TSO). I'd list other differences in the band's makeup from their debut, but it'd be easier to list the similarities, as only keyboardist Geoff Downes remains. I enjoyed the vocals of John Payne a bit more than Wetton's performance on the debut, and while Pitrelli doesn't really have much of a chance to shine here, I can't say I find myself longing for Howe's presence, either. The music is very poppy and straight-forward, and if it's progressive at all it's quite fluffy. However, with a handful of weak tracks aside, there is a lot of well-written material on this album. "Summer" is a fantastic song, and my personal favorite, with "Anytime", "Desire", "Feels Like Love", "Military Man" and the title-track all making this one a very good listen.

Price: $4.99
127 used & new from $0.93

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fell short of expectation, May 18, 2001
This review is from: Asia (Audio CD)
With talent like Steve Howe and Carl Palmer aboard, and with prior knowledge of the album's more commercial leanings, I was hoping this album would demonstrate some tremendous blend of prog and pop. From these expectations, I was a little surprised at how far flat this one fell. The prog elements are minuscule, and, in my opinion, the song-writing is shockingly bland for a commercial album. I was already familiar with the songs "Only Time Will Tell" (which I really liked) and "Heat of the Moment" (which I kind of liked), but aside from giving me these two hits, the album offers little else. Some songs have promising intros and/or verses only to be ruined with some of the worst choruses I've ever heard. The repetition and blandness of the refrains in such songs as "Sole Survivor" and "Wildest Dreams" are almost intolerably annoying, with other songs' choruses being only a little more inspiring. The vocals are also a little too dry for my tastes. Fortunately, a few above-average songs such as "Time Again" and "Here Comes the Feeling" keep the album from completely sinking below mediocrity. A decent album, but I was expecting so much more.

90125 by Yes (1990)
90125 by Yes (1990)
Offered by Big_Box_Bargains
Price: $6.68
220 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars More than just "Owner of a Lonely Heart", May 18, 2001
This review is from: 90125 by Yes (1990) (Audio CD)
Inviting criticism, I have to say that I really like "90125", Yes' most commercially acceptable and successful album. While I wouldn't put "Owner of a Lonely Heart" on a list of favorite songs, there's certainly nothing about it that stops me from enjoying it. This, while the albums other radio friendly songs like "It Can Happen" and especially "Changes" happen to be songs I'm very fond of. "Our Song" and "Hearts" were also standout tracks, in my opinion, each with a very pleasant prog-pop sound and memorable melodies. Some of the less fascinating songs on the album ("Hold Tight", "City of Love") missed the mark with me, in much the same way that some of the material on the Asia debut did. However, for the most part, all of the songs herein combine to make one very satisfying rock album.

Price: $10.99
63 used & new from $0.38

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just wouldn't click, May 18, 2001
This review is from: Relayer (Audio CD)
At the risk of exposing myself for the diehard Yes fan that I'm not, I'll admit to some disappointment with "Relayer" and go so far as to rank it below the oft-criticized "Union". For me, this is one of those albums which completely succeeds in accomplishing nothing, save for a few brilliant moments here and there. It is a very "epic" album, containing just three songs, one of 20 minutes and two of about 10 minutes apiece. It opens with the largest of the three, "The Gates of Delirium". Reading through the lyrics to this one, I thought I was going to really like it, but somewhere in the execution it left me very unconvinced and unaffected. The music and vocals just didn't seem to jive with the subject matter, for me, and in truth, the only part of the song that really moved me was the "Soon, oh soon..." section towards the end. This piece is followed with the eccentric "Sound Chaser", which is a particularly unconventional, if enjoyable, song. Still, it is not going to find itself among a list of my favorites from Yes (though the "Cha-cha-cha's" are a nice touch). In my opinion, the album's brightest spot is in the last song "To Be Over". From its tranquil instrumental beginnings to its charming melodies (not to mention the sweet instrumental midsection), this one was the only one of the three to really get my attention, though I do wish it had a little bit more lyrical substance to it. All in all, it's a decent album, though I'd much rather listen to "The Yes Album" or "Fragile".
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