Raising The Mammoth
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Years after forgetting that I owned the album, I thought "well, if this is all one song, then I can just press "shuffle" and get an album of some kind". I think I get the album's point now. This is just one lineup of over a billion possible outcomes (44*43*42*...etc). There will still be "song divisions", owing to the fadeout finish of the "Broad Decay" suite and other obvious starting/finishing points, but the results are incredibly interesting.
I have done this three times, and gotten three completely different albums. Because I already know where parts are "supposed" to be, its also amusing in a way. Unsurprisingly, the results can be choppy, but the moments that flow seemlessly will leave you in progmazement.
I'm not 100% convinced that Trent Gardiner intended the listener to hear the same album each time. And if he did, and had no disire for a "shuffle fest", then he has unintentionally created one of the funnest prog-in-a-box toys ever.
The two songs with Steve Walsh are the highlights, and are fairly well put together (minimum intermingled b.s.). Walsh was a perfect fit for the two songs he sings on, and for this reason I would recommend fans of his to get this cd. Terry Bozzio also stands out on drums. This format allows him to go all out, and everything he does is pretty amazing. Mark Robertson plays some good solos on keys. I liked James Labrie's vocal spots, but why in the world is Trent's voice jumping in and stealing a few lines (he does this in one of the Walsh songs too) ? Trent's voice sounds good on the Magellan albums, but why splice it in here and deny the full effect of listening a great vocalist for the entire song ?
Referring to a track as 'aka: Prog-o-matic' betrays a certain not-to-be-taken-seriously attitude, in my opinion, which damages the credibility of the composer. Hey, Trent, why do you feel you have to throw us bones ?
There is a certain brooding character that runs throughout the whole album (musically and lyrically), tying it all together. The synth textures used for the melodies, effects and orchestral-like bits even evoke the mystery and imagery of the mammoth concept. Very clever.
Regarding sound quality, this album suffers from way too much compression on the individual tracks, and overall too. It exhibits the same tinny, boxed-in, no-air timbre that is reminiscent to other recent Magna Carta releases. Magna Carta would do well to pair Trent with a competent producer next time out, or at least try another mastering engineer.
In summary, there is enough here to recommend to the curious. But there's probably a good 10-12 minutes of material that should have been edited out. Would have made a much more powerful and cohesive album, in my opinion. But Trent has to throw bones to the dogs, I guess.
If a three sentence comparison of this to Explorer Clubs' first album is in order, there's far less tendency to repetitious self-indulgence here than in the previous album. Perhaps breaking up the songs into bits helps to keep Gardner's greater excesses in check. Although virtually half of this album gets programmed out when I listen to it, I don't listen to the other disc ever.
At the risk of being uphelpful, let me just say right at the beginning that Broad Decay, in all of its several sections, and Vertebrates, in all but it's last two sections are unlistenable to me. It is not that the pieces are pitifully sentimental (they are), overwrought and overwritten (they are)--I might be able to stomach this; I adore 70s Kansas, for instance--it is the SOUND of the pieces--grotesquely over-engineered and slick. In other words, there is an unbearable quantity of professionalism on these pieces--there's not a single moment of lushness overlooked, no excessive touch of reverb skipped. It just all comes off as a sock puppet with no spirit, soul, or life. Made me cringe.
A part of the problem of appreciating what good there is on this album certainly involves expectation. Most clearly, this may be seen in Steve Walsh's vocals. There's not much left of the voice from Kansas' heyday, but what he still has is passion, articulation, and a sense of how to wrap words around a melody (or lack of it).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The first Explorers Club CD had some good moments, but face it, Trent Gardner cannot write a melody. His awkward writing style is even more evident on Raising the Mammoth. Read morePublished on December 9, 2003
I can't describe how depressing this album was. Rather than exploring new territory in Prog-rock and Prog-metal, the album creates new cliches out of the use of existing cliches. Read morePublished on May 22, 2003
Steve Walsh, Vocalist from Kansas sings the lyrics to a couple of the songs here on this cd. As far as I am concerned, that's what makes this cd great......... Read morePublished on May 10, 2003 by Mark Milo
OK, I'll start off saying that Steve Walsh is not near the top of my favorite singers list. I like some Kansas, but it's usually despite Walsh's atics. Read morePublished on February 20, 2003 by Ben Littauer
Firstly I would like to congradulate Trent Gardner
Steve Walsh and all the other great singers and musicians,
for giving us another explorers club that in my humble... Read more
Magellan is a difficult band to get into. It took me many listens to completely appreciate it. The first Explorers Club album was excellent but I felt as though this album... Read morePublished on August 29, 2002 by Jason Mcgorty