Album: Rising Sun
While some fans of both styles might be mortified when presented with the concept, there is a common thread between the Europop/new wave sounds of the 1980s and progressive rock. Surely Roxy Music was a group who demonstrated that concept. Commana has similar cross genre references. The vocals are almost exclusively set in that 1980s style like Spandau Ballet and Depeche Mode. Much of the music also exists there, but there is plenty of modern progressive rock in the mix, too.
“Here I Am” opens the set with a mellow jam that showcases a lot of sounds. Certainly the vocals call to mind a lot of the Europop meets new wave music that was popular in the 1980s. Modern progressive rock like Porcupine Tree is also a valid reference point. In addition the vintage prog sounds of acts like Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project deserve a mention. There are even some bits of jazz in the mix. It’s an intriguing tune and a great way to start this off in style.
That sort of mélange of sounds is heard again on “Today Is the Day,” but with different combinations. There’s more energy to the piece and horns bring a different edge to the piece. Yet the guitar really has more of that progressive rock element. The same mellow musical texture is heard on “Arthur Alone,” but the progressive rock sounds (modern) are really the dominant factor. The vocals still have that 80s texture, but otherwise it is really in keeping with modern prog.
An energetic yet, suitably dreamy, modern prog sound makes up the motif of “Dreaming of You.” Horns in the mix bring more of that 80s vibe to “Break Free.” It’s got a great fast moving groove and is one of the cooler cuts on show here. “Beyond the Woods” has a more complex arrangement, both in terms of music and vocals. Some of the vocals call to mind Chris Squire a bit and there are some other Yes-like elements to be found amongst the usual musical suspects here. The title track somehow has a more playful element to it. There is a symphonic element to it and the vocal arrangement is among the most unique here.
While the general mode isn’t changed drastically with “Born in Leigh,” it probably lands closer to the 1980s sound. With a catchy chorus, “Mama” brings another side to the sound. “The King is Dead” features some Latin styled horns amidst the prog meets Euro-pop arrangement. It has some killer guitar soloing.
“Easy” doesn’t really rework anything, but it also doesn’t feel redundant. It has a pretty near ballad approach and some real jazzy elements. The opening of “Simpletones” is more purely progressive rock than just about anything else in the set. The bass line has an intriguing rhythm to it, and overall the song is more rhythm oriented than a lot of other stuff here. The intricate section that opens “History” feels a bit like the mellower side of early Genesis. As the cut grows, though, more of those 80s sounds are heard. The horn section is tasty and the chorus is among the catchiest here.
“SOS” really feels like it could have come from the 1980s, but perhaps there’s more of a prog angle to it than that reference conveys. “PortPatrick” has a smooth groove that combines the central sounds of the set nicely. “At The End” has a more developed guitar sound, but otherwise is pretty close to the rest of the set without feeling overdone or repetitive.
All in all this is an exceptional disc that merges sounds that seem disparate despite having common musical ground. The vocals seem to get a bit samey at times, but the musical changes more than make up for it.
Review by G. W. Hill
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)