|Musical Style: Progressive Hard Rock||Produced By: Tony Correlli, John Grant & John Wenger|
|Record Label: Orphan Project Music||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2003||Artist Website: Orphan Project|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 59:32|
It was late 2001 when vocalist Shane Lankford approached guitarist John Wenger (Mars Hill) with the idea of creating a concept album based upon the themes of physical and spiritual adoption. Wenger agreed and a partnership was born which soon led to the creation of an exciting new band called Orphan Project. Orphan Found, the 2003 independently released full length debut of Orphan Project, can best be described as a blend of hard rock with progressive leanings and guitar driven American progressive rock. The end result is a very fine effort in which a more than adequate amount of guitar driven momentum invites a comparison to Shadow Gallery or Threshold, while the use of classical instruments such as violin or cello cannot help but bring to mind Kansas.
The performance of Shane Lankford proves one of the albums strengths. Contributing a rich and full sounding vocal style with a warm feel, his passionate delivery serves as the perfect vehicle to convey the albums emotional storyline. John Wenger plays a “jack of all trades” role in filling in on guitar and keyboards in addition to contributing the albums songwriting. Lead guitarist Scott Spivey and keyboardist Tony Correlli round out the project along with the rhythm section of bassist Colin McGough and drummer Tim Kehring.
Production values come across crisp and clean and with no overriding elements of muddiness. That being said, I cannot help but think a touch of big budget polish would have resulted in an even more refined sounding effort. For example, compare the sonics here to those on Shadow Gallery’s Room V and you will find a slight but noticeable difference.
As a result of growing up the child of adoptive parents, Lankford was left with the burning question “in whom do I find my identity”? Hence, Orphan Found was recorded to explore the issues of adoption but from the standpoint of his personal experience. Topics covered include the longing for acceptance and the desire to establish an identity along with a real sense of peace that comes from above.
“Coming Into View I: Discovering New Surroundings” is a refreshing hard rocker that opens the album in very fine fashion. The song fades in to an amalgamation of acoustic guitar and keyboards that soon give way to a nice crisp sounding rhythm guitar. Slowing to an acoustic guitar for its first and second verse, “Coming Into View I” picks up in pace as the rhythm guitar returns to the forefront of the mix in time to propel a sweeping chorus with a good catchy hook. A fleeting instrumental passage is carried by a tight sounding guitar solo that gives way to several seconds of keyboards.
“Chosen”, the first of the albums five ballads, arrives a bit early for my taste; I cannot help but think it would have gone over better if placed a few tracks down the road. An almost folk-like setting is created as an acoustic guitar guides the song through its first verse before it gains impetus for the emotionally charged chorus that follows. A gritty guitar solo adds a nice bluesy touch. Non-descript is the overall feeling I get here, particularly in light of the fact the song is a bit long winded in coming in at exactly six minutes. A bit of rhythm guitar would have helped out immensely.
The album returns to its hard rocking direction with the excellent “Full But Lonely”. Opening to a few seconds of static, a metal-laced rhythm guitar pushes the song at an upbeat tempo until a touch of vocal harmonies enhances the atmosphere as it moves on to a very strong chorus with a good energy-laden vibe. The hook here is prevailing and you will be challenged to keep it out of your head. The only complaint is that at only four minutes “Full But Lonely” is somewhat on the short side.
“Leaving My Seat At The Table” begins in haunting fashion to a piano as guitar harmony holds sway over the background. Picking up in pace, a huge mix of rhythm guitar takes over and drives the song through its first two verses until it once more slows to a piano for its pre-chorus. A time change is made as the rhythm guitar returns with just the right amount of edge to buttress an emotional chorus that, again, features a hook you will be challenged to get rid of. The blend of violin and piano carrying an extended instrumental section almost comes across Kansas-like in capacity. Excellent song and by far the albums strongest.
The stylish keyboard solo introducing “Trickle Down” gradually transitions to several seconds of tight rhythm guitar harmony. Tapering off as the rhythm guitar fades from the mix, the song slowly moves through its verse portions in laid back fashion until the rhythm guitar returns to back an atmospheric chorus interwoven with lush vocal harmonies. Following a blistering guitar solo, an emotional setting is created as “Trickle Down” again slows as a piano carries its final forty-five seconds.
An ethereal backdrop is put in place as “Coming Into View II: Encircling Arms Of The Father” gets underway as a guitar floats between the left and right channel. After a hard rocking blend of rhythm guitar and pounding drums takes over, an acoustic guitar compels the song through its verse portions until the rhythm guitar returns and provides the foundation of an acoustic laced chorus advancing at a lively upbeat tempo. Lankford’s emotional vocal delivery really shines on this track.
“See What He Sees” is the albums second ballad. A blend of piano and cello initiates the song before an acoustic guitar replaces the cello upon reaching its first verse, the emotional environment maintained as “See What He Sees” reaches its extensive but slowly moving chorus. The presence of a violin during a heartfelt instrumental section, once more, cannot help but bring to mind Kansas. Similar to “Chosen”, however, I tend to pass on this one with the failure of the rhythm guitar to make its presence felt being the main detracting factor.
The metal-laced rhythm guitar commencing the albums title track is replaced by a portentous blend of acoustic guitar and piano upon reaching its first verse. As the song picks back up in pace, the rhythm guitar comes back and sustains a powerful chorus showcasing a very fine non-stop catchy hook. After “Orphan Found” tapers off to a near crawl to a blend of violin and piano, the rhythm guitar again comes crashing back only to give way to a guitar solo. Beautiful.
“Part As One” is a first rate semi-ballad. Once an acoustic guitar helps lead the way through the songs verse portions, it gains momentum as the rhythm guitar kicks in and underlines an extensive chorus interwoven with a brush of vocal harmonies. I would rate “Part As One” the better of the albums ballad based material due to the fact a crisp rhythm guitar is allowed to stand out in the mix.
The second of three straight ballads to close the album, “Paupers Unfulfilled” slowly moves forward in an acoustic based manner until it picks up in pace for a chorus underscored by an aggregation of rhythm guitar and piano. Anti-climatic is the first word that comes to mind here. While by no means a bad song, the last thing I want to hear at this point is, well, another ballad, particularly in light of the fact there is one more to come…
“Coming Into View III: Gazing Down On Golden Streets”, the albums fifth ballad out of twelve songs, is a bit long winded due to coming in at exactly seven minutes. After gradually fading in to the sound of waves washing upon the shore, an acoustic guitar slowly takes the song forward until it gains impetus for a chorus giving rise to a nice majestic feel. My final thoughts? In order for a ballad carried out past six or seven minute to hold my interest it had better be a great song. And, to be quite frank, I would rate “Coming Into View III” as only very good and, as a result, it does not quite make the grade. (I can only think of one band that can pull off writing a seven minute ballad- and that is Shadow Gallery.)
“Wondrous Love” is a quiet and almost orchestral piece carried its brief (1:05) distance by choir-like vocal harmonies backed by a piano.
The talent of Orphan Project cannot be denied and, when taking into consideration the quality of the songwriting here, Orphan Project makes for a very fine debut. That being said, including five ballads on a twelve song album is a bit much for my taste. On the other hand, I understand that in order to communicate the emotional theme of the concept here an album heavy in ballads might be needed. But that does not mean I have to like it. Irregardless, Orphan Project really shines on its more hard rocking material such as “Coming Into View I”, “Full But Lonely”, “Leaving My Seat At The Table” and “Orphan Found”. Perhaps that is the direction the band should follow on any follow up material it records. In the end, whether Orphan Project turns out to be a make or break experience for you depends on your ability to accept its ballad based material. I give it a cautionary thumbs up.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Coming Into View I: Discovering New Surroundings” (6:24), “Chosen” (6:00), “Full But Lonely” (4:00), “Leaving My Seat At The Table” (6:10), “Trickle Down” (4:26), “Coming Into View II: Encircling Arms Of The Father” (5:16), “See What He Sees” (4:11), “Orphan Found” (5:07), “Parts As One” (4:34), “Paupers Unfulfilled” (5:13), “Coming Into View III: Gazing Down On Golden Streets” (7:00), “Wondrous Love” (1:05)
Shane Lankford – Lead Vocals
John Wenger – Guitars & Keyboards
Scott Spivey – Guitars
Colin McGough – Bass
Tony Correlli – Keyboards
Tim Kehring – Drums