Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Various Artists - CPR Volume 3
   
Musical Style: Progressive Rock Produced By: Varies
Record Label: Threshing Floor Country Of Origin: Varies
Year Released: 2008 Artist Website: CPR
Tracks: 11 Rating: No Quote
Running Time: 75:14
Various Artists - CPR Volume 3

The Christian Progressive Rock (CPR) compilations can trace their beginnings to an e-mail discussion group, CPROG, that focused on progressive rock from a Christian perspective and progressive music made by Christians.  Put together in the late nineties by Bill Hammell, a Christian music lover from New Jersey, CPROG served a dual role: 1) to (re) introduce Christians to a style of music that has never played a large role in speaking to the Church, and 2) to further the Kingdom.  Eventually a second discussion group, CPROG Advancement (an offshoot of CPROG), was created that consisted primarily of the musicians and artists that were part of the original CPROG.  The first message on CPROG Advancement asked several relevant questions: Should there be any effort made to advance Christian Progressive Rock?  Why?  (And) how else can we show each other mutual support?  It was from the subsequent discussions that arose that the idea for the CPR compilations came into being.

The first CPR compilation, Volume 1 from 2004, was a two CD set made up of tracks from Ajalon, America Gomorrah, Projo-Kaw, Vertical Alignment, Dave Beegle, Salem Hill, Divine In Sight and eleven others.  CPR Volume 2, a twelve song, single CD release, came out in 2005 and showcased the talents of Dave Bainbridge, Orphan Project, Neal Morse, Glass Hammer and Revelation Project.  Finally, CPR Volume 3, the most recent in the series, was released in 2008 and, similar to its predecessors, does an excellent job supporting the two fold CPR purpose of expanding knowledge of progressive rock into the Christian community and to increase Christian themes with the progressive rock community.

CPR Volume 3 delivers a wide variety of progressive music, ranging from acoustic laced (Unitopia & Ad Astra) to keyboard driven (Everlasting Arms) to classically flavored (Greg Wollen).  Apple Pie and Time Horizon both bring a Spock’s Beard influenced sound while Ted Leonard gives us a tasteful blend of the acoustic and electric.  The progressive hard rock and metal genres are represented here - Mike Locket and Pursuit respectively – as is classic rock (Mike Florio). 
Last, but certainly not least, Christian rock veteran Phil Keaggy makes an appearance with a “jammed out” version of one of his older tracks, “Passport”.

At this point it must be mentioned the professional packaging of CPR Volume 3, consisting of a colorful, fourteen page mini booklet including lyrics to each track and detailed liner notes (with web contacts for each artist).

UNITOPIA - “Lives Go Round”

Hailing from Adelaide, Australia, Unitopia presents with a seventies influenced style of progressive rock drawing upon the inspiration of Peter Gabriel, Genesis and Marillion.  “Lives Go Round”, a track taken from the groups 2005 independently released debut More Than A Dream, is an acoustic based piece shored up by hints of rhythm guitar and occasional doses of accentuating keyboards.  Female vocal harmonies back its angelic chorus.  Lyrically, “Lives Go Round” warns against letting the media think for us (when in actuality we should be thinking for ourselves):

You watch TV.  You listen to the radio,
To find out what’s going on in this world
The media’s intention is to attract our attention,
And lead us all astray

In a world gone crazy, our minds are lazy
On an earth that’s turning to dust
I wonder sometimes which way we will go
And what will become of us

TED LEONARD - “The Name Of God”

Those of you familiar with the current progressive rock/metal scene will recognize the name Ted Leonard, the lead vocalist of Bay Area based Enchant (a talented group with seven full length albums and a live DVD to its credit).  In 2007 Ted put out his first solo release, Way Home, in which he melds elements of acoustic rock, hard rock and progressive rock.  “The Name Of God” ranks with the finer tracks from the album, a laid back and slowly moving piece featuring Ted’s refined vocal stylings joined with a pleasing mix of the electric and acoustic.  Ted delivers a no-nonsense message on this one:

If you love God but hate your brother
Then surely you will fall
Love your God and love each other
Two rules to rule them all

PHIL KEAGGY - “Passport”

Guitar aficionado and Christian rock veteran Phil Keaggy, obviously, needs no introduction.  In 1985 Phil released an album entitled Getting Closer that included the track “Passport”.  Well, 2008 finds him re-recording a “rocked up” and “proged-out” version of the song that, for a lack of better words, just plain kicks.  Originally an airy piece divided between guitar and keyboard based moments, “Passport” now is an eight minute non-stop jam session made up of some of the hardest rocking moments of Phil’s career.  Yes, keyboards play a role here – just not as pronounced – but it is the guitar that takes center stage, particularly during its worshipful chorus:

Creator of heaven, You made the earth
Living Water, second birth
Holy fire, cleansing stream
Give me a ticket on the fast train home
Give me a passport Lord cause I won’t make it on my own

A satisfying jam-band style instrumental section – sustained by Phil’s jazzy lead work – closes out the songs final three minutes.

MIKE FLORIO - “The Wise Man”

Vocalist and keyboards Mike Florio, who makes his home in Westchester County, New York, hit the scene in 2006 with the progressive classic rock of his full length debut Arisen (the album sounds like a combination of Kansas and Styx).  On CPR Volume 3 Mike returns with a brand new cut entitled “The Wise Man”.  What stands out most about the song is Mike’s pristine vocal style, exhibiting perhaps the purest and cleanest delivery of all artists appearing on the project.  Equally notable is the songs catchy melody- abundant and immediately gripping, the kind which deserves to be heard on FM radio.  Musically, “The Wise Man” heads in a classic rock direction with keyboards upholding its upbeat verse portions and a touch of rhythm guitar its powerful chorus.  The focus here is where our eyes should ultimately be:

There’s a wise man and he’s looking to the sky
Vilify no man, show him peace before he dies
There’s a wise man and he’s looking to the Son
Vilify no man, show him the love that is won

APPLE PIE - “Solution”

Russia’s Apple Pie, a group with a quirky psychedelic sounding name, brings a Spock’s Beard-ish style of keyboard/guitar driven progressive rock on its track “Solution”.  The song begins to a symphonic keyboard based opening before slowing to a piano for its first verse.  Tapering to a near standstill as an organ upholds the mix, “Solution” abruptly picks up pace as it obtains a sweeping chorus advancing at a rollicking upbeat tempo.  The final two minutes here are carried by a jam influenced instrumental section upheld by a blend of keyboards and emotionally played lead guitar.

GREG WOLLAN - “Deep Calls 2 Deep”

With its lush arrangements, graceful use of piano and keyboards and classical instrumentation, Greg Wollan’s “Deep Calls 2 Deep” – the title track to his sixth and most recent release from 2007 – might be one of the projects “mellower” tracks but it ranks with the finest.  A production job on the transparent side of things along with Greg’s silky smooth voice helps put the song over the top- not to mention quite the compelling joining of flute and Kansas-like violin.  Oh, and did I mention the song has a beautiful melody as well?  All in all, this is artsy (almost jazz-like) progressive rock heavily rooted in the seventies; as a matter of fact, I can easily see Kerry Livgren (Kansas) doing something like this.  Greg makes a profound statement of faith on “Deep Calls 2 Deep”:

In the dark night of our souls
From the cradle to the grave
Our hearts can find this truth
It’s Your tender touch we crave
And where we need to be
Is where You’re always found

I will witness to the world, I can testify to this
I can tell that deep call to deep

MIKE LOCKETT - “The Dust”

Mike Lockett takes the project in a more hard rocking progressive direction with “The Dust”.  Recorded specifically for CPR Volume 3 (Randy George of Neal Morse fame handles bass), “The Dust” proves a majestic piece with its creative time changes- drifting between passages driven by an edgy rhythm guitar and others in which keyboards play the more prominent role.  A melody on the pronounced side of things will keep you returning time and again.  If the artist put out an entire album like this I would buy it (and review it!).  “The Dust” talks about the toils of daily life:

Life becomes a daily grind
To bear the hurt that breaks the mind
To crave the things we cannot find
Time has fallen hard upon us
Toil and pain and strife upon us
Always watching, waiting for us
There’s nothing new under the sun

We crossed a line that should not be crossed
Enter the light to show what we lost
Walking on ground where all mankind trod
One chance for life and the mercy of God

PURSUIT - “Quest”

The progressive metal genre makes its lone appearance on CPR Volume 3 with Pursuit’s “Quest”, the title track to the group’s sophomore release from 2004.  The song opens to a grand piano before a pronounced rhythm guitar backed by some radiant lead guitar steps forward.  Slowing as the piano returns to carry its first and second verse, “Quest” picks up in pace for the second as the rhythm guitar gradually maneuvers its way back to a place of prominence in the mix.  Following several seconds of bluesy lead guitar, the song moves forward emotionally as it details a believer’s cry of faith:

So lead me on
With Your guiding hand...
Begin your work in me
So others may believe

A sweeping two minute instrumental section precedes the songs final verse as it culminates by comparing a believer’s spiritual walk with a journey or quest:

So lead me on
This could be the hour
Lead me on
In my quest for You

AD ASTRA - “Angle Of Repose”

Ad Astra brings a name inspired by a quote from the Launch Complex 34 at the Kennedy Space Center- “Ad astra per aspera” (a rough road leads to the stars).  A group coming out of the praise band of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin, Florida, Ad Astra comprises three core musicians in Doug Bowers (vocals, keyboards & guitars), Chris Flynn (guitars) and Mitch Rall (drums and vocals).  Beyond Our Bounds, Ad Astra’s full length debut released earlier this year, heads in an up-tempo acoustic rock direction with a bit of a Latin flair on the track “Angle Of Repose” (which finds former Kansas bassist Dave Hope making a guest appearance).  The Latin flair in questions comes courtesy of some Carlos Santana-like licks and chops delivered by guitarist Steve Spayde.  “Angle Of Repose” represents a bold declaration of the individual’s unique identity in Christ:

Well He made me to dance in the margins
To play upon the edge
Waiting to soar the winds of life
My wings waiting on the ledge

The voices of this fallen world
Try to drown out the words You say
I’ve got Your heart to give me life
Your life to show the way

TIME HORIZON - “Life Fantastic”

Time Horizon showcases a Spock’s Beard or Neal Morse influenced (two excellent artists to be compared with) brand of progressive rock on its cut “Life Fantastic”.  The song, which is to be included on the group’s upcoming self-titled debut, opens its first several minutes to an instrumental introduction carried by a joining of sweeping keyboards and crisp rhythm guitar.  Over its remaining five and a half, “Life Fantastic” gives us some tasty time changes, ranging from quieter, acoustic based moments to others heading in a more upbeat direction with the keyboards – and at times an organ – playing a leading role.  If this is any indicator of what Time Horizon is capable then its debut is well worth looking into.  “Life Fantastic” represents a song of hope:

Though the valley brings us low
Looking forward where we’ll know
You bring us new hope
You bring us new hope
Life fantastic

Lord You take a hold of me
Guided by Your hand I see
You bring us new hope
Yes, you bring us new hope

EVERLASTING ARMS - “The Mirror”

The longest song on CPR Volume 3, the twelve minute epic “The Mirror”, is delivered by Everlasting Arms.  Quite the splendid piece, “The Mirror” moves its distance in a keyboard driven manner, delivering a sweeping progressive rock sound I might compare to Glass Hammer.  Abundant vocal harmonies abound as does an enjoyable melody.  You will find several lengthy keyboard driven instrumental passages as well.  All around, I would like to have heard a bit of guitar here – perhaps an accompanying rhythm/acoustic track or a guitar solo – but, still, Everlasting Arms does a good job of “overdoing it without overdoing it”.  “The Mirror” will appear on the group’s sophomore release On Broken Wings… (scheduled to come out in the fall of 2008).

CPR Volume 3 represents as fine a compilation as this reviewer has heard.  Once more, a bit of variety is delivered here – ranging from the keyboard driven and acoustic to metal and hard rock – but it is that variety which keeps me coming back to the project time and again.  All in all, look for several artists featured on CPR Volume 3 to be reviewed in the coming months.

Track Listing: Unitopia – “Lives Go Round”, Ted Leonard – “The Name Of God”, Phil Keaggy – “Passport”, Mike Florio – “The Wise Man”, Apple Pie – “Solution”, “Greg Wollan – “Deep Calls 2 Deep”, Mike Lockett – “The Dust”, Pursuit – “Quest”, Ad Astra – “Angle Of Repose”, Time Horizon – “Life Fantastic”, Everlasting Arms – “The Mirror”

Also Reviewed: Mike Florio – Arisen, Pursuit - Quest

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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