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Art Rock Circus - 2005 - "Tell a Vision"

(84 min 2CD, Tributary)


Prolusion. "Tell a Vision" is the fourth album by Nevada's primary Prog outfit, ART ROCK CIRCUS, following "Lost My Way" (1994), "Heaven's Cafe" (2000) and "A Passage to Clear" (2001), though the first two were released under the name of the band's primary mastermind, John Miner.

Disc 1 (40 min)


1.  Tell a Vision 19:58
2.  The Cell 6:52
3.  Art of Bells 0:52
4.  Begins-Before-Becomes 5:21
5.  Ballad of Joan Allen 6:29

All tracks: by Miner & Stolz. Produced by Miner.
Additional musical material: by Art Rock Circus.


John Miner - guitars; vocals 
Nolan Stolz - drums; keyboards
Kelton Manning - basses 
David Hornbeck - vocals 
Milo - keyboards; electric sitar
Erika Syrlord - violin
Tony Branco - keyboards
Jim Martino - bass
Miche' - vocals
Karen Wallo - vocals
Timothy Burris - narration 

Analysis. Four years separate "Tell a Vision" from the previous Art Rock Circus album, but it was worth the wait, to say the least. The superficial listen to this new material may lead you to the idea that the music is typically Art Rock Circus's. In reality, only the overall sound remained identical with the band's earlier releases, while compositionally, "Tell a Vision" is a gigantic step forward. Imagine you are listening to the first full-fledged Art Rock and Rock Opera albums, such as "Tommy" by The Who, Genesis's "Trespass", Yes's "Time & a Word", "H to He Who Am the Only One" by Van Der Graaf Generator, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar", and you are close to the idea of what you can expect from this album - a genuine author's honesty and inspiration, raised to the power of musical magic, which was as if just in the air at the boundary of '60s and '70s and is so rare today. That being said, this is a very English music, and I would have hardly believed it was created this year and, moreover, in the world's casino capital, Las Vegas, if I did not know it for a fact. It seems to me it's been ages since I've experienced as great a pleasure when listening to Art Rock as original and inspired as this, so I was even not certain before writing the review whether I have to describe "Tell a Vision" track by track or to content myself with expressing my overall impression of the material. The point is also that all of the songs here are equally impressive, regardless of their longevity. (Well, I count a blitz-concerto for metal percussion, Art of Bells, as an intro to its follow-up, Begins-Before-Becomes.) The 20-minute title number and its track list counterpart, Ballad of Joan Allen, have rather much in common with each other, the storyline being vintage Art-Rock with elements of Rock Opera, notable for some predomination of guitar-laden textures over symphonic ones and dramatic, somewhat storytelling vocals. The band never appeals to the traditional synthesizer registers, and I won't be able to tell you how unique the keyboard palette is, because among several of its colors I make out only those by piano and harpsichord, though even those I often recognize with difficulty. As for the guitar department, John Miner wittingly (and wisely) avoids using modern sound processors, managing mainly with Compressor, Delay, Chorus etc pedals, which, in total, makes this music completely unique, lying beyond any possible comparisons. The Cell is free of keyboard patterns, but develops typically in the band's Art-Rock manner, with the more eclectic arrangements in the instrumental sections. Begins-Before-Become was performed without drums and bass and finds one of the female singers behind the microphone. With the passages of pipe organ and violin being at the fore throughout, it is closer to Chamber music with elements of Opera, but is still filled with the genuine spirit of late sixties' Art-Rock.

Disc 2 (44 min)


1.  Oregon Trail Song 2:44
2.  Cult on Hammer Hill 5:13
3.  Poet from the Sea 3:35
4.  String Theory 1:35
5.  Rainbow Sun 7:42
6.  Desert Song 4:59
7.  Song for a 5th Season 2:25
8.  The Ripper 6:40
9.  Synopsis in A Minor 9:15

Credits/Lineup: same

Analysis. The contents of the second disc are much more diverse musically, but are still perfectly fitting the concept of a classic Art-Rock album (save the ending, which will be mentioned below). Four out of the nine tracks here are instrumental compositions, each being notable for constantly evolving arrangements. Two of them: Oregon Trail Song and Song for a 5th Season are little concertos for classical guitar and are nearly as expressive as Steve Howe's unforgettable Mood for a Day from Yes's "Fragile". String Theory is a clavier piece in a similar manner. Synopsis in A Minor, which closes the album, is the work of a power guitar trio (here: Miner - Stolz -Manning), developing from a rather harsh guitar Art-Rock with a touch of Metal in the first half to Psychedelic/Space Rock in the second, and is probably the most intricate. Among the five songs, there are no weak spots either. While one of them, Poet from the Sea, sounds ballad-like in character, it's mainly due to the specific female singing. The instrumental parts, however, are pretty eclectic, with the moving interaction between keyboard and electric guitar, which weave their patterns independently of the vocal lines and fundamental themes. The remaining four songs: Cult on Hammer Hill, Rainbow Sun, Desert Song and (the violin and piano-driven) The Ripper are classic symphonic Art-Rock at its best. I believe this brief definition is informative enough not to list the progressive features typical for such music. As instrumentalists, the entire band is solid, and they never appeal to flashy things. Instead, their work serves the really magical atmosphere that filters into every track. The sonic palette of the album has been carefully elaborated, and it doesn't remind me of anything I have ever heard before. Brilliant stuff.

Conclusion. Most contemporary Art-Rock bands should take lessons from Art Rock Circus in how to create music, which would be unique and highly attractive simultaneously. Their new album appears as the realization of my (not only mine, I believe) dream to hear a truly honest and inspired Art Rock in the new millennium. Very highly recommended. Touch the magic! Top-2005

VM: July 4 & 6, 2005

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