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(48.38, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Somewhere on Someday 7:37 2. A Glimpse Inside 4:36 3. From Time to Time 5:36 4. Under Your Spell 3:05 5. A New Life 4:16 6. For All Who Care 3:47 7. The Fainting Game 4:13 8. Out in the Dark 6:22 9. Another Day 4:00 10. Masquerade 4:46 SOLO PILOT: Christiaan Bruin – vocals; all instruments
Prolusion. “A Glimpse Inside” is the debut album of Christiaan Bruin, aka CHRIS, a young Dutch multi-instrumentalist, who composed and recorded it all by himself. The album was recorded between 2007 and 2008, and finally released by Musea Records in 2009. Since the disc’s release, Bruin has put a band together for some live dates, and recently completed the recording of his second album.
Analysis. As clearly evidenced in the previous paragraph, “A Glimpse Inside” is what you might call an extreme example of one-man project – one that, as odd as it may feel, sounds very much as if there was a ‘real’ band involved. This, in my view, lends the album a somewhat disturbingly artificial quality – though not in the same way as other one-man projects I have had the opportunity to review in recent times. In fact, while most of the latter are distinguished by the use of programmed drums (to these ears is a big letdown), this is not the case with this album, which has a natural, organic sound throughout. Although “A Glimpse Inside” is, in many ways, a more than adequate album, I cannot help being somewhat unsettled by this sweeping trend for projects that take the participation of other musicians out of the equation. While it is obviously the easiest way for an up-and-coming musician to record an album without having to invest too much money, it also deprives the final product of that spontaneity that, in the Seventies, was one of the most prized qualities of music, and also of the feel of being a truly collaborative effort. On the other hand, Christiaan Bruin is obviously a talented musician, clearly passionate about his craft, so no harm done in testing the waters, so to speak, with his first release. “A Glimpse Inside” is a pleasant offering that comes in a rather lavish package for an almost independent production. However, therein lies the rub – pleasant, competently executed, nice to look at, and very little more. In fact, even if a couple of songs are longer than your average pop effort, I believe calling this album ‘progressive rock’ would be a bit of a misnomer. More than straightforward prog (if there is such a thing), I would label it as classy progressive pop, with influences from such bands as The Beatles, Queen, and even The Beach Boys, but very few from any of the classic acts of the Seventies or later. In spite of these misgivings, “A Glimpse Inside” is an album that many listeners are quite likely to enjoy. True, Christiaan Bruin’s vocals are not the strongest or most effective on the scene, but the numerous harmony parts more than make up for such shortcomings (even if they are not ‘real’, so to speak), and there is enough melodic content to satisfy those who prize accessibility over innovation. Both the guitar and keyboard sound clean and harmonious, underscoring the overall catchy nature of the music. On the other hand, I would be hard put to mention even one standout track, and – even if the album is anything but long, especially for today’s standards – halfway through it a sort of weariness begins to set in. Opener Somewhere On Someday, which is also the longest song on the album, might immediately impress for its upbeat, Beatlesian flavour superimposed on a typical, melodic Neo-Prog structure, and the tastefully poppy title-track for its pleasing vocal parts and clean guitar work – but, after a while, all the songs begin to sound alike, and the actual ‘prog quotient’ appears disconcertingly thin. The Fainting Game stands out somehow for the presence of Latin and Brazilian influences in the guitar and vocals, though not in such a way as to be a real highlight. A couple of songs, namely Under Your Spell and album closer Masquerade, sound wistful and reflective rather than upbeat, albeit not in an especially convincing manner. At any rate, even if it is not the most original offering around, “A Glimpse Inside” is sure to find admirers in the variegated world of progressive rock. Since the album’s release, Christiaan Bruin has finished recording his second album, which will hopefully involve the participation of other musicians, and possibly a ‘real’ vocalist.
Conclusion. While undoubtedly an enjoyable, well-crafted listen, “A Glimpse Inside” is not a particularly exciting effort, and can be only called prog by association. However, fans of the more mainstream-oriented varieties of prog, as well as of ‘progressive pop’, may appreciate this album – unless, like me, they are somewhat put off by its extremely artificial nature.
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