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John Miner (USA) - 2000 - "Heaven's Cafe"
(47 min, "Tributary")


****+ (Live version)
**** (Studio version)

Tracklist:

Last Smile Sunshine  3.07

Astralography  3.41

Heavens Cafe'  4.08

Never Alone  4.23

Classical Man  4.13

Labyrinth  7.12

Tower of Information  7.58

Again  1.44

Flowing Home 1.40

The Dark  6:12

Robin's Lullaby



Live version recorded at the Flamingo

Theater of Performing Arts

Las Vegas Nevada



Produced by John Miner



Live version's line-up:

Guitar / John Miner

Bass / Jon Cornell

Drums / Jon Weisberg

Violin / Melanie Grimmet



Prologue. For the last three or five years I have heard only few Rock Operas. Of all of them I like "Trinity" most (2CD=120min) - a sci-fi conceptual masterpiece from the descendant of Polish emigrants in the USA, unique composer and musician, living Legend of Progressive Rock Sigmund Snopek III (note: the "Trinity" album was originally released by MUSEA http://www.musearecords.com earlier this year). Least of all I like a few Rock Operas from Ajreon (Holland). These works, on the whole, are quite interesting, but kind of 'synthetic'. Finally, I've heard about and listened to "Heaven's Cafe" by John Miner only recently. Both versions of this album-performance - Live and Studio - contain actually the same songs (with the only insignificant exception), so I'll be talking only about the Live version of "Heaven's Cafe", as this one, unlike its Studio version (if honestly), has much more rich overall sounding. And so, I'm not a bit surprised the "Heaven's Cafe" Live performance, recorded at the Flamingo Theater, was described in Las Vegas Review Journal (yeah, as far as I know, "Tributary" is the first Prog-label in Vegas) as a triumph in the development of musical and theatrical artistry.

The album. Once again, a brief note, or better to say, just a brief reminding - we rate any album according to, IMHO, very accurate Law, 'hidden' in the "Rating Room", though "very good" is already really good rating, all in all. But, first of all I want to say any True Rock Opera has a Sincere Sounding, more or less close to totally 'alive' musical and vocal structures of Classic Opera. Well, firstly, "Heaven's Cafe" is a Sincere Rock Opera, as there are no computers, programming, and even synthesizers in the musical equipment (Russians call the latter just in jest a kitchen, especially with regard to the drum equipment with its bar(rel)s and plates - cymbals sound in Russian exactly so). The studio version presents "HC" performed mainly with the traditional 'Rockish' instruments, whereas the Live version of "HC", thanks to the few guest musicians (cellist, wind instrumentalists, etc) and lead and back vocalists as well, sounds really wonderful. Thematically, this is a conceptual work, dedicated largely to the idea of Reincarnation, though "HC" is rather a fantasy (yet very, very interesting and original) approach to the idea of Reincarnation even from the 'Spiritual' point of view. The key topic of the "HC" story is about a meeting of a number of different reincarnations of the same person from his past and future lives in the same "Heaven's Cafe" simultaneously. IMO, already only libretto is one of the most unique concepts / scenarios (!?) I have familiarized myself for the last five years with. As I said already, the music and the overall vocal palette in the live version of "HC" are very rich. Stylistically, this is a true Classic Rock Opera with several characters, male and female, whose excellent singing is, in some ways (in this case please read the review on another album from Tributary: Mantra Sunrise - 2000 more typical for the Era of Enlightened Music Lovers (from the second half of the 60s to the middle of the 70s) than for the present time).

Summary. As for me, I am sure, "Jesus Christ Superstar" was, still is and will probably be the best Rock Opera ever created. But, in comparison with another very popular thing of the same genre (and times) "Hair", John Miner's work 'looks' a lot more interesting in many aspects. Original musicians (who are members of two bands based on Tributary - Art Rock Circus and Mantra Sunrise), as well as guest performers, each a real professional, create a unique musical atmosphere, showing how tastefully an original (in the two main meanings of the word) composing could sound, being developed with arrangements of the rest varied instruments (apart from the traditional ones), added maybe just to increase the instrumental 'basement' of the live version. Anyway, the 'ultimate result' I hear exactly on the "Heaven's Cafe" CD, recorded at the Flamingo Theater. This is one of just the few really good Classic Rock Operas I ever heard (in this case please read my series of special Articles, dedicated to various forms or manifestations of Rock Opera within the "Genres of Prog" section.

VM. October 13, 2000


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