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(51:32, Musea Parallele Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Demori 2:12 2. Vision 6:38 3. Quest for the Glory 4:45 4. Sun 3:43 5. Destiny 5:51 6. Heaven in Hell-I 0:56 7. Heaven in Hell-II 4:26 8. Epilog 1:33 9. 1118 5:44 10. Stone Temple 3:10 11. Morpheus Son 6:54 12. Colour of Spring 3:54 13. Outro 1:46 LINEUP: Michel Lazaro – piano, organ, synthesizer; backing vocals Stephane Deriau-Reine – keyboards; programming; b/v With: Yan Fab - vocals, guitars (on most tracks) Damien Schmitt - drums (on most tracks) Philippe Chayeb - bass (5, 10) &: A few more additional musicians
Prolusion. French composer and keyboardist Michel LAZARO has been an active musician since the early 90's, and has actively cooperated with Stephane Deriau-Reine since 1994. Towards the end of the 90's Lazaro started working on material for a planned solo album, closely collaborating with Deriau-Reine. The project evolved on an on-and-off basis until 2006, when the original French version was finalized. Songwriter Mike Shannon then helped translate the material into English, and Deriau-Reine called up some friends and acquaintances to record it. The end result was issued as "Vision" by Musea Records in the fall of 2010, on their Musea Parallele imprint.
Analysis. The progressive rock universe contains a vast number of different expressions and Lazaro's take on it is among the more undefinable ones. The basis of his compositions are strong melodies, and the pieces that aren't brief atmospheric interludes tend to be rather conventional in structure, with a verse and chorus pattern that is radio friendly in approach as well as style. The foundation might be described as a variety of melodic hard-rock, but with orchestrated features in the arrangements that add a progressive flavor to the proceedings. Metal-tinged details further enrich these compositions, albeit in a manner that most likely won't draw in interest from a directly metal-oriented audience. The closest description I can approximate for this album is pomp rock, but with a contemporary approach. The piano forms the foundation on these efforts and, while rarely dominating, the basic motif for the compositions is provided by the tangents. And in the few instances where the piano isn't present, I'd wager a good bet that the songs were written on and with this instrument. Steady bass lines and drums underscore quite nicely, while synths and digital strings craft neat symphonic backdrops, and frequently this backdrop has a dominating role besides the lead vocals. Dampened guitar riffs are the final feature, and like most of the bass parts it would appear that these are in fact programmed, which is most likely the reason for their subdued role on these creations. No matter how well digitized an instrument is, it will still sound different from the real item. Utilizing the synthesized instrument in a dampened arrangement like on this album is a good solution if you want to hide the most striking features of the digitized sound. The songs themselves are very well-made. Good flow and momentum, nicely crafted contrasts between the instruments and sounds used, and high quality lead vocals add intriguing details to the relatively few efforts of a more anonymous nature. Frequent appearances of majestic guitar and synth combinations are an essential feature, where richly layered arrangements are the preferred approach, which result in slick, melodic and often radio friendly songs. And while this production hardly can be described as challenging or adventurous per se, it is well made and with a few facets to it that do make it something more than plain, melodic hard rock.
Conclusion. "Vision" is a well made effort from the less intricate parts of the art rock realm. Pomp rock with a contemporary approach is my favored description, although sophisticated melodic hard rock might apply just as well. It kind of comes with the territory that recommendations to fans of Magnum and Queen will follow suit. I'd also surmise that aficionados of neo-progressive music might want to investigate this album as well.
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