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Marc Klock Group (USA) - 2004 - "Tentacle Dreams"
TRACK LIST: 1. Kaos 3:22 2. Mummy Dearest 5:36 3. Tentacle Dreams 7:41 4. Vibe 6:51 5. Swinging 5:17 6. Chromophobe 8:09 7. Dig 2:35 8. Get Up 6:12 9. On Second Thought 5:46 10. Peace at Sea 3:27 11. Back from Mars 7:38 All tracks: by Klock, except 8: Chen / Klock, 9: Roth / Klock, & 11: Paxson / Klock. LINE-UP: Marc Klock - guitar Ed Roth - keyboards Jerry Goodman - electric violin Jimmy Paxson Jr. - drums Phil Chen - bass With: David Trough - horn Produced & mixed by Klock. Engineered by T. O'Brian.
Prolusion. This is my first acquaintance with the US outfit MARC KLOCK GROUP. Unfortunately, I don't have any information to tell you whether "Tentacle Dreams" is their debut album or not. The point is that the CD press kit was not enclosed in the package. Consequently, I decided to take some information from Marc's website, but could not reach it for some reason, while I tried several times running.
Analysis. Before listening to the CD, I wondered whether Jerry Goodman, who is a member of this group, is that legendary violinist from Chicago who immortalized his name when being a member of The Flock and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. He is! It has become clear to me right after I heard the first violin passages, as Jerry's style of playing is unforgettable and, therefore, is immediately recognizable. You'd think that with this strong reference the album would be derivative, but that's not the case. There are many arrangements where the principal soloing parts are equally divided between guitar, electric piano and violin, and those may remind you of Mahavishnu Orchestra, but exclusively on a structural level. Overall, Marc Klock Group's music is fresh and unique and, in most cases, is both highly progressive and intriguing. Besides, they have their own vision of some of those most traditional musical styles that they appeal to. Please take this remark into consideration and recall it when reading my description of some tracks below. From the eleven instrumental compositions on this 60-minute album the first five are exceptionally thrilling, just brilliant. "What an inspired and masterful band, what a tight playing!" I thought after hearing these, and I am really charmed by them. The album's opener Kaos is a monster of the highest progressive caliber, and not only. This is the heaviest and most mesmerizing Jazz Rock number I've ever heard and is actually a new direction, Jazz Metal, with your permission, though violin and keyboards bring a lot of symphonic warmth to these harsh textures. Here, as well as on the following four tracks, all the band members work miracles, which I really didn't expect from contemporary Jazz Rockers. (Here I must note that I separate Jazz Rock from Jazz-Fusion in spite of their likeness.) Mummy Dearest, the title track, and Swinging are worked out in a similar way and are also notable for intensive, dense, truly hard-edged arrangements, full of everything that a Prog soul is usually eager for. But while the overall sound is still rather heavy, the number of distinct, Cathedral Metal-like guitar riffs is noticeably lesser. With the events that aren't so much tense and excited as those on its track list neighbors, Vibe is full of positive vibes, but is not nearly less intricate and interesting. Marc Klock is a highly masterful guitar player and is a gifted composer with broad horizons, equally at ease working with Jazz, Blues, Metal, and also Art-Rock, like on this composition, where his passages on acoustic guitar are definitely of a symphonic nature, unlike solos of electric guitar and those of Hammond, violin and bass, which concern quasi-Jazz Fusion in this very case. What is specifically appealing is, that said, a naturally magical flow in sound throughout each of the first five tracks. Unfortunately, Jerry's participation on the album turned out to be limited, and on the further tracks his magic violin either appears episodically or is just absent, as is most often. By the way, at least one of them is too featureless to completely reject the supposition that Goodman just could disagree about having his hand in its performance. But well, I'd better go step by step. In the middle of the album, the band suddenly turns off the road they've just bravely paved in virgin musical lands and begins flirting with widespread styles. It was erroneous to call the fifth track Swinging, and its follow-up Chromophobe, and not vice versa, as that's where the real Swing, in all its glory. All the solos are as if singing and dancing in a ring (in a good sense) - round the axis built by the drumming with a typically swinging rhythm, which, alas, didn't change in tempo down to the end. Though I must admit, this is the only significant flaw here. Then follows the heavy Rock & Roll number Dig, short, yet solidly impressive, too. In other words, while not masterworks as the first five compositions, these two are very good tracks, really. Later, however, the band has completely lost their vigor, looking too tired to get up to something more versatile than more than merely traditional Latin Rock and, next, still the same Swing, this time being really second-thought and, hence, ordinary, regardless of the presence of trumpet solos. However, the most unpretentious track, to put it mildly, is the slow, openly straightforward melodic fusion - simply fusion, in its traditional meaning - Peace at Sea. RIP. As if having come to themselves, the group is suddenly back to form while 'backing from Mars' by the last track. Although exercising nearly complete sway, Marc springs a lot of positive surprises here and lifts the veil of another new musical dimension. I perceived it as Jazz-Space-Metal.
Conclusion. As it is, "Tentacle Dreams" strongly lacks a stylistic coherence, and not only. Tracks 8, 9 & 10 are too primitive in comparison with the others and just don't blend with the general musical palette. If I were the producer, I would've never included those on the album. But I'm in my shoes, in my home. So having excluded them when programming the CD in my player, I got an almost masterpiece, whose 45-minute duration is also perfect to me. In any case, Marc Klock Group is one of the strongest Jazz Rock outfits to appear in recent years, and I believe their next effort won't be needed any surgical operation from the direction of their fans, starting with myself. Recommended.
VM: November 1, 2004
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