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Tracklist: Aria 4:14 Slow Burn 4:34 An Afterthought 6:55 The Shadowline 4:13 Venus Incognito 6:01 The Warrior 5:10 Sound Sculpture 6:56 Ode To a Star 5:06 New And Old World 5:54 Postlude 2:20 Line-up (Marc Wagnon and The Shadowlines): Marc Wagnon - vibraphones & midi-vibes, percussion Sarah Pillow - lead vocals (tracks 2,3,5,6&8) and voices Frank Katz - drums Greg Jones - bass Van Manakas - guitar Tim Ouimette - trumpet (all tracks, except 4&10) Phil Arnold - trombone (all tracks, except 4&10) With: Dave Douglas - trumpet solos (on 1 & 4) Ray Anderson - trombone solos (on 4 & 5) All music by Marc Wagnon. All lyrics by Sarah Pillow. Produced by Marc Wagnon. Recorded by Artie Skye at "European America" studio, NYC. Mixed by Matt Hathaway at "Buckyball Music" studio, NYC. Mastered by Katherine Miller at "Current Sound" studio, NYC.
Prologue. "Buckyball Music Records", founded by Marc Wagnon in New York City, became the home-label for all the four current members of the legendary British Progressive Jazz-Fusion band Brand X (apart from the other artists), which, along with Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever, is one of the three favourite bands of mine within the frame of the genre. Really, I see that all the four heroes, who have recorded one of the three Brand X best, in my view, albums, "Manifest Destiny" of 1997, are instrumentalists on Sarah Pillow's "Nuove Musiche" album: John Goodsall (guitars & midi-guitars), Percy Jones (bass), Frank Katz (drums), and Marc Wagnon (vibraphones & midi-vibes). Finally, Marc Wagnon's first solo album is now in my hands, and a wonderful sensation of a wonderful Prog Jazz-Fusion is a welcome return for me at long last. (Note: there are no a tautology in the latter sentence.)
The Album. With a great pleasure, I've listened to Marc Wagnon's "An Afterthought" album three times straight right after I received a package from "Buckyball Records" (actually, it was just yesterday evening - on August 24th). Firstly, I've been missing on really professional Prog Fusion for about a year and a half already, and secondly, which is especially significant, the more I listened to "An Afterthought" the more deeply I got impressed by this incredibly interesting, distinctly original and in many ways innovative album. Musically, all the first nine tracks of the album can be mentally divided into two parts (only conditionally, though, as such an exact construction, consisting of two different musical forms, create no less than a wonderful musical palette of an album as a whole). In other words, there are five songs and four instrumental pieces, structurally similar among themselves (with a slight exception on the last but one track - a bit later about that), on "An Afterthought" (actually, I recall that I forgot of the last, tenth track, which is also instrumental). While compositions Slow Burn, the album's title-track An Afterthought, Venus Incognito, The Warrior, and Ode To a Star contain vocal parts with lyrics, the instrumental parts of these songs are as rich as those in all (the four) instrumental pieces (Aria, The Shadowline, Sound Sculpture, and New And Old World). On the other hand, all arrangements (including vocal ones) that feature the songs, as well as the musical palette of the songs as a whole, are a bit richer, at least, than those in instrumentals. According to these points, songs could have looked like real winners in comparison to the instrumental pieces, if only the latter hadn't been composed and performed the way to accentuate the songs and, at the same time, to sound as if on the contrary to them, thus creating an extremely unique overall musical picture of the album as a whole. As already mentioned, all instrumental parts of the songs and instrumental compositions in themselves, are similar structurally. While there are a lot of different themes, changes of moods and tempos, complex time signatures, solos, improvisation-alike solos and real improvisations, tonal and atonal interplays between various soloing instruments, etc in all the first nine compositions, each of the musicians almost always plays his very own part within the frame of common harmony, so the joint arrangements sound in a complex and intricate yet, after all, simply fantastic way. Supported by excellent drumming of Frank Katz and variegated rhythms that Van Manakas elicits from his electric guitar, seemingly endless and highly diverse crossing soloing parts of Mark Wagnon on vibraphones (or as if on various keyboards - thanks to the midi system), Phil Arnold and Tim Ouemette on trombone and trumpet, and Greg Jones on bass guitar, dominate everywhere. What's especially amazing, they weave musical laces even behind Sarah Pillow's vocals, and the vocals by this female singer are a very special page in the story of "An Afterthought". First of all, Sarah has an amazingly beautiful voice, and her vocal qualities are so strong that she can use her singing not only as a real musical instrument, but can also work with it as effectively as each of her band-mates does with his respective instrument. (Actually, there are now three female singers, including Sarah, in Rock Music (in general and for all times) who, in my view, surpass all others - by all means.) With unexpected raises to the heights of optimistic philosophy and sudden falls to the dramatic fields of reality, Sarah's vocal parts in each composition she sings on are so wonderfully rich in emotions and diverse in arrangements that they outclass even that instrumental canvas (rich in itself) that is behind her singing. I couldn't even imagine that I'll ever hear such an incredibly innovative thing as using wonderful female (very female) vocals, performed mostly in a symphonic key, in a work of Jazz-Fusion (there are a lot of purely progressive ingredients in it, though).
Summary. I don't regard my mentioning of the true sense of the word "Fusion" as a repetition, as there are too few Prog-sites on the web whose editors consider Jazz-Fusion one of the chief genres of Progressive. So, once again, "Fusion" does mean "Confluence", and Jazz-Fusion is nothing else but a Confluence of any Jazz-related music and other musical forms. Then, in our (progressive) conception, Jazz-Fusion is the Confluence of Jazz-Rock and Progressive. The same definition goes for Marc Wagnon's "An Afterthought" album - with an addition, though, - "at its best". Back to a slight exception that I've found on the 9th track, New And Old World, - this is the only composition on the album, containing a long and virtuosic electric guitar solo (actually, a few of such solos). In addition, this solo plays a prominent part here, while all the other 'structural' aspects of this instrumental are quite comparable to those on the three previous ones. No, I didn't forget of the last track Postlude that, representing just a drum solo (whose place is, in my view, only on live shows and live albums), has this way eaten a half of a rating star. Can't even imagine it somewhere in the middle of "An Afterthought", but thank God this is just the ending of an album-masterpiece.
P.S.: "Backyball Records" online:
P.P.S.: It's time to set up another "Top" on the site's titlepage - "The Best Female Singers".
VM. August 25, 2001
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