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- 2010 - "Legend"

(129:03 2CD, ‘Sleepy Hollow’)


****+

Prolusion. SLEEPY HOLLOW is a US three-piece band that was formed back in 1999, and in the 12 years since they have issued various recordings limited in one way or another while awaiting the possibility to record and release an album in the manner they really wanted. Come 2010 and that album was actually finalized, a double CD featuring tracks made in the band's earliest incarnations and pieces written in the following years as well as numbers crafted on the spot while recording this disc. "Legend" is the name of this production (issued in 2010).

Disc 1 (58:20)
****

TRACK LIST:

1.  Out of the Mist 5:42
2.  The Mirror 6:03
3.  Cousin Katie 2:21
4.  The Wanderer 10:08
5.  Come with Me Melina 7:17
6.  Too Late 3:14
7.  Nadia's Song 4:11
8.  The Soldier's Lament 5:09
9.  Butterfly Queen 1:04
10. Sorrow's Might 13:11

LINEUP:

Joe Dell – organ, keyboards; bass; sampling; vocals
Matt Schwarz – guitars, bass; flute; harp; vocals
Gary Rinaldi – drums 
With:
Annie Dell – vocals 
Tony Renda – bass 
Gary Luhrman – bass 
Jennifer Scott – violins 
Lisa Thompson – flutes
Luigi Iorio – backing vocals
Danny Lee – backing vocals
Ernie Iodaci – backing vocals
Ana Morales – backing vocals
Abu Akhmed – backing vocals
Analysis. The first CD of this double feature showcases a band with an eclectic overall taste, where the only red thread of sorts is that they seem to have a musical foundation set in the early 70's. The number of stylistic expressions covered is plentiful, ranging from chamber rock and various kinds of folk rock to heavy prog and early heavy metal, most commonly combining two or more of these styles. The heavier sounding parts of their repertoire are the most impressive ones, with the Hammond combining nicely with dark, distorted guitar riffs to form majestic motifs of a kind reflecting back to Uriah Heep, with touches of Black Sabbath and Atomic Rooster. Perhaps not the most sophisticated kind of music around, but one highly enjoyable for those who generally enjoy tracks where these two instruments are given dominating roles. The most impressive example of the kind on this disc is final track Sorrow's Might, opening and closing in this manner and with an elongated passage in between where the band explores their chamber music and folk rock influences quite nicely. The same motif is explored throughout, but given different musical guises, and a key feature is marked by the vocal parts, where male vocals carry the story, and the female lead vocal has the role of commenting and answering. An approach that has its roots firmly placed in the folk music tradition unless I'm much mistaken. A rather different track worth mentioning is the fragile Cousin Katie, where piano and flute combine nicely in a melancholic, mood-rich setting. And those who have a soft spot for the pipe organ are well-advised to check out The Wanderer, featuring dampened rhythms, acoustic guitar and vocals besides the majestic organ arrangements. While the instrumental parts of this album are enjoyable in general and at their best are enthralling, one aspect that reduced my enjoyment of an otherwise charming creation were the male lead vocals, courtesy of Joe Dell if I've understood the liner notes correctly. He's got a peculiar and dramatic delivery that, in my opinion at least, might be better suited for the troubadour recounting dramatic tales of high adventure while playing the lute than for a rock singer. I also found that he had a tendency to veer ever so slightly out of tune in places. Dell has a fine voice, but the manner in which he uses it doesn't sit too well with my perception of an aptly chosen style of delivery. Overall a charming acquaintance, and one that fans of early 70s art rock most likely will find to be rather interesting.

Disc 2 (70:43)
****+

TRACK LIST:

1.  Farewell to Wilderness 4:29
2.  Armageddon 8:30
3.  Unselfconcious 7:59
4.  Joan 1:20
5.  Troubled Times 5:23
6.  For the World is Hollow 6:05
7.  La Femme Arme 6:01
8.  I'm Insane 3:13
9.  Aristotle's Lantern 8:56
10. Hall of Voices 18:47
Analysis. The second chapter of this ambitious production by Sleepy Hollow continues pretty much in the same vein as the first one. It doesn't cover as many stylistic expressions though, mainly sticking with the heavy art rock- and folk rock-inspired efforts on this CD. The sound and approach stay put within an orientation I'd describe as vintage, harking back to the early 70's. The guitar might occasionally be heavier and more distorted than back then, a few more modern-sounding twists periodically appear, but it is the vintage sound and approach that dominates. On quite a few occasions the compositions featured on this disc might be described as schizophrenic. Rather often passages featuring vocals will initially sound really awkward, with the manner of vocal delivery previously mentioned and an odd mix in which guitars and keyboards or organ don't really suit each other is presented and briefly explored. But on all occasions when this curious development takes place these are followed by elongated instrumental excursions. And those motifs, whether circulating and repeating or constantly developing and evolving, are rather enthralling affairs. The contrasts between the distorted guitar riff, various forms of tangents, and also the flute on occasion are thoroughly examined in a manner that will make most fans of early 70's hard rock nod in approval: groove-laden, but with an overall raw and rough edge that maintains interest and tension quite nicely. There are a few tracks that don't conform to the divided approach too, the brief but beautiful piano excursion Joan and the mild but slightly unnerving ballad I'm Insane as the premier examples. Final track Hall of Voices is something of a letdown though, to put it mildly. This epic creation clocking in at just under 19 minutes is a one of a kind creation, featuring a number of brief spoken theatrical passages bound together by what appears to be free-form improvisational segments, initially with drums and guitar riffs that appear to have had synth and keyboards layers applied in a later studio treatment, and later on gentler folk-oriented themes are played out. Psychedelic and chaotic, but not in a manner that managed to catch my interest I'm afraid. A sonic creation for those specifically interested is my verdict on this one, where I'm just about as far removed from those as possible myself.

Conclusion. Many years in the making and featuring compositions from the earliest to the latest days of the just over decade-long life of this band, "Legend" is an ambitious creation obviously made with a great deal of effort and passion. It's an eclectic production, with one foot firmly placed in early 70's heavy art rock and the other somewhere inside the folk rock universe, with a few brief detours towards chamber music territories. Quality-wise this one will be very much up for discussion; personally I found the lead vocals lacking and some compositions felt unfinished and slightly awkward-sounding in places. Most tracks also feature engaging and charming themes and motifs, and I'd guess that those who generally tend to like vintage heavy rock from the art rock territories will be swayed by the charming and passionate aspects of this release. Not a perfect album by any means, but one that will find its way into the hearts of music lovers despite, or perhaps because of, just that.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 15 & 16, 2011
The Rating Room


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