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(47:18, Trope Audio)
TRACK LIST: 1. Peyronie's Angle 5:53 2. Cavity Research 6:12 3. Monkey Signature 8:53 4. Still...Life 6:15 5. Sykiatry 13:40 6. Les Canards de Guerre 6:25 LINEUP: Malcolm Smith el. guitars, voice Marc Spooner keyboards, voice Loren Gustafson bass Mattias Olsson drums With: John Mabry vocals Deborah Roth vocals Rich Longacre guitars Craig Launer guitars
Prolusion. US composer and guitarist Malcolm SMITH is probably best known as one of the key members of the US progressive rock band Metaphor, which released three albums between the years 2000 and 2007. "We Were Here" is his first solo album, released by Metaphor's own label Trope Audio in 2014.
Analysis. Smith's main band Metaphor is often described as exploring a retro-oriented brand of progressive rock, with strong tendencies towards vintage symphonic art rock and occasional leanings towards neo-prog. As a solo artist Smith appears to hone in on the vintage-oriented aspect of what his man band has been described as doing, but perhaps in a more challenging manner than many other artists described within this general context. First and foremost, this is primarily an instrumental album and one that clearly has been made with that in mind as well. The compositions revolve around instrumental solo runs, more often than not tightly intertwined, with arrangements that are fairly advanced to my ears. There's also a fair share of variety at hand here, within this given context, as the compositions don't really revolve around any limited set of expressions either. In clear speak, this means that there's room for atmospheric sequences sporting elegant guitar solo and keyboard constellations akin to Camel, majestic passages combining guitar soloing, organ and keyboards in manners more similar to Genesis, quirky, challenging and unpredictable instrumental movements with more of a Gentle Giant aligned take on progressive rock, as well as occasionally more dramatic ventures that have a stronger alignment towards the work of ELP. In addition, there's a fair few instances of themes and movements with more of a jazz rock-oriented sound tossed into this brew, as well as occasional pastoral details with gently wandering guitars and Mellotron, combining in an appropriately melancholic and gentle manner. If the summary does sound a bit confusing, I would state that this is fairly indicative of how this album might appear on an initial inspection as well. A lot is going on most of the time, and getting under the skin of this production will take a bit of effort and intent listening, unless you're already well accustomed to the more challenging aspects of progressive rock. That vendor CDBaby recommends this CD to fans of Happy The Man may also be a revealing little tidbit facts wise.
Conclusion. If vintage-style symphonic progressive rock is a type of music you have a general taste for, Malcolm Smith's debut album "We Were Here" is one that merits an inspection. His take on this music is a challenging one, and, I suspect, that among those who falls within the above specification, those with a special affection for early 70s Gentle Giant and the classic ELP albums may be regarded as something of a key audience.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 14, 2016
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