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(73:19, Orbital Productions)
TRACK LIST: 1. Hidden Sea 6:37 2. Day of the Sun 6:32 3. Morning Mist 4:55 4. Heaven 7:24 5. Life 5:54 6. Lost Man 5:45 7. Night Light 3:50 8. Dreamcatcher 8:44 9. Visions 6:14 10. The Lowlands 4:29 11. Eclipse 6:27 12. Beyond the Horizon 6:28 LINEUP: Steve Gresswell – keyboards; bass; drums Phil Braithwaite – guitars
Prolusion. The UK duo THE INNER ROAD was formed by Steve Gresswell and Phil Braithwaite as a side project to their main creative outlet Coalition when it turned out that the two of them both had material at hand that didn't really suit that band. "Visions" is their debut album, and was released by Orbital Productions in the fall of 2011.
Analysis. One of the mainstays of the progressive rock movement has always been symphonic art rock. Arguably the style that kicked off descriptions like art rock and progressive rock in the first place and a subset of the art rock universe that harbors the most popular and well known artists for the public at large. A style and approach that isn't amongst the most popular to explore these days, but one with a dedicated core of followers always interested in learning about recent additions to this corner of the progressive rock realm: an audience that should find The Inner Road to be right up their alley. Those who share a deep fascination for music of this kind will most likely find everything they desire on this disc. Jubilant soaring vintage-oriented keyboard soloing, driving guitar solo passages backed by smooth, layered keyboard textures, tightly interwoven guitar and organ workouts and melancholic Mellotron textures all have their place on this disc. And if you crave some pastoral moments with slower paced, dream-laden flutes on top of acoustic guitars and dampened string arrangements, elegant saxophone soloing or even cinematic features with more of a gentle character you'll discover parts and sequences of this ilk too – symphonic progressive rock in most of its flavors and variations in short. Tension is upheld by darker toned guitar undercurrents and by pairing off themes of a subtly different character, alterations in pace and intensity the most common contrast utilized, but also a few instances of sequences exploring darker moods and dramatic movements have their place as the counterpoint of this band's otherwise jubilant and positive excursions. And amidst all the subtly different themes and motifs there's one common denominator throughout: richly layered orchestrated arrangements. More often than not this is a production that seems to desire a later reproduction utilizing a full symphony orchestra, with real life opera singers to cater for the occasional non-verbal backing vocals effectively utilized throughout. And therein lies the slight weakness of this disc I guess. The compositions are well planned and performed, but occasionally the end result does sound a bit too synthetic. And due to that few of the songs manage to carve out really strong, unique identities. Fans of this type of music will of course disregard such issues, as a mind set to this style by and large will flesh out any missing timbres by default, but for those not familiar with this subset of the art rock universe this aspect might be regarded as slightly flawed. Personally I would have loved listening to these compositions with a top notch drummer handling the rhythms department too, as I suspect that might have given a slight additional shine to some of these creations. These are mere details though, and ones I surmise those with an interest in this music won't bother thinking twice about. But as I guess the creators of this music would like to know what aspects of this disc that stopped me from giving a perfect score, this is the proverbial it.
Conclusion. If you have a general taste for symphonic progressive rock as it was made back in the golden decade of the 1970's, The Inner Road has released a CD you will want to investigate. In particular of you tend to enjoy the instrumental variety of this style. A high quality production that should find favor amongst most, even listeners as obsessed with minute details as this writer.
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