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(72:10; Vertical Alignment)
One night I was in the study, noodling about on the internet when I should have been writing, when I came across the name Vertical Alignment. It immediately struck a chord with my internal database (I can’t remember the names of people I meet for the life of me, but if is connected to music then the database runs very well indeed, and no need to write code!), as when the band released ‘Signposts’ back in 2006 it was initially only available as a download (later released on CD), and VA became the first band ever to send me a digital download to review (first cassette was Big Big Train, first CD was Final Conflict, first UK t-shirt was also Final Conflict, first overseas t-shirt was Galleon). I knew that Peter Jorgensen had suffered some marital issues, and as far as I was aware the band had run its course after a single album, but here was the band up and running again. I quickly realised that the person behind the band these days was Phoen1x, so sent an email asking to be remembered to Pete as at one time we had been in contact quite a lot. Very quickly I heard back and soon discovered that Pete is now Phoen1x, and there was indeed another full album, and would I like to hear it? Their very informative web site provides details of what happened to the band, and all the personal troubles and changes, but after much effort VA are back with a concept album telling the story of Cherokee Native Americans as they followed the Trail of Tears. The band of Mike Florio (lead vocals, keyboards), Phoen1x ( guitar, keyboards, Cherokee flute, backing vocals), Doug Bowers (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals) and Michael Adams (drums, percussion, fretless bass) are joined by various guests on this recording, including a couple of very well-known bassists in the shape of Randy George and Dave Hope (as an aside, while all musos know that Dave was a founding bassist with Kansas, and also played with Kerry Livgren on many of his albums, how many knew that he is now a retired Anglican priest?). Another name I immediately picked up on was Joe Deninzon, one of the most hard-working violinists working in the prog field at present. Musically this is very close in many ways to Kansas, but the other album it reminded me of is ‘Moccasin Warrior II’ by John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick. Some of the tale is told in song, others in narration or stories, the one of the wolf and lamb meeting in the field is both simple yet incredibly poignant, makes me think each time I hear it. We can’t do anything about our history, by sheer definition it is a time gone past, but we need to never forget what happened, make reparations and ensure it doesn’t happen again. In New Zealand we continue to make settlements to Maori and will continue to do so until all claims have been resolved and listening to this album reminds me yet again just how much pain our forefathers caused to native Americans, Aborigines, Maori and so many more. The use of native flute over the top of Kansas-style keyboards provides one style, a fiddle, jew’s harp and banjo yet another. This album is both a delight, and a sad reminder, all at once. Essential.
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