Friday, January 21, 2022

Goodbye Norma Lucille


I first met Norma in 1984 when I started dating my now wife Tina.  In all that time I came to know her as a woman of grace, elegance, pride, and determination.  Above all, Norma was a woman who was extremely confident in her own skin and knew exactly where she stood—right with her family.

 Norma was so much more than just my mother-in-law…she was elegance and grace personified.  Norma loved all of her kids with an unconditional intensity—and their kids—and their kids (one great granddaughter rounds out the family tree at present).  She was friendly, polite, and courteous whether she was meeting you for the first time or knew you all her life.  Norma was also the best apple pie baker I ever met (and I know people who have competed in the Culinary Olympics).  She wasn’t limited to pie either—her date squares were a Christmas treat I looked forward to every year, right up there with my Nonnie’s anisette cookies. 

Norma was my biggest fan when I wrote my music blog, and would have a critique of the music I posted each week whenever we spoke.  Being a piano and organ player, she especially enjoyed when I wrote about keyboard players.  When I interviewed Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater, she commented not only about how good his music was, she noticed that he “held his hands properly” and she could tell he was “properly trained and must have been a very good student when he was young.”   I always enjoyed listening to Norma’s playing…I can only hope she knew the comfort and solace her playing gave me. 

I mentioned the love she had for her kids, but there was also a fierce motherly protection and a determination to see them all succeed at whatever they chose to do.  I was there to witness firsthand the heartbreak when she lost her eldest son Rob to pancreatic cancer in 2016.  A mother’s pain never heals…yet Norma found the inner strength to carry on.

One of Norma’s true gifts was to make you feel like you were the most important person in the world to her at that moment.  Norma would know a stranger’s life story within ten minutes of meeting them, and she would remember all the details—kids’ names, birthdays, weddings, anniversary dates, even where they grew up…and she would re-count it the next time they met. 

Norma’s relationship with her husband Ernie was something to behold.  My wife Tina and I were helping them with meals and basic household chores lately (as it got difficult for them) so we would stop by each night.  If they weren’t arguing about something silly (and then making up), they were watching TV together.  I sincerely hope and pray that 65 years in Tina and I have as strong a bond as those two had. 

I will always remember the night of December 29th 2021; Ernie was being taken to the hospital via ambulance (he tested positive for COVID).  Norma got up from her chair and walked with determination to the kitchen, standing next to the range holding onto her walker.  I stood next to her, and asked if she wanted a chair.  With a steady voice and eyes welling up she said, “I’m going to stand right here.”  She never took her eyes off the doorway, waiting for Ernie to come out.  When he did she said, “I love you Ernie.”  He responded, “I love you too, kid.”  I was bawling on the inside…  No one knew for sure then, but that was the last time they saw each other in this life…Norma also contracted COVID and succumbed on January 3rd, 2022.

There aren’t many people I can honestly say I admire, but Norma is definitely on that list.  Norma taught me that being parent is indeed the toughest job you will ever love.  You reason with two-year olds, make decisions you never thought you would have to, and shine the spotlight on every accomplishment they achieve.  You cry when they cry, you laugh when they laugh—and you’re always there as a shoulder, an ear, or just a hand.  Norma showed me what love really is…the world needs more people like her—and I’m so grateful that God allowed my path to cross hers.  I am the one that was blessed.

Goodbye Norma Lucille Rawling Malo, a more perfect mother-in-law God has not graced the planet with. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Pure Reason Revolution "The Dark Third"

 Welcome back to the Concert Closet fellow progheads!  Been away far too long, miss being submerged in all things prog; the music, the banter, the artistry--but most of all the music.  I have been going through so much new music trying to decide on where to start the search for all things prog in 2021...and then I read about a band that Rick Wakeman gave props too, so I began to pipe Pure Reason Revolution through my headphones.  If "The Master" likes them then I can certainly be open to an afternoon of listening pleasure.  Take it from Rick--this band does not disappoint.  Please allow me to elaborate as the journey across the prog garden 2021 begins...

"The Dark Third" was actually the 2006 debut from Pure Reason Revolution; it has been remastered and released on Inside Out Records recently and I thought since I am re-starting the search for all things prog, this would be the perfect starting know; a new start for an old classic...anyway, let's get to it...

The first song to grace the Concert Closet is "Apprentice of the Universe."  The interstellar lead-in is a nice touch; the guitars continuing the "float through space" mood and tempo expand your mind, opening up new tributaries of sound and imagination.  Vocals penetrate softly like water droplets rolling off rose petals after a summer shower...this piece surrounds you and flows right through your being.

Next up is "Voices in Winter/In the Realms of the Divine" and once again the Concert Closet is enveloped in a deep-space darkness that is all at once soothing and pulse raising.  The mood picks up from a dark The Pineapple Thief brooding to a sleek Alan Parsons Project orchestral outburst; frighteningly smooth but oh so alluring...

Liner Notes...Pure Reason Revolution hails from the UK, formed originally in 2003 by Chloe Alper and Jon Courtney while the two were attending the University of Westminster.  Their sound resonates within the astral section of the prog garden with Chloe on vocals, bass, and keyboards, and Jon also on vocals and keyboards while handling guitar duties.  Other members of the band through time have included Jon's brother Andrew, Greg Jong, Jim Dobson, Paul Glover, and Jamie Willcox.  

With six previous albums, EP's, and live recordings on their resume, Pure Reason Revolution has established solid footing in the prog garden.  With a sound reminiscent of Alcantara and Lonely Robot, music flows through the headphones like the pulsing mass in your old lava lamp.

Moving over to disc two I drop the laser on "Golden Clothes" and feel myself being swept away.  There is a Gentle Giant quality to this band; as much in the music as in the style of play and the mood they emit.  Pure Reason Revolution are almost ornate with their sound; there is so much going on all around you and trying to take it all in on first listen can be a lesson in futility.  No worries though as leaving the disc on repeat allows the music to soothe while you relax.  This song is almost two distinct pieces of music fused into one, careening gently from one mood to another.  

Last cut to flow the headphones tonight is "The Exact Color."  This song is simply beautiful.  The canvas displays soft hues that run together seamlessly, blue to gray to green to yellow to...a flow that is so steady yet so serene.  Even as the tempo "picks up" it remains steady like the heartbeat of young love.  Pure Reason Revolution use the piano in much the way a poet uses prose; to penetrate the walls surrounding the mind and the heart and bring the music to your entire being.  There are top notes of The Pineapple Thief running through the entire album, and I also detect a commonality with Atlas Volt.  

Learn more about Pure Reason Revolution and purchase the music at PRRinsideoutmusic.  You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter @PRR_official.  Just take the time to immerse yourself and let the music flow you...and all is right with the world...

The cut below is "The Bright Ambassadors of Morning."  Once again the smooth piano leads the journey as Pure Reason Revolution travels across the space and time continuum.  The prog garden is always expanding, both with new acreage and existing areas pushing the boundaries.  I would love to hear a collaboration of Pure Reason Revolution with Brian Eno and David Byrne; perhaps this song is a precursor of what could be...

So fellow progheads, I hope you enjoyed this re-entry in to the prog garden.  Pure Reason Revolution harkens back to the some of the more classic members of the genre while creating a style and mood all their own.  Much the way King Crimson, Yes, and Pink Floyd blazed an earlier trail for the likes of Gentle Giant, Wishbone Ash, and Porcupine Tree, a new trail is being carved out by the bands of today; Pure Reason Revolution, Scarlet INside, and Seconds Before Landing to name but a few.  

So enjoy all the prog garden has to offer and spend a little extra time with Pure Reason Revolution this week...more effective than a vaccination and a lot less stressful...until next time...

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Cosmos "The Deciding Moments of Your Life"/"Mindgames"

Welcome once again to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads.  Coming off the recent review of Morse, Portnoy, George and their cover album trilogy, the search for all things prog continues its "sideways" trajectory.  This week I return to the Progressive Gears stable of artists for a listen with Cosmos.  The band has two albums available on the Progressive Gears label, so I thought I would review them know; mix it up a little.  Toward the end of the review there with be the obligatory link to a website allowing you to purchase the music if you so desire--and hopefully you will so desire.  So onward as they say...

Opening the review with two cuts from the "Mindgames" album; first one hit with the laser is "Skygarden."  A bit cosmic as the music starts to flow through the headphones--but it doesn't take long for the hammer to drop.  Cosmos dances into the metal section of the prog garden--not as deep as Opeth or Dream Theater perhaps, but there is a tinge of  Pink Floyd and Transatlantic wafting through the room.  The drums hit without beating your ears into submission while the guitar rides a tempo in and out of a mood comprised of chaos, doom, and excitement...yes there is a lot going on here.  The vocals are unexpectedly mild, floating across the top. 

Next up is "Close to the Edge."  I expect many of you did a double-take on the song title; alas, it is not a cover of the Yes classic (but wouldn't that have been interesting?).  The piano and bass lead you on a tumultuous journey at sea...Mutiny?  Pirates? The vocals wrap themselves around the entire piece, interwoven with the guitar as tension builds and you are drawn deeper into the  abyss.

Checking out one more cut from this album; "There Are Millions of Reasons to Carry On."  The keyboard opening is a bit on the interstellar side of the spectrum, and the abrupt shift as the drums and bass slide in is smooth like chunky peanut butter--and just as satisfying.  The colors on the canvas run dark but begin to blend, releasing a bright swath of energy through the headphones.  

Let's move to "The Deciding Moments of Your Life" album starting with "Where is Yourself."  This song has strong overtones of Pink Floyd; the tension is built on understated vocals and subtle guitar embraced by the keyboards, and more of that interstellar atmosphere. 

Always intrigued by title cuts, I give this one a spin. Cosmos is a band that runs deep with emotion and feeling, and this song serves as the perfect showpiece.  I detect faint top notes of Lonely Robot and Deep Energy Orchestra; music to search the inner soul by.  

Liner Notes...Cosmos hails from Switzerland and like most up and coming bands, got their sound out to the masses by playing live gigs everywhere they were able.  Also like many up and coming bands, internal strife and struggles altered the  band's trajectory and derailed their plans.  Fortunately nothing fatal occurred and Cosmos is back in the prog garden performing and recording.  The current line-up is Olivier Maier on guitars and vocals, Dani Eggenberger on keyboards and vocals, Heiko Garrn on bass, and Tinu Wengi on drums.  

This latest incarnation of Cosmos isn't just picking up where they previously left off--they are reinventing themselves in the art rock/neo prog section of the prog garden.  With a subtle nod to the standard bearers who came before, Cosmos is carving their own niche in the prog garden and taking a fair amount of acreage to do it.  

Moving back to the music with a tune called "When the Bird Flies Down South."  The comparisons to Pink Floyd start to take shape with this cut; the grandiose overtones combined with introspective keyboards really strike a nerve.  Of course the birds in the opening moments seem to be an homage to Yes...Cosmos does pay respect to those who came  before.  This song is emerging as one of my favorites from both albums; hitting the canvas with colors that splay bright and bleed to a faded hue.  The vocals come through with a haunting realness that penetrate your skull and marinate in your subconscious...relax and take it all in.

Next up is "The Wind in Your Sail."  There is something about this song that rings of Dire Straits.  Olivier's guitar work combines with Dani's keyboards in a way that is not just beautiful, it is stunningly so.  Top notes of Gaillion ride through like a clipper ship sailing majestically across the bay; this song must be heard to be fully appreciated.  

You can purchase the band's music at Cosmos and find out more about them at Facebook.  You can also check on the entire stable of artists at Progressive Gears on Twitter @ProgGears and Instagram.

The cut posted here is "Contact" from the "Mindgames" album.  While the reflection of Pink Floyd throughout this song is unmistakable, listen with an open mind (no pun intended) and let this one wash over you a few times.  There is a dark cloud hanging overhead and as the music spills down the guitar hits you first--but as the song continues to fill the headphones you almost feel yourself floating away... 

So fellow progheads, another session winds down.  Cosmos is a great respite from all the stress that follows you through your day.  It's always a pleasant stroll through the prog garden looking for something new; the genre is overflowing with artists and band pushing the boundaries and expanding on what is already here.  

Cosmos takes you on a journey across the entire spectrum of the prog garden, and while they spend a lot of time in the space rock arena, they are far from one dimensional.  Take some time and listen to both of these albums, letting your mind wander as the music fills your head and takes you on a journey across the prog landscape...taking in that awesome view...until next time...

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Morse/Portnoy/George "Cov3r to Cov3r"

 Hello again from The Concert Closet fellow progheads.  2020 has proven to be a journey unlike any other, and at times I've wondered how we ended up down this rabbit hole.  But while the world continues the search for a "new normal" I continue the search for all things prog.  This week I go "off grid" just a bit and check out the latest from Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, and Randy George (MPG), "Cov3r to Cov3r."  

As the album title suggests this is their third installment of cover songs, and coincidentally they have also released the "Cover to Cover Anthology (Vol. 1-3)" at the same time.  This is a 3-CD set with volumes one and two re-sequenced and remastered and includes the newly released volume three.  For the sake of this review I will stick with "Cov3r to Cov3r (Volume 3)."

To me the challenge is listening to a cover of any song on its own merits; not comparing a cover to the original recording is all but impossible.  Sometimes the cover simply blows the original away, much like the Talking Head's version of "Take Me the the River."  Then there's the added level of intrigue when the live cover smokes the studio version of the cover...but let's not go there today...

Rather, let's jump in with no preconceived ideas with "Black Coffee in Bed."  The familiar opening does remind one of Squeeze; the subtle keys and drums with the underlying guitar carry you right down memory lane.  It seems as if MPG is trying to stay true to Difford and Tillbrook's original inspiration for the song where I was looking for more of a unique interpretation,  a la 801 covering "Tomorrow Never Knows."  However; the nostalgic vibe oozing from this song is something to enjoy.  Neal does manage to grab you by the ears with his vocals while Mike and Randy chime in on the backing chorus with an almost paradoxical charm. 

Another cut I found intriguing is "Hymn 43," a Jethro Tull original.  For me this was a difficult song to cover mainly because it is so soon as the intro starts your mind is taken to Ian Anderson belting out those vocals, wrapped ever so tightly around some masterful drums and keys.  However; on this song MPG really shines--this is the kind of rebuild I look for in a cover.  Yeah, you recognize the song right away--that is the point after all.  But when a band "carves their initials" into it much like the bark of a mighty oak, you know you've found a real gem.  Everybody pours their all into this production; Neal's vocals are blood raw, Mike gives ounce of energy he has to the drumming, and Randy takes the keyboards to another level.  

Liner spelled out in their name, MPG is Neal Morse on vocals, keyboards, and guitars, Mike Portnoy on drums and vocals, and Randy George on bass and keyboards.  Having made names for themselves elsewhere in the prog garden, this seemed like a logical place for the guys to expand their horizons as it were and play music that one would not expect from them; just stuff they enjoy.  A great way to let fans and loyal followers know where their influences came from and what kind of music they enjoy listening to when not making their own.

I for one like to "get inside the mind" of a musician or peak behind the curtain on a band and find out what inspires them and/or discover their interpretation of what they listen to, another reason I enjoy covers. I remember feeling quite surprised to find out Chris Squire of Yes was a fan of The Fifth Dimension, a pop group my mother was absolutely in love with in the 70s. 

Back on track here, another impressive cover from this album is "Baker Street," originally recorded by Gerry Rafferty.  The tempo is a bit more upbeat and the song rocks a little heavier.  Mike's drums are more prominent on this version and the sax solo--the heart and soul of the original version--is handled quite nicely.  Neal goes all out on guitar as well; turning a song that wasn't high on his list of  preferred covers into one of the better songs on the album.  

You can purchase any or all of the "Cover to Cover" albums at insideoutmusic.  All three artists have Facebook and Twitter pages if you have the urge to "fan stalk" them as well.

My last takeaway on the album is "One More Red Nightmare."  You knew I was going there eventually, right?  I have heard this song covered by several bands, most of which consist of members with a first degree connection to Robert Fripp.  The more distanced association here made the song all the more intriguing to me, and I came away impressed.  The sax was on a par with Mel Collins and Neal drove the guitar right through your brain like a railroad spike driven by John Henry himself.  

Below, a clip to put you in the mood; "It Don't Come Easy."  This one helps remind you that prog artists have many facets to their personality and music preferences.  This was a great pop song when it first hit the airwaves and MPG grabbed that vibe by the shoulders, shook it a few times, then pumped it up a notch.  

There you have it fellow progheads, a little bit of fun as The Concert Closet takes a side street and explores the artists behind the prog curtain more than the music played in front of it.  Knowing where musicians get their inspiration or simply finding out what they like to listen to can shed a bit of light on who they are when no one is looking, and why they do what they do they way they do...  

Back to the search for all things prog now, as the journey delves deeper into the prog garden nd discovers more of the good things to be had in 2020...until next time...

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Tangent "Auto Reconnaissance"

 Welcome as always fellow progheads to the Closet Concert Arena.  Autumn is starting her parade of color here in these parts, which may have influenced my thought process when it came to review time.  I settled in with The Tangent this week, a colorful prog band if there ever was one.  Band leader Andy Tillison has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, nor has he been known to desire all the attention in the room.  He does, however present himself and his music in such a way as to demand it be taken on his terms.  

The Tangent is prog music for today; insightful, well written, well performed, and unafraid of what the critics have to say.  For me the music is shrewd, energizing, relevant, exciting, and perhaps a bit humorous.  But enough banter, on to the music...

The opening number is called "Life On Hold."  Instant energy races through the headphones; I am reminded of the opening of a Yes concert in their heyday.  The upbeat tempo is a welcome burst of intensity--but I expect nothing less from Andy.  The keyboards are the focus on this cut along with the vocals; The Tangent has transitioned perfectly from their previous album to this latest adventure.

Next song to be hit by the laser is "The Midas Touch."  A more somber opening is short-lived as the tempo once again builds on its own energy.  The canvas is splayed with bright hues that, while not blinding, do reflect that "Midas Touch."  Top notes of Camel rise to the surface and perhaps a hint of Marillion, but The Tangent are definitely in a section of the prog garden all their own.  This is a perfect song for the current state we're all in; there is a silver lining to the cloud hanging over the planet.  

Liner Notes...Originating in Pately Bridge, North Yorkshire, UK, The Tangent are Andy Tillison on vocals and keyboards as well as the lyricist and composer for the band, Luke Machin on guitar, Jonas Reingold on bass, Theo Travis on sax and flute, and Steve Roberts on drums.   

The Tangent have filled the prog garden with their prog stylings on 17 albums over the course of nearly two decades.  They enjoy a very loyal fanbase and have earned a reputation--deservedly so--as a band unafraid to take on society and everything that entails while not not getting bogged down in the drudgery.  With influences ranging from ELP to Return to Forever, this latest album is just one more unique offering from a band that refuses to be pigeon-holed or hog-tied to someone else's definition of what prog should be.  The refreshingness is so damn invigorating...

Learn  more about The Tangent and purchase their music at thetangent and insideoutmusic.  You can follow the band on facebook and Twitter @thetangentmusic

I played the next song, "Jinxed in Jersey" several times simply because it's as smooth as a pair of silk pajamas.  If you were looking for The Tangent's jazz fusion connection you just found it.  Andy tells a story with a clever, somewhat wry sense of humor.  The keyboards cruise through like a speed boat across a serene lake; this song is AOR with a zest of lime.  

The cut below was chosen as an example of the wide range of acreage The Tangent occupies in the prog garden.  "The Tower of Babel" is a nod to the excess of excess; the blind spot people have when it come to have vs. need.  When Andy sings "you can treat me like piece of can screw the system up, you know what to do, before the system screws you" he is just telling it like it is--although no one really wants to be on the receiving end of a jab like that.  Andy can be as stinging as Warren Zevon and as eloquent as Dave Cousins with his lyrics...with a voice as soothing as Van Morrison on both counts.


    Once again fellow progheads we find ourselves at the end of another chapter here in the Concert Closet.  The Tangent and bands like them are just what the prog garden needs right now; pertinent, on the cutting edge, not afraid to speak their minds.  Andy put it best when he said, "I utterly refuse to accept that progressive rock music is some kind of museum piece.  It is actually a living and breathing movement that has a past, a present, and above all, a future..."  

This is what keeps me coming back to the prog garden every day--the desire by a band and/or artist who wants to be heard on their own terms and not forced to meet someone else's definition of what it is they do.  Don't get me wrong; the glory days of King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, Genesis
et al. are worthy of all the praise heaped on them.  But the prog world did not end--much to the chagrin of thousands--in 1975.  It continues today and thankfully has evolved.  Which, by definition, it was supposed to do.

So the search for all things prog continues on as the journey has no end...until next time...

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Alcantara "Solitaire"

 Hello again fellow progheads and welcome back to The Closet Concert Arena.  Summer 2020 is beginning her swan song as Autumn starts to appear on the horizon; the nights are longer and cooler, the  humidity has retreated behind cool summer breezes, and the sun is no longer a blazing beacon burning a hole through your entire body.

This change of mood led me to some introspection which in turn led me to the Progressive Gears Records stable of artists.  Consequently, the Concert Closet traveled to Sicily to host Alcantara, who recently released their debut album "Solitaire."  Haven't been to Italy in way too long so I am excited to get started...

The album opens with "After the Flood" and immediately the headphones are filled with a gentle and soothing balm, perfect for the mind.  Soft guitar is entwined with delicate vocals drawing you inward toward a dim light illuminating the darkness where memories reside.  Good?  Bad?  That depends on the perspective of the listener, no?                              

Next up is "Bad Bones," another dark song dancing enticingly on the edge of macabre.  The sultry guitar gives way to solid percussion as vocals permeate the headphones with a gentle tone...and every now and then they pierce with the unobtrusive force of a scalpel.  The top notes vary in intensity throughout this song; ranging from Big Big Train to Seconds Before Landing to Pink Floyd.  

Liner Notes...As I mentioned previously, Alcantara hails from Sicily and is comprised of Francesco Venti on lead guitar and keyboards, Salvo DiMauro on guitar, Sebastiano Pisasale on bass, Sergio Manfredi on vocals and lyrics, and Alessio Basile on drums.  Other musicians participated in the recording of this album; Gionata Colaprisca, Andrea Quarolli, Saro Figurra, and Alessio Bano each contributed to different tracks.

A debut concept album, while almost the norm in the prog garden today, rarely hits a nerve so succinctly as "Solitaire" does.  Alcantara peeled the band-aid off a wound that has  everyone talking and many taking action; the decline of societal and political classes.  People are tired of being left out of the conversation while at the same time being used for the political and financial gain of others.  Alcantara gives voice to that argument, urging the masses to resist and make change.

Moving down the playlist, the third song here is aptly titled "The Resistance."  The song opens with the Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem "Pity the Nation" spoken over a steady bass line and the dark, quiet hum of the keyboard...Sergio then pierces the veil with softly sung lyrics that penetrate the soul.  Alcantara    uses prose written decades ago beautifully to speak to society's ills today; lessons yet unlearned...

Learn more about the band at Progressivegears and purchase the album at bandcamp. You can follow Alcantara on Facebookinstagram, and Twitter @bandalcantara

For a few reasons I believe the clip below is very apropos for your listening pleasure this week.  First off, it is in line withe the mission Alcantara is on.  The "I Can't Breathe" sessions include three live versions of songs from the "Solitaire" album; "Logan," "Bad Bones," and "After the Flood."  The band also participated in the Wellbeing Festival on Great Music Stories.  

While the Concert Closet is a gateway to the prog garden and the prog garden is a peaceful place where one can simply enjoy great prog, the theme of the "Solitaire" album and the events related to the recording of the "I Can't Breathe" EP deserve mention.  Music has always been a vital part of societal change and the prog garden is fertile ground for a positive revolution.  That the music is pretty darn good only helps the cause...

So fellow progheads, we come to the end of another music filled week.  The prog rock genre is filled with many bands and artists that view the world through a different lens and use that vantage point to tell their story.  That is something I believe we can all appreciate today.

Alcantara come straight at you with a definite purpose, yet they do so without making you feel like you need to defend yourself.  Their music is hard-hitting without being obtrusive noise; they demand your attention and make their point without sidetracking the issue.  Yes they call for resistance and denounce the polarized state of the world, even calling for people not to follow like sheep--but they do it without using violence as the go-to option. 

 So the search for all things prog continues.  The journey thus far has criss-crossed the planet with no end in sight...and that is fine with me.  Until next time...

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Lonely Robot "Feelings Are Good"

Socially distanced greetings fellow progheads!  Continuing the search for all things prog despite a global pandemic has proven to be entertaining, educational, fun, and exciting.  I can accept being forced to stay home as long as I don't have to "stay home," and traveling the prog garden allows me to do just that.

This week we check in on the latest from Lonely Robot; "Feeling Are Good."  The album was released in July, the fourth in the Lonely Robot catalog.  After completing the "Astronaut Trilogy," John took a different trajectory with his latest work. So let's travel the tangent road and listen to what awaits the eager ears...

The title cut opens the album much like a futuristic appeal to the senses, a la The Alan Parsons Project from the "I Robot" days.  Switch gears as we flow seamlessly to "Into the Lo-Fi" and the tempo picks up immediately.  This is a high energy band much like Mile Marker Zero  and  The Tangent.  John Mitchell  continues to pump energy through the headphones and send it pulsing through your veins.  

Next up is "Army of One."  Off on a different tack, this song starts with a quick shot of adrenaline that tamps itself down...only to thrust itself right back at you.   Lonely Robot pelts you with feelings from every direction here; a man going to war with himself.  Fighting an inner battle so many are familiar with yet a subject so often ignored or misunderstood...but feelings are good--right?

This song marches into "Grief is the Price of Love" so smoothly you almost fall into an abyss you never realized was there.  The gentle vocals pull the heart strings with an acoustic guitar accompaniment that is as elegant as it is somber.  So many emotions....

Liner Notes...Lonely Robot is the solo outlet for John Mitchell.  As a member of Kino, Frost*, It Bites, and Arena, John has managed to keep himself occupied.  Lonely Robot is the outlet John uses to release his inner spirit.  The music is ornate, delicate, bold, introspective, and at times in-your-face.  Yes, feelings are good...

Along with writing, recording producing, and mixing the album, John plays guitar, bass, and keyboards as well as laying down the vocal tracks.  He did, however, have Craig Blundell behind the drum kit.  

Learn more about John Mitchell and Lonely Robot and purchase the music at johnmitchell and 
insideoutmusic.  You will also find them on facebook and Twitter @LordConnaught.

Another song from the playlist this week, "Keeping People as Pets" continues the trajectory into the emotional stratosphere this album has taken.  The tempo runs high as John hits you with lyrics that crawl inside your head and sprawl out, making you ponder reality.  One of the many things I like about Lonely Robot is every album is a concept unto itself and every song within that concept pulls on a thread and doesn't stop until it unravels the world you (previously) found comfort in.  

There are times Lonely Robot comes off as loud and full throttle as Liquid Tension Experiment, and other times when the music is gentle and introspective as Tears For Fears.  John delves into a lot on this album...his songs peeling back the layers as you take a journey through the mind.  His lyrics have always been a strong suit; John paints a vivid picture with his words.

The ear candy to hook you this week is called "Spiders."  The deliberate, slow, steady piano that opens the song accompanies lyrics that are themselves slow, dark, and calculated.  Is that fear you sense or simply trepidation about what is behind the curtain separating you from the unknown?  Feelings are good, yes--but they have a way of clouding the senses, don't they?  The top  notes of Frost* aren't coincidental; the influence crashes through here...
Place the headphones on...relax, reflect, repeat...

I hope this one struck a chord with you fellow progheads; Lonely Robot has shown indeed that "Feelings Are Good."  John is able to do with lyrics what Robert Fripp is able to do with his guitar...perhaps they should join forces on an album in the future?   For now I'm content with Lonely Robot finding new axes to grind and different lenses through which to view the landscape.

Let the search for all things prog carry on; until next time...