Subsignal – The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime (2015)

Subsignal_Beacons4.5 out of 5 Stars!

I’ve always had a special fondness for Subsignal—a German group formed out of the ashes of Sieges Even—that has released a string of four classy and enchanting albums in the Progressive Rock/Metal genre.

The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime, the band’s fourth and most recent release, is quite similar in substance to the previous three albums, containing Neo Prog-style Progressive Rock. The music is often melancholy and dreamy, yet deceptively intricate, with tricky time-signature changes, and containing luscious melodies, stacked vocal harmonies, and rich orchestration, including the occasional flute, sax, violin, etc. The band also mixes in heavier passages, chunkier guitar blasts and rhythms, that could certainly be classified as borderline Metal, but its not overblown in scope and used mainly to great dramatic effect. Aside from the brief instrumental opener, each of the lengthier vocal tunes, from “Tempest” to “Everything Is Lost” to “And the Rain Will Wash It All Away” to the wonderfully grand and moody four-part title track, incorporates enough levels of excitement as to keep most lovers of Progressive Rock fully engaged and enthralled.

For fans of groups such as Knight Area, Dreamscape, Karmakanic, Doracor, modern-day It Bites, and a host of other acts that seamlessly incorporate ethereal sections into its compositions, that happily sprinkle both acoustic and electric guitar into its arrangements, Subsignal might be a band you’d appreciate.

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Man – Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In? (1971)

Man_DoYouLikeItHereNow4 out of 5 Stars!

The group Man, a Progressive Rock/Psychedelic Rock outfit from the U.K., is not only a long-lasting group, but one that remains (horribly enough) an obscure one.

From the late ’60s through the mid-’70s, Man released a string of engaging and clever albums (and more, since the band reformed in the ’90s and continues to this day) that remain cloaked in controversy—in other words, which genre label is the best to describe Man?

Although I’m sure no response will fully satisfy die-hard fans of the group, my answer would simply be “Progressive Rock.” Seriously, since the band was nothing if not experimental, created a style all its own by jumbling together so many various genres and was indeed true to the meaning of the term, “Progressive Rock” is quite apt.

Therefore, Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In? (the band’s fourth album), with highly diverse tracks such as the experimental “Many Are Called But Few Get Up” that sounds almost a cross between Nektar and Gentle Giant, the ultra-wacky “All Good Clean Fun” with its crazy time signature shifts, the rocking “Love Your Life” with its Heavy Psych guitar and organ solos, and the bopping “Angel Easy” with its countrified-Pop feel, will be of possible interest to those Prog-loving individuals unfamiliar with Man, yet who are also seeking interesting music outside the norm that has inexplicably escaped their turntables throughout the decades.

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Caravan – Cunning Stunts (1975)

Caravan_CunningStunts4 out of 5 Stars!

Although Caravan’s Cunning Stunts, the group’s sixth studio effort, is actually more straightforward and commercial when it came to its melodies and song arrangements, its sound more Symphonic Prog in nature, much less “Canterbury Jazz-oriented,” with diminished humor compared to previous albums, the album is still a rather enjoyable release, once you get past the band’s shift in style/approach.

Indeed, once I did, I found myself playing this album more and more through the years, savoring much of the laid-back and somewhat catchy material, and finally coming to appreciate Caravan’s altered direction.

Certainly, Cunning Stunts (love the naughty play on words) is nowhere close to being my preferred Caravan album (nothing can beat 1971’s brilliant In the Land of Grey and Pink), but with the fun and creative eighteen-minute, multi-part epic “The Dabsong Conshirtoe” included, along with more Pop-oriented, gentler Symphonic fare such as “No Backstage Pass,” “Show of Our Lives,” “Welcome the Day,” and “Stuck in a Hole,” this album is certainly far better than the majority of the group’s more lackluster (ie. sell-out) mainstream material that dominated the band’s albums during the late-’70s and onward.

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Kestrel – Kestrel (1975)

Kestrel_14 out of 5 Stars!

The debut release—and lone album, unfortunately—from an obscure U.K. band named Kestrel features some rather commercial-sounding Progressive Rock with Hard Rock and AOR touches.

Indeed, the music on this album reminds me of numerous acts from the late ’60s and early ’70s—bands as diverse as Sugarloaf, The Guess Who, Argent, etc.—during the era when musicians really started experimenting with more complicated arrangements and instrumentation in a bid to add much-needed tinsel to their otherwise straightforward Pop songs.

So what you’ll find here is fairly decent, occasionally “singalong” material, with some creative instrumental fiddling, grand vocal harmonies, Mellotron excursions, and periodic rhythm shifts on many of the tracks, which adds flavor, texture, and unexpected treats.

Too bad the group didn’t release additional material; it would’ve been interesting to see the directions the band might have gone had Kestrel been given the opportunity for further experimentation and development.

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