The age of the super-sessions continues, this time with former Dixie Dregs bassist Andy West and his cast of super heroes, which include drummers Rod Morgenstein, Jonathan Mover, Mike Portnoy, guitarists Mike Keneally, Toshi Iseda, and keyboards from Jens Johannson, T Lavitz, and Kit Watkins. Needless to say the results of this gathering are quite super, and another in a fine line of hot Magna Carta instrumental prog releases.
The opener, “Mad March” features heavy guitar riffs courtesy of Iseda and Keneally, who also adds some scorching synth solos for good measure. Jens Johansson joins the fray for the frenetic “Meetings”, a mind-blowing piece with more rip-snorting synthesizer blasts than you can count. Keneally though really steals the spotlight with an inhuman guitar solo that is like a combination of Frank Zappa and Steve Vai (gee-weren’t they all in the same band at one time…) while West and Portnoy just drive the rhythm into the stratosphere. Some neat sax sounds from Keneally’s keyboards permeate “Herd Instinct”, a jazzy tune with a perfect mix of groove and atmosphere. The metallic shards of Iseda’s guitar is at the forefront on the heavy “Bloomsday”, while the one vocal piece “Old Meat Frame” is an obnoxious rap/metal song that is very much in-your-face, with processed vocal rants from Keneally , heavy riffs, and killer drum work from Morgenstein.
”Memento Mori” is a slower, more grinding tune, featuring T Lavitz’ trademark symphonic keyboards and the nimble drums of Jonathan Mover. A nice homage to Frank Zappa can be heard on “Qubit”, a quirky, complex little ditty featuring Keneally, Morgenstein, and West, while “Government” is a fusion lovers dream. Here, Iseda and Keneally add crunchy riffs, plus trade tons of complex guitar and keyboard lines while Morgenstein and West keep up a furious pace. Former Happy the Man keyboard player Kit Watkins can readily be heard on the dreamy “Resonate”, one of the CD’s more laid back tracks, and the song itself is very indicative of vintage HTM with melodic horn sounds and intricate arrangements. Did I mention lovely piano work from Watkins? Uh-huh!
RAMA 1 is a very impressive project from these fine musicians. Hopefully they will come back and do a part two in the near future. For intricate and powerful progressive fusion, this is a winner all around.