Six Elements: Primary Elements
With a name like Six Elements, this Atlanta-based progressive rock band sets a new standard for progressive rock coming from the Southeastern US. They are the kings of the region in the early Genesis prog genre. Six Elements is made up of Stanley Whitaker, on vocals; keyboards and samples from Michael (Misha) Shengaout; guitars and organ from Jeff Mc Gahren; bass and percussion from Dave De Marco; and drums from Marc Nogaard. Betty Seni adds beautiful vocals. Inna Satunovsky adds piano. The Fauxharmonic Orchestra adds brass and string quartets.
The starting point is Stanley Whitaker. His voice took me right back to the sounds of Henry Tarnecky from the band TCP, and of course the seminal vocalist of this unique vocal sound, Peter Gabriel. And if you are starting with the primary elements, a great place to start is Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "If". The band sent me a wonderful copy of the poem, but you can Google it to get the essence. The theme is all about making the most of the life and time you are given. Primary Elements does just that for Six Elements. You can tell from the quality of the press release to the cover art and CD booklet all the way through to the production of the music, this is a serious band making the kind of music our generation adored and grew old listening to on record players . Quality is definitely job one for Six Elements.
Every great epic I've ever heard opens with an "Overture", and this album is no exception. This one starts quietly with organ and then a soft flute. Don't let it fool you things will change soon. Wonderful piano is added before warm melotron like keys join in.
"Welcome" brings the first vocals and lyrics from Whitaker, "Welcome, my friend to the theatrical event. Eat, drink, and be merry tonight, sing your life like a song. Dance on the table when the music is right, and we will just play along". Sounds like an excerpt from Tull's Minstrel in the Gallery. Off to a great start.
"Childhood Books" takes you back in time to the fairytales of yesteryear, when in childhood everything seemed bigger and grander, and happy endings were abundant. The music is filled with Renaissance flavors to help add to the effect. Whitaker's voice sounds like Peter Gabriel, reaching out as he did through the microphone, to bring the listener emotionally into the story. Then the band goes on a fantastic instrumental romp, full of power, with a pirate – like whirlwind of sound, accented by virtuoso flute playing. The piano work and the storyline of remembering the girl from the past, brought back memories from one of last year's favorites Comedy of Errors. One of the best and the longest track on the album at 7:30.
"Nightmare" opens with great bass and solid drums. Whitaker describes the dark dream in a way that combines some of the best aspects of Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" with "Scenes from a Night's Dream" all set to excellent early Genesis vocals and early era prog/Renaissance - like instrumentation.
"Invictus" opens as an almost continuation of "Nightmare", only this time they brought along more flute. The transition is so subtle you may miss it. The flute work at times takes you back to Tull's Minstrel and at others some of Peter Gabriel's work in early Genesis. The piano is grand and rich in sound.
Beautiful piano and some of the best lyrics on the album unfold to open "Words of Love". "Oh, the words of love…has brought you back to life. Then your enchanted reason, ahead of daily strife…is giving up its freedom and defenses, accepting passionate, transcendent might, of giving up yourself to the words of love". Brilliant lyrics set to a warm soft melody that will draw you in completely. One of the best tracks on the album.
"Summer"opens with warm acoustic guitar and some of Whitaker's closest vocals to Peter Gabriel. The harmonies and early sounds on this track took me back to From Genesis to Revelation era work from my favorite band, besides the Beatles. Then Betty Seni adds her beautiful vocals to provide the female side of this wonderful season.
Since "If" is the central theme of the album, you knew they'd have to set it to music. But how do you interpret this classic? The melody is perfect. The music surrounding the poem sung by Whitaker is easily another of the many high points on the album. Add a flute, grand keys, strong drums, and piano and you have all the instrumentation you need. Fantastic…I'm sure Kipling would be proud.
We had summer earlier, so now the band attempts to capture the feeling and emotion of "Winter". The lyrics and music definitely capture the spirit and tone of this time of reflection and rest. Beautiful piano holds you captive as the tale unfolds.
"If (Radio Mix)" provides a similar version to the album version, except this version only uses more piano, keys, bass and flute.
3. Childhood Books
6. Words of Love
8. If Winter
9. If (Radio Mix)
Added: April 15th 2012
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Six Elements Music.com
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