Here we have another 'live' album of sorts from veteran Michigan heavy proggers Tiles, the second installment of their 20th Anniversary celebration. The Off the Floor sessions have seen the band go into the studio and record live interpretations of songs that have normally been a part of their stage set. So, not quite 'live in concert' but much more than just studio re-recordings of some of their more popular songs. For this set, we have 10 Tiles classics, all given royal 2014 treatment with a healthy dose of improvisations thrown in along with some extra bits here and there. As a bonus, the band has included a second disc with recordings from their 2005 performance at the RoSfest (Rites of Spring) festival in Pennsylvania. The 2014 line-up of Tiles includes Chris Herin (Electric guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Jeff Whittle (Bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Mark Evans (Drums & percussion), and Paul Rarick (Lead vocals). For the RoSfest tracks, Pat DeLeon sat in the drum position.
If you've never had the chance to experience the music of Tiles, they've often been compared to early Rush (they initially were a Rush tribute band), and while you can sometimes hear the influence of Alex Lifeson on Herin, that's about as much of the Canadian legends that you will get with this band. Tiles play in a heavy prog style, often times quite metallic but always melodic and often very complex. Rarick has a strong, powerful vocal style, soaring over crunchy fare like "Analysis Paralysis" and the rampaging, complex ripper "Another's Hand". The moody & atmospheric "Cactus Valley" takes on many layers here, with Whittle's thick bass lines working side by side with the intricate stick work of Evans, all the while Herin lays down plenty of textured chords and meaty riffs. "Patterns" rocks quite hard and contains some great hooks, driven by Rarick's high pitched vocals and some excellent guitar work courtesy of Herin, and the guitarist again lends his commanding skills to "Taking Control", another crunchy number that reminds of both Rush & Saga. The band even channels a little Dream Theater on the metallic & complex prog-metal track "Hide & Seek", here on this new version taking on a brightness that is quite engaging. Overall these 'live in the studio' recordings are very enjoyable, many of them taking on a more muscular tone when compared to their original studio counterparts. Of course, seeing as the sessions were mixed by Terry Brown (there's another one of those Rush connections!), you can expect a great sounding recording.
On the bonus disc you get 4 songs from the bands 2005 appearance at RoSfest, which includes a blistering version of "Facing Failure", a jaw-dropping rendition of their epic "Window Dressing" (this is how you integrate face melting chops with melodic, symphonic prog!), and the near 'metal' of "Paintings" and "Ballad of the Sacred Cows". No doubt the prog faithful at the festival that day were woken up by Tiles' rampaging attack, and it's a shame the full performance wasn't included here. There are also two video clips from the On the Floor studio sessions, which are cool, but I'm sure most fans would have loved to hear more of the RoSfest set.
Overall Off the Floor 02 is a great CD, reminding us just what a powerhouse band Tiles really is. Though they've been around now for 20 years, their recorded output has been somewhat sparse, which is probably one of the main reasons they haven't risen up to 'household' name status among prog & hard rock fans. That's a shame, as this is a really talented group, so if you haven't yet discovered the wonders of Tiles, check out this and the first installment of Off the Floor for a taste of what they are all about, and then go investigate their handful of studio releases. You won't be disappointed.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. Patterns (4.38)
2. Hide & Seek (8.09)
3. Taking Control (5.14)
4. Remember To Forget (5.00)
5. Analysis Paralysis (5.18)
6. Cactus Valley (7.01)
7. Sacred & Mundane (6.30)
8. Dancing Dogs (5.45)
9. Safe Procedures (7.31)
10. Another's Hand (6.26)
Disc 2: Live at the 2005 Rites of Spring Festival
1. Intro/Facing Failure (6.48)
2. Ballad Of The Sacred Cows (7.24)
3. Paintings (5.04)
4. Window Dressing (17.03)
Total Time: 98:00
Also included are two bonus videos from the "Off the Floor" sessions (Landscape & Remember to Forget)