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RTFACT: Life Is Good

It's funny how sometimes the oldest sounds can be the freshest thing you've heard in ages. Through a bright, upbeat attack and sharp as a tack production, the debut release, Life Is Good, from the Russian multi-national project RTFACT, is one such album. The brainchild of the Russian 'production team' of bassist on the album Eugene Sharikov and Yuri Volodarsky, the pair have brought on board some other local musicians alongside a few star names such as Sons Of Apollo and Trans Siberian Orchestra man Jeff Scott Soto, ex-UFO and Glenn Hughes guitarist Jeff Kollman, Steve Hackett vocalist and celebrated solo artist Nad Sylvan, multi-talented guitarist Oz Noy and talent show sensation Will Champlin. Unlike many projects of this ilk, thankfully RTFACT don't waste that ultra impressive guest list.

So what cutting edge sounds do this outfit utilise to best showcase their skills? Well a keen mix of ELP and Gentle Giant is pretty much the order of the day, although the big sound and cutting edge production does bring the authentic sounds kicking and screaming into 2017. Opening (and closing) with the album's title track, Soto wastes little time in familiarising himself with these slightly unusual surrounds, his staccato delivery thriving in this technical multi-time changing setting. All of which comes after a signature Gentle Giant layered vocal hits you from all sides and for six! From there the virtuoso musicianship takes over, Kollman ripping out a tremendously sympathetic but lively as hell solo, while the keyboards land somewhere between spaced out 80s TV themes, 70s prog rushes and jazzy fusion like slaps. If you're going to introduce an album, this is exactly how you should do it. A remix of the same track also ends proceedings, but when it sounds as good as it does, who's complaining??

The album's title track turns things on its head, a pleasingly pompous instrumental ranging from proud and strutting to technical and involved. Everything from Yes to Genesis, ELP to jazz fusion poured in, the flavour it leaves sumptuous and scintillating. Champlin, who may be seen as the wildcard here, turns up for "I Got Money In My Pocket" but aided by additional vocals from Sylvan, he proves a revelation. His gently gritty style reminding of a young Bob Catley of Magnum at his best, as another pumping, insistent rhythm plays out underneath. The drumming from Joel Taylor getting a chance to grab the limelight in place of an all out guitar solo; an aspect that genuinely offers something different and takes the vibe to a time long gone. Supposedly Champlin was the last of many to give their interpretation of this track and the first to 'nail it', which he did first time. Discovering the soul, groove and gentle west coast inflection he brings, I'm not surprised.

With "Gotika" a suitably Gothic atmosphered instrumental (give or take some chanting), Jeff Scott Soto steps back to the mic for part one of "Hail To The Winner". Inspired as a theatrical nod towards Queen's "We Are The Champions", the feel is less bombastic, if equally affirming. The second part of the piece, "Tarantella", is another instrumental, synth strings leading the way for a keyboard romp that eventually bursts into some searing guitar. As with some of the other instrumental workouts, with the feel jaunty and unremittingly upbeat, things can sometimes veer dangerously towards lively incidental TV music in feel, and yet, that doesn't stop them from being engaging and technically impressive. Soto is again up front for the ELP tribute of "The King, The Master, And The Timekeeper", the singer clearly enjoying hamming it up as little lyrical and musical references to Emerson Lake And Palmer bring a smile in what is an unashamed but beautifully executed homage. Leaving "Hollywood Walk Of Fame" to close out the album proper, Champlin harking back to Hollywood days gone by, the keys and guitar jousting once more as funk jostles gently with mid-tempo jazzy rock.

If you like your prog-rock-jazz to be a little more nuanced, there's no doubt that you might find the broad brush strokes and permanently glass half full outlook of Life Is Good (the clue's in the title) just a little too bright and cheery. However there's no denying that this is an excellently crafted and executed album that happily wears its ethos and influences on its sleeve. If you ever need your day brightened up, this is exactly where you should be headed.

Track Listing
1. Life Is Good
2. Artifact
3. (I Got) Money in My Pocket
4. Hail to the Winner
5. Hail to the Winner. Part II. Tarantella
6. Gotika
7. The King, the Master, and the Timekeeper
8. Hollywood Walk of Fame
9. Life Is Good (remix)

Added: November 19th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Life Is Good at bandcamp
Hits: 3376
Language: english

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