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Sum Voices: Of Autumn & Insight

It is so important for a CD to start out correctly and from the first vocals and notes of "Autumn Drums (overture)" you know that Of Autumn and Insight is going to be something special. Sarah Wallace has this haunting voice that cuts through the guitar work, even though it is almost a whisper. Combined with JL Hannah's talk-sing approach and you have one powerhouse opener. All of the instrumentation is subdued, yet stands out like an ornament on a tree. This is how progressive rock was meant to be made, with many themes and ideas woven together to form a whole which is greater then the sum of its parts.

And that in a nutshell is Sum Voices. This is not a band as much as a collection of musicians spread across the country contributing little pieces of vocals and instrumentation that Hannah has formed together to make a cohesive album of. After the stunning opener, Paige Sessa takes the lead on the Iona inspired track "Passing Time" that really is the most accessible, and maybe beautiful of the 14 songs. "Dischorus" is the only song that sounds like a Hannah solo contribution, and suffers because of it. With 18 musicians contributing to this CD, you may wonder why Hannah, who has an average voice, decides to apply his singsong vocals to so many tracks. On first listen that is, but after several listens, you will understand with all the contributions, this is the one thing that holds the album together, the constant thread if you will.

The 4-song demo that I originally heard (see below), took the most accessible of the songs and was absolutely one of the best demo CDs I had ever heard. After listening to the full length CD, I was a bit taken aback. But after really digging in, I have determined that the bizarre turns on Of Autumn and Insight keep the CD from getting stale. When I listen to a song like "SumVoices, Some", with Linda Couturas' Fiona Apple-ish blues vocal, I dislike it and love it at the same time. But the one thing is, I keep listening to it. That is the power of some of these songs.

Anytime you mix this many performers into this varied of styles, you are going to hit winners and a few clunkers. "Summer Snow" and "My Own Sunday" are rather ordinary, not bad, but not as creative as the rest. But songs like "Generations", which will remind you of Fritz Doody, "Letting Go", the jazz tinged song that has some of the better guitar riffs on the CD, and "Shadows", another progressive tune with layered vocals which bookends the CD perfectly along with the stunning opener, make this CD one of the bright spots of the new year. Highly recommended to fans of mellower, experimental progressive rock.

Track Listing
1. Autumn Drums
2. Passing Time
3. Dischorus
4. Summer Snow
5. On It's Own
6. SumVoices, Some
7. Generations
8. My Own SunDay
9. Sleep Right
10. Ode To George
11. One Lost Look
12. Ole Friend
13. Letting Go
14. Shadows

Added: January 14th 2006
Reviewer: Steve Ambrosius
Related Link: JL Hannah's Sum Voices
Hits: 2834
Language: english

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Sum Voices: Of Autumn & Insight
Posted by Steve Ambrosius, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-01-14 14:25:33
My Score:

Sum Voices is a collection of musicians and singers throughout the US that have been brought together by the writing of JL Hannah to create a truly amazing work. I am so frustrated that this EP has only 4 songs, because the 23 minutes of music on these 4 tracks shows such promise that this easily could be "record of the year" if it was a full length CD.

If I am reading the bio correctly, there were 18 different people who contributed in some way to this EP. In this way, it has a very Alan Parsons feel to it. Opening track "Autumn Drums" has amazing blended female vocals and a melody that reminds me of Iona. "Dischorus" has a more straight ahead, anthem rock approach. When ever spoken word is used in a song, it runs the risk of sounding campy. Fritz Doddy pulled it off with his dad's "Wake Up Fritz" and Sum Voices'"Generations" also does. This song has elements of Floyd, Doddy, and Specimen 37, to name a few. It is creative and entertaining and just plain pleasure on the ears. The final song "Ole Friends" has a jazz rhythm running through most of the song and again weaves a perfect closing spell that makes you want to hit the repeat button.

I know I am gushing, but this is just plain good music. Of Autumn & Insight shows amazing promise and the creative bar has been set very high, but I have confidence that when we get a full length release we may have a new band that everyone is talking about. Sum Voices is recommended for fans of melodic, creative prog. This CD does not rock very hard, but it groves with the best of them.

Track Listing
1) Autumn Drums 7:00
2) Dischorus 4:03
3) Generations 6:21
4) Ole Friend 5:24

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