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Leger de Main: A Lasting Impression

Back in Erie, Pa., in 1995, two multi-instrumentalist brothers and one woman with an earthy (as opposed to ethereal) voice released a progressive-rock album with the very proggy title The Concept of Our Reality. It was a quirky amalgam of mainstream rock, prog music, jazz and thrash-metal influences. The band called itself Leger de Main (meaning "sleight of hand") and proved to be slightly ahead of its time. Melissa Blair (now Rodler) brought non-operatic female vocals to the forefront long before having a frontwoman was the hip thing for prog bands to do, and the complex combination of Brett Rodler's percussion and Chris Rodler's guitars, basses and keyboards lent Leger de Main a thick, often-swirling, more-progressive-than-Rush vibe. The 20-minute epic "Enter Quietly" was especially impressive, with acoustic guitar, MIDI drums and flute-like synths paving the way toward chaos and Rodler's appealing Everywoman voice delivering intensely personal lyrics.

Out of print for five years, The Concept of Our Reality can now be heard again, remixed and remastered. The album is part of A Lasting Impression, a gorgeous two-disc package that also includes Leger de Main's second album (1997's Second First Impression, which contains a dense instrumental called "Silent Monster" that was, like Leger de Main itself, ahead of its time). The music on both CDs sounds fresh, crisp and vital - thanks to the studio wizardry of John Trevethan (Echolyn, Queensr˙che). And it isn't as abrasive or aggressive as the songs by Mythologic and the instrumental outfit Razor Wire Shrine - bands Leger de Main members later went on to form. But what really makes this reissue of The Concept of Our Reality and Second First Impression so valuable (not to mention listenable) is that this music originally appeared on the cusp of what could arguably be called the modern American progressive-rock era. Groups like Spock's Beard, Magellan and Echolyn were really just getting started at that time, and without widespread use of the Internet, the scene stayed underground.

For A Lasting Impression, Chris and Melissa Rodler also recorded acoustic versions of The Concept of Our Reality's "Crystal Fortune" and "Immobile Time" as bonus tracks at the end of disc one. The songs' contemporary feel provides a musical bridge between past and present and solidifies A Lasting Impression as a rewarding piece of what can only be considered obscure modern progressive-rock history that's still relevant 10 years on …

Track Listings
CD 1-The Concept Of Our Reality:
1) To Live the Truth
2) Crystal Fortune
3) Immobile Time
4) Enter Quietly
5) Distorted Pictures
6) Crystal Fortune (Acoustic Bonus Track)
7) Immobile (Acoustic Bonus Track)

CD 2-Second First Impression:
1) Some Shall Search
2) Changes With the Day
3) Silent Monster
4) Do Whispers Die
5) The Story

Added: March 12th 2006
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Progressive Music Management
Hits: 3891
Language: english

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Leger de Main: A Lasting Impression
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-03-12 13:30:23
My Score:

Way back in the mid-90's, there was a great band called Leger de Main. They played a special kind of prog rock meets avant-garde with female vocals. At the time, prog rock wasn't all that popular Stateside, as bands like Spock's Beard and Echolyn were still trying to break through. But having a female vocalist in prog bands was even more unusual. They released two albums: The Concept of Our Reality in 1995 and Second Final Impression in 1997. However, due to lack of interest, they disbanded shortly thereafter, focusing on other projects.

Now, almost a decade later, Progressive Music Management has put together these two albums in a single package, and presents them under the title A Lasting Impression. What's more is, the band re-entered the studio with John Trevethan who has previously worked with bands like Queensryche, Echolyn, and Robert Fripp, and did a fantastic job remixing and remastering the albums. Now, they sound better than ever, and the first disc also contains two newly recorded acoustic versions of "Crystal Fortune" and "Immobile Time".

The growth displayed from one album to the other is incredible. Leger de Main's first album The Concept of Reality is a fine work of progressive rock with awesome acoustic and electric guitars, wonderful drums and percussion, and an array of folk music instruments. The compositions mostly start with gentle acoustic guitars before Melissa Rodler's incredibly emotional vocals enter the picture. Rodler doesn't sound like any other singer out there, perhaps because she didn't have any influences to draw from when she joined the band. However, hers is an absolutely beautiful voice that needs to be heard to believe. She can move from calm and smooth passages to haunting high registers effortlessly. Driving guitars and melodic keyboards, together with fantastic drumming, create timeless melodies on the relatively heavier "Crystal Fortune", while the band exposes their love for jazz undercurrents on the more upbeat "Immbole Time". The album also contains a 20-minute epic titled "Enter Quietly", a mostly instrumental track where the band uses a lot of flutes and hand drums in a jazzy song structure. Melissa Rodler enters the piece after about seven minutes and defines the Leger de Main sound. The two bonus tracks, recorded after eight years, attest to the richness of her unique and intense vocals.

Second First Impression is a more experimental release. It is a lot more jazzy than its predecessor, and the band is unafraid to compete with the biggest RIO and Zeuhl bands in some places. Brett Rodler's drum tone is significantly more prominent here, starting right with the first song "Some Shall Search". His cymbal work is astounding, and Melissa Rodler's vocals sound much better as well. Actually she comes up with some of the most unusual vocal harmonies you may ever hear on a female-fronted prog rock band. Her vocals on "Do Whispers Die?" are a prime example of that. This song has some really weird riffs and odd-time signatures in it through and through, and it's astonishing how she manages to sing over these riffs with so easily. The keyboard line on this song lends this track a slightly Floydian psychedelia towards the end, which makes it one of the best on the album. "Silent Monster" is the album's instrumental, an upbeat energetic cut with rich jazz textures and searing fretwork, while "Changes with the Day" is an odd avant-garde number with weird percussive rhythms and excellent combination of drum and bass grooves.

This album was one of the best compilations and re-issues of 2005. Actually if Leger de Main was still an active band, they would be one of the best female-fronted prog bands for many. I'm glad Progressive Music Management has released A Lasting Impression for us to discover them.

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