It's been a couple years since Kerry Livren and company released the stellar Before Became After, and since that time the band has been busy touring and recording the follow, The Wait of Glory. Well, the wait was well worth it folks. This is a splendid slice of American prog, rooted in classic sounds but decidedly modern. I think the few years of touring has really solidified this group, and Livgren's writing has really found a second wind, as is a winner from start to finish, and sure to be a favorite of many prog rock fans here in 2006.
Look no further than the mini-epic that kicks off the CD, titled "Nevermore", to instill the fact that Proto-Kaw are once again back, and back with a vengeance. This is a wonderful tune, dark and atmospheric at the outset, which then turns into a symphonic powerhouse with vibrant and vintage keyboard sounds from Dan Wright, Livgren's muscular guitar work, flute from John Bolton, and Lynn Meredith's soaring vocals. In fact, Meredith sounds much stronger on this album than on Before Became After, and he is quickly becoming one of the more powerful and expressive vocalists in progressive rock. "Relics Of The Tempest " recalls late 70's Kansas, and you could almost imagine a little violin in this piece would perhaps make it a long lost song from Monolith. Again, Wright's keyboards play a huge role here, with sweeping synth patterns weaving with Bolton's gentle flute strains, giving way to Livgren and his tasty, melodic melodies. Just a gorgeous piece all around, and sure to be a fan favorite on the album.
The band adds some avant-garde and jazz sounds on "When the Rains Come", an almost Gentle Giant meets The Muffins offspring, with plenty of beefy sax from Bolton and bluesy guitar work. As they do on many songs on this album, Proto-Kaw starts you off in one direction, then surprises you as they go down a completely different avenue. After the raucous beginning, this number then floats to a melodic, almost pastoral conclusion, with lush synths and flutes, acoustic guitars, and Meredith & Jake Livgren's emotional vocals. There's an almost film score feel on the orchestral and symphonic "On The Eve Of The Great Decline", again featuring a great Meredith vocal, gorgeous synths & flute, excellent cymbal work from drummer Mike Patrum, and a brief but stabbing guitar solo from Kerry.
A bluesy feel kicks off the raging "Physic", with sees Patrum and bassist Craig Kew locked into a tight groove while Wrights organ rampages, Livgren's guitar snarls, and Bolton's sax squonks. Once again, just as the frenzy reaches a climax, the band shifts to a funky, almost jazzy vibe, keeping the listeners completely on their toes anticipating what is coming next. A similar proggy/funky/jazzy vibe continues on "Osvaldo's Groceries", a short instrumental that again reminds me of The Muffins, except with the inclusion of some biting guitar work from Livgren. The band then moves back into majestic and epic symphonic prog rock on the emotional "The Vigil", a song that owes as much to Jethro Tull as it does Kansas, but is unmistakably Proto-Kaw. In addition to the multitude of synths and piano from Wright, Kew lays down a nice Jaco Pastorius influenced bass solo on this one, and Bolton's flute passages are some of the best on the album.
After stunning the listener with that breathtaking number, the band flat out kicks your ass on the funky and hard rock sounds of "Old Number 63", featuring a clever vocal from Meredith, huge walls of keyboards and sax, and a seriously nasty funk solo section that sees guitar, organ, and sax do battle. Wild stuff! "Melicus Gladiator" is heavy progressive rock in the tradition of Deep Purple, Kansas, or Uriah Heep, with a particularly aggressive and powerful lead vocal from Jake Livgren, making the most of his spot to shine. The closer "Picture This" ends the album in grand fashion, a melodic and majestic number with stunning vocals and piano leading the way. This one also features a beautiful guitar solo from Livgren, full of fire and rich tone, which then cranks the tune into overdrive and turns it into a classic prog and hard rock gem.
It will be near impossible to not get knocked over and blown away by the varied, well written, and expertly played material on The Wait of Glory. With this release, Proto-Kaw are basically telling the world they are here and here to stay. Is it prog rock? Certainly! Is it a bit of hard rock, jazz, and funk? Absolutely! These guys have managed to put together a melting pot of sounds here that works on all levels, and will certainly win them many new fans and accolades in the months to come. A resounding success, and two thumbs up, way up!
2. Relics Of The Tempest
3. When The Rains Come
4. On The Eve Of The Great Decline
6. Osvaldo's Groceries
7. The Vigil
8. Old Number 63
9. Melicus Gladiator
10. Picture This