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Side Steps: Verge of Reality

Japan's fusion monster Side Steps are back with another platter of classy instrumental music. The band has been around now since the early 1990's, and have been honing their craft now for many years, and it shows on Verge of Reality. While there's a bit too much of the "smooth jazz" feel creeping into their music at times here, this is still progressive fusion of the highest quality, and the production of the CD is remarkable.

The opener, "Ropponggi Night", is actually the most dissapointing piece on the album, and not a good way to kick things off. With it's laid back funk guitar vamps and lite-jazz keyboard stylings, this one pack little to no punch and is almost sleep inducing. However, things pick up quickly on the burning fusion ripper "Edge Trigger" a song in fine Kenso, Elektric Band, and Brand X fashion with plenty of hot keyboard and guitar passages, as well as raging rhythms. On the melodic title track, guitarist Atsunobu Tamura lays down plenty of fiery and tasty leads, while drummer Ichiro Fukawa flails away on his kit. Bassist Koichi Iwai and keyboard player Hiroaki Itoh both also get to rip out intense solos on this one, which eventually goes from a chops fest to a grand symphonic finale. "Because of Silence" is an enjoyable piece and the longest on the album, with emotional guitar work from Tamura and fine piano solos from Itoh, but as lovely as the song is, I was almost waiting for a little more fire and less smoothness. The band then kicks into overdrive for the blisteirng "Parallel Reality", complete with blazing synths, crunchy guitar riffs, and manic rhythms. This one's a burner folks, with scorching keyboard and guitar solos litterally jumping through your speakers! The mostly acoustic "Evergreen" is a majestic number featuring piano and guitar, and the closer "Courage Of the Wind" is a cross between symphonic prog and Spyro Gyra/Elektric Band contemporary jazz styles. The latter is filled with acrobatic bass grooves, tasty guitar solos, intricate drum patterns, and walls of synths.

When it's hot, Verge of Reality burns, when it's not, it comes across as a tad sedate and safe, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Still, this latest from Side Steps is better than most instrumental fusion that you hear these days, and soundwise this is one of the best sounding albums I've heard in some time. Overall, I wish they would have kept the intensity level up throughout this CD as the pacing is a little erratic, but none of the songs are bad and I can easily give this a thumbs up. Good quality fusion for fans of the genre is what you get here.

Track Listing
1. Roppongi Night 7:09
2. Edge Trigger 6:44
3. Beyond The Verge 6:08
4. Because Of Silence 8:50
5. Parallel Reality 5:08
6. Evergreen 7:18
7. Courage Of The Wind 6:48
Total Time 48:05

Added: February 18th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Side Steps Website
Hits: 3519
Language: english

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