While most ambitious prog bands spend half their careers crafting concept albums about outer space and imaginary battles, Vynce Leff dedicated himself to writing a record around the story of Pinocchio. What happened to Pinocchio after he earned the right to be a "real" human being and became vulnerable to death, just like the rest of us? Did he ask questions like "Where did I come from?" and "Why was I born?" ? At its core, Leff concluded, the story of Pinocchio is an allegory for the human condition, and he tells that tale on Almost Human — the first CD from a new French symphonic progressive-rock outfit called Sensitive to Light.
As a member of another French symphonic prog band called Saens, multi-instrumentalist Leff knows his stuff, and he's shaped the nine tracks on Almost Human into a beautiful sonic blast that should make followers of the genre giddy. Vocalist Jenny Lewis' earthy touch allows Sensitive to Light to share more musical traits with Mermaid Kiss and Glass Hammer than, say, Nightwish. The record flows like a theatrical production, beginning with a brief atmospheric opener that's cinematic (dare I say, Disney-esque) in scope and then continuing with, just as in life itself, numerous crescendos and decrescendos. "Birth" is punctuated by smoldering guitar and sax solos, and "Father (The Truth)" is marked by passages that echo mid-period Yes. The album's centerpiece (literally and musically) is the dramatic "Kyrie (Gepetto's Death)," a majestic song featuring a massive pipe organ, dense instrumentation and epic arrangements. Throughout the album, Leff maintains an amazingly high level of melody that makes Almost Human a joy to hear on repeat listens. Of course, considering his influences — Spock's Beard, Marillion and Trevor Rabin among them — that's no big surprise.
This is a monumental piece of work that holds up to the best concept albums released in recent years. The fact that it actually makes sense gives it added credibility. I'm not familiar with the music of Saens, and I knew nothing about Sensitive to Light when I pressed "play." But at the halfway point of 2006, Almost Human ranks among the brighter surprises of the year in my collection.
1) Pinocchio : i. Dreams Are Coming True Tonight
2) Pinocchio: ii. Birth
3) Something Happened In The Garden Of Eden
4) Carpe Diem
5) Kyrie (Gepetto's Death)
8) Father (The Truth)
10) Why (Bonus Track)