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Pauly, Henning: Babysteps

Henning Pauly is one of the busiest guys around. He managed to put out seven CDs in only three years; from Chain to Frameshift to his solo work. Babysteps is his third solo statement, and a rather different one at that. It is an attempt to put together a rock opera with various singers and some guest musicians, but Pauly is responsible for much of the instrumentation, including the drums and bass as well as the mixing and mastering duties.

Based on a true story about a professional athlete who becomes paralyzed down the waist (you can read the full story in the CD booklet), Babysteps documents the main character's both internal turmoil and his struggle with his doctor. Henning Pauly's choice of singers is nothing short of amazing. Having already worked with Dream Theater's James Labrie and Saga's Michael Sadler before, it mustn't have been too difficult to convince them. Likewise, his songwriting partner Matt Cash also appears on several pieces, most notably the harmonically rich "Not Just a Piece of Paper" with its gripping vocal hook and Jim Gilmour's stunning piano and synth contribution. Also on the bill is Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Jody Ashworth whose appearance lends some of the songs a distinct Savatage feel, complete with Broadway-esque vocals, gorgeous piano melodies, and complex, multi-tracked counterpoint harmonies. From the relentlessly heavy "Cafe 1" -- note Pauly's bone-crushing rhythm guitar work -- to the moving "Whenever You Dream", Jody Ashworth proves he is able to snap into any kind style effortlessly. The nice piano and guitar work here is expanded on in the following instrumental piece "Cafe 3" which recalls Al Pitrelli's emotionally charged playing quite a bit. Moreover, the classically driven "Cafe 4" and largely acoustic ballad "The Door" contain everything a Savatage/TSO fan may be looking for. Think Beethoven's Last Night meets Poets and Madmen and you have a fairly good picture.

On the heavier front, the Labrie-sung "Listen to Me" is chock full of stomping rhythm battery, prominent bass, an array of sound effects, and Labrie's diverse vocal style. From its blood-curdling aggressive chorus to the dramatic spoken parts, Labrie is at his best, and Marcus Gemeinder's piano solo is absolutely jaw-dropping. Another high point of the album is "A Place in Time", where Michael Sadler, Matt Cash and Jody Ashworth swap lyrics. Saga's Ian Crichton also makes an appearance with a cool guitar solo, followed by a stattering piano riff, and the three singers create a cool vocal harmony at the end. Similarly, "What Do You Know!?" sees Labrie and Ashworth portraying the characters, thus sort of evoking the dialogues on Ayreon's The Human Equation. Henning Pauly himself sings some back-up on "The Door", and shreds intensely on "I See".

Unfortunately though, the album loses some momentum perhaps because it's too long and the writing isn't as interesting on some spots as on others. The acoustic ballad "The Last Song" is terribly derivative of his previous material, and the lyrics can get a tad sappy, more than some may handle. That said, any progressive rock and metal fan who enjoys opera-style concept albums with some of the greatest singers around should give Babysteps a listen.

Track Listing

  1. Cafe 1
  2. I Don't Need You
  3. No Tree To Sit Under
  4. Listen To Me
  5. Cafe 2
  6. Not Just a Piece of Paper
  7. Whenever You Dream
  8. Cafe 3
  9. A Place in Time
  10. What Do You Know!?
  11. Cafe 4
  12. The Door
  13. I See
  14. The Last Song
  15. Cafe 5

Added: May 22nd 2007
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Henning Pauly website
Hits: 3687
Language: english

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