With so many progressive rock and prog-metal super group formations these days, it's literally hard to keep up with them all, let alone find any that really stand out from the others. Well, the case can be made for this new offering from The Tangent, a project made up of Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, and Zoltan Csorsz from The Flower Kings (they are everywhere these days aren't they!), Andy Tillison and Sam Baine from Parallel or 90 Degrees, solo artist Guy Manning, and the legendary David Jackson from Van Der Graaf Generator. Fans need not worry, this is no neo-prog affair. Instead, this fine group of musicians go for a quirky mix of symphonic prog, Canterbury, and fiery fusion. It really works, and you'll be hitting the replay button over and over.
Having two keyboard players in Tillison and Baine adds a truly rich sound, especially the hard driving Hammond tone of Tillison. Stolt's unique guitar stylings are in fine form as well, and the guitarist really lets loose on the jazzy breaks of "The Midnight Watershed" along with a welcome return from Jackson, whose sax playing is one of the highlights of this CD. The first suite is the eight-part "The Darkest Dreams" and consists of complex, keyboard driven fusion, plus a few catchy vocal numbers titled "Night Terrors" and "Night Terrors Reprise" that contain melodies that are simply irresistible.
The second section of the CD is "The Canterbury Sequence", a three-part suite that harkens back to the days of Egg, Camel, Hatfield & the North, Gilgamesh, Soft Machine, and National Health. Featuring thick Hammond, juicy flute, and Wes Montgomery-style guitar chords, this piece flows from a atmospheric jazz number to a raging prog workout fueled by Reingold's muscular bass work, and layers of synths, piano, and more flute courtesy of David Jackson. The multi-instrumentalist Manning is ready for the task throughout, as his mandolin and acoustic guitars add plenty of lush tones to these songs. His rolling mandolin work on "Captain Manning's Mandolin" provides the backdrop for Stolt's tortured guitar lines and the heady synth solos from Tillison.
"Up Hill From Here" is an upbeat rocker with thick guitar chords and upfront Hammond, easily the most contemporary track here, sounding somewhat similar to what Parallel or 90 Degrees or Man on Fire are doing these days. "The Music That Died Alone" is a four-part piece that really pulls out all the stops. Starting off as a lazy jazz number which leads to some gorgeous classical piano work, Jackson then joins the fray with some emotional, melodic sax lines that are a joy to hear. More jazzy keyboard textures from the Hammond, synths, and piano, before Stolt crashes through the mix with a fiery wah-wah laced guitar solo. Zoltan and Reingold then bring everyone back for a jazzy finale, featuring liquid guitar lines, soaring sax, and emotional vocals.
The Music That Died Alone totally surprised the hell out of me, and will no doubt make its way to my list of best releases of 2003. Canterbury and symphonic fans need to get their hands on this one ASAP-real classy music from a professional batch of musicians.