Gearphoria Volume 7 Number 3

GEARPHORIA JAN/FEB 2019 59 MEDIA REVIEWS u RE-LIC’ ’ D ARTIST: Victor ALBUM: S/T RELEASED: 1996 VERDICT: WITH HELP from fellow Canadians Edwin (Ugly Kid Joe), Dalbello and a handful of others, former Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson filled some downtime from his legacy band in the mid- 1990s to record a one-off album as Victor… called Victor . Cut between Rush’s Counterparts and Test For Echo albums, Victor took the guitar-heavy approaches to those albums to the next level with Lifeson and Brian Bell providing the six-string muscle. The opener, ‘Don’t Care’, is a statement piece fueled by a snake-like main riff dressed up with progressive signature changes and time quakes not uncommon to Lifeson’s Rush follow- ers. The song’s solo selection melts down into a cacophony of feedback and electric swirl. ‘The Promise’ was the single released by Atlantic and is probably as close to Rush as Victor gets. The lead hook and chorus con- struction is highly reminiscent of something that could have been on Presto or Roll The Bones, while the solo harkens back to reverb- heavy arrangements of Grace Under Pressure or Signals . ‘Start Today’ blasts off with a Zeppelin Four Sticks-esque drive to the guitar riff and Dal- bello moving from spoken work to near Geddy Lee howl, while the instrumental ‘Mr. X’ down- shifts into a synthy intro that is soon greeted by howling guitars and harmony chorus lines along with meaty solo sections. ‘At The End’ is Victor at its most experimental — equipped with dreamy synth bends and drum loops, and the traditional vocals replaced by Lifeson’s spoken word narrative and guitar noodling. The last third of the album is highlighted by the instrumental acoustic wizardry of ‘Strip And Go Naked’, the raucous ‘The Big Dance’, the electronica-infused poem-poached title track and the closer, ‘I Am The Spirit’— another blistering fit of machine gun riffs that abruptly shifts mid-song into more melodic territory. Lifeson recorded Victor at his house near To- ronto. It was likely never going to be anything anyone beyond the informed Rush/Ugly Kid Joe fan was going to hear, but that doesn’t diminish the final product. Now that Rush is no more, and speculation abounds about Lifeson’s musical future, Victor stands alone as one potent possibility. G ARTIST: The Neal Morse Band ALBUM: TheGreatAdventure LABEL: Radiant Records VERDICT: HOW DOES a band follow-up a universally-praised conceptual double album? For The Neal Morse Band the answer was with another conceptual double album -- a sequel of sorts that fol- lows the story of the protagonist from the first effort’s son. Thus begins The Great Adventure -- a 22-track mountain of progres- sive songs, instrumental breaks, signature changes, dramatic shifts and a level of musicianship rarely seen in rock music today. Highlights from the first half of the narrative include the riff- filled ‘Welcome To The World’, which sets up the story of the son. The song’s main hook is re- cycled for ‘I Got To Run’, a tale of belonging. The album’s title track is an uptempo sing-a-long fueled by punchy guitars and soaring keyboard solos. The second half of the double album includes the acoustic- driven and self-reflective ‘Long Ago’, while the instrumental ‘The Element of Fear ’ darkens the mood with detuned guitars and rapid synth lines and scat- tershot percussion. The second half ’s best rests with ‘The Great Despair ’, an anthemic plunge of emotion wrapped in soaring gui- tars and some of Morse’s more intense vocals. Today’s progressive music gets a bad rap for being soulless technical feats and little more. The Great Adventure is a lot to take in, as was the previous The Similitude Of A Dream , but the risk/reward favors the bold as both are stellar collections of soulful musicianship and mean- ingful storytelling. G