Dave Kilminster, …And the Truth Will Set You Free (www.davekilminster.com ): Kilminster has carved a solid reputation for himself as a sideman to the stars—namely Roger Waters and Keith Emerson. But on this follow up to his first solo album Scarlet—The Director’s Cut, the British guitarist continues to show his talent is more than mere window dressing. He can cut a mean solo with the best of them but opts for putting the emphasis on strong songwriting and harmony vocals. The result is an album that has plenty of jamming moments to it, but is equally filled with catchy hooks and engaging arrangements. Examples of this can be found in tracks such as “Messiah,” with its lush choral vocals and rich use of dynamics. “Addict” displays the leader’s slide guitar prowess atop exotic rhythms and spacey atmosphere. “Thieves” is interesting for its blend of gutsy guitar riffs and Zeppelin-esque chamber strings. There is a nice balance here to satisfy both muso and casual music fan alike.
Navigator, Phantom Ships (Masterson Records 19664-5, www.navigatorofficial.com ): The latest release from this Buffalo, New York quartet further solidifies their prog-rock cred as one of the leaders of the genre. First of all, it’s great that the original members Marcangelo Perricelli (keyboards/lead vocals), Michael Soro (guitars), Rick Catanese (bass) and Rob Thurman (drums/vocals) are back in the fold. And the writing and arrangements are dynamic, sharp and breathtakingly precise. Perricelli has a voice that falls somewhere between Saga’s Michael Sadler and early Dennis DeYoung; eloquent and distinctive. That’s evident from the first few bars of “Life.” The song ripples with an early Ambrosia kind of feel, going through a series of thematic changes and resolving to a majestic coda. “Open Air” is another track that recalls classic Styx or Rush in its larger than life sonics and enveloping atmosphere. At over 15 minutes the epic title track appropriately takes center stage. This is the gold standard in terms of momentous rockers as Perricelli creates a sea of sound via his keyboard-based Masterson Symphony Orchestra. The band pulls out all the stops, with brave tales of modern Wagnerian scope storytelling. This is an album best digested, not in small doses, but as an entire collection. Well done!
Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, Fat Man’s Shine Parlor (Blind Pig Records BPCD 5163): One of the most enduring modern blues duos around, Kubek and King hit pay dirt with this latest release. It’s simply a fun ride from start to finish. King has an emotive voice that is clean and packs a punch. Kubek is his perfect counterpart, supplying those razor sharp guitar riffs and accompaniment that complements any tune. And, counter to a lot of blues and jazz-oriented records that usually include a number of cover songs, Kubek and King write their own material. And it’s a career-defining assortment of songs too from the lover’s lament “Got My Heart Broken” and country rockin’ “Cornbread” to the cautionary tale of every traveling musician on the circuit entitled “How Much.” King has a very smooth and jazzy quality to his rhythm guitar work that dovetails so nicely with Kubek’s incendiary leads. With Kubek and King the blues are in good hands and here are a dozen reasons why.