Author Topic: Album Review - Lee Abraham: View from the Bridge  (Read 4297 times)

Offline The_Lurker

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Album Review - Lee Abraham: View from the Bridge
« on: March 04, 2005, 11:59:58 am »
Lee's new album "View from the Bridge" (2005, Edge of Life Records) shows that his maturation continues as a songwriter. In the tradition of Neal Morse, Lee combines catchy pop hooks with progressive instrumental passages, resulting in a nice stylistic blend - not too proggy for song-based music aficionados, but plenty proggy for the prog snobs.

Track by track:

Goodbye – The album opener eases you into the story with just Lee's vocals and acoustic guitar. From the "less is more" school of thought, this song just sets you up for the ride and introduces a "bookend" theme that you’ll hear again in the final track. Good mood setter.

Overture No. 1 – Instrumental track that combines light keys, crunchy guitar rhythms and a wonderful solo by Gerry Hearn at the start. Then it settles into a jaunty little keyboard number. The diversity in this song lets you know what you’ll be in for throughout the album. Overtures seem almost cliché on prog records lately, but I like both the overture sections on the CD quite a bit.

Coming Home – The beginning of this song sounds like a cross between Jadis and Rush to me. After an upbeat opening section, the song slows down and Lee's vocals return to narrate the story (as with most concept albums, I got a bit muddled with some of the story details as the album moves on, but I never let that keep me from finding interpretations on my own and changing them on subsequent listens). Almost six minutes in, the soft song takes an upbeat turn once again behind guitars and keys and goes through an odd time signature change that I can’t quite identify. Then Barry Thompson's solo kicks in, and it's an unexpected surprise. Stylistically, it sounds like it shouldn't fit with the song, yet somehow it does. In the words of Emeril, it "kicks it up a notch." Then it settles back into the slower pace of the middle section and takes you…well, "home." Very strong track.

She’s Leaving Home – Piano from Lee accompanies Kirsty Voce's vocals as we hear from the woman in the story (as she bails, leaving just a note to say what she feels she can't). Kirsty has a great voice, but it's in a low register for a female. I’d love to hear what a Heather Findlay type could do with this song. A beautiful piece of classical guitar work ushers the song through its final phase. There’s nothing wrong with this song but it's probably my least favorite on the album (hey, one of the songs had to finish last, eh?).

Too Long in Your Spotlight – We come to my favorite song on the album (so far). Musically it’s fairly simple - a little guitar, keys and drums - but the melody is catchy and Gary Blackman's wonderful backing vocals compliment Lee superbly. Some of the lyrics seem a bit forced in the verses, but not in an overly bothersome way. I find myself singing the background parts during the chorus. The middle part steps up the tempo and combines some nice drumming by Gerald Mulligan and nice guitar work by Lee, then returns to the chorus for the end.

Recurring Dream – A mighty epic, clocking in at 22:12. What I love about Lee's epics is that they don’t seem to drag. They always change at precisely the right time to keep the sound fresh. This one follows that pattern of changing just before you get too settled in to any one section. Lyrically, this is the key to the concept of the album, and the part where I always over-think (probably) what's going on. The epic starts slowly and builds over the first couple of minutes, then breaks into a proggy instrumental section. Then it slows around four minutes in and the vocals start to weave the tale. There's a pretty cool guitar/keyboard section that starts about 8:00 in, which is probably my favorite part of the song, and it ushers in a nifty keyboard solo by Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis). At about 10:40, a nice, heavy, crunchy guitar riff announces another change of direction that introduces an IQ-ish sounding part. The transitions are smooth though. No awkwardness at all between each section. Somewhere past the 13-minute mark comes an Ocean Cloud-ish bit that is atmospheric and complete with news reader in the background. After a few minutes, it coalesces into some nice acoustic guitar with keys and you can hear the "Goodbye" theme (or a slightly different version of it). Lee's vocals return and the tempo kicks up again, just a bit. The song builds to its conclusion with some excellent guitar work by Gerry Hearn again - a little light shredding too. This one will get some airplay on Epic Prog, I can promise you.

My Other Life – A little connective piece between the epic "Recurring Dream" and "Overture No. II." Simple, beautiful piano accompanies Lee's voice. Short, but lovely.

Overture No. II – This is a much crunchier and “meatier” overture than Overture No. 1. Heavier guitar work, with some ethereal keyboards permeate this instrumental. Just shy of three minutes in, there's a hint of Dream Theater. This is a song that makes me wish the drums were a bit clearer in the mix - not "Portnoy prominent" per se, but they do sound a little muted for my taste. This is the "rocker" of the album.

The Last Sacrifice – A little darker sound opens this track, reminiscent of IQ's Dark Matter album. Lee breaks out a nice bassline in this song. This one sounds inspired a bit by latter day (Roger-less) Pink Floyd. In fact, the song it most resembles to me in overall feel is "You Never Listen to Me" by Peter Cetera (aside from the vox) - a song that Gilmour played on and had a nice bass riff as the centerpiece. Some of Lee's best vocal work comes through in this tune. Karl Groom provides some Gilmour-esque guitar. My favorite track from the second half of the album and one of the best overall.

Go Right Now – The most uplifting and hopeful song on the album. Again, the backing vox make it sound warm and give it some added texture. This is another track where I love to sing along with the backing vocals. Gary Blackman does a great job echoing Lee's chorus vocals. Sarah Bolter of Galahad adds some beautiful saxophone.

Goodbye/Recurring Dream (Revisited) – As the title implies, here are some themes from earlier in the album, revisited. They serve to bracket the album nicely and tie the entire work together. Lee's voice soars at the end.

Total running time: 73:06

Overall impressions: Lee continues to develop into a force in progressive music, putting together a full-on progressive concept album without having the songs sound "samey." I'd love to hear what he could do with a big wad of cash behind him, because to me the drums were a bit muffled (though drums are damn difficult to record properly). I'd love to hear what Rich Mouser could do producing Lee's work. Don't get me wrong, the drums sound OK, but a bit muted. The vocals sound great. One aspect I liked about this album more than Pictures in the Hall was the prominent, gorgeous, backing harmony vocals. They give this album a warmer sound than his last release and make the songs richer, especially "Coming Home," "Too Long in Your Spotlight" and "Go Right Now." I would feel comfortable recommending this album to any fan of classic OR newer progressive rock.
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Offline FireBlade

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Re:Album Review - Lee Abraham: View from the Bridge
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2005, 05:01:15 pm »
The bits and pieces i've heard sound like good songs, but the production is very ordinary and there's no way I could sit through a whole album because of that.  It almost sounds like an early demo recording, not a final release.  But, yes, the songs are there for sure.

Offline The_Lurker

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Re:Album Review - Lee Abraham: View from the Bridge
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2005, 08:27:34 am »
Well, for sure the production is the only thing holding the release back. As you say, the songs are definitely there.

The drums are really the only things that I find bothersome, and not the quality of the drumming, just the way they were recorded.
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