Thursday, 30 April 2009

Like your Surf with a bit of Prog?

"In Progression" by The Knights, A Progressive Surf-Rock Instrumental Adventure.

What a fantastic album this is. Don't just take my word for it though, read this review then listen

Review by By Michael Daley, MA - CBC Radio, Toronto.


"In Progression" - A baroque march and some fuzzed-out arpeggios from Jason begin this powerhouse opener. Dick takes over for the tune proper a few seconds in, with Jason’s distorted backing. Following Dick’s clean, mellow statement, Jason returns with a multitracked guitar choir and solo. There is a slight Latin tinge to the rhythm section backing of bassist, Ritch Stewart and drummer, Steve Hudgins. The opening section returns to bookend this song.

"Ragtime Surf" - An unusually subdued opening is followed by a harmonized minor-key riff from the father-son guitar team. The ragtime element can be heard in the surprisingly chromatic theme.

"Torreon" - Another high-energy romp, with the two electric guitars in tandem, one octave apart. The bridge section features some dense guitar harmonies. Jason’s distorted guitar provides a distant counterpoint to the proceedings. The coda is quite symphonic and dramatic, with overdubbed cymbal flourishes from Hudgins and a driving frat bass by Ritch.

"Yellow Jacket" - This, the first of two covers on this collection reanimates the ubiquitous surf anthem with a back-and-forth father and son guitar duel.

"Awakening" - A beautiful, fingerstyle opening gives way to a jazzy, upbeat guitar melody. Stewart father and sons then establish a deadly accurate double-time backing that percolates under a restatement of the main theme. Yet another contrasting section follows and a final theme statement closes off proceedings.

"Surfin’ the Badlands" - Probably the most traditional surf-music melody and formal structure of this set, "Surfin’ the Badlands" displays the roots from which this contemporary version of The Knights springs. Jason Stewart contributes a soaring solo. Heads up for the ping-ponging stereo steel guitar overdubs played by Johnny Hogan.

"Pipeline" - The Chantays on steroids. Listen for Dick’s mastery of vintage, surf-rock tremolo bar technique. Some rapid-fire string rubs (strangely reminiscent, to me, of hip-hop record scratching) in the middle section gives way to Jason Stewart’s self-duetting doubled solo. A final twang-bar mash from Dick closes the show.

"Shelbi with an ‘I’" - For my money, this is the single. Section after section of catchy melody with even a harmonically tense middle section to provide some contrast to the overall upbeat sunniness. Some very interesting clean-toned solos from Jason, complete with double-picking and Wes Montgomery style octaves. Dick’s offer of deft pedal steel work provided by Johnny Hogan had me reaching for hyphenated descriptors for a new style . . . Country Surf? Western Instro Rock?

"Agua Loca" ("Crazy Water") - Though Dick takes the melodic lead on this cut, it’s Jason that sets the tone for this rocker. His heavy rhythm backing and metallic fills are the dominant force, and it’s Jason that takes over for the solo, using pick harmonics and a variety of low riffs to create a thoroughly modern atmosphere.

"Simple Wonders" - The ethereal opening recalls some of Jimi Hendrix’s more subdued work. But it’s the Edge from U2 that informs the rhythmically echoing guitar, multitracked into a small orchestra of sparkling lines. The rhythm section is, in fact, absent for this beautiful coda to "In Progression." Only the sound of guitars remains . . . the center of surf rock and the center of The Knights as they refashion surf music for a new millenium.

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