CD Reviews

Supernal Endgame - 'Touch The Sky - Volume 1' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 17, 2010    
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A fine album that bodes well for Volume 2, albeit with the need for some tweaking.

As debut albums go this is pretty good, although it has to be said that a) I have some reservations and b) the guys behind it have been around the music scene for many years. I understand that the three key players involved have been making music together for something like 30 years and this particular collaboration was borne out of a desire to create songs with a spiritual theme, not unlike Neal Morse. The protagonists are John Eargle (guitars, keyboards, bass, secondary lead vocals and backing vocals); Rob Price (primary lead vocals, drums) and Dan Pomeroy (guitars) and they are supported by such luminaries as Roine Stolt (Flower Kings), Randy George (Ajalon) as well as a host of other guests.

Although you’d probably look at those names and think Prog, the album actually treads a path that whilst leaning heavily on Prog elements also has many aspects of Melodic Rock and AOR, so will have a wide appeal. There are overtones of bands like Kansas, Spock’s Beard, The Flower Kings but that could be extended to so many other outfits.

I have one criticism of the album and that is that, like so many; they have felt the need to fill the entire CD when some judicious editing might have made for an even better experience. The song quality dips a bit towards the end and some feel a touch flabby at times, which is a huge shame because this distracts from what is a generally fine set of tunes.

‘Everlasting Fanfare (pt 1)’ opens the album and has a Pink Floyd (‘Welcome to the Machine) feel to the keyboard intro before the main theme is introduced with a nice acoustic guitar underpinning the lovely vocal melodies on which the multiple vocals are very well arranged. When the tempo increases there’s a Neal Morse feel with that sort of joyous bounce he does so well.

‘Still Believe’ is an epic clocking in at over 10 minutes and it is perhaps the album’s highlight with its strong themes where the likes of post-Hackett Genesis comes to mind along with the likes of Jadis, Morse and the Flower Kings. I can’t but think that a slightly stronger vocalist isn’t the order of the day. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing terrible here but you can’t help but wonder what a really top class singer could do with songs like this. The instrumental section sees violin introduced and immediately Kansas come to mind. Even the guitar solo has aspects of that particular band.
Musically ‘Psalm 51’ has a Kansas/Morse feel and the lyrics definitely have the Morse sentiments. The melody is pleasant if a little twee; with the tin whistle sounding a little out of place. ‘Disclosure’ is a fine instrumental with a nice keyboard refrain taking the lead and the guitars providing a subtle backing. Genesis again comes to mind on this one, not least because of the guitar sound.

‘Fall to my Knees’ is a full on Christian experience lyrically, with a strong chorus and a nice guitar theme that reminds me of a Michael Jackson song. There’s an annoying mobile phone-like ring tone somewhere it the mix which is very distracting and more than once had had me reaching for my ‘phone when on the train listen to this song. ‘Expressions’ is again has a synthesiser lead on the intro and forms the main theme. It gets a tad repetitive but has a pleasant neo-Prog style on a song with a light, upbeat feel. ‘Loving Embrace’ is the big ballad that starts with acoustic guitar and strings that evokes Morse (again). The introduction of a loop signals the song picking up pace and the vocal arrangement is very well executed. ‘Grail’ features Stolt and assuming the guitars are all his, then it’s no surprise to report that he’s on the ball with some splendid work. I think it’s at this point where I started coming to the conclusion that some of the songs have a certain sameness to them in terms of the song and chorus construction and the need for a stronger voice seemed evident. Fortunately, Stolt’s guitar playing alone is sufficient to lift this song suitably.

‘In Your Hands’ has a rollicking theme, which cracks along at a very good pace on the verses and it also has a strong chorus. This is followed by the second instrumental, ‘Gossamer Strings’ which brings together acoustic guitar with violin that naturally brings Kansas to mind once more. It is absolutely delightful and ripe for being used as evocative background to lingering footage of birds or seascapes in a TV documentary.
‘You Reached Down’ has another pleasing musical theme but once more I long for a stronger vocal performance. The arrangement of the backing vocals on the chorus has a Styx feel. ‘At Play in the Fields’ has a celebratory nature as it gives all the components of the band’s sound to flourish. ‘Perfect Grace’ is a pleasant acoustically driven number although the introduction of accordion takes the edge off it for me. Again, the vocal arrangement is extremely well done. To round out the album they reprise ‘Everlasting Fanfare’ in grandiose style.

A fine album that bodes well for Volume 2, albeit with the need for some tweaking that will sharpen there sound.

Gary Marshall

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