Oliva - 'Raise The Curtain'

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Oliva - 'Raise The Curtain'

I feel this is amongst the finest if not the finest thing Jon Oliva has ever recorded.

With the sad death of Matt LaPorte it looks like Jon Oliva's Pain is on hiatus, so Mr. Oliva decided that the time was right to record what, surprisingly in a career of over thirty some years and counting, is his first solo album. What then has the man behind Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, JOP etc. come up for this recording?

Well it's an album filled with a glorious mix of retro prog with lots of English 70's reference points (especially the keyboards), metal and pomp rock that Styx themselves would be proud of. Talking with Jon recently he told me (see interview elsewhere) that the choice of this retro sound was a deliberate song-writing choice because it was the kind of music he grew up with, so ripping off the bands that he loved growing up made him feel (whilst he was recording) like the fifth Beatle or new Sabbath member. The album also sees Oliva playing almost everything in sight, except some keyboards and drums which goes to show what an incredibly talented and underrated musician he is.

However, there is a sadder side to this CD, with Oliva finally recording what are the last few tracks written by his brother Criss, ending what is almost three decades of his late brother's involvement in Jon's music. That these songs are also some of the best I've heard from Jon and Criss's collaborations, each having big crunching guitar riffs, punchy Hammond organ runs and those inimitable Oliva vocals, makes you wonder what might have been... The songs I'm sure are certain to entertain the listener and are both a testimony and legacy to the talents of these two men.

Opening with the glorious (semi) prog instrumental and title track 'Raise The Curtain' is pure genius, the Hammond rocks and rolls you, until the song segues into 'Soul Chaser' where we are invited into the world of Oliva's solo vision. 'Father Time' soon follows and tells the tale of ones own mortality and time left on Earth. It features a guitar riff that pre-dates all the bands Oliva has been in and it is one of the earliest things Criss and Jon wrote together. The chorus of the song is hard hitting but catchy as hell and you know that Jon Oliva was having a ball whilst recording this album. When you can then follow such a great start with tracks as powerful, rewarding and emotional as 'Big Brother', 'Armageddon', 'The Witch' and 'Can't Get Away', you then begin to realize that Oliva has worked damned hard to make his first solo album the best one possible.

If you have ever heard, bought or enjoyed anything this man has been involved with be it TSO, Savatage or JOP, then you can buy this CD post haste because I feel this is amongst the finest if not the finest thing Jon Oliva has ever recorded.

Ian Johnson

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