The Sled – Various Artists

The Sled – Various Artists
Melodic Revolution Records – MRDM 026
This is a wonderful holiday music collection from excellent artists that also inspires the season of giving. This is not strictly traditional sounding holiday music, instead you have some seriously ear opening avant garde stylings of both known songs and originals in a variance of stylings. There is stunning piano work here, ranging from the subtly powerful emotion of Andrew Coyler’s “We Three Kings” to David Kelly’s rollicking take on “The Grinch” theme, to Federico Fantacone’s fun but intricate finger magic on “Syrinx.”Jennifer Cutting mesmerizes you and touches your soul with the poignant “Time To Remember The Poor.” Bass/stick master Don Schiff infuses a unique jazzy prog vibe into “Christmas Time Is Here.” There are so many well done tracks here that you can’t help but being enticed to see what is around the next corner, from the smokey barrelhouse romp of DC Snakebuster’s “Christmas Blues” to the the mellow funk groove of Babel’s “We Move Toward the Light” and the intoxicating ambience of Bill Rhodes’ “YES…I Hear What You Hear.” It is not at all cliche to call this a delectable music feast, but this CD is so much more. “The Sled” is promoting giving in a unique way, and are providing a download of the CD for free to those who will send some proof of an act of kindness. Anything from volunteering at hospitals or homeless shelters, donating food or clothing, donating blood or giving to a local charity will give you both some entertaining music and a warm heart during this holiday season. – MW

Rocket Scientists – Refuel

Rocket Scientists – Refuel
Think Tank Media
It has been seven years since the last full-length CD by the Rocket Scientists. They gave us a tasty little snack earlier this year with “Supernatural Highways,” but to now say that not only was the wait well worth it and that the new release “Refuel” is a veritable feast of delectable prog rock flavors is not in the very least cliche or hyperbolic, because it is so true. The founding trio of keyboard maestro Erik Norlander, proficiently talented guitarist/vocalist Mark McCrite, and NS/Chapman stick/bass wizard Don Schiff brings their A+ game here, evident in both the songwriting and the musical prowess on display. The title track which is also the lead track explodes with tempered power, a perfect instrumental appetizer for what is to come. “She’s Getting Hysterical,” the first single off the CD has a hooky quality interspersed with edgier passages, with slightly tongue-in-cheek lyrics and wonderful vocals by Mark. “Martial” has a haunting vibe with pulsing rhythms highlighting Don’s talents, while “The World Waits For You” is a mesmerizing and musically intricate ballad. “Galilieo” is space rock at its pinnacle, something Erik has always been highly adept at creating. “It’s Over/Regenerate” is perhaps a microcosm of the astounding capabilities of this band with multiple musical twists and turns that leave you in rapt anticipation of what is around the next bend. Several noted guests add to the flavor of the CD including Erik’s wife – prog “diva” Lana Lane; drummer extraordinaire Gregg Bissonette; and vocal powerhouse Kelly Keeling who lends his skills to the horn section graced “Cheshire Cat Smile.” Rocket Scientists have on every occasion of recording projects proved that they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as highly regarded prog rock acts such as Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater, and Porcupine Tree. This band has paid their dues and definitely has the talent to back that statement with this highly anticipated new release.   – MW


Rocket Scientists – Supernatural Highways

Rocket Scientists – Supernatural Highways
Think Tank Media – TTMD-1056
I remember a long time ago when I got the album “Close To the Edge” by Yes, and thinking, how does a full album have only three songs on it? On my first listen to the title track, the word “epic” ran through my cranium and I immediately understood. The latest release from the Rocket Scientists gave me a serious case of deja-vu in this regard. Not surprising considering the track record of this gem of a prog rock act featuring the maestro trio nucleus of keyboardist Erik Norlander, guitarist Mark McCrite and NS/Stick player Don Schiff, with several very talented “assistants” including Gregg Bissonette, Greg Ellis, and Lana Lane. There are actually only two tracks on this EP, with the lead one being the twenty-six minute plus opus “Traveler on the Supernatural Highways.” Like the aforementioned “Close To the Edge,” the pure musical prowess alone is enough to keep you enraptured throughout the prodigious length. The song has seven distinct parts, ranging from ethereal soul caressing to intoxicating industrial throbbing to power rocking fire. This is the type of journey that the band entices the listener to come along for the ride, where you really can feel and experience their travels heightening the enjoyment of this delectable musical feast. Then you get a very tasty resort as the second song (a mere four minutes and fourteen seconds) is a groovy rockin’ version of the theme song from the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” complete with a horn section. When you listen to the Rocket Scientists’ music, both here and on previous recordings, it gives you a certain perspective about progressive rock. Musical talents of the highest order are a prerequisite in this genre, and that is a facet that is a no-brainer here. But some prog can get a tad pretentious, bombastic and even cold and calculated. Not the case with the Rocket Scientists as you can just get the idea here that they are smiling while creating this music, really enjoying being able to channel their capabilities into something their fans will smile about as well. This is the greatest gift that any band can give their fans, and the fans of the Rocket Scientists will now doubt be downright giddy with their latest present. – MW