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Pillar —The Reckoning
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Pillar

The Reckoning

Hard Rock

3.5 Stars
Tight melodic hard rock showcases band’s maturity.

On their fourth release, Pillar have created a bridge that can bring fans of screaming, angst-ridden emo back in touch with more melodic and musical rock.

The hard rock on The Reckoning is tight and melodic. Vocalist Rob Beckley sings with great conviction and emotion, and lyrical content is introspective, positive in tone, and very well crafted. “We both need something like amnesia of the heart” is just one indication of the clever songwriting at work.

Guitarist Noah Henson shows some great diversity in style and tone, from tight heavy rock in a Staind/Disturbed/Rage style to more melodic, clean, syncopated runs that evoke great pop sensibilities. Drummer Lester Estelle and bassist Kalel provide a solid rhythm section foundation, and Lester even throws around some great beats in a few cool time signatures.

Besides the catchy melodic hard rock, the enhanced package comes with an outstanding bonus DVD that is a perfect example of the value added by purchasing actual products from artists (instead of downloads). The DVD includes not only a short concert, but also behind-the-scenes documentaries from the making of the record. The band members actually teach viewers how they play their parts on many of the songs, truly encouraging musician fans to learn from them.

Our only complaint was the three or four songs where Rob still found a need to scream some of his lyrics. This music – not to mention Rob’s singing voice – deserves better, and he shouldn’t feel the need to scream just to appease the emo crowd.

-SK

 
Tom Petty Highway Companion
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Tom Petty

Highway Companion

Americana

2.5 Stars
Don’t drive with this CD late at night.

In the other reviews I’ve read, Highway Companion was compared in greatness to Full Moon Fever, but I can assure you, Highway doesn’t deserve such lofty praise or any possible references to the classic album (arguably one of Tom Petty’s finest works).

Highway offers well produced, well recorded mellow folk rock that works well as easy listening background, but the lyrics meander without ever really saying anything, there are no hooks in the music to draw you in, and the energy level (and songwriting) only shows glimpses of classic rocker Petty on a handful of tracks such as “Flirting With Time” and “Ankle Deep.”

Longtime Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell plays throughout the record, and producer Jeff Lynne plays bass and assorted instruments while imparting something of a Traveling Wilburys influence on the sound. Interestingly, Tom plays many instruments on the record including all of the drums.

If you were hoping for a record with the hooks and drive of a classic like Full Moon Fever, the new release will prove extremely disappointing. If you’re in the mood to chill with a mellower post-Wilburys Tom Petty, maybe this CD will move you more than it did us.

-SK

 
 
U2Zoo TV: Live From Sydney
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U2

Zoo TV: Live From Sydney

Alternative Rock

4 Stars
U2’s most ambitious concert experience.

I’ve been waiting six years to watch this concert again since selling my laserdisc player! Before U2 morphed into the “greatest rock band in the world,” they were the biggest alternative rock band. Yes, we hate it as much as you when alternative becomes mainstream, but what can you do?

Zoo TV was a visual concert experience filled with huge digital video screens blasting the audience with subliminal (and not so subliminal) messages, images of war and life, and other clever effects while the band performed on the enormous video-laden stage. The Zoo TV concept reflects upon the negative influence that mass media had become, and the opening concert moments immediately draw you in and make you reflect.

This tour followed the releases of Achtung Baby and Zooropa, capturing U2 at their experimental best – the majority of the concert featured Achtung Baby in its near entirety and a healthy dose of Zooropa. They still played a solid mix of their classic material, some of which was performed stripped down to the basics (without the video extravaganza) on a small in-the-crowd second stage.

The video transfer was very good, and the audio excellent. Be sure to pick up the enhanced package that includes a second DVD of great extras – additional concert footage as well as some documentaries related to the Zoo TV experience. See if you can catch the part where the band talks with then-Governor Bill Clinton on talk radio. It’s like a trip back in time with one of the greatest bands we’ll ever know.

-SK

 
Dream Theater Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour
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Dream Theater

Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour
Progressive Metal

4 Stars
A must-have for Dream Theater fans.

Near-universally hailed as the color bearers for modern progressive rock and metal, Dream Theater have been successfully carrying the banner of virtuoso musicianship, epic songwriting, soaring melody, rich soundscapes, and sonic pyrotechnics for twenty years.

In celebration of this anniversary, they performed a world tour, which culminated with the recording of this two disc DVD set on April 1, 2006 at the famous Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Unique to this release is Dream Theater’s first ever performance with an orchestra, which supports the band for six of the fourteen songs. The inclusion of the orchestra is brilliantly incorporated, and ads a sonic richness while imparting an added air of sophistication well suited to the celebratory nature of this performance.

As would be expected (and hoped for!), the material covered here spans the band’s full two decades and showcases two previously unreleased tracks from their early years.

Bonus features include live performances of three additional songs from previous tours, ranging in time and space from Tokyo 1993 to Chicago 2005. Also included are the live animation sequences from the Octavarium tour. However, the real treat here for long time fans is the 20th Anniversary documentary, “The Score So Far,” which offers an insightful and entertaining glimpse into the band’s evolution since their inception at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

The band’s performance is, as we have come to expect from Dream Theater, absolutely flawless. The playing is inspired and the mood is celebratory. A man of impeccable taste and bearing, Mike Portnoy, although not wearing an actual top hat and tails, did present himself in a tuxedo-printed T-shirt for the occasion and, no doubt, to blend in with the formally dressed orchestra during that part of the set.

Audio and video quality are both excellent, as is the overall production. We’re looking forward to the next twenty years!

-MP

 
   
             
             
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