Now, when someone says “a well-rounded individual” in the business context, they mean someone who has experience in disciplines other than their main focus and who can use these experiences in maximising their capabilities in the, again, main focus.
This usually means, say, understanding a bit of project finances on the side and knowing their way around some of the most useful software suites used in the business and such.
I don’t know what would be the right expression for someone who is well rounded on a much higher level. Multi-talented? Could be, could be. But tell me, how do you describe someone who studied piano, jazz theory, harmony, counterpoint, composition, theatre, psychology and dramatic theory; who learned from big, big names when he did; and who writes music, plays the keys and sings in so few words? This is not all, he has other things going on in his life as well as being a very nice man but let me talk about his musicianship.
I first stumbled upon this wonderful and outstanding man, Michael Kaplan, on Twitter one night when I was embracing my insomnia with silent resignation. He had this video posted and it well intrigued me. Now, sometimes you know in your gut that there is something there. I found him on Facebook and a couple of weeks later his CD arrived on the mail – along with a lovely note.
I was excited to listen to his work. I remember wishing… “Please let this album be awesome, please, please” as I got to know the man behind it and was hoping to give him a very good review.
And man, he didn’t disappoint.
Now, before digging deeper into his music, I should say, in admiring his myriad of talents and personality I am not alone.
Michael recently revealed a long list of very talented musicians involved in his solo project, Flaud-Logic including, in his words, one of his – and million other music freaks’, including yours truly – long-time musical heroes, the brilliant Michael Romeo from Symphony-X.
I am not the person to tell things briefly… As you know, I love talking and of course, typing. But if I had to tell you what this album is all about in in a few words, it would be rich textures and great harmonization!
In more words? Very sophisticated, masterful layers of texture and harmonisations that are somehow made to be very hard not to embrace.
Oh, and eclectic structures… See, can’t do it.
Michael seems to have put something for pretty much everyone, offering a hefty melodic content and an inventive mix of blues, post-rock, classic rock, jazz, space rock and many other influences, with strong ambient and psychedelic sensibilities and touches of progressive rock all over the place complemented by ethereal moods out of dreamscapes, all in a very smooth blend. It’s an album dominated by synthesisers and guitars; and filled with great musical compositions, subtleties, nuances, brilliant atmospheric soundscapes… Very well done!
Drum work by Joe Bergamini is soulful and you can tell it is not there only as a rhythm instrument or for the hell of it.
Michael’s vocals are deep and sensitive and the long list of brilliant musicians involved in the project yield a much varied sound – much more varied than one would expect.
All in all, I love this album and I will elaborate in a minute. Before coming to that though, I have a confession to make. I normally give priority to my authors and since I know their strengths and tastes, I give the albums out accordingly. But in this case, I was the 5 year old trying to hide her balloon behind her back as I knew my senior editor, lonestar would have jumped on this album J
But I digress… Say, why don’t we start doing a song by song right at this point so you know a little more of what I’m talking about?
Secret Engine is a beast of an opener and it is full of surprises. Don’t worry; I won’t spoil the bits that you should be discovering by yourself. Rest assured though, this track is full of tasteful shredding and melodic solos by Romeo, brilliant snare drum keys and mellotron artistry, a delicious jazz break, a sax feast courtesy of Frank Wyatt – along with vocals in great synergy I should add – as well as Ty Blue solos. It drips creativity.
I absolutely love the choice of synthesizer sounds. And again… Romeo!! His true guitar genius comes through all the way! The elegance of this bombastic instrumental opener is worth every second and crowns the disc with immediate class. Ha! Yes I love it when musicians show what they are capable of in the opening track!
The song reaches a head-banging climax before concluding slowly and sweetly, leaving the floor to another superb piece, Say Goodbye. It’s a soothing affair. Well maybe not. Further into the song, the nice and serene atmospheric piece gets thicker with the added acoustic layer. The jazzy drum beats fade away a bit and gives the limelight to rock beats. After the first chorus a fantastic melody and soulful drums welcome us. The awesome riffing is followed by a nice little solo before the song takes a subtle turn to another direction builds up and up and suddenly explodes. Romeo takes the stage and takes no prisoners… Shreds galore, transforms into full-instrumental fireworks. Drum beats are not gentle anymore but aggressive. Works brilliantly… (and feels kind of strange talking about Romeo 3 days after meeting Mike LePond at the Epysode recording sessions in Belgium). Oh, before I forget, Benny Lackner builds some great moments with tasteful Rhodes playing, too
Shanna is a catchy piece with a positive and uplifting vibe. It blends Latino-tasting guitars with intense feelings. Technically speaking, it has relatively simple layout in terms of guitar-work and composition but if you ask me, it showcases Kaplan’s talent in organic song-writing department. It’s very engaging; I find it very hard to go through the song without tapping my toe to all of the rhythm flowing out of the gracefully harmonized instruments and vocals. During the song, Joe Morrison takes the stage and lays out a beautiful solo before leaving stage back to Yury Nikolaev’s acoustic tunes again. Nicely done!
An epic delivered in seven parts and twenty three minutes comes next, One Year. Needless to say, with these brilliant musicians behind it, there are so many soundscapes, so much brilliance and so many ins and outs to talk about here so I will try to give you the highlights and leave the rest to you to explore.
The whole thing is just epic, not only in size but in delivery as well. Part IV, Stronger than Words is the bit that got under my skin most powerfully, I should say. First, Steve Kaplan and Amy Ward are on the stage pleasant vocals flowing over graceful piano. Ward really shines in this one… The song gets thicker with Michael and Jimmy Wilgus’ involvement with their wonderful keys and fantastic soundscapes. Around 2 minute mark, the songs takes a different – and very delicious – turn with the changing rhythm and addition of tasteful acoustic and percussion layers. I love the chorus a lot and guess who loved it more for the lower layer, the beautiful growling in the background by Dave Waxman? Indeed, yours truly! This is a protean of a song; twists, turns and transform during its course.
Now, another bit you don’t want to miss at all is the nice call and response between the jazzy piano and bluesy guitar of the brilliant musicians Steve Kaplan and Romeo in Part VI, Truth of Heart. You’ll especially love the tasteful addition of the choir.
Anyways, I want to talk about this epic for pages on end although I should leave the exploring to you.
All in all, this is a great album. The production is crystal clear, musicianship is top notch and all of the songs with all their layers and different bits have their own brilliance to offer. I really enjoyed every minute of it and I know I will come back to it regularly.
Oh, before I forget, if you happen to live in New York, you might want to attend the release party. The man himself tells me that you all are welcome, that it’s FREE. You would just need to RSVP here.
I’m a bit jealous!