Artist:  Robert Berry
   Title: Prime Cuts
   Label: Magna Carta

As one of the prime figures of the Magna Carta roster over the last few years and his association with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer as front man with 3 and his many collaborations with artists such as Magellan's ‘Hundred Year Flood’, Altura’s ‘Mercy’, The December People's ‘Sounds Like Christmas', to name but a few.  One release that's gaining particular acclaim was A Soundtrack for 'The Wheel of Time', which was written, produced, and recorded by Berry himself.

But it's tribute albums that this release concentrates on and really captures the full Berry experience at its magnificent best.  As Berry pays homage to some of the biggest names in progressive rock while featuring some sterling performances by the likes of Vinnie Moore, Steve Howe, Stu Hamm, Michael Mullen and Lief Sorbe, to once again name but a few.

The album opens up with Berry putting his own spin of Yes’s ‘Roundabout’.  A track taken from the ‘Tales Of Yesterday’ (A Tribute To Yes) album and a track that instantly gets the array of progressive masterpieces underway, with Berry finishing off the track with an acoustic ending accompanied by Steve Howe.

The album now ventures into the realms of the mighty Jethro Tull with ‘Minstrel In The Gallery’, unlike the opener, this is a tribute to Anderson and Co, as the track truly captures the essence of Tull complete with Mandolin.

The same essence sound bites can be heard throughout the tribute sections of the album from the spellbinding twists of ‘Brain Damage’, Berry’s tribute to Pink Floyd, complete with Berry emulating Dave Gilmour’s vocal style to almost perfection, and the haunting tones of ‘Watcher Of The Skies’, the Genesis tribute that is so masterfully done.

But it’s the two tracks taken from the Soundtrack 'For The Wheel Of Time' album, the folk rockish ‘Winespring Reel’ and 'A Theme For The Wheel Of Time’ that really show the diversity of Berry.  These are two tracks that the mighty Fairport Convention would have gladly given their right arm to write I’m sure and two tracks that saw our dear editor venture from her office to investigate further.

The album also includes the previously unreleased ‘Life Beyond LA’.  A track that is described in the sleeve notes as A cynical commentary of life in The Valley” and “is an effective exploration of the Los Angeles ethic of hopefulness-meets gloom”, which just about sums it up for me.

Another classic on the album to be given the Berry treatment is the ELP’s ‘Karn Evil 9 1st Impression’.  This rousing version once again showcases Berry’s excellent musicianship as he just rips away his shackles and really lets fly on the guitar on this one.

One of the highlight for me has to be ‘Different Strings’ which Berry plays tribute to one of progressive rocks greatest bands the might Rush.  Although Berry doesn’t have the same vocal range as Geddy Lee, the whole feel of the track is pure Rush and is a track that will have me checking out ‘Subdivisions’ the Rush tribute for sure after hearing this track.

The album closes almost as it started with the Yes inspired ‘Carol Of The Bells’ taken from The December Peoples ‘Sounds Like Christmas’ album and rounds off a quite superb release.  If like me you are unfamiliar with Berry’s other work then I'm sure this release will have you scurrying to check out the rest of his work on Magna Carta’s back catalogue.  

Tracklisting:

1. Roundabout
2. Minstrel In The Gallery
3. Brain Damage
4. Watcher Of The Seas
5. Winespring Reel
6. Life Beyond LA
7. Karn Evil 9 1st Impression 
8. Different Strings
9. A Theme For The Wheel Of Time
10. Carol Of The Bells

                  

 

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