CD REVIEW: Rare Blend - Sessions
By Cyrus Rhodes
Genre: Jazz Rock Fusion
Sounds Like: Weather Report, Al Di Meola, Mahavishnu Orchestra
Marketability, Winded Songs & Production, Dated Mix
Cleveland Ohio 4 piece fusion band, Rare Blend releases “Sessions” in December 2009. This is their 5th release. The CD is divided into 3 segments – Stage, Studio, and Film Recordings.
Logging in at just over 73 minutes the CD kicks things off with “Hipster Spinster” a cool hypnotic groove serving up steady beat, melodic guitar, and progressive time signatures. Track 2 “March to Orion” delivers yet another dynamic piece that lets it all hang out with impressive solo guitar work, Chris Squire type walking bass groove, and hi-energy drumming. Track 3 “Mystic Jam” serves up yet another progressive melody with multiple peaks and valleys, driving rhythms, and impressive melodic tandems between keyboard and guitar. The music itself has a fusion/rock vibe reminiscent to Weather Report, Al Di Meola, and Mahavishnu Orchestra. As this CD slowly unfolds its obvious the players in Rare Blend are accomplished players. The guitar work of Vic Samalot is extremely melodic and creative. No doubt there’s a lot to amazing playing to be found on this musical production. You will hear notice the many musical influences along the way - from rock, to jazz, from Rush to Return to Forever this CD pretty much has it has it all. The musical textures and overtones are all in the pocket and full of sickening variety. Songs like “Hide and Seek” and “Jazzmin”, “Say What” flow very cleanly and tightly. While a few of the pieces like “The Timekeeper” and “28 Degrees” will have you picking your jaw up off the ground. Other pieces like “March To Orion” and “Zhadum” are extremely progressive and dynamic providing many musical peaks and valleys, trap doors, and tricky time changes I simply lost count. The guitar work is melodic and creative, the bass grooves are tight and flow like a flea on steroids, the drumming suffers from extreme A.D.H.D. and the keyboard accents are well placed and effective. The CD ends with “Christine’s Theme” a passionate finale balled and the 4th and final track of the film sequence..
Many of the songs tend to be extremely winded; pieces over 5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. The studio recordings themselves sound more like recorded live jam sessions, rather than vintage, finely crafted studio recordings. Since we’re on the subject the production value, the mix and master has all the trademarks of a late 80’s early 90’s musical production. This would have been a cutting edge musical production say back in say 1985. Unfortunately the year is 2010, and the bar is set really high for bands like Rare Blend. As a result the overall production goes down dry, regardless of the playing abilities. I lost count how many songs kind of just fade in and fade out in a very predictable manner - yawn. Of course it needs to be said - Rare Blend gets a hall pass on many of the above issues due to its fusion genera. At the end of the day – there are simply no rules when it comes to dynamic music like this! Need I say more?
Overall this release from Rare Blend proves itself in a very overcompensating way. Sessions has some very impressive moments to it indeed. Its strong suit is its amazing musicianship, impressive jams, and the dynamic and progressive arsenal of songs – 14 in all. At 73 minutes – it’s a fully loaded production. If I could say anything to Rare Blend – tighten up some of your songs, and surround yourself with a mix and master value that is state of the art. Do this and you will deliver a CD that hit’s it out of the park, and then some. If you like your music hot to the touch, full of amazing musicianship, and playing abilities that will make your head spin, then you need to check out Rare Blend as soon as humanly possible.
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