5 stars Six years after their very promising debut (Powered By Light), Kinetic Element is back again with their sophomore release called Travelog. It was a long time coming, but very worth the waiting. The American quartet had some changes: now Mark Tupko replaces original bassist Tony D´Amato. And the vocal department, once courtesy of keyboardsman Mike Visaggio are now handled by three different guest singers. Other than that, the core members are the same (Visaggio on keys, Todd Russel on electric and acoustic guitars and Michael Murray on drums).
Compared to their debut, Travelog is a much more symphonic affair, with a strong jazz-rock fusion influence (especially the guitar parts). The music is still melodic and accessible, but definitely more complex and elaborated now, with longer instrumental passages. For instance, the shortest song is the title track and it clocks well over the 9-minute mark. There are no fillers at all and it´s hard to say which tune is the best, but I think the opener, the 20-minute epic War Song is definitely a highlight, with many tempo and mood changes. But the whole album is very inspired, very well produced and recorded and containing some powerful playing of all involved (including newcomer Tupko who shows his skills from the start with a short, but stunning bass solo on the aforementioned War Song). I just love Visgagio´s elegant keys (hints of Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman, and Keith Emerson abound). Russel´s guitar lines are superb too, but clearly, this is a teamwork and everybody shines. Instrumentally speaking this album is as close to perfection as you can get, with not a wasted note to be found and everything flowing naturally throughout the whole CD.
Vocals on the other side are not that perfect in my humble opinion. The three vocalists are very good and do a very credible job on all tunes, but being so varied it kind of robbed some personality from the group. Mike Visaggio´s vocals on the first album showed that he was not the greatest singer, technically speaking, but he had a warm and soulful voice that suited their songs very well. While the guest singers were more professional, have stronger pipes, and most often than not they added a lot, sometimes they made the tunes sound too "clean" and less personal if you know what I mean. It is just a detail only, of course. After all, 70 minutes of pure prog heaven is not something you find so easily nowadays!
Travelog is a fantastic CD that showed that Kinetic Element more than fulfilled its promising start. One of the best albums I heard this year and certainly, a must have for any prog fan.
Rating: 4,5 stars at least,. Highly recommended!
Review by Tarcisio Moura
Kinetic Element is…
Mike Visaggio: Keyboards & Vocals
Michael Murray: Drums & Vocals
Todd Russell: Guitars
Mark Tupko: Bass
Guest Appearances by…
Demitrius LaFavors (Odin’s Court) Vocals on War Song, Travelog and Vision
Michelle Schrotz (Brave) Vocals on Into The Lair
Mike Florio (Solo Artist) Vocals on Her
Recorded at “The Garage” Richmond, VA
Recording Engineer, Michael Murray
Mix and Mastered at Sound Resources, Chattanooga TN
Mixing and Mastering Engineers, Fred Schendel and Steve Babb
Layout and Graphics, Man In The Mountain
Wow, this album is a sonic journey, just flowing through almost 80 minutes of exploring. My advice is headphones, decent volume, and let the musicians take your thoughts for a pleasant ride, exploring canyons and valleys with Pasi's keyboard arpeggios and Colin's guitar work, but grounded by the awesome bass and drums (and occasional vocals), until you return to where you started, changed for the better from this journey Scott Schleifer
The Far Meadow were a new band to me this year (2019) but what a fantastic find they were. I started with their 2019 release 'Foreign Land' which had an immediate impact on me but this album is every bit as good. Each minute of every track takes the listener to a new and special place that just keeps your interest throughout the whole album. I can't recommend this album enough, it's fantastic! Andy McLeod