"Raising the Mammoth" (Magna Carta)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I wasn't too thrilled about the Explorer's Club debut, "Age Of Impact," although I did like the contributions of John Petrucci enough to give the CD a three-chainsaw rating. However, I now realize that I probably haven't listened to "Age Of Impact" since I put it away after reviewing it back in early 1999. That's more than three and half years that something I willingly paid money for didn't end up back in my player - that should tell you something.

It's obvious that a project like Explorer's Club will forever be a collection of artists recruited by Magellan's Trent Gardner to round out his musical ideas. As such, it's (almost) obvious that no two Explorer's Club discs will sound alike. One listen to the sophomore effort by Explorer's Club makes you realize that is as true a statement as you'll ever see in prog-rock these days. "Raising The Mammoth," while different from the debut, is still an engaging listen although it lacks a cohesiveness that I like in prog-rock.

There's no doubting the complexity of the progressive songwriting and the talent of the musicians included here. The lineup this time around the band includes Marty Friedman instead of John Petrucci - while I was disappointed Petrucci couldn't be a part of "Raising The Mammoth" it was very intriguing to see Friedman inject his firebrand style into a prog-rock setting. Also noteworthy is the inclusion of Shadow Gallery's Gary Wehrkamp in the six-string department.

"Raising The Mammoth" has two 'songs' - the first song is the title track as a three-part epic that stretches out over 30 minutes. Three vocalists - Dream Theater's James LaBrie, Kansas' Steve Walsh, and Trent Gardner - weave in and out of the three parts giving the story some depth and needed diversity. The second 'song' is a half-hour instrumental that will make any prog-rock fan giddy with glee - there is some monster exhibition of musical skills here and that's what makes it worth listening to the in the first place.

"Raising The Mammoth" is for die-hard prog-rock fans only. I, for one, will probably only listen to "Raising The Mammoth" when I'm in one of those rare ultra prog-rock/prog-metal moods, which, truth be told, doesn't happen that often. 

"Raising The Mammoth" was produced by Trent Gardner and mixed by Terry Brown.

Explorer's Club features James LaBrie, Steve Walsh, and Trent Gardner on vocals; Kerry Livgren, Marty Friedman, and Gary Wehrkamp on guitars; Trent Gardner and Mark Robertson on keyboards, John Myung on bass, and Terry Bozzio on drums. Additional guitar by Jeff Curtis and additional bass by Hal 'Stringfellow' Imbrie.

For more information visit http://www.magnacarta.net

"Age of Impact" (Magna Carter)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

This great new disc from the Magna Carta label is primarily the work of Trent Gardner who has gathered a "who's who" list of talented players in the progressive rock style.  Trent, who is the keyboard player in Magellan, found that he had too many ideas for his own band. Enter legendary record label men Mike Varney and Pete Morticelli who suggested a collection of musicians to put together a record for the Magna Carta label.

"Age Of Impact" is a collection of musicians performing a group of five songs into one epic whole connected by a theme of overcoming great odds to make a profound difference in a positive way despite the proliferation of negativity that surrounds our daily lives.

Musicians on the disc include contributing vocals from James LaBrie of Dream Theater, Bret Douglas of Cairo, Matt Bradley of Dali's Dilemma, and D.C. Cooper. The solid rhythm section includes performances by Terry Bozio on drums, Billy Sheehan on bass, and Wayne Gardner on guitars.

Rounding out the performances are the soloists including John Petrucci and Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater, Steve Howe, James Murphy, and Matt Guillory of Dali's Delimma.

Overall the music is well played, although it's a bit weak. However, John Petrucci is the real star of this disc. Petrucci's playing sails through the mix with clarity and conviction. For anyone who's heard his work in Dream Theater you won't be disappointed here. For those of you who haven't heard Dream Theater, you're in for a big surprise.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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