"Rama 1" (Magna Carta; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Andy West, known for being the bass player extraordinaire in Dixie Dregs, is also featured on one of my long-time favorite albums: "Mind's Eye" by Vinnie Moore. However, aside from Steve Harris and Stu Hamm, I don't really pay too much attention to bass players.

Andy West's guest list on "Rama 1" is stellar: Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa, Beer For Dolphins), Toshi Iseda (Heaven's Edge), Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs, Winger), Jonathan Mover (Joe Satriani), Mike Portnory (Dream Theater), T Lavitz (Dixie Dregs), and Kit Watkins (Happy The Man). And let's give credit to West for allowing his talented band mates to contribute to the writing of the songs and the development of the creative process.

Aside from the lyrics to the one song with vocals, the quote "the shortest distance between two points is your mind," and performance/performer information there isn't a whole lot to go by. So the music literally does the 'talking.' "Rama 1," whatever the hell that means, is a prog-rock juggernaut that clearly displays the performer's respective talents, but not so much that the technical skills get in the way of interesting songs. Whether the songs themselves are any good will most likely depend on your perspective and preference for prog-rock.

The songs are always interesting even if it takes a few spins to 'get' them. "Resonate" actually echoes the sound and feel of Liquid Tension Experiment's second effort, "Herd Instinct" takes a slant on a jazz-rock style, and "Bloomsday" gives a grittier feel to Rama's progressive meanderings. While I do not find any fault for the performances contained on "Rama 1," not all of the tracks are spectacular and some are even downright dull with "Qubit" being the most guilty of the bunch.

For the benefit of all the prog-heads out there I'll list out the tracks and the respective performers:

"Mad March": Iseda, Keneally, Portnoy, West
"Meetings": Iseda, Johansson, Keneally, Portnoy, West
"Herd Instinct": Keneally, Morgenstein, West
"Bloomsday": Iseda, Keneally, Mover, West
"Old Meat Frame": Iseda, Keneally, Morgenstein, West
"Memento Mori": Iseda, Keneally, Lavitz, Mover, West
"Qubit": Keneally, Morgenstein, West
"Government": Iseda, Keneally, Morgenstein, West
"Resonate": Keneally, Morgenstein, Watkins, West

Fans of Event, Frank Zappa, Beer For Dophins, and Dream Theater will be interested in hearing "Rama 1."

"RAMA 1" was produced and mixed by Andy West and Mike Keneally.

Andy West is joined by: Toshi Iseda and Mike Keneally on guitar; Rod Morgenstein, Jonathan Mover, and Mike Portnoy on drums; Jens Johansson, Mike Keneally, T Lavitz, and Kit Watkins on keyboards. Mike Keneally sings on "Old Meat Frame" which is the only track with vocals.

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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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Copyright 2002 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.