Art Griffin's Sound Chaser returns with their sophomore effort The Seven Ages Of Starlight. For those who are unfamiliar with band, they are from Canada and feature Art Griffin on bass, keyboards and guitar, Kelly Kereliuk (of Lost Symphony and Prismind) on guitar, Victoria Yeh on electric violin and Steve Negus (formerly of Saga) on drums. This time out the core band are joined by some special guests including Jamie Glaser (Jean Luc Ponty, Anderson-Ponty Band and many others), Michael Sadler (Saga and Progject), Frank Wyatt (Happy The Man), Sarah Westbrook (The Slyde) and Todd Sucherman (Styx). The music is mostly progressive/jazz fusion but with enough accessible influences to make the album enjoyable even to those who are not big fans of fusion. The musicianship on this disc is some of the best playing you are probably going to hear this year - the talent here is on overload! While the first AGSC album was incredible, this disc takes things up to a whole new level!
The album opens with the atmospheric Earthrise which gives way to Ride To Valhalla, a journey into some of Art's influences, particularly Jean Luc Ponty (especially leading up to the first guitar solo featuring former Ponty alumni Glaser), and jazz-progressive rock fusion of U.K.
The next tracks, Sorcerer's Apprentice and Total Eclipse, take us into a more Return To Forever style - jazz fusion with some very tasty leads from Kereliuk and Yeh and one of the tightest rhythm sections to come along in a very long time!
Next up is JLP (an obvious nod to Ponty), which again features an incredible solo from Glaser as well as some top notch keyboard solos from Sarah Westerbrook.
Spanish Galleon is a big departure with its classical guitar and environmental keyboards - performed by Art Griffin. It is a beautiful piece and far too short.
Seventh Wave is another track to pull in the influences - bringing to mind, what would happen if Yes had gone into jazz fusion. The vocalizations of Michael Sadler add an entirely new dimension.
The four-part Chasing Sound and Mona Lisa Smile again return us to the “typical” AGSC sound before veering off with Astronomy By Rail, an atmospheric sound canvas.
The final two tracks on the disc, while stylistically very similar to the remainder of the disc, but feature Todd Sucherman on drums which provides a very different feel - Pulsar, is a fairly mellow journey built over a series of repeating Hammond organ lines and some great solos from Kereluik, Griffin and Yeh. The album concludes with All Of A Sudden It's The End which runs the gamut from Ponty to Mahavishnu and back to Yes, all within a 6 minute jaunt.
To my mind, the best tracks are Ride To Valhalla and Chasing Sound, although there really are no weak tracks. This album has cemented itself in my top 10 for the year. Anyone who is a fan if Progressive Rock/Jazz Fusion needs to pick up this disc. Outstanding musicianship, fantastic arrangements and Art has shown that he has an uncanny ability to find just the right players to bring his visions of the songs to life. Brilliant!
****+ David Carswell
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