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CPR Volume 3
Label: Threshing Floor Records
Time: 11 tracks/75:14
CPR, or Christian Prog Rock, is a curious and sometimes hard-to-define genre. There certainly are Christian artists that are progressive in their approach (if you want to be literal with the name), but ‘prog’ has come to mean something more specific than the original word somewhat pompously described. Early practitioners of ‘prog’ truly made an effort to progress out of the standard rock & roll box: bands like _King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes_, and others managed to define a new kind of rock music that incorporated more complex structures, challenging time signatures, elements of classical and jazz, multi-layered arrangements, lengthier compositions, extended instrumental soloing, and more ambitious lyrics, often sung in dramatic and passionate styles. Although a prog-rock lover had to search far and wide for occasional 'proggish' tendencies in the early days of Christian music, there’s no shortage these days, even if the genre isn’t exactly promoted with the same corporate chutzpa as mainstream pop acts.
Rejoice, pilgrims. CPR Volume 3 is a sampler of some of the best of the current crop of prog-rock artists in the Christian music community. As with any collection, the quality of the tracks vary, but these eleven tracks hit the target much more often that I’d expected – as a matter of fact, I’d say that CPR Volume 3 is the most consistent and cohesive-sounding volume yet from this series. Randy George (Ajalon, Neal Morse) and Gene Crout have managed to produce and master contributions from a variety of different artists and have managed to create a very flowing, listenable 75 minutes of music! Kudos to both the producers and the artists, some of which could give established Christian proggers like Glass Hammer and Neal Morse some stiff competition.
The album starts off very strongly, with three powerful tracks: first the energetic and engaging “Lives Go Round,” by Unitopia - a bouncy tour-de force that shifts gears in the middle to highlight some very impressive keyboard work. Next is the slower-tempo of Ted Leonard’s “The Name of God,” an emotional ballad that fits somewhere between metal and prog, but manages to fit neatly in this collection.
The third track is, as they say, worth the price of admission.
It could be argued that guitar-master Phil Keaggy was dabbling in prog-rock throughout much of his early career – certainly, Keaggy gave us some of the most melodic and best written (and certainly progressive) music of the formative years of the ‘Jesus Music’ movement. For CP Volume 3, Phil, Randy George and Dan Lile re-visit “Passport,” from Keaggy’s Getting Closer album of some 23 years ago. George adds his trademark solid bass playing as well as an explosive keyboard solo, while Dan Lile contributes confident, powerful drumming. The trio of Keaggy, George and Lile reinvigorate the song, which sounds richer and stronger than the original in every respect; there are new sections to the song (one of which sounding not unlike Mountain, but with better chops)and some adjustments to the lyrics, adding more than three minutes to the length of the original. “Passport” has always been an impressive song – one that I would have thought couldn’t be improved. ‘Just goes to show how wrong you can be.
One thing that will strike you as you listen to CPR Volume 3 is the wide-ranging influence that Kerry Livgren (Kansas / AD / Proto Kaw) has had on Christian prog-rock. Although he doesn’t actually appear on the CD, Livgren’s obvious influence can be heard on Mike Florio’s “The Wise Man” and in various moments throughout the album. Greg Wollan’s “Deep Calls to Deep” is one of the richest moments on the collection, featuring sincere, controlled but emotional vocals, rich harmony and a perfect blend of instruments (including flute and violin) – a rock band reaching its full potential as a vehicle for meaningful, emotionally powerful, stirring performance. Wollan’s strong composition is delivered to perfection – a very moving piece.
Sure, there are moments when the melodrama gets a little thick, as on the musically ambitious “Quest,” by, but that’s often a by-product of prog-rock, which by nature straddles the fence of passion and pretension. “The Mirror,” by Everlasting Arms, handles melodrama in a less operatic style - a twelve minute epic written and performed by Edward J. Jerlin, the song boasts multiple points of view in the lyrics, a strong chord structure and a clean, pop-oriented approach to prog, combined with some rather dark and intricate subject matter.
There’s lots of good music on CPR Volume
3, and anyone into prog-rock will have a good time with this collection
of artists. Yes, Virginia, there’s Christian prog-rock aside from Livgren,
Morse, and Glass Hammer. If nothing else, you get to hear Phil Keaggy cover
By Bert Saraco
This project is a compilation that delivers a wide variety of progressive rock ballads. This one ranges from acoustic to keyboard driven styles of progressive music…you have those new to the scene such as Unitopia, Ted Leonard, Everlasting Arms—but you also get the great, classic Phil Keaggy!!
For those of you who enjoy progressive rock I think that you will definitely enjoy this one! These newcomers really do get it! They have a really great sound and the lyrics are wonderful! “Passport” by Phil Keaggy was definitely my favorite; it is a redone extended version of the song he originally released in 1985! But a close second would be Ted Leonard’s “The Name of God”—this one you have to hear! Leonard has such a powerful voice as well as powerful lyrics.
The music on CPR Vol. 3 is highly recommended for progressive rock fans everywhere, the music is something that is inspiring and if you listen close it will move you!