(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
Kurt Michaels is a veteran of the music scene having worked with a number of artists ranging from Badfinger to The Platters and a whole lot of other people in between. He has two previous solo albums to his credit; Inner Worlds (2003) and Outer Worlds (2007). His new album Soaring Back To Earth, released this summer, is a departure from past works. While moody soundscapes and ambient instrumentation highlighted his first two albums, both instrumental, Michaels has really gone for a different sound this time around.
On Soaring Back To Earth one of the biggest changes is the addition of vocals and I have to say Michaels does an admiral job. He does not have the most powerful voice but it is very well suited for this style of music; a rock/pop approach with progressive elements scattered throughout. Also of note are the excellent background harmonies provided by Michaels and Steve Vining, harkening back to the sounds of bands like The Beatles and Badfinger. While this is not a progressive rock album per se, there were enough proggy moments to keep me satisfied. What you get is one giant melodic ride spread over ten deeply personal tracks. It is a satisfying and rewarding listen and one can tell Michaels’ heart was in the right place when he wrote these songs.
Michaels also has a strong supporting cast including the aforementioned Steve Vining (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), Billy Sherwood (drums, bass), Michael Sherwood (keyboards), Tom Brislin (keyboards), Jim Gully (keyboards), Christ Andronis (bass) and Len Szymanski (percussion). Not too shabby a list indeed.
The album begins with “Give Yourself Time”, a touching and emotional progressive pop tune with a dream-like quality and excellent background harmonies recalling The Beatles. In “Time To Let Go” Michaels sings “I woke up from a dream” and that is exactly how you feel when listening to this pensive slice of pop. Fear not progressive fans, there is some nice synth work from Brislin but mostly keys are used as a textural element accentuating the wistful sounds. One of my favourites is the Floyd-like “It’s Our Time” with its droning sounds and pretty acoustic guitar. More Floyd-like moments can be found in the heartfelt “Didn’t get To Say Goodbye”, a dreamy soundscape etched with fluttering percussion and Gilmour-like leads. The album ends with “The Epilogue: Hearts & Thoughts”, a pretty song with another outstanding melody.
Soaring Back To Earth is an emotional roller coaster ride. No science fiction themes here, just real life themes and music that come straight from the heart (the album is dedicated to Michaels’ brother who passed away in 2008).
Although this is not a full out progressive rock album, I think many prog fans will like this. Besides, the songs are strong and the melodies superb. What more can one ask for?