Lisa LaRue 2KX – Fast and Blue

If someone had first told me about the work of Lisa LaRue and her place as a ‘virtuoso prog keyboardist’, I would have likely not checked out this album. It is certainly not that I have a problem with highly skilled musicians, but whenever the words ‘solo’ and ‘virtuoso’ come up, I get the aching feeling that this will be more an ordeal of feeding the artist’s ego through incessant scale worship and technical wizardry, rather than the more musical and tasteful elements that first attract me to certain types of music. Thankfully, I had no preconceptions of who Lisa LaRue was before listening to this, because as far as her latest album ‘Fast And Blue’ indicates, ‘solo’ and ‘virtuoso’ aren’t words in the vocabulary. Instead, what we have here is an hour or so of band-oriented, eclectic prog rock, drawing from a range of sources and coming together into a longwinded span of varied sounds and mature composition.

The music on ‘Fast And Blue’ never focuses on the technical skills of the artist as I may have thought, but rather the tasteful arrangements of a number of musicians. If one was listening to the album without any idea of what it was, it could even be concluded that ‘Fast And Blue’ was the work of a guitar-oriented band, rather than the brainchild of a keyboardist. This is mostly instrumental music that leans towards the mellow side of prog rock, and best represented with the eighteen minute instrumental ‘epic’ ‘Prometheus’, the music is pleasant and emotional, with the talents of the musicians coming through in the slight ways they change the tone and dynamic as the track goes on. As I have said, the music here is surprisingly led mostly by the guitars, although LaRue’s Wakeman-esque solos come in once in a while. Keeping in suit with the vibe of the rest of the album, most of it revolves around melody, rather than the flaunting of her skill, which is obvious enough without her necessarily having to show it off outright. Ironically though, some of the most exciting moments of this album are when she really lets loose her talent, and takes the keyboard for a frantic spin.

For it being a mostly instrumental record, Lisa LaRue’s ‘Fast And Blue’ is a surprisingly tasteful record, with plenty of mellowness and well-thought melodies to send it going strong, although there is the occasional throwback to ELP-like climaxes to balance out the less eventful sections. Lisa LaRue was certainly trying to recreate the glory of the 70′s prog rock with this one, as so many in today’s progressive music scene have tried to do. While the sound is definitely emulated well enough, there is not quite enough that LaRue adds to this formula. The songwriting is quite well done, although no track here leaps out as being particularly memorable. Also, the addition of vocals on the later half of the album feels a little jarring. There are a number of vocalists that participate on this record, and while none are particularly bad, there is not one moment where the vocals feel as if they contribute anything vital to the sound; ‘Fast And Blue’ would have almost certainly have had a greater impact, had it been kept purely instrumental.

This 70′s throwback thing is not my thing, and never was, but it is impossible to deny the skill and talent that Lisa LaRue has both in terms of playing, and arranging such an eclectic piece of music. We have folkier sounds here, 70′s symphonic prog blowouts, jazzier moments, and classical sounds. A very good album from this talented artist, and for what it lacks in cohesion and identity, it makes up in variety and feeling.

Tracklist:

1. Mystery Of The Rose (1:10)
2. Prometheus (17:58)
3. Tryptych (4:54)
4. Jam Jehan Nima (12:51)
5. Lament Of The Cherokee/Ruins Of Home (7:30)
6. Fast And Blue (5:12)
7. Recurring Dream (7:17)

Line-up:

* Lisa LaRue – keyboards
* Steve Adams – guitar, bass
* Merrill Hale – drums
* John Payne – vocals, bass

guest musicians:
* Ryo Okumoto – keyboards (2)
* Michael Sadler – vocals (7)
* Don Schiff – NS stick (2)
* Mitch Perry – guitar solos (4)
* Maxi Nil – backing vocals (6)
* Mike Alvarez – cello

Links:

http://www.lisalaruemusic.com/

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: