|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Mike Florio|
|Record Label: Independent Records||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2014||Artist Website: Massdream|
|Tracks: 8||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 49:33|
Reconcile, the fall of 2014 sophomore solo release of Westchester County, New York vocalist and keyboardist Mike Florio, makes a lot of sense as a crossover of progressive rock and other forms of hard music. The artist recorded the album in follow up to his 2006 debut Arisen, which joined aspects of (as taken from the 85% Angelic Warlord review) “progressive rock with symphonic touches all the while reflecting the occasional classic rock or AOR leaning”. In revisiting Arisen, what I hear is a progressive basis with a strong keyboard slant in that the artist makes effective use of harpsichord, Hammond B3 and grand piano. Guitars, at the same time, are not overlooked in that the album delivers the adequate backbone in order for it to appeal to those whose tastes trend towards the heavier side of things. In other words, Arisen struck an appropriate balance between keyboards and guitars, which (in my opinion) is the foundation of all good progressive music.
From listening to Reconcile alongside Arisen, I hear much of the same, which is a very good thing. Yes, Reconcile is progressive but not to the point of overdoing it. Consider how there is progressive rock and there IS progressive rock. In terms of the latter category is Supernal Endgame, which can extend a song into the 10 to 15 minute range, and Neal Morse, master of the 30-minute mega epic. In the case of Florio, the former applies in that his compositions reflect the intricacies and time signatures inherit to progressive music, but he does not forsake accessibility in the process (there are no tracks on Reconcile longer than eight minutes with the majority in the 5 to 7 minute range). The point being that those whose musical attention spans are limited - and avoid progressive music accordingly - are strongly encouraged to check Reconcile (and Arisen) out.
Consider also that Reconcile is progressive and a whole lot more in that similar to Arisen it reflects the influences of a wide array of genres. This stands out on “The Wise Man”, a classic rock grounded piece with an engaging AOR impression and backdrop sustained by tasteful amounts of organ and edgy rhythm guitar. The progressive facet manifests itself in the multiple instrumental excursions. Prime Kansas is the feel at hand, and not just musically but also vocally in that Florio brings an expansive and crystalline delivery reminiscent to that of Steve Walsh and John Elefante.
In similar fashion, “I Promise” highlights a symphonic rock aspect with its stately keyboards and light touches of rhythm guitar. Abundant melody plays a corresponding defining role and choir like backing vocals a refining one; I cannot help but be reminded of AD in this capacity. Only complaint is that I wish guitars had carried the instrumental interlude as opposed to keyboards (or better yet a guitar and keyboard duel).
A guitar driven progressive rock penchant resides on “Seeds Of The Earth”, as a backbone of crisp rhythm guitar aligns with a pleasing melody that keeps things fresh with repeat listen. Also note are the multiple instrumental passages, including those at the start, end and middle (featuring a fitting organ solo). “How Will You Know?” maintains the guitar heavy progressive disposition. The song highlights a darker and moodier complexion in comparison, which contrasts (in a positive sense) with the catchy AOR tinged chorus backed by polished vocal melodies. Guitarist Bill Thomas preserves the instrumental mindset with a stretch of riveting lead guitar (“The Wise Man” also finds him standing out in this capacity).
Speaking of which, closing track “Seeds Of The Earth II” is an instrumental version to “Seeds Of The Earth”. It works delightfully, in that the songs inherit progressiveness lends to an instrumental environments- and allows the musicianship at hand (also encompassing bassist Clyde ‘Dave’ Bailey and drummer Steve Golden) to stand out that much more.
Also of a progressive nature but with a forward keyboard focus is the albums eight minute (its longest) title track. “Reconcile” delivers underpinnings of bass guitar driven groove (sort of like the Arisen number “Media Ride”) while allowing Florio to exhibit his keyboard wizardry accordingly, with layers of synthesizers and organ abounding but within the same accessible framework. Guitars play a lighter role than on “Seeds Of The Earth” and “How Will You Know?”
Reconcile also features a pair of four to five minute ballads. My favorite is “Letter From Babylon”, carried by piano and exquisite keyboards but interwoven with distant rhythm guitar. An uplifting feel comes to the forefront in the aftermath, particularly during the rollicking instrumental moments. “Only One Way” starts ominously to threatening sound effects prior to moving forward with the smoother feel, slower than “Letters From Babylon” and with keyboards compelling its distance.
Production represents a step up from Arisen, which was solid to begin with. The main difference is the pronounced Reconcile low end in which a thick as it gets bass presence plays a buttressing role. Well thought out packaging features eye-catching cover artwork and inner sleeve with easy to read lyrics and liner notes.
Lyrically, the artist continues to make a well thought out faith-based statement without hitting you over the head. Subtly spiritual might be the best way to describe things. I interpret “The Wise Man” as a musical expose on the book of Proverbs: Never showing there’s a question in his mind. Patient learning and a reading of the signs. There’s a window – you can see right to his heart. A strong conviction finds a place where words can start. Several songs prove aptly entitled, including “Reconcile” (Never could fool myself to believe there’s nothing more. Never could fool myself to believe I’ve learned it all. Never could find a way to believe that all is lost. Never could find a way to believe I’m all alone) and “Only One Way” (Looking for the wondrous light. Asking clearly the question of life. Now I find my way back home. Following the path I was shown. You’ve got to find what you’re looking for. There’s only one way to open the door).
The theme to “Letters From Babylon” seems to draw upon the Prodigal son (Now I too have not been faithful. With all I have, not been grateful. Or understood the source of our wealth. I did squander and went stealing. With my soul I went dealing. Now I’m reeling from the choices I made) and “Seeds of The Earth” creation (I’m told seasons of peace are at hand. Yet I find my way walking through desperate lands. We we’re given a paradise, abundant life full of promise. But we’re throwing it all away, another turning to silence).
Reconcile makes a great deal of sense as a follow up to Arisen with its bedrock of the progressive while also branching out into other forms of hard music. It is a formula that works effectively on both releases and makes for a necessary purchase for those into progressive rock (not to mention the other genres at hand) but that does not overwhelm you with overly lengthy compositions at the same time. Once more, the key resides around how the artist proves progressive but also does not forsake the key component of accessibility. I hope it is not another eight years until we hear from Mike Florio again.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Seeds Of The Earth” (6:50), “Reconcile” (7:41), “Letter From Babylon” (4:40), “The Wise Man” (4:49), “I Promise” (5:54), “Only One Way” (5:24), “How Will I Know?” (7:39), “Seeds Of The Earth II” (6:22)
Mike Florio - Vocals & Keyboards
Bill Thomas - Guitars
Dave Bailey - Bass
Steve Golden - Drums