Time for one of those reviews where we discuss matters of deep metaphysics. (I can hear the DV Faithful groaning now. First the Swedish music, now metaphysics.)
Today's question: does a CD have to be original to be good? (We'll discuss what 'good' means in a later column - a MUCH later column.) Is a CD required to blaze new ground, or can it merrily frolic its way across well-plowed musical real estate, providing it does it well? Unfortunately, I don't have an answer, which is a shame. I'd really like a definitive one before I tackle the latest CD from progressive rock trio Cairo, Time Of Legends.
The quandary, bluntly, is this: Time Of Legends is a good disc insofar as it's well performed. The synergy of Jeff Brockman, Mark Robertson, and Bret Douglas shines all the way through; the production is flawless, the sound is rich and textured like good progressive rock should be, and the musicianship is excellent. Specific kudos should go to Robertson's touch with keyboards; while he's a bit too fond for the Hammond organ patch on his synthesizer for my tastes, he's one of the best technical players I've heard in a long time.
Where Time Of Legends fails is, bluntly, its originality or lack thereof. I felt at times like I was listening to a prog-rock greatest hits CD. I found myself saying, "Hey, keyboards like Rush" or "that melody line sounded like Kansas" or "that drum and bass line sounds like Dream Theater". I'm not saying that Cairo lacks personality as individuals, but the band itself seems, at least on Time Of Legends, to lack any sense of a unique identity or sound.
For a fan of the progressive rock genre in toto, this might work. But for someone like me, who's a little finicky about his prog, it felt flat and lifeless at times. There are a few songs where Cairo steps past this sameness. I really enjoyed "The Prophecy" and "You Are The One" both of which, interestingly enough, were not 'traditional' progressive rock sounds. But tracks like "Coming Home" and "Underground" sounded like the prog equivalent of Chinese Dinner #1; keyboard line from column A, mysterious lyrics from column B, finish and serve.
Progressive rock is more than instrumentals and an ability to play fast keyboard arpeggios it also requires a sense of self-identity. Cairo has a lot of talent. They need the uniqueness to go with it.