A solid yet challenging album from a drummer who's managed to pack a lot of experience into his years.
From his work with the late great Frank Zappa to his time working with Jeff Beck (especially the fabulous Guitar Shop), to being one of the cornerstones in Missing Persons, Terry Bozzio has managed to pack a lot of life into his years behind the drum kit. Yet his biggest adventure to date might be this latest album, which has a lineage going back to Zappa. One of Bozzio's friends is Co de Kluet, a Dutch radio producer on former friend of the late Zappa. The Metropole Orkest, a 60-piece orchestra in its sixth decade, was also associated with Zappa. But regardless of how influential Zappa was, this is Bozzio's baby from start to finish. Of course, a large supporting cast certainly doesn't hurt either. It's adventurous, classical, and has Bozzio's own jazz/rock drum sticks all over it.
With most of the songs ("pieces" for you classical purists) clocking in at over five and sometimes 10 minutes, you know that you can't possibly measure what is going to happen from the initial moments of a song. This is especially true of the eerie, tension-building "Temenos", which could be mistaken for a mash-up of something Henry Mancini scored for The Pink Panther yet ended up in Apocalypse Now. It does bring to mind portions of Jeff Beck's Frankie's House, as winds, reeds, and violins are used to thicken the overall atmosphere. Conductor Dick Bakker gets the most from his orchestra, especially in the first half of the song, which builds into this crescendo before Bozzio truly begins to take control of the song, even adding some Latin rhythms and color into the proceedings. And it's basically his fine ear that enables him to place some rock and jazz arrangements and fills into the mix at just the right time. There are some brief moments of nothing but empty air, yet it seems as if it's a change of mood in the piece.
"Hypnotic" ensues, and is by far one of Bozzio's more intricate songs in recent memory. The second phase of this "Five Movements for Drum Set and Orchestra" is melodic, ethereal, somewhat Celtic, and cinematic all at the same time. Living up to its title, the song's fluidity is perhaps its biggest asset, although it has a slight lull for a moment or two once it settles down into a nice and laidback galloping tempo. It breaks ranks halfway through to go down a completely different road, a cross between John Williams and Atom Heart Mother. The first and second violins work overtime but don't dominate the song, as Bozzio's drums and percussion begin to slowly seize control, the fills more pronounced and rapid.
Part three, entitled, er, "Untitled", is a frantic yet clear arrangement held together by Bozzio and the stellar string section. Despite what might be construed as some primitive beats, the addition of horns to the song is great surprise and perhaps the real joy on the track. The overall effort is then taken sonically to the East, possibly the Far East with some hues of the Orient. The horns then go into an almost schmaltzy, James Bond action sequence segment before fortunately correcting themselves. The closing moments bring to mind some sort of neo-rock overture. Nonetheless, Bozzio never rests on his laurels, stretching himself further on "Moguli", which has some Middle Eastern textures, sort of like a classical rendition of Zeppelin's "Kashmir" circa No Quarter, with that same plodding, deliberate flavor. Think of your favorite overture (if you have one), but jazzed up somewhat, and you have a good idea of what this effort contains.
The final piece is nearly 13 minutes long: "Opus 1", the lone piece separated from "Five Movements for Drum Set and Orchestra". Naturally having several twists and turns throughout, the song is mellow, with a sparse amount of instrumentation going on - a few plucks here and there with a flute propelling most of the early portion. It makes a great coda to the album, as its lush arrangement and flow is quite strong. The middle section is where things take off, the tension rising and Bozzio pounding the drums harder as a result. Yet it concludes very softly for the most part, the way you would expect such a solid yet challenging album to.