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Salem Hill - 'Pennies In The Karma Jar' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/e0/43/c5/1266_SalemHillPenniesInTheKarmaJar_1305825904.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     May 19, 2011    
 
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I've always enjoyed Salem Hill albums, but with this one I think they have excelled themselves.

Despite owning all their output, Salem Hill had never been a band that featured in my thinking for album of the year or even made it onto the shortlist for such an accolade. I therefore ran through their back catalogue and the realisation dawned that they had what I think of as a particularly American trait, a predilection for throwing in unrelated heavy and off kilter bits into their music under the impression that this passed for Progressive. I am pleased to say that they appear to have eradicated this trait from their music and as a consequence this album makes for an extremely pleasing listen, almost all the way through. Another change is that they've ditched the violin and the overt Kansas similarities have gone.

The aspects that really stand out on this album are the band's ability to write wonderful themed refrains and especially choruses. Almost without exception each of the nine tracks offers a chorus that gets its hooks into you from first listen, so, whilst this may be Prog there's nothing to stop Melodic Rock fans finding plenty to enthral them.

Opening track, 'Carry Me' really sets out the band's stall from the outset with its delightful Venice style vocal arrangement, a superb chorus and a wonderfully incisive and tuneful guitar solo. In my opinion the band are at their best with this kind of mid paced material, their one dalliance with something heavier on this album ('Stormclouds In Wonderland') doesn't quite work, mostly because whoever takes the lead vocals isn't really up to it and he resorts to shouting the verses. When the song moves into a gentler phase with a multi vocal arrangement it improves significantly and the soloing from keyboards and guitar is terrific.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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'My Gift To You' comes over like Spock's Beard lite with its bass driven opening, strong Hammond chords and interesting structure, whilst a mid song time change to a Bluesy shuffle and sustained guitar chords is superbly executed. The extended instrumental section that closes the track allows each member of the band to show their chops whilst remaining tuneful and not disappearing in a cloud of being flash just for the sake of it. 'Fine' puts me in mind of Barclay James Harvest (BJH) crossed with Mike & the Mechanics until a tempo change into an instrumental passage makes for a slightly darker mood.

If I had to pick the standout track on the album it would probably be 'This Lump' with its acoustic guitar and piano led refrain and yet another delicious chorus. The Venice comparisons are there again in the vocal arrangement; it is a truly wonderful song. The BJH feel returns on 'Why Did You Make Me?' but this time with Enchant type sensibilities in there as well. The guitar accentuations here are splendid as they are on 'The Horror of Fearfulness'. 'The Day Is Yours' opens with classic Saga style electric piano and synth before it embarks on 14 minutes of epic Prog, which in true fashion ebbs and flows on what is a musical journey, which remains relevant and interesting throughout. The album closes with 'Glimpses', which is a fitting end with yet more wonderful melodies and a huge chorus.

I've always enjoyed Salem Hill albums, but with this one I think they have excelled themselves.

Gary Marshall

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