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C-Sides - 'Devitrification' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 20, 2011    
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A  promising debut album.

Calling ones debut album after the whitish scum that can form on the surface of glass that has been left for too long at too high a temperature is certainly different, as indeed is the music performed by what might be called the "enta" now separated from the "Mag". I'd better explain! The C-Sides were formed in 2007 by (now former) members of the respected progressive ensemble from south Wales, Magenta: second guitarist Martin Rosser, bassist Dan Fry and drummer Allan Mason-Jones. All continue to play their respective instruments, but it is Dan Fry who has additionally stepped up to the microphone: and quite a revelation as lead vocalist he turns out to be. He certainly has his own style but just occasionally (and especially on 'Master Plan') there is more than a hint of Robbie Williams! Please don't let that put you off grabbing a listen to this album, especially if you like the music of Rush and/or more modern styles of melodic rock, because it does contain some pretty decent material throughout.

The Rush references are particularly striking in opening track 'The Ribbon' but they are also to be found bubbling just beneath the surface of several of the other songs. 'Time For Me' starts with a ticking clock but ends with a fantastic three part harmony section: a most striking coda. In between is a modern rock song with excellent vocals: the backing vocals of Emily Bates and Alan McCarthy are very effective here as also they continue to be throughout the album. Rosser's layered guitar work reminds me of 'Venus Isle-era Eric Johnson: and provides the limelight he rarely enjoyed in Magenta. The previously mentioned 'Master Plan' is another engaging song while 'Stand Up' provides a starkly fascinating contrast with the foregoing. It is "different", and "a grower"; definitely an interesting song, it is bound to divide opinion, and after umpteen listens even I am warming to it!

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There is no such issue with the three part suite that comprises the title track – and whereas it might be assumed that guys from a progressive rock band would wish to plough a similar furrow, they have largely eschewed this – but come as close to a progrock statement here as with anything on the album. It works through a number of moods and styles, the middle section comprising a really wonderful, atmospheric, acoustic guitar solo that again reminds me of Eric Johnson. Fry's vocals on the other sections are really a revelation: both solo and in harmony while the percussive elements here also help to evoke especially strong imagery.

Unfortunately, I have to introduce a slightly disapproving note before concluding my comments. There has been recent lengthy discussion on the forum about the successful recording of drums. Mason-Jones' drums have been placed high in the mix here; nothing intrinsically wrong with this, of course, but unfortunately the dry snare drum sound becomes an enormous distraction on many of the tracks. I have played the album to several friends, and to a man they have all commented disapprovingly about this, whilst enjoying the album otherwise.

Nevertheless, this is a promising debut album: not a perfect one, but one that provides good material for live appearances and a sound basis to plan for album number two.

Paul Jerome Smith

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