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McDonald, Brian - 2003 Voyage




ARTIST: McDonald, Brian (Project)
ALBUM: Voyage
LABEL: Atenzia
SERIAL: ATZ 02010
YEAR: 2003

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Brian McDonald - vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards * Reb Beach - guitars

TRACK LISTING: 01 Intimate * 02 Where You Are I Am * 03 In The Shadow Of Angels * 04 Phoenix Rising * 05 The Night You Said Goodbye * 06 Voyage * 07 Patriot Dreams * 08 Out Of Time * 09 Between Heaven And Heart * 10 Normandy * 11 Legend * 12 In A World Made For You * 13 Unfinished Business

WEBLINKS: www.brianmcdonald.com


Background
A man who has his finger on the pulse of melodic rock is Minnesota resident Brian McDonald. Encompassing his love of classical and contemporary styles, the combination of the two surely makes for compulsory listening for readers of this site. If 2000's 'Wind It Up' was a tug-on-the-ear wake up call, then 'Voyage' must definitely be a cold water bucket dunking for those not yet captured by the McDonald magic. Three years on, and there's less of the Def Leppard influence, instead replaced by massive infusions of Kansas and Chicago symphonic pomp. Mostly, the songs are extended pieces and cover a raft of interesting topics, some touching on Brian's childhood experiences. You ain't gonna get no 3 minute 'love em and leave em' type rockers here. No way, that would fly in the face of one of melodic rock's more intelligent gentlemen. Those of you looking for a continuation of the material on 'Wind It Up', I can end that speculation right now. Don't. Instead, Brian has moved 'Voyage' in a better direction, particularly for lovers of seventies pomp. There are ample moments to reflect on from decades long since past.


The Songs
There are plenty of tracks on offer, and over an hours worth of listening. Now when it gets to that stage, one of the first things we look for is the ability to hold the attention span for that long, and yes, it does. Initially, the album was due for release in late March, but got shifted back by two weeks, with a release date in mid April. Now despite all that, there appears to be few (if any) reviews out on the Net. We're probably the first one out there. Anyway, we'll take a slightly different approach with this review, and focus on the songs separately. Here we go.

Intimate - a terrific opening, bordering on 'bombastic'. Delicate build up, massive walls of vocals on the chorus, and a closing sequence of about a minute and a half that features a Boston like cascade of guitar layers.

Where You Are Where I Am - This one sees Brian taking on a Beatles-esque approach, 'Eleanor Rigby' like passages, violin plucks amid the guitar bursts. Interesting, and different.

In The Shadow Of Angels - Opening with some stabbing piano, the song itself punctuates throughout, the piano, synthesizer and guitar lines duelling most of the time.

Phoenix Rising - Starts out with a neat synth arpeggio sequence, followed up by some Chicago styled keyboard parps, before settling into a classic slice of pulsing AOR. One of the album highlights.

The Night You Said Goodbye - This could have been 'I Don't Wanna Want Your Touch' Part 2, played in a Chicago style. The warm vocal from Brian gives this track a certain 'feel good' factor.

Voyage - the title track, at 6min 15s, has a nautical theme (obviously) is a full-blown exercise in pomp rock, with all the pre-requisites contained within said duration. Has a few Kansas reference points in there, but overall a compulsory listen for GDM's pomp fans.

Patriot Dreams - this one is about the Vietnam War, in fact Brian's own personal recollection from that time. A songtitle appropriate in this day and age huh?

Out Of Time - Another favourite for me, think Supertramp meeting Survivor like stabbing piano a la 'Poor Mans Son' as an intro. The song is like this all the way through, the chorus surges with urgent intent, and those damn stabbing pianos!!! Awesome. Whoa..

Between Heaven and Heart - An atmospheric track with loads of feeling. A quiet introspective start building to a melodic climax, offset by some symphonic elements, a la acoustic guitar and violin at the end.

Normandy - Again another symphonic effort, with lyrics taking us back to classical era Europe, a tale of kings, queens, and brave warriors. A tremendous track, which is as multi-faceted as a symphonic track could be. The end sequence is one that messrs Walsh and Livgren would be particularly interested to hear, absolute primetime Kansas a la 'Leftoverture'.

Legend - The war theme rears it's head for 'Legend'. An urgent delivery contains strutting verses and a huge sounding chorus. This one didn't capture me as much as the others up to this point.

In A World Made For You - More of a straight-ahead melodic rock tune, with ample guitar lines, and a sound that's probably the closest to the material on 'Wind it Up'.

Unfinished Business - Less symphonic, this song contains more acoustic elements and a bluesy type delivery from Brian that is slightly different in approach than the other tracks heard before. To change it up even further, the bagpipe sequence outtro is probably a fitting arrangement from the original McDonald Clan!


In Summary
Again, Atenzia have got it right with a CD release sure to capture the attention of the melodic rock community for a wee while to come yet. To these ears at least, 'Voyage' is as close to being a symphonic gem as some of those past 70's classics, but in a modern age and with a modern production. Musically superb, though the one area which prevents it from scoring higher are the vocal harmonies on the choruses. They are so huge and thick, to the point of being detrimental. If you didn't have the liner notes you'd have great difficulty understanding them. Apart from that little issue, it is still a guaranteed certified addition to your CD collection.. that there is no doubt.


Related Articles
McDonald, Brian (Group) - 1987 Desperate Business
McDonald, Brian - 2000 Wind It Up
McDonald, Brian (Project) - 2003 Voyage
McDonald, Brian - 2003 The Voyage Interview
McDonald, Brian - 2003 Wind It Up Interview


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Comments

#1 | richardb on December 12 2007 20:46:14
Wasn't a huge fan of his 80's 'Life is a desperate business' LP (a bit too AOR by numbers for my liking..) but decided to take a punt on this CD as I saw it going cheap.

I have to say I'm very pleasantly surprised - one for Kansas fans and lovers of symphonic pomp in general.

You can add this one to my weekly playlist George - it's getting some serious airplay on the CD player at the moment.

Richard Bmusic
#2 | KurtmanJP on October 12 2008 07:07:54
In the Shadows Of angels = KILLER track!
#3 | Jez on January 09 2009 03:09:31
Superb in every department. I loved the 'Wind It Up' album aswell, but this surpasses that one in every department. One of my faves of the last few years.
#4 | rkbluez on May 31 2012 11:10:43
Amazing album amazing talent...I also think this is his best and most pompy work. Voyage is a killer track.
#5 | roadrunner158 on November 30 2012 11:16:08
Fantastic album I still listen to on a regular basis. Does anybody know what happened to Brian? Is he still active in music? It's been 9 long years...
#6 | gdazegod on December 01 2012 20:54:43
Brian is on Facebook. You can get hold of him there..

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