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Balance II - 2005 Balance



ARTIST: Balance II
ALBUM: Balance
LABEL: Balance II Records
SERIAL: -
YEAR: 2005

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Brian Moritz - guitar, keyboards, backing vocals * Vince Claps - lead and backing vocals * Joel Kaplan - keyboards * Dave LaRue - bass * Rod Morgenstein - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 How Many * 02 You Asked * 03 Reptilian Crawl * 04 When Love Comes * 05 The Way We Do * 06 When I Fall Down * 07 Carry Me Home * 08 Burn * 09 Miracles * 10 Let Us Pray

WEBLINKS: www.myspace.com/musicbybalance


Background
Essentially the brainchild of virtuoso guitarist/keyboard player Brian Moritz and vocalist Vince Claps, this album has been the result of a labour of love spanning a period of nearly 10 years (maybe Tom Scholz was inspiration in the process!). Both of the guys were already experienced musicians by the time they came to record 'Balance II' having already polished their chops on the live circuit for a number of years (Claps first live performance was at the tender age of 16). Moritz in particular has an impressive musical pedigree, at one stage auditioning with pomp legends Trillion as replacement keyboard player for Patrick Leonard. The connection is extended further as a result of his session work with their former singer Thom Griffin. Griffin lends his vocal talents to the project along with seasoned veterans such as Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, Steve Morse Band), Rod Morgenstein (Winger) and long standing friend Joel Kaplan.


The Songs
The band are the fortunate recipients of state of the art recording facilities and the production is therefore on a par with anything released by a major label. I've read elsewhere that Balance II (?) have been compared with Trillion, presumably as a result of Griffin's involvement with the project, and their fondness for weaving elaborate musical passages with west coast tendencies. For the purposes of this review I'll refer to them as Balance II so as to avoid confusion and comparison with Messrs Castro, Kulick and co (what ever happened to their proposed reformation for a new album by the way?) Their particular brand of AOR is more progressive and tends to stray away from the more typical nuances of the genre. Messrs Claps, Moritz and their cohorts meld a variety of eclectic influences including, jazz, blues and world music - mostly to great effect. The musicianship is excellent the band exhibiting inventive variations in tempo and musical improvisation, which are punctuated by occasional brief musical vignettes. I have to say all this elaborate musicianship does teeter on the brink of narcissism; though I'm sure fellow musicians would vehemently disagree having lots of fun dissecting this album in the process.

'How Many' opens with tasteful guitar soloing from Moritz and has a Dan Reed vibe, especially on the chorus, though with AOR, rather than funk tendencies.

'You Asked' is a pleasant, mellow, stripped down affair but not really representative of the musical excesses Balance II are prone to.

'Reptilian Crawl' lifts the momentum Dave LaRue's dextrous funky bass lines being the prelude to a bombastic overblown arrangement with a punchy chorus and some tremendous lead guitar from Moritz. It then digresses with some sudden brief, vocal harmonisation towards the end. Some listeners may find this irritating others may appreciate the quirkiness. The jury's out as far as I'm concerned at the moment.

The protracted intro to 'When Love Comes' is overlong and smacks of self-indulgence, the arrangement out of context with the song which evolves into a classy melodic affair rounded of by stunning vocal harmonies. In fact it evokes memories of the more subdued moments of 'Clear Approach' era Trillion.

Album highlight 'The Way We Do' has more than a passing resemblance to Toto a la 'The Seventh one'. With a running time of over 6 minutes it gives the band ample opportunity to dabble in some stunning guitar/keyboard fusion.

'When I Fall Down' is another classy mid tempo affair with West Coast influences again coming to the fore.

Another quirky intro rears it's head on 'Carry Me Home' where I was momentarily convinced I was listening to the latest Corrs album, however the solid guitar riffing that ensued though soon dispatched such uncertain delusions. What gives with all these quirky arrangements?

'Burn' gives the band another opportunity to indulge in more liberal doses of guitar keyboard fusion and their penchant for improvised musical passages generally.

'Miracles' opens with a slide guitar intro and evokes memories of Nelson circa Life particularly the harmonies even with Thom Griffin's distinctive backing vocals.

Closer 'Let Us Pray' is an enjoyable bluesy romp though once again Brian Moritz can't resist an opportunity to show off his dexterity on the guitar.


In Summary
Though hampered at times by some disjointed musical arrangements the band is anything but predictable and 'Balance II' has grown on me with repeated plays. I'd recommend this for those who prefer a break from the standard formulaic AOR fare but don't say I didn't warn you!


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Comments
#1 | Jez on January 09 2009 02:23:27
A very mixed bag of stuff on this, so fans of Westcoast, Pomp, AOR and Prog will get something from this one for sure. Definite influences - Toto, Trillion, Eagles, Chicago and Trevor Rabin era Yes. The band is second to none musically, with Dave LaRue (Dixie Dreggs, Steve Morse) and Rob Morgenstein (Dixie Dreggs,Winger) cooking up a mean rhythm section, even Tommy D makes an appearance. As I said, diversity is the name of the game here with excellent results. A+
 
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