Prog Rock Master Class Record Making Checklist:
1. Epic album opener - check
2. Massive drum sound - check
3. Metallic guitar riffage - check
4. Wacky time changes - check
5. Hot guitar solos - check
A Life Within A Day by Squackett, the 2012 collaboration between Chris Squire (of Yes) and Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis), is a pleasing surprise from two prog rock legends. The Deluxe Edition features a nice, bound book-style package with a CD plus a DVD with a 5.1 surround mix.
The Good: A Life Within A Day plays like a master class in pop-prog rock song writing, with grand moments of early Genesis-like splendor giving way to 80s/90s-era Yes. Big, Bonham-like drums on the title track recall "Shock to the System" from Yes' "Union" album. A math-rock jam with mad guitar soloing might make Robert Fripp smile. Funky changes echo Chick Corea's Return To Forever.
Radio-friendly, Alan Parsons-esque, prog-lite tunes like "Tall Ships" and "Aliens" urge repeated listens. "Divided Self," with its chiming Beatles-via-XTC 12-string guitar, sets the stage for a Harrison-esque solo that makes you want to crank the volume up to 11. Fun! The CD rocks solidly in the car -- this is great driving music.
The Bad: The 5.1 mix sounds weak when it could have been spectacular. No chances were taken, opting for a traditional soundstage, using surrounds mostly for ambiance and the occasional instrumental surprise. I found the surround mix to be a bit mushy, lacking in the sort of dynamics one would expect from a progressive rock recording. Sure, at 48 kHz it sounds bigger than the CD, but overall the surround sound mix could have been a lot brighter and more engaging. This mix is delivered on a standard DVD Video disc with choice of lossy DTS, Dolby 5.1 plus LPCM stereo. The stereo track didn't work on my Oppo but did on my basic Sony BD player; go figure.
So should you get Squackett? If you are looking for Rush, King Crimson or even ELP- flavored music, this may not be your cuppa tea. If you like the Yes, Genesis, and Alan Parsons Project flavors of prog rock, by all means get the CD. If you are looking for progressive rock in surround sound that will light up your home theater system with aural pyrotechnics, spend your money on something like the great Deluxe Edition of King Crimson's "Discipline," which will give you a truely high fidelity immersive 5.1 experience.
# # #
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written. www.smotroff.com