Prog Rock Master Class Record Making Checklist:
Epic album opener – check
Massive drum sound – check
Metallic guitar riffage – check
Wacky time changes – check
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
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.
# # #
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.