Coming Through review

  • I was going to review the CD myself, but upon coming across the one below by Bob Mulvey, it summed up my thoughts perfectly, so I figured, I'd go ahead and include his review here...bottom line, it's definitely worth tracking down, however, you might want to wait for the Japanese release at the end of month, as it includes some extra video footage of Glenn on it's Bonus on.....


    Godzilla vs King Ghidarah (7:18), The Farther He Goes, The Farther He Falls (5:43), Slipping Down (5:57), Highway Roller (4:04), Free Fall (4:03), Coming Through (5:21), Close Enough (18:57), The Imperial (5:19)

    Ryo Okumoto is best known to progressive fans for his keyboard skills with Spock's Beard, and probably less for his solo works and numerous session and guest appearances. Ryo has an impressive portfolio of credits to his name having worked with and among others, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton and Natalie Cole to mention a just a few. Along with these he has been involved with Bobby Kimball, Steve Lukather and Simon Phillips from Toto, all of whom contribute to this album. And the list of guest musicians to be found on Coming Through does not stop here, as Ryo is not only joined by fellow Spock's Beard musicians, but also guitarist Michael Landau and The Voice, Glenn Hughes.

    So we have an impressive cast, what will the album have to offer, was the burning question as the CD went into the player. What did cross my mind was that like many solo projects, especially those that feature the entirety of the current band, is that it ends up sounding like a variation on the same theme. The other option, is that it might follow in the footsteps of Neal Morse's last solo album, which contained many excellent tracks, but had little to do with prog. As it was, neither scenario was true, and what emanated from my CD player was both interesting and refreshing.

    The opening instrumental Godzilla vs King Ghidarah began "progressively" enough with a low droning bass synth note accompanied by an atmospheric rising string section. However this gave no indication as to what was to follow, as a bold jazz-rock fusion track emerged, with Simon Phillips on the kit and Dave Carpenter on double bass. The piece moved with great pace and gave rise to numerous solo sections from all concerned. What was nice was the variation in texture created by the keyboards, as Ryo employed piano, synthesizer and the Hammond organ to change the mood and intensity of the piece. An unexpected but a great opener.

    The tempo drops down as Nick D'Virgilio grooves in with a track not only written by him, but on this occasion taking on the vocal task as well. The Farther He Goes, The Farther He Falls has a "smoky" bar room feel, full of highs and lows as the track moves through a verse chorus arrangement. The strong and close harmony vocal sections within the powerful chorus', brought to mind the recent album by Jelly Jam featuring Ty Tabor. The icing on the cake was the solo section from Steve Lukather, as the track moves into overdrive towards the end. Slipping Down glides in nicely from the previous track in this very Toto like song. Hardly surprising as Bobby Kimball's distinct voice, coupled with the close harmony vocals, is so reminiscent of their style and a credit here to the writing from both Okumoto and Neal Morse. Think Toto with a slightly harder edged, but still with that polished rock-funk feel and you've got it, even down to the brass section.

    As with the two previous songs, the tracks flow well into each other and give the album continuity and this is the case again as we rock into Highway Roller. Step forward Glenn Hughes into the vocal zone with his fine, distinct voice and add Steve Lukather on guitar for what is a powerful rock blues track. Mention here of Sage Okumoto, son of Ryo, showing a maturity beyond his years as he takes on the drum mantle and acquitting himself well, in this assembled field of percussion men.Free Fall gives us our second instrumental from Coming Through, and a track that takes us to the more progressive roots of Ryo Okumoto. Similar in some respects to the opening track, with a leaning here to rock fusion side, however this time around more riff orientated and featuring Alan Morse [guitar], Dave Meros [bass] and Nick D'Virgilio [drums]. Well with this line-up the music surely must reflect Spock's Beard, and so it does.

    The CD has shown a strong balance and flow, an aspect often over-looked, or perhaps not fully appreciated and so important when trying to retain the interest of the listener from the beginning to end. So far, the contrasting styles within the music have melded the tracks well together, and there is little indication that these pieces have been written at different times or performed by different artists. The album then moves to the moment where things need to be taken down and here the gentle piano and strings move us into the title track Coming Through, with Neal Morse lending his distinct voice to the proceedings. A track that could so easily have fitted onto Neal's last solo album It's Not too Late, with its infectious melodies and strong chorus sections. Initially with only sparse instrumentation, careful use of space and rising vocal intensity Coming Through serves not only as a warming interlude but acts as calming moment before the epic proportions of Close Enough.

    By far the largest track from the album and features by far the largest collection of musicians used on the album, well almost. Close Enough is an epic piece and represents the most progressive track from Coming Through. At just under nineteen minutes it would be difficult, if not impossible, to run through the full song in one paragraph - so this brief synopsis is intended merely to capture your interest. After the opening atmospherics provided by the keyboards and sparse percussion, is a gentle organ passage gradually building in intensity. What is wonderful here is the driving Hammond organ, a sort of Jon Lord and Keith Emerson rolled into one riff, that follows. This then gives way to Bobby Kimball flexing his vocal chords, in a powerful AOR verse and chorus section, before the track mellows out - initially with the vocals and then launching into an extended and impressive organ solo section. There are so many highlights to be found in this track, with such a distinctly live feel to it and again as the piece unfolds the organ raises its head interspersed with Simon Phillips' magical drumming. This was definitely a track very reminiscent of Spock's Beard in a concert environment. If I were able to offer any changes here, it would have been to prolong that great driving "Hammond organ keyboard riff".

    After the excesses of Coming Through it was somewhat difficult to imagine what might be a fitting ending to the album. But there was to be one more pleasant surprise as the notes rang out from the piano, in a beautifully written piece from Ryo Okumoto. This evocative offering, constructed entirely from multi-layered keyboard parts, blending the classical, played on the concert grand piano (perhaps) and the contemporary represented by the airy synthesizer parts. Along with this is a multi-layered keyboard ensemble made up from lush strings, traditional orchestral sounds and choral effects. A melancholic tune that flowed and ebbed - really you've just got to hear it to appreciate it.

    So at this point it is customary to summarize the above - but my considered opinion would be to go and buy the CD. OK! Of note, the European and Japanese releases will be a double CD, the second of which containing film footage of the making of Coming Through and a pictorial history of Ryo Okumoto. Plus, should you be fortunate enough to purchase the album in Japan (on the Cool Sound, Inc. label) there is a bonus track, an electric bass version of Godzilla vs King Ghidarah - now that I would like to hear. Also included will be commentaries from Ryo and some of the guest musicians including Glenn Hughes, Steve Lukather, Bobby Kimball and Simon Phillips. And....comments from Ryo himself, Natalie Cole and Kiataro!! The Japanese edition will be released November 25th, 2002 with a slightly different CD cover (see below).

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