"Rama 1" is the first album of a collaboration of musicians led by former Dixie Dregs bass player Andy West. On the press information sheet that came along with this release we find the following:
“According to Andy, it’s not easy to explain this record to people who haven’t heard his music. "The first two songs set a ton They 're very dynamic - not in the sense of being wide-ranging but more in the sense of being in your face. They're very heavy and have a lot of notes. People might get a certain feeling from those songs and a couple of other on the album, but there’s also stuff that ranges from moody and cinematic to more musician oriented, I guess the genre is instrumental rock, but what kind of instrumental rock? It’s not Satriani or Vai, and it’s not Dregs. I really don’t have a sound bite for it. It’s got a lot of qualities I like, and some other people seem to like it too, so I’m happy with it."
My opinion on this album surely equals the above statements. Heavy progressive and experimental music that indeed is probably more interesting for "active" musicians than for passive listeners. Perhaps the qualification "metal fusion" applies? Searching for bands that most sound similar to "Rama I" can only come up with King Crimson.
The following musicians contributed to this album:
Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs), Jonathan Mover (GTR, Joe Satriani, Einstein) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment) play drums; guitars are played by Thoshi Iseda and Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa) who also plays keyboards and performs the (distorted) vocals on "Old meat frame"; Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), T. Lavitz (Dixie Dregs) and Kit Watkins (Happy the Man) play the keyboards and synthesizers, as does Andy West himself, next to of course all basses.
As mentioned above the heavy guitars chords and lots of notes playing atonal melodies of the first two tracks "Mad March" (4:15, the title couldn’t be better) and "Meetings" (5:55) abundantly clear set the tone for this album. Track 3 "Herd instinct" (4:36) features thrilling sax and bass sounds that compose a peace that is very suitable for the next episode of "Psycho" or "Frantic". Tension and anxiety also feature track 4 "Bloomsday" with first a screaming Pink Floyd like guitar solo but then again very heavy chords. If you want to get rid of your neighbors, play this track with maximum volume on a sunday morning. Guided by a solid rhythm and heavy guitars the fifth track "Old meat frame" features the only vocals on this album, although distorted and screaming. "Memento Mori" (5:05), track 6 is a more accessible song with some more appealing almost classical melodies played by varies instruments. Accessibility also applies to track 7 "Qubit" that consists of interesting soundscapes and harmonic melodies on a jazzy rhythm. Heavy riffs open track 8 "Government" that features an interesting melody played "double" by a synthesized clavinet and guitar; the second half is more fusion like with again many notes played in a short time span, that really make me quit nervous. The album happily finishes in a more relaxing mood with "Resonate": a sequences theme and vibraphone intro are followed by a repeating jazzy theme and trumpet and sax solos.
Although I am very interested in progressive and experimental music I dislike the heavy basis of most songs and next to that many songs have head nor tail. Therefore this album probably only appeals to people who are in for very progressive metal/jazz/fusion. It certainly is not a typical solo album of a bass player. You definitely should not play this album when you’re on the edge of a nervous breakdown!
It’s hard to give this album a rating. With 2 stars (poor) I really wrong the virtuosity of the musicians, but in the end it’s the quality and seductiveness of the compositions that’s decisive, so I end up with no more than 2 ½ stars.