Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal E-Zine (Brazil) - Oct 12

Steve Cochrane is a Canadian guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who entered the musical arena with grand artistic ambitions. As a teenager in Ontario, Cochrane was inspired by “Rush”, after hearing their album “2112” for the first time. Later on, he took part in local bands of Peterborough, Ontario, the most notable being Progressive Rock act “Endpieces” (1980-1983). In that ambience, Cochrane's creativity as a composer evolved, and when the band broke up, he went on a solo career. During that time, his influences had widened to include British progressive bands of the seventies (mainly “Genesis”, “Yes”, “Camel”, “Mike Oldfield”, “Renaissance” & “Annie Haslam”). But as the ‘80s were no longer a time for Prog-Rock, Cochrane had to follow on as an independent musician. By 1987, the use of the MIDI technology had become quite common, and Cochrane spent more time composing at the keyboards than on the guitar. He released then three albums by his independent label Spirit Compass Music: “Heroes Awaken” (1991), “To See It Made Real” (1995), and “The Purest of Designs” (1998), refining his compositional style of arranging vocals, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars in long symphonic Progressive pieces. The fourth album – “With Or Without” (2007) – featured still more intricate arrangements, fluid guitars and surrealistic philosophical lyrics. Cochrane’s newest album is “La La La: Variations On a Happy Song” (2012, Spirit Compass), and brings a suite divided in nine parts. In spite of the title, the music on it is not joyfully silly or shallow. It represents the epic journey of a creative spirit that bears internal conflicts, and features surprising twists and turns, contrasts of light and dark, and moments of quiet sadness opposed to instants of symphonic ecstasy. The sonority is a well-balanced blend of ‘70-styled Symphonic Progressive Rock with Folk Music, influenced by bands and singers from Britain (”Yes”, ”Genesis”, “Steve Hackett”, “Renaissance”, ”Annie Haslam”, ”Mike Oldfield”, “Jethro Tull”, “Camel”, “Strawbs”, ”Steve Howe”, ”UK”, ”Moody Blues”, ”Al Stewart”, ”Kate Bush”, ”Enya” ) and Canada (”Rush”, ”Max Webster”, “Saga”, ”Ken Baird”, ”Liona Boyd”, and ”Gordon Lightfoot” ). The lyrics are inspired on the writings of philosopher “Ayn Rand”. “La La La: Variations…” counts with Cochrane (guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals and percussion); drummers Kevin Richard & Richard Rizzo; singers Armand Faguay and Murray James-Bosh; and with female singers Aimee Matuszczak and Leslea Kervourst. The album opens with the “Alarm Clock Overture” (7.50), which has no lyrics, but begins with a male/female chorus performing that “La la la” kind of singing described in the title. The sound is very melodic, and perfectly combines “Renaissance” on vocals with “Steve Hackett’s” electric and classical acoustic guitars, all inside an instrumental ambience that recalls “Yes” and “Genesis”, but with something unique in it. The next track, “Makes Me Want To Sing” (3.58), is a Prog-Folk song driven by acoustic guitars, piano, and Cochrane’s vocals, and recalls a mix of “Jethro Tull”, “Renaissance” and “Hackett”. The later is the main influence behind “Red Sky” (2.17) - an instrumental etude for classic acoustic guitar. “Towards Ideal” (7.31), in spite of being divided by a few acoustic interludes, is a stronger Progressive Rock song, featuring sturdier guitars, heavier bass, and fluidal drumming, recalling “Genesis” and “Yes”. The vocal parts remind me of “Peter Gabriel” on the lead, with “Annie Haslam” on the backing vocals. The Folk ballad “A Song” (3.08) recalls “Jethro Tull”, but with female backing vocals replacing “Anderson’s” flute. It marks the beginning of the album’s best sequence. “Just Clouds” (10.53) is the heaviest and darkest track of all, and brilliantly blends wild guitars like “Rush” with the rhythmical strength of “U.K.”, also recalling Neo-Prog bands like “Marillion”, and “Pallas”. There is a surprising vocal segment (with that “La la la” singing) that sounds like a Celtic celebration dance. The Progressive Rock “Beauty & Defiance” (7.48) has no lyrics either. It begins softly with classic acoustic guitars. Bombastic keyboards come, introducing a growing progression made of hypnotic bass and vigorous acoustic guitars that reach a peak in another “La la la” chorus, followed by space guitars. “Birthright” (6.36) is a Prog-ballad that recalls “Marillion”, but also features angelical choirs, and great male & female vocals. The grand finale comes with “The Day I Found My Wings” (6.50). Starting like an acoustic “Jethro Tull”, it has a segment of “Mike Oldfield”- inspired Celtic drumming that supports another great “La la la“ choir, all ending up in bombastic guitars like “Genesis”. In sum, Cochrane‘s “La La La: Variations On a Happy Song“ is a shiny and pleasant Progressive-Folk album that will make you sing the “La la la” together, being indispensable for fans of “Renaissance”, ”Annie Haslam”, “Steve Hackett”, ”Yes”, ”Genesis”, ”Mike Oldfield”, “Jethro Tull”, “Camel”, “Strawbs”, ”Steve Howe”, and ”Moody Blues”. Band members and collaborators involved in Steve Cochrane are: Steve Cochrane - Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals, Percussion; Kevin Richard – Drums, Percussion (on tracks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9), Richard Rizzo – Drums (on tracks 4, 6, 7); Armand Faguay – Percussion, Vocals; Murray James-Bosch – Vocals (track 6); Aimee Matuszczak – Vocals (track 8); Leslea Kervourist – Vocals (tracks 1 & 7). Recorded, mixed and mastered at Steve Cochrane’s home studio in Hamilton, Ontario.

Reviewed by Marcelo Trotta