Sea of Tranquility
Voodoo Monkey Child: Under a Crescent Moon
"The next step in the evolution of progressive rock music". Such is the self-styled boast that opens Voodoo Monkey Child's promotional blurb. They go further: on the inside of the colourful and excellent CD packaging they state that "we would rather take the greater risk of trying something new and different than to achieve success via imitation". These are bold statements and, whilst the band don't exactly do full justice to either in the course of Under a Crescent Moon, they certainly produce some excellent music and so we should forgive them a little bragging.
Chicago's Voodoo Monkey Child formed originally as a trio: R. Scott Allen (keyboards), Scott Hume (drums) and Michael Ferguson (guitars). The guys released A Taste of Afterlife before being joined by bassist Tim Rogers and Czech vocalist Janey Age (real name Jana Gurdesova). Janey adds some real spice to these proceedings with her fine vocal performance which is reminiscent of some classic female rock performers: Grace Slick, Annie Haslam and Sonja Kristina are the first that come to my mind. And that's the rub – the music is also reminiscent of these singers' bands; a sort of amalgam of Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Renaissance and Curved Air. Of course, this is no bad thing! Only slightly odd when you're making claims about "new" and "the evolution" of progressive rock music. But perhaps they're right – perhaps the evolution is in a retro direction. The album even starts with the crackling sounds of a vinyl record being put on to play and the production is slightly woolly at times.
Leaving aside these esoteric arguments, it is worth stating that this is a very good album of melodic progressive rock. The guitar and keyboards work is particularly pleasing and Janey's vocal is easy to listen to. Compared with Britain and Europe there aren't proportionately anything like enough American bands taking the chance and playing this sort of female-led progressive rock/AOR crossover – this is a real hole in the market for a brave band like Voodoo Monkey Child to fill. Janey has the looks – not just the musical talent – for her lead to be a real selling point for the band, like many British and European bands. Let's reel a few off, shall we: Mostly Autumn, Breathing Space, Magenta, Panic Room, The Gathering, Agua de Annique, Mermaid Kiss. Enjoy it, boys!
The album kicks off brilliantly: the first four tracks are outstanding and – had the same quality been maintained we'd be looking at a five-star album. "Reigning Fire" lives up to its name, with some gutsy guitar work taking over from a pretty piano intro and Janey's vocal, together with the soundscape, immediately bringing to mind that Jefferson Airplane/Starship memory. "Away" has good mix of piano and guitar again, with just a slight nod to Renaissance and "In the Bed" is extremely catchy – great song! "My Love" features some wonderful overdubbed dueting and harmonic vocals from Janey herself, it features a great melody and some stunning keyboards work. These four make for a terrific opening and, frankly, are worth the price of the CD alone. They are also featured, in a slightly different running order, sung in Czech on the second disc, which is a bit of a novelty, but I suspect you'll only ever play that once.
The quality then waned slightly. It's still very good: certainly if I'd never heard the first four tracks I'd still be saying that this is a very good album; it's just that there is a drop of musical momentum. There is an exception: the final track "Closer to Home" returns to the excellence of the start. The middle part of the album has a slightly different feel: the piano/keyboards and musical textures are more reminiscent of – keeping up the comparisons – Renaissance's more folk-rock moments than of the Jefferson bands. Jefferson then return for "Closer to Home". Because of this subtle but distinct shift in musical flavour it is possible that some listeners will prefer the "We Can Do It" to "Dollhouse" section.
Whichever one prefers, it is certain that fans of this type of classic progressive rock sound with its roots in the 1970s will find plenty to enjoy on Under a Crescent Moon.
I look forward to hearing more from this band. Catch them if you can: if they're as good live as on disc, you're in for a treat!
Added: February 28th 2010
Reviewer: Alex Torres
(Points: 8.3 out of 10) Voodoo Monkey Child "Under a Crescent Moon"
A complete surprise we have here, because the Illinois, Chicago area based US band VOODOO MONKEY CHILD releases a sensational 2-CD set here with ‘Under a crescent moon’, which is already their 2nd album. The band is playing superb high quality melodic progressive rock. Sometimes they remind a bit of GLASS HAMMER, yet more melodic and thanks to the fantastic vocalwork of female singer JANEY AGE, this band is lifted way above any other progband out there at the moment. Sometimes also MOSTLY AUTUMN and LANA LANE come to mind, but VOODOO MONKEY CHILD has sort of an own sound, which can happily be heard on 2 full-length CDs here. Like mentioned before, the female singer is the winner here, as she has an incredible voice and the funny thing is that she is actually a Czech Republic born singer and the 2nd CD that comes along with this new album is sung in her native language. Anyway, without a doubt, this is highly recommended stuff, a must-have for any fan of melodic progrock from start to finish, so make sure not to miss this one at: www.voodoomonkeychild.com
(Points: 8.8 out of 10)
Member: jlneudorf (Profile) (All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
Format: CD (Album)
Music is all about feeling and emotion and the ability of the artist to transport the listener to another place. The Chicago area Voodoo Monkey Child do just that with their new album Under A Crescent Moon. This is the band's second album, their first being A Taste of the Afterlife, which I have yet to hear. On the band's MySpace page, they say the band sounds like "Voodoo Monkey Child of course" which makes a lot of sense once you have heard the album. Oh sure there are influences here, perhaps the most prominent being a retro sound from the 70s harkening back to classic bands like Heart and other female fronted bands, as well as modern bands like Nightwish and Evanescence. However, Voodoo Monkey Child manage to keep their music from sounding stale and boring by injecting their own personalities into their craft.
Czechoslovakian vocalist Janey Age provides many of the highlights and is integral to the band's sound. She has great control and injects plenty of emotion into her voice, making her a pleasure to listen to. At times her voice carries a gothic quality that recalls the Scandinavian female fronted metal scene, although she never ventures into opera as some of those vocalists do. Complimenting Age is the excellent guitar work of Michael J. Fergusson. He's not a flashy player but provides plenty of melody and top notch guitar work in the vein of 70s classic rock, leaving his stamp of tasty leads and catchy acoustic rhythms.
Picking out individual highlights is difficult as there are no weak songs as this is a consistent effort from the first to last song. The album begins with the gothic tinged rock of "Reigning Fire" where piano, crunchy riffs, keyboards and a melodic chorus has the listener hooked. The melodic "Away" recalls mellower Nightwish featuring a piano melody coursing all the way through. "In the Bed" recalls a classic 70s sound with acoustic rhythms and bursts of lead guitar reminding me of Carlos Santana. "My Love" is an elegant ballad that flows beautifully carrying a somber atmosphere while the album ending "Closer to Home" has a feel good sound filled with psychedelic guitar goodness. The album's longest song is the alluring "Dama Dama" with a sweeping sound of acoustic guitars and retro sounding synths that makes me want to hit the repeat button on my CD player.
Also included is a second disc with the first four songs of disc one sung in Czechoslovakian. This is a nice bonus, although probably not essential if you have the first CD.
Voodoo Monkey Child's Under a Crescent Moon is another pleasant surprise that came in under the radar and caught me totally off guard. There unique and melodic approach to classic retro sounds works beautifully. Do yourself a favour and check them out. You will not be disappointed.
Dutch Progressive Rock Page
Voodoo Monkey Child - Under A Crescent Moon
CD1: Reigning Fire (4:20), Away (5:27), In The Bed (4:40), My Love (6:45), We Can Do It (7:03), Seek (6:44), Dama Dama (8:44), Dollhouse (6:07), Closer To Home (7:49)
CD2: Vcerejsi Noc [In The Bed] (4:39), Cas [Reigning Fire] (4:23), Tua Naruc Sila Ma [My Love] (6:45), V Oblacich [Away] (5:28)
Voodoo Monkey Child are a five piece progressive rock band from Chicago Illinois featuring R Scott Allen (keyboards/omnichord), Michael Ferguson (guitars/backing vocals), Scott Hume (drums/percussion/backing vocals), Tim Rogers (bass/backing vocals) and Janey Age [Jana Hurdesova] (vocals/percussion). This is their second album and is somewhat intriguing. Why? Because their second disk of this set is a rework of four tracks off the first CD redone in Czech! This would be because Janey Age is from the Czech Republic who has been living in the USA since 1999. It offers a European feel to the music too.
Let me lead the way because what I have come across is a little gem. There is some outstanding guitar work especially on Seek and some very powerful vocals from Janey throughout the whole album. This is a real grower of an album and if you are prepared to acquire a copy you will be richly rewarded. This would appeal massively to anyone who loves melodic prog or AOR, as it covers both these genres very well.
Reigning Fire the retro crackling of vinyl and piano chord starts the procedures before the song drops into a pounding military paced rhythm section formulaic rock track with some fancy keyboard work thrown in. The Czech vocal version on disk two I personally think makes the track sounds ballsy. Musically it’s exactly the same.
Away opens like an 80’s AOR track with the guitar work being the stand out feature, tones and solo’s to die for. I really love the groove that runs through the whole piece, it’s so precise. The alternate vocal version offers nothing new at all really to this track. I personally believe the album version is the stronger of the two.
In The Bed is strong vocally although Janey’s diction does slip from time to time which makes it sound sultry, something that is not really associated with prog, but hey ho. The Czech version reinforces this feeling giving it more depth and emotion. Vocally Vaya Con Dios sprang to mind.
My Love is another beautiful piece with layered vocals adding depth to the whole affair supported by some really good keyboard work from Scott Allen. When the guitar started Kansas’ Dust In The Wind jumped to my mind, again the alternative vocal version adds depth.
We Can Do It allows Janey to show her vocal prowess with the song having a very catch hook and a great summery sound, supported by some excellent keyboard work. This has Magenta phrased vocals written all over it, and I could imagine the guys playing this.
Seek is a powerful and the standout track that made me sit up and really listen. The intro is a piano piece which leads the way for some rather outstanding and memorable guitar work from Ferguson. The rest of the band underpin and complement Ferguson's dexterous work, creating some great hooks and melodies all driven by Janey’s powerful vocals. This is classy stuff indeed and had me pressing the repeat button straight away, having not totally believing what I had just heard.
Dama Dama again is another great track with more absolutely stunning guitar work and vocals. The keyboard work of Scott Allen is so complimentary to the whole piece adding dynamics. The layering of the vocals just oozes quality.
Dollhouse starts out with laughter and piano before the rest of the gang kick in with great rhythm section work from Hume and Rogers who keep this piece driving forward changing pace at will. I love Hume’s drumming on this track especially just before the song falls into the beginning of the Ring A Round Roses nursery rhyme.
Closer To Home sadly brings the whole affair to an end with yet even more fantastic musicianship. All the strings are pulled out to end on a high with more great melodies, great hooks a band that are tighter than a camels backside in a sand storm.
The two things that standout most on this album are the vocals and guitar work. This is not to say that the rest of the band is any less significant, not by a long way, as this is a strong and consistent album from beginning to end, the band even use an Omnichord, (how prog sounding is that) which you can hear all through the album.
Janey started singing at the age of 6 and you can certainly tell over the years she has certainly perfected her craft. Vocally she is strong and confident working well within her range whether singing in her native tongue or in English. It is quite easy sometimes for singers of this genre to take an operatic style approach, something that Janey has avoided.
The bands influences are diverse and it’s nice to see that they haven’t tried to emulate them in sound or style really which is refreshing. I know it can be quite flattering to emulate your heroes or sound like your influences but it can also be boring too. This is something that Voodoo Monkey Child has managed to avoid. Sometimes when you hear a new band you automatically draw comparisons and this is not something that happened to me this time as it just pulled me in from beginning to end, and that is unusual for me.
I love the whole feel and vibe of this album which has been well produced and packaged. This is not a band who are lacking in confidence and approach which has made them richer for it. The good old US of A seems to be able to throw bands of this calibre out like there’s no tomorrow and I am not sure as too why? This is a band that I would love to see live. If you love melodic female fronted prog bands then this is certainly one for you.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10