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Mike Visaggio and Kinetic Element: Press

When Mike Visaggio of Kinetic Element set me up with the album Travelog I was in a state a anticipation I had not been in quite some time. After my review of Anuryzm's All Is Not For All off Melodic Revolution Records I spotted the making of a great progressive rock/metal label. Now with Kinetic Element's Travelog it has only served to reinforce and confirm that Melodic Revolution Records is postioning itself to contend as a great prog label. 

First of all, if you are a progressive rock purist this album will be a sonic paradise for your listening pleasure. The band lists Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, Kansas, IQ, Transatlantic, Renaissance as some of their influences. When I listen to Travelog I hear those and so much more. Throughout this review I will point those out.

War Song is the 'perfect' progressive rock track to open Travelog as it clocks in at 20:29. The intro beckons the epics of the past such as Yes' Close To The Edge and Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn from Tales Of Topographic Oceans crossed with Genesis' Suppers Ready and Emerson Lake And Palmers Tarkus.  There is some great atmospheric keyboards tuned to mellotron and hammond organ standards, with rich rhythm sections between bass and drums. The vocals are like a cross of Jon Anderson of Yes meets Donald Faegen of Steely Dan. Between the 12:50 to 13:00 marks there is a great yet subtle fuzzy distorted guitar to match the keys in perfect harmony. The vocals really explode at the 14:00 mark and work with the atmospheric background the keyboards continue to carry in this track. 

Travelog opens up with a plush 16th century style acoustic renaissance vibe. It has shades of the prog band Renaissance meets Al Di Meola . Then a plush harmonic vocal of the opening to the USA's National Anthem. It reminds me of how Yes would use items like Roundabout's from their homeland or Genesis' Selling England By The Pound, as classy patriotic inuendoe's. 

Into The Lair is a defining track. It seems as if the band have taken their influences along with their own arsenal and formed their own sound out of thise fires. With the female vocal on it I am often reminded of Annie Halsam of Renaissance and Renate Knaupf of Amon Duul ii , the 2 first ladies of progressive rock for sure. Into The Lair completely reminds me of Renaissance's track like Mother Russia crossed with epic power of  Amon Duul ii Phallaus Dei . It also presents a wide cross section of time signatures where every instrument stands out as a collective thus tightening Travelog even more.

Her begins with a lush gorgeous orchestral piano style passage. This is followed with a very deep rhythm section. The intro most definitely reminds me of the jazz style employed on Steely Dan's Aja album with some Alan Holdsworth sprinkled over it for flavour. Her is a prog version of a Steely Dan's Kid Charlemagne meets Yes' Heart Of The Sunrise both lyrically and instrumentally. 

Vision Of A New Dawn definitely opens up like more a jazz symphonic progressive rock assembly. Heavy in keyboards building a tapestry for the deeper colours of shade with the rhythm section between drums and bass. The keyboards at times have flute effects reminding me of Ian Anderson at some points throughout the track.  At 18:26, Vision Of A New Dawn is perfectly arranged on the album. Much like War Song was a great epic to open the album, Vision Of A New Dawn eloquently and properly closes the album. 

After a few listens Travelog grew on me and I understood where the band was taking the listener. If you are a prog rock purist that loves a few 20 minute tracks and a journey in your mind Travelog is that album for you. Nick Katona and Melodic Revolution Records have found a great live band and festival band. Kinetic Element are one of those bands that can be a label staple anywhere in the industry. I give Travelog a 5/5 for grace and purity of the heritage of  symphonic prog's past, present and future.

 

5 stars Six years after their very promising debut (Powered By Light), Kinetic Element is back again with their sophmore release called Travelog. It was a long time coming, but very worth the waiting. The american quartet had some changes: now Mark Tupko replaces original bassist Tony D´Amato. And the vocal department, once courtesy of keyboardsman Mike Visaggio are now handle by three different guest singers. Other than that, the core members are the same (Visaggio on keys, Todd Russel on electric and acoustic guitars and Michael Murray on drums).

Compared to their debut, Travelog is a much more symphonic affair, with a strong jazz-rock fusion influence (specially the guitar parts). The music is still melodic and accessible, but definitly more complex and elaborated now, with longer instrumental passages. For instance, the shortest song is the title track and it clocks well over the 9 minute mark. There are no fillers at all and it´s hard to say which tune is the best, but I think the opener, the 20 minute epic War Song is definitely a highlight, with many tempo and mood changes. But the whole album is very inspired, very well produced and recorded and containing some powerful playing of all involved (including newcomer Tupko who shows his skills from the start with a short, but stunning bass solo on the aforementined War Song). I just love Visgagio´s elegant keys (hints of Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson abound). Russel´s guitar lines are superb too, but clearly this is a team work and everybody shines. Instrumentally speaking this album is as close to perfection as you can get, with not a wasted note to be found and everything flowing naturally thorughout the whole CD.

Vocals on the other side are not that perfect in my humble opinion. The three vocalists are very good and do a very creditable job on all tunes, but being so varied it kind of robbed some personality from the group. Mike Visaggio´s vocals on the first album showed that he was not the greatest singer, technically speaking, but he had a warm and soulful voice that suited their songs very well. While the guest singers were more professional, have stronger pipes, and most often than not they added a lot, sometimes they made the tunes sound too "clean" and less personal, if you know what I mean. It is just a detail only, of course. After all, 70 minutes of pure prog heaven is not something you find so easily nowadays!

Travelog is a fantastic CD that showed that Kinetic Element more than fulfilled its promising start. One of the best albums I heard this year and certainly a must have for any prog fan.

Rating: 4,5 stars at least,. Highly recommended!

There is a growing movement among the New Millennial artists to disassociate themselves from the classical fusion of 70s' progressive rock to completely reinvent the genre, eschewing the grandiose pomposity of 30 minute side-long epics heavy on soaring synths and Mellotron choirs for scaled back simplicity, with guitar driven alternative/rock influences now as the driving force.

Where once bands like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, and ELP were the standard bearers for aspiring prog/rock musicians now artists like Tool, Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta, Muse, Coheed And Cambria and Dream Theater hold that distinction. Over the years I've found myself deluged with CDs to review dominated by Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater clones.

Classic symphonic, or 'Neo-Prog', is something of a derogatory term among the elitist ... 'progressive means to progress' ... progsnobs who dismiss the sub-genre as some antediluvian museum piece to be displayed alongside dinosaur bones and mummified pharaohs, but the genre is neither dead - nor stagnating.

Need further proof of that - then listen to the 2015 release "Travelog" - the latest release from accomplished keyboardist Mike Visaggio and his band Kinetic Element, which includes Todd Russell (guitars and triangle), Michael Murray (drums, percussion and whistling), and Mark Tupko (bass).

Like the hamburger ... nothing beats an original classic - and Kinetic Element delivers the type of classic retro-70s' progressive rock that endeared me to the genre over forty years ago.

"Travelogue" encapsulates all that was right with fledgling progressive rock genre - superior musicianship, adventurous compositions with extended instrumental interplay, and thought provoking lyrics that challenge the listener. And unlike their 2009 release "Powered By Light" which lacked a strong vocal presence, the band has now been fortified by a talented trio of accomplished vocalist whose vocal prowess matches the power and passion of the compositions. Guest vocalists include: Dimetrius LaFavors of 'Odin's Court' on tracks 1, 2 and 5; Michelle Schrotz of the band 'Brave' on track 3; and Mike Florio of 'The Mass Dream Project' on track 4.

Everything about the album predates the digital age. The production value has the ear pleasing warmth of an analogue recording pressed on 200 gram audiophile virgin vinyl.

I'm immediately reminded of the excellent 70s' American progressive bands whose work was rescued from obscurity by Greg Walker's Syn-Phonic label between 1998 - 2004 when he released a series of CDs from regional cult bands like Babylon, Yezda Urfa, Cathedral, Mirthrander, Infinity, Lift, Pentwater, and Quill.

"Travelog" is a great listen from beginning to end with no throw-away tracks - but there are a few real stand-out tracks deserving special mention, including "Into The Lair". The song immediately grabs the listener with a majestic faux-Mellotron choir and synth fanfare -ala- 'IQ', before transitioning into a hook laden melody featuring vocals from Michelle Schrotz. The song brings to mind the band Citadel and their epic album "The Citadel Of Cynosure & Other Tales". "War Song", a 20 minute multifaceted opus combines elements of ELP , Focus, YES, and a touch of Glass Hammer tossed into the mix.

The track "Travelog" is a showcase for guitarist Todd Russell, opening with a tasty acoustic intro, it then sets the tone for one of the two beautifully ballads he penned for the album. The other, "Her" has something of a Bloodrock or White Witch flavor to it.

"Travelog" is peppered with impressive keyboard flourishes, inspired guitar work, a solid rhythm section, and strong vocals, making for an exceptional follow-up to "Powered By Light". And welcome addition to any music collection.

Recommended!

Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on August 10th, 2015

 

Tracks:

 

01. War Song (20:30)
02. Travelog (9:51)
03. Into The Lair (10:14)
04. Her (11:31)
05. Vision Of A New Dawn (18:27)

4 stars I wish to first begin by saying I am only a fan of progressive rock. I am by all means an amateur in this field. I can say this. I know what I like and what I do not. I am not nor have I ever been a musician unless playing a trombone for 3 weeks in grade school counts. Saying that accept my "review" for what it is. My first real exposure to this band was a few weeks ago on The Waiting Room, a House of Prog weekly live internet radio program. While I was trying to listen to this, chat room interruptions etc didn't give me a clear vision of what I was listening to. So I had ordered during the program and finally I had the chance to really sit and listen to this cd today. During the interview of KE on HoP it was clearly understood that this band has had some trouble getting things rolling let alone getting it finished. The good thing is they did finish up and put out a very good cd. Travelog is filled with very good music. I won't dissect each track but will comment on a few pieces along the way. War Song is filled with great bass and vocals reminding me of a mix of Benoit David and Glenn McLaughlin. The title track is a pretty patriotic track as I believe the whole cd really is at its core. Into The Lair caught me off guard a bit as it started off with a gothic sound only to calm down with the beautiful vocals of Michelle Schrotz. Visons of a New Day I believe is the most ambitious track on the entire cd. It is also my favorite track. Overall I feel this is an important cd for all prog fans to own. It marks a completion of a process that was filled with some adversity. That alone is worth a listen. These guys, the core of the band, have something special going on and hopefully they will find their way into the homes of many prog fans. One can hear the heavy ELP influence on this cd which is a good thing. Mike Visaggio is a real pro at his craft I say he ranks among the greats. If I had to rate this cd, which I will it would be a solid 4 stars.

Kinetic Element returns after more then 5 years pause after quite good debut Powerd by light with sophomore album released in june 2015 named Travelog. Well, this is a nice symphonic/neo prog album from start to finish. Lenghty release with two monster pieces, the opening and the ending track clocking almost 40 min both, the middle of the album being little less lenghtier but still over 10 min each. So, as I said the music is good as on debut, even great in places, there are plenty of memorable passages here from acustical guitar parts to melodious inspired keyboards elements, almost jazzy druming in places but remaining of prog coordonates this Travelog is a winner from me. The music is reminescent very much from old prog school, the british one, ELP, Genesis coming in mind among others, but aswell closely to what Spock's Beard or The Tangent was offering in their glory days. Beautiful crafted pieces, lots of twists and turns all 5 tracks are worth investigated, maybe with a plus on opening track, for me their most mature tune since their forming years. All in all a very worthy second offer for this still quite unknown band in prog circles, and I think they must be discovered by many prog listners as possible. A nice candidate for top 10 for 2015. A nice intriguing art work.

KINETIC ELEMENT is a four-piece formation, founded in order to support the Mike Visaggio’s solo CD 'Starship Universe'. This group performed at several festivals and have released the KE’s debut album 'Powered By Light' in 2009...

 

http://www.kineticelement.com/

 

The scope of material is focused on the sum of various parts and interplay between the different instruments. But Mike Visaggio's massive keyboard playing stands out here! CD 'Powered by Light' is an album with complex, dynamic, well constructed and expertly performed music in ELP/Triumvirat/Northwind/Pentwater sort of prog-style, although quite original. Some moments evoke Genesis circa late 70's as well. This CD should be hailed by people of the nostalgia buffs of progressive genre, who have been crying out for a modern twist to the classic prog sound. Well now the prayers have been answered... (Anyway, Yesfans.com)

Another great discovery I found here on PA. It´s hard to believe this band is actually from the USA since their sound is deeply rooted in the european tradition of 70´s classic symphonic prog, specially from the UK. And even harder to believe this is only their debut! The level of maturity of this group in terms of performance, songwriting and production is astonishing. Even if most of the stuff was product of vocalist/keyboardist Mike Visaggio´s hands and mind (I heard Powered By Light was supposed to be released as a solo album), credit must be given to the extraordinaire band members (Michael Murray, drums; Tony D'Amato, bass and Todd Russel, guitar) as well. This is, after all, a team work.

...This is a remarkable achievement and I´m giving it 4.5 stars. I recommended it to anyone who enjoys high caliber symphonic prog rock with lost of fine melodies.  (Tarcisio Moura, ProgArchives.com)

The final composition See The Children evokes 76-77 Genesis and contains many interesting musical ideas, from the volume pedal guitar with violin-Mellotron and heavy propulsive guitar with a Hammond organ solo to a jaw dropping conclusion featuring moving guitar with violin-Mellotron, then a fat Minimoog synthesizer solo with propulsive guitar and drums and finally a blend of Hammond organ, choir-Mellotron and fiery electric guitar, goose bumps! ...If you like Seventies Progrock (ELP, Yes, Genesis) with the focus on vintage keyboards (like Triumvirat and early Le Orme), this is an album to check out! (Eric Neuteboom, progwalhalla.com)

MIKE VISAGGIO
Starship Universe (06)

Mike Visaggio is a fantastically talented keyboard player heavily influenced by Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. He's unabashedly Christian, although his songs are much more seeker friendly than "in-your-face" preachy. His singing isn't the most pleasant I've ever heard and his lyrics are head-scratchingly obtuse at times, but don't let that scare you off because the vocals are a small part of the overall album. Mike can surely rip it up on the keys with the best of them, and he wrings the most out of his Alesis QS and Korg CX-3 synths, including fantastic vintage B-3 and Moog sounds. The album features extended instrumental interludes where he showcases his chops, including a great cover of Blues Variation from ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition, which he adds his own flair to. He also does a wonderfully jazzy re-interpretation of the theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey. It's a really fun album to listen to, and certainly hearkens back to the bygone era of caped keyboard virtuosos from the 1970's, with epic prog and fusion flair. Visaggio is a one-man-band, and performs basically everything on his keyboards using samples. Besides the weak vocals as mentioned, the lack of real drums (except on the Yes-like rocker Synchonized Life) and guitars damper the music a tad, although even that doesn't hold back his keyboard and compositional talents from shining brightly. I would absolutely love to hear Mike hooked up with some other musicians of similar talent in a full on prog band recording, preferably with an exceptional singer that would push his music to the next level, on par with the classic prog greats. Hopefully, he can sell enough copies of Starship Universe to pay for the next installment of original music and make it happen, which I will surely be lining up to hear. Guys like Mike surely deserve your support. You can download songs to sample his music at http://www.mikevisaggio.com or from his myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/MikeVisaggio {dt}
'Mike Visaggio'
'Starship Universe'


- Genre: 'Rock' - Release Date: '2006'


Our Rating:
In the "now for something completely different" category, a Christian artist recording a progressive rock album seems to be an anomaly these days. From my own experience, I've never heard the two mix.

Prog is often associated with science-fiction concepts set to fairly complex rock and roll compositions and not the Word of God. Seemingly, the title of this record from progressive rock revivalist Mike Visaggio (http://www.mikevisaggio.com), "Starship Universe," is in tune with genre traditions dating back to the early '70s. However, lyrically Visaggio is seeking spiritual salvation. The opening cut, "In the Nazarene Church," reveals his Christian leanings from the song title alone.

Given that prog often reaches into otherworldly terrain with its sonic textures, the combination certainly makes sense. Moreover, given the cookie-clone approach that many Christians musicians are currently taking, Visaggio's love for vintage Yes, Genesis, and Kansas is refreshingly different.

Much of "Starship Universe" sounds old, as if this was a reissue of an out-of-print LP from the '70s. But what is dated can also be timeless, which is the effect that Visaggio produces here. The bubbly synthesizers and rolling, jazzy drums on "In the Nazarene Church" give flashbacks of early FM rock radio, before consultants were hired and castrated song lengths ("In the Nazarene Church" clocks in at 6:37) and creative ambition.

Visaggio has a surprisingly dramatic, soaring voice which is best showcased on "My Elders' Son" and "On the Ship of Emotion"; it is deep and ethereal, combining the best of Jim Morrison and David Bowie. At a time when so many artists are grounded by blandness, Visaggio takes off into uncharted territory with a joyful, God-given smile on his face.
author: Adam Harrington

Sadly, shortly after its release, bassist Tony D'Amato had to leave, after one year and a few months in the band, due to changes in his life. Too bad, because, with this lineup, the other six tracks on the album sound as if written and performed by one of the strangest groupings you could ever imagine: Keith Emerson, Jan Akkerman, Renaissance's former bassist Jon Camp, Phil Ehart, Rousseau's former singer Dieter Müller, with lyrics written as if by Peter Hammill and Derek Shulman.... Hopefully the band can continue. This album is too good to remain their only one. ... We'd better wish the band good luck with pursuing their artistic vision. Otherwise, treasure the gem you've got by buying the CD.  (Edouard Antoniu, usaprogressivemusic.com)

Artist/ Band: Mike Visaggio
Title: Starship Universe
Label: Self release
Year of Release: 2006
Artist/ Band Link (click below for details)






The Review:

I received my copy of Mike Visaggio’s Starship Universe. He warned me that it was Christian based music but to be honest with you it’s not the preachy kind. It almost has a storytelling atmosphere that other’s outside the Christian faith will be able to listen to. Mike’s style of music embodies, to me at least, the true spirit of classic progressive rock with it’s intricate instrumentation and amazing thought provoking lyrics. Mike’s instrument of choice is the keyboard, and gives a very vintage vibe to his playing. In many ways this albums sounds like it could have been released in the mid-seventies.
Upon listening to this album, you can hear in Mike’s playing, his admiration for Keith Emerson So much in fact that he does a really nice cover of Emerson’s “Blues Variations” on Starship Universe. Mike also does all the singing on the album. While he’s not one of the strongest singers, he fits perfectly within the style and flow of the album. He also does electronic drums and rhythm programming for the most part with the exception of a few tracks where he uses a live drummer. Unless you listen beyond the music, you really cant tell or rather care that it’s not real players doing the drums and bass.

I feel very honored to be among the people Mike sent his cd to. It’s one of the more enjoyable self produced albums I’ve heard in a while. Even though I like Starship Universe, I would love to hear Mike with some other musicians to help flesh out his true potential. Watch out, Mike Vissagio’s starship has landed and hopefully here to stay!

Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on May 13th, 2006


Tracks:

1) In The Nazerene Church 6:37
2) Prelude No. 2 for Piano 0:56
3) My Elders' Son 6:46
4) Blues Variations 8:01
5) 2001: Also Rocked Zarathustra 9:51
6) Starship Universe 2:35
7 ) The Synchronized Life 6:54
8) On The Ship Of Emotion 8:38
9) Music's Coming To Us 4:25
I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but ever since Neal Morse released Testimony a few years back, I’ve noticed quite a few Christian musicians coming out of the woodwork. It’s not like in years past where an artist who had a religious message almost seemed obligated to present the music in a watered-down popish format. Some of these newer artists have been very bold and adventurous with the music while keeping their message intact. Mike Visaggio from Richmond, Virginia is one such artist. His latest CD shows that it is very possible to produce a nice contemporary prog Christian album without sacrificing musical integrity.

Mike is an excellent keyboardist with a wonderful palette of mostly vintage sounds that he uses. This stuff sounds like it could have easily come from the mid-seventies. Maybe the fact that he has been playing since then makes it more authentic sounding. He has been in several bands in the New York City area before relocating to Virginia and has also recorded a few albums with Billy Falcon’s band Burning Rose. Starship Universe is his first solo CD and hopefully there will be many more to come.

You can tell by his choice of keyboard patches that Mike has a real admiration for Keith Emerson. He also does a really nice cover of Emerson’s “Blues Variations” on here. Like I said before, there are some really nice vintage keyboard sounds that he uses. Several times while listening to this disc I had to do a double take to make sure it was really more recent music and not actually something recorded in 1978.

Mike does all the vocals on the disc as well. Singing doesn’t seem to be his forte but he plods along admirably. His vocals can be a bit flat at times, well maybe I’m being too kind. They’re pancake flat! Even so, it’s his vocals and lyrics that make the project so special. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this CD and paid attention to the details nearly as much if I hadn’t been thrown a little by the singing at first.

Perhaps the main drawback here would be the electronic drums and rhythm programming. Although they are done very well, it’s obvious that it would have been preferable to have a real drummer playing a huge kit to really do these compositions justice. There is an actual drummer (Mike Murray) who appears on three tracks and these are the fullest sounding on the album.

There are a few standout tracks on the CD. My favorite right now is probably “The Synchronized Life” which is one of the ones I mentioned that has real drums. Another one I like is the version of Strauss’s "Also Sprach Zarathustra" which Visaggio has playfully renamed “Also Rocked Zarathustra”. The final song “Music’s Coming To Us” seems to take on a more straightforward rock approach and would probably sound excellent with a full band.

All in all, I think this is a really nice CD and I’m glad Mike took the time to send it to me. It’s great efforts like this one that are giving Christian prog a more respectable name these days. Bravo!

If its designation and disclaimer sounds futuristic, it’s for good reason. Like the starmen had done in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the musical expressions in this release could only come from highly-intelligent lifeforms. Much of its mimicry is provided by organs, Mellotrons and synthesizers, and its artificial sheen has an uncanny resemblance to Transatlantic. The folksy vocals, however, is what sets this apart. Like the celebrated supergroup’s incandescent output, this is heavily laden in keyboards too... As for the reverent verses intoned by the visionary named Visaggio, they are peaceful, smart, and sterling.

(Josh Turner, Ytsejam.com)

What we have in Powered By Light is keyboard driven progressive rock reminiscent to Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, early Genesis, The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd.  Yes, keyboards play a heavy role here, a particular testament to the talents of Visaggio, who plays a five-keyboard set up and specializes in the Hammond B-3 sound.  That said, Powered By Light does not come without its share of guitar driven moments.  Guitarist Todd Russell, for instance, decorates the project with his sometimes jazzy and at others fusion-like lead guitar work but can also contribute a tasteful edge of rhythm guitar when need calls for it...Fans of progressive rock in all its forms - including Transatlantic, Neal Morse, Tiles, KDB3 and Proto-Kaw - will find a lot to like here. (Andrew Rockwell, AngelicWarlord.com)

 

Instrumentally KINETIC ELEMENT is at the top of their game. The driving force behind the group is keyboardist Mike Visaggio who is positively brilliant, some of the most energetic keyboard work I’ve heard since the Golden Age of Progressive Rock when Wakeman and Emerson were producing their best work. Yes, he’s that good. And his surrounding cast of players are equally adept: Michael Murray (drums & backing vocal), Tony d’Amato (bass), and Todd Russell (guitars)...I hesitate to leap aboard the KINETIC ELEMENT bandwagon because of the vocals.  But it’s impossible to simply write-off the band because they are so damn good. (Joseph Schinlger, Prognaut.com)