Sometimes little boys have dreams like all other human beings. Well, as a boy the Canadian musician Steve Cochrane dreamed to sing like Geddy Lee, to write lyrics like Neil Peart and to play guitar like Alex Lifeson after he heard the album 2112 (1976) from Rush for the first time. Listening to this band aroused his interest in the British progressive rock of the seventies. His aim was to make music related to acts as Genesis, Yes, Camel, Mike Oldfield and Renaissance.
The following ten years he recorded three albums and released them independently. Heroes Awaken (1991) contained many grandiose classical strains almost entirely created on a computer and with MIDI synthesizers. Follow-up To See It Made Real (1995) sounded quite similar, but with vocals on one track and the addition of acoustic and electric guitars. The Purest Of Designs (1998) completed this chapter. He blended guitars, synthesizers and more vocals in well-sounding progressive epics. However, on the next album With Or Without (2007) the acoustic guitar-driven songs represented a completely different approach, but as the tracks took shape in the studio, the prog rock influences came shining through.
His latest album La La La: Variations On A Happy Song can be regarded to be a complete musical suite consisting of nine thematically connected parts running continuously, bookended by an overture and a finale. Steve Cochrane mentioned that the album title may be a good starting point to describe this record. He also stressed that this album contains more than 'happy-happy-joy-joy'. While listening to this album you'll discover several things like heady conflicts, quirky twists and turns, contrasts of light and dark, calm and bombastic music, sadness and elation. It's mostly an amazing epic journey for the creative spirit in each of us. Mr Cochrane succeeded in creating something special almost single-handedly which is highly recommended to those who enjoy the music made by the above-mentioned acts. He played the guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion and he did most of the lead vocals. Besides he used two drummers, a percussionist and three vocalists. Together they made sure that I didn't lose my attention.
The whole suite sounds excellent; every single piece has been well-composed, although I'm aware of the fact that the la-la-la-parts won't be generally appreciated. However, many albums contain less good parts. It's hard to make everyone happy with a theme dealing with the many variations of a happy song. Well, anyway it didn't disturb me at all and the majority of La La La: Variations On A Happy Song contains strong musical parts like the fine guitar sounds in the vein of Steve Hackett and Mike Oldfield, the many female vocals that are reminiscent of Annie Haslam (Renaissance), the bombastic synthesizer parts, the ambient soundscapes, and the outstanding male vocals.
As I said before, this album is highly recommended to those who just like Steve Cochrane never get enough of bands as Rush, Genesis, Yes, Camel, Mike Oldfield and Renaissance. For those people it's an excellent addition to their prog collection. I think Steve's dream to sound exactly like Rush didn't come true; he even did better on this great sounding musical journey! Bravo!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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