Robert Berry is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter and producer who played with Sammy Hagar, Ambrosia, 3, GTR (replacing Steve Hackett), Alliance (including Gary Phil, ex-Boston) and The Greg Kihn Band. He also produced a series of solo albums, and CDs from prog tribute bands (Rush, Yes, Pink Floyd and Genesis).
Keith Emerson is a legendary keyboard wizard: famous for his sensational and pivotal work on the Hammond organ and Moog - and Yamaha GX-1 synthesizer with The Nice and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, along with movie soundtracks, the swinging solo single Honky Tonk Train Blues (1976) and a contribution for Dutch Heavy Prog Master Ayreon on the album The Theory Of Everything (2013).
Robert Berry and Keith Emerson. Their working relationship between began in 1987, resulting in the band 3 featuring Keith Emerson, Robert Berry and Carl Palmer. They released the album To The Power Of Three, but Keith Emerson already left after the worldwide tour. In October 2015 conversations about a new 3 album started between Robert Berry and the Frontiers label as Robert had been speaking to Keith about releasing the long delayed 3 follow-up album. The exchange of musical ideas and song collaborations ultimately paved the groundwork for The Rules Have Changed. After Emerson's death in 2016, Berry was left with Emerson's final musical ideas for the project. “Keith and I developed together a vision of what the new album would be like. The new album consists of some past 3 writing from 1988, some newly written last efforts from Keith, and some songs written exclusively by me after Keith's death. Every second I worked on writing, recording, and performing those songs I had one thing on my mind. The phrase 'What would Keith do' drove me, it guided me, it consumed my creativity. You will hear his flare coming through on the solos. I believe you can hear his spirit in the sound and in my playing. I am so proud of this album. I can't help but think somehow he is proud of the results too.” These words are taken from the Robert Berry website.
Listening to The Rules Have Changed you would think that Berry and Emerson both play keyboards, also due to the distinctive Memorymoog - and Roland D-50 synthesizer sound. But after Keith's tragic death the family gave Berry only permission to use Keith's compositions, not his recorded keyboard parts. So Berry is responsible for all played keyboards, and he also plays drums, bass, and guitars, incredible, he sounds like a four piece formation, what an impressive job he has done! Another great job by Berry is his own compositions: he has written 7 inventive, elaborate, varied and dynamic tracks, with the focus on a melodic and song oriented approach. This is topped by his strong and emotional voice, often with a melancholic undertone. As a tribute to Keith Emerson all tracks contain awesome, often spectacular work on keyboards, in the vein of the late keyboard hero.
Fat Moog flights in Powerful Man (along propulsive guitar riffs) and in the title track (also harder-edged guitar work).
Tender piano, classical orchestrations and Emersonian synthesizer layers in Our Bond (embellished with delicate brass and violin).
Again fat Moog runs and lush Hammond with heavy guitar riffs in the dynamic What You're Dreaming Now.
Sparkling piano, bombastic Hammond and sensational Moog with pitch bend in the exciting Somebody's Watching (what a powerhouse rhythm-section by one-man-band Berry!).
And a sumptuous Moog - and Hammond sound (including church organ) with a thunderous rhythm-section in the final track Your Mark On The World.
My highlights are the two compositions that sound different from the other six song oriented tracks.
First the opener One By One: it starts with sparkling, very beautiful classical work on the Grand piano, then a slow rhythm with melancholic vocals, followed by flashy Moog with pitch bend and a jazzy piano interlude and in the end a mid-tempo with a swirling Hammond solo. It sounds like a mini symphony, very varied and dynamic.
Finally the wonderfully built-up ballad This Letter, Berry plays propulsive acoustic rhythm guitar and piano, he sings very emotionally. Gradually the sound becomes more lush with classical orchestrations and a cheerful accordion sound, culminating in spectacular 'Old School Keyboard Extravaganza', goose bumps!
To me this album sounds like a happy marriage between keyboard driven symphonic rock and song oriented melodic rock/AOR, and for sure the spirit of Keith Emerson reigns on The Rules Have Changed, thumbs up for Robert Berry!
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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