Origin Of Species is a double album, initiated by an Israeli musician who adapted the name Darwin. Origins Of Species is a conceptual album that tells about ecology, climate change and world chaos, set in the year 2028. Nowadays conceptual albums have been integrated in progressive music and you really need something special to stand out. So, does songwriter and guitarist Darwin add that special touch to make the album stand out over other conceptual progressive rock albums?
I guess, yes and no. First of all, I don't see Origin Of Species as a real progressive rock album. Musically it is a mixture of AOR and melodic rock, with minor progressive rock elements. Sometimes a little fusion is added and some eighties wave parts go by. But, second I think Darwin makes this album stand out by the impressive musicians he hired to play on the album. As is drummer Simon Phillips one of the more renowned names of both the fusion as well as the rock scene. Numerous albums have seen his signature playing, but I guess his name will always be connected to the band Toto. Not only is Simon responsible for the drums on the album, Origin Of Species is also his first album as a producer. Other illustrious names hail from the jazz rock and fusion scene; like guitarist Greg Howe, keyboard player Jeff Babko and bass player Ernest Tibbs. Lead vocalist Matt Bisonette on the other hand became famous as a bass player for David Lee Roth and Joe Satriani, from where he moved to join ELO and currently plays with Elton John. As a solo artist, he initiated The Mustard Seeds with his brother drummer Gregg Bissonette.
When I started listening to the album, the opener, For Humanity immediately got my attention. Musically and vocally in the line of Steve Lukather, including the typical fusion influences during the guitar parts. The fine choirs and atmosphere refer a bit to Toto in my opinion. The spoken parts during the track are well placed and not disturbing the flow of the composition. But when we continue the AOR kind of takes over, smooth songs, great orchestrations and the very pleasant vocals of Matt Bissonette make disc one a very pleasant musical journey to listen to. Taking Chances is well orchestrated and perhaps the most progressive rock track of the album and both Gummy Bear as well as The Last Chance are vocally very interesting. The occasional outbursts of fusion influenced instrumental parts are the most interesting parts for me.
The second disc starts with a fine hard rock riff in War Against My Mind, but moves to a more moderate rock song as the song continues. The following Artificial, could have been a Lukather song. Modern Insanity sounds a little bit dated, but has great riffs and an amazing guitar solo. The album continues into smooth moderate rock songs that are easy to digest, but never really stand out as a composition. It is the individual musicians with their wonderful playing that lift the compositions up to a pleasant level to listen to. Cosmic Rays is a bit of a dissonant, led by the female voice of Koko Rhods, this ends up as the least interesting composition on the album.
In the end, I think the album is composition wise not the most interesting one to listen to, the songs don't really stand out and sometimes are no more than average. Why the album still is an interesting one is the fact there are incredible musicians playing, who lift the album up with their amazing solos and artisanship. Adding one and one together Origins Of Species turns out to be a fine album, no more no less.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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