I sometimes wonder why a musician like Mike Keneally still is quite an obscure name to the progressive rock scene. He has a unique sound and has worked with the best of the best in the music business; he followed in the footsteps of Steve Vai as stunt guitar player for the eternal master Frank Zappa. Later on he joined his predecessor in the Steve Vai Live Band, playing guitar as well as keyboards, sometimes simultaneously. The same skills Keneally showed when he toured with Joe Satriani, the last couple of years. Reciting these big names of musical geniuses, I almost forgot to mention the twenty-four solo albums or so, which are all of impeccable quality and hold at least the same high quality music of the illustrious names mentioned above.
Together with Keneally's 2009 release Scambot 1 and an album, I guess it will be named Scambot 3, to be recorded in the future and this 2016 album; Scambot 2 should form a trilogy. But for now we focus on the present CD, which is presented as a nice digipack, holding an extra CD; Inkling (More From The Scambot 2 Sessions). A stunning extra; not the same album as CD1, only without the vocal tracks, or demo/acoustic versions of the same album, something other artists present on their “special, limited” editions of a regular album. No, Mike Keneally offers pure and bare tracks and ideas that are equally fantastic as the songs presented on the Scambot 2 CD.
Lyrically this album continues the story where the previous Scambot album ended, the accompanying booklet helps to get you back into the story. I guess I just stick with the music on this release. Scambot 2 starts with a song; In The Trees that refers to the time Keneally was working with Frank Zappa, only taken to the next century. The music is more riff and heavy guitar orientated, something good old Frank would have approved, I am sure. The multiple voices and intelligent musical madness are immediately taking the attention, referring to past as well the present time. Also beautiful is a track like Sam, where the quite accessible rock and fine vocals form the background for a strong Zappa-eske guitar solo. A fine hunch of jazz is added during Pretzels, a song that has the piano as main instrument. A strong point for the album is the use of vocalist Ben Thomas, whose nice voice contradicts with Keneally's lighter vocal parts and gives the compositions something special, Roll is the powerful perfect sample for this corporation. One of the most delicate songs on the album is Constructed, a gentle, smooth rock song with jazzy elements and a pair of beautiful voices; Jesse and Mike Keneally.
All in all, the Scambot 2 album is a quite pleasant journey through music, with in my opinion just highlights. But, yep, here comes the big BUT. You do have to be a fan of this kind of music. If not, I guess the music is hard to digest and an ordinary progressive rock fan could have a hard time to listen to this music. Mike Keneally writes compositions for the advanced listener, who appreciates Zappa. Frank as well as Zappa Plays Zappa.
The additional; Inkling is a strong collection of musical ideas and tracks that were too interesting to be shelved. It perhaps could give you an insight how a guy like Mike Keneally works and shows how a composition comes to life.
Still not convinced? Well if you are a follower of great musicians and are interested in what they have been up to, here are a few of the names participating on this impressive piece of music; drummers Marco Minnemann, Gregg Bendian and Joe Travers, bass players Bryan Beller, Doug Lunn and Pete Griffin.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
Where to buy?
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