When our main editor told me that I was to receive the latest two albums by Swedish multi-instrumentalist and singer Hansi Cross, I must admit that I took this with mixed feelings. I used to have a couple of his CDs in my collection, including Gaze (1996), Dream Reality (1997), Visionary Fools (1998) and Playgrounds (2004). At some point I decided to part with them because the neo progressive music on these albums was quite okay, but for me the albums were ruined by the often-dramatic vocals - notably on Gaze.
Interestingly, I have kept Cross's Rush-influenced debut 12”, Charade On A Razorblade, from 1987. Apart from that, I lost all interest for this act, meaning that I missed a couple of albums including The Thrill Of Nothingness (2009, see review), Wake Up Call (2012, see review) and Da Capo (2014, see review). What's worse, I totally missed the news that Hansi passed away in August 2017. That was slightly shocking and surely has an effect when listening to his final work. However, it does not change my opinion on the vocal qualities. So, let's see what these albums have to offer, starting with Halfway To Somewhere. This CD was originally intended as a “best of” and contains old and unreleased material as well as different versions.
Opener Uncovered Heart starts as a heavy metal piece with flat singing, but it has very nice symphonic interludes. This is very typical for the sound that I remember from the CDs that I sold. Run For Rescue is more introspective. The calmer singing from the beginning fits much better to Hansi's voice.
Poison Into Medicine is one of the two longest tracks on the CD. Quite typical 1990s neo prog. Wasn't this a track on one of the earlier albums? I seem to remember it. I like the Keith Emerson-like synths around 7 minutes into the piece.
A Little Interlude is exactly that and over before you notice that it started. Regrettably both Take-Off and On the Other Side both pass without leaving a definite impression. Just average Cross neo prog.
The short Tingeling is another interlude, this one on acoustic guitar with some keys in the back. Then comes the ten-minute title track, Halfway To Somewhere. It seems that this was salvaged from a ruined master tape. It opens well with organ, but then there is the strained singing (I appreciate Hansi's passion, but since he was not playing in an alt-rock band, he really should have left this to someone else...). There is a nice instrumental section halfway through. The guitar reminds me (as on some other tracks too) a bit of It Bites during their Once Around The World period.
Finding the Frank Zappa-classic Zoot Allures on this CD was a HUGE surprise. And a most pleasant one. Hansi gives a perfect performance that sounds uncanny like Zappa himself. Super well done. In my mind Hansi was mostly a keyboarder, but I now realize what a gifted guitarist and all-round musician he was.
I started the review by mentioning my mixed feelings. I still have them. Some of the music is great, the talent is there. You just have to be able to appreciate the singing and that is mostly not my cup of tea... Let me rate this with a modest:
***- Carsten (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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