I can't remember a collective of 54 musicians and scientists collaborating on an album and speaking out loud their worries about environment, climate change and humanitarian issues before. United Progressive Fraternity is the first “band” in the world to do so, I believe. But “band” isn't the correct description. Once UPF was a band, but when you look closer to this album, you must conclude that when you invite 54 people to work on the album, I think it is legitimate to speak of a project. The album Planetary Overload will contain two parts. Part 1 is called Loss and has been released in the beginning of 2019. Part 2 will be released later this year.
UPF has his genesis in the Australian progressive rock band Unitopia. I will not bore you with the history, because I think that most of you will know this very well. When we speak in terms of projects then Mark Trueack is the project leader. Mark is the founder of UPF and this immense project. Before I dive deeper into the music, at first a list up of all the musicians and other collaborators on this album. It's a huge list.
Mark Trueack / vocals, composer, co-producer
Steve Unruh / violin, guitars (electric, acoustic 12-string, slide), sitar, mandolin, flute, keyboards, congas, kalimba, floor tom, tabla, percussion, composer, co-producer
Christophe Lebled / keyboards, piano, synths, soundscapes
Cornel Wilczek / orchestration & conductor
Matthew Atherton / synth, soundscapes, vocals
Marek Arnold / sax
Daniel Mash / bass
Mark Franco / fretted & fretless basses
Joe Toscano / drums, drum programming, vocals
Jon Davison / lead vocals (1,11)
Lisa Wetton / vocals (1,3,10,11)
Hasse Fröberg / vocals (5)
Grace Bawden / soprano vocals (12)
Angus Keay / guitar (2)
Ettore Salati / electric & acoustic guitars and arrangements (3)
Matt Williams / electric & acoustic guitars, bass, synth & vocals (7)
Valentine Halembakov / guitar (9)
Steve Hackett / nylon-string acoustic guitar (11)
Michel St-Pčre / guitar (11)
George Perdikis / guitar (8,10)
Angelo Racz / keyboards (3)
Raf Azaria / piano & synth solos and slide & electric guitars (3,4,12)
Nick Magnus / keyboards & soundscapes (5,10,11)
Alex Grata / piano, synthesizers, loops, electric & acoustic guitars and vocals (9)
Gordo Bennett / keyboards & arrangements (11)
Charlie Cawood / oud, saz, bouzouki, dulcimer, zither,sax, bass, guitar, pipa & liuqin (3,9)
Marc Papeghin / French horn (11)
Clive Hodson / alto sax, trombone, trumpet & flugelhorn (2,3,7,10)
Brendon Darby / trumpet, digital trumpet & flugelhorn (2,3,8,10)
Guillermo Cides / Chapman stick (2,12)
Colin Edwin / fretless bass & soundscapes (5)
Jerry Marotta / drums (2)
David Hopgood / drums (7)
Hans Jörg Schmitz / drums (5)
Phill Sokha / drums (9)
Jesús Gancedo García / drums (11,12)
Satish Kumar / narration (1)
Dr. James E. Hansen / narration (1,2)
Sir David Attenborough / narration (1,5)
Mark Maslin / narration (1,7)
Dr. Jane Goodall / narration (1,10)
Alanna Mitchell / narration (6)
David Suzuki / narration (7)
James Lovelock / narration (8)
Little Brodie Byrne / spoken word (9)
?Ghost Girls? / haunting voices (9)
Dr. Cary Fowler / spoken word (11)
It's clear that Mark Trueack has succeeded in finding a lot of musicians which share his concern about our planet. That is all it is about in this project. It took 4 years to finish this album. The ambition of Mark Trueack is immense. He is preparing a “multi-sensory full musical production” in 2020. For 2019 he is also planning mini-shows. It's obvious that Trueack is an idealist.
The album opens with the track Loss (Anthem). It's an impressive orchestral track which starts with the following words of a narrator: “Sooner or later the world will wake up...”.
The song develops bombastic and when Jon Davison (Yes) takes over the vocals it is if you are listening to Yes in the old days.
Each song starts and ends with words of the narrators. The all give an opinion or a message about the themes I've described before.
What Happens Now is a more or less up-tempo track. The vocals are raw, which I like. The song has a very catchy feeling.
The start of the album is promising. It's varied and it has tension. Never a bore moment, I would say.
Cruel Time is a ballad with a tragic atmosphere. Mark Trueack's voice leads us through this touching song. The backing vocals are done by Lisa Wetton, the wife of late John Wetton. At the end of the song it develops into some jazzy “madness”.
The fourth track What Are We Doing To Ourselves is obvious a more or less rhetorical question. Of course, there is also a big mirror in it. The arrangement is minimalistic. This song contains less instruments and it carries itself perfectly. At the end the narrator tells us of the invention of plastic. Plastic, a material that is fantastic, but also ruins our oceans and even our body.
Stop-Time starts as a funky track. The vocal lines are strong and are singing around in your head immediately. Most of the time this are great songs. In this case there is no exception. Three interesting musicians on this track are Collin Edwin (bass), Hasse Fröberg (backing vocals) and Nick Magnus (keyboards). They lift this song to an incredible height. So far, it's the best track, in my opinion.
One More is a two minute intermezzo on which acoustic guitar is leading. Further on there is only space for fretless bass and violins. Trueack sings about the enormous mess in our oceans.
Mercenaries opens with a scary, dark atmosphere and moves up very fast in an up-tempo song. The style of the song is typically progressive rock. There are heavenly melodic choruses in it, there are many tempo changes and keyboards and guitars are prominent present. This song could have been on a Yes album.
What If is another acoustic, short intermezzo. Mostly this is entrance to another epic song. This time that song is called Forgive Me, My Son. The beginning of this song reminds me of Fish's Perfume River. It's dark and ominous. Machine gun fire fulminate at the beginning of the song. The song develops into mid-tempo, with a rather dark atmosphere.
Dying To Be Reborn is a nice rock song with a little folk influences. It reminds me of Fish in his Internal Exile period. It's radio worthy, I would say.
Seeds For Life is an epic song which has a duration of 19 minutes. This features Steve Hackett (nylon-string guitar) and Michel St-Pere (guitarist of Mystery).
The song has varied styles and atmospheric- and tempo changes. It's hard to describe, so my advice is “listen to it yourself”. The guitar solo of Michel St-Pere is not of this earth. I really love his style. Immediately after the solo Steve Hackett starts his intermezzo. You can carry me away. Steve Hackett is one of the best guitar players in the world. But that's an open door, I believe. The song ends in some kind of chaos. It represents the state of our earth. Just when you are getting sad, it shifts in some more or less melodic end. Steve Hackett plays the song to its end and I can assure you that he does this well.
Loss To Lost is the last song of the album. The song reminds me once more of Fish. Even the voice of Mark Trueack has the timbre of Fish.
The album “Loss” comes with a bonus disc on which Trueack, Unruh and Christophe Lebled, who call themselves Romantechs, reimagine songs from Unitopia and UPF. There are interesting parts on it. But I will not review. In my opinion it doesn't add much to the review of this fabulous album.
At the end I must confess that Planetary Overload Part 1: Loss is an album in which I had to grow. I have listened to it several times and each time I began to appreciate it more and more. I think it's a masterpiece.
The album deserves the predicate epic. The project is huge. But the goal of the project is even huger. Awareness is the keyword on this album. People should be aware of this earth and they should be aware of themselves and their “neighbors”. Personally, it's a message that touches me.
It is really great to see that artists are trying to spread this message. When I combine this conclusion with the high-level music on the album, there is only one possibility: this album deserves 5 out of 5.
I'm curious about part 2. I can't wait for its release.
***** Aad Bannink (edited by Dave Smith)
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