pick-of-the-monthtwenty committeeThe twenty Committee is a band that manages to escape the excesses of prog while delivering all of the expected musicianship and compositional complexity of the genre...

A Lifeblood Psalm
The Twenty Committee
9 tracks / 45 minutes

Progressive rock is, by its very nature, big. Big sound, big songs, big vocals – it's the circus maximus of rock and roll, and when it's good it's spectacularly good, but when it's bad – well, that 33 minute song you're listening to can feel like a life sentence. Luckily, The Twenty Committee is a band that manages to escape the excesses of the genre while delivering all of the expected musicianship and compositional complexity.

The key to the appeal of A Lifeblood Psalm is The Twenty Committee's basic pop sensibility – they know how to create a song with all of the basics – especially melody and hooks. Supporting the more progressive elements of their work is solid, basic songwriting – you never lose the basic structure of the song, an issue that prog sometimes collapses under due to the sheer weight of the instrumental gymnastics. Closer in spirit to a more ambitious Toto, or Flying Colors, the debut project by The Twenty Committee gives us songs we can latch onto and welcome back when played again.

Everything that's good about this band can be heard on the seven minute "How Wonderful," where we get to hear the warm and flexible vocals of Geoffrey Langley, who also plays piano and some very Procol Harum-like organ on the track. The instrumental break takes off in a Steely Dan-inspired way, with tasty guitar and synth work. Richmond Carlton's driving bass work effectively underlies the various changes, ascents and descents throughout. The song goes through tempo changes and modulation, has some great harmony vocals from drummer Joe Henderson and guitarist Justin Carlton, and leaves you knowing that you just heard a great little piece of music.

There's a definite feeling of a jazz group hiding in the mix somewhere, especially in the really fine drumming of Henderson. The group never veers too far off the musical path (although the somewhat spacey middle section of "Her Voice" comes close), but it sounds as if these guys have got chops to spare and – given the chance – could take some pretty extensive musical journeys within any of these compositions.

Of note are the vocal melodies on A Lifeblood Psalm, which don't sound like they were tacked on as an after-thought but really center the compositions. Langley has a distinctive vocal tone and is probably one of the most listenable singers in the prog genre, avoiding vocal excesses for 'simply' good singing. The tendency for the end of many of his phrases to get lost in the mix, though – either by design or by accident – does make one cry out for a lyric sheet! For me, at least, too many of the lyrics were difficult to decipher.

The album closes with a suite of five songs collectively called "The Knowledge Enterprise," and shows the range of these musicians, going from prog to heavy rock phrases to ballad, to prog again – I even hear a bit of Zappa and Townsend in the "Conceivers and Deceivers" section.

Recorded at Radiant Records, and self-produced by the band along with Jerry Guidroz, the sound is clean and inviting, with just the right amount of sparingly used strings (arranged and orchestrated by Langley, The Twenty Committee and MyStringSection.com). The Twenty Committe is definitey a band to watch – and one that will hopefully include a lyric sheet with the next project!

-Bert Saraco


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