One of the best things for me in this strange world of progressive rock is the emergence over the past few years of folks who have revisited their musical dreams and have released their music to the world. Often with collaboration with established musicians, they create some often remarkable, confident and satisfying music. I’m thinking of the likes of Stewart Clark and John Holden who have both offered some truly fabulous music.
Well, to that list add the name Michael Dunn who, using the ‘project’ moniker, has delivered a prog associated album with lots of AOR influences clearly showing in its blood, think REO Speedwagon, Boston etc. and you’re in the right ball park. Michael, who is 64, is a late bloomer who, after retiring from many years in sales and marketing, has devised a system that allows independent musicians to make a good living from their craft. To test this system, he finally stepped up to make the music he had always wanted to make with assistance from the likes of Andy Tillison, Amanda Lehmann and Joe Deninzon, all of who lend their talents towards making this such a strong, interesting and varied album.
I came across the album via friends on Facebook who were raving about this great release and also saying what a gracious and splendid fellow Michael Dunn is. Being the person I am, I just had to hear this for myself and I can concur that Michael is a really great guy, friendly, open and passionate abut the music he has made and deserving of a wider audience that he would possibly receive elsewhere. As such, I consider it my duty to do what little bit I can to help this album receive the recognition that it is most worthy of.
In a year that has seen some great releases from bands like Yes, The Dave Foster Band and Ruby Dawn, to name but a few, this album can proudly stand with its head held high for its six tracks offer varied moods and styles but are all anchored in top notch songwriting and assured delivery with excellent musical support from Michael and his friends in the Project.
What shines through on this album is the commitment to creating a musical statement that is well conceived, crafted and ultimately delivered convincingly. For a first album to be that assured and confident is to be applauded and recognised. This album may have been 40 years in the making but the results are definitely spectacular and rewarding to hear, especially on the album’s centrepiece Bridge Across The Years, which has three parts to it, how proggy is that?
The album kicks off in strong form and style with the excellent I Draw The Line, which also introduces the excellent vocals of Diego Viramontes, who sounds slightly like Klaus Meine of The Scorpions, his voice being clear and punchy and having great power to it. He is an excellent foil to Michael’s fluid guitar, also important is the rhythm section of Ginger Pimental (bass) and David Anania (drums) who drive the song along firmly. Better still is the second track Turn Of The Cards which has a great bassline to start with and crunchy guitars firing. This song actually is full of great guitars and has a fine solo that reminds me of Ronnie Montrose’s Gamma albums, it has much power to it as it plays out, there is really something special here as the song ends on a sustained guitar note.
Then we have the song Let Me Be which features Andy Tillison on Hammond Organ where it sounds truly glorious. The organ swells really are most impressive, they make a song that grows into a slow burning masterful track. When the tune changes tack and the guitar is set free, the organ is there close by adding significant support and style. It really is most impressive, as are the bass of Joe Alvaro and the vocals of George T. Montebruno, whose style is a great fit for the track. Tomorrow Is Today, unsurprisingly, has more than a hint of Kansas (Joe Deninzon is their new violinist), I wonder if this album and track were instrumental in that? One can but wonder, it would be great if it was as his playing here is exceptional and adds gravitas to this impressive track. Another Day In The Modern World follows and this is another slow burn of a song, one with strong lyrics, agreat delivery and more of Michael’s fleet fingered guitar lines!
This really is an album that delivers on so many levels, strong impassioned music and performances, all of which make this album nothing less than interesting and often inspired. The three part epic album closer, Bridge Across The Years, opens with acoustic guitar and the keyboards of Marc Gladstone and the ever impressive vocals of Diego Viramontes with additional harmony from Amanda Lehmann. Part two of this epic is an instrumental featuring gentle guitar and swirling keyboards from Marc before the final section shows us how to rock once more with a touch of Styx and that great Hammond Organ of Andy Tillison again. This section also has superb harmony vocals from Catherine St Germain and Amanda. This is a fabulous closing piece with lots of powerful performances and great music.To me, what it does lack is a final guitar solo to finish things off but, even so, it’s a great ending section to a great album.
Its especially worth reading The Dream Team page on the website (link below) which details more info about the players on the album and you can see why he is viewed as being a great guy from his comments about his fellow musicians. In short this is a highly recommended release and will invariably end up in my best of the year list somewhere, it really is that impressive and special.
Released 26th May, 2023.
You can find out more about Michael and order the album here; www.MichaelDunnProject.com