REVIEWS OF OUR NEW RELEASE: "IF ONLY..."
Article by: Eric van den Bosch
September 25, 2021
[Translated from Dutch] When the opening of "The Mask Of Deception" hits a riff after an dramatic intro, you can't help but think King Crimson! It turns out to be the first of many moments of recognition on If Only… by the American group The Far Cry.
In the 1980s, drummer Robert Hutchinson and bassist/vocalist Jeff Brewer were in the same prog rock band, Holding Pattern, albeit not at the same time. They didn't get to work together until 2013. They had a great idea of what they wanted to do, but finding the musicians turned out to be difficult. Once they had actually decided to go into the studio they found guitarist Bryan Collin and, thanks to the studio owner/engineer, they found a keyboardist in Chris Dabbo. The Far Cry was complete.
That the project took a long time is also apparent from the fact that between the tracks there is one from the Holding Pattern days — from 1983! Funny detail is that it sounds a bit more modern than the rest because of the spoken word element. Anyway, the gentlemen are especially fond of prog from the seventies and eighties and you notice everything. Long, long tracks (three well over ten minutes) and the better musical theme, in which you recognize a lot of King Crimson and especially Yes. At the same time, you also hear more modern influences such as Saga, Spock's Beard and even Dream Theater. That may sound less nice than it's meant to be. However, there is no reason not to remain positive: the gentlemen know how to keep real songs in the long tracks, and that is something that the aforementioned bands do not always succeed in.
Because between all those influences and the recognition of Chris Squire basslines, King Crimson riffs, Emerson, Lake & Palmer piano parts, Saga guitar/keyboard duels, Marillion guitar parts and Spock's Beard melody you hear above all a band with an incredible amount of fun. and making music with conviction. No matter how obvious the influences are, they combine it into something that stands alone and has a variation and tension in the tracks and the entire album that makes you listen captivated for more than an hour without any effort. Virtuoso and captivating don't always go together in prog, but here they do.
Article by: Mark Kadzeilawa
August 19, 2021
The Far Cry really took me by surprise. This prog ensemble literally shows up out of nowhere and delivers the goods. Vocalist Jeff Brewer and drummer, Robert Hutchinson put this band together. Both Brewer and Hutchinson are veterans of the prog and rock scene, but The Far Cry might just be their goldmine.
The music on If Only… is very well developed. The experience is very visible here, and they fully use it to their advantage. The songs are very richly structured, and it’s a very lengthy delivery. The band allows the tunes to develop. At times, you feel like you’re back in the 1970s listening to prog rock at its best.
My current favorite is the title song, but for awhile I favored the opening “The Mask Of The Deception.” So, as you can see the album is still growing on me, but the goods are definitely there. It will be interesting to see what a month of listening to the record will do. Any of the eight tracks included here has its own personality, yet they all come together as a great album.
The packaging is really great, too. There is something about this cover that completely stands out. It’s one of the few times when you know you’re going to like this even before you hear a note, and luckily, the music only confirms this. The Far Cry was able to match their music with great visual art.
Musically, it’s hard to pinpoint them. The songs are long with a lot of tempo changes. At times, it feels like old Genesis, but only in parts. The Far Cry has their own style, and there is no doubt about it.; they excel at what they do. What’s consistently true is that there is a strong 1970s influence here, which works for the band.
If Only… is like a coloring book. There are so many images this music is capable of. The Far Cry is definitely a band to watch out for, and I hope there is more to come from this very talented group.
Article by: David Edwards
If Only is the impressive debut release by the American symphonic/neo/melodic prog rock group The Far Cry. It is a refreshing and varied collection of tracks which, whilst showing the musician’s own influences – from the classic ’70s prog/classic rock period, through the neo-prog era and on to more modern prog – creates a musical landscape that is a unique mix of all of these as well.
Jeff Brewer (vocals and bass) and Robert Hutchinson (drums and percussion) first met in 1976 as part of a short-lived rock covers band, and later would be involved in the Connecticut progressive rock band Holding Pattern through the ’80s and ’90s, though not simultaneously. However, it was not until 2013 that the seeds of The Far Cry were sown, when the two friends reunited and decided to push on together with a dream of forming a new progressive rock band to showcase their love of the prog rock giants, whilst shaping the sound into something more contemporary. Finding suitable musicians in the New England area was not easy, but Bryan Collins (guitar) subsequently joined the band as they began work in the recording studio, and when Chris Dabbo (keyboards) was recommended by the studio owner John Bolduc – initially for session work – the final piece of The Far Cry jigsaw had been found.
These seasoned and talented musicians steadily evolved the band sound over time (including the extended pandemic period), and have finally produced their debut album, If Only, this summer. It is clearly a labour of love that demands a much wider audience amongst progressive rock fans who value melody, subtle complexity and a symphonic prog panorama. Although it has a loosely-based concept linking common threads of human emotion and perspective meeting real human conditions, the compositions are varied in style, atmosphere and duration, making them an enjoyable and eclectic listening experience individually, but perhaps working best when listened to in one session.
As Jeff told me, “We didn’t set out to write a concept album, as such, yet as the writing and recording evolved, and many of the longer tracks were completed, we began to want to structure the album, so it had a flow, to give the listener a complete musical experience rather than just have eight separate tracks. This is what was great about those early bands from the ’70s. In those days you put on a set of headphones, turned down the lights, closed your eyes and immersed yourself in the music from beginning to end. So, we wrote shorter, mellower songs to cleanse the palette, if you will, from the heavier pieces and allow the listener to take that complete journey, so to speak.”
The opening track, The Mask of Deception, was one of the last pieces written for the album, with lyrics co-written by Jeff and Robert reflecting the steady erosion of freedom and personal choice resulting from big government’s handling of the pandemic in the USA. It begins with dark, foreboding keyboards, barked orders and the repeated mantra “Take the shot or the bus to camp…”. Jeff stresses it is not specifically an anti-vaccination track, but hints at a darker, futuristic world order where the control over us and loss of individual liberties could become all-pervading – especially from the perspective of recent years. Strong stuff indeed, and the acerbic lyrics are matched by the power and complexity of the music. Dream Theater-style guitar/keyboard intermeshing and tempo changes introduce a playful, but mocking tone to the vocals, akin to Spock’s Beard, with a stalking rhythm propelling the ensemble-based music onwards. There is even some alto and tenor saxophone in the musical melting pot. A refreshing mid-way change signals some extended keyboard noodling from Chris, with expressive guitar solo lines from Bryan, before a return to the original theme.
Programophone is an entirely different style of track, with a spoken diatribe by Robert about the programmed control that streaming organisations and the media have on the music we listen to: “I’d say it’s mechanised madness beyond our control, as we’re forced fed our daily bread of prescribed rock ‘n’ roll.” A spritely keyboard, drums and bass pattern forms a foundation to the almost rap-style delivery of the angry, occasionally explicit, lyrics. Hints of Frank Zappa, perhaps? Some more typical progressive musical patterns keep the music fresh throughout. Challenging and complex prog for sure and maybe not to all tastes, but the band’s ambition and vision is to be applauded.
Winterlude, the first of the shorter instrumental pieces, provides an immediate contrast and signals the album’s shift into more traditional symphonic and neo-prog soundscapes. Delicate acoustic guitar and Peart-like twinkling percussion dominate this calm and evocative track, providing a gateway into the heart of the album.
Simple Pleasures is an undoubted highlight. Highly melodic and accessible, a Howe-like guitar motif heralds this vibrant slab of melodic progressive rock. Fans of Starcastle, Styx and Glass Hammer will lap up this track and there is also an Asia-like AOR feel to the vocals and instrumentation that makes it very easy on the ear. Nicely pitched vocals from Jeff set the tone well: “Simple pleasures so sublime. Hidden treasures of the mind… Taking in the veranda’s moonlight. Savouring a fine Beaujolais. Follow shooting stars in their flight. Contemplating the close of day”. The middle section has some expressive and gently paced Emerson-like piano before being progressively added to by the rest of the band, including some swirling keyboard and synthesiser work (flute sounds from the bass too) and lively electric guitar soloing (with subtle referencing of Yes and Styx), all before the main theme reprises as the track concludes with a gentle fade.
The Missing Floor is a more extended and darker instrumental and once again the compositional complexity of Dream Theater, and even Liquid Tension Experiment, come to mind. Intricate playing and instrumental mastery by the whole band dominates the sound, but then there is a change in atmosphere from dark to light towards the end, and the tone becomes more optimistic and brighter. Winterlude Waning is the piano-led companion piece to Winterlude, with stately grace and grandeur, especially when lush keyboard/synthesiser accompaniment briefly washes over the delicate theme. Another example of the album’s ebb and flow in mood that shows why the album is best enjoyed in one complete listen.
The title track is the longest on the album at over 16-minutes, and is undoubtedly the cornerstone that defines what The Far Cry are all about. A multi-faceted epic with shifting tempos, power and styles which continually entertains the listener with its twists and turns. There is a poignant link to the CD artwork of an empty Versailles-style theatre (an atmospheric photograph of the New Bedford Orpheum Theater in Massachusetts along with its empty seats) and the sadness of musicians not being able to perform during the last year or so – and whether things will ever be the same for many. The lyrics emphasise the passage of time and the melancholic yearning for the past; “Oh… To be young once more. When every day seemed an open door”, and they combine with the wonderfully melodic music – one minute dynamic and bombastic, and yet mellow and contemplative the next.
It begins with a gentle, acoustic guitar introduction, then a Europe-like keyboard call, followed by powerful guitar and keyboard interplay and Spock’s Beard-style vocals. A haunting Awaken-like interlude, the ticking of a clock over a delicate piano and guitar theme before Gentle Giant-like vocal pacing and then some full-blown symphonic prog flights of fancy from Bryan and Chris. However, at all times, Jeff’s bass guitar and bass pedals and Robert’s exuberant drumming keep everything grounded. The epic concludes more hopefully with a defiant shout of “I will fight. I will fight, I will face my fears and fight again” and a fading march to drums into an uncertain future.
It is a tough song to follow, and final track Dream Dancer does not attempt to compete with it. Instead, it is a gentle instrumental coda, with Jeff’s soothing bass notes sprinkled over a wistful wash from his bass synthesisers, building slowly to perhaps emphasise a sanguine feel for what the years to come might bring us all.
If Only is a confident, ambitious and assured album by excellent musicians that has a broad range of melodic prog music styles. It doffs its cap to the past, whilst embracing the present, and mixes it all into a singular and varied style. There is a refreshing chameleon-like character across all the eight tracks, with surprises around the corner for any listener, and yet it works as a whole. Their heart might be in the symphonic and neo-prog rock of the ’70s and ’80s, but they are not anchored there at all. This is definitely an album worth exploring for progressive rock fans who like their melody and complexity is equal measures.
Prog Critique Review (14 July 2021)
Artcle by: Gabriel (translated from the original French)
If you had to designate a prog album to pack this summer in your luggage, I would definitely recommend the album "If Only ..." by American band The Far Cry. Indeed it brings together everything I love about progressive rock: Good musicians, varied compositions that are both complex, but not too much, and excellent melodies.
The Far Cry is a United States-based formation that is the association of two musician friends Robert Hutchinson (drums, percussion) and Jeff Brewer (vocals, bass, bass synth, bass pedals and guitar) who met in 1976. In the 1980s, the duo were part of the American prog group Holding Pattern. In 2013 our two friends Robert and Jeff decided to continue their musical journey by creating The Far Cry. A few years later, the duo decided to enter the recording studio to finally burn the material they had accumulated. Guitarist Bryan Collin and keyboard player Chris Dabbo joined them to complete the project.
"If Only ..." is the group's first album, the adventure begins with its original cover: The interior of a theater in the style of the one Marie-Antoinette had built in the spring of 1780 at the Palace of Versailles. As for the eight titles present, these offer a palette of sounds that engage the listener on an auditory journey through all the styles of the landscapes specific to progressive rock, while distilling the own originality of The Far Cry. One could define this music as being a progressive, doped with neo-prog and symphonic rock, often confusing by certain very original rhythmically arrangements, with a very dynamic writing for bass and drums, or through the riffs that follow each other with a vengeance.
The album starts off strong with "The Mask Of Deception", over eleven minutes long, which could easily fit into a Spock's Beard album, a comparison accentuated by the complex structure of the melody, the vocals and the vocal harmonies developed.
Out of step with the rest of the tracks, "Programophone" is a track full of energy, containing parts of keyboards and unbridled guitars, on a text more spoken than sung. A relaxing interlude, "Winterlude", acoustic guitar and light keyboards, delicately drops us on "Simple Pleasures" which sails in the waters of Asia, a prog rock bordering on a flamboyant AOR, easy to access and direct, truly exhilarating.
An instrumental, "The Missing Floor" demonstrates a perfect mastery of the group in an adventurous prog genre Dream Theater, great art, a perfectly controlled track with a lead guitar and a dantesque sound. The grand piano floods "Winterlude Waning", a small piece with a sweet melody and a symphonic aspect precedes the eponymous "If Only", my favorite, with more than sixteen minutes where virtuosity is at the service of music, where everything flows and rolls. An extremely pleasant, modern and accessible melody with keyboards that underline many melodic meanders accompanied by majestic voices, an excellent example of the band's ease. Sense of harmony, lightning guitars impressive rhythm section, the track sounds like a classic. An instrumental closes the album with a hazy synth intro, "Dream Dancer" then launches with a bass that takes precedence over an extremely pleasant, modern and accessible melodic line with keyboards evoking Tony Banks from Genesis.
A very interesting album, without weak point, well balanced in sound and artistic approach, it delivers content that is definitely worth a look, if you like progressive music!
Background Magazine Review (Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 2021)
Article by: Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
The Far Cry is a USA based formation rooted in 1976 when the musical friends Robert Hutchinson (drums, percussion, bells and spoken words) and Jeff Brewer (lead/backing vocals, bass, bass synth, bass pedals and guitar) started to make music together. And in the Eighties the duo was part of the highly acclaimed USA prog band Holding Pattern. Now fast forward to 2013 when Robert Hutchinson purchased a speaker cabinet Jeff Brewer had for sale. In the attendant dialogue, the pursuit of the likely impossible was quickly broached and a decision made to chase the dream just one more time. Thus the seeds for The Far Cry were sown. Eventually, the duo decided to enter the recording studio to get the material up and running.
Guitarist Bryan Collin had already been in contact, having answered a Craigslist ad, and was amenable to playing on the recordings. Bryan Collin was now The Far Cry guitarist. Still, a highly competent keyboardist was required. Studio owner and master engineer John Bolduc was asked if he knew of any keyboard man who could properly interpret and perform the music he was hearing. John responded instantaneously: Chris Dabbo. No time was wasted in contacting him. All involved were highly enthused and Chris was drafted in as keyboardist for The Far Cry.
Most of the seven compositions on their debut If Only... are built around the dynamic, alternating and powerful rhythm section (Robert on drums and Jeff on bass), embellished with inventive work on keyboards and guitars. One moment the music reminds of King Crimson, as in the varied The Mask Of Deception (fiery and sensitive guitar runs), and in The Missing Floor (bombastic eruptions with fat synthesizer flights and heavy guitar riffs).
At other moments Frank Zappa comes to my mind, like in the hypnotizing Programophone (growling bass, and howling and biting guitar runs).
The long song Simple Pleasures (close to 14 minutes) starts and ends in an AOR atmosphere with strong vocals, in between a tender grand piano interlude, joined by acoustic guitar, then a sumptuous outburst featuring a flashy synthesizer solo, in the end fiery guitar leads.
The tracks Winterlude, Winterlude Waning and Dream Dancer showcases the mellow side of the band, the first two featuring tender grand piano play and warm acoustic guitar, simply wonderful, the other one dreamy work on electric guitar and keyboards.
Finally the epic titletrack close to 17 minutes. First a bombastic eruption with fat synthesizer flights and a Mellotron choir sound, then a catchy mid-tempo, topped with rock guitar and synthesizer flights. Next a mellow part with soaring keyboards, then tic-toc sound and bells, followed by a bombastic and dynamic sound, and finally military drums and flute.
I consider this debut CD as a dynamic and varied effort with lots of interesting musical ideas and good musicianship.
Prog Critique Review (14 July 2021)