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Life Within a Day


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  • In the history of popular music, supergroups have a spotty track record. For every winner, the landscape is littered with many more typically short-lived projects of varying degrees of quality and success. Arguably, they are weighed down by their egos, pedigree, and the high, and often unrealistic, expectations of absolute perfection -- every album must be an utter masterpiece. But it usually doesn't worked out that way. Progressive rock in particular is rather notorious for its attempts at supergroups. Emerson Lake & Palmer rightfully took off, and the original Asia justifiably burned brightly for a short time, but others like GTR and Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe (four-fifths of Yes' classic Fragile lineup) fizzled after one wildly uneven (at best) album. With that in mind, it's certainly heartening to hear 2012's excellent A Life Within a Day by Squackett, the project from Yes bass guitarist Chris Squire and former Genesis and GTR guitarist Steve Hackett. A Life Within a Day leans toward highly melodic pop-flavored sounds but with plenty of the intricate twists and turns and occasional heaviness expected of progressive rock musicians. The liner notes cite the obvious Yes and Genesis influences, as well as that of Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. This music also radiates the sophisticated dreaminess of the Alan Parsons Project. Squire and Hackett share vocals, often with lots of harmonies; Squire's harmony backing vocals are a crucial but rarely acknowledged component of the Yes sound. Producer/keyboardist Roger King (a longtime member of Hackett's solo band), drummer Jeremy Stacey, and backing vocalist Amanda Lehmann round out the core of the Squackett band. The ever-changing arrangement of the dramatic and engaging opener "A Life Within a Day" gives the listener a taste of things to come. The hypnotic "Tall Ships," which originated as Squire was trying out a new bass guitar, gives Hackett the opportunity to stretch out on both classical and electric guitar runs. "Aliens" is a smoothly flowing hybrid of progressive rock and pop. A quirky arrangement drives "Sea of Smiles," but the catchy chorus and Hackett's brightly distorted guitar tie it all together. The outstanding "Stormchaser" -- definitely the most Led Zeppelin-influenced song on the album -- hammers home a steady midtempo rumble with rigid guitar riffs and ghostly keyboards. The ethereal "Can't Stop the Rain" is highlighted by Lehmann's backing vocals. As indispensable members of the mightiest titanic groups in progressive rock, expectations were bound to be high; simply put, Squackett's A Life Within a Day exceeds expectations and is a worthy addition to the legacies of Squire and Hackett. ~ Bret Adams
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