Cast: Angels and Demons (CD, 73:57); ALF-007CD, 1997 Contact: P.O. Box 4241 Calexcico, CA 92232 USA E-mail: email@example.com Cyberhome: www2.4dcomm.com/russrrr/russrrr.htm These guys have been at the Cast thing now for more than 20 years. Since 1994 they have released 7 studio albums, 3 solo projects, and 1 live album. They are an awesome thing to experience live and they give a compelling performance, exuding devotion to the music, and to the listener. You can hear Genesis, Kansas sans violin, Michael Gleason keys, and an obvious Latin flair in intricate rhythms and that certain ineffable passion that is Cast alone. This release brings many wonders to fruition in an obvious maturity and honing of long- practiced skills. There is a fullness, a warmth, a unity in this release. In a marvelous way the lyrics, the soul, the drive behind this album is like one great plea for sanity and revelation among mankind. This means no sappy, whining drivel about some vapid Earth Mother or "cosmick debris" Brotherhood. Cast drives home a rocking, tour de force of prog power, filled with strong faith, hope, and love. It is gospel calling the listener to wake up to the reality of Evil and the Way of Light. An ancient warfare is ongoing, ignored by many, scoffed at by fools, yet undeniable when evil touches us -- unavoidable when we read history or the epitah inscribed on the gravestones of loved ones. It is life and death, light and darkness, truth and lies, love and hatred -- Cast draws back the veil and majestically presents the tale. A veritable ocean of keys, swirling rhythms, moving vocals, perfectly interwoven guitars, flute, bass, and percussion cover you in an orchestral, symphonic wonderland. It is an adventure, a story unfolding, seamlessly track to track. All this music flows from the mind, the heart, and fingers of master keyboardist, Alfonso Vidales. Guitarist/ vocalist, Francisco Hernandez Reyes pens most of the thought-provoking lyrics with vocalist/ flutist, Dino Carlo Brassea Eguia. Rodolfo Gonzalez Quiroz is fretless bass and Jose Antonio Bringas Caire is percussion. As one mind this band of Mexicans never ceases to satisfy and amaze us album after album, show after show. Thank you Cast for your humble honesty and your shining skill in gifting us with all the years, and this majesty of song. Bueno! High recommendations. ~ John W. Patterson
Alfonso Vidales: Clavico (CD, 68:10); 1998 Contact: P.O. Box 4241 Calexcico, CA 92232 USA E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cyberhome: www2.4dcomm.com/russrrr/russrrr.htm If you like Cast, (see Angels and Demons review), then this solo release by Cast's composer and keys-wizard, Alfonso Vidales, this effort will also satisfy. Complex, flowing, tides of keyboard-driven waves wash over you in endless succession. In a very classical manner and level of expertise Vidales presents twelve pieces augmented with bass, and percussion. Different voicings flow from one into another, building, cascading, rippling by in smooth fashion. Liquid metaphors are best to describe Vidales' elaborations on his themes, that come and go, evolve, and return like the echoes of waves on the beach. One cannot be bored by anything set forth herein, as it lush, rich, and full. Vidales is the embellishment guru, gilding the pieces as if some shrine from a 14th century Spanish castle. You hear some Genesis, touches of Camel, and small bits of Larry Fast, (yet not as spacey or experimental-synthed). Most of all, Vidales reminds me of ex-Kansas, Kelly Livgren's A.D. band's keysman -- Michael Gleason. Gleason put out at least one solo album and Vidales mirrors certain aspects. Vidales however goes way beyond Gleason in a bigger, more completed sound. Vidales' Mexican roots also provide a different backbeat and flow to movements and rhythmic progressions. For my tastes, I prefer the wider sound spectrum of Vidales' Cast releases but his solo work can be faulted in no way. Tracks 10 and 11 sound much more like Cast as there are vocals by Omar Pinera. Track ten also has that Cast-type guitar work by Eduardo Ortiz. On the last track, Vidales shows his jazzy side -- a surprise. File this in your favorite progressive or electronic keyboard section. It is well recorded and very professionally executed. It inspires and charms. ~ John W. Patterson
Alfonso "Poncho" Vidales: Entre 2 Paredes (CD, 58:22); CD-PON-001, 1995 Contact: P.O. Box 4241 Calexcico, CA 92232 USA E-mail: email@example.com Cyberhome: www2.4dcomm.com/russrrr/russrrr.htm My Spanish being essentially nonexistent, exact notes on tracks, musicians, recording dates and miscellaneous info are unclear. Sorry. It seems Cast's keyboardist realized these various tracks in 1988 to 1989 and they are a compilation of musical ideas from Vidales' earliest musical years. They are various snippets ranging from 1:22 to 10:49. These thirteen tracks run the style gamut from Pekka Pohjola to Larry Fast to Michael Gleason. Nearly all have an uplifting or happy timbre. Nothing seems ominous or downcast but insightful and introspective in that day dreamy way. This of course is all keys, with bass and drums, each seemingly keys or pads triggered. The pseudodrums-n-bass, especially in one upbeat piece, comes very close to irritating. This a light dinner, musically speaking, with an airy, light-hearted, happy-go-lucky flow. It is easy listening and/ or new-agey in spots. It just barely manages to hold my attention even after several listens. Vidales has come a long way when comparing this to his excellent Clavico release. For completist folks wanting that listen-look at where Vidales has come from and how greatly Cast has matured this is an interesting listen. If you are looking to be blown away or awed by Vidales' keyboards you may be somewhat let down by this low-calorie offering. ~ John W. Patterson
Cast: Beyond Reality (CD, 62:12); ALF-006CD, 1996 Contact info: (Please refer to other Cast reviews) This is Cast's 6th album, spinning intricate stories of fantasy, dreams, hopes, and observations on the nature of Man and the enigmatic Universe. The interplay between keys and guitars and voice is precise and each track is an adventure -- soundtrackish yet dynamic. Compositions maintain interest and are thematic with many variations, moods, and heavily orchestrated synth textures throughout. Think Genesis, ELP, Camel, Kansas, and early PFM. Brassea's Spanish- accented yet English lyrics, always sung with operatic angst and passion, call to mind the Italian- sounding English lyrics of PFM's When the World Became the World or Photos of Ghosts. The guitar is an even blend between Howe and Hackett. In Hernandez however, you find no grandstanding or look-at-me moments. Each member is an integral part of a greater whole making each musical moment come across as needed. Soloing is rare but if at all it is usually a keyboard bridge, building the tension, placing exclamation points or bringing a tempo change across. On "All the Way From Nowhere" near the end I hear Cast break into some of their best rockin' it out jams and Vidales really lets loose on the synth. I'd love to hear this live, the way Cast truly excels . . . beyond the reality of our expectations. A bonus track closes out things with Camel's "Another Night" from the Mellow Records Camel tribute, Harbor of Joy. I'd have to rate this release, quite good overall, just a notch below Angels and Demons -- but not a big notch. ~ John W. Patterson
Cast: Endless Signs (CD, 66:12); ALF-005CD, 1995 Contact info: (Please refer to other Cast reviews) Well if you wanted to hear more of the excellent guitar work of Hernandez, this release seems to have more moments where he takes the forefront, driving Cast in a more rocking prog. Listen to him scream on "Hidden Poems". Many times, that same Howe guitar drive and momentum found in Asia's better songs, is clear. Hernandez gets to stretch and his guitar seems less lost in the swirling keys. In the CD's pinnacle piece, "Spirit of Man" and the title track this is very evident. Vidales of course gets to do his signature, orchestral keyboard work and even Gonzalez's bass comes thumping and burping nicely through. Drums are excellent as always. Brassea'a vocals are his typically solid call of passion -- cries for wisdom to reign over the listener. As Cast is known for, their lyrics are aligned with an ever-present call for Man to awake to a deeper reality than power, gain, pleasure, sensuality, or even empty religiosity. They have seen an ineffable Light and keep trying to describe it to the rest of us. Yeah, some of us have seen it too and understand exactly where Cast is coming from. Sing on. ~ John W. Patterson
Cast: Four Aces (CD, 63:17); ALF-004CD, 1995 Contact info: (Please refer to other Cast reviews) I believe it is with this release you can find Cast's signature sound beginning to gel, to coalesce into a formula that works future release after release. They seem tighter, less meandering than previous releases -- driven by something. This is that type of release that had Cast dissolved or released no more music, fans and critics would rally Four Aces around as their crowning achievement. Opening track, "In the Light of Darkness" is a strong, uplifting piece, with inspiring lyrics and an awesome set of instrumental refrains. "Introverture" follows, a swirling, instrumental piece. A touching memorial to a friend passed on, "Last Will" is a tender ballad sharing the harsh reality of loss and this fragile life. An awesome Hackett/Genesis guitar lead builds tension with Vidales' keys adding a wall of emotion backed by ferocious drums and bass. Brassea's voice wails strong and ever so endlessly expressive. Another strong instrumental, "Galeno", follows with raw guitar power and inventive keys. This piece is as jazz fusiony/ prog rocking as I you will ever find Cast pulling off. Bueno! An extended trilogy movement follows that hints at Cast's growing penchant for their thematic albums soon to follow. One thing about Cast, that is clear here on this release and those to follow, is how they can make many songs so cohesive. You feel one mind, one heart, one set of hands is at work. Cast is the epitome of symphonic prog. I can easily hear their work being used on Broadway or any stage on the planet. Pathos and theatrical leanings are inescapable in Cast's compositions and near-operatic delivery. They really know how to put on the show. As always in the album's remaining pieces, whether in didactic lyric or swelling neoclassical keys, or driving neo-prog, Cast has very good things for all to hear. ~ John W. Patterson Cast: Third Call (CD, 63:35); ALF-003CD, 1994 Contact info: (Please refer to other Cast reviews) 1994 was a busy year for Cast, this being their third release in one year! This is prolific for any group. Evident is an obvious maturing in their sound when compared to their debut album. They sound very Genesis with snatches of Kansas slipping through. Compositions are fairly straight ahead lacking that diversity in composition that pulls me in. They are not as proggy-tight nor as symphonically lush as in their future releases. These are a collection of neo-prog but more on the radio rock type of ballads. There is no thematic element here, each song standing alone with only Brassea's vocals and Vidales' keys keeping a thin thread of Cast-ness going. Hernandez's guitar is just right as always but he stretches rarely. It is predominantly augmentation -- lost in the bass and drums. Don't get me wrong, this is not weak music. It is just not the best Cast has to offer in their discography. It is too predictable and I lose interest quickly in the many Genesis/ Kansas emulations. You know, I can listen to those other bands without buying Cast. Cast does their own thing better -- finally done on track four, "Door of the World" for 15:12 of extended finesse. This is Cast at their best on this release. Instrumental track, "Ve to ben" is a great gift as well but only lasts 4:00 -- about half as long as it could have easily been worked out. Get this if you're a Cast completist. It has its finer moments but overall, not a must-have. ~ John W. Patterson Cast: Landing in a Serious Mind (CD, 69:02); ALF-001CD, 1994 Contact info: (Please refer to other Cast reviews) This is debut Cast, simple, unassuming, embryonic, and an interesting glimpse into their history. You hear fairly typical Brassea vocals yet relaxed. Vidales has a light and airy touch on keys at times. Hernandez gets many a lead break nicely nailing that Hackett/ Howe sound but it is in a popular rock and roll format much of the time. There are of course progrock progressions, mainly when Vidales needs to stretch. Some pieces have a definite Latin American structure and it is emphasized in Brassea's accented vocals. Several songs have interesting signature-Cast intros, refrains, and/or finales but the song overall lacks a memorable Cast punch. Lyrics are quite shallow in content and fall way short off the soul-fired depth of later releases. No whole-album concept is being presented and songs are unrelated to one other. That Genesis/ Kansas sound is woven into many places. Nothing happens here to rave about unless you are an avid collector of all Cast has released. Only on one instrumental cut, "Athens" which runs 6:48 will you find that unmistakable Cast mastery. That one really kicks! Get this if you want to hear Cast in its formative stages but I'll settle for their more recent releases. ~ John W. Patterson
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