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CD REVIEW: Underground Orchestra- Active Ingredient
By Jon Stewart - 08/15/2006 - 12:57 PM EDT

Artist: Band: Underground Orchestra
Album: Active Ingredient
CD Review: Noontime of each day during my first year in college at UNT was devoted to listening to a coloratura opera student practice while I stood outside the window she had conveniently left open for that purpose. I had a big time crush on her. Then I made my way to listen to the One O’Clock Lab Band practice where a friend played guitar four days a week.

I was reminded of this hot romanticism when I listened to the “Active Ingredient” CD by Underground Orchestra. And the fact that they are only 5 pieces versus the 19 pieces in the Lab Band plus the director testifies to the Orchestra’s spirit for entertainment; yet to leave it at that would create a somewhat false impression. Rock is the fusional element that grounds the Orchestra in the power of now without lyrics. The guitar is the driving force in this CD, but does not overpower. Instead, it frames the discussion.

The first track, “13”, is early Chicago without the lyrics. And it establishes a winning formula that is hard to discredit if done right. Instrumental pieces are unlike wanting someone to sing your song along to popularity. They have to be interesting and entertaining throughout, which is difficult to achieve. Somehow, this album manages to pull that off on most of the tracks.

The next track, “Dahab” gives a Middle Eastern take on major chord progressions, “Swirl” is my least favorite on the CD and feels contrived, “You Too” has a Steve Earle grasp of an historical piece while Track 5 “Sock It” gives a Steely Dan flavor to a really cool overflowing riff.

The next track, “Fountain of Youth”, is the best song on the album and feels familiar like your favorite wake-up song should be. The rest of the songs are highly original and can be listened to over and over, positively fascinating those who “don’t do jazz”.

Grade B+.



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