PRESTO BALLET
"Peace Among the Ruins"

(InsideOut)

01. Peace Among the Ruins
02. The Fringes
03. Seasons
04. Find the Time
05. Speed of Time
06. Sunshine
07. Slave
08. Bringin' It On

RATING: 9/10

Seventies-inspired melodic rock and roll is the order of the day on PRESTO BALLET's impressive debut album. Masterminded by METAL CHURCH axeman Kurdt Vanderhoof, and featuring most of the lineup from the 1997 VANDERHOOF album, PRESTO BALLET will go down a storm among fans of STYX, KANSAS, URIAH HEEP, early MSG and other keyboard-tinged, anthemic power rock of a bygone era.

Vocalist Scott Albright has a voice that's somewhere between Dennis DeYoung and James LaBrie, and he's apparently spent the eight years since VANDERHOOF doing nothing but practicing — he was great then, but he sounds incredible here! Keyboardist Brian Cokeley deserves special mention as well — his warm analog tones (check out his solo turn on "The Fringes") wash the whole album in a classic, slightly progressive arena-rock vibe. PRESTO BALLET actually used vintage Hammond organs and other gear of the period, and even recorded to analog tape, and the results prove the wisdom of their methods — "Peace Among the Ruins" has a lush, organic, inviting sound, exotic in its strangeness in 2005 A.D. Add this to the fact that the songs are almost criminally catchy, and you've got a record that stands alone among the year's releases.

"Seasons" would have been a monster hit single, had it come out thirty years ago. More modern prog fans will likely latch onto the title track and "Slave" (the album's most guitar-heavy cuts), while "Speed of Time" just oozes with exuberant YES/URIAH HEEP hookiness. Hell, "Sunshine" even throws in a little BEATLE-esque psychedelia, to excellent effect. This is quite a surprising record — full of virtuoso playing without any showoffy tendencies, rooted in rock's bell-bottomed past without sounding dated, and inspired by a well-worn and loved vinyl collection without stealing too blatantly from those inviting grooves.

So yeah, PRESTO BALLET ain't metal, and probably wouldn't warrant a writeup here if not for Vanderhoof's involvement. But you know what? It's still one of the finest albums to come out in 2005. Older heads, those just discovering the sounds of a previous generation, and prog-metallers unafraid of emotion and melody should find this album immediately. PRESTO BALLET was clearly a labor of love, and the band members' dedication and enthusiasm shines through every note of this instant classic.

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