Album review by KevW
Set up primarily as a recording project (they're yet to play a proper gig together), Washington DC's Fire & The Wheel draw inspiration from the likes of 'The Wall' and the second half of 'Abbey Road'; their goal being to make an album that is a concept of sorts, with each track merging into the next and combining to create an album rather than just a collection of songs. A lofty ambition made even tougher by referencing such musical behemoths as Pink Floyd and The Beatles. You could say they're destined for failure before they've even begun, yet while this debut doesn't compare to the genius of 'Abbey Road' (from a personal point of view I'm not fussed about 'The Wall' but I'm sure the general consensus will be that it's nowhere near a match for that either) they do manage to fashion a work of considerable merit.
This kind of challenge is fraught with danger: the segues could appear forced; songs have to be similar enough to sound cohesive yet different enough to prevent boredom setting in; when music is a 'project' it can come across as indulgent; what might be technically impressive doesn't always translate and a decent listening experience. It's a minefield that Fire & The Wheel carefully negotiate, successfully emerging from the other side unscathed. The grand ambition not only lies in the objective, it's also ingrained in the music itself. Lush arrangements are used, lashings of brass and careful production and mixing are all liberally applied as more than just superficial decoration to disguise a mediocre batch of tunes.
Isolating individual tracks is kind of defeating the object, especially as much of the album is similar in sound, the downside being that there is a partial lack of variety which will be off-putting to some. However if we had to pick stand-outs then 'Predawn Battle', the mariachi-led 'Wheelbarrow de la Muerte' (free below) and the Arcade Fiery 'Balloon Ride Ending In A Swim' may be decent starting points. So while 'Fire & The Wheel' isn't quite the masterpiece worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the musical royalty is aspires to be, it's certainly no mean feat and has enough hidden depths to warrant repeat plays and to grow better over time. This wheel's not quite on fire yet, but it's definitely beginning to smoulder.
Fire & The Wheel's website
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