Reviewed: December 2002
Released: 2002, Magna Carta
I’m really torn on this album. The purpose of art (or so I have been told) is a personal expression of observations and experiences of mankind, nature and so forth. Can any artist be truly criticized for creating art? I would hope not. Arguments about the commercialization of music and music as a commodity aside briefly, another question remains, just because someone CAN share their artistic vision, does it necessarily mean they SHOULD?
One Hundred Year Flood is a very intense and personal description of the loss of Trent Gardner’s brother who was killed in the Vietnam War. It is almost a little too personal, almost discomforting, like reading someone’s diary, which returns me to my first point. It may have been a very cathartic and life-affirming process for Gardner but for the listeners to have the same intense emotional attachment to a very simple story of sorrow is difficult. Perhaps, because my life has been free of personal tragedy I cannot relate.
The fact that the tale is “real” as compared to an elaborate concept album that is fictional does have an impact but in my opinion alone, it pushed me away from embracing the emotional story, instead of drawing me closer. You know when you go to a movie and at times it says “This was based on a true story” and often it seems just a little more intense because it could have or did happen? Well, I never liked that.
I have not been a Magellan fan in the past, which effectively cements my lack of interest in this CD. However, let’s cover the bases. Joining Trent are Wayne on guitars and bass and Joe Franco of Twisted Sister (?) on drums. Guest musicians include Ian Anderson, Tony Levin on bass Robert Berry and shred-monster extraordinaire, George Bellas on guitar. As always, Magellan has an incredible line-up of talent. The production is immaculate done by Trent of course, and the packaging is good with lots of black and white pictures of his departed brother and full lyrics are included as well. The cover is odd, grey and somber, I don’t like it but it does match the theme.
The disc is 51 minutes long broken into three songs. Track one “The Great Goodbye” is 34 minutes long and is the centerpiece of the album. Next is a ten-minute instrumental called “Family Jewels” featuring Ian Anderson on Flute. I’ll avoid the obvious joke about the poorly chosen song-title. The whole thing is a giant flute/keyboard solo that is pretty dull, although those guys can really play! The last cut is the 11-minute “Brother’s Keeper”. The album is disjointed; track two and three don’t really match the first one. They would have been better on an EP or bonus tracks on a live album, and that would have allowed Gardener to expand the main cut into something more elaborate.
The main song is a simple telling of a very emotional story. It is broken into 13 unnamed parts but it really is a whole. It starts with an acappella piece followed by a piano piece. A slow start. The album doesn’t really get going until track five. The song keeps returning to a vocal focal point, singing about the date he died, which I understand but it gets annoying. It’s not the chorus per se but keeps getting referred to. Track eight has trombone and I hate horns in general and especially on hard rock heavy metal albums. It sounds terrible and out of place. The song could have been expanded into so many more interesting sub-topics a whole story but he choose to keep it very simple, almost too simple, using over half an hour to tell one part of what could have been a much more complex and rewarding story and song.
I almost want to apologize for not liking this album. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It is an incredible display of song-writing, performances, emotion and really could be considered perhaps his personal tour-de-force. However, it is just not needed or wanted to hear as my first real introduction to the band. If you are a Magellan fan you may want to approach with caution as my prog fans say this is very uncharacteristic of the band. You can visit www.magnacart.net for more info.
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