Exposé Online banner

The Underground Railroad — Through and Through
(Laser's Edge LE1033, 2000, CD)

by Jeff Melton, 2000-10-01:

Through and Through Cover art

Kurt Rongey has finally found a group outlet for his advanced Canterbury and symphonic based ideas. Much like early Echolyn with Holdsworthian guitar blasts or similar to jazz inflected Scott McGill's role in Finneus Gauge without as strong a vocalist. Thus there's a strong link with UK and Bruford band material (circa One of a Kind) where Dave Stewart handled much of the arrangements. Guitarist Bill Pohl and Rongey have roots which stretch back several years including Pohl's lead guitarwork on "Long, Dark Corridor" from Rongey's first solo album, Book in Hand (1991). "The Comprachicos of the Mind" is a prime indicator keyboard wise, giving rise to Happy the Man and UK comparisons. Probably the most outstanding tracks are "The Doorman" where Pohl and Rongey unison leads within unique chord variations and tempo changes. Plus the album's title track is a strong summary piece which highlights the strengths of the group. I don't sense a strong Genesis vibe throughout the disc (comparable to that up San Francisco's Metaphor), but that's only due to the prominent use of variant keyboards throughout. Too bad the group didn't also include their excellent Egg cover from Mellow's Canterbury and Beyond tribute. Compositionally the group has far more complex roots and influences than Iluvatar or other neo-prog examples, which could explain why it's taken so long to arrive at this completed work. Overall, this is the best US progressive release since Discipline's last studio release and my safest bet for prog album of the year.


by Peter Thelen, 2000-10-01:

While this debut is impressive for its compositional savvy and great arrangements, one needs to remember that two of the main movers in this four-piece unit are guitarist Bill Pohl and keys-man Kurt Rongey, both having had at least critical success on several previous solo albums. So does that make this a supergroup of sorts? OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but on every track beginning to end it’s obvious that these guys are no amateurs. Using a palette of guitars, bass (and bass pedals), multi-synths, drums, and vocals, the compositions herein are angular and employ an abundance of dynamic contrasts, shifting key signatures, and frequent use of dissonance. While three of the six tracks are 10+ minute multi-part epics in the best prog tradition, nowhere will one find these guys falling back on the standard clichés; indeed the material and arrangements here are some of the freshest, most original this writer has heard in some time. Some influences in evidence might be Genesis, Van der Graaf, and other bands in the early Charisma camp. The vocal parts (note that UGRR’s music is predominantly instrumental) are strongly reminiscent of Happy the Man’s vocal material, or Italian band Leviathan’s Bee Yourself (is that an obscure enough reference?). In summary an exceptional, challenging, and surprisingly accessible debut, which this writer can wholeheartedly recommend.


by Jon Davis, 2001-12-01:

The Underground Railroad was formed with the express intent of playing music in the style of Genesis, but they have luckily strayed from the strict observance of that intention. There is a remnant of Genesis in the arrangements, the way the guitar and keyboards mix, but Bill Pohl’s guitar playing isn’t much like Steve Hackett’s, and Kurt Rongey uses keyboard voicings that don’t sound like Tony Banks. All in all, there’s a slight jazz-fusion edge to the playing, a bit of wandering outside the tonality of the songs. The album was recorded in a very piecemeal fashion – keyboard and backing guitar parts with drum machine first, then (when they added drummer John Livingston) real drumming, then (when Matt Hembree was hired) bass parts, and finally the vocals and lead guitar parts. The whole process took several years, so it’s amazing the music sounds so natural, as if the band had actually played it all together. The up side of the process is that the compositions are highly polished, almost like the band had developed them during years of live performances. This is one of the better neo-prog efforts of the last few years, taking the best elements of first-generation pioneers and updating them without losing sight of what makes progressive music appealing: a sense of adventure, instrumental prowess that serves rather than overpowers the songs, and a willingness to work outside the borders of accepted convention.


Filed under: New releases , Issue 23 , 2000 releases

Related artist(s): Kurt Rongey, The Underground Railroad, Bill Pohl

More info

Latest news

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more

2020-03-17
Cruise to the Edge and Seaprog 2020 Festivals Postponed – The worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus has started to produce casualties in the music festival world, and music festivals are not immune. We've had word that both the Cruise to the Edge (originally slated for March 27 - April 1) and Seaprog (originally June 5-7) have been postponed to later dates, with those dates to be announced. » Read more

2020-03-06
McCoy Typer RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz, McCoy Tyner. His tenure with John Coltrane in the early 60s includes some of the most treasured recordings of the era, including My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. After leaving Coltrane's group, he had a long and successful solo career. He was 81. » Read more

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Martin Archer - In Stereo Gravity – This sprawling two-disc set of experimental musical vignettes is as interesting as it is difficult to describe, but as always, this writer will do his best to communicate its essence in words. The...  (2010) » Read more

Sebastian Hardie - Live in L.A. – Live in L.A. is taken from part of Sebastian Hardie's headlining Progfest 1994 set, and represents their first, and only, show since their previous "final performance" in Melbourne way...  (1999) » Read more

Alonso Arreloa / LabA - Música Horizontal – One of the big surprises of Baja 2008, Alonso Arreola and his band/project LabA tore up the opening slot at the theater on the first night with his funky 8-string bass maneuverings and avant-garde...  (2008) » Read more

Hedningarna - 1989-2003 – Readers of this magazine have likely noticed over the last few years the fondness that several on the staff have for artists on the NorthSide label, with Hedningarna consistently getting good reviews....  (2004) » Read more

Analogy - Analogy – Analogy were a band made up of both Italian and German members, yet remained far closer stylistically to the latter. Analogy's main influence was certainly Ummagumma era Pink Floyd – the...  (1995) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues