1/ The Girl On the Back of the Motorcycle (Howard,LaVey) 5.41 2/ Melting (Howard,Rhoades) 4.47 3/ Chase the Blues Away (Buckley,PH,EC,SS,HS,RC) 5.40 4/ The East (Howard) 4.57 5/ Brilliant Ending (Howard) 6.16 6/ A Pleasant Fiction (Howard) 6.20 7/ Can I Get a Witness? (Howard) 4.59 8/ Carlotta (Howard,Jarboe) 6.12 9/ Where You Stand (Howard) 3.30 10/ Give Me Everything (Howard) 3.45 Recorded at Orange Music Sound, Orange, New Jersey and Pyramid Sound, San Francisco, California Engineer at Orange Sound: Oz Fritz Engineer at Pyramid Sound: Matt Donner Mixed at Pyramid Sound by Percy Howard and Matt Donner Assistant: Felipe Meira Produced, directed and generated by Percy HowardPercy Howard: vocals; Bill Laswell: bass; Vernon Reid: guitar; Charles Hayward: drums; Haroun Serang: guitar; Buckethead: guitar; Jarboe: vocals; Eraldo Bernocchi: programming, guitar; Jonathan Byerly: saxophone; Ricky Carter: drums; Edo Castro: bass; Matt Doner: ????; DK Dyson: vocals; John Ettinger: violin; Giovanna Flaggs: ????; Kris Force: cello; Lisamarie Jacobs: ????; Andrew Luthringer: ????; Renee Nelson: ????; Robert Rich: ????; Hoppy Rhodes: ????; Steve Sullivan: guitar; Jill Tracy: ????.
2004 - Necessary Angel (USA), PH6764 (CD) 2009 - Voiceprint (UK), 8872172 (CD)
Both Meridiem CDs feature colorfully, professionally designed CD booklets and cover art.
So we have two Meridiem releases with two different approaches. My favourite of the two is Full Catastrophe. If you dig improvised vocals or instrumentation, you might want to check this band out. If you seek something more mainstream, this isn’t it. My biggest suggestion for room for improvement, should Howard decide to revive Meridiem some day, is to handle his own singing. With all due respect to the talented guest singers on A Pleasant Fiction, Howard has an awesome singing voice.
A Pleasant Fiction: 6 out of 10
(taken from a larger, two album combined review)
Jim Corcoran (courtesy of the Dutch Progressive Rock Page website)
Percy Howard and his Project Band Meridiem has two CDs out there, one from 1998, one from 2000. I have not yet heard them. However his third, A Pleasant Fiction, Meridiem Volume Three (Voiceprint/Pangea) has been grabbing my ears for a week. It is time to report in on it.
Percy gathers together a fairly large group of musicians for this current volume, most notably Vernon Reid, Bill Laswell and Buckethead. Percy Howard does most of the vocals and he has soul. I believe it is Jill Tracy that is also a vocalist here and she contrasts Percy well. There may be others vocalists appearing too, but I don't know and it doesn't matter, really.
What we have is a musical trip that circumnavigates all kinds of progressive, alt and metallic-fusion realms. There is a story line that threads its way throughout and it has a romantic flavor. It is the well-crafted and excellently performed songs that musically stand out. The ensemble is top notch, guitar work notable and everything gels in a way conducive to the ears of 2009. I am sometimes reminded of Kip Hanrahan's imagery of love on the hot griddle. This is in Percy's own bag, though.
The songs are sophisticated and complicated enough that a single hearing does not do them justice. (And I sometimes wonder what reviewers think they are doing when they react to a recording based on a single listen, if there are any out there who still do that. OK if you know the music more or less beforehand. Not OK for a virgin slab of music.) Repeated listening reveals the content and puts the songs firmly in the memory. They are the sort of things Carla Bley, Mike Mantler and others pioneered in the '70s, art-rock songs, if you will.
Anybody who wants something with a lot of thought and care put into it, who likes rock but doesn't like the more banal versions, who looks for the edgier forms, would do well to hear this CD at least two or three times, or ten. . . .
Gapplegate (courtesy of the Gapplegate blog)
Depending on one’s perspective, the breadth of styles in what is termed heavy metal and hard rock (not necessarily extreme music) is a blessing and a curse. The fact that the ambient style has been included in heavy metal’s scope is a source of much debate. But if one believes that heavy metal is defined more by the passion and dedication of the performer then the debate loses its central arguments.
Percy Howard developed the Meridiem project as a way for him to express his classically trained singing style in a more progressive manner – this approach combines ambient, progressive rock, jazz, soul, and classical styles in unique ways. The Meridiem project has been a collaborative effort featuring the talents of many individuals both in and out of the metal and hard rock styles. Percy Howard’s Merdiem project includes the likes of Vernon Reid (Living Color), Buckethead (Guns N Roses), Jarboe (Swans), Bill Laswell (Praxis, Herbie Hancock) among many others.
“A Pleasant Fiction” plays out like a soundtrack to a film that explores the themes of love and spirituality as the thrust of the lyrics. The pacing is deliberately slow and unusually quiet – as such “A Pleasant Fiction” is an understated voyage. An unlikely cover forms the heart of the first half of the disc. Tim Buckley’s “Chase the Blues Away” is a dramatic revision that is cinematic in development and bombastic in its conclusion. “The East” is the disc’s heaviest number in which ambient landscapes give way to a near apocalyptic disintegration. The title track crackles like an untamed fire. “Can I Get A Witness” recalls the gospel-tinged emotion of King’s X. Funk gets a turn in “Where You Stand.” In all cases the songs bear the imprint of a minimalist approach that allows the imagination to explore the album’s themes with open ears.
“A Pleasant Fiction” is for the adventurous music listener that is receptive to new approaches to the progressive rock style.
“A Pleasant Fiction” was produced by Percy Howard.
Christopher J. Kelter (courtesy of the Rough Edge website)
A Pleasant Fiction does not betray its title: this is an enjoyable collection of what is probably best described as "art-rock/crossover prog" songs put together under the tutelage of Percy Howard. Howard is a singer/producer who is the generator and impetus behind the Meridiem project, of which this is the third album, following on from 1998's eponymous debut and 2000's Incidental Seductions.
The Meridiem project is a collaborative one and features a host of artists in support: Bill Laswell, Vernon Reid, Buckethead, Jarboe, Charles Hayward, Eraldo Bernocchi, Kali Lavey, Happy Rhodes, Jill Tracy, DK Dyson, Haroun Serang, Edo Castro, Ricky Carter and John Ettinger.
A Pleasant Fiction is a transitional work, in that it is more inclined to song structures as opposed to the ambient soundscapes of his previous Meridiem work, and Howard's intention is to continue in this style in the near future. The album was originally recorded in 2004 but for some reason has taken a number of years to reach the public - it's certainly not a lack of quality that has given rise to the delay!
The album is designed as a loose concept based around "love" in all its forms. In truth, it's not a strong concept that screams out, the strength of this album derives from some excellent individual songs: musically, as a whole, the album has quite an eclectic feel, given the different styles and guest vocalists used.
There are some highlights worth mentioning, the first of which is the classy opening number, "The Girl on the Back of the Motorcycle", with its sexy female vocal offset by Howard's lascivious, spooky singing – it's like some perverse horror movie! The album's eclecticism is underlined as soon as the next song, "Melting", a beautiful, soft female-vocal late night jazz number. "Chase the Blues Away" is a deconstruction of a Tim Buckley song, and is gorgeous in this wistful and romantic version. The album then gets a little rockier in its middle phase, losing some quirkiness, and also some of the sparkle on the way, although I particularly enjoyed the guitar work on the title track. Towards the end we regain some of that unusual "creepiness" that made the start of the album so intriguing: "Carlotta" is quite spooky at the end and the final number, "Give Me Everything", gives the album a great climactic finish, building up to a horror movie-like crescendo both vocally and musically: it's a wonderful musical ending to a fine album!
If you enjoy the quirkier side of music then this is a good place to start, often slightly jazziifed, these songs are a very benign way to listen to something that isn't quite "straight". It reminds me of another very good album that I reviewed in 2008, Not Different But Not the Same from C.C.A. (Cushma, Cides & Alexander).
4 out of 5 stars
Alex Torres (courtesy of the Sea of Tranquility website)