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Mastermind: Excelsior!

AAJ Staff By

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I kept hearing great things about this release long before Berends could ever get a copy off to me. I am a fusion head and search the globe to find the best. I then share the finds with the rest of fusion folk out there. A few months before I had the joy of seeing Mastermind live at NEARfest 1999 my demo copy finally arrived. I was not disappointed. This is one those releases that features musicians playing exactly the right kind of guitar riffs, drum lines, and keyboard runs. Much ado has been made over such 1999 releases such as Vertú with it’s huge monetary backing. Just between the rest of the world and me — listen up. Bill Berends on fusion axe, Rich Berends on killer drums, and Jens Johansson dazzling keys on are several notches above the dynamic fusion of even Vertú. These guys give it 110% and there is absolutely no filler, no weak tracks, no intrusive vocals — everything smokes and sizzles.

As I said all the tracks are a delight. This comes from a very picky and critical fusion lover. But if you want headbanging, spine-tingling, fiery-fused abandon then do these two tracks first — “On the Road by Noon” and then “Sudden Impulse”. Good golly Miss Molly! Land sakes! Izzat Mahervishner er sumthin’?

Excelsior! is one of those releases that is firmly a must-have for fusion folks. Bill Berends on fiery riffage guitars, is driven by a maddening wall of brother Rich's drumming. This is Mastermind in their prime. But there is much more. Fusion and rock genius Jens Johansson joins the team on explosive keys and synth bass. If you loved The Mahavishnu Orchestra, enjoyed Johansson's recent fusion projects with Allan Holdsworth, Shawn Lane, and Mike Stern — be sure to grab your own copy of Mastermind's return to the primal roots of killer fusion. Excelsior! will delight progheads as well. Do it again guys, do it again!

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