On Keep It To Yourself lead vocalist James LaBrie from prog-metal band, “Dream Theater” fronts a band featuring “Dali’s Dilemma” keyboardist Matt Guillory along with West Coast super guitarist and respected solo artist Mike Keneally. Rounded out by a potent if not explosive rhythm section consisting of bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Mike Mangini, “Mullmuzzler” portrays progressive rock in a vein which at times, seems to draw a little inspiration from hard rock super groups of the 70’s and 80’s.
The opener, “His Voice” commences with extremely loud (we’re talking Purple and Sabbath here) crunch chords backed by the seemingly defiant yet pulsating rhythm section. Here, LaBrie projects his exemplary vocal gifts rather well while displaying better than average range atop rapid motion and some fairly complex time signatures. Many of these pieces feature melodic choruses, clever orchestrations and fine synth work from Guillory who reaps the benefits of numerous solo opportunities. On that note, it would have been nice to hear Keneally get some more solo space as keyboard whiz Matt Guillory often gets the nod, frequently utilizing guitar-midi patches. Nice, but why not go for the real thing? Especially while performing side by side with this mega-talented guitarist. Keneally’s incredible “Beer For Dolphins” band and his recent collaboration with experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser bare his dazzling technique and consummate artistry above and beyond his work with the late Frank Zappa.
“The Shores Of Avalon” is a forthright and appealing tune along with strong and fairly obvious references to Led Zeppelin as “Beelzebubba” deals with subject matter related to President Clinton’s improprieties and ....”should we say lies?” Yet at this juncture chants of ...”Slick Willy/He’s selling his jive/Slick Willy/he’s taking a dive” already seem dated as the prose leaves little to the imagination, although keyboardist Trent Gardner should be commended for his trombone and programming along with nice work by guest trumpeter Michael Stewart. Here, the bright horns, rhythms and overall arrangement transcend the somewhat predictable lyrics. The composition titled, “Sacrifice” is a flat out gorgeous acoustic/electric ballad featuring LaBrie’s crisp, well-stated lyrics and supremely passionate vocalizing combined with a memorable melody and superb ensemble work. This piece seems miles ahead of some of the sludge being played on today’s rock radio. Hopefully and at the very least, “Sacrifice” will enjoy some widespread airplay. The final composition titled, “As A Man Thinks” commences with one of those familiar rebel rousing motifs made famous by the late Freddie Mercury and Queen yet progresses nicely into something more substantial.
Despite a few minor beefs this recording ages well! LaBrie is perhaps one of the handful of exciting vocalists out there – and along with some highly capable musicians, Keep It To Yourself is a commendable effort and proves once again that some rock vocalists can actually sing. LaBrie proves that notion in elevated if not obvious fashion! * * * ½
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