Leonardo - The Absolute Man

Original Cast Recording

Magna Carta Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Ever heard something so incredibly wonderful it put you in a state of shock?

You've got to hand it to Trent Gardner of Magellan; this guy has cojones the size of grapefruit. As a side project, he's put together a cast of prog-rock luminaries to do a rock opera on the life of one of the most gifted men in history, Leonardo da Vinci. The cast list includes James LaBrie of Dream Theater, Chris Shryack of Under The Sun, Steve Walsh of Kansas, Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery, and most of Dali's Dilemma as the backup band. This is not just something you throw together on a weekend. It's ambitious, it's complex, it's daring...my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

...and to quote Keith Jackson, oh mah LORDY it's good.

Leonardo: The Absolute Man is the best rock opera I've heard since the first time I heard Chess, which was longer ago than I care to remember. The musicianship is superb, the music moving back and forth from straight-ahead progressive metal to operatic fillips and flourishes (yes, that is a trombone on "This Time, This Way").

Specific kudos have to go to the drumwork of Jeremy Colson, who did what some would call impossible: he learned an entire CD of drum machine parts, then turned them into "live" drum parts, adding his own flourishes. It certainly resulted in some killer drum work, especially in the vicious, thrashing thrumming percussion on "Inventions". Wayne Gardner's guitar is wonderful. Trent Gardner's keyboards are outstanding. The production, contributed by longtime Rush producer Terry Brown, is flawless, the sound crisp and unmuddied.

As for performances, James LaBrie owns the part of Leonardo from the first line he sings. He's alternately passionate, fierce, and wondering, one of the best vocal performances I've heard. Chris Shryack and Steve Walsh, whose characters are strongly interlinked, sing strong parts, including a powerful duet on "Inventions". Lisa Bouchelle's performance as Mona Lisa is perfect. All the other performers are excellent as well.

There isn't a bad vocal line on the CD, and the songs meet the challenge. "First Commission" is heartbreakingly beautiful, "Inventions" is fierce and cynical, "Shaping The Invisible" is a brilliant solo, "Reins of Tuscan" is brutally honest...

I begin to run out of adjectives here, and for good reason. Leonardo is the best rock album I've heard this year. Waste no time. Get a copy for yourself. The Absolute Man is absolutely incredible.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-



© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.