Leonardo - The Absolute Man

Original Cast Recording

Magna Carta Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/28/2004

(Editor's note: Portions of this review were originally published on houseofshred.com)

The name Magna Carta Records has in recent years become synonymous with great progressive rock. No other label has produced the quantity and quality of excellent releases in this genre. One of the mainstays of Magna Carta's creative stable of artists and visionaries is Trent Gardner. Gardner has his name linked with dozens of projects on the label. Starting with his own band Magellan and on to several of Magna Carta's tribute albums and more recently, the stellar Steve Walsh solo album. His latest project is the progressive/symphonic masterpiece my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Leonardo - The Absolute Man.

The subject of Leonardo is the seminal creative genius Leonardo Da Vinci. Painter, architect, writer, musician and scientist are just a few of the many disciplines that Da Vinci practiced. Considered by many to be one of the most prolific creative influences on modern culture, his life is fertile ground for this biographical exportation, and Gardner's moving symphonic rock is the perfect vehicle to convey this story.

At its heart it's a concept album. While not a linear story, Leonardo is a series of vignettes that portray key events in his life. One however, does not need to be familiar with his life to enjoy this album. The individual songs stand on their own, and the lush instrumental passages that tie the vocal songs together add continuity and dimension.

Featuring a stellar cast, the voice of Leonardo is provided by James LaBrie of Dream Theater. LaBrie is perfect for the part and shows the great power and range that DT fans are already familiar with. The rest of the cast (11 individual vocalists in all) is comprised primarily of artists from the Magna Carta label including Steve Walsh of Kansas, Chris Shryack of Under the Sun and one of my favorite performers on the disc, Ice Age vocalist Josh Pincus, who delivers an incredible performance.

It's hard to decide what impressed me most on this disc-the incredible musical arrangements, or the powerful vocal performances. The musical emotions of Gardner's compositions range from the pastoral to the chaotic, as bits of heavy progressive rock meld into graceful symphonic interludes, powerful vocals and beautiful melodic passages including a masterfully delivered duet between Steve Young and Michelle Young on "First Commission."

The CD packaging is very well done as well, featuring a nice introduction by Trent Garner, a full libretto of the score and some nice artwork.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-


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© 2004 Bruce Rusk 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.