Published on 28th March 2022
D’Virgilio, Morse & Jennings – Troika
If the idea of a collaborative album between these three gentlemen made your ears prick up, I dare say that by now you’ve figured out that it isn’t a Prog supergroup sounding like a mash up of Spock’s Beard and Haken. That may have disappointed some, but in fact this is a delightful album of simpler songs and gorgeous three-part harmonies which is refreshingly uplifting.
The very obvious starting point when describing the feel of this album is Crosby Stills and Nash. The first two songs especially are love songs which have CSN written all over them, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s abundantly clear from these two masterful songs that Neal Morse has chosen well when inviting two other voices to contribute to what may have started out as a solo album. Neal wanted to explore vocal harmonies, and Nick D’Virgilio and Ross Jennings lift the songs to a new level. Of course they’ve brought much more than that to the table, since all three have written songs and contributed instrumentation and ideas to each other’s songs. The result is a varied and very upbeat album full of subtleties and rich textures.
Opener Everything I Am kicks things off and sets the mood perfectly. The first few moments sound like they’re warming up, with gently picked acoustic guitar and hand drums before Morse says “yeah OK, let’s go now” and the guitars of Jennings and Morse strum in unison. It’s a warm and rich sound, and immediately the vocal blend is obviously spot on. Julia follows and reminds me of Suite Judy Blue Eyes in its multi-part structure, and soul searching, yearning lyrics. It began as a Jennings composition but ended as a co-write after alterations by Morse. Although predominantly acoustic, there are many subtle embellishments with guitar, piano and organ fleshing out the sound. The closing section is a joyous coda, and rounds the song off brilliantly.
You Set My Soul on Fire is a D’Virgilio song, and shows that all three are capable of writing suitable songs for this setting, and it’s a catchy sing-along love song of real quality. Elsewhere, things get a bit more political on the Morse penned A Change is Gonna Come, written during the dark days towards the end of the Trump administration when the United States seemed to be pulling itself apart. Typically for Morse it is optimistic that things have to get better, and that sense of hope carries the song off.
Another Trip Around the Sun is one of the more progressive leaning tracks, incorporating a vocal arrangement recalling Spock’s Thoughts, or even Gentle Giant, and it works particularly well. King for A Day and Second Hand Sons are much rockier, heavier songs, so it’s not all West Coast whimsy by any means, but closer What You Leave Behind brings things down again, and finishes the album on a similar note to the start, rounding this collection off beautifully.
It’s refreshing to find these Prog heavyweights kicking back and showing another side to their talents, and what could have been a throw-away release is anything but that. A better vocal blend would be hard to imagine, and that combined with quality songs like these makes this a very rewarding listen.
01. Everything I Am (5:41)
02. Julia (6:07)
03. You Set My Soul on Fire (3:23)
04. One Time Less (4:53)
05. Another Trip Around the Sun (4:40)
06. A Change is Gonna Come (4:24)
07. If I Could (4:03)
08. King for A Day (5:48)
09. Second Hand Sons (4:43)
10. My Guardian (3:44)
11. What You Leave Behind (4:17)
Total Time – 51:37
Nick D’Virgilio – Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Bass, Acoustic & Electric Guitar
Neal Morse – Vocals, Bass, Acoustic, Slide & Electric Guitar, Organ, Piano, Electric Piano, Mandolin
Ross Jennings – Vocals, Electric, 6 & 12 String Acoustic Guitar, eBow, Synth
Tony Levin – Bass (track 7)
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Countries of Origin: U.S.A. | U.K.
Date of Release: 2th February 2022