Progressive Rock Magazine Issue #23

Special thanks to writer/publisher Michel Bilodeau for allowing the English translation of these articles to be re-printed here.  to visit the Terra Incognita Magazine's website. Also, you can  to learn about the Terra Incognita Progressive Rock Music Festival.

Recently, a surprise came to us from California. Keyboardist, composer and producer David Minasian arrived with a jewel of a symphonic disc entitled Random Acts of Beauty. It is a name which is likely to be unfamiliar to fans of progressive rock except perhaps the most attentive fans of Camel who may have noticed the name in combination with the DVD projects of Andy Latimer's company. That also explains the presence of the legendary guitarist playing on the opening track of Random Acts of Beauty... which admittedly generates immediate interest!

TI: For the benefit of our readers, can you talk a little about your beginnings as a musician?

DM: I began classical piano training when I was 5 and this greatly influenced my taste in music. As I got older, I started getting into bands who were doing symphonic progressive rock including the Moody Blues, Genesis, Renaissance, Yes, Jethro Tull, Barclay James Harvest, Strawbs, Kayak, and of course Camel. I soon began writing my own songs and recording lots of demos. I tried to get a record deal, but unfortunately by this time, it was the 1980ís and record companies in Los Angeles werenít interested in progressive rock at all. So I went ahead and recorded my first album Tales of Heroes and Lovers independently in 1984. The album was never released properly and therefore not much happened with it but a video I produced for one of its songs did get MTV airplay. From there, I collaborated with a few other artists and recorded some music for films before beginning work on Random Acts of Beauty in 2009.

TI: I haven't had the opportunity to listen to your first album Tales of Heroes and Lovers. Is it in the same musical style as your latest album?

DM: I have a definite style about my writing that seems to permeate everything I do. So you can hear some similarities. But the songs on the Tales album are generally shorter in length than those that are on Random Acts of Beauty. But the melodies, lush arrangements, and classical touches are still there.

TI: Would I be wrong to say that Random Acts of Beauty is an album that you wanted to do for a long time? Can you talk about the genesis of this project?

DM: Yes, Random Acts of Beauty is the album I always wanted to record and it turned out exactly as I had hoped it would. It all started back in January of 2009 when I got a call from Andy Latimer who wanted to discuss the new DVD I was producing for Camel Productions featuring Camel live in concert called The Opening Farewell. During this conversation he encouraged me to do a new album and I promised him I would. I had been putting it off for a number of years due to my busy schedule, but I finally found some time in June of that year and began to get my studio set up. The first track I recorded for the project was Masquerade. I sent a basic track to Andy to get his opinion and that is when he very, very kindly offered to play on it. And for that I will always be grateful. From there, my 20 year old son Justin, who is also an amazing guitar player, and I began work on the remainder of the album. We finally completed it in June of 2010 and the album was released worldwide on October 5, 2010 on the ProgRock Records label.

TI: How does it feel for a father to work with his son?

DM: Well, poor Justin, I felt kind of bad for him. Here youíve got the legendary Andy Latimer playing guitar on the very first track on the album and then Justin, who is only 20 years old, has to follow that and keep the momentum going for the remainder of the album after the bar has already been set so high. But I have to admit, Justin did a fantastic job. He has studied all the great prog bands and has an amazing technique and style himself. Working with Justin on the album was a wonderful experience. Heís got a great attitude and has no limits when it comes to playing guitar. He seemed to know exactly what I wanted on each song without me even saying anything. And not only is he a great guitarist, heís a good writer too. He co-wrote the 14 minute epic Frozen In Time with me.

TI: There was a long period of time between your two solo albums. Why? Were you unsatisfied with the experience of the first one?

DM: I love creating music just as much as I love making films, but it seems music has always taken a back seat to my film work. During the period between the two albums I did manage to record one or two albums with other singers and compose the occasional soundtrack amid all of my film work. However by 2009, I was ready to record a new album. Random Acts of Beauty represents the first time I was able to record a no-holds-barred symphonic progressive rock album.

TI: During this period you wrote for others artists. Chris Lloyds... Tracy Miller... Was it a good experience for you?

DM: Chris Lloyds was a wonderful singer from Australia. He and I teamed up to form a band called Plan B just after my Tales of Heroes album had come out. We recorded nearly an albumís worth of material for the Pasha/CBS record label in 1986 but none of it was ever released. Although we got to work with some tremendous musicians, I was never really happy with the material for that particular project. Remember this was the 80ís, a bad time for prog. After returning to Australia, Chris did record one of my songs called Itís Driving Me Crazy with noted producer Robie Porter and released it as a single. Tracy Miller was another talented singer I got to work with while recording the main theme I had written for a Kris Kristofferson film called The Joyriders. Ultimately, it was issued as the first single from the soundtrack album by EMI. That was a great experience and I really enjoyed it. As you can imagine, getting songs placed in films is a very difficult thing to do because it is so competitive.

TI: Can you talk about the album that you released with William Drews? I presume it's not the same musical style.

DM: Unlike the Plan B or the Joyriders projects which were very commercial, the album I did with singer William Drews in 1996 titled Itís Not Too Late was a bit more progressive and in many ways signaled a return to my more symphonic roots. The album featured two epics Ė a seven minute track called Mind Field and a 12 minute track titled City of Gold, plus a short classical piece called Flat Baroque. There were a lot of lush keyboard orchestrations on that album plus some really great guitar work from Jeff Burton, son of Hall of Fame legend James Burton who was known for his work with Elvis Presley, John Denver, and Roy Orbison, etc.

TI: Andy Latimer plays on your latest album. How long have you known Andy? Can you talk about your prior connection with him?

DM: I met Andy Latimer in 1996 after I had been asked to produce and direct Camelís concert DVD Coming of Age. Since then I have produced an additional six DVDís for Camel Productions including the documentary Curriculum Vitae and their latest concert film The Opening Farewell which was just released. Andyís contributions of guitars and vocals to the track Masquerade from Random Acts of Beauty are simply stunning. It has been an honor to be able to know and work with this legend over the years. Both Andy and his partner/lyricist Susan Hoover are two of the most wonderful people on the planet.

TI: Can you say that the music of Camel was a source of inspiration for you?

DM: Camel were one of my favorite bands growing up. Andy Latimer has a talent for writing some of the most gorgeous melodies I have ever heard. His guitar playing is so expressive and emotional. One of the things that I respect about him is that he truly pours everything he has into his compositions. While we can all think of bands whose newer material doesnít quite measure up to their older stuff, Camel are one of the few bands that have continued to make great music right up until today. I consider Camelís last four albums to be as good, if not better, than their classic material from the 70ís.

TI: Do you plan to present some concerts to promote Random Acts of Beauty?

DM: There are no plans at this time but Iím looking into the possibility.

TI: Are you presently working on some other projects?

DM: Iím currently working on another film project and will begin thinking about writing a new album later this year.

We asked David to list his all time favorite progressive rock albums and to talk a bit about each one:

1) Blue Jays by Justin Hayward and John Lodge. This was the album that inspired me to try my own hand at writing music. Itís a flawless album featuring soaring melodies, great guitar work, lovely vocal harmonies, and even a classical touch on a few of the songs. Both of these artists were at the top of their game when they recorded this album. The album cover was gorgeous as well.

2) Seventh Sojourn by The Moody Blues. This was the first album I ever bought as a kid after hearing the track Land of Make Believe on the radio. The incredible songwriting, the Mellotron, the flutes, the guitars, the vocalsÖ itís all here. Although probably the least progressive of their classic seven albums (thereís no poetry or sound effects this time around), I feel it contains their strongest material.

3) Trick of the Tail by Genesis. This was my first exposure to this incredible band. Tracks like Dance on a Volcano and Los Endos demonstrated just how powerful, innovative, and complex this band could be, while songs such as Entangled, Mad Man Moon, and Ripples were simply astonishing in their beauty.

4) Blondel by Amazing Blondel. I highly doubt this album has ever appeared on a top 10 prog list before. This quaint little English band had been known for its exclusive use of medieval instruments, but was about to morph into a folk rock outfit. This transition album contains the best elements of both styles and is therefore unique in its sound. Wonderful melodies, appealing vocals, and lush acoustic guitars throughout.

5) Ever Sense the Dawn by Providence. Signed to the Moody Bluesí Threshold label, this six piece band from Idaho only released one album. Featuring a keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, and three string players (violin, viola, and cello), Providence pioneered a unique form of Ďclassical folkí by combining beautiful melodies and highly complex string arrangements.

6) A Nod and a Wink by Camel. While the best days of most prog bands from the 70ís are now behind them, Camel has continued to release one great album after another into the new millennium. Itís a testament to Andrew Latimerís creative genius that 2002ís Nod and a Wink is as good as any of Camelís previous efforts. Very progressive yet instantly appealing with great melodies and magical arrangements.

7) Gone to Earth by Barclay James Harvest. My introduction to this band was the previous yearís magnificent Octoberon. And while I regard that album as perhaps their crowning achievement, I actually enjoy this album a bit more. Tracks like Hymn, Poor Manís Moody Blues, and especially Sea of Tranquility are excellent examples of the BJH style of Mellotron-based symphonic rock.

8) Song for All Seasons by Renaissance. The previous four albums by the pioneering classical rock band Renaissance had all been works of art. This melodic and powerful release continued the tradition but added two new items Ė the electric guitar and a hit single. The fact that Michael Dunford could successfully write a 4 minute hit (Northern Lights) in addition to his usual 10 minute epics (Day of the Dreamer, Song for All Seasons), demonstrated just how versatile a composer he really was.

9) Going for the One by Yes. This was in my opinion the most engaging of all of Yesí works featuring their classic line-up. Turn of the Century is absolutely gorgeous while the melodic and progressively arranged single Wondrous Stories somehow manages to be commercial without really compromising. Meanwhile the beautiful 15 minute Awaken stands as one of the bandís best and most innovative epics.

10) Songs from the Wood by Jethro Tull. Ian Anderson and company perfected their sound on this delightful release. The arrangements are incredibly complex, yet the material is highly appealing. Andersonís creative lyrics and the musicís tricky time signatures serve as the albumís highlights. This is Tull at their melodic best.

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order):
1) Shadow of the Moon by Blackmoreís Night
2) Voyage of the Acolyte by Steve Hackett
3) Delicate Flame of Desire by Karnataka
4) Merlin by Kayak
5) Seasonís End by Marillion
6) Blomljud by Moon Safari
7) Wise After the Event by Anthony Phillips
8) Photos of Ghosts by PFM
9) Hero & Heroine by Strawbs
10) Criminal Record by Rick Wakeman

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