Exposé Online banner

The Underground Railroad — Through and Through
(Laser's Edge LE1033, 2000, CD)

by Jon Davis, 2001-12-01:

Through and Through Cover art

The Underground Railroad was formed with the express intent of playing music in the style of Genesis, but they have luckily strayed from the strict observance of that intention. There is a remnant of Genesis in the arrangements, the way the guitar and keyboards mix, but Bill Pohl’s guitar playing isn’t much like Steve Hackett’s, and Kurt Rongey uses keyboard voicings that don’t sound like Tony Banks. All in all, there’s a slight jazz-fusion edge to the playing, a bit of wandering outside the tonality of the songs. The album was recorded in a very piecemeal fashion – keyboard and backing guitar parts with drum machine first, then (when they added drummer John Livingston) real drumming, then (when Matt Hembree was hired) bass parts, and finally the vocals and lead guitar parts. The whole process took several years, so it’s amazing the music sounds so natural, as if the band had actually played it all together. The up side of the process is that the compositions are highly polished, almost like the band had developed them during years of live performances. This is one of the better neo-prog efforts of the last few years, taking the best elements of first-generation pioneers and updating them without losing sight of what makes progressive music appealing: a sense of adventure, instrumental prowess that serves rather than overpowers the songs, and a willingness to work outside the borders of accepted convention.


by Jeff Melton, 2000-10-01:

Kurt Rongey has finally found a group outlet for his advanced Canterbury and symphonic based ideas. Much like early Echolyn with Holdsworthian guitar blasts or similar to jazz inflected Scott McGill's role in Finneus Gauge without as strong a vocalist. Thus there's a strong link with UK and Bruford band material (circa One of a Kind) where Dave Stewart handled much of the arrangements. Guitarist Bill Pohl and Rongey have roots which stretch back several years including Pohl's lead guitarwork on "Long, Dark Corridor" from Rongey's first solo album, Book in Hand (1991). "The Comprachicos of the Mind" is a prime indicator keyboard wise, giving rise to Happy the Man and UK comparisons. Probably the most outstanding tracks are "The Doorman" where Pohl and Rongey unison leads within unique chord variations and tempo changes. Plus the album's title track is a strong summary piece which highlights the strengths of the group. I don't sense a strong Genesis vibe throughout the disc (comparable to that up San Francisco's Metaphor), but that's only due to the prominent use of variant keyboards throughout. Too bad the group didn't also include their excellent Egg cover from Mellow's Canterbury and Beyond tribute. Compositionally the group has far more complex roots and influences than Iluvatar or other neo-prog examples, which could explain why it's taken so long to arrive at this completed work. Overall, this is the best US progressive release since Discipline's last studio release and my safest bet for prog album of the year.


by Peter Thelen, 2000-10-01:

While this debut is impressive for its compositional savvy and great arrangements, one needs to remember that two of the main movers in this four-piece unit are guitarist Bill Pohl and keys-man Kurt Rongey, both having had at least critical success on several previous solo albums. So does that make this a supergroup of sorts? OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but on every track beginning to end it’s obvious that these guys are no amateurs. Using a palette of guitars, bass (and bass pedals), multi-synths, drums, and vocals, the compositions herein are angular and employ an abundance of dynamic contrasts, shifting key signatures, and frequent use of dissonance. While three of the six tracks are 10+ minute multi-part epics in the best prog tradition, nowhere will one find these guys falling back on the standard clichés; indeed the material and arrangements here are some of the freshest, most original this writer has heard in some time. Some influences in evidence might be Genesis, Van der Graaf, and other bands in the early Charisma camp. The vocal parts (note that UGRR’s music is predominantly instrumental) are strongly reminiscent of Happy the Man’s vocal material, or Italian band Leviathan’s Bee Yourself (is that an obscure enough reference?). In summary an exceptional, challenging, and surprisingly accessible debut, which this writer can wholeheartedly recommend.


Filed under: New releases , Issue 20 , 2000 releases

Related artist(s): Kurt Rongey, The Underground Railroad, Bill Pohl

More info

Latest news

2019-12-11
There's No Time Like the Present – The Belgian band Present has been one of the best avant-rock bands in the world since its formation in 1979. Over the years since then, Present has released nine amazing albums, and now they're ready to start work on number ten. They're looking for some financial help from their fans around the world. » Read more

2019-11-07
Glenn Smith RIP – Glenn Smith, founder, mandolinist, and primary composer of the DeLand, Florida based prog / fusion band Magnatar, passed away on October 18th 2019 at the age of 68, after a brief illness.  » Read more

2019-11-04
Dino Brassea RIP – Word reaches us of the passing of Dino Brassea, who sang and played flute in Cast for many years. By our count, Brassea appeared on 11 Cast albums between 1994 and 2002. He also released music as a solo artist. » Read more

2019-10-06
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more

2019-08-20
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

III Milenio - Aliança dos Tempos – Here's an example of where vocals can be quite innovative and then subsequently make you wince. The album is obviously a concept album and in the vein of Ange, the vocals are theatrical often being...  (1994) » Read more

Jasun Martz - The Pillory – Mellotron fans take note. Unique and uncompromising music, this masterpiece of neo-classical avant-garde rock stands alone. Martz began composing "The Pillory" around 1976, assembling his 40...  (1995) » Read more

Platurno - Núcleos – Platurno is a young Chilean progressive rock trio of guitars, keyboards, and drums. Núcleos is their 2006 debut release of 11 mostly instrumental songs. Each song is different, but has a similar...  (2009) » Read more

Henry Cow - Western Culture – Western Culture was originally released in 1978 as the final official album from Henry Cow. This single disc is separated into two 18 minute tracks: "History and Broken Prospects" (written...  (1996) » Read more

The Flower Kings - Retropolis – The latest release from Roine Stolt and Co., Retropolis, is a natural follow-up to last year's Back in the World of Adventures. The variety dominating that album is present here also, but the...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues