Ajalon > This Good Place > Reviews
"Promised Land," the first vocal track, is instantly catchy, owing to the sing-along-able chorus. It reveals that not only do they have that "mid-west" sound, but also that they aren't afraid of including a pop element to their prog. "Sword Of Goliath" is more energetic, rockier tune. However, it's not the strongest of the album's tracks, as it reveals some of the weaknesses in Henderson's voice. Instrumentally, it sounds a bit like something from Rush, yet I can't pin down a specific track ... it's a bit poppier than Rush, and parpy keyboards give it yet another character, but you can hear a bit of Rush in the bass lines (also Henderson). Another nice track of this ilk is "The Highway." It's got a darker tone that the album's other tracks, throatier guitar tones, bass, and an arrangement that ends on the down-beat rather than the up-beat. Even still, a chorus you'll remember.
The exception to all this mid-westernness is the funkier track "What Kind Of Love," which includes guest Rick Wakeman on a moog and organ solo, the latter of which is quite jazzy. Here, as you might expect, keyboards are out front, and, in a rare moment of spotlight, Lil's percussion. Geographically, the music has visited the big city. The arrangement here brings in all those bright lights, the hustle and bustle of traffic, etc. The track isn't about any of that thematically, as it's basically a question that asks, in essence, why have we forsaken the lessons of God/Jesus (take your pick), and, as the notes indicate was written in the wake of the Columbine High School shooting of April 20, 1999 (Odd that I should happen to finally write this review a few days past the 12th anniversary of that event).
For some years now Randy George has been one of the driving forces behind the 'CPR' various artists albums promoting the burgeoning genre of Christian progressive rock. Now he has time to attend to his own band, Ajalon. Their second release, 'On The Threshold Of Eternity', was a superb album and it is great that George has been able to get his band mates back together for a swifter follow up (only three years!). The band describe this set as a "much more allegorical album lyrically" than their previous two albums, and certainly the message is less direct than on the previous outings. In their words, "The thematic concept on this CD addresses the depravity and selfishness of the human condition and how it has led to the downfall of our character. But the story is undergirded with the concept that it is never too late to turn from those ways to find something greater within ourselves that ultimately leads us to This Good Place!" But there are other big differences here too. Ajalon is a three piece; George the multi-instrumentalist, Wil Henderson lead vocalist and Dan Lile on drums...
... “This Good Place” is a solid effort from Ajalon, and as far as Christian progressive rock goes it is a creation with much less of an emphasis on preaching and missionary antics than what most will be used to by artists defining themselves as belonging to that belief system. The expression of choice belongs to the lighter side of the symphonic art rock universe, with a few superb ventures into slightly darker sounding territories. All in all a production well worth investigating by those who generally enjoy symphonic progressive rock, especially if fond of songs with a light and generally positive atmosphere.
Interview with band
I have not heard their previous albums so I really did not know what to expect when I put this into my CD player. The music is so melodic the melodies will stick in your head long after the music is finished playing. The musicianship is top notch and there are some great keyboard and guitar solos but this is not music that is overly pretentious or used only as a vehicle to show off their musical chops. Keyboards are vital to the band's sound and are utilized to create lush background sound-scapes or blistering solos that put a capital P in progressive.
Often the vocals in progressive music are a major bone of contention, but Ajalon have a fine singer in Wil Henderson. He has a pleasing, smooth voice with a good range and never hits a wrong note delivering beautiful background harmonies and melodic lead passages....
Anyone interested in melodic prog needs to hear this CD. Simply put, one of the finest progressive rock albums released in 2009. Outstanding!
Ajalon is a band discovered (promoted) by Rick Wakeman of Yes. They started this band in 1994 and this is the bands 3rd CD. IT was produced and mixed by Steve Smith. Randy George (in Neil Morse’s band) is playing all the instruments except the drums (Dan Lile). The CD features 7 songs in one hour. Wil Henderson lays down the lead vocals and writes the lyrics. The songs are quite personal and the band is very religious. Anyway, this is very laid back pop prog and not really my kind of music at all but Randy George lays down some amazing solos on some of the songs. If you like melodic pop prog, this might be for you….
...As mentioned earlier those who picked up on the latter day Morse connection, may also wonder as to the spiritual content. Yes Ajalon wear their Christian beliefs proudly, however not overtly so here. The lyrics tending more to look at an inner city environment and those affected by it. The rather sweet sound the band produce often belies the stronger lyrical content. So yes there is still a message to be had, but more succinctly put...
A shift in my own personal tastes, progressively speaking, has meant that This Good Place didn't wholly resonate with me initially. There is, however little to fault with this CD, but it was perhaps just a little too polished for my liking and lacked some rawer edges. The production on This Good Place is crystal clear allowing all the musical detail to ring out, whilst the detailed album artwork and eight page booklet are fitting and subtly presented. So all in all a strong release that will appeal to those with a leaning towards the more commercial edges of the progressive spectrum. A liking for AOR and or propensity towards the works of Neal Morse and early Spock's Beard, along with the pioneers of prog should steer you towards this album.
...The sound centres around multi instrumentalist Randy George (guitar, keyboards, bass), who has played with Neal Morse for many years. Vocalist Will Henderson and drummer Dan Lile complete the trio. These three have played a lot of session work including with Steve Hackett, Paul Gilbert and Adrian Belew amongst others.
The vocals are good, strong yet often gentle, some good layered effects and the prog influences varied. From Yes to Marillion and 80s King Crimson, there is also a nod to the commercial guitar pop/prog of Toto...
...Overall, This Good Place has a wistful, often melancholy, tone to it. The compositions can be bracing and moving without being excessively heavy as Not Man or Lullaby of Bedlam proves. Intrigue in composition and expertise in musicianship are at a premium throughout This Good Place where Randy George (a compatriot with Neal Morse) bends guitar, bass and keyboards over Dan Lile's percussion for a luxurious and expansive effect; again, take note of Lullaby of Bedlam, but also Redemption, with it's fusion motif, as representative pieces. Without doubt, much foresight and inspiration (possibly more than a little divine guidance) has gone into This Good Place's creation making for some grand and entertaining music. Highly recommended!
If progressive rock is considered an acquired taste by some listeners, then Christian prog — with its often overt spiritual themes — caters to even more personal preferences. Yet a progressive-Christian artist such as Neal Morse appeals to even non-believers simply because he makes immensely and intensely listenable music. Same goes for the U.S.-based progressive trio Ajalon and its third CD, This Good Place.
Taking its name from the Bible’s Book of Joshua and meaning “grace in the midst of the fire,” Ajalon certainly exhibits a graceful touch that accents the often subtle lyrics. Multi-instrumentalist Randy George (who, incidentally, played bass with Morse) has a knack for writing sensitive and meaningful material with wide musical appeal. And while Wil Henderson’s voice might be thin in spots, the music triumphs.
References to Kansas, Spock’s Beard and Electric Light Orchestra abound, and they should convince listeners that This Good Place really is a good place.