Izz - My River Flows,
For one reason or another, my path and that of Izz did not cross until 2017, when I came across their 2009 album ‘The Darkened Room’, which I loved. At that time, I was still working hard on my books, and didn’t follow-up on their catalogue, which I fully intended to do, and then in 2019 I was sent the masterpiece which is ‘Don’t Panic’ and I was determined not to lose track of them again. Bassist/guitarist/pianist/singer John Galgano and I have since kept in touch, and he thought I might be interested in hearing their 2005 album ‘My River Flows’ and how right he was. This was their third full studio album (the previous year’s ‘Ampersand’ being a collection of outtakes from the first two albums plus some live tracks) and the same core quintet were still here with John joined by Paul Bremner (electric guitar), Tom Galgano (keyboards, piano, organ, vocals), Brian Coralian (drum programming, acoustic & electronic percussion), and Greg DiMiceli (drums, percussion). On the previous album, singers Anmarie Byrnes and Laura Meade had guested on a song each, but here Anmarie has two and Laura four. Anmarie would then sing on the next two studio albums on her own before being joined again by Laura for the following two, with the band these days being the same septet which recorded this album some 16 years ago.
If it ain’t broke, why fix it? There has been no need to make any changes to the line-up just because they are just so damn good together. They may not have been the most prolific band in prog history, but when every album is such a delight who cares? This is all about quality as opposed to quantity and coming to this album as if it were a brand-new release is a total delight as everything about this is simply wonderful from start to finish. There are a lot of pianos on this album, which gives it a very different feeling to bands who “just” use keyboards. The bass is sometimes a lead instrument, and while not as chunky as Chris Squire it sounds just right within the context, and guitars can crunch or drive through, whatever the arrangement requires. Ah, the arrangement, this is what really makes their music stand out as while there is often great complexity there is always a purpose within it. They bring in dated keyboard sounds or acoustic guitars as the music demands, and for a band with two drummers/percussionists they are not in your face nearly as much as one might imagine.
This is progressive rock music, which is warm and comfortable on first hearing, like settling down with an old blanket in a favourite chair, and the longer the listener is in the zone the less chance there is of them getting up and doing anything else. All singers have wonderful pitch and emotion, and the listener soon finds themselves deep inside the world of Izz. There is deep contrast contained within the music, combined with a sense of beauty and almost reverence, which makes this a true voyage of discovery for any prog traveller, who will make it to their destination with a broad smile on their face. I do still have one or two Izz albums to discover in their back catalogue, something I am looking forward very much indeed, and let us also hope there is a new album soon. If you have yet to come across the mighty Izz then I urge you to do so today.