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If All Goes Wrong - The Aaron Clift Experiment

Looking for progressive rock bands can be like buying socks. 
Every department store has the complete gamut; standard white tube socks to a fitted Darth Vader, thick and warm to a thinner and cooler summer sack for your toes. But, if you’re like myself, only one has a fit and feel that is good all year round. 
Aaron Clift is that sock.

No, Aaron Clift is not a sock. Clift is a progressive rock musician that has assembled a talented group of prog players to forward his excellent songs. I call them songs because that’s what they are. Many of the prog rock artists that I come across write and perform “compositions” more than songs. The accessible song structure often escapes the talents of the prog genre. We often get long pieces of music that are broken up into movements, which can have a sterile or rigid feel. The Aaron Clift Experiment dances on the line between overbearing composition and simplistic song style very well. Their songs are complex and intricate but still very structured and accessible. The Dream Theater, Yes, and ELP fans will find much to like here, as will the fans of Rush or Styx. 

Upon first listen, the vocals stood out as very simple, well enunciated, and slightly awkward. Clift takes on vocal duties himself and they are not deep and soulful, yet they resemble the clear and high tone of vocalists like Jon Anderson (Yes) or James LaBrie (Dream Theater). What’s funny is, I can remember feeling a bit off kilter when I first heard Anderson and LaBrie as well. Those guys have since become two of my favorite singers, and by the fourth or fifth track on If All Goes Wrong I could feel my appreciation growing for Clift’s clear and simple delivery. And now that I have been through the album a few dozen times, I actually crave his style.

The instrumentation here is what the hardcore prog community will really appreciate. The bass line on “Wild Hunters”… The guitar work on “Dream Within A Dream”….. The manic drum technicality of “Last Crash”…. The string and keyboard arrangements on the title track and “Absent Lovers“…. These are elements that will make the Gentle Giant and King Crimson fans respect Clift and his band. I think all of the best of this band culminates in the song “Castle In The Sky,” though. Every position pulls out all the stops and they all lay down some kind of insane instrumental part. “Castle In The Sky” is just an amazing prog rock gem.

Throughout the album I hear influences and similarities to Tool (“Last Crash”), Wishbone Ash (“Absent Lovers”), The Beatles and ELO (“Better Off Before”), Dream Theater (“Castle In The Sky”), Jethro Tull (“Savage In A Fancy Suit”), Yes (“Dream Within A Dream”), Rush (“Wild Hunters”), and a few more. But, that’s not to say that The Aaron Clift Experiment isn’t unique, because they are. They incorporate these influences into panels of music that have been carefully and meticulously crafted into songs that will fit even the most finicky listener quite comfortably. 

I guess you could also say they’re like the perfect pair of socks.

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