Artist: Bobby Shock | Album: Street Angels | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2021
From: New Jersey, USA | Label: Independent
For fans of: Chris Squire, Patrick Moraz, The Alan Parsons Project
Bobby Shock is a New Jersey-based composer and multi-instrumentalist, whose last album—The Unforeseen—was a pleasant surprise for me last year. It was lush, diverse, and bass-forward. The compositions were unquestionably smart and progressive, but the music was still accessible.
Shock’s latest release continues with that general trend. The obvious focal point of this album is its 20-minute title track, but the other four songs are no less enjoyable.
Street Angels begins with its massive eponymous track. After a brief intro of celestial synths and warm bass, Shock delivers some delicate vocals over interpolating jazzy piano and dark, bombastic prog. A jumping, gliding synth solo acts as a bridge between this suite’s second and third parts, where the music draws heavily from AOR acts like Alan Parsons.
Around seven-and-a-half minutes in, this cut moves in a direction reminiscent of Yes’s darker moments. Biting bass and a dizzying array of keyboard tones blaze out an aggressive path before resolving to something a bit lighter. The second half of “Street Angels” is full of weird rhythms and chords balanced against some nods to slick ‘80s synth rock, and at no point does this song’s length become a burden.
Moving onto side two, the first song there is “It’s Gonna Shake You Up”. This song begins with an askew, funky feel reminiscent of Talking Heads. The instrumental part in the song’s middle, though, sounds like it could have been on Fragile. “I Quit My Job”, meanwhile, is the poppiest cut on the album. It’s still full of skillful instrumental flashes and fills, but the focus is on its melody.
The instrumental “Sidewalk Surfin’” follows. This is a highly varied seven minutes, initially opening on a funky, jazzy theme which is both laid-back and energetic. An acrobatic synth solo is the focus of the first part of this song, but is seamlessly segues into a weird, herky-jerky rhythm before just as suddenly transitioning to something slow and rich.
This album ends on “Leave Your Hate Behind”. The first part is slow-moving and draws from soul music and bluesy balladry. Its second part is weirder and jumpier. Staccato synth and bass lead the way for Shock’s falsetto vocals. At moments, the verses feel like a Bizarro world version of the Bee Gees. The instrumental moments, though, are some of the most adventurous passages on the whole album.
Street Angels is a fantastic record, and I’m glad Bobby Shock was able to maintain such a high quality of output on such a rapid schedule. His last album was released only seven months ago. The artful mix of progressive rock, art pop, new wave, and various other bits ‘n’ bobs results in what might be my favorite record of the year so far.