Upper Level Open Space

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By 1999, Chris Fournier had grown very comfortable with his Fonya disguise. Yet, despite a few old habits, he delivered one of his strongest albums that year. Upper Level Open Space is almost everything instrumental prog rock should be with only a little of what it should avoid. The album is loosely themed around the great outdoors, particularly mountain climbing. It gives way to aerial melodies and a feeling of grandeur. The album opens with the majestic "Stardaze at the Summit," a beautiful theme stated on electric guitar and repeated over the better part of the ten-minute duration while the arrangements below keep on changing. Slightly overlong, the piece nonetheless ranks among Fonya's best cuts. The heavy bass riff in "Acadia" and the epic "Mountain of God" provide the other highlights. "Guadelupe From Sierra Diablo" could have been in that category too, but Fournier went overboard in the drums and keyboards departments, overdubbing too many tracks. There is a naïve feel to his melodies that fits the general theme well, but some will see in them the influence of new age masters like Jean Michel Jarre and Kitaro. Never mind, the album remains mostly a rock endeavor (yes, that's a pun). The artist cannot shake all of the coldness that comes with this kind of one-man, programmed instrumental music, but he made a commendable effort putting in the human factor, thanks mostly to his guitar work, strongly recalling Richard Pinhas. This CD is a summit in Fonya's discography and a must for fans of the genre.

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