Last Chapter of Dreaming

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MoonJune's publicity for Marbin's sophomore release on the label, 2013's Last Chapter of Dreaming, proclaims them to be "the busiest and hardest working band in the U.S.A." This claim is made on the basis of a touring schedule fit for only the hardiest of road warriors, but Marbin are a busy and hard-working outfit on Last Chapter of Dreaming, too. Of course, one can be busy and work hard whether building a tower or digging a hole. In the case of Last Chapter of Dreaming, there is more of the former than the latter, although Marbin churn through most of these 14 tracks with such determination that one might imagine them furiously digging a hole while even more doggedly filling it in -- the result being a decent-sized mound of dirt upon which the band plants its flag by the album's end. In addition to the core duo of saxophonist Danny Markovitch and guitarist Dani Rabin, Marbin now feature the new rhythm team of drummer Justyn Lawrence and bassist Jae Gentile, who prove themselves able replacements for the preceding album's (2011's Breaking the Cycle) Paul Wertico and Steve Rodby, relegated to the status of "special guests" on various tracks here. The album begins auspiciously with "Blue Fingers," a midtempo heavy metal blues with some jazz-rock and even country seasoning. Rabin completes what sounds like a slide guitar audition for the Allman Brothers (he passes) before launching into a fusion shredfest; there's a Zappa-ish quality to the theme, or rather a quality one hears in Zappa acolytes like California's miRthkon and Belgium's Pierre Vervloesem, but sans humor as Marbin earnestly plow their turf -- in fact, touching on turf from across the globe as the album progresses.

"Inner Monologue" brings a Middle Eastern or Balkan tinge to Markovitch and Rabin's modal workouts over a relentless beat suggesting something closer to an "Inner Triathlon"; "Breaking the Cycle" marries Led Zep minor chording to Spanish-flavored trumpet from guest Victor Garcia; "On the Square" and "Redline" boogie hard, the former with a melody line like bluegrass on steroids, the latter swinging as madly as retro-futuristic funky rockabilly cats. "The Ballad of Daniel White" should have the word "Power" before "Ballad" in the title, and album highlight "The Way to Riches" delivers more Balkan flavor, this time with a lighter feel in its alternating five- and six-beat rhythms, soaring solos from both Rabin and Markovitch (on soprano), and driving percussion from guests Zohar Fresco and a returning Jamey Haddad. With tracks ranging from two to five and a half minutes, the tunes tend to enter briskly, confine their solos to somewhat predictable contours, and end abruptly, with respites from the pace arriving in the lullaby-like "Café de Nuit" (featuring another returning guest, Leslie Beukelman, on wordless vocals) and "Last Days of August," an actual ballad with discernable space in its arrangement. Everybody needs to take a breather now and then -- even the hardest-working band in showbiz.

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