Versus X

Live at the Spirit

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If they had been around in the early '70s, the four musicians of the German progressive rock group Versus X would be stars, but since they surfaced 20 years later they are trapped in an underground culture. Their brand of complex, philosophical prog rock stands among the best of what the decade had to offer. Why? Because they balance complexity and relevance. Many prog rockers of the '90s played the complexity card to death, forgetting how sections must relate to each other in an epic track and how good melodies keep the listener hooked. Live at the Spirit depicts a group in top shape, confident in its material. Recorded on October 7, 2001, at the Spirit of 66, a psychedelic/prog rock club in Verviers, Belgium, this set culls the group's best and longest compositions. Singer Arne Schäfer misses a note here and there, having difficulties in his higher register, but that's just a minor flaw in an otherwise stellar performance. Fans of their 1997 album Disturbance will be pleased to hear how the group can pull off "Curtain Call" and "The Mirror of Division" in a live setting -- both tracks appeared on the self-released 1998 Club Voltaire Live, but that CD was no longer available by the time Live at the Spirit came out on Musea. Of the then-current album, The Turbulent Zone, only "Strange Attractor" is featured, an excellent choice given the energetic rendition. "To Go Free" from the group's 1994 debut rounds up the set. A bit weaker, it shows how much ground Versus X has traveled in a little less than a decade. Fans of Gabriel-era Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator, lend an ear.

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