Donovan's Brain

The Great Leap Forward

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Tiny Crustacean Light Show was a rock & roll album gone psychedelic. The Great Leap Forward works the other way around, but still focuses on tightly written songs. Still a large family, this time around the core of Donovan's Brain consists of Ron Sanchez (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Colter Langan (guitar, vocals), David Walker (vocals), and two newcomers: bassist Jeffrey Arntsen and drummer Ron Craighead. Guitarist Richard Treece and drummer Seth Lyon, two pillars of previous incarnations of the Brain, are heard on four cuts. Compared to the previous three CDs, this one feels like a genuine group effort. Songwriting credits are split among Sanchez, Langan, and Arntsen, but more importantly the music has the polish of careful compromise and the pooling of many points of views. The album kicks off with two mischievous winks. "Neuro Psych Trail Head" heads dangerously into the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" while developing its own tune. "Crystal Palace" begins with a direct quote from the Beatles' "And I Love Her." Now that the two giants have been acknowledged, Donovan's Brain can tread its own path. "Cloud Maker" is a very nice psych rocker the likes of the Bevis Frond or Ebeling Hughes. The collective improvisation "Loving Indifference" wraps up the first half. The second half is somewhat dreamier, "The Known Sea" and "Ocean of Storms" providing moments of slow-tempo bliss -- in the latter, Walker adopts Richie Havens' low crooning voice. Less punchy and immediately likable than the previous album, this one requires more of an effort from the listener without providing more rewards, but it remains a good entry in the group's discography.

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