The Explorers Club on this Expedition is:
Drums: Terry Bozzio
Bass: John Myung
Guitar: Kerry Livgren
Guitar: Marty Friedman
Guitar: Gary Wehrkamp
Keyboards: Trent Gardner
Keyboards: Mark Robertson
Vocals: Steve Walsh
Vocals: James LaBrie
Additional Guitar: Jeff Curtis
Additional Bass: Hal 'Stringfellow' Imbrie
Produced By Trent Gardner
Mixed By Terry Brown
Four tracks, two tracks, 44 tracks or just one (that's lead expeditioner Trent Gardner's choice)... no matter how you carve up this Mammoth, a dark, delicious and difficult progressive rock steak dinner awaits those brave enough to attack and hack. But in simple terms here's the deal: Trent Gardner (Magellan, Leonardo, the first Explorers Club album - '98's Age Of Impact, and countless heavy roles on other prog werks), is mental central, using the Explorers Club platform as launching pad for his profuse and spiritually replenishing art rock concepts. So this is the second Explorers Club album. The line-up is similar to the first with some key differences. New to the six-string chapter of the club are ex-Megadeth axeman Marty Friedman, Kansas legend Kerry Livgren and Shadow Gallery's Gary Wehrkamp, who provides most of the album's crunch. At vocals, James LaBrie is back, co-working 'Vertebrates'. Zappa's Terry Bozzio is back as well. But it is the presence of Steve Walsh on 'Passage To Paralysis' and 'Broad Decay' that really puts a new stamp on the Explorers' travelogue. More on Steve later.
Trent Gardner is most definitely under the full realization that Raising The Mammoth is not your average gleaming, metallic prog album so prevalent today. It is a record that stretches wide, deep blue and royal purple across the horizon. It speaks spiritually with a voice rifled with unease on its way to distress. In this respect, it falls within a progressive discipline somewhat lost, now unearthed, like, well, a big, wooly elephant.
"Yeah, I like the sound of that, Raising The Mammoth," laughs Gardner. "To me, it's kind of a throwback album, a kind of progressive rock dinosaur. I was looking for a way to kind of articulate that. To me it's the last of this kind of music. I feel like I'm getting a certain amount of it out of my system and I think it took a lot to get that out of me. I don't want to necessarily be there that much anymore. It took a lot out of me to go down deep and see if I could pull progressive rock things out. I think at times there is some ELP influence - I'd say a lot more than normal actually - particularly with some of the things that happen with the keyboards. Mark Robertson from Cairo came in and did some fantastic keyboard solos and it really lends itself to that kind of dissonant harmony. He's really a keyboard virtuoso and I love to hear him play. He came over to the house and played a bunch of classical concertos for me while we were doing the recording sessions and he just blew me away. I was going, 'Wow, man. I'd love to put some of this on the record.' (laughs)."
On the drifted, deflationary ennui of the record, Gardner is vague, pressing and pointing toward a reading of the lyrics for clues. "I will say this. I was really in a horrible mood when I wrote this album (laughs). I don't know why that was. Maybe that's why it's so dark. For some reason I was a little more negative than usual just as a person. I was maybe just letting off steam or whatever. I feel that a lot of the lyrics came out dark because of that. In some ways, King Crimson is closer to the overall vibe than ELP. There's a heaviness and a lot of minor keys and the whole thing is dark, if you ask me. With respect to lyrics, typically, I'll just pick a subject matter and see what I can do with it but on this it was just the most bizarre thing. Those lyrics just kind of came out and I didn't really have a particular focus. They just seemed to work for the music so I went with them. I don't know if I really analyzed it that much or that I was trying to make a particular statement. It's just pretty damn weird if you ask me (laughs)."
But all told, Explorers Club is a team effort, one where Trent initiates and then throws it out to unique, top-flight rock music experts for analysis, then exploration and transformation.
"The idea of the Explorers Club project is to have a different concept each time," explains Gardner, "a way for me to write for other musicians and to kind of go outside the bounds of the stuff I do with Magellan. I don't really anticipate any Explorers Club projects to be similar to each other. Raising The Mammoth is so much different from Age Of Impact in terms of some of the emphases with more ensemble stuff and more keyboard solos. There are definitely longer stretches of music. It's really a format for me to have carte blanche on whatever I want to do. And I see the personnel evolving each time as the music requires."
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