Track listing: Overture, Reality, Magic Attic, You Can't Change Me, 25 Women, So Little Time, Reality Idol, It's Plastic, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, Everything Is Wrong, Obsolete, Rehearsals For Retirement, Reality Check, System Crash, The Rebirth Of Hope, Together
So much new music comes across my desk, or rather appears in my Inbox, that it's refreshing every once in a while to get an older album to revisit years after its initial release. In this case, it's Les Fradkin's epic Reality - The Rock Opera. Now if you follow Coyote Music, "Les Fradkin" may ring a bell. It's just been a couple months since posting a review of his album Artist Kit Sampler. But Reality - The Rock Opera is another beast...
Refreshing our collective memory, Les Fradkin is a producer, composer, and incredibly versatile multi-instrumentalist who originally stormed across America in 1976 playing George Harrison in Beatlemania. But we jump forward to 2003 to the release of the album at-hand, his concept album / musical / rock opera dubbed Reality. Now two decades old, the album essentially predicts the future, addressing many of the true-life and pop-culture issues we still wrestle with today.
The production is Les' trademark huge sound--sort of a Spector / Sgt. Pepper / ELO barrage of keys, synths, concert-hall-sized drums, and an assortment of sonic tricks up his sleeve for good measure. Like any musical, Reality opens with "Overture," a medley of melodies you may just hear again in the near future. But as Reality settles down you get to the nitty gritty. "Magic Attic" opens with airy harmonies reminiscent of a Yes intro. Just so perfect and, again, so huge. The lyrics open the mind and stimulate the imagination.
As we move through the record you get the fun comic relief in the form of "25 Women, So Little Time." Then the solemn realizations of "Obsolete"... Much like the 2005 animated film Robots, "Obsolete" channels Robots' characters' fear of being 'outmoded.' As time and technology progress, are our collective skills and intelligence enough to keep up?
There is a lot to soak in throughout Reality - The Rock Opera. Its plot rises and falls. You have humor, tragedy, and glimmers of hope that not all will be lost. "Together, together, our day will come" promises the album's closing track.
Take Reality for a spin (or a stream, as it were). The album serves as a window into society's views 20 years ago. Yet at the same time, it's a mirror of what society's challenges still are today.
You can find Reality - The Rock Opera on Spotify and also at lesfradkin1.bandcamp.com/album/reality-the-rock-opera where you'll find a video for "Obsolete" and each CD purchase includes an exclusive 20 page booklet with all the lyrics and credits plus two bonus tracks: radio edits of "Rehearsals For Retirement" and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow."