It is strange to be reviewing UPF and Unitopia one after the other as they are very much related, not only musically but also in personnel, except this time around it is a band as opposed to a 40+ musicians. This band has always been the brainchild of Mark Trueack (vocals) and Sean Timms (keyboards, backing vocals, various stringed instruments), but they have brought in new members including Mark’s UPF songwriting buddy Steve Unruh (backing vocals, violin, flute, rhythm guitars, mandolin) along with John Greenwood (backing vocals, lead electric guitar, nylon-strung guitar, 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, programmed orchestration). If that were not enough, we also have a massively impressive rhythm section in drummer Chester Thompson (ex-Genesis, Frank Zappa, Weather Report) and bassist Alphonso Johnson (Santana, David Gilmour, Weather Report). Even before putting it on the player one knows this is going to be something impressive, and it is.
Musically it is closely related to UPF, not only through having the same singer but also a very similar approach, but here it is less layered (although there is still plenty of complexity) which allows for more space and for the music to breathe more easily as it is not being constrained by so many threads. However, although there are far less musicians, the main players are multi-instrumentalists which means they can bring in multiple sounds so we can go from acoustic guitar to piano, violin, or something much heavier. The idea of bringing in a ready formed experienced rhythm section was inspired, given these guys have been at the top of their game since the Seventies. Johnson’s touch on different basses is wonderful, his fretless slides often combining with Trueack’s vocals, while Thompson allows himself to sit back at times and blast through at others.
Due to when these albums were released, and their place in the alphabet, I have been listening to Unitopia straight after United Progressive Fraternity and consequently have been comparing them to each other. While there is more depth within the latter, it is the former I have enjoyed most as this is a release which hist all the high notes and the more it is played the more there is to be discovered and enjoyed
Founded by vocalist/songwriter Mark “Truey” Trueack (United Progressive Fraternity) and multi-instrumentalist Sean Timms (Southern Empire, Damanek, UPF) in 1996, Australian progressive fusion Unitopia has always been among the most renowned and distinctive bands of their ilk and era. Now the band is pleased to announce the new studio album Seven Chambers, due out on August 25th, 2023.
Unitopia has undoubtedly reached new creative, emotional, and intellectual heights with their latest opus, Seven Chambers (their first original collection on independent label Progrock.com’s Essentials). Comprised of seven tracks and lasting just over eighty minutes, it’s an incredible journey that finds Unitopiareturning at the peak of their artistic and technical prowess
Tracklist: 1. “Broken Heart” (8:30) 2. “Something Invisible” (6:39) 3. “Bittersweet” (7:20) 4. “Mania” (12:29) 5. “The Stroke of Midnight” (9:38) 6. “Helen” (19:14) 7. “The Uncertain” (18:33)
Unitopia: Mark “Truey” Trueack – vocals, songwriting Sean Timms – songwriting, keyboards, backing vocals, various stringed instruments Steve Unruh – songwriting, backing vocals, violin, flute, rhythm guitars, mandolin John Greenwood – songwriting, backing vocals, lead electric guitar, nylon-strung guitar, 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, programmed orchestration Chester Thompson – drums Alphonso Johnson – bass
Plus, multiple color variations are available for the physical versions, as well as a special vinyl edition that features a die-cut cover revealing a portion of the sleeve behind it!
As the follow-up to 2010’s Artificial and 2012’s Covered Mirror Vol. 1 – Smooth as Silk (a superb assortment of classic/prog rock reinterpretations), Seven Chambers is Unitopia’s first new outing in over a decade. During the interim, each member kept busy with various other projects, and according to Progrock.com’s Essentials’ Mark Monforti, the method of getting the group going again was endearingly fortuitous:
“A few years ago, Steve Hackett was exploring studios and players for a show in Australia, and he contacted Timms about using the studio that he and Truey still owned. That got Sean and Truey talking about possibly working on new music together. Then, I reached out to them about doing some shows. They went exceedingly well, which sort of solidified the fact that Unitopia needed to come back.”
With Timms and Trueack reunited, the duo decided to expand Unitopia by bringing in fellow UPF maestro SteveUnruh, guitarist Dr. John Greenwood, drummer Chester Thompson (Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis) and bassist Alphonso Johnson (Weather Report, Santana, David Gilmour).
Seven Chambers is a globe-spanning effort that began in 2021, with virtually every member working in their own studio in either America or Australia. Although things got off to a strong start, a few unexpected hiccups somewhat impeded the band’s headway.
“Progress was severely interrupted by Sean’s other commitments, such as moving into a renovated house and being in-demand with other projects and festivals. Then, Truey and Chester faced personal hardships. At more than one stage, it looked like the record might never happen. Luckily, the delays led to a few solo projects blossoming, and suddenly, our schedules began clearing in early 2023 and we began moving at a real pace again,” SteveUnruhexplains.
Thus, Seven Chambers is truly a testament to Unitopia’s chemistry and commitment, not only because it sees them triumphing over those setbacks but because it ended up being roughly twice as long as the original 40-minute plan (without a moment of filler!)
Discography: More Than a Dream (2005, Unicorn Digital) The Garden (2008, Inside Out Music) Artificial (2010, Inside Out Music) One Night in Europe (2011, live, Musea Records) Covered Mirror Vol. 1 – Smooth as Silk (2012, Musea Records) More Than a Dream – The Dream Complete (2017, Giant Electric Pea) The Garden (2020, compilation/boxset, Progrock.com’s Essentials) Seven Chambers (2023, Progrock.com’s Essentials)
The band already have a few dates lined up which you can see here:
2023 Tour Dates: 3 Sept. – 2Days Prog + 1, Veruno Novara, Italy 5 Sept. – Konzertfabrik Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland 9 Sept. – Neuberinhaus, Reichenbach im Vogtland, Germany 13 Sept. – Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg, Germany 14 Sept. – Poppodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands 15 Sept. – Chez Paulette Pub Rock, Pagney derrière Barine, France 8 Oct. – ProgStock, Rutherford, New Jersey, USA
It is with regret that Unitopia announces that bassist Alphonso Johnson will no longer be able to join the band on their upcoming “Seven Chambers” tour in September due to unforeseen circumstances. The band, however, is thrilled to announce that acclaimed musician Don Schiff will be stepping in to fill the void left by Johnson’s absence.
In the wake of Johnson’s unavailability, Don Schiff emerges as the ideal candidate to take his place. Schiff is no stranger to the world of progressive rock, having carved out a remarkable career spanning several decades. His mastery of the Chapman Stick, an innovative and versatile instrument, has made him a sought-after collaborator and a revered figure in the genre.
Don Schiff’s progressive rock journey began in the early 1990s when he joined the legendary rock band Rocket Scientists. Since then, he has contributed his exceptional skills to numerous groundbreaking projects and has worked with an impressive roster of artists, including the likes of Eddie Jobson, Lana Lane, and Erik Norlander.
Schiff’s ability to blend complex melodies, captivating rhythms, and intricate textures with the Chapman Stick has made him an influential figure in the progressive rock scene. His distinctive sound and virtuosic performances have captivated audiences worldwide, earning him critical acclaim and a dedicated fanbase.
Don Schiff’s versatile musical journey extends beyond progressive rock, as he has also made notable contributions to the world of pop music, collaborating with renowned artists such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Sheryl Crow, Pat Benetar, Tina Turner and Elvis Presley, among others. His exceptional skills on the bass have enriched the soundscapes of their chart-topping hits, solidifying his reputation as a sought-after musician across genres. Schiff’s ability to seamlessly transition between progressive rock and pop showcases his remarkable versatility and underscores his status as a respected figure in the music industry.
Unitopia is thrilled to have Don Schiff joining them on their upcoming tour, and they are confident that his immense talent and passion for progressive rock will bring a fresh energy to their live performances. Audiences can expect an unforgettable musical experience as Schiff seamlessly integrates with the band, contributing his unique style and expertise to the beloved Unitopia repertoire.
Unitopia expresses their gratitude to Alphonso Johnson for his contributions and sends their warmest wishes for whatever lies ahead. They are grateful for the understanding and continued support of their fans as they embark on this new chapter with Don Schiff.
For more information about Unitopia’s upcoming tour and Don Schiff’s addition to the lineup, please visit the band’s official website.
UNITOPIA (yu-nih-to-pi-E): meaning living together as one in a place of ideal perfection especially in law, government and social conditions.
Unitopia endeavors to draw from the heart and soul of the listener thought provoking topics such as environmental awareness, political and social upheaval and the hectic pace of life and human relationships in a positive and uplifting light. Using progressive themes as a framework, Unitopia’s music includes elements of world, classical, jazz, heavy rock, and groove. About Upcoming Release “Seven Chambers:
The current members of Unitopia have trodden varying paths where some have encountered serious heart disease, tumors, metabolic disorders, joint disease and psychological upheaval. The “Seven Chambers” is a concept album based on the band’s experiences of illness, a dark subject perhaps, but the simple fact that all four are still here and producing music bears witness to good outcomes and is cause for optimism and grounds for hope.
Dave Kerzner, with a new album, full band, and audiovisual experience
Matt Dorsey, with a full band
The Mahavishnu Project
Bob Moog Foundation featuring Robeone (Robert Schindler)
The Bandwagon USA
More to come!
A New Home!
After 6 years, ProgStock has a new home in 2023!
The Williams Center in Rutherford, NJ, a 101-year-old performing arts center in the heart of Rutherford, located at 1 Williams Plaza, Rutherford, NJ 07070, will be the home of the ProgStock Festival in 2023 and (we hope) for many years to come!
We bid a fond farewell to our former home, the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, NJ. We will especially miss her crew, but the time has come to make a fresh start!
Ticket sales will start on Saturday, June 3rd at 12:00PM US Eastern time with our ProgDucer passes.
Our 5-year Patron passes are already available with your choice of the best available seat this year and for future years at ProgStock, plus many other incredibly awesome perks! Contact us now for details before tickets start selling to the general public.
ProgStock 2023 Ticket Options & On-Sale Dates
Available NOW until October 6, 2023:
ProgStock 5-Year Patron Pass: Click below for details!
Hint: This lets you lock-in the best available seat this year and for future years at ProgStock…plus many other incredibly awesome perks!
Access to artist meet-and-greets that day (after Prog-Ducers)
Available starting in mid-September:
Live-Streaming: $10-$15 USD (for each performance)
Can’t make it to the festival this year, but want to join in the fun from the comfort of your own home? Each main stage performance of this year’s festival will be broadcast as a separately ticketed event on the StageIt livestreaming platform. Prices for these livestreamed shows are very affordable, so feel free to throw us onto the big screen at home and join us for as many of our stellar performances as you wish!
We are living in unprecedented times and crossing over uncharted waters, it’s a new world; one we may have to get accustomed to for the foreseeable future.
As of March 20th, there are a reported 255,729 Coronavirus Cases since the outbreak began in December of 2019. 10,495 have died due to the virus and 89,918 people have so far recovered from the virus, of course, these are only the documented cases and the numbers could be much worse; there is no end in sight the short term.
(Covid-19) is attacking the social and economic fabric globally and does not discriminate against race, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation or anything else for that matter. It has ravaged and even closed down most trades and no industry has been spared, from restaurants to schools, airlines, supply chains, and the entertainment industry.
While this is devastating to all industries, I believe one of the hardest hit are musicians, some of which do not have a second job, they rely solely on tours, music and merch sales to pay the bills. Many musicians have more than one job outside of music to sustain a living however due to the layoff and closers of businesses these musicians are dealing with the same issues as full-time musicians, loss of most all income. Most musicians lack one of the most basic and fundamental needs: insurance!
So we reached out on social and asked musicians some basic questions on how they are dealing with this Pandemic?
Ember Swift ~ China
How are you adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic? I’m not sure a person reacts to a pandemic as much as a person has to react to the response the society has to a pandemic. The pandemic will occur whether we have a reaction or not. It will just calmly sneak through all our societies and infect some, take some, spare others, etc. The reaction from each country from the government down to community levels is what we all have to adapt to, not so much the virus itself. For me, I have gone through many different phases over the past 2 months, emotionally and psychologically. The isolation, the panic, the fear, the frustration, the eventual calm, and inward thinking, the reshuffling of personal goals, etc. This is something I just wrote about on my blog, but I’ve been chronicling the experience throughout this whole time: http://emberswift.com/lockdown-imposition-or-opportunity/
What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? The opportunity to re-assess the future, really figure out what I want to accomplish when life returns to normal, analyzing my life in a more complete and detached way and then coming to some conclusions about how I want to move forward. There’s nothing like being forced into a “stall” or “pause” that can help you determine which paths to take when you’re finally able to put your foot back on the gas, so-to-speak. On a practical level, I have been studying Chinese again (hope to do my HSK Level 6, a Chinese language proficiency exam, in June), practicing guitar every day, cleaning and sorting my life, doing physical exercise and strength training in the home, and really focusing on my kids and their education–not just scholastically but as people.
Are you working on a new release? My new album was completed late last year but still needed some finishing touches. This got seriously delayed and the originally planned-for release date was March 2020. That didn’t happen, of course, so now I’m slowly tying up loose ends but aiming for a September release. No matter what, I’m still really proud that there are some great songs in the pipe even if it takes a bit longer to release them to the world.
Are you planning on performing via a live streaming platform? I thought of doing this in February, but during that time the rest of the world was going about life as usual and there wasn’t much of a call to do it. Now that everyone is on lockdown, I may consider it! I’ve never done a live-stream concert, but it sounds like a good challenge.
How has this affected you on a personal level? I sort of spoke about this above in how it has forced some self-reflection and re-assessment of goals/direction etc. It’s also challenged my patience and positivity, but I think I’ve become stronger for it. I would also note that pushing myself to do things on a daily basis that are good for me and trying to stick to it in a disciplined way (not that I’m always perfect because, yes, I do miss days!) has been the healthier approach to this. It’s really easy to get lost in TV series or constant media consumption when you’re stuck indoors, but I find this mind-numbing and hollowing. In the end, what’s best for me isn’t best for everyone, but this experience will show each of us, individually, what kind of life we want to life vs. the kind of life we have been living. This is invaluable information for our futures.
Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? Nothing will ever change the fact that I’m a musician and songwriter and creator. I have gone through worse ordeals in life and, in the end, the music still anchors me and serves as my greatest outlet for inspiration and expression. I often say that music is my essential nutrient and, without it, I’d be depleted. Therefore, there’s not a single droplet of doubt that I will continue to create and perform music indefinitely… most likely until my time on this earth comes to its natural end.
Ember Swift Is a Canadian Folk Pop musician based out of Beijing, China, Ember is planning on releasing her 13th album in September 2020
How are you adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic? Like everyone really, the worse part of it for me is the ignorance of others who could harvest and pass it to others who might not be able to survive. The other is the hoarding of everyday items we all use and need, selfish assholes in the world instead of realizing there is more than just themselves.
What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? Clearly the biggest one is not being able to tour, live shows and appearances are my life’s blood now. The business used to go hand in hand in terms of albums and sessions to royalties to touring. These days without being able to tour and play live, I just watch the past earnings dwindle at a rapid rate. It’s not so bad but upcoming shows and months of cancellations will turn into desperate times. Are you working on a new release? On several actually, I just finished my next solo album with Frontiers Records, “Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)”, I got my keyboardist/guitarist of SOTO a deal on the same label which I am co-writing and co-producing the album with my producer of the new JSS album, Alessandro Del Vecchio and we have started writing/recording the next WET album. I was stressed I had to do all of this while touring with Sons Of Apollo and my acoustic dates in May with Jason Bieler but the positive of this self-quarantine means I can do it all stress-free now.
Are you planning on performing via a live streaming platform? At the moment no, I don’t want to pressure or stress anyone out now financially that might be tightening their belts at this time. We’re all gonna suffer from this and I personally don’t feel it’s right to ask anyone to invest in me further until we see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t feel I have anything to offer in terms of pay-per-view or streaming so I would rather ride it out and hope the end is sooner than later.
Are you offering your fans any incentives to help support your music? I am pushing things here and there, again not asking them to invest money in now, more to remind them I will be returning soon, hopefully! I am trying to do my part in sharing my thoughts on staying the course, follow the advice so we can go back to normal life sooner than later. How has this affected you on a personal level? So far, not much, I am pretty much a homebody anyway, I gather with a small group of friends here and there but am actually quite content I could enjoy being at home during this time. It’s not difficult for me to hole up at home especially as I said, I am leisurely getting things I had to do without stress.
Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? Yes, I already answered this and any postponed shows have already been rebooked for upcoming months with hopes those don’t get moved as well. That will be the worst part, everyone clamoring to rebook all of these canceled tours and shows at the same time. People will need time to get their lives back in order before they will be ready to spend as they were before this all went down. I am hoping for everything to come back orderly so we can all pick up where we left off.
How are you adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic? I have been following the progression for about 3 weeks now, In Canada, they closed everything mostly and we have to stay home. Hopefully, the quick response here will keep the casualties low. In the Studio, we are always locked up anyway.
What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? The biggest challenge was to decide if we canceled the European gigs for Mystery and Huis ( end of March 2020) it was a hard decision to make, did not please everyone, but now we know we took the decision and we are glad we took it before, it was forced on everyone.
The opportunities are that we will have more time for a while to create new music, but at the same time, I think all our 2020 gigs will be canceled now.
Are you working on a new release? Yes, both Mystery and Huis are working on new albums, both were already planned before the pandemic.
Are you planning on performing via a live streaming platform? The band has thought about it, we were supposed to try one this weekend but we had to cancel because everything is closed in Montreal. We are looking at what we will do with that, probably offering more Live videos in the coming week.
Are you offering your fans any incentives to help support your music? Our fans have always been really good to MYSTERY, and now I think it is important that they support their families,
How has this affected you on a personal level? Sincerely, very scared and not optimistic for once. I hope everything will be fine but…
Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? Of course, I am afraid traveling to other countries will become more difficult, We will see how this will change the world,
Michel St-Pere is a multi-instrumentalist Canadian founder of AOR Prog Band Mystery, a full-time member of Huis and Owner ofUnicorn Digital an independent record label.
What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? Well we just had to cancel playing on Cruise to the Edge and two Canadian dates with The Flower Kings because of the Corona virus. As it is now I have festivals booked this summer with both HFMC and The Flower Kings. At the moment they’re happening but you never know?
Are you working on a new release? I had decided to record with HFMC Corona or not. However, we really had to change plans with The Flower Kings, with the result we’re about to start the recording as soon as possible.
Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? Corona will not make me stop. When this is blown over I most likely have two albums ready for release.
Hasse Fröberg is a Swedish Guitarist, composer, and vocalist for HFMC – Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion and The Flower Kings
How are you adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic? Musicians are adaptable, we are used to having to deal with the obscure … it’s harder for others I think, well again it’s about adapting, you cut your cloth according to your needs …
Are you working on a new release? We are working on a new release hopefully for later in the year
Are you planning on performing via a live streaming platform? Possibly, we will look at live streaming and other options.
Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? It obviously depends on us all getting through it …but we are always optimistic (our middle name ) I hope everyone stays safe.
John Young is the founder, keyboardist, and songwriter for British Prog Band Lifesigns as well as a touring member and or session musician for the likes of Bonnie Tyler, the Scorpions, and Fish among others.
How are you adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic? Well after the recent surgeries I thought this was the beginning of a fresh new start however this terrible virus has taken us all by surprise, being diabetic I have heart disease I am very vulnerable. I have not had the flue for over 7 years so I do have a strong immune system. I will not take any chances and will remain in lockdown until this thing is under control. I have plenty to do ie writing new music and rehearsing them.
What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? As above
Are you working on a new release? Yes, working on songs for the second part Planetary Overload “HOPE” and my Solo album, “The First and Last” and one other project which will be revealed later in the year
Are you planning on performing via a live streaming platform? Sean and I might do something for the upcoming vinyl release of Artificial TBC
Are you offering your fans any incentives to help support your music? I haven’t thought about it, but I think you will see two new videos released very shortly that will hopefully push the album a little
How has this affected you on a personal level? I am just worried about my family, my Dad is 92 on 28th and my step mum is still alive at home and is completely isolated so that’s a good thing but I still worry about them. My brother has diabetes and Heart disease too so Like me we have to be very careful.
Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? We are planning to back to the USA in the new year and we are working on a European tour. UPF and UNITOPIA
Mark Trueack is an Australian Vocalist, Songwriter & Producer for both UPF (United Progressive Fraternity) – Unitopia
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