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    Friday, July 20, 2018

    John DeGroff - Salt (2018)

    Published on july 20th, 2018 | by Scott Weldon
    Style: 70s Prog Rock / Jazzy Instrumental
    Release date: June 22, 2018
    Format: Digital
    Tracks: 9
    Label: Rottweiler Records
    Rating: 70% (for reasons that should become obvious!)

    1. Runnin' (Featuring John Schlitt) (2:42 )
    2. Sneeze (3:10)
    3. Dave's Living Room (3:22)
    4. I'm Your Man (Featuring John Schlitt) (3:03)
    5. Wish I Was A Child Again (2:09)
    6. Silk And Cookies (3:05)
    7. Celebrity Squat Thrust (2:44)
    8. From Yes To No And Back Again (5:29)
    9. Theme For a Perfect Day (1:34


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    Some folks may have no idea who John DeGroff is, though he has a rich and storied history in CCM. He was part of Dove with Bob Hartman, and later joined Hartman in the formation of the now legendary band Petra. He played bass with Petra for several years and recorded the band's first two albums. You can read a bit more of his bio here (https://www.classicchristianrockzine.com/2015/09/john-degroff.html)


    Recently DeGroff recorded and released a solo project called Salt. This project is mostly instrumental, understandably focusing on DeGroff's bass. Later Petra singer John Schlitt provides vocals on three tracks, though for some reason only two include the “featuring John Schlitt” title. It's a bit odd to think of these two widely diverse eras of Petra's history working together, but it seems to fit. Not surprising given Schlitt's Head East days.

    As you'll discover, I'm certainly no professional music reviewer. I can only offer my impressions and opinions as a fan. Think of what follows more as simply “informational” rather than a true “review.”

    The whole project has a 70s feel to it, almost making you get the impression this was a solo project released during DeGroff's days with Petra. If you've never heard the self titled debut “Petra”, then you won't at all be ready for this record. The official description calls it “old school prog rock in the vein of King Crimson, Yes, Kansas, and early Genesis.” There is no denying DeGroff's skill on bass, but if you're not a fan of the 70s, you probably won't enjoy this.

    The opening song, “Runnin'”, one of the three with vocals, opens with a bass and keyboard riff that brings to mind mini-skirts and go-go boots. Schlitt's vocals fit right in with the retro feel, while the lyrics themselves even seem to hearken back to simpler days in CCM. The theme of “runnin' around, runnin' in circles” that “gets you nowhere” is a bit sidetracked by a chorus that does that very thing. Still, a fun song.

    The next several tracks are instrumentals. “Sneeze” opens with DeGroff's bass line, then jumps into some really fun piano work, with a little “Twilight Zone”-esque melodies in the mix. “Dave's Living Room” opens with some bass lines that made me think of a period spy movie before landing on a riff that was very “Yes” sounding (something that shows up more obviously later). It's mostly just bass and drums at times, with some other guitar parts layered on the top.

    “I'm Your Man” is the next vocal track, and again both lyrically and musically seem very “dated.” I'm not trying to be overly critical with that. I like this 70s prog style. But again, both in terms of style and even quality of recording, it seems very much like a throwback.

    “Wish Like a Child” opens with an acoustic guitar intro and is much more laid back than some of the other tracks. It has a Phil Keaggy kind of feel to it, with a little country twist tossed in with some slide guitar riffs. “Silk and Cookies” is similar to “Dave's Living Room” with mostly just bass and drums, though in addition to tossing some guitar parts on top, this one adds a little flute as well.

    “Celebrity Squat Thrust” is an interesting tune. It has more electric guitar than the other songs seem to, and many of the riffs feel very familiar. If I was more of an expert I might be able to identify some of those, given the “celebrity” title. I do know that at the end, there is the repetition of the very recognizable line from the midpoint of Yes' Roundabout.

    The uncredited Schlitt appearance is actually the best of the three vocal songs. “From Yes to No and Back Again” has a really fun bouncy pace. Again, very retro. The transitions within the song are a bit rough and jerky, but again, maybe the best of the three vocal tracks.

    “Theme For A Perfect Day” ends the record with another acoustic track. This one put me even more in mind of some old Phil Keaggy projects, and includes a bit of harmonica. It's just a short piece, in fact a bit too short in my opinion.

    In fact, that's the one thing about most of the instrumentals. A bit short, and the longer ones are just repetitions of shorter bits. I would have enjoyed hearing some of this develop more. Again, that's just my opinion, and I'm certainly no expert.

    All in all this was a fun trip back to the “old” days for me. This record is definitely for a niche audience, however. I don't see many fans of contemporary rock rushing out to get this. Yet, if you are in that “niche”, it's well worth your time to enjoy DeGroff's journey back to those simpler times
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    Item Reviewed: John DeGroff - Salt (2018) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anthony Martinez
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