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Puppet Show performance, album, and other reviews

Here you can find reviews of all things Puppet Show. The reviews are split into the following categories:

"The Tale Of Woe " Album
"Traumatized" Album
Performances, listed in reverse order.
Album Reviews
 
¡°This band from the Silicon Valley of California has been around for over a decade and with ¡°The Tale of Woe¡± prove that they deserve to be in the upper echelons of prog rock. Intricate songs often featuring time signature and key changes display the immense musical chops that all the players possess. The overall vibe is on the mellower shade of prog ala Kansas and Yes, but the intensity is still there in a more subtle fashion backed by the stellar songwriting. Add to this the thought-provoking lyrics and emotive vocals, and you have a recipe for music that can be savored from start to finish - like a fine wine with just the right kick.¡±
- Mark Waterbury, Music Morsels (website)
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StarStarStarStar   4/5 stars
 
¡°It's been nearly a decade since we've heard from California's Puppet Show. Their debut album Traumatized burst on the prog-rock scene in 1997 to positive acclaim, and after some high profile performances at Baja Prog and ProgFest shortly thereafter, the band pretty much faded from view. That is, until now. After many years trying to get the band back on track and finish their follow-up (regular jobs, relocations, & line-up changes can throw a wrench in plans sometimes), The Tale of Woe is now completed, and the band find themselves on ProgRock Records, a fitting home for their brand of hard-hitting symphonic neo-prog.

¡°They may be a few years older, but Puppet Show can still dish out the goods. Kicking off with the excellent 'Seasons', the band throws plenty of catchy vocal melodies courtesy of Sean Frazier and loads of guitar & keyboard at the listener. Chris Ogburn is not afraid to let it rip on the guitar, as at times his playing has a hint of hard rock & metal to it, while Mike Grimes reminds us all of how great the 70's were with no shortage of vintage keyboard sounds. 'The Seven Gentle Spirits' is a 14+ minute epic filled with insightful lyrics and complex musical interplay. New drummer Chris Mack and bassist Craig Polson stabilize the arrangement with intricate rhythms while Ogburn churns out beefy riffs and searing solos, even getting into a daring unison passage with Grimes and his synth. On 'Harold Cain' the band go for a Genesis meets Gentle Giant touch, an upbeat and hilariously crafted number lyrically, complete with quirky arrangements and melodic vocals. You'll again be reminded of Genesis as well as Arena on the near 17-minute 'The Past Has Just Begun', a song that is dripping with tasty guitar & keyboard work, as well as Polson's velvety smooth bass lines. The pastoral middle section sees Frazier's emotional vocals meet up with lush acoustic guitars from Ogburn and gentle piano from Grimes, but don't get too lulled into a tranquil state, as the band blasts back in with plenty of prog bombast before it's all said and done. 'God's Angry Man' is an instrumental, and easily the CD's heaviest piece, littered with crunchy guitar riffs, acrobatic drums, and noisy synth passages. The closing 'On Second Thought' is a very symphonic number, and a real showcase for Grimes and his layers of Mellotron, Moog, and Hammond sounds. With plenty of room for all the players to showcase their talents, this song is a real winner all around, and should be highlight of their live set.

¡°Despite their time away, Puppet Show have lost nothing over the years, and quite possibly have become a more formidable prog rock band in the process. The Tale of Woe is a solid and exciting return ¡ª let's hope it's not another nine years before we see them again.
¡±
- Peter Pardo, Sea Of Tranquility (website)
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StarStarStarStarEmpty Star   4/5 stars
 
¡°In progressive rock, there seems to be a line between 'classic' progressive rock and 'neo' progressive rock. Puppet Show has totally erased that line and mixed the two in a highly enjoyable album. Agreed, they do have a huge Genesis influence in both the music and the voice of Sean Frazier, but they offer a lot more than that.

¡°First off, the sound is great, modern and full, with an excellent production. I find this important, since an album should be pleasant to listen to and you dont want to be annoyed by the lousy production all the time. Well, no problems here. The album was mixed by Terry Brown (Rush, Tiles), so that might have contributed to that as well.

¡°The album holds six tracks, but three of them clock over 10 minutes, two of them even around 15! And each and every one of them conveys a lot of passion and power. Puppet Show offers a lot variety in play. Mr. Grimes plays an important part in the sound, as the keyboards are very up top, but also Mr. Ogburn [guitar] claims his share in the music. The result is a dynamic mix between melodic rock, solid progressive rock and a few hints of hard rock. Yes, there us a strong Genesis vibe, but I also hear hints of IQ and Arena. And in 'The Seven Gentle Spirits,' I even hear a small reference to Brian May (Queen) at the time of Queen II.

¡°In the long tracks, the band takes their time to work out the compositions and that shows. And besides the good melodies and the abundance of keyboards and the sweet guitar arrangements, they do add a lot more ingredients to the mix like these quirky sounds, lots of breaks and changes in tempo. And of course, I must not forget this, they have a solid backbone in Mr. Polson (bass) and Mr. Mack (drums).

¡°And there is more: it is important for a band not to take everything serious and that is what they do just listen to 'Harold Cain'" and you'll know (hopefully) what I mean, at least if you listen to the lyrics. Also 'God's Angry Man' stands out a bit. This is the only instrumental song on the album and starts out pretty heavy, but then becomes very experimental. Honestly said, the album could have done without that track and still be a great album.

¡°But that track aside, the album is very good and I really enjoyed listening to it. I love those lengthy songs with this symphonic touch to it. And the boys of Puppet Show are excellent musicians. I really hope this album will find its way to many fans, so that it won't take another 10 years before we have a new Puppet Show album.
¡±
- ProgressiveWorld (website)
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StarStarStarStarEmpty Star   4/5 stars
 
¡°No these guys aren't some comedy troupe or anything of that matter, but yet America's answer to IQ; and it's been how many years, since Dark Matter has come out, but then again, never mind IQ, it's been over ten years since California's Puppet Show has released a record and you can say that The Tale of Woe is more than likely long overdue for the neo-progressive rock community.

¡°Being the new best kept secret (but maybe not for long though), Puppet Show executes your technical and melodic skills in massly profound compositions that adhere to the extended musical approach with your tracks staying to the structure of your intros, then guitar solo, then synth solo, then metallic grind, then verse, then mellow passage, then..you get the picture, the 'Close to the Edge'/'Tarkus' syndrome. Nevertheless, the tracks here aren't necessarily big conceptual pieces, but epic numbers, particularly with 'The Seven Gentile Spirits' a mellower tune, which builds up into its chaotic jam session, 'The Past Has Just Begun' which goes back and forth from upbeat to laid back without any jitteriness, and both 'On Second Thought' and 'Seasons' which remain more consistent prog rock ditties that flow a little more easily with all the technicalities involved. Shorter cuts like the jumpy 'Harold Cain' sounds like a late seventies Genesis number while 'God's Angry Man' offers segue way between the longer tracks. In the end these guys know how to make a record.

¡°Produced by the band and mixed by the infamous Terry Brown, the sound on the record is of audiophile quality. So for those who have been awaiting the new release by some of your favorite melodic progressive rock bands look no further; woe unto the IQ, Jadis, or early-period Marillion fans that miss out on this one.
¡±
- Tommy Hash, YtseJam (website)
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StarStarStarStarStarStarStarStarEmpty StarEmpty Star   8/10 stars
 
¡°I'm sure that the prog fans will be familiar with this California band that released its debut album Traumatized almost a decade ago. The reaction of the press and the fans was very good back then but unfortunately the band disappeared from the scene. Now, after almost 10 years we see the new face of the band which is ready to offer us quality, inspired prog rock music again. I'm not very often surprised by prog rock albums (in the traditional term) but from time to time some albums like this one ring my bell. Puppet Show has taken elements from bands like Genesis (Gabriel era), Rush, Gentle Giant and Marillion, mixed them together and present them under their own musical stigma. The orchestrations of the songs are very smart and each tune is embellished with very good melodic vocal lines, something that makes the final result even more attractive. If you are tired of listening to uninspired clones of the big 70's-80's prog rock bands, love the aforementioned groups and consider yourself as a genuine prog rock fan (or freak) then you shouldnt miss this excellent piece of art.¡±
- Grande Rock (website)
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EDITOR'S CHOICE
 
¡°After a nine year wait, Puppet Show is back with their sophomore offering. Was it worth the wait? Yes! The Tale of Woe is an excellent collection of works. I know that these have been composed and recorded slowly over a period of years ... for instance, 'Harold Cain' had already been released (with a different mix) on the 2002 BayProg sampler that came with the Spring 2002 issue of Expos¨¦ magazine.

¡°For those who've already heard Traumatized, The Tale of Woe will seem like familiar ground. Familiar, yet also different ... they have fixed what I considered the only issue with Traumatized, namely the sameness-sounding of the songs. The Tale of Woe has more variation, with some bits of almost prog-metal guitar and even some atonal passages, though these don't go on for too long before resolving into melodic content again. The point is that there's enough style changing to give each song its own identity while still sounding like Puppet Show.

¡°For those who haven't heard Traumatized, I'll compare Puppet Show to Genesis, especially in the Banksian synthesizer sound and Hackettish guitar work that seems to inspire much of their style. But these compositions are brighter and more uplifting in tone than the more sombre Genesis, perhaps a bit like Yes in that regard. But Puppet Show somehow succeeds at making prog rock that sounds like it came out of the '70's without really sounding much like anyone from that period. Maybe that's what they meant by 'Prog with a capitol P' in the old blurb for Traumatized.

¡°Bottom line: Good stuff, worth the wait and recommended.
¡±
- Fred Trafton, New Gibralter Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock (website)
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¡°You never know when a band takes almost 10 years to follow-up a great first effort, whether or not events have pushed the band in a good direction. Well in the case of Puppet Show we can safely say that those intervening 9 years have only helped their musical direction. That's right, Bay area band Puppet Show have finally surfaced with a follow-up to 1997's Traumatized and its the rather spectacular sounding The Tale of Woe.

¡°This quintet consists of Sean Frazier (lead vocals), Mike Grimes (keyboards, backing vocals), Chris Mack (drums), Chris Ogburn (guitars, backing vocals), and Craig Polson (bass, backing vocals). It's clear from listening to The Tale of Woe that these guys haven't been just sitting around doing nothing. They may have been distracted by other duties but they've certainly kept up and perhaps even improved upon their musical chops, partly as a result of putting in a number of high profile festival performances.

¡°For the symphonic prog fan everything is here. Loud, soft, fast, slow, busy, pastoral it's here in spades and in many cases it all shows up in each composition. We have 6 tracks and most of them are long: two are around four-minutes then we have one almost nine-minutes, another almost twelve-minutes and the two longest fourteen and sixteen. So as you might expect there is a lot going on here. The music goes from being busy and complex to more melodic passages with only a little dissonance thrown in. Track two, 'The Seven Gentle Spirits' has a real early Genesis feel to it not least in the musical approach but in the vocal styles as well. It has that quirky Gabrielesque manner written all over it. Track four entitled 'The Past has Just Begun' brings out a slightly different feel and has many moments where the song's melody structure and vocal style will bring to mind the best of Echolyn. The fifth track, the aptly titled 'God's Angry Man' shows off the band's ability to let it all hang out, very percussive, angular and discordant. It all comes back into focus with the beautiful, although still more than a little angular 'On Second Thought'.

¡°I have to emphasize here that the musicianship coming out of these guys is first rate. Grimes' keyboards are heavenly, Ogburn's guitars provide just the right punctuation and the bass and drums add not only the rhythm but a powerful momentum and drive to each of these pieces. The CD was produced by the band and was mixed by Terry Brown of Rush fame. Puppet Shows' The Tale of Woe is simply spectacular and gets my highest recommendation.
¡±
- Jerry Lucky, Ghostland (website)
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StarStarStarStarStarStar   6/6 stars
 
¡°Prolusion. The history of PUPPET SHOW, from California, USA, counts thirteen years already, but The Tale of Woe is only their second release, a whole decade separating it from its predecessor, the group's first brainchild, Traumatized. The press kit draws a pretty vivid picture of the matters that caused the group's long silence, all of which, though, just once again prove the topicality of the axiom: It's a hard life to prog nowadays. The Tale of Woe, which was mixed by veteran sound engineer and producer Terry Brown (Rush, Fates Warning et al.), is my introduction to the work of Puppet Show.
 
¡°Analysis. The six tracks on The Tale of Woe vary not only in duration, but also in style and some other characteristics too. However the longest two, 'The Seven Gentle Spirits' and 'The Past Has Just Begun', are kindred creations, and since these run for 30+-minutes (thus forming half of the disc's content), their influence on the album's general appearance is definitely weighty. Both are versatile, multi-sectional compositions with a genuinely epic magnitude, fully coinciding with my concept of a progressive rock suite. Okay, some hints of Neo can be traced on both, but overall their sound is much closer to archetypical major-league art-rock bands like Genesis and Yes, both these being references in this particular case. Some organ-based themes, as well as that instrument's tonality, instantly evoke the work of Tony Banks; synthesizer patterns are at times strongly reminiscent of those by Rick Wakeman, though the name of Geoff Downes occasionally comes to mind too. The vocals rarely arouse associations, but when they do, I am reminded of both Peter Gabriel and Steve Walsh (Kansas). Each of the epics begin with a rather long instrumental intro, which is in both cases followed by a smooth theme with only vocals, piano and acoustic guitar in the arrangement.
 
¡°It's hardly possible to describe all the subsequent events in detail, so I'll just mention that later on, most of the music evolves firmly in an orthodox sympho-prog mode, combining fervent energy with transparence and fragility. The arrangements now rush like mountain waterfalls, now move slowly like a plains river, but always passionately, the melodic component being kept safe throughout, although the tunes' modal structures transform very frequently. Especially ambitious are the long instrumental interludes that are to be found on each, some of those on 'The Past Has Just Begun' being just breathtakingly intricate, due to their genuinely large-scaled nature. Indeed, both compositions are academically expressive so to speak, approaching some of the best examples of '70s Art-Rock.
 
¡°The opening track, 'Seasons', would've been viewed along with the aforesaid two if it hadn't stood out for its two relatively long movements with the use of big guns much in the style of Rush (at their most symphonic: think Permanent Waves rather than Power Windows though). Otherwise it's extremely original and, at the same time, intricate song, plus not without some truly memorable melodies, which amazingly coexist in concord with complex stop-start moves and odd meters that the group uses so lavishly here - well, as well as almost everywhere on the album.
 
¡°Contrary to the opening number, its track list counterpart 'On Second Thought' belongs to the Prog-Metal genre almost in its entirety, although there is something that, on the one hand, unites these two and, on the other, distinguishes them from all the other tracks, namely the fact that the music is in both cases intense nearly throughout. There are plenty of instrumental interludes on the concluding track too, the overall picture suggesting something in the style of Dream Theater, though one of the most eclectic, say, episodes reminds me a bit of 'The Waiting Room' from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis.
 
¡°The only instrumental, 'God's Angry Man', is a splendidly innovative piece and is IMHO as excellent as any of the said songs, despite its relative shortness. There are two brief movements that may also bring to mind Dream Theater, but otherwise this is a very eclectic, I'd even say eccentric composition, whose appealingly angular constructions bear a certain resemblance with Avant-garde Prog, even with Rock In Opposition!
 
Before remarking on the remaining track, I'd like to look over the disc from its performance perspective. Craig Polson's bass work pleases with its fat, often pronouncedly heavy lines, as also is Chris Ogburn's inspired guitar playing and the complex (often both thunderous and pounding) drumming by Chris Mack. Mike Grimes' keyboards (organ, synthesizers and piano) hold up equally fine within the sections with both dynamic and intricate moves and those with softer ones. No less impressive are Sean Frazier's powerful, yet very flexible vocals, which can now be both harsh and demanding, now touchingly dramatic and more.
 
That being said, the academic power of Puppet Show is evident throughout, with the exception of the shortest track, 'Harold Cain'. While not completely without originality, this tune for the most part reminds me very much of what Genesis could have done on their first retrogressive album, Duke or, maybe, even on Abacab.
¡°Conclusion. If the third track would have not been included, the disc still had lasted for about 55 minutes and been astonishing from beginning to end. Nevertheless, The Tale of Woe is overall worthy of every kind of praise and can be highly recommended to everyone into Symphonic Progressive and beyond, all of which I hope is clear from the previous paragraph[s].¡±
- ProgressoR (website)
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¡°When people start compiling their lists of the best of 2007, I'll bet this disc will make a lot of them. These guys have produced a killer album. The vocals are evocative and captivating and music is stellar. Puppet Show merges neo-prog and classic styles in a way that I don't think I've heard anyone else accomplish. You'll hear echoes of Yes, Genesis, Marillion and others here, but the end result is a musical tapestry that is all their own. I particularly like they way they break up the disc by alternating between ten-minute plus epics and short tracks. This serves to make a very listenable experience. The epic 'The Past Has Just Begun' is in my view the centerpiece of the album. It can hold its own with similar epics from any of the prog greats. Whether your particular taste in progressive rock runs to the classic era or neo-prog, it's a safe bet that you'll really enjoy this disc. I'd consider it a must have for any prog rock fan.¡±
- Gary Hill, Music Street Journal (website)
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StarStarStarStarStarStarStarStarEmpty StarEmpty Star   8/10 stars
 
¡°Although The Tale Of Woe is only their second release, Puppet Show who hail from Northern California have been around since 1994. They maintained a high profile during the 90's with a succession of live appearances in the San Francisco Bay Area and the release of the debut album Traumatized some ten years ago. Since then the band's musical commitment has been comprised by the individual members day jobs, a situation this reviewer can certainly empathise with. Following abortive attempts in 2002 and 2005 to finalise the latest CD a deal was struck with ProgRock Records to ensure it saw the light of day. Initially produced and recorded by the band, they enlisted the help of pro producers Terry Brown and Peter J. Moore to mix and master the tapes to add that all important sonic polish. The band's line-up follows the classic prog-rock template of vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, bassist and drummer, namely Sean Frazier, Chris Ogburn, Mike Grimes, Craig Polson and Chris Mack. They share writing credits for all tracks along with Rush Manbert the bands previous drummer. Even original drummer Matt Lipford who left five years ago gets a couple of name checks which is democracy for you.

¡°Given the band's name and the CD artwork you would be forgiven for thinking that their music is a throwback to early 70's theatrical art rock as exemplified by acts like Genesis and Ange. The influences are certainly there but the sound has a more contemporary neo-prog feel and a much harder edge that takes in Rush and Dream Theater amongst others. 'Seasons' launches with a blaze of dramatic guitar and synths underpinned by rock solid rhythm work. Polson's busy bass pattern powers the song along with Frazier's moody vocal skating on Grimes' expansive keys sound and Ogburn's melodic guitar lines with inventive drum fills from Mack. What's immediately evident from this opening cut is the band's ability to incorporate the lyrical elements of players like Tony Banks and Steve Hackett into a heavier no-nonsense driving rock style. Whilst I can think of a list of comparators as long as your arm I will restrict myself to Pallas and Strangefish at this point.

¡°The epic length 'The Seven Gentle Spirits' allows the band to stretch out and include some reflective moments with Frazier demonstrating his vocal dexterity to the maximum. Lyrical piano dominates the first half eclipsed by organ and synth soling in the latter part. A change of key introduces the majestic ending with guitar and vocals providing a firm nod in the direction of Fish era Marillion. The otherwise unassuming 'Harold Cain' is given a lift by some excellent four-part harmonies and spot on guitar and organ playing. The albums centrepiece 'The Past Has Just Begun' includes everything that is good about this band or indeed prog for that matter. A lengthy and complex instrumental intro gives way to a melodic section with an impassioned vocal set against a backdrop of classical guitar and piano. The organ solo that follows is excellent as is the soaring weeping guitar line that has Alex Lifeson written all over it. Ogburn follows through with a commanding solo before Grimes takes over with a mesmerising display of rich Rick Wakeman flavoured synth work. With the end in sight the sound becomes ballsier with Mack's full on drumming leading the way to a bombastic conclusion.

¡°The title of 'God's Angry Man' is reflected in the sound of this inventive and aggressive instrumental. It certainly gives the impression of five working guys caught in the rat race letting of steam in the best way they know how which is through their music. The sampled sound of computers is included in the cacophonic mix together with some first class Jon Lord style organ dynamics. In complete contrast 'On Second Thought' opens with ringing Antony Phillips tinged acoustic 12 string and mellotron strings. It soon erupts into a restless guitar and organ riff before a flying synth solo introduces an impassioned vocal. Heavyweight chords and metallic guitar lines propels the song along at a breakneck speed but the musicianship remains impeccable throughout...

¡°Even though they have a refined sound and play with meticulous skill this is a band with an uncompromising style that really knows how to rock. Although they've been around for some time now their music has passion and energy with a fresh and inventive approach that put me in mind of Spock's Beard's debut The Light. Despite the album's title the music is far from woeful and comes highly recommended. I for one hope that Puppet Show do not keep us waiting another ten years before the next release.
¡±
- Geoff Feakes, The Dutch Progressive Rock Page (website)
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StarStarStarStarStarStarStarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star   7/10 stars
 
[translated from French]
 
¡°For the last nine years since the release of their first album, Puppet Show has tested the patience of its fans, keeping same the line-up except for the drummer.  The Californian group which plays in the spirit of the 'traditional' progressive groups of the Seventies will not greatly surprise anybody by proposing rather long compositions (six pieces for one hour of music), ensured by a traditional quintet (singer, keyboards, bass, drums, guitar) in place.

¡°The sound, well produced and balanced, has some elements of the 70's except the bass which sounds metal (the work of Craig Polson).  While listening to the album, the group seems more at ease in the long compositions than in the short ones: 'Harold Cain' is the most entertaining, but it is to better forget 'God's Angry Man', a murky assembly of atonal rumbles.

¡°The music of Puppet Show evokes more the Italian prog - Mangala Vallis or The Watch - or that glorious sound of the elder English.  Though... 'The Past Has Just Begun' does plesantly sound very close to Genesis, with guitar accompaniments in the vein of Mike Rutherford, a guitar solo that Steve Hackett would not have rejected at the time of his Defector album, or a development with the organ in the style of Tony Banks.  This piece is most interesting of the album.

¡°This 'Italian' colouring of the album is probably mainly due to Sean Frazier:  his style is rather close to that of Simone Rossetti (of The Watch - one could also evoke Steve Taylor of Stangefish) but with a technique more connected to Bernardo Lanzetti (Mangala Vallis, PFM - with less vibrato).  His choice of note appears sometimes approximate but it is a purposeful style that wants that!

¡°The main complaint which one can make is more on the form than on the bottom:  the compositions are interesting but I do not hear there outstanding originality or developments.  The 4 longest songs all are very enjoyable, however with a small exception concerning the two perfectly useless short breaks in the 'Seasons' and 'On Second Thought', which serve only to break continuity without bringing anything to the environment.  Also, and this is a question of taste, it is not clear that to maintain a resolute sympathy with the 70's is a good thing in 2006.  To the contrary, that could rather limit the pleasant listening by depriving the listener of a certain depth.

¡°It would have suffered if The Tale of Woe had actually been sulky, but it keeps an unquestionable charm and a total demeanor which rather places it in the top of the current productions of its kind.  They only miss one small element which will enable them to rock in excellence!
¡±
- Progressive Waves (website)
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StarStarStarStarEmpty Star   4/5 stars
 
[translated from French]
 
¡°Formed in 1994, this American group originating in California released its first album Traumatized in 1997, but since then nothing more.  Thus only ten years later they return with this new album, The Tale of Woe.  In order to conclude this project, they called upon producer Terry Brown known for his work with Rush, IQ and Fates Warning.

The major influence of this progressive rock group is without a question Genesis.  That is the feeling of the song 'Seasons'.  The voice of Sean Frazier however does not resemble that of Peter Gabriel even though both voices are very expressive.  It is supported perfectly by the other musicians who all, except the drummer Chris Mack, contribute backing vocals.  Bassist Craig Polson has a famous groove which would put it more in parallel with Chris Squire.  The keyboardist Michael Grimes offers the epic parts you wish for, swirling and, to us, a perfect topping.  As for the guitarist, his playing style rather makes me think of Mike Holmes (IQ).

Moreover, IQ could be well also one of the influences of Puppet Show.  It is enough to listen to a title such 'The Seven Gentle Spirits' to be somewhat convinced.  Rather than progressive seventies such that of the great Genesis, one feels neo-progressive near to English of IQ with some incursions into the world of Yes.  With a length of fourteen minutes, this title is offered to us with the multiple facets and parts.  It climbs in intensity as it develops, leaving as the principal elements of the song the extremely diverse keyboards and guitar.  It is one of the centre pieces of this album.

On the epic 'The Past Has Just Begun', they take tone of Phil Collins era Genesis, post-Gabriel but always including Steve Hackett (do you follow ?), i.e. albums A Trick Of The Tail and Wind and Wuthering.  But the vocals do not share the resemblance, as Sean Frazier has his own stylistic stamp and thus affirms his vocal personality.

The instrumental 'God's Angry Man' tends more towards one sound of ELP.  The percussion is revealed there in all its splendor, thus drawing the attention to the very good drummer.  The keyboards do not hesitate to trip-out completely.  The piece is rather explosive and shows well the creative qualities of the Californian combo.

They show more rock 'n' roll than progressive as with short 'Harold Cain', with arrangements more in the style of American prog.  This is also the case with 'On Second Thought', even if here the style is more pure progressive stock.

It is obvious that this American group plays a British progressive rock 'n' roll, and one will not complain at all because the contents of this album are excellent.  It will level all the fans of Genesis, Yes and IQ.
¡±
- Jean-Pierre Lhoir, Music In Belgium (website)
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PapaJ's Top 10 CD's of 2006 - The Tale Of Woe
 
¡°This revitalized band from the 90's released this new CD following some tumultuous times... But to my ears this is much stronger than their earlier work. The music is heavily synth oriented, and reminiscent of the original prog wave of the 1970's. You can hear elements of early Genesis from time to time, but there is strong and original writing and playing throughout.¡±
- PapaJ, CalProg music festival founder and host of PapaJ's Matinee on the Delicious Agony Internet radio station
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StarStarStarStarStarStarStarStarEmpty StarEmpty Star   8/10 stars
 
¡°The Tale of Woe is Puppet Show's second release in a career that spans over ten years. Their first album, Traumatized, received great critical acclaim, but somehow managed to slip by me. I can safely say that, based on the reviews, the ten year hiatus since Traumatized has not affected the quality of their work. This is a highly complex and technical album that will bring to mind the best prog-rock of the 1970s while never abandoning its modern edge.
 
¡°Puppet Show brings all of the prog staples to the table with great aplomb. Excellent synth solos and tight guitar work bring to mind influences such as Yes and Genesis. The bass and percussion are well-executed, and are reminiscent of slightly heavier fare such as Dream Theater. Sean Frazier's vocals complement the rest of the band perfectly. He has a great voice that soars over the varying layers of music and brings the introspective lyrics to life.
 
¡°The album alternates between standard four minute songs and the more typical prog songs that span ten minutes or more. The shorter songs work nicely to lighten up the album between the longer ones, which feel epic in nature even if the subject matter is not. The structure of the longer tracks is pretty standard, but they give all of the band members plenty of room to show off their impressive technical skills.
 
¡°The real masterpiece on this album is 'The Past Has Just Begun', which clocks in at a whopping 16 minutes. This track is a powerful composition in multiple parts which captures a broad set of emotions throughout its varying intense and relaxed sections. You will hear all of the band's influences on this track, and any prog fan will definitely eat it up.
 
¡°Puppet Show may not bring anything completely new to the table, but they execute with such tight, focused talent that it is hard not to think of this as one of the year's best prog releases. Any fans of Yes, Genesis, Rush, or any other prog bands should be buying The Tale of Woe right now. Seriously, what are you waiting for?¡±
- Will Thomas, MusicReviewer.com (website)
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StarStarStarStarStarStarStarHalf starEmpty StarEmpty Star   7.5/10 stars
 
¡°I think it has happened to you too. You need much time to 'read' and study an album, which at first seems very typical and uninteresting. You need time to understand what the band tries to say and where their 'syntactic' approach differs from the others. And this is more difficult in prog rock, where virtually everything is played. This happened to me with The Puppet Show, the California prog rock act that returned to discography after almost eleven years.
 
¡°ProgRock Records gave them the opportunity to release their second album, The Tale of Woe, which eventually will remind you plenty of prog rock colossal acts, like Genesis, Gentle Giant, Rush and Yes. A few frail sounds of neo prog rock, such as Marillion and Jadis, will complete the profile of this US band that acts more like a British one. However after the second or the third time you listen to this album, you start to identify parts and details that formulate their character.
 
¡°Take for example the final part of [the] second track, 'The Seven Gentle Spirits', where Chris Ogburn delivers an excellent piece of work and Sean Frazier astonishes with this passionate performance. Maybe the opening song, 'Seasons' will not make an immediate impact, as it is quite archetypal, and the following 'Harold Cain', the shortest track of the album, will fail to move you, but while you continue you will find out why many people appreciate this band and hail them as one of the most underrated bands in US prog rock scene.

¡°Surely the song-writing approach is keyboard based and the guitars are underestimated. This is evident also in the final mix by the renowned Terry Brown. But, apart from the fact that this work was concluded after a long period of preparation and I am very positive that this was done purposively, it shows an aimed decision.
 
¡°Take for example the astounding instrumental 'God's Angry Man', which has nothing to do with the usual instrumental showing-off tracks. This is a track that really reproduces feelings and states of mind of a man trapped in contemporary urban environments and technology-dominated ecologies (Mike Grimes really fooled me with his Nokia tune replica; I really started looking around for my mobile). Finally listen to the last track, 'On Second Thought', which by far is the best song in A Tale of Woe with its dramatic spirit. I guess that with a production that would give the proper significance to the guitars, songs like this would sound massive and grandiose.

¡°In conclusion The Tale of Woe is a very good album that needs some dedication from you. Otherwise you might get fooled and skip it. This is a risk that the band takes, to cover under layers of prog dust their own beauties, but who told you that progressive rock isn't about discoveries?
¡±
- Giannis Tsakonas, Metal Perspective (website)
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Traumatized
 
"Word of this powerful California band has spread thanks to a strong showing at the Baja Prog festival in Mexico last March [1998].
 
"Featuring an intensely expressive vocalist in Sean Frazier, Puppet Show toes a fine line between neo-prog and progressive metal with nods to '70s progressive greats such as Genesis and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. These guys are tight and pack a wallop, favoring long tracks (four of the six cuts here exceed nine minutes), complex instrumentals with plenty of bombast, and thoughtful lyrical themes.
 
"It's nice to hear a prog vocalist with a great voice sing about something meaningful, and Frazier fills the bill. His work on "As Ye Hath Sown" is particularly impressive, a rumination on the violence wrought by religious chauvenism. The track also features some speedy synth leads by Mike Grimes and a nicely contrasting acoustic/vocal passage.
 
"The album's longest piece, the 14-minute-plus "Marathon," has more of Grimes on heavy Hammond chords and wild synthesizer solos. Guitarist Chris Ogburn joins the fray for some stinging leads as the bottom end is held rock steady by bassist Craig Polson and drummer Matt Lipford.
 
"If you enjoy hard-charging American prog-rock with nutritious lyrical brain food, Puppet Show won't fail to please.¡±
- Progression magazine
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"From the moment I started listening to this CD, I was left very impressed by it... Try, for an instant, to hear in your mind any of the instrumental flights of Genesis, say any part of Selling England... Well, bring the drums and bass forward, more up front, and the guitar... is somewhat more aggressive...

"Singer Sean Frazier has a very pleasant voice and sometimes, when necessary, with a light case of histrionics. Mike Grimes, in charge of keyboards, constantly surprises us: at one moment a climate, at another time playing a mellotron, an organ which moves you, or a brilliant, pyrotechnic solo. Chris Ogburn plays the guitar, knitting fascinating mixtures with the keyboards, and adding more presence to the group's sound. Both Matt Lipford on percussion and Craig Polson on bass are constantly changing the rhythm, and when the group needs to unfold its full range of sound, they are there sustaining it as needed. In addition, with the exception of Lipford, all of them sing, making the CD even more spectacular.

"It would be unfair to choose a theme as the highlight of the CD, for the album offers many varied brilliant parts... an absolutely recommended CD from a band which I sincerely hope continues to give us work of such a high standard in the future.�

- Mellotron Magazine (translated from Spanish)
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StarStarStarStarHalf star   4.5/5 stars

"Bands like Puppet Show continue to be the primary motivation for running [the Prog-Net website]. Traumatized is one of the most exciting, pulse-pounding collections of Prog that I have heard in a long time, and it deserves to be heard.

"The album starts off innocently enough, with a short gentle church organ lead-in, which blends in to "Relativity". From there, the tempo builds into a high octane pace that manages to sustain through most of the remaining 50+ minutes.

"It is difficult to place Puppet Show into one single genre, simply because there are so many components which straddle the lines. There are elements of prog-metal, including the ferocious tempo of the instrumental work and drumming, but the musicianship avoids most of the metal cliches (especially over-emphasized crunchy guitar). In fact, it is the keyboard playing of Mike Grimes and driving bass lines that take center stage on most of the excellent instrumental breaks. Sean Frazer's vocals are unquestionably strong and carry the emotion with hints of Fish, Peter Hammill, and the recent, deeper sound of Queensrÿche's Geoff Tate. It is hard to pick out highlights, because the album manages a consistency that is rare when such a frenzied pace is set. The time goes by quickly, and a deep breath is all that is left to be taken at its end.

"I cannot recommend Traumatized highly enough. Tight, complex, and always shifting.... A strange phenomenon occurs when listening to these "overdrive" sections: anyone attempting to air-guitar or air-keyboard along with the music will quickly be left behind. Yet the band manages to retain a sense of usefulness to the extended tracks.

"...All I ask is that you listen to the sound clips and decide for yourself!"

- Chris Dixon, Prog-Net webmaster
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"This is a very mature prog, and belies the fact that this is their debut album. Many bands that have been around for years have never managed music as good as this. In 'The Ring of Truth', there is real power and conviction in the voice of Sean Frazier. There is so much good music coming out of America at present, and with Puppet Show and Ad Infinitum, Kinesis has captured two of the best. If you enjoy prog that is tinged with good guitars as well as Moogs / Hammonds / Mellotrons and enjoy classic Kansas and mid-70's Genesis, you really ought to search this one out. Another goody."
- Feedback
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"This is what I call Prog. Yes, this young band from the SF Bay Area is a mix of Procol Harum and UK, T. Rex and Marillion. There are a lot of influences from the �70s but they don't sound dated"
- Luna Negra
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"This 5-piece American ensemble certainly plays with a lot of gusto. Taking after Classic-Prog-With-A-Heavy-Metal-Heart bands like Deus Ex Machina, this band puts forth a convincing slab of busy riffs, histrionic vocals... and ripping keyboard runs...
 
"Puppet Show consists of the standard prog lineup of vocalist, keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. (The guitarist also receives due credit for 'snoring'). After a short keyboard intro ('The King Always Wins'), the rest of the songs range in length from 7-14 minutes apiece, weighing in the album at close to an hour long. Each piece, especially 'Marathon' and 'Relativity', go through a number of musical sections, frequently climaxing with a powerful riff or two.
 
"This album may be a good 'transition' for fans of bands like Rush, Saga, or Queensryche who want to introduce themselves to more symphonic progressive material. It's accessible, challenging but not overbearing, and holds together well as an album. Recommended."
- Expos� magazine (roundtable review #1)
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"A promising debut group with a modern style and nice progressive moves, Puppet Show has a style that would fit on Magna Carta yet have the chops to put them in the league of some prog-metal music or even some classic progressive.
"We have a strong keyboard presence here, corporeal and commanding attention, with just that right Hammond tone and a wide variety of monophonic synth tones and lush patches. The tracks are long and complex and filled with very appropriate keyboard playing, the solos are certainly not typical and are often played with an uncommon dexterity. The vocalist has a typical prog-metal like sound, very Geoff Tate... The playing by the other three musicians is quite up to par as well. Very good stuff here, music of this proficiency in symphonic rock is all too rare these days."
- Expos� magazine (roundtable review #2)
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"In the case of Puppet Show, we can say that this group has what it takes to be at the forefront of the Progressive universe. To us the new album Traumatized shows a promising successful career. It is recommended to fans of good neo-prog with traditional symphonic elements."
- Metamusica (translated from Portuguese)
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"Sean Frazier's powerful, dynamic voice is backed by harmony backing vocals, whizzo keyboards, and electrifying guitar work. From the 'Nice' pipe organ and keyboards opening, this is classical prog rock at its best... all the musicians are creative and polished... The recording is excellent, having clarity, breadth, and a great stereo mix."
- Wondrous Stories
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StarStarStarStarStar    5/5 stars
"Puppet Show, a new band on the Kinesis label, play fresh sounding classic prog with incredible chops and a fantastic, original singer in Sean Frazier. Most of the songs are laced with great keyboard and guitar work, as well as interesting lyrics for the aforementioned Mr. Frazier to strut his stuff with. Most of the tracks fall in the 7 to 12 minute range, which should please every fan of "epic prog" songs. The album closer "The Ring of Truth" is a mindblower, filled with pounding rhythms and great, angst ridden vocals. Highly recommended."
- Peter Pardo (review on Prog-Net)
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"A new band with a progressive rock style that manages to combine all the subdivisions of the genre... their objective is to be innovators and not revisionists. The influences of classic prog rock are here in perfect doses and the result is dynamic and very cool, from the symphonic rock of Genesis (present most obviously in the keyboards of Mike Grimes) to the avalanches of almost metal-prog of guitarist Chris Ogburn, all with a very fresh neo-prog touch. The music of Puppet Show's debut flows naturally, the spontaneity surpassing the technique, so from the most delicate passages to the most complex, it says a lot about a group that gives continuity to progressive music in an almost instinctive manner, knowing the "secrets" of the style from the inside and putting them in a contemporary context. A great new band on the progressive horizon."
- Margen (translated from Spanish)
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"The compositions are very melodic with changing atmospheres, instrumental breaks and solos from guitar and synthesizers. In other words, typical prog rock with warm sympathy for seventies-rooted bands like Genesis (the way of playing the Hammond organ and the synthesizer runs) and neo-prog in the vein of Marillion and IQ."
- Background
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"This reminded me strongly of Marillion, and before you ask which one, the answer is - both! It avoids the Genesis sound-alike tag by virtue of the fact that as much of the keyboard work comes from organ as from synths, giving the disc a decidedly more 70's feel, while the guitar work is firmly out of the Rothery camp and the vocals from the Fish tree, with a touch of Roger Chapman in there too. Overall, a winner for Marillion fans and a fair certainty for the rest of you, especially with 3 tracks over 11-minutes long."
- C&D Compact Disc Services
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"The band playing is excellent and very tight... Bass player Craig Polson is impressive, he doesn't just play to keep time. Like all good bass players he adds more to the music. Drummer Matt Lipford is also quite good... [Chris Ogburn's] solos in [Relativity] are enjoyable and his interplay with keyboardist Mike Grimes are again well executed.
 
"...I like Mr. Grimes playing through out, his synth playing is very enjoyable, very lyrical. This band reminds a little of Cairo, although in a more progressive light. And while Cairo's keyman takes his cues from Keith Emerson, to my ears Mr. Grimes is from the Tony Banks school. ...Even though most of the songs are in ten-minute range none really seem forced. They play out well, stating themes and developing ideas...
 
"...I would recommend this CD to neo-proggers who like Jadis, Cairo, etc. This is a good, safe bet if you are looking for an enjoyable hour of neo-prog."
- Alternate View webzine
Performance reviews

Whittier, California - May 19, 2007
 
¡°Puppet Show was one of four bands in CalProg's lineup this day, which included east coast groups Frogg Caf¨¦, Spiraling and the Rudess-Morgenstein Project. However this day Puppet Show was clearly the Prog band of the day with their progressive Genesis like sound, while some songs might be called metal-prog.

¡°Puppet Show was fantastic and they were an amazing opening to this progressive festival which is promoted annually by Jim 'Papa J' Harrel. During and after the show, their repertoire with the audience was very special.

¡°This and future performances are in support of their second album (the newly released The Tale of Woe). This day was to be Puppet Show's first west coast appearance in over 7 years. Their first album, Traumatized, was released in 1997. Reality hit this band hard in the early 2000's causing lineup and management changes that delayed their 2nd album for almost 9 years...

¡°The cornerstone of a progressive band begins with a tight and solid rhythm section while framing virtuoso keyboards and lead guitar leads around them. Craig Polson and Chris Mack on bass and drums, respectively, were tight and precise even for the early morning pole position. The power and energy of Chris Ogburn on guitar and the progressive keyboard riffs of Mike Grimes were filled with pleasant surprises throughout most of their 90 minute set. Lead vocalist, Sean Frazier, sang with strong conviction and was intensely expressive.

¡°I'm a huge progressive Genesis fan, a loyal Yes listener, an ELP faithful and a [King] Crimson lover. Why have I never heard of this band before? No sense in crying over it, they just need to be added to the collection.¡±
- Michael Bader, Music Street Journal (website)
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"Saturday morning, it was Puppet Show that opened, pulling - or in this case, strumming, plucking ¡ª all the right strings, playing a solid set that included material from both their albums, their latest being The Tale Of Woe. While I had enjoyed their set when I saw them two weeks earlier at RoSFest, I felt they put on a stronger performance here. Whether it was not being bothered by the erratic lighting situation or not, I can't say, but Sean Frazier's vocals seemed much stronger. As is the tradition with CalProg, each band is asked to play a prog cover. As with their [RoSFest] set, Puppet Show performed 'Cogs In Cogs' -- a song that Frazier commented was 'over before it started' (and when they'd finished it, 'See, over before it started')."
- ProgressiveWorld (website)
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"Puppet Show really Punched my Judy! All that prog energy at eleven A.M. really socked (puppeted) it to me. Great music! I'm so happy they were a part of the Calprog line-up this year."
- Pam (from CalProg YahooGroup list)
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"Puppet Show was amazing and a great way to open the show. On top of it they were great people as we got to speak to all of them during and after the show. You guys were great fun and we both look forward to your future efforts."
- Brian And Stacy (from CalProg YahooGroup list)
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"You guys ROCKED. Pure prog, played fantastically to an appreciative crowd."
- Neeebs (from CalProg YahooGroup list)
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Phoenixville, Pensylvania - April 27, 2007
 
¡°This San Francisco based band has been away from the progressive rock scene for close to a decade, but with the news that a new album had been recorded and the band signed to play ROSfest, expectations where high for this high-energy band. Their early evening slot (which turned out to be a little later than expected due to lighting problems and other drama) was a tough one, as the majority of the crowd was highly anticipating Starcastle, but the band came out as if they were the headliners, ready to rock the house. And rock the house they did, armed with plenty of songs off their new release (on ProgRock Records) called The Tale of Woe. Led by the strong vocals of Sean Frazier, Puppet Show displayed plenty of neo-prog melodies, hard rock muscle, and vintage 70's keyboard flourishes.

¡°Many of their songs push the 8-minute+ boundaries, so it was not surprising to see the band's set exceed an hour, and then some. With tunes like 'Seasons', 'The Past Has Just Begun', and 'Harold Cain', the band churned out plenty of meaty prog, long on the tasty guitar work of Chris Ogburn, the symphonic keyboards of Mike Grimes, and the tight rhythm section of bassist Craig Polson and newcomer Chris Mack on the drums. The band even dipped into their debut album Traumatized for a few songs, giving the audience a brief taste of their older material while clearly highlighting the new songs. Frazier kept the audience connected with the set throughout, making sure to keep the banter going at all times (it was getting late) so the audience stayed involved, and even cracking a few jokes for good measure. After Tempustry, this was a rocking and rousing set, and considering that the band is probably still getting their feet wet after years of inactivity, this was a very solid set that should signal good things ahead for Puppet Show.¡±
- Peter Pardo, Sea Of Tranquility (website)
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¡°Then on to the second performance of the evening, Puppet Show. The group is composed of Chris Ogburn on guitar, Craig [Polson] on bass, Chris Mack on drums, Mike Grimes on keyboards and Sean Frazier on vocals. The group gave a powerful and dynamic performance, a very tight band. Their style is inspired by early Genesis and Gentle Giant. I enjoyed Sean's humorous banter between songs, and he has a great voice, it was hilarious when he was shouting at people nodding off during their set! Chris was just sensational on the guitars, and some delicious keyboard work by Mike Grimes, very melodious. Their set consised of most of the tracks of their latest CD, The Tale of Woe, including 'Seasons', 'Relativity', 'The Seven Gentle Spirits', 'Harold Cane', 'The Past Has Just Begun' and 'On Second Thought' and they played a Gentle Giant classic, 'Cogs in Cogs', much to the pleasure of the crowd. Again, the quirky, offbeat light show put a damper on the performance, the lighting guy really looked spaced-out.¡±
- ProgMontreal (website)
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StarStarStarStarStarStarStarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star   7/10 stars
 
¡°With a brand new album out, The Tale of Woe, Puppet Show surely put on a show. Their music was complimented by the vibrant vocals of Sean Frazier who had the ability to hold notes for many measures.  Sean entertained the audience with his dance moves as the guitarist became a shredding machine in the middle of the set. Their single ['Harold Cain'] is a song less than 8 minutes (in prog that is very rare!) and provided a more upbeat and pop-ish sound... ...I really give them props for their ability to play their music in near darkness due to lighting issues.¡±
- Jill Hughes, USA Progressive Music (website)
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¡°Puppet Show was next, with a fine set of Rush & Kansas influence Prog. Vocalist Sean Frazier kept things entertaining with his energetic performance and humor - poining out the occasional SLEEPER! in the crowd. Super nice guys too. And what was up with the lighting guy?¡±
- Mike, ProgBase.com (website)
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¡°My friend, who is a UFC buff, mentioned that the guitarist looked like Tank Abbott, and I have to concur. He was ready for battle in the octagon if you ask me. While we're on the topic, the bassist could have been my history teacher from High School.¡±
- Josh Turner, Music Street Journal (website)
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Baja Prog 98

Mexicali, Mexico - March,1998
 
¡°Saturday, musical festivities opened with California band Puppet Show. With a new album on the Kinesis label called Traumatized, this group charged forth like a hard-rocking Genesis. The band exhibited superb chops and varied arrangements, performing all of'Traumatized plus a cover of the U.K. classic, 'In the Dead of Night.'
¡°'Marathon' and 'Relativity' - two longer tracks from the new album - were powerful standouts, as was the closer, 'The Ring of Truth'...¡±
- Progression magazine
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¡°...[The] music was refreshing and brisk and a perhaps even a little more hip, progressively speaking (an oxymoron?) than some of the other bands. Sean Frazier was particularly charismatic on vocals, and Mike Grimes played the hell out of his keyboards on songs that darted about with just enough edge to make them fresh but not too threatening. Entertainment-wise, the impromptu business as Chris Ogburn fixed a guitar string wasn't exactly Vegas, but boy it sure was genuine and fun.¡±
- Expos� magazine
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¡°Puppet Show was the biggest suprise of the festival! Great musicianship, interesting compositions, and they did not sound like another Marillion/Genesis clone. The choice of a U.K. cover was also unique.¡±
- Dave (posting from rec.music.progressive)
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¡°The Performance - It rocked! The lead singer had more stage presence than any other. Even despite the fact that the guitarist broke a string and they lost the momentum they had started, they put on an incredible show. I really like lead singers that put a lot of emotion and effort into the vocals, and Sean did. The guitarist makes it look so easy that I almost wasn't impressed with his ability. The drummer and keyboard player were incredible, too. Hell, the bassist probably was too, but I just didn't notice. Another group I would make any effort to see! Easily the most pleasant surprise of the festival for me.¡±
- Bill (posting from rec.music.progressive)
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¡°Very fine band with superb performances of superb material all around. They too had a dedicated singer who kept things rocking. It's hard to single out the best players, but I was very struck with their guitar slinger Chris.¡±
- Tim (posting from rec.music.progressive)
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East Bay Prog Day...

Hayward, CA - 1995
 
¡°The highlight of [East Bay Prog Day '95] was the performance by a new San Jose band PUPPET SHOW. ...their material and performance was top-notch. ...Their music was stylistically diverse (ranging from older traditional prog, especially influenced by Genesis, and to newer metal-prog). All the pieces were structurally complex, having many sections, occasionally repeated but always varied (not unlike the format of Echolyn's 'Everyman Suite'). Great interchange and interconnected lines between keys and guitar, blazing solos of a tastefully short lengths, quiet interludes, sweeping climaxes, all capped with dramatic, dynamic and playful lead vocals lead to a very enjoyable style and delivery.¡±
- Gibraltar, Volume 5, Number 18 (on-line progressive music magazine)
 
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¡°I liked these guys a lot. My first impression was that they sounded like what you'd get if you crossed Marillion with Queensryche. (The music reminded me of a hard-edged Marillion with some wonderful keyboard and guitar melodic interplay, while the vocalist reminded me a lot of Geoff Tate, with an distinctive and trained voice that was capable of great expressivity). After the first song, I began to realize that their music was in fact more subtle than it initially sounded.
 
¡°If I had to compare them to any other band around today, it'd probably be Echolyn, although with a little bit less of a Gentle Giant influence. I was impressed with all the musicians in the band, but the drummer was especially outstanding. I understand these guys are in the studio right now, recording their first album- I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for it.¡±
- James (posting from rec.music.progressive)
 
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