One must feel a certain sympathy for someone like Robert Berry, who in 2016 reunited with prog rock and keyboard legend Keith Emerson after 28 years to resurrect their late ‘80s band 3, now to be known as 3.2; alas, the reunification was ill-fated, for although the pair had written and recorded most of The Rules Have Changed together, Emerson took his own life in 2017, leaving Berry to carry the mantle alone. Of course, having built up a sizeable reputation over the last three decades as a musician and producer in his own right, it’s not as if he wasn’t up to the task; after all, one has to possess an extraordinary level of skill to work with anyone of Emerson’s caliber. Third Impression marks his second release under the moniker of 3.2, continuing right where 2018’s The Rules Have Changed and even 1988’s To the Power of Three left off; as such, the album is chockfull of the hallmarks of the genre, the arrangements filled with the quintessential shifts in time signature and chord structure and symphonic arrangements of instrumental grandeur inherent to prog, yet infused with the hook-laden melodic drama of AOR. Tracks like “Top of the World,” “Black of Night,” “The Devil of Liverpool,” and “Never” are excellent showcases for Berry’s talents, the last track being the only one on the record co-written by Emerson… not that one would be able to tell as all of the keyboards throughout Third Impression bear those distinctive Emerson signatures – gliding Moogs, polyphonic stabs of brassy bombast, the familiar Hammond organ, all of which given that bright sheen of modern production. Even the millennial “whoa-whoa, hey-hey” background chants of “What Side You’re On” feel right at home amid the song’s pop/rock leanings of old, while other songs like the somewhat jazzy “Emotional Trigger” with its smoky piano and smooth bass, or the lithe balladry of “Black of Night” and “A Bond of Union,” both featuring some lovely piano sections and vocal melodies right out of the radio circa 1985, are just further examples of Berry’s adherence to the tenets of this particular pop/prog style. Thankfully, his vocals are more on the darker, huskier side, closer to a John Wetton instead of the soaring tenors of a Jon Anderson or a Stan Bush, while his angular bass lines and tasteful guitar solos hold their own, especially on “Killer of Hope” with its pleasant interplay of breathy keyboard and electric 12-string solos. Naturally, the specter of Keith Emerson is to be felt through the concentrated keyboard layers, and one can’t fault Berry for staying true to the spirit of his band mate’s sound as he pushes 3.2 forward. All the while, Berry works to achieve the balance of technical musicianship with accessible songwriting; it’s not always the most successful, but Third Impression is an earnest and worthwhile effort.