Reviews in this issue:
Pink Floyd - Echoes: The Best Of Pink Floyd
Tracklist CD 2: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-7) (17:32), Time (6:48), The Fletcher Memorial Home (4:07), Comfortably Numb (6:54), When The Tigers Broke Free (3:43), One Of These Days (5:15), Us And Them (7:51), Learning to Fly (4:51), Arnold Layne (2:53), Wish You Here (5:21), Jugaband Blues (2:46), High Hope (7:00), Bike (3:25)
Without any shadow of doubt Pink Floyd are a band that needs no introduction to any serious rock fan be it progressive, psychedelic or just plain simple rock! However one factor that has been absent from the Pink Floyd has been a serious attempt to gather what could be considered as the classical pieces of the band into one album, albeit a double album. It is true that there have been a number of compilation released before such as A Collection Of Dance Songs, but never has the music of all three phases of Pink Floyd's history been brought under one roof.
Of course the first phase of the band involves the unmistakable print of Syd Barrett, one of the founders of the band and undoubtedly the most striking character to emerge from the bands initial days. Barrett managed to bridge psychedelia and pop music with five numbers of his presented on this double disc. The first singles from the band, Arnold Layne and See Emily Play, previously only available as singles or on the Relics compilation, are included alongside two classics from Piper At the Gates Of Dawn, Astronomy Domine and Bike together with Barrett's swan song, Jugaband Blues (A Saucerful Of Secrets).
A Saucerful Of Secrets, the band's second album saw writing duties wrested away from Syd Barrett, whose psychological state by then was deteriorating and the main emergence of Roger Waters whose work is represented by Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun. It is at this stage that one senses the main flaw of what is meant to be a comprehensive gathering of material from Floydian history. The album is devoid of any inclusion from both Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother, something which is bound to be noticed and complained about by Pink Floyd enthusiasts.
The first album to solidify the band as rock giant was 1971's Meddle represented by One Of These Days and the trance-jam Echoes. With the release of 1973's Dark Side Of The Moon the world was about to become the band's oyster and till this day it is considered to be one of the classics of rock history. Thus it goes without saying that the album would be the most heavily represented on the compilation with Time, The Great Gig In The Sky, Money and Us And Them. The follow-up album, Wish You Were Here, could be considered as being the most heavily anticipated album of the seventies. The magnum opus from this album was possibly the Barrett dedicated Shine On You Crazy Diamond and is included on this compilation together with the title track.
Animals was another statement of the band's creative nature with Sheep and its parody of the 23rd Psalm thrown in. The emergence of Roger Waters as a songwriter culminated in the 1979's The Wall which also features a similar number of tracks as The Dark Side Of The Moon, four. Of course one cannot leave out Another Brick In the Wall Part II together with The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Hey You and Comfortably Numb. The one track of particular interest to Pink Floyd fans is the inclusion on the compilation of When The Tigers Broke Free, a track from The Wall film yet which was not released on album and was also released as a single to promote the movie. The Roger Waters era came to an end with the below par The Final Cut with Waters' dig at politicians, namely those involved in the Falklands war, with Fletcher Memorial Home.
The third and final stage of Pink Floyd history sees the emergence of Gilmour as the principal creative force behind the band after Waters had lost a court battle to preserve the band's name. Two albums were released in this phase, 1987's A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, represented by Learning To Fly and Sorrow, and 1994's The Division Bell which has Marooned (Excerpt), Keep Talking and High Hopes.
The album does not include any new material to be of significant interest to Pink Floyd fans who already have all Floyd albums except for the first singles and When The Tigers Broke Free, hardly a worthy enough reason. On the other hand, this compilation is of paramount interest to those who wish to taste for themselves a band whose music has survived since the late sixties and still remains one of the main foundations of modern rock music.
Conclusion:9 out of 10.
Kayak - Chance For A Live Time
Tracklist CD 2: Two Wrongs (4:47), Forever (4:30), Merlin (7:38), Niniane (5:52), Chance For a Lifetime (4:30), Starlight Dancer (5:09), Ruthless Queen (5:04), Full Circle (5:41).
Kayak is one of the classic Dutch prog rock bands. Starting from the early seventies, the band released a series of great albums, before disbanding in 1982. In 2000 Kayak reformed and did a comeback album and tour.
Chance For a Live Time is a double live album, recorded in 2000, during their Close To The Fire Tour. The line up is: Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards), Bert Heerink (lead vocals), Pim Koopman (drums), Bert Veldkamp (bass), Rob Winter (guitar) and Rob Vunderink (guitar).
When I saw Kayak at their comeback gig in Amsterdam, they had two lead singers, Max Werner and Bert Heerink. Unfortunately, Max Werner is not present on this album (as he left the band during the tour). To me, this was quite a disappointment, as I have always been an enormous admirer of his unique singing voice (maybe not technically perfect, but with great personality). Apart from that, his departure must have been a terrible loss for a band that had just recorded a comeback album.
All the vocals on this new album are done by newcomer Bert Heerink, and he's doing a fine job. His voice is powerful, high, clear and surprisingly "proggy", considering his musical past [in the early 80s Heerink was the singer in Dutch hard rock band Vandenberg, while in the mid 90s he had several hit singles with songs that were used in Heiniken commercials - Ed]. His singing sounds best on tracks like Anne, Ruthless Queen, Merlin and Niniane. In case you're familiar with the band's past: all these songs were originally recorded in 1979-1981, with Edward Reekers (also from Ayreon) on vocals.
Chance For A Live Time is a good and energetic live album, with a perfect selection of songs (both new and old). To me, the highlights are Sweet Revenge, Merlin, Anne and See See The Sun (both acoustic).
Least favourite are the cheesy Anybody's Child (with children's choir) and some of the classic Kayak tracks, especially Mammoth, Wintertime and Starlight Dancer. In these new versions one really misses the original vocals of Max Werner (the 'Max Stamp'). And to be quite honest: I think it's a pity that -at least for these songs - none of his vocals were used.
If you're looking for a first introduction to this great band, I suggest you try Greatest Hits and More (2CD from 2001) or Eyewitness (live-in-the-studio recording). If you already know Kayak, I guess you will enjoy this "Kayak Chapter III" live album. Please note that a new studio album Night Vision is scheduled for release before the end of 2001. I'm looking forward to hear this first real album with Heerink on vocals. But let's just hope that Max Werner is not completely lost for progressive rock. I really enjoyed his last performances with Kayak (moving around on stage with a haunted gaze, but still one of the world's best prog singers around).
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Gentle Giant - Live Rome 1974
Gentle Giant was an important progressive rock band from the early seventies. In a way, they were pioneers of the genre, although their unique sound made them a bit harder to follow than, say Genesis or Pink Floyd. Their sound was highly experimental (sometimes even bizarre), with complex arrangements, unusual instrumentation and vocal harmonies.
If you have never heard of Gentle Giant, this "official bootleg" is not the first album you should buy. The songs (in fact medleys) might be quite good, but they all appear on other albums (in better versions). Also, the band sounds less disciplined as on their studio recordings.
So this album is for "die hard" fans only. A live recording of a 1974 concert. The musical performance is a bit messy and unpolished perhaps, but still quite enjoyable if you're interested in hearing different versions of the most famous Gentle Giant songs. But the sound quality is indeed very "bootleggy". The electric and acoustic instruments are completely out of balance, the loud passages are much too loud, and the quiet passages are way too quiet (push that volume button again!).
I like Gentle Giant, but I don't consider myself a completist. And this particular album is not a must-have. There is nothing wrong with official bootleg recording like this, as long as you know what you get. In this case: a fans-only-recording. So if you want a first introduction to the band, I suggest you start by the excellent live album Playing The Fool (recorded 1976) or a sampler CD (period 1970-1975). And if you're looking for different versions of your Giant favourites, be sure you check out the great Out Of The Woods (BBC Sessions) album first.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10 (or 6,5 for collectors).
Colourblind - Forever Lost
Malta is not too well known within progressive rock circles for its creative output with regards to this musical genre. Possibly the only band to have created a ripple within such circles was, the now defunct, Different Light. However whereas Different Light played a style that consisted of Rush meets Marillion, Colourblind play a musical style that sounds like a cross between bands such as Iron Maiden and Kansas. The latter comparison is due in no small way to the fact that vocalist Paul Cassar also plays the violin at various intervals on the album. The other members to make up the band are brothers Alistair (guitars) and Shaun Galea (drums) together with Etienne Scicluna (keyboards, piano) and Adriano Azzopardi (bass).
The opener Colour Blind starts off with Iron Maiden written all over it due mainly to the fact that the guitar riff could have been lifted from albums such as Somewhere In Time, though this similarity does not last long due to the constant shifts in both time signature and song structure that the track undergoes. Sometimes the break just involves a slowing down in style whilst at other times the violin comes in to dominate proceedings and shift the balance to a more Kansas approach.
Compared to the opener Forever Lost treads a comparatively different path. There is less of a metallic edge to the track though this does not diminish it's power and strength. The metal influences seem to creep up at various moments especially in the way Paul Cassar delivers his vocals. On tracks like this the band manage to show their true strength where one can feel the integration between the individual members who manage to come up with a truly atmospheric piece of music which allows each musician to come to the fore without actually imposing himself over the other band members.
Time (To Change) is the ballad of the album with the band shifting to an acoustic mode for the biggest part of the track. The addition of the violin helps add to the atmosphere and it is only for the guitar solo that the band break into electric mode. However the change-over is smooth and unobtrusive and this track is definitely one of the album highlights, though my favourite track is the closing number, Devil Dance. On this particular track the band seemingly incorporate most of their musical influences into one track. Reading the band's website one notices that amongst their influences one notices bands such as Dream Theater and Cairo mentioned and their presence is clearly on this track. The keyboards and sound effects are used to full effect as the length of the track also allows each individual member to fully express himself. Notwithstanding, the track is not just another progressive metal piece of music as the group manage to move into more familiar melodic rock territory too.
One of the more positive aspects of Colour Blind is the fact that they are not just one those run of the mill melodic metal bands that are jumping on the progressive rock bandwagon. They actually manage to infuse various elements into their music that make their brand of rock a particular intriguing one which - with the right amount of exposure and luck - might just allow them to break through. I recommend this album to all those willing to give new bands a valid chance. It's true that this album does have its limitations, which is what one would expect from a band going into the studio for the first time. However, with the right backing and guidance they can just do it.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Soniq Theater - Soniq Theater
Soniq Theater is almost entirely an instrumental album, barring a few vocal samples, and is predominantly keyboard orientated with the guitar sections adding dynamic intensity. The arrangements and construction of the pieces are distinctly in a band format and the CD features 16 tracks from multi-instrumentalist Alfred Müller who's keyboard dexterity is evident immediately from the opening piano section of Rondeo right through to the final track Dans les Nuages.
Each of the tracks featured on Soniq Theater are strong compositionally and cover a diversity of styles within the Symphonic/Melodic Rock idiom. There are exceptions as can be found in the classical style arrangement in Leftoverture and the jazzy groove feel of Laughing through my Tears. The choice of keyboard and especially the synthesizer sounds are both distinct and styllistic. A slight let down were some of the sounds in the rhythm section but these are always difficult to capture, however this does not detract too much from the tracks.
Although instrumentally based the tracks are not overly complex although there are time signature sections within some of the arrangements. It would be very difficult to place this work within any particular area, however as a guide many of the following were evoked by different tracks: Rick Wakeman, Jan Hammer, Vangelis, Cairo, UK, Saga, Dream Theater, Flower Kings and so on. This probably gives you a good in-sight to the diversity of the material to be found. If there was to be a downside to this CD it would be that although individually all the tracks are melodically strong, that slightly more variation within the instrumentation or possibly the inclusion of vocals, would have elevated the album even more.
There were many highlights from the album, some of the notable tracks were Unicorn, Jurassic Classic and Crying Sky. A well produced and very strong themic album with many elements from Symphonic Rock, Prog Metal and the more technical side of AOR. Soniq Theater is constructed as a band album, and hopefully with the right musicians to compliment Alfred's abilities both as a song writer and keyboard player, a live version of this would be well worth seeing!
Rating: 7 out of 10