Reviews in this issue:
- Quidam - Quidam / Rzeka Wspomnien (10th Anniversary Edition)
- Quidam - Sny Aniolów / Angels' Dreams
- Quidam - Live in Mexico '99
- Quidam - bez pólPRADU... halfPLUGGED
DPRP share a special bond with Quidam, not only because DPRP founder Martijn married their original flute player Ewa but also because they headlined our one-off prog festival DPRS back in March 1998. The band now celebrate their 10th anniversary by releasing re-mastered editions of their first three albums. And since Quidam fans are seemingly swimming in cash they threw in a special unplugged CD as well! In this Quidam Special we revisit these three albums and review the acoustic release. Instead of repeating ourselves we will refer to our original album reviews for the second and third album and only touch upon the original version of their debut shortly. We'll focus on the new things these editions have to offer, for indeed every of these re-releases comes with a bonus disc!
Something that is also worth mentioning is the wonderful way in which these double disc releases are packaged. Pure nostalgia, ladies and gentleman! They come in the shape of mini double albums that those of us who predate the CD and MP3 generations still know as the standard packaging for double vinyl records. Each release holds both CDs but also two booklets. One carrying information about the original album (but often featuring additional or new liner notes and/or pictures) while the other contains information about the material on the bonus disc. All in all this is very tastefully done and for those who are interested each album even includes a tourist leaflet on the Polish town Inowroclaw! Now all of this sound very promising but there was just one little problem. The sleeves almost immediately fell apart into two pieces when I first took out the CDs. Seemingly there's a bit of a flaw in the production process. I do have to admit though that after I pressed them together and had them lying around for a while the glue seemed to have done it's work after all since they have stopped falling apart and looked quite sturdy ... only to fall apart again when placed in somewhat warmer surroundings. So take into account that you might have to do a bit of reassembling when you purchase these albums.
Okay, on to the individual titles.
Quidam - Quidam / Rzeka Wspomnien (10th Anniversary Edition)
CD One: [Quidam]: Sanktuarium (8:57), Chocbym (7:05), Bajkowy (3:42), Gleboka Rzeka (8:03), Nocne Widziadla (7:21), Niespelnienie (9:44), Warkocze (4:07), Bijace Serca (1:53), Plone (14:09), Warkocze (Promo Video)
CD Two: [Rzeka Wspomnien]: Irish Air (Demo) (1:55), Szukajac Szczescia (6:25), Koleda Nocka (4:55), Los (4:54), Snilem (4:23), Horizons (1:49), White Rider (9:59), Modlitwa (Czyli Krzyk Oblakanego) (7:19), Czas (5:35), Rzeka Wspomnien (6:00), Perly Z Lamusa - Gitariada '93 (Video), Sanktuarium - Day Of Dreams Festival, Zwolle, Holandia, 1997 (Video), Beznogi Maly Ptak (Promo Video)
Quidam's debut album remains as impressive as it was 10 years ago. Rarely have I heard a progressive rock band made such an impact as Quidam did with their first release. Although the sound of the album is at times slightly metallic the production sounded incredibly professional. This was something to be expected since the producer and mixing engineer of the album were no others than Szadkowski and Palczewski (both of Collage fame and currently active with their new band Satellite).
And not only the production was top-notch. The songwriting abilities of the band, in particular those of guitarist Maciek and keyboardist Zbyszek, were of a standard one normally only finds among well established prog dinosaurs. Sure, the band were obviously heavily influenced by bands like Camel, Genesis and Marillion (often paying tribute to the first two by playing covers in their live sets) but they nevertheless had their own sound and identity. Probably the presence of a female vocalist with an enchanting voice in the person of Emila Derkowska added that finishing touch to the magic of Quidam.
As mentioned the album only contains quality material, among which some real classics like Sanktuarium, Chocbym, Gleboka rzeka and Plone, all of which remained live favourites in the years that Emila was still behind the microphone and as far as I'm concerned are among the highlights of prog rock in the nineties. The guitar solo in Plone alone would be more than worth the price of this CD.
There's quite a few surprises with this new edition. First of all the booklet for the original album features translated lyrics. A nice touch since it finally - after 10 years - enables me to understand what these songs are about. Second, the promo video of Warkoce can be found on the first disc in AVI format. Surely not one of Quidam's most interesting songs, but interesting for those who haven't seen this on the The Fifth Season DVD yet and quite impressive from an artistic point of view (not to mention Emila's sexy dress).
Most important however, this new anniversary album comes with a bonus disc which might well be the most interesting one in the series since it's full of unreleased material that rates high on the rarities scale.
Szukajac szczescia is basically a rough demo version of Chocbym of the debut album that the band got to record in a professional studio after winning a band competition. The guitar solo in the intro is still missing and the lyrics are different but overall it's already quite close to the final version. The next three songs, Koleda Nocka, Los and Snilem, are performances by the band Ogrodnicy which featured Emila, Zbyszek and Maciek, as well as Quidam's current drummer Maciej. The three songs were recorded at the end of 1996 and seemingly concluded the existence of this band. The music is completely different from Quidam's, with trumpet and a style ranging from groovy blues (Koleda Nocka) to pop ballads (Los and Snilem). Nothing much progressive here and a bit too mainstream to get overtly excited about, but interesting from a historical perspective nevertheless.
The album continues with two cover versions the band played live at a 1996 concert in Krakow, being the acoustic guitar ditty Horizons by Genesis and the long White Rider by Camel. There's a few bum notes here and there and the band don't play as tight yet as we've come to know them but these cover versions show their great potential nevertheless. Also keep in mind that the mix of this recording is far from perfect.
Another Camel cover is the album opener Irish Air (from Camel's Harbour Of Tears), which is a demo that Emila and Ewa recorded and sent to Andy Latimer when he came to tour Poland in 1997. It immediately prompted Andy to invite the two ladies to open the Harbour Of Tears set in Krakow with their rendition.
The next song, Modlitwa, was recorded by a band called Talath Dirnen, who seemingly were recording in the same studio where Quidam were working on their debut album. They were so impressed that they invited Emila to record guest and backing vocals with them. From a prog rock perspective this might well be the most interesting non-Quidam track on the bonus disc (not counting the covers and Szukajac Szczescia), even though the Quidam connection is rather limited. The song has a bit of a Floydian feel and even features violin and saxophone.
Czas is a song by a band called Belgrad, whom Quidam met at the aforementioned band competition. Belgrad's flute player Jacek would eventually replace Ewa on flute on Quidam's second album. Belgrad were also the band that played an early version of Sanktuarium, unfortunately not present on this bonus disc. Czas itself is a nice piece with a blues-rock feel and a splendid guitar solo and (if I understand the liner notes correctly) guest appearances by Quidam's Emila and Zbyszek.
The bonus disc ends with the only unreleased Quidam track with Emila on vocals, the superb Rzeka Wspomnien, which was originally recorded for the Time Beneath The Sky album. A very nice and peaceful track that would not have been out of place on that album or the band's second album. I assume it was left of Time Beneath The Sky because it already featured a couple of tracks with the same atmosphere. A real shame since, as far as I'm concerned it's the most interesting Quidam track on this disc featuring a nice 'African' chant section. Good to have it available to a wider audience after all.
The CD also contains three AVI movies. Sanktuarium was filmed at the Dutch Day of Dreams festival that was a pivotal event in the start of the band's success outside Poland. Despite the blurred quality of the footage it's nice to see some material of this important gig. The inclusion of the Firth Of Fifth guitar solo and the presence of Ewa on flute, making it one of the few videos in which she appears, are also worth mentioning.
The video of Beznogi Maly Ptak is very much out of place on this album since the song actually appeared on the band's second album. It's also a far cry from the quality of the Warkocze video on the other disc, but for those of you who haven't seen it on the live DVD and fancy seeing the band dressed up as a bunch of hippies escaped straight from the Sixties there's probably some entertainment value here.
Perly Z Lamusa is a track the band wrote as one of their earliest compositions while the band was still called Deep River. This performance was filmed at the festival which earned the band their first professional studio session. Good to hear and see some of the very early roots of the band, although I'm not all that disappointed that unlike Szukajac Szczescia this track did not make it to the band's debut album. Especially the first half with Emila singing a melody throughout the flute intro is rather tedious.
In conclusion, if you haven't got this solo debut album of the band yet you should be ashamed of yourself. Go out and get it and while you're at it you might well buy this special re-release with all the bonus material. For those of you who already own the original version, you'll have to make up your own minds. As mentioned, there's a lot of interesting rarities on the bonus disc. Beware though that you shouldn't expect a lot of material in the same style as Quidam's debut album since most of the stuff was played by pre-Quidam bands and line-ups that were playing very different styles that often cannot be considered progressive rock.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Quidam - Sny Aniolów / Angels' Dreams
CD One: [Sny Aniolów] Przebudzenie (1:43), Moje anioly (4:21), Morelowy Sen (5:17), Wesola (6:59), Beznogi Maly Ptak (4:06), Lza (4:56), Pod Powieka (13:57), Przebudzenie (Swit Nadziei) (4:07), Jest Taki Samotny Dom (5:31)
CD Two: [Angels' Dreams] Awakening (1:43), Angels Of Mine (4:21), An Apple Dream (5:17), Cheerful (6:59), Little Bird With No Legs (4:06), One Small Tear (4:56), Behind My Eyes (13:57), Awakening [Dawn Of Hope] (4:07), There Is Such A Lonesome House (5:31)
Quidam's second album isn't among their most interesting work, but even a less perfect Quidam album stands well above the average prog rock album. Therefore Sny Aniolów still walked away with a DPRP recommendation in my original review. Looking back I still think that there's some classic Quidam material on this album, including Moje Anioly/Angels Of Mine, Morelowy Sen/An Apple Dream, the guitar solo of Wesola/Cheerful, Jest Taki Samotny Dom/There Is Such A Lonesome House and the epic Pod Powieka/Behind My Eyes (although the latter does not reach the same heights as Plone on their debut album).
The CD was released in two versions. Initially in a Polish version (the one I reviewed) and later in an English version through the Musea label. The band have not made it a big secret that they were not 100% satisfied with the English version since Emila's English skills left to be desired. Had it not been for the label's pressure they probably would have never released it. I have to admit though that I enjoyed this version much more than I had expected. The English lyrics work and flow remarkably well and the ability to understand the lyrics and actually tell one song from another simply overshadows Emila's obvious accent. Strange enough though, the last two tracks of English the album are not sung in English and regardless of the translated titles and lyrics in the booklet they consist of the Polish original.
Unlike the other albums, this special edition does not contain any additional liner notes in the booklet. What you get is simply the Polish original with the English version added as a bonus disc. As such this might well be the least interesting special edition since it doesn't feature any real new material (not counting a hidden track with 2 minutes of bird noises on the English version).
If you haven't got the album yet you might prefer to have either the Polish version or English version, instead of both. Then again, with the low prices that Rock-Serwis is charging you might as well go for both. I can therefore only conclude that you might want to check this album out if you haven't got one of the originals yet. For those who already have one of the versions of the album this is only interesting for completists or those people who are desperately looking for the other version.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Quidam - Live In Mexico '99
Tracklist CD: Przebudzenie (2:47), Gleboka Rzeka (7:10), Chocbym (6:12), Plone / Niespelnienie (18:17), Jest Taki Samotny dom (5:37), Rhayader/Rhayader Goes To Town (10:02), Sanktuarium (10:45), Angels Of Mine (6:10), Child In Time (9:43)
Tracklist DVD: Chocbym (6:04), Snowgoose: [Rhayader/Rhayader Goes To Town] (9:43), Sanktuarium (10:42), Angels Of Mine (6:02), Pod Powieka (13:06), Nocna Widziadla (7:27), Bajkowy (4:17), Quidam in Mexicali [Documentary part 1] (4:24), Quidam in Mexicali [Documentary part 2] (3:38)
The original version of the band's performance at Baja Prog was released and reviewed by DPRP in 1999. Click here for the review of that release. I'll not repeat JJ's fine review here but would only like to emphasise that the purchase of the album is very well worth your money since it's the only commercially available material with the band's old line-up and performances are splendid (not counting Emila's occasional problem to reach certain notes). As an icing on the cake you also get brilliant live performances of Camel's Rhayader/Rhayader Goes To Town, the guitar solo of Genesis' Firth of Fifth and Deep Purple's Child in Time in the setlist.
The bonus disc of this re-mastered edition is highly interesting since it's actually a DVD with footage taken from the Baja Prog festival. It is filmed by multiple camera's and does a nice job at showing the band performing. Unfortunately the stage lighting isn't always optimal and the video quality leaves a lot to be desired, being very blurred and pale at times. Nevertheless it's quite watchable, it's the only (semi-)professionally filmed material with Emila on vocals and the sound quality is good. Furthermore, the material on the DVD includes three tracks that are not present on the CD of the gig: Pod Powieka, Nocna Widziadla, Bajkowy. I'm not sure which songs were in the band's setlist but together the CD and DVD should do a good job at presenting a complete recording. It's also a pleasure to see the band having so much fun on stage, like when they suddenly launch into the traditional La Cucaracha during Angels of Mine.
The DVD also contains two short documentaries about Quidam's trip to Mexico. Those of you who have seen the tour footage on the band's Fifth Season DVD know what to expect. It's like watching a couple of Polish friends on vacation in a country far, far away. Including the compulsory visit to the beach, sombrero clad bands in restaurants ... you get the picture. There's also some footage from the actual gig, including Gleboka Rzeka which unfortunately isn't present among the professionally filmed material on the DVD. All nice but hardly essential.
The original live CD was already a recommended release and the bonus DVD only adds to the value of this album, including 25 minutes of additional live music. For Quidam fans who don't mind the slightly bootleggy quality of the filmed material there's even a good reason to re-purchase this new version. You won't be disappointed.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Quidam - bez pólPRADU... halfPLUGGED
Tracklist: SurREvival (6:07), Queen Of Moulin Rouge (6:42), Sanktuarium [Sanctuary] (5:49), Blackbird (2:06), Wish You Were Here (4:16), The Fifth Season (9:18), Nights In White Satin (5:25), Not So Close [Including Excerpts Form 'Hush"] (11:37)
Bonus Videos: Próba (Rehearsal) [Bonus Video] 2:11, SurREvival (Live) [Bonus Video] 6:00, Wish You Were Here (Live) [Bonus Video] 4:16
In May 2006 Quidam played an acoustic gig in Inowroclaw (Poland), which they recorded to multi-track for their own personal collections. Upon playing the material they discovered they liked the recordings so much that they just had to share it with the rest of the world. And rightfully so because this CD is a worthy addition to the Quidam catalogue.
There's no electric guitars in these songs and most of the keyboards are set to acoustic piano sounds. As a result the flute plays an even more important role in creating the melodies than it normally does, giving these renditions a nice pastoral feel. As one would expect, the focus of the album lies on Quidam's latest studio album SurREvival, with 4 tracks taken from that CD. The only other Quidam track present is a wonderful version of Sanktuarium from their debut album. Although (some sections of) the originals of these songs sometimes have a harder edge and you would expect them to fall apart when played acoustic, they work remarkably well in these unplugged versions.
Especially the mentioned Sanktuarium deserves a special mentioning since the powerful original has been turned into a sensitive, emotional ballad for its acoustic rendition. Most of the song is a vocal-piano duet with the flute providing solos. Only at the end of the song, during the final flute solo, do the drums and guitar join in. A splendid version. Queen of Moulin Rouge maintains its 'bite' in the second half of the song thanks to the chunky bass and, as on the live DVD The Fifth Season, the live version of Not So Close is combined with Joe South's Hush.
The band also play three covers, being Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, The Beatles' Blackbird and Moody Blues' Nights In White Satin. All of these covers are played very well and make for a nice variety in the setlist.
The CD also contains three AVI movies that can be played on your PC. The first one, Próba, is a rather hilarious attempt to play some salsa, after most musicians have switched instruments during rehearsals. Always good to see that these guys don't take themselves as serious as we all might think. The other two, SurREvival and Wish You Were Here, seem to be footage from the actual acoustic concert and contain some nice editing, black and white shots and different camera angles. The video quality of the footage leaves a lot to be desired (most of it is very blurred and out of focus) but they make for nice-to-have bonus material nevertheless.
All in all a wonderful informal live album that has found its way back to my CD player very often in the last couple of weeks. Besides being a wonderful album in its own right this unplugged album also proves that Quidam's material stands up very well in a stripped down setup and that the new singer Bartek has found its place within the band, being comfortable with both old and new songs as well as cover versions. Highly recommended to Quidam fans and people that like unplugged albums.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10