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Reviews in this issue:
- Various Artists - The 7 Samurai ~ The Ultimate Epic (Duo Review)
- Lana Lane - Gemini
- Erik Norlander – Hommage Symphonique
- Kostarev - Works 1978-2006
- Theme Of Appreciation - A Worldwide Tribute To Eddie Jobson
- Lady Lake - Unearthed
- Øresund Space Collective - It's All About Delay
- Greylevel - Opus One
- Z-Axis - Concatenations
- Cardboard Amanda - Cardboard Amanda
Various Artist - The 7 Samurai ~ The Ultimate Epic
CAP: Alla Corte Degli Eroi - 1550, Periodo Sengoku (27:03) - I Shimada Kambei, II Kikuchiyo: Il Volo, III Crepusculo - Parte Uno, IV Il Vecchio Mulino, V Katayama Gorobei: Le Sete Spade, VI Fa Che Io Sia: Il Dono
Tempano: The Farmers (26:19) - I Farewell To The Season, II The Lone Samurai, III Despair, Shout !, IV The Blind Crow
Taproban: The Bandits (22:33) - I First Ride, II Eagle's Peak Pyre, III The Flaming Lady, IV Last Ride
Geoff Feakes' Review
Subtitled “The Ultimate Epic” this is the latest release in the growing list of movie inspired projects from The Finnish Progressive Music Association (aka Colossus) which has included the highly praised The Colossus Of Rhodes. As before the brief for each band participating is to produce a twenty to twenty-five minute suite influenced by 70’s progressive rock utilising analogue keyboards and avoiding loops, drum machines or any other digital sounds. Based on Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1954 movie of the same name the music is divided into three chapters. Each chapter deals with the main protagonists of the story the Samurai, the farmers and the bandits. Filmed in black and white and released outside Japan with subtitles the film was considered to be ahead of it’s time with stylised and brutal action scenes. It was remade in the USA in 1960 as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and was also a major influence on the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60’s and 70’s. Ironically Kurosawa himself was a big fan of American western directors like John Ford.
Each chapter is performed by a different band, Consorzio Acqua Potabile better known as CAP from Italy, Tempano from Venezuela and Taproban also from Italy. All three are veterans of Colossus projects with CAP and Tempano both appearing on Odyssey and Taproban on The Spaghetti Epic the album that set the ball rolling. CAP is the band I’m most familiar with through their recordings at ProgDay ‘99 and the 2004 Prog-Resite Convention. Their Il Bianco Regno Di Dooah album received an extremely favourable DPRP review in 2003. Tempano have had a couple of release of their own well received on this site, the most recent being The Agony And The Ecstasy from 2002. Taproban have several DPRP reviews to their credit, the latest being 2006’s Posidonian Fields. Before I discuss the individual tracks I must give a special mention to the lavish CD booklet. With excellent artwork by Stefano Scagni, beautiful graphics, a lengthy plot synopsis, band info and lyrics in both English and Italian this is the most compressively detailed that I’ve come across in a long time. With the risk of copyright infringement preventing the use of stills from the movie the detailed drawings depict a number of key scenes and characters.
CAP’s opening offering Alla Corte Degli Eroi (1550 - Periodo Sengoku) is probably the more successful of the three pieces with lyrics sung in their native Italian. A mellow vocal introduction is curtailed by a lengthy and strident mostly instrumental section followed by a short pause for breath and finally a majestic song to close. Structurally it follows a similar pattern to Gates Of Delirium by Yes and In Earnest from The Tangent’s most recent album. Opening with restrained acoustic guitar, violin, flute and reflective vocals Shimada Kambei (the Samurai leader) sets the scene and draws the listener in. Heavy weight guitar doubled by flute launches Kikuchiyo: Il Volo and a twenty minute instrumental tour de force that incorporates snatches of vocals along the way. Recounting the gathering of the Samurai by Kambei it’s very powerful at times interspersed with moments of tranquillity. The spirited soloing revolves around a simple but dramatic reoccurring four-note motif with electric guitar and flute dominating closely followed by Hammond organ. This lends both a Jethro Tull and a Focus flavour to the proceedings. Prominent bass and full blooded drum work add that all important weight to the sound.
Amongst the more melodic moments of Crepusculo acoustic guitar, Mellotron, recorders, violin, a sprinkling of synths and even piccolo all make their mark. The rich instrumentation brings PFM to mind as well as King Crimson particularly when the guitar adopts a more sombre tone. With the band boasting two guitarists in Il Vecchio Mulino the lead adopts a more lyrical timbre to accompany a soaring vocal melody adding a distinct early Genesis feel. A sudden stop introduces Katayama Gorobei: Le 7 Spade a section of dialogue that could have come directly from the movie had they been speaking Japanese instead of Italian. A curious addition is the opening lines from Genesis’ Dancing With The Moonlight Knight (sung in English). The closing song Fa Che Io Sia: Il Dono is an example of Italian symphonic prog at its most romantic and absolute best. Opening with a beautiful piano melody the warm and expressive voice of Maurizio Mercandino is joined by a layering of Mellotron, Hammond, folk and classical guitars, reeds and what sounds like uilleann pipes, building to an emotional conclusion. In a piece chock full of exceptional performances a mention must go to the virtuoso flute and violin playing of special guest Pino Filoni.
Tempano have the unenviable task of following CAP but undaunted they stamp their own authority on the project. In comparison their contribution The Farmers leans towards neo prog with synths given far more prominence. They still play by the rules however with keyboardist Giuglio Cesare Della Noce utilising an array of 70’s instruments including piano, Hammond, electric piano and synths. The extended opening song Farewell To The Season contrasts the plight of the villagers with a bright almost optimistic melody. Rich and majestic sounding synths incorporating Rick Wakeman style Moog noodlings are interwoven with the violin, guitar and vocals of Pedro Castillo. He has a clear and versatile voice somewhere in the higher register delivering the English lyrics with the merest hint of an accent. The electric guitar is almost classically baroque at times with the fluidity of David Gilmour on other occasions. Gerardo Ubieda adds punch to the sound with his bombastic drum style.
The instrumental The Lone Samurai returns to the atmospheric keys intro this time with ringing guitar splashes that recalls Walking On The Moon by The Police. Bass man Miguel Angel Echevarreneta provides melodic acoustic guitars enhancing an already Mike Oldfield ambiance. So far so tuneful until Despair, Shout! signals an abrupt change of mood. This is a jazz work out that starts off moody and slow before building in intensity taking in improvised vocals on the way and finally a weighty almost discordant guitar solo. This is Starless era KC territory bringing the intense drumming of Bill Bruford and guitar dynamics of Robert Fripp to mind. The final song The Blind Crow returns to the upbeat mood of the opening with a busy but melodic rhythm. The vocals this time sound curiously like David Bowie joined by colourful guitar and Hammond to provide an uplifting conclusion.
With The Bandits, Taproban’s approach is different again and is probably the most evocative of the three in terms of musical representation. Each of the four parts fades before the next but a feeling of continuity is maintained throughout. First Ride opens with a slow burning march rhythm dominated by a tight bass line and eerie Mellotron that conveys an air of impending doom. It also closely replicates the intro to Genesis’ Watcher Of The Skies before launching into a Moog and Hammond workout from keyboardist Gianluca De Rossi providing a reminder of the Morse/Okumoto interplay from 90’s Spock’s Beard. When the wall to wall vocals enter around the six minute mark the Italian sung lyrics provide an insight into the mindset of the bandits. From here on in it’s all instrumental starting with the short but evocative Eagle's Peak Pyre utilising flute, mandolin and percussive effects to produce an authentic oriental Japanese mood.
The Flaming Lady makes inventive use of instrumentation most notably menacing church organ chords, warm fretless bass and inventive roto tom drumming from Davide Guidoni. It culminates with an unexpected but memorable clarinet solo against a busy piano and drum backdrop. The mood becomes darker still for the Last Ride with strident Hammond supported by a galloping rhythm that evokes both ELP and Celebration by PFM. Some great Chris Squire style upfront bass work from Guglielmo Mariotti lays the foundation for the climatic build with jazzy soprano sax taking the final lead. As with CAP the guest musician impresses and it’s the turn of Alessandro Papotto responsible for the inspirational clarinet, flute and saxophone to stand up and take a bow.
So there you have it, three epic length tracks and a worthy addition to the ever expanding Colossus/Musea catalogue. I must confess that on first hearing, except for the more obvious melodies and hooks, I was slightly underwelmed. Like the best of prog however this album needs time to mature and should be given more than a few courtesy spins to be fully appreciated. With its often complex arrangements, varied themes and dense instrumentation there is so much to take in and to enjoy. The richness and diversity may also account for this being the longest review I believe I’ve ever provided for the DPRP. I’m still not entirely sure however about the lengthy jazz section that takes up nearly one third of Tempano’s performance. Depending upon your level of cynicism it’s either padding to extend the piece beyond the requisite twenty minutes or an inventive display of virtuosity. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and plump for the latter. Either way this is an excellent release that deserves a place in any self respecting prog collection.
Guillermo Palladino's Review
In the tradition of publish progressive rock concept albums inspired by books, films or epic stories, Colossus and Musea presents 7 Samurai ~ The Ultimate Epic an album inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s film.
As many of you will known already, there are some criteria that the bands must accomplish in order to be chosen for this kind of conceptual album, the most important is that all the pieces must be influenced by a 70’s symphonic-progressive rock style, and must be played by musical instruments of that period. The song's length must be aimed at 25 minutes as an average time.
Basically, The 7 Samurai (“Sichinin not samurai”) takes place on the early 16th Century in Japan, and tells us the story of seven unemployed samurai who answer a village’s request for protection from bandits, and eventually become the heroes of it after a cruenty battle.
ConsorzioAcquaPotabile open this epic with a very beautiful song, in the most pure progressive classical Italian tradition of the 70’s. There are a lot of PFM and Jethro Tull (both of them very popular in Italy in the 70’s) elements here and some psychedelic stuff, a musical environment in which CAP have a huge experience for playing in. An impressive violin/flute duo and a beautifully played classic guitar will give to many of you an idea of how intense this song will be in the following minutes, combined with a lot of keyboards (mellotron, Hammond organ) and piano. After that the development of the song begins, in which the keyboards, guitars and harmony voices takes the advantage. There are very interesting melding of beautiful melodies and the way in which all the sections of this song were arranged makes this song easy to listen to from beginning to end. You’ll note that this first 27 minutes will pass too quickly. Finally, I have to tell to all of you that I’m not a huge fan of narrations in a song, so, take this as a personal point of view about the spoken section of this one, however this won’t affect the my overall view of it.
It has been a few years since the release of their latest and most outstanding album The Agony And The Ecstasy (2003), along with an interesting role on The Odyssey ~ A Wonderful Tale, but now Tempano is back. With the most symphonic-progressive song of this epic, combined with some space-rock arrangements and a little bit of Crimsonescque soundscapes. The job done by Giuglio Cesare Della Noce on keyboards gives us a very huge gallery of sounds along with a very intense and versatile playing style, in which you can listen to strings, flute, electrical piano and synthesized arrangements during the playing time. Also a strong electric guitar playing and a very intense solos made by Pedro Castillo complements the keyboards. The acoustic guitar and bass lines played by Miguel Echevarreneta and the incredibly played drums by Gerardo Ubieda make this song one of the most interesting works that I’ve ever heard from this Venezuelan band. Once again the melodic voice of Pedro Castillo adds additional harmonies to this music. A very melodic song with time wasted.
Finally, the Italian band Taproban have the responsibility of closing this epic, with its progressive rock style, in which the Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes and Rick Wakeman influences are the most relevant musical references for this song. After that many of you will be right, we’ll be about to hear the most complex song of this album and in which the pass between its sections is more evident. Additionally, this song has the most Japanese influence in some of its arrangements, which were nicely translated to the symphonic-progressive rock language. Unfortunately, some of the drum arrangements combined with some organ sounds made the Japanese section the most disappointing thing of the whole song for me. Probably I had to think that in this moment it is when the warfare is in progress due to the dramatic way in which the music is been played. After this, the song returns to be interesting again and introduces us to a great finale, with an intense tenor sax solo combined with a Yes-stylish rhythmical base.
Conclusion: Again, Colossus bring us the opportunity to be delighted with this interesting conceptual album. As an overview, a very complex work of art due to the skill that every band involved had to demonstrate in order to compose and create over 20 minutes of continuous music in a single song. I have to say that the selection of the bands should be more diverse, or more multicultural. As I see it, the result would be more catchy and many of us would have the opportunity to be in touch with more musical influences from other countries where the progressive rock influence is notorious.
A recommended work !
Lana Lane - Gemini
Tracklist: White Room (4:58), White Rabbit (2:25), Long Long Way From Home (3:30), You Can Never Go Home (6:02), “Pink Moon Suite”: Breathe Introduction (1:15), Johnny Moon (3:01), Breathe In The Air (1:45), On The Run (2:05), Time (5:21), Breathe Reprise (1:25), Dream Of The Archer (4:19), Starrider (5:27), Sunshine Of Your Love (4:55), Wooden Ships (4:31), Nights In White Satin (5:19)
Recording other people’s songs has become somewhat of a tradition for Lana Lane and her spouse Erik Norlander. On past releases a cover song would pop up from time to time and of course there is also the 2003 release Covers Collection. I remember once hearing Lana’s version of the Marillion song Seasons End that didn’t impress me much, as it was a dull copy not doing justice to the fragile and emotive atmosphere of the original. The same goes for Queen’s Don’t Try So Hard. In my opinion Lana’s adaptation didn’t do much to outshine the Queen version. But fortunately this is not the case with the songs on Gemini as Lana succeeds in offering some very classy music here.
This album is accompanied by another cover release, Hommage Symphonique, filled with the favourite symphonic songs of Erik Norlander. One could argue about the motives of an artist to do a cover album. It might be an easy way for a musician to make some money at times when the creative juices are dried up. But with Lana Lane and Erik Norlander we can’t complain about their artistic output as they are quite a busy lot. So there is more than enough of original material to keep the fans satisfied.
Gemini stands for the star sign twins and in this case it means the inclusion of two songs from each covered artist: Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Foreigner, The Moody Blues, Heart and Pink Floyd (even if On The Run isn’t considered as a real song).
Lana Lane is in the fortunate position to have some renowned musicians as friends who help to make this release a successful event. Apart from her husband of course on keyboards there is Vinny Appice (drums), Tony Franklin (fretless bass), Kelly Keeling (vocals), Mark McCrite (guitar, vocals) and, surprisingly, George Lynch (guitar). For me the participation of former Dokken guitarist George Lynch is a very welcome addition. His fierce fretwork spices up a couple of tracks on this album. I find his playing carries more blues compared to his days with Dokken which is most notable in songs like White Room and Long Long Way From Home. Also Pink Floyd’s Time has George shredding in some excellent bluesy flavour!
There are a lot of well-known songs on this album which makes you wonder about the need to hear yet another cover version of. Songs like White Room and Sunshine Of Your Love have been covered numerous times before but still Lana Lane’s fresh approach and the contribution of the listed musicians give them a special atmosphere that works. I wasn’t really hoping to stumble upon another version of Nights In White Satin but Lana’s vocals here are very emotional and does something special with the worn-out classic. I have to say Lana is shining all over this album. It’s striking to hear how her voice resembles one of her main influences: Heart’s Ann Wilson. Now I’m a fervent addict of the old Heart so I’m very content with two of their songs that are included on the album. Like Dream Of The Archer is just outstanding! This version is a little less folksy than the original but with the vocals totally rivalling the magic of its alter ego from 1977. The other Heart song Johnny Moon is very thoughtfully interwoven in the Pink Floyd medley as the rhythmic of this song closely matches Pink Floyd’s Breathe. Very intriguing to hear how well this works!
The downside of a cover album with a lot of songs that are reasonable well-known is that one can lose interest in the music quickly after hearing it a couple of times. It’s different than having a whole album of new music. That is why I find Long Long Way From Home and Wooden Ships the most interesting on this album as I never heard the originals before. You Can Never Go Home is another song I didn’t know beforehand but I don’t think this song is anything special. Wooden Ships is surely a highlight with Lana sharing lead vocals with Kelly Keeling in a relaxing duet. The organ solo halfway in the song of maestro Erik Norlander is extremely refined and totally belongs here. I don’t know about the original track but this version is sublime! The Foreigner song Starrider is also very strong and is more symphonic rock compared to the hard rock original.
Whatever you think of cover albums the overall musical quality here stands without dispute. Together with again excellent art work from Jacek Yerka this is a great release. I don’t really have a problem with the ‘tradition’ of the American couple when it results in this kind of quality!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Erik Norlander – Hommage Symphonique
Tracklist: Conquistador (4:08), Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight (7:20), Turn Of The Century (7:38), Pirates (13:32), Clasp (4:51), Ocean Break Up / King Of The Universe (7:09), Children Of Sanches Overture (9:24), Starless (12:04)
Hommage Symphonique is a title that pretty much sums it up: a tribute to the great names in progressive rock. Erik Norlander decided on a slightly different approach in comparison to what his musical companion Lana Lane did on Gemini. Erik picked a couple of songs reflecting his own broad musical taste to pay homage to some of his favourite artists. On this album there are songs originally recorded by Procol Harum, Rick Wakeman, Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull, ELO, Chuck Mangione and King Crimson.
Erik didn’t go for the obvious choices when picking the songs on this album so it makes this effort different from Gemini. I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs listed on this album so it gives a rather fresh listening adventure even though it’s a bunch of covers. At the same time I can’t really compare them to the originals and pinpoint the differences. All I can vouch for is that this is fine album with some very enthralling music.
The most accessible on the disc is opener Conquistador which has a very memorable sounding melody line that quickly sticks in your head like a nasty piece of bubblegum under your shoe! But in case of Conquistador it’s not a bad thing as this is an admirable song making me curious about Procol Harum’s original. The little trumpet noises attribute to the triumphant atmosphere of the song. So right away we have a winner here with singer Kelly Keeling doing a tremendous job. Kelly Keeling has become a household choice for doing the vocals as, by now, he has participated on a lot of Erik Norlander’s releases. But I can’t really object to that because on this album he really shows he can manage a variety of different styles with seemingly ease.
This jubilant atmosphere telling tales of vigilant knights in shining armour is continued on Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight. Erik Norlander managed to lay down the spirit of the song in a credible way when I consider the lyrical content. This track has a dominant keyboard tune recurring persistently throughout the song. At first it sounds interesting but after hearing it a couple of times it sounds dreary. Well to me it becomes annoying as it dominates the song a bit too much. Next track Turn Of The Century is more to my liking. This is a relaxed song with gorgeous piano playing and a very convincing Kelly Keeling. It’s remarkable to hear the singer stretch his vocal capabilities to resemble Yes singer Jon Anderson. Kelly Keeling doesn’t sing that high but puts in a successful attempt to match the original singer. And especially the piano solo around the fourth minute is very tasty before the song starts to become more livid.
The track that stands out in my opinion is Children Of Sanches Overture. This one is a bit of an odd choice between the other songs as the original by Chuck Mangione has its roots in jazz. But since some of the tracks on this album have little jazzy parts it doesn’t mismatch the atmosphere on this album. I like the groovy bass line in the second part of the introduction of this song before the trumpets start shooting the addictive melody.
One of the strong points of this release is that Erik Norlander tried to create an authentic sound for the songs by bringing in the original instruments instead of emulating the sounds with the keyboard. So trumpets, trombones and celli are used. In Children Of Sanches Overture for example this creates some breath taking moments. Like when the organ solo is followed up by the trumpet playing the neat melody. It goes without saying that Erik Norlander is blistering all over this album with his impressive skills on keyboards, organ and piano.
I am less thrilled about the longer songs Pirates (there is a little theme from West Side Story in this song at 10:28) and Starless because I am not too keen on this extensive ‘fannying about’ with the keys. I rather like the songs to come straight to the point. The middle part of Starless is even quite irritating with a slow bass line and nerve wrecking guitar licks. It ventures more into freewheeling jazz territory which is not my style. I end up stopping the CD every time I come to that point.
In comparison to Lana Lane’s Gemini (above) I think this release offers more for those who want to dive into the history of some classic progressive rock acts without going for the obvious. I have a slight preference for Gemini over Hommage Symphonique due to the fact Lana Lane’s covers have more rock and features some of my favourite artists.
But Hommage Symphonique surely brings us some enjoyable listening.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Kostarev – Works 1978-2006
Tracklist: Who’s Flying Over Me? (4:55), Menuetto (6:03), A-Theist Hacker (5:55), Heavy Water (6:18), Hoop (5:34), Turn-A-Round (5:01), Pilgrim (6:27), Whole Lotta Of Patience (5:26), Grass Of Blue (3:49), No Fears (13:28)
A while back, I reviewed (and recommended) a CD by the Russian artist Alexander Kostarev Group. (You can read it here.) Works is a sampler of various pieces featuring Alexander Kostarev with a variety of other musicians, spanning the years 1978 to 2006 and including both live and studio cuts.
Presented in reverse chronological order, the disc starts with a storming track recorded last year for an Eddie Jobson tribute album (it, and all the other contributions to that album are original compositions, not Jobson tracks) and working its way backwards to a live cut No Fears captured at the Perekrestok Jazz festival in 1978.
Kostarev’s star burns brightly throughout on guitar, and he also handles keyboards on a couple of tracks. Aside from bass, keys, and drums, violins, cello, flute and saxophone also figure in this invigorating and exciting instrumental fusion brew. Kostarev blends classical, baroque, folk, jazz, rock and modern elements in an endlessly inventive and thoroughly entertaining style.
Its hard to pick highlights when the standards are this high , but you really must check out Menuetto where the track flits seamlessly between classical and jazz fusion styles, the tempestuous and turbulent Hoop and the searing intensity of Heavy Water for some of the most exciting fusion to surface this century. The two cuts from 1995’s Dead Music are a bit more experimental in approach, and the earliest tracks lean more to the jazz side of things.
The good news is that, played in order of creation, it is clear that Kostarev keeps on improving and refining his techniques, losing none of his inspiration and invention, boding well for future projects.
I heartily recommend this work as an introduction to a master of contemporary fusion, and his Concerto Grosso #1 is a must have for fans of Classical /Baroque/ Rock combinations. Kostarev is easily the equal of his more well known American and European counterparts, don’t let him slip under your radar!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Theme Of Appreciation - A Worldwide Tribute To Eddie Jobson
Tracklist: Day - Helen Lindhout And Bobby Simons (2:22), Excerpts From The Unknown Synthland - Dave Baxley (4:34), Who's Flying Over Me? - Kostarev Group (4:56), No Violintentions - Marcel Faas (5:57), Alysheba (3423) - Steve Robinson (6:20), Where It All Began/Slowdowns and Adrenaline - Marco Mattei (5:51), Goin' it Alone - Dogs Welcome (5:04), Bicycleride - Lennart StŒhle (3:02), Presto - Bobby Simons (4:03), Observatory - Paul Hartzog (3:34), Krimimusic - Ferry Zantman (3:31), Long-Haired Funky Friends Of Jesus - Super Groovy Band (3:24), Rainfall - C.Cat (3:29), Uncharted Destination - Ben One (3:55), Night - Helen Lindhout And Lennart StŒhle (1:56)
This is a tribute with a difference - rather than rehash Eddie Jobson's music, a bunch of Eddie's appreciators have put together a CD of music that has been influenced or inspired by his work over the years. What work is this you may ask, and indeed it was a question that came up in my mind too - I know Eddie from his amazing contribution to the seminal supergroup UK and I also have a solo electronica CD of his from the mid-80's called Theme Of Secrets, I'm also aware he joined Yes very briefly on the occasion of the reunion for the 90125 album but otherwise I drew a blank. Following some research I can inform us all that Eddie played for Roxy Music, King Crimson, Bruford, Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull and a host of small guest appearances, soundtracks, production credits, film scores, solo projects and other releases.
With such a wide range of output in quite varied styles of music you'd expect a CD by 15 different artists influenced by that body of work to be similarly diverse and perhaps a bit disjointed but this is not the case. Most of the tracks on the CD are electronic in nature, synths and sequencers abound - No Violintensions, Observatory, Krimimusic and Uncharted Destination all clearly take their inspiration from the Theme Of Secrets album whereas the insanely up-tempo Presto blends the same feel with a huge dose of Isao Tomita - in fact this is a manic rendition of Ravel's piano concerto in G, 3rd movement and it's quite something, all crazy sequences, lush synth pads and washes.
Excerpts From The Unknown Synthland and Who's Flying Over Me have a distinctly late-80's jazz-rock feel, the latter with some nice flute work - I suspect that's the Jethro Tull influence showing. Going It Alone and Where It All Began also have this same jazzy feel, the first track being almost a pop song and the second having slightly odd vocals in Italian, notably though there's a great Moog section at the end of this track that puts your mind right back to the Danger Money era. Perhaps the most UKish piece on the whole CD is Bicycleride - dynamic Wettonesque bass, thundering Hammond and tons of Moog, great stuff and my personal favourite. There's also a video of this piece on the website linked above.
There's more variation yet as Alan Holdsworth's collaboration is alluded to in the excellent guitar work on Alysheba (3423) and more guitar but of a gentle nature can be heard on Rainfall. Perhaps the weirdest track on offer is Long-Haired Funky Friends Of Jesus (but I guess you could gather that from the title), this indeed is a rather funky track and is perhaps the one piece that doesn't seem to fit on the album - however I suspect that's more down to my ignorance of Eddie's music than the piece itself. Finally the first and last tracks Day and Night provide some pleasant poetry read by the author (in a rather sexy South African voice I may add) along with some pleasant synth work.
Quite a diverse selection of tracks but on the whole it all fits together very well. The music is melodic, well produced, interesting and pleasant - obviously a labour of love from those who have contributed and far better sounding (and written) than many more established artists I care not to mention. This CD will surely please any fans of Eddie's work and Eddie himself has shown his appreciation (no pun intended) of this release on his Forum. Furthermore, sales of this CD will benefit the The Breast Cancer Fund in memory of Eddie's sister-in-law who died in 2006 but regardless of that noble cause I recommend this CD because it's very good indeed.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Lady Lake - Unearthed
Tracklist: Sunburst In Bognor (5:46), The Hulk (5:32), Tea Time (3:24), Lady Like (3:30), 22 cm ii (10:07), I Only Wanted A Girlfriend (But Got Married) (3:43), Lochem (6:54), Jimmy Wakes Up (5:58), Must Have Been More Than (5:51), The Magic Twanger - 1975 (3:06), The Magic Twanger - Live + 'Hidden' unnamed track (12:00)
Following the reformation of Dutch band Lady Lake and the issue of their second album Supercleandreammachine, the interest in this largely obscure 1970s band has been reignited. So much so that a trawl through the band's archives has come up with enough previously unreleased material to issue this hour-long collection of 'missing pieces'. A brief history of the band can be found along with the DPRP review of Supercleandreammachine while background information on the origins and release of Unearthed can be found in the exclusive DPRP interview with the band.
So what of the music? Well considering the bulk of the material is approaching 30 years old, it certainly doesn't sound that way! Even though transferred from various cassettes, there is a clarity that sometimes one doesn't hear in newer recordings. As with previous albums, the music has an affinity with bands such as Camel, particularly on the longer numbers such as 22 cm ii which features some great guitar work by Fred Rosenkamp, and Jimmy Wakes Up which takes as a template the melodic flourishes of early Camel, with interweaving guitars and keyboards. I Only Wanted A Girlfriend (But Got Married) tells the musical tale of the band's second drummer who couldn't decide whether to be in a band or take up a career playing football, so got married instead! With some chunkier guitar chords thrown in it takes on a slightly heavier mantel, although that is not to say the rest of the album doesn't have moments when the band thrown in a bit of heavy riffing to counterbalance the melody.
The group were not immune to influences from the contemporary music scene as opening number Sunburst In Bognor would suggest. This is a far more angular piece, although I can't really detect traces of XTC as the sleeve notes suggest (good job really, as I might have been forced to invent a new musical genre - new wave prog!). Lady Like also has a greater new-wavish feel about it, particularly the keyboards and the more simplistic drum pattern. Still, undeniable rooted in progressive sensibilities, along the lines of Canadian band Max Webster. The two bonus tracks are the only piece not recorded between 1979 and 1981, and offer a quick history in the development of Lady Lake. Both are takes on the track Magic Twanger from the band's debut No Picture album. The first version is a 1975 demo version featuring just Fred Rosenkamp and original Lady Lake drummer Peter Schoemaker. Forgotten about until an old cassette turned up in the glove compartment of Peter's brother's car some 31 years later (!) it offers a unique insight into the early development of the group. Segueing neatly into the second version, a full band live version recorded at the end of 1998, one can hear the original basis of the track but extended to twice as long. (Following a brief silence there is a so-called 'hidden' and unnamed track which sounds like a hybrid of Joe Meek and early XTC [it actually does this time!], a jolly and amusing ditty!). Ironically, the quality of this newest live recording is probably the worst of the entire album having the sonics of a well recorded bootleg (which, in fact, is what it is!)
Unearthed is a great release for fans of the band as it is essentially the album that would have followed up No Pictures had the musical climate of the time been more conducive to progressive rock releases. Entirely instrumental, the listener is forced to listen to the musical intricacies that are prevalent throughout the album. Essentially played live in rehearsal the album gives an indication of what Lady Lake would have sounded like in concert at the time. Given that the band had originally intended to release a 100 CD-R copies of the album to friends, family and hard-core fans, one has to applaud Musea for insisting on releasing it as an album proper. Thanks to the this decision we now have a much cleaned up version of some great late 70s prog that would otherwise have remained largely unheard. If you have liked either of the other Lady Lake albums, enjoyed them in concert or just like 70s instrumental prog, wouldn't it be a nice idea to buy a copy to thank the band and label? I think so.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Øresund Space Collective - It's All About Delay
Disc One: Rolling (12:13), Cirkus Yoda 1 (8:25), Cirkus Yoda 2 (7:55), Nebula 4747 (10:24), Isle Of Mogens (6:28), Shaved Cortex (15:21), Pink Jumps In The Ring (4:59), In Her Majesty's Secret Saucer (10:20)
Disc Two: Jupiter Flyby [In Memory Of Doug Walker] (25:43), Alien Strip Club (17:54), Chris Ice Sack (20:08), The Tony Blair Witch Crocket Project (15:06)
If you have ever played in a band you will know how tricky it is to improvise and produce a cohesive sound, unless surrounded by experienced and talented musicians. The music on this double CD comprises the best moments from improvised studio sessions over two days in March 2006.
This is the groups second album, (follow link to the review of their debut release), and the music is best described as extended and improvised space rock. They blend mixtures of psych and space rock based upon a solid groove rhythm section with 4 keyboard players and 2 guitarists who create and layer spacey textures, soundscapes and delayed guitar sounds. Many of the keyboard and guitar sounds are instantly reminiscent of great bands, like early festival Ozric Tentacles, Hawkwind, Tangerine Dream, but interestingly the OSC never sound exactly like any of these groups.
The CD opens with the track Rolling, and as is customary, you hear the producer shout 'Rollin'... The guitar intro is clean and spacey an could be straight from the Dead Flowers Moontan album, which in my book is a great start. The energetic drums drive the music along against a back drop of The Doors and Floyd - Saucerful... 60's-esque Hammond sound. Half way through the improv, the tempo slows and develops into a solid bass and drums groove, with solos over the top. This track sets the tone of the album.
The style slightly changes for Cirkus Yoda 2 and brings in some reggae-esque overtones, but doesn't develop into full on dub where the Ozrics would take it. Again, it's very competently understated, which is a general impression I get of this group. The keyboard sounds change through the songs and I am reminded of some of the sounds on Gong and Steve Hillage's Green album.
Nebula is superbly intricate, nearly jazzy drum fills and rim shots, playful and tuneful bass and always varying keyboards and guitar melodies. The track builds and builds into a crescendo of delayed and wah-wah guitars. The band change direction again with Shaved Cortex, now this is closest to what I would call 'Space Funk' with an abundance of solid groove, stop start bass lines with guitar and keys over the top. This is a track you can't help but reach for the volume control and puts a huge grin on your face.
These guys are excellent at latching on to a rhythm and playing with tempo and atmosphere. I remembered that I should point out that there aren't any real obvious key changes, or 'prog' time signatures, or vocals, but that doesn't lead to any dull moments.
Jupiter FlyBy on Disc 2 is a gentler affair commencing with a combination of Tangerine Dream sounds, creating swirling wind and ambient noises with distinct bass lines is very dreamy. It is also not entirely dissimilar to the mid section of Porcupine Tree's Coma Divine Live version of Radioactive Toy, or the start of Pink Floyd’s Shine On (Parts VI-IX). The track builds and is the CD’s longest track at over 25 minutes.
Depending on what flavour of prog you like, this may be heaven, but it's never hell. If you enjoy experimental improvised spacey / early psych music, and enjoy bands like Gong, Ozrics, earlier Porcupine Tree (think more Up The Downstairs than Deadwing), Colourstar (Heaven NiceTrip) then there is some excellent music here.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Greylevel - Opus One
Tracklist: Sojourn (6:37), Taken (7:41), Blue Waves (16:54), Your Light (9:10), Possessing Nothing (15:06), Rest (3:12)
Greylevel hails from the west coast of Canada, and began life in 2001 when vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist, bassist and programmer Derek Barber began writing and recording in his home studio. Joined by his wife, Esther, who adds to his vocals and keyboards, and guitarist Richard Shukin, Opus One, is the band's debut offering. With the promise of mixing Derek's classical piano training with his love of progressive rock, and from the samples on their website, I thought this CD would make a pleasant bit of late-night mood music. And on that basis it does work very well. Play it on a low volume when you have some friends around for dinner or relax in front of the log fire, and the gently lilting moods created by the band work a treat.
It's easy to see where Greylevel is trying to go with its music, which clearly focuses on mood and expression in the songs, rather than on constant melodies and technical playing. The band insists that this isn't a concept album, although the songs cover a general theme of 'lost love and finding hope in looking beyond one's self'. There's a very heavy folk and ambient feel to all six songs, which adds some nice variety to the progressive and classical influences. All of the songs have some nice moments, especially the opening classical guitar and atmospheric keyboards that unveil the song Sojourn. However where this album falls flat on its face, is if you really sit down and pay full attention to the music. In a similar way to a poor copy of a great artistic masterpiece, from a distance it looks the part, but it does not stand up to a closer inspection.
The problem for me, is - and there's no nice way of saying this - Derek's vocals are not the strongest part of his musical repertoire. His voice is weak, often out of tune and he frequently selects notes that just shouldn't ever follow one another. The heavy use of 'harmonies' with Esther, just makes it worse. She seems to have a nice voice, but that just highlights Derek's weaknesses. And if you hit a wrong note when singing in harmony it really stands out. When you do it frequently, it becomes embarrassing.
Thankfully there are long instrumental segments, but again on closer listening, occupying half an hour is stretching Blue Waves and Possessing Nothing somewhat beyond their bedtimes. Furthermore, when music is as sparse as much of this is, programmed drums make the whole thing sound flat and lifeless.
The title Opus One may suggest that there's an Opus Two on the horizon. If so, then in my humble opinion, a much more focussed approach to the songwriting, an honest review of the vocals and the acquisition of a drummer, should be considered before the horizon gets any closer. It's a shame, as there is clear potential here and some lovely melodies that deserve repeat plays. If you'd like some nice background music, then this will do the trick. But if you want something to listen to on your headphones and are in any way fussy about the singers, then this could be classified as unlistenable.
As 'background' music : 7 out of 10
As 'listening' music : 4 out of 10
Z-Axis - Concatenations
Tracklist: Out of Hand (5:14), Whitewater (6:43), Too Clever By Half [I. The First Casualty, II. The Precedent of the Benighted Snakes, III. 6 1 6] (9:00), The Grey Neighbours (3:50), Big Bend (6:14), Dry Land (3:33), She Had To Go Live With The Lizards (3:43), Betrayal [from Amy Love] (2:18), Put Out the Cat (3:44), Columbia Dam (3:51)
I never heard of this band before, but a) this is their second album, b) these American musicians have worked on several other projects in the past and are not young and new in the scene. The band is described or rumoured as to be related to the RIO (Rock In Opposition) movement (see Wikipedia's description if you -like me- never heard of this term before). The way they see themselves? "Post-prog rock, psychedelia w/world-beat flavor"...Well, to me they do sound like prog mixed mainly with some avant-garde elements and a lot of new age. Maybe look at Ozric Tentacles, Robert Fripp or Eno's 70's era and Tangerine Dream. Also, be prepared for a soundtrack feel spread almost everywhere around the album.
I was quite taken by the groovy opener Out Of Hand, which is one of the few tracks that has vocals. Spoken text that actually can be summarized into the quote "sex is sin". Funny and witty stuff that blends surprisingly well with a very full composition, featuring mellotron, Banks-like symphonic keys and quite metallic guitars. Things move on pretty well with Whitewater, which goes on in a more progressive and less jam-like way. Changes from heavy to soft passages and a lurking Ozric atmosphere can be found here. Things take a sudden twist to the new age side with Too Clever By Half. The beginning of this track has quite a Fripp-feel to it due to the guitar sounds, but the bass-line reminds me more of the theme of Twin Peaks or Betty Blue than an 80's rock/new age tune. However, it evolves into a middle section that glances at Brand-X. Spoken text and vocals here are not adding much - although they do seem like a homage to Gong... The quite inventive drumming should also be highlighted, but also the fact that it gets a bit drowned by the production.
Most of the rest of the album is purely soundtrack themes, ambient-flavoured tracks with a much more minimalist approach. The Grey Neighbours goes deeper into new age areas, and is dominated by a melodica. Good piece of music, but I am slowly starting to get the feeling that there is not so much coherence here. Better, this is a "concatenation" of styles and moods. Big Bend takes us more into ambient. Once again the song features spoken text in the background, while the composition is led by the rhythm section and is quite easy to follow. Dry Land starts where The Grey Neighbours left. Again stuff suitable for a soundtrack, and this time it even does remind me of a theme very much: the theme from The Terminator. Betrayal doesn't diverge much from this line.
There is also an effort to provide a more standard 80's based prog rock song (She Had To Go Live With The Lizards), but the vocals are definitely not the strong point of this band. The result is arguably the least interesting piece of the album. At last, things get more prog and uplifting with the bombastic Put Out The Cat. Columbia Dam is a rather direct reference to Tangerine Dream but seems to me not appropriate as an album closer. A cute but indifferent end, in contrast to a dynamic and invasive start for this album.
Given that the production is not that fine and it drowns a lot of elements, the overall listening experience is not the best possible. Concerning the material, it does have this nonchalant feel of an OST, and fails to grab your attention. It is mostly background, easy-going music, without that special something. Still, I would lie if I said I didn't like it at all. Concatenations is by no means a bad effort, it just lacks some coherence, and maybe a bit of purpose.
Conclusion: 6- out of 10
Cardboard Amanda - Cardboard Amanda
Tracklist: Gaspard De La Fruit (2:38), Detoxicus Itinerary (9:38), Pretty Farm Animals One (0:54), Cerebral Intestinoidal Transdection Process (0:39), Pagoda Fey (1:14), Picture Show (2:39), Grungard’s Dream (0:16), Fever Box (2:14), Garden Of The Sanitational Sanctorium (1:50), Mumper (0:54), Top Of The World (0:14), Satan Builds A Carousel (3:29), Chair In The Air (2:10), Pretty Farm Animals Two (0:19), Blood From The Twinkle Bird (0:38), Kwei-Kwei-Kwei (1:54), Le Corbusier (2:00), The Homeless King Of Ikaluktutlak (1:46), Pandora’s Box (4:01), Pretty Farm Animals Three (0:46), One Potato (8:52), Globus And The Magnificent Magnetic Reconnection (6:09)
Cardboard Amanda are a group from New York, and this is their debut album. The performers are François Louis Camille (violin, cello, string bass, lute, banjo, percussion), Dee Harris (Indian slide guitar, banjo, harmonica, djembe, percussion) and Christof Christofovich Tuninsky (vocals, clarinet, piano, kalimba, percussion), of whom their MySpace page says:
“Collaborations rarely culminate so succinctly as evidenced in the case of Francois Louie Camille, Christof Christofovich Tuninsky and Dee Harris - all masterful musicians and scholars of the absurd. Here, in what will be the first in a series of releases from Liar Leaver Records, is a truly remarkable and stunning work of beauty and imagination entitled Cardboard Amanda. This music was inspired by the true story of a brilliant scientist and inventor Dr. Amanda Mueller's complete fall into madness that ended in her suicide (she literally threw herself away in the trash).”
No doubt I am the wrong person to be reviewing this album but it really did nothing for me at all. I suspect that for most people this would be a one-play album – it’s been two plays for me and that is more than enough. If you are a student of the Avant-Garde or a musicologist you may get something out of it. I’m sure it’s all very clever and, yes, truly progressive in the sense that it is unlike anything I’ve heard before, but it leaves me cold. There are fragments within the 22 tracks (23 including the pointless hidden bonus) that are OK but there is not a single track that I can or will cite as well worth hearing. This is hard work and more an intellectual challenge than an enjoyable listen. In Pandora’s Box a burst of kids song On Top Of Old Smokey is heard and this is as tuneful as this CD gets while One Potato, Two Potato is the basis of another long piece. The main problem is the unapproachable nature of the album. It certainly has a sense of the absurd, which generally I like, but here I find it irritating and annoying - it’s all a bit too “Look At Me!”. Vocals are generally very grating and the nearest description I can get to is Stephen Hawking doing some Mongolian Throat Singing (a hindsight clue to this is given in the cover image). Yes, it is that bad. The instrumentation is interesting but never really rises above the “weird noises” level while rhythmically it is dense with lots going on – the problem is that I just don’t care about it. It sometimes comes across in a manner akin to Tom Waits, but I’d rather listen to Tom any day.
For Avant-Garde enthusiasts and musicologists only. It seems from their MySpace page that Dogbowl.com were more than impressed, the quote saying:
"I think this is the greatest CD release of 2006, and most likely 2007 and 2008 because it sounds like nothing you have ever heard before and nothing you will ever hear again for a long, long time."
I wholeheartedly agree with the second part of this statement. Go to MySpace and hear some for yourself - there’s an outside chance that you may even like it.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10