Reviews in this issue:
- Rush – Snakes & Arrows Live (Duo Review)
- Abel Ganz – Shooting Albatross
- Ünder Linden – Ünder Linden
- Little King – Legacy Of Fools
- Panzerballett – Starke Stücke
- Steve Stevens – Memory Crash
- Soft Machine Legacy – Steam
- Procosmian Fannyfiddlers – The Horse From Hell
Rush - Snakes & Arrows Live
CD 1: Limelight (4:47), Digital Man (6:56), Entre Nous (5:17), Mission (5:38), Freewill (6:01), The Main Monkey Business (6:05), The Larger Bowl (4:20), Secret Touch (7:44), Circumstances (3:46), Between The Wheels (6:00), Dreamline (5:15), Far Cry (5:19), Workin' Them Angels (4:48), Armor And Sword (6:56)
CD 2: Spindrift (5:45), The Way The Wind Blows (6:24), Subdivisions (5:42), Natural Science (8:33), Witch Hunt (4:48), Malignant Narcissism - De Slagwerker (10:41), Hope (2:20), Distant Early Warning (4:53), The Spirit Of Radio (5:02), Tom Sawyer (5:48), One Little Victory (5:26), A Passage To Bangkok (3:56), YYZ (5:16)
Edwin Roosjen's Review
In this digital era it seems not so complicated to produce a live recording, it certainly seems to be so for Rush. The normal interval of four studio albums before releasing live material has been let go. This is already the fourth consecutive pair of a studio albums followed by a live release. After Test For Echo a complete overview of twenty five years of Rush was realized in Different Stages. Five years later Rush In Rio celebrated the band's return after difficult stirring years. Very soon after that the 30th anniversary, R30 was released after the cover album Feedback. And now after Snakes & Arrows Rush decided it was again necessary to release a live recording. Rush has established an honourable reputation as a live band and their live recordings are known to be of superb quality, but will this be a bit too much?
Snakes & Arrows is, as to be expected, the biggest supplier in the choice of songs, nine to be exact and the early Eighties being the other Rush-era to be highlighted. As to be expected songs from Permanent Waves and of course the popular songs from Moving Pictures are also present, as they have been on numerous other live albums, and only one song is present from their releases in the Seventies, Circumstances from Hemispheres.
Normally Rush start out with a heavy song from their latest album but on this occasion the first five songs are oldies and a pleasant surprise for was the presence of Mission from Hold Your Fire, good to hear something from that album again. After that Snakes & Arrows dominates the album, interrupted by a handful of familiar older songs, which receive a huge acknowledgment and these live recordings give these songs an extra push.
The recording quality and the musicianship is of a high standard, but that almost needs no mentioning when speaking of Rush. The sound of the old songs is good too, but I think the sound has been optimized to suit the newer works as they sound really crystal clear. The power of this band is amazing, it's a treat listening to this album.
Halfway through the second disc the Snakes & Arrows part ends with a drum solo by Neil Peart - fired up by Malignant Narcissism, a frantic piece of music, and because it was recorded in The Netherlands this time the solo has been named De Slagwerker. He renewed his solo but of course lots of familiar pieces return from previous solos. Some people debate about the relevancy of yet another drum solo but what would a live Rush recording be without one.
Thankfully the acoustic set has been replaced by Hope with a leading role for Alex Lifeson. On R30 Jerry Stiller says they never play A Passage To Bangkok however this song is back on the setlist. Old songs like The Spirit of Radio and Tom Sawyer can not be absent just like One Little Victory from Vapor Trails. YYZ is the prefect closer for the marvellous album.
As said Snakes & Arrows Live is a treat from beginning to end. Very good material from the early years, not too far back though, and besides the obvious choices some nice surprises. The main attraction on this album are the songs from Snakes & Arrows. These live recordings give these songs even more power and show that Rush is still going strong. A Show Of Hands used to be my favourite Rush live album but it has been kicked out by this new album. Fans of Rush need not to hesitate and get this one immediately, even by Rush standards it is good.
Bob Mulvey's Review
Having caught one of the dates from Rush's Snakes & Arrows Tour last year I was curious to hear the live recordings, when, and as to be expected, they turned up on CD. Amongst the things that most impressed me at the gig was the clarity of the sound along with the separation of the instruments - this is captured superbly on these two discs. And perhaps to be expected with the digital technology available for live recordings - the expectation of a studio quality sound with applause at the end of each track is now common place. Although on the subject of audience applause, this seems to have been somewhat curtailed on this two CD set, (along with much of Geddy's rhetoric). The logic of which I cannot quite understand - live surely means live.
The concert and disc one opens with five tracks taken from Rush's illustrious past - recorded over two evenings at Rotterdam's Ahoy Arena on 16th & 17th October 2007. Limelight getting things nicely under way and certainly these five pieces worked well in situ and form a strong opening for the album. However as with the UK concert my reservations are based on the choice of material and the predominance of tracks from the Snakes & Arrows album. To be expected I hear you cry, as this was in fact the Snakes & Arrows Tour! And yes the tour was to promote said album and previous live albums have covered much of the older material. So what is the problem? Most likely that I still haven't fully warmed to the Snakes & Arrows album. Not that I am suggesting it isn't a good album, in fact I see it as a definite return to form for the band, however... enough said.
The Main Monkey Business is our first introduction to S&A and the track works well continuing the early momentum as does the gentler strains of The Larger Bowl. Vapor Trails is nicely represented by Secret Touch and as memory serves me one of only two representations from the 70s comes in the form of Circumstances from Hemispheres. Personally I would have liked to hear more of the earlier material, not that I am steeped in that particular era, or believe this was their strongest or most creative period (which for the record I don't), but more that I felt this period was largely overlooked during the tour. Back to the 80s for Grace Under Pressure's Between The Wheels followed by a decade jump for Dreamline (Roll The Bones). CD one concludes with a trio of songs from S&A. Listening to this CD I was reminded again of the concert and perhaps another of my misgivings which surrounded the sameness of sound and dynamic of the material in part one of the show.
CD Two and S&A returns with two tracks, before what proved to by a highlight from the gig and does so here, with Subdivisions, Natural Science and Witch Hunt forming a formidable trio of songs. Drum solos - sorry but I just can't listen to drum solos on albums (perhaps on the DVD). Skip to next track and Lifeson's pleasant acoustic ditty Hope which serves as a welcome resting point before the final onslaught. Returning once again to Grace Under Pressure for the infectious Distant Early Warning. As at the gig DEW marked a turning point and it's all uphill from here with great performances of The Spirit Of Radio and Tom Sawyer. I'm not a huge fan of One Little Victory but Peart's performance here makes the difference. Back to the 70s for A Passage To Bangkok before finishing off with the time honoured Rush classic instrumental YYZ.
So there we have it - a must for all Rush fans and due to the inclusion of the material from S&A and with three tracks that to my knowledge have not appeared on previous live Rush releases then this is an album worth investing in. Do we need another live Rush album? Why not? Rush are a band who have maintained a high level of performance over many years and capturing this for prosperity is surely worthwhile. The CD also includes excellent live shots of the band including the chickens!
I thought long and hard over the numeric conclusion for this review - certainly the audio is superb and for most Rush fans this album already lies proudly amongst other Rush albums. I've mentioned my reservations above and these should be clearly noted as MY reservations. If you liked Snakes & Arrows then add another point or two! Personally I am looking forward to the DVD (possibly later this year or early 2009) as certainly the visual aspect of the show was quite stunning. Combined with the clear audio - surely a winner.
Abel Ganz – Shooting Albatross
Some bands have been around for so long that it’s natural to assume that their recorded output has been much higher than it actually has. One such band is Scotland’s Abel Ganz who started life in 1980 under the direction of multi-instrumentalist Hugh Carter and keyboardist Hew Montgomery. The first album released 25 years ago also included vocalist Alan Reed before he was poached by Pallas, but more about him later. Shooting Albatross is the bands fifth release with their last appearing back in the early 90’s. First Montgomery then Carter departed around that time as the band like so many prog acts before them succumbed to AOR conventionality. A chance reunion in 2001 set the wheels in motion for the recording of this album which sees the band very much back into their prog-rock stride. The current line-up also includes bass guitarist Stevie Donnelly, vocalist and guitarist Stuart MacFarlane, lead guitarist Davie Mitchell and drummer Denis Smith all of whom joined the band in the current decade.
A courtesy glance at the tracklist (and track lengths) above will give some indication of what to expect. Looking For A Platform opens with the sound of waves breaking on a shoreline, establishing a nautical theme that pervades the album. The atmosphere is heightened by Anthony Phillips flavoured ringing 12 string guitar aided by moody low whistle from guest Stevie Lawrence. The mellow vocal section that follows bears a close resemblance to the “Hanging on in quiet desperation” part from Floyd’s perennial Time. Carter’s lead vocals are admittedly not the strongest but the moderately catchy chorus is enhanced by engaging Yes style harmonies. Fluid Steve Hackett laced guitar work from Mitchell sits comfortably alongside a characteristically cutting slide guitar break from Chris Fry taking timeout from Magenta. A tranquil bridge section is dominated by a stately extended piano solo from support keys man Jack Webb which for me is the songs highlight. Strummed acoustic guitar, once more evoking Ant Phillips and a tight bass line heralds a soaring guitar driven coda coloured by synth flourishes from Webb that bring Patrick Moraz to mind.
The sound of waves once more segues into the albums longest piece, the Montgomery penned So Far. He takes sole writing credits here, with Carter’s name associated with the other three tracks. Fiona Cuthill, Lawrence’s colleague from folk band Rallion, provides whistle, violin and recorder lending a distinctive Celtic-folk feel. A descending rhythm guitar line echoes Yes’ The Fish, or to be precise the Schindleria Praematurus vocal section that concludes the Fragile version. Mitchell shines with a short but excellent classical guitar solo that precedes his lyrical Andy Latimer tinged electric guitar work. The enigmatic vocal chords of Alan Reed make a welcome appearance as the bass adopts a tone reminiscent of Tony Reeves work with Greenslade. It builds to a heavenly peak echoing Trespass era Genesis with Reed recalling Gabriel’s performance on songs like White Mountain and The Knife. At the halfway stage another stunning solo from Fry, this time with a sharper blues edge contrasts with a medieval folky interlude recalling Gryphon in their rustic prime. The instrumental section is enlivened by fast but melodic guitar and synth interplay before Reed replies with a plaintive vocal against a heavenly choral backdrop. Smith’s explosive but articulate drum work propels the track into the home straight before subsiding for a low-key but infectious synth theme from Montgomery. The rousing finale makes good use of Reed’s emotive vocal with lyrical mandolin support from Lawrence.
Sheepish is probably the albums heaviest number although it’s unlikely to have many prog-metal practitioners looking over their shoulders. Following a chiming acoustic guitar intro it opens out into an up-tempo song part with edgy guitar and organ work. Carter evokes Steve Howe both in his electric sitar punctuations and lead vocals with the former contribution unsurprisingly fairing much better than the latter. A sweeping instrumental section, featuring spiralling synth, mellotron and guitar leads to a false ending at the halfway mark. Accordion style synth is joined by the haunting sound of a ships bell and gulls circling overhead. A double tracked fuzzed guitar melody makes way for a stirring guitar and synth coda with a tricky bouzouki solo thrown in for good measure.
Mitchell’s rippling acoustic guitar intro to Ventura sounds so familiar that I was expecting Genesis’ opening line “Home from work our Juliet…” from The Cinema Show to follow. The similarities don’t end there as next up is a sumptuous synth melody that Tony Banks would be proud of complete with a mellotron choral backdrop. MacFarlane, the bands most recent acquisition, provides a very effective vocal that suits the songs unhurried tempo perfectly. Mitchell, who has been superb throughout, has saved his best till last with a majestic extended guitar solo that’s simply stunning and probably the albums highlight. The track fades around the eight and a half minute mark only to resurface again two minutes later in the guise an ethereal song with ambient guitar and string effects. It could almost be in the same company as some of The Moody Blues’ romantic ballads if it wasn’t for the slightly disconcerting backing.
Taking its cue from the Genesis, Yes, Camel and Floyd school of melodic symphonic prog, Abel Ganz’s latest has certainly been a grower despite my initial reservations. Surely an album that contains so many obvious nods and references to its prog predecessors cannot be that good? Well the answer is yes it can. Stellar ensemble playing, not least from the supporting cast of guest musicians, contributes to the superbly arranged and richly instrumented music. If neo-prog is more to your liking then IQ, Pendragon, Strangefish and Mostly Autumn would also be a fair comparison. Either way this is an album that overflows with strong melodies and hooks that should keep even the most cynical prog sceptic satisfied.
Conclusion: 8+ out of 10
Ünder Linden – Ünder Linden
Tracklist: New–New/ Danza De Ballenas (8:53), Desolación (0:49), En La Piedad De Los Dioses (4:42), Casi Fue (4:26), El Conducto (7:02), Gravitaciones (4:53), El Coritto M.K. (2:42), Tiburón En Marcha (6:27), Linden (7:17) Bonus Track: Parafinal (5:07)
When I was just starting out as a reviewer for DPRP, I cut my teeth on quite a few CD’s from the Argentinean progressive specialist label Viajero Inmovil, and I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of much of the music they released. It has now been quite a while since I had one of their releases to cover, and I am happy to report that, if Ünder Linden’s CD is anything to go by, the level of quality is still being maintained. Unlike some of the other acts on the label, Ünder Linden eschew any Argentinean or ethnic influences, instead favouring an entirely instrumental music which could easily have been produced in England or America, and which perhaps is closer in spirit to Camel than to any other group.
Right from the start of New–New/ Danza De Ballenas, guitarist Ignacio Scarsella impresses with some robustly melodic and moving themes, which strongly recall Andy Latimer’s style of playing; I am immediately put in mind of some of his stirring work on the Harbour Of Tears album, which is one of my favourites from the latter period of Camel’s output. Scarsella’s contributions are excellent throughout, with some particular highlights to be found on El Conducto and Tiburón En Marcha.
Ünder Linden are no mere Camel copyists though, as Scarsella is not the only gifted instrumentalist on board. Roberto Medina is a superb violinist (excelling on both acoustic and electric violins) and he adds much in the way of melody and not a little excitement to the compositions, giving the group an unusual, if not unique, twist to the standard prog formula. His furious fiddling enlivens Gravitaciones no end and his sparring with Scarsella on El Conducto is simply outstanding.
With some nice, if understated, supporting keyboards from Gabriela Gonzalez and unfussy but solid rhythmic underpinning from Jorge Dal Cin and Mario Gimeno on bass and drums respectively, Ünder Linden’s musical tapestry is put together with love and skill and makes for a very pleasant listening experience.
The band touches on some folk influences on Tiburón En Marcha, and with such a gifted violinist, the symphonic and classical styles are never far away. Much of the group’s appeal is in the way these influences are seamlessly blended with the melodic and soft rock finesse of guitarist Scarsella. I also love the instrumental tradeoffs between guitar and violin, especially the enervating duel at the conclusion to Linden.
Whilst this CD makes very good background music, there is plenty to reward the careful listener too and though the bulk of the material is mid tempo stuff it rarely drags its feet or gets tedious. I never really missed a vocalist either.
There’s nothing revolutionary here, and very little of a bombastic or heavy nature (though bonus number Parafinal is quite a rocker), but this South American cross between Camel and Curved Air are very good at what they do and their music should please fans of both groups and lovers of melodic instrumental music in general.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Little King – Legacy Of Fools
Tracklist: Prodigal Son (4:10), Domino (4:59), Collateral Damage (4:26), Moving On (1:15), Nineteen Strong (4:01), Internal Smut (4:08), Legacy (6:05), Mea Culpa (3:29), 202 (6:10)
Texas’ Little King return with a follow-up to 2005’s Virus Divine, with band mainman Ryan Rosoff this time recruiting drummer Eddy Garcia (also of industrial behemoths Ministry – no trace of this style here, so metal-phobes can relax!) and bassist Mike Esparza, who played on the band’s debut back in 1997.
Looking back at my review of Virus Divine I could probably repeat much of what I wrote previously here as the general style is largely unchanged; a mixture of modern and classic rock styles with a progressive touch, Rush are once again the first name to come to mind; partly due to some of Rossoff’s guitar work having a similar tone and timbre to that of Alex Lifeson circa Rush’s late 70’s/ early 80’s period (check out the more laid back sections of songs such as Domino or the rocking instrumental Internal Smut) but its more the general feel of a focussed power trio a’la Rush of the 21st century that the majority of the album brings to mind – the enthusiastic and powerful opener Prodigal Son being a prime example. In fact, the main change I would say when comparing Legacy Of Fools to its predecessor is that the album as a whole sounds a little more confident and powerful.
The standout track here is probably Collateral Damage, which mixes celebral prog rock with a Led Zeppelin like swagger, and features some superb guitar work from Rosoff; impressive on both a technical and melodic level, his playing is one of the things that stands out on Legacy Of Fools. On this track as well as on a couple of others, Rosoff’s own voice (possibly an acquired taste) is joined by a female singer (two, Betsy Tinajero and Heather Oglesby, are used) and this approach seems to work well, adding a little more depth to the vocals.
By modern standards, the album – at less than forty minutes – is short; this was also the case with Virus Divine, but as with that album I felt that the album was quite long enough. In fact Legacy Of Fools perhaps tails off towards the end and is a little less consistent than Virus Divine, but conversely the highlights are probably stronger than on its predecessor.
Lyrically, Rosoff tackles some interesting subjects – with an overall theme of, in his words, ‘all that we have inherited and what we are wilfully leaving behind’, Rosoff looks at the state of the education system in 202 (he’s a High School English Teacher in his day job, so well qualified to comment), casts a disdainful eye on the war in Iraq in Collateral Damage and looks at four generations of males in his own family in Legacy. Definitely a step up from the usual bland, inconsequential fare many bands come up with.
Overall, Rosoff and co have delivered another solid effort here, and fans of well played rock music with progressive touches and some truly excellent guitar work would be well advised to investigate further.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Panzerballett – Starke Stücke
Tracklist: Pink Panther (5:18), M. w. M. i. O. f. R (3:54), Smoke On The Water (3:22), Friede, Freude, Fussball (7:53), Wind Of Change (4:42), Birdland (4:21), Dreamology (6:53), Thunderstruck (3:27), Zickenterror (3:49), Paranoid (4:09)
Prior to receiving Panzerballett’s latest release Starke Stücke I had never heard of them, nor did I really know what to expect from this album. After opening the gatefold case and seeing lead guitarist and main composer Jan Zehrfeld wearing a black hat with what appears to be metal coils coming out of the top and black Ringo Star like glasses, it became immediately apparent that this album was probably going to be different from anything I had ever heard before. This assumption turned out to correct - in a good way!
As a majority of my prior reviews suggest, I really enjoy most of the music that falls into the heavier end of jazz fusion. While straight ahead jazz, by basic definition, contains a lot of the syncopation and atonal harmonies of fusion, the biggest reason it has failed to leave a big mark on my musical tastes is because almost all that I was familiar with never contained that bit of heaviness that I feel make bands like Planet X and On The Virg special. Panzerballett fills this gap perfectly.
About half of the album is covers of other more well known songs, starting with The Pink Panther. As with all of the covers, the main themes remain intact, but many aspects are rearranged to fit Panzerballett’s style. There is a very Wes Montgomery inspired guitar solo in the middle accompanied by Gregor Bürger’s always present saxophone. This lies sandwiched between a metal rendition of the well known Pink Panther theme. Smoke On The Water and Thunderstruck, covers from Deep Purple and AC/DC respectively, still retain their well known riffs, but in a more syncopated sense.
This brings me to the first of only two complaints I can think of. About eighty five percent of the music sounds more or less exactly the same with the same general layout, i.e. heavy section, jazz guitar solo and saxophone run or some combination of the three. To some this might become irritating, but I have always had the view that if a band makes a few incredible songs, I would want the rest to be of the same quality. If anything the music could have used input from other instruments like a synth. There is really only one track that does not fit the mould.
Zickenterror is one of those songs that can best be categorized as being weird for the sake of being weird. Unfortunately, this four minute oddball of strange rhythm changes with even weirder yelping noises in German drags an otherwise exemplary album down a few notches. Think B-52s but more incoherent, if that’s even possible. What exactly where they thinking with this one? It would have been better just left off of the album.
When I put this album in my CD player for the first time, I was absolutely enamoured. This worried me at first because it’s usually the albums I appreciate quickly that fade fast. After many plays over the course of a few weeks my enthusiasm has not subsided one bit. In my mind this is how modern jazz should be played. It is exactly what I have been searching for. Stark Stücke has been in constant play and until I start getting headaches from listening to it too much, it will remain so. At times the music can become very heavy. This is why I would be hesitant to recommend it to fans of softer jazz like Miles Davis or John Coltrane. There are even a few random screams in M. w. M .i. O. f. R. This will appeal to fans of fusion and even metal. I can’t recommend this album enough. Even taking into account my few qualms, this is one of my favourite albums of the year.
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Steve Stevens - Memory Crash
Tracklist: Heavy Horizon (2:04), Hellcats Take The Highway (5:32), Memory Crash (5:06), Water on Ares (5:52), Day Of The Eagle (5:47), Small Arms Fire (7:30), Cherry Vanilla (7:30), Joshua Light Show (1:53), Prime Mover (6:13), Josephine (6:23)
Guitar player Steve Stevens has made his mark on the music industry, but amongst all the things he has done he is mostly known as the guitar player for Billy Idol's band. His look on the sleeve gave me the impression of him being a member of Mötley Crüe and this was not that far off because he played guitar on the first solo album of vocalist Vince Neil. Stevens also moved in on the progressive rock path by participating in a project with Terry Bozio and Tony Levin and some will also note that he plays guitar on some songs on the Derek Sherinian album Mythology. Stevens is a diverse guitar player and his solo works include a Flamenco album and now we have Memory Crash his latest solo album on which he plays all instruments apart from the drums.
Memory Crash is a mainly instrumental guitar rock album with a diversity of styles. Steve Stevens is a technically skilled guitar player but never loses himself in showing off with difficult tricks. Heavy Horizon is an intro but on Hellcats Take The Highway he really takes off, like an AC/DC song it fires up and swings with an up-tempo heavy drum beat. Steve Stevens can play freely and immediately shows his capabilities. On every listen you can choose, do I listen to his technical guitar playing or just move in the rhythm which is highly contagious?
On Memory Crash the story continues in a slower pace, again a song on which you will find it difficult to sit still and if you manage to you can only admire the man's playing style. Water On Ares is a slower song to bring down the level of adrenaline and it reminds me of his acoustic work on his Flamenco album, but not as swinging. His skills on the acoustic guitar are amazing. Day Of The Eagle is a cover from Robin Trower and features a guest appearance by Dug Pinnick from King's X on vocals and bass. His participation gives it King's X influences, but it holds more similarities with Crosstown Traffic from Jimi Hendrix. Small Arms Fire is a heavy song which features some more technical tricks and strange guitar sounds. Cherry Vanilla is a relaxed song with and again influences from Jimi Hendrix.
Joshua Light Show is a short piece of Steve Vai like sound tricks, whilst Prime Mover starts like an acoustic ballad but evolves into a relaxed swinging song. Some spacey guitar sounds give a Sixties feeling, also some nice organs in the background. On Josephine Steve is also singing some short lyrics, but this one can also be classified as an instrumental, the short vocal part is not that eminent.
Steve Stevens is a man who acts on various playing grounds in music and although he has some experience with progressive rock, the music on Memory Crash doesn't qualify as such. It's mainly instrumental rock I think many readers of this site may well like. This album blew me away because of it's compact rock sound combined with skilful playing. On some occasions the spirit of Jimi Hendrix comes alive and it can also have the drive of AC/DC. Not a progressive rock album but a highly recommended for lovers of instrumental guitar rock. Check out the many samples and decide whether or not this is to your taste. If the style is to your liking you won't be disappointed.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Soft Machine Legacy – Steam
Many readers may be familiar with the original line-up of Soft Machine Legacy (Soft Machine) who helped to form the foundation for many Canterbury acts of 1970s including Egg, Robert Wyatt, Caravan and National Health among many others. What set these bands apart from most of the contemporary acts of the day was the liberal use of jazz structures in songwriting and even a bit of humour. Caravan’s Golf Girl comes to mind immediately. While I am not familiar with any of Soft Machine Legacy’s earlier output, the influences of the early 70s Canterbury scene does seem to have a pronounced influence on this recording.
The musical direction on this album can best be categorized as very experimental jazz fusion with the influences of Canterbury as mentioned above. Most of the songs sound like improvised jams that contain many saxophone and flute passages interspersed among clean guitar chords and distorted solos. I really enjoyed Theo Travis’ saxophone work with The Tangent and his signature sound is still present on songs like Firefly and Chloe And The Pirates, even drawing comparisons to the two Lost In London tracks.
Soft Machine Legacy are clearly a very talented band, as all artists who can keep up with Allan Holdsworth are. But the biggest overriding issue I have with this album is the almost complete lack of structure and melody. The two previous tracks mentioned along with The Steamer, which is a swinging Theo Travis driven song in the vein of Miles Davis, are the only songs that motivated me to keep listening. Even after many weeks of playing this record, I can not recall very many passages. I like to be able to at least draw up a few sections that are memorable as it makes it easier for me to come back to it again. But even with that, this was a difficult record to digest as a whole. In their 2002 album Unfold The Future, The Flower Kings included many short, improvised jazz pieces and a comparison to Steam seems very appropriate as the similarities where abundant. If you enjoyed them, then this album could possibly appeal to you.
I really enjoy improvised music when it is appropriately moulded within the frame work of a composed song. With this album that is not the case. If there was a larger emphasis on structure in the song writing instead of seamlessly random and obscure passages I would have enjoyed this much more. The talent is here, but the delivery is not.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Procosmian Fannyfiddlers - The Horse From Hell
Tracklist: Boiling Away (3:42), The Ballad Of Shoity Shoite Shoitens (3:02), Avenging Average Mailman (3:33), The Wake Of A Cake (3:47), Roar Of The Tenants (3:48), In The John (3:10), Giant Pike, Leather And Hell (4:20), Confessions On A Railroad Station Floor (4:02), Devil Stained Blues (1:39), One Of Our Spies Is Missing (4:40), The Horse From Hell (8:38), Reign Of Fur - Epilogue (2:49)
The dreaded Procosmian Fannyfiddlers return once again with their curious take on the progressive market. Their mix of folk rock has on the surface all the right ingredients to attract a much larger market. Progressive folk rock complete with flute, violin, male/female vocals along with the usual, guitar, keys, bass & drums. I hear many an ear pricking up with this descriptor - a new Mostly Autumn, Iona or Karnataka perhaps? Alas not, as although all the right ingredients are present the end result is somewhat lacking. And how can this be for a band now on their seventh album?
Well, it has been my belief for many years now that this is deliberate and intended as a spoof or joke. I get the impression that the musicians that comprise PF all have other musical projects and that PF is a fun outlet for them. Trouble is I don't think the rest of the world is getting the punch line... Progressive rock is by nature a niche market, making it inaccessible to the point of irritation doesn't seem to be the way forward.
In an age where accessibility has never been easier the band remain as aloof as ever. Therefore as PF seem unwilling to make the effort, then I have no intentions of offering any musical pointers as to the tracks to be found on The Horse From Hell. Instead I refer you to the three previous albums covered by DPRP: Remco saw the humorous side back in 2001 with The Rolling Court Massacre, whilst Dave had a thorny dilemma in 2003 with the Return Of The Sweaty Owl. I was frustrated with Father Dog in 2005 and now with 2008's The Horse From Hell my interest has bolted.
I'll never quite understand this band and it would appear by the lack of any permanent web presence that they don't want me (or you) to do so either. Musically they are more than competent, however although their albums are professionally presented, (THFH is available on vinyl as well), the final product sounds like it has been recorded in a garden shed. And this is deliberate - I'm convinced of this!
So if the brief Youtube clip linked above piques your interest then you'll need to follow the other link to Progrock Records (Norway), who seem to be one of the few outlets for the Procosmian Fannyfiddlers music.
Conclusion: 3.5 out of 10