Reviews in this issue:
- Transatlantic – An Evening Of Transatlantic ~ Whirld Tour 2010
- Agents Of Mercy – Dramarama (Duo Review)
- Salem Hill – Pennies In The Karma Jar
- The Pineapple Thief - Show A Little Love [EP]
- The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here Is Live (Duo Review)
- Mostly Autumn – Go Well, Diamond Heart
- SBB - Blue Trance
- Ocean Mind – Alone We Walk, Together We Fly
- Koi – In Tomorrow Hid Yesterday
- Believe – World Is Round
- Discipline – Live Days
- Root - Bird's Eye & Tiger Stripped
- The Ocean Band – Couch Dictators
- The Opium Cartel – Night Blooms
- Nordagust – In The Mist Of Morning
- Three Monks – Neogothic Progressive Toccatas
- A Genuine Freakshow - Oftentimes
- US – Feeding The Crocodile
- Angelzoom – Angelzoom
- The Colourphonics – The Colourphonics
- Vonassi - The Battle Of Ego
- Various Artists - Guitars Dancing In The Light ~ A Tribute To Santana
Transatlantic – An Evening Of Transatlantic ~ Whirld Tour 2010
DVD 1: The Whirlwind, All Of The Above, We All Need Some Light, Duel With The Devil
DVD 2: Bridge Across Forever, Stranger In Your Soul, The Return Of The Giant Hogweed, Band Interview
Oh lordy, Transatlantic ~ An Evening With... What we basically have here is prog porn of the highest order, not something that should be wrapped up in a brown paper bag, as if trying to hide some embarrassing secret, Transatlantic have smashed that concept to smithereens, being for me one if not the most iconic modern prog bands ever, (yes officially a band, as they now have their own drum heads, which according to Portnoy is the defining moment that makes you a proper band). All you need to do is look at the pedigree and output form all involved, I mean this release really captures the essence of what the band are about, making it a beautiful packaged product that should sit in all discerning prog collections in one form or another. One would probably assume that lots of you guys may have already bought this gem and are shaking your heads in agreement.
Transatlantic’ show at Shepherds Bush was reviewed by the DPRPers, so all that is left to do is to inform you what this beautiful package contains. The boat has really been pushed out here, no expense spared; this really has set a high standard for all the pretenders to aim for, showing that they really have a full understanding of what their fans want.
There is no stone left unturned with this set, the behind the scene segment which is two hours long takes you on the journey from first rehearsals right through to the final date of the tour at the Academy in Manchester, making even the mundane chores sound exciting. Not only do we get to see Neal and the band rehearse, there is also live segments throughout, making it well worth staying the distance. Two hours that fly by which had me wanting to watch again, which I duly complied in doing.
Band interviews can be dull, but here they have managed to keep it to a succinct, a twenty minute-ish formal chat, which really highlights the chemistry between these musicians, being devoid of egos and pretentions. I found Roine’ comments about wanting to make an album of shorter songs, as the double and long tracks, which as a group they had already done, where as Neal had wanted to make it a double.
Even the bonus track The Return Of The Giant Hogweed recorded live at the High Voltage Festival 2010 oozes class, which is intensified by having the addition of Steve Hackett participating as a special guest. The live set Transatlantic played at High Voltage may have been shorter than on the world tour, but an event as grand as this, more than makes up for that.
It is really interesting to watch these guys in action out of their normal arena where you would expect to see them in, all presented to you in high quality footage. There’s a joke about Neal filming everything as it happens. Well all I can say to that is thank you, as this is what makes this package so unique, having and making this material available.
Two defining comments where made which really stuck in my mind, confirming my thoughts of Transatlantic as a band. Roine commented that, “the audience listened with their eyes”, which I thought was such a precise observation. The second comment came from Mike, who stated that, “the motivation of the band is to make good music and have fun as their lives don’t depend on it”. Which said it all really?
Will there be another Transatlantic album / tour? They certainly intimated that is was a very good possibility.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Agents Of Mercy – Dramarama
Tracklist: The Duke Of Sadness (9:17), Last Few Grains Of Hope (6:48), Peace United (5:45), Journey (7:39), Gratitude (6:28), Meet Johnnie Walker (5:29), Cinnamon Tree (3:16), The Ballard Of Mary Chilton (4:29), Roger The Tailor (4:36), Conspiracy (4:06), We Have Been Freed (8:37), Time (5:01)
John O'Boyle's Review
Dramarama is Agents Of Mercy’ second album; the follow up to their stunning first release The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight, which received a 7.5 and 8.0 out of 10 respectively here at DPRP. Nad Sylvan (vocals and keyboards), Roine Stolt (guitars), Jonas Reingold (bass), Lalle Larsson (keyboards) and Walle Wahlgren (drums), have created another album that has pin pointed the Amygdale of my brain, causing recognition of emotional significance and arousal, such is the beauty of the music that has been created, I think I have just died and gone to heaven, the stunning stages that have been created here by the interaction of such luminaries, just beggars belief.
Although this is an album of symphonic rock that may sound familiar, the band has created an album of stunning quality. The difficulty for some maybe the fact when compared to some of the many pieces that have been recorded by these artists in various bands, it could be quite easy to dismiss this as a weaker sibling, a mistake you will regret, should you choose that path. It’s interesting that the song writing structures are uniquely different in approach, seeing seven compositional Stolt pieces, three Sylvan and two joint compositions. It is quite easy to pick out the said tracks, as their approach is different in style.
Nad has the tones of early Gabriel interspersed with Collins, which for me really adds depth and character to the storyboard of lyrics presented. Sometimes his approach can sound a bit quirky, but for me that is the beauty of Nad Sylvan. Roine’ guitar work as ever delivers stunning backdrops, one minute very sedate, unimposing, the next driving, taking command, leading, which in the blink of an eye, duelling and complementing the awesome keyboard soirées.
If you were to ask me to perfectly describe what AOM are about then the opener, The Duke Of Sadness would pinpoint the band to perfection, a theatrical rock approach interlaced with a film noir feel. If the classic line-up of Genesis were Swedish, still recording today, then this maybe what they would sound like. You are presented with great melodies and harmonies throughout, the music scales to climatic crescendos with strange and unusual lyrical structure. The hopeful and beautiful sounding Last Few Grain’s Of Hope really steps up a gear, not in meter, but quality, the keyboard and bass interaction really carry the song, Roine’ fretwork is emotional and poignant as Nad’s vocals are punctuated by musical perfection, making it a song to die for. Peace United has a harder edge to it, again being keyboard heavy, a modern approach on a retro Beatle-esque soundstage; instrumentally nobody outstays their welcome, truly amazing stuff.
A spiritual sounding Journey carries on the intentions of the band, which is laced with Lalle Larsson’ stunning virtuosity and some very nice guitar breaks, the whole piece is built on the tones of Nad’ vocal approach. I just find it amazing that such prolific musicians can conjure up such magic time and time again. Gratitude features a beautiful bass line, Jonas really stepping up to the plate, Roine’ vibrato guitar interjections and the layered keyboards really setting the piece alight. Meet Johnnie Walker an inviting an intriguing song, an ode to the whisky, liquid gold, a friend and a joker which paves the way for the folky Cinnamon Tree, being a real favourite of mine; the lyrical and vocal approach really reminded me of the best of what Cat Stevens offered, almost as if this was one of his long lost classic songs, a path that The Ballard Of Mary Chilton travels too, pardon the pun, (she was purported to be the first European woman to set ashore at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts), which proves that good songs don’t have to be complex.
Roger The Tailor sees the Genesis approach to storytelling being used to great effect, building pictures of characters lyrically, whilst the musical interludes swirl, jazzy and humoresque almost acting as the personalities of the characters. Conspiracy really towers with its powerful deliveries, scaling harmonies, a song that just majestically strolls confidently through the world of music, holding its head up high. We Have Been Freed is a very powerful track featuring some stunning interaction, which seems to take a more forward approach, but underneath layered, with the addition of some nice lead breaks, seeing the best interaction between Roine and Lalle, teasing and mirroring each other with fantastic harmonies and rhythms, which is really the trademark throughout the whole album. Time the closing track of this stunning album, a beautiful, slow and sedate, dignified in character and manner, almost sorrowful that the storytellers’ journey has come to an end, brings this whole affair to a fitting closure.
Dramarama sees the band sounding like a mix of The Beatles, Yes, Genesis, to some degree The Tangent, hints of Kaipa, The Flower Kings and Transatlantic, symphonic prog with a melodic and upbeat approach. I had the great fortune to see the band play quite a few of these songs live at The Summer's End Festival this year, which opens up a whole new world when listening to these songs. The whole beauty of the album is that it’s a grower, the more time you allocate, the richer the reward is. I cannot find one negative thing to say about this album; being a very close contender for album of the year, for me just being pipped by Manning’ Charlestown; Now Stolt and Manning playing together, that is a whole other story that we don’t need to go into here.
Dave Baird's Review
Following last year's pleasant debut Agents of Mercy release, The Fading Ghosts of Twilight, Roine Stolt has once again gathered a fine selection of musicians to put out the second CD, Dramarama. Fading Ghosts was very much a project spawning from a desire of Roine's for Nad Sylvan to sing on a couple of songs that blossomed into a full release with Nad singing the lion's share of the material and a variety of musicians from around the globe providing the backing via the internet. The new look Agents is a different beast altogether with Roine putting together a singular, all Swedish line-up allowing for group writing, rehearsals and recording. The result isn't perhaps as far from Fading Ghosts as you might expect, a lot of the style of the new line-up has been retained from the first album (think Afternoon Skies, Jesus on the Parapet, A Different Sun, Bomb Inside Her Heart from Fading Ghosts…), but there's cohesiveness that was previously missing.
The album is an evolution in the real sense of the word as Roine appears to have taken all the good genetics from Fading Ghosts, rejected the bad bits and added a little more good on top. Nad's singing all the lead vocals this time around - an excellent move, not because Roine's singing is bad, far from it, but Nad's voice is fairly new to the scene and its original quirkiness is a real pleasure to the ears. Perhaps in keeping with Nad's image (although Roine is the main writer) the songs are overall more theatrical and somewhat whimsical. Many of them are telling tales: Roger the Tailor, The Ballad of Mary Chilton, The Duke of Sadness, Meet Johnny Walker, ok, that one's about whiskey, but written and sung as though it were a person.
As in many of Roine's projects fellow Flower King, Jonas Reingold, provides his ever dependable and tasty bass work, and on keyboards we hear Lalle Larsson. Lalle of course will be known by many DPRP readers as the keyboardist on the last Karmakanic CD, and indeed he played with Karmakanic and Agents on the Power of 2 tour, so I guess Roine liked the collaboration. Lalle is quite technical player, but he proves himself an excellent band member also, supporting the music rather than dominating with a variety of classic organ, Mellotron and Moog sounds. He gets his moment to shred on Journey where he gets a full two-minute solo. I'm not sure it's all in keeping with the rest of the CD, but it's quite a lot of fun and displays his jazzier side quite well. New behind the drums is Mickael "Walle" Wahlgren who proves to be very adaptable and tasteful, a good match for the generally laid-back atmosphere. I had the pleasure to interview Lalle and Walle a few months ago - this will be published in the coming weeks.
I've had this CD for nearly three months now and listen to it regularly, it's a real treat, certainly one of my personal favourites of 2010 (certainly the track Meet Johnny Walker hits the spot for me since the first time I heard it, in fact I'm still whistling it all the time now). There's a relaxed and breezy air about it and it has certainly provided some light and smiles in the dark winter months. On top of this every time I come back to it I'm finding something new. The album is a balanced mix of folk, theatre, symphonic prog, retro and ballad with an overall sprinkling of funkiness (that'll be Jonas I think). Yes of course there are quite some Flower Kings moments too, would be Roine otherwise now would it? Lyrically it's interesting with quite a measure of humour thrown in - how many songs have lyrics with the tail rhyme words as "elastic", "fantastic", "drastic" and "enthusiastic"? (Roger the Tailor). It's a bit pointless IMO to talk about influences too much with Roine's work, he has his own huge body of work to call upon now, however one could cite Genesis, lighter Yes and The Beatles lurking in the shadows, plus parts of We Have Been Free have a distinct Van Der Graaf Generator whiff too, but these are influences in the same way that Beethoven sometimes sounds a bit like Mozart.
I do hope Roine keeps this band together for another album or two because they've really got a nice vibe about them and play well together on stage should you get the chance to see them live.
Conclusion - nothing particularly new, but a solid evolution on the first release and real gem, if you liked the first album then you'll LOVE the second.
Salem Hill – Pennies In The Karma Jar
Tracklist: Carry Me (3:56), My Gift To You (7:54), Fine (6:05), Stormclouds In Wonderland (4:13), This Lump (7:28), Why Did You Make Me? (6:34), The Horror Of Fearlessness (6:38), The Day Is Yours (13:59), Glimpses (6:03)
Salem Hill are another of my ‘add to cart’ bands. You know the ones – you hear just a brief snippet for the very first time and you scamper off and buy everything they’ve ever recorded. Echolyn, Glass Hammer, The Flower Kings, Big Big Train and Spock’s Beard have all received this accolade, amongst others. I can still remember, for example, the first time I heard Shades by Echolyn – it was a quasi-religious experience. I kid you not.
Alongside their Nashville contemporaries Glass Hammer (with whom singer/guitarist/keyboardist Carl Groves has appeared, both live and on record) and Neal Morse, Salem Hill have similarly never shied away from expressing their own religious beliefs through their art. We, as fans, know about these and have wholeheartedly bought the recordings of these, and other bands, without (much) complaint. Neal Morse’s solo work, particularly, has come in for quite a lot of criticism from some quarters for being overtly and unashamedly Christian in content but hey, if you don’t like it don’t buy it.
The Christian lyrical content has not deterred a host of DPRP reviewers from bestowing recommended status on all of Neal’s studio solo work.
Pennies In The Karma Jar similarly puts God front and centre. He even gets a few mentions in the booklet. Although Salem Hill (and quite a few other bands, now that I think on) have always done this. The lyrical content may put some off, though, and I have anguished long and hard about this review, since as a big fan (their concert in Nashville in support of Glass Hammer was amongst the best I’ve ever seen in over thirty years of gig attending) I do want to expose as many people as possible to the band. They released, after all, Mimi’s Magic Moment which Ed Sander rightly deemed the album of 2005. And a host of other critically acclaimed albums dating back to 1992 had previously cemented their reputation as one of the very best American prog bands.
Indeed, some of my DPRP colleagues have been wondering just how I’m going to approach this review.
Bands have, if you think about it, always spoken to us from a particular viewpoint, be it social, economic, political or whatever. Just because they speak from a religious viewpoint, even if it’s not one you share, shouldn’t serve to detract from the musical content, and for me to comment adversely on themes that, after all, emphasise love, peace, tolerance and understanding would be churlish in the extreme. OK, so I’m not a creationist, veering towards the scientific/rational end of the philosophical spectrum, but it’s organised religion, on reflection, that I have the biggest personal issue with, and not with an individual’s personal beliefs.
So I’ll just say that musically Pennies… is, to my mind the equal of Mimi’s… and as such a strong contender for album of the year. No mean feat, given the strength of the competition.
For sure, Mimi’s has more ‘epic’ moments, as there’s only four songs to Pennies’ eight, but Pennies distils what Salem Hill have been doing for the last eighteen years or so into an almost perfect set of tunes that encapsulate all I enjoy about American symphonic prog.
Carry Me kicks things off with pitch perfect harmonies, before a blast of organ signals an almost perfect sub-four minute example of all that’s great about Salem Hill – amazing vocals, symphonic keys, restrained guitar soloing, before the track segues - courtesy of a some great bass playing by Patrick Henry - into the slightly rockier My Gift To You. It’s got more time and tempo changes in its eight-minute length than some bands manage across an entire album. Again, there’s some quite spectacular guitar work by Michael Dearing, a Hammond workout by Groves and the whole thing is tied together by the stupendous drumming of Kevin Thomas.
Fine showcases this bands fantastic vocal harmonising – all bar Henry letting rip – before an Eastern keyboard vibe propels us into another set of Dearing solos. Stormclouds In Wonderland sees the band dallying with prog metal albeit only slightly before one of the standout tracks of the album. This Lump is a triumph of soaring, symphonic keys, wonderful harmonies and foot-tapping melodies. Oh, and there’s some flamenco guitar. And a sing aloud chorus. Even though the prospect of a load of men, like myself, of a certain age and body profile (largely attributable to beer consumption) shouting “This Luuuuump” at the top of their voices does make for a surreal, nay nightmarish prospect should Salem Hill ever grace our shores. The song, though, is a triumph. Turn it up loud.
Why Did You Make Me? is a bit more alt/prog, in its jarring beginning, jangly guitar and angst-ridden vocals. There’s some great rock music on offer here, and Dearing really lets loose with some down ‘n’ dirty yet at the same time incredibly tuneful guitar playing. I was, it has to be said, put in mind of the maestro, Mr Donald Roeser, during some of the soloing and the “ooh la la las”, did remind me of Mirrors era BOC.
The Horror Of Fearlessness is pitch perfect, harmonic prog balladry. Get the lighters out.
And then there’s the standout track. The epic The Day Is Yours. Heavy/soft/loud/quiet/fast/slow. It’s all of these things. I am greatly enamoured of this song. I love the Hammond weaving in and out, the Beach Boys section, the violin section – very Kansas – the jazzy percussion bit and the gradual build to the end, complete with wibbly Wurlitzer, Hammond and power chords. Thomas drums his socks off and the pseudo climax is Awaken-esque before the race to the finish line proper which sees a soaring guitar solo from Dearing that has a tiny bit of the Brian May's about it. Oh, and what’s not to like about lyrics such as “you married her for lifelong joy and all you got is pain”. Amen, brother.
Album closer is Glimpses – a quieter, more contemplative song than what’s gone before, but it builds into a full on - arms aloft and sway - Evangelical choral thing before a plaintive single vocal closes the track.
So. The songs are great. The sound is great. The booklet is great. Add to cart.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
The Pineapple Thief - Show A Little Love [EP]
Tracklist: Show A Little Love [single edit] (3:38), To Live And Die To The Familiar Sound Of... (16:18) ~ [I Can Only See The Lights (2:21), A Million Miles Off Course (5:05), Counting The Cost (4:25), To Live And Die To... (4:22)], Wake Up The Dead [acoustic] (4.03), Someone Here Is Missing [acoustic] (3:57), Dead In The Water [Worldengine remix] (5:04)
Now, let's first clear up some confusion. There is 16+ minutes of new material on this EP, but although the 'suite' title To Live And Die To The Familiar Sound Of... might have you thinking otherwise, this is not a continuous piece of music like What Have We Sown?. It's four separate (and very different) pieces of music that do have some lyrical connections. As a matter of fact, the song picks up where the Someone Here Is Missing stopped: with the lyrics 'so we row ...'.
The short I Can Only See The Lights has a remarkable shuffle-like feel and is quite an energetic toe-tapper, although the arrangements are relatively simple. It's got a nice bass line and repetitive rhythm guitar and Bruce's vocals are more like the band's earlier work. A Million Miles Off Course is the rockiest of the four new songs. As far as style is concerned it's not too far removed from the 10 Stories material but also some of the punchiness of the last album. It has some nice distorted bass and a great break after a climatic middle section.
Counting The Cost was played during the October 2010 Tour and is a very tasty melancholic acoustic ballad that reminds me of the earlier Pineapple Thief albums. Halfway through the song the rest of the band comes in and as with most of the other songs in this suite, the feel is more like earlier albums by the band than Someone Here Is Missing. To Live And Die To ... feels like one of the experimental instrumentals of the 8 Days or Little Man8 Days Later discs. It's quite repetitive, but never annoyingly so since it keeps developing, adding and removing instruments. Unfortunately it ends as abruptly as it began. It feels a bit strange having an instrumental like this as the end of a 'suite'.
The EP features two acoustic renditions of tracks from Someone Here Is Missing and once again I'm amazed how well these rather heavy tunes transform to fragile, tuned-down pieces. Wake Up The Dead has dropped the throbbing pulse of the original and is just acoustic guitar, piano and vocals. The low chords ensure that the song remains it's menacing quality. Someone Here is Missing already had a quieter opening but this acoustic version is just Bruce on vocals and acoustic guitar, giving the song a whole new personality.
The Worldengine Remix of Dead In The Water was an entry the band received for a possible remix competition that would make up a bonus disc for the Little Man re-release. The bonus disc never saw the light of day but this remix was considered too good not to use, so we can now find it here on this EP. The feel of the song is quite different, with reconstructed rhythm patterns and guitar melodies. It's interesting to hear, but I personally prefer the original.
The only track we haven't mentioned yet is the title track. Although one of my absolute favourites from the new album, it's probably the least interesting track on the EP since we already know this li'l rocker quite well. The version here is 20 seconds shorter to make it 'more radio-friendly' (err ... 4 minutes is too much these days ?).
All in all an EP that - although not essential for prog rockers in general - comes highly recommended for any Pineapple Thief fan and should also appeal to those who might not have been all that satisfied with the musical direction the band took on the last album. The acoustic versions are less 'in your face' and the 16 minute suite has many references to the band's earlier work. I for one am glad the band didn't pull a 'Dawn Raids' on this one and this time offer us a decent length companion EP to their last album.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here Is Live
Tracklist: God Bless The Child (6:40), Tightly Wound (6:39), Wake Up The Dead (4:51), 3000 Days (7:07), Shoot First (4:21), Different World (9:50), All You Need To Know (4:27), My Debt To You (5:51), Counting The Cost (4:09), Part Zero (6:18), Preparation For Meltdown (7:58), Show A Little Love (4:05), So We Row (8:30), Too Much To Lose (14:36), Nothing At Best (4:46), Light Up Your Eyes (9:21), Snowdrops (8:47)
Ed Sander's Review
Shortly after finishing their European Tour in October, The Pineapple Thief announced they would be releasing a live album with recordings made during that same tour. This was however not going to be a physical compact disc, but a download-only album. A daring experiment, especially in such conservative circles as prog rock. One of the reasons for this approach seems to be that the band's label, KScope, had their full attention on re-releasing the band's back catalogue. A good thing, since some of the band's albums are selling at ridiculous prices on eBay.
As one would expect, the material in the set focused mostly on the last two albums, Tightly Unwound (present with 5 songs, including the epic Too Much To Lose) and Someone Here Is Missing (present with 6 songs, mostly the heavier material). Other material was taken from Little Man (2 songs), Variations On A Dream (1 song), 10 Stories (1 song) and What We Have Sown (1 song) as well as a brand new song taken from the Show A Little Love EP. So, if you think that the band's truly great music ended after Variations Of A Dream or even What We Have Sown, move on because this recording is not for you. If you however (like me) think that the new sound of the band is just as good, albeit different ... read on!
The songs were recorded during the October 2010 European tour and mixed in the studio in November. No overdubs were made, although the band most probably picked the best recordings from various performances since you can hear differences in sound, ambience and audience between the songs. Nothing wrong with that, this live album remains one of the truest and most honest live documentations I have ever heard. This also means that there is an occasional bum note or a short moment where the band does not seem to be 100% in key or rhythm. Having said that, it's never really annoying and it adds to the overall live feel. Those who have seen the band perform live know that it's much more about the passion of playing and not about note-for-note perfection. Having seen Bruce totally freak out on stage it even amazes me that these recordings came out as well as they did. Unlike many 'official bootleg' albums that are recorded from the soundboard, this live recording contains quite a bit of audience sounds, making it feel like a real live performance. The mix is very descent, although in some songs the bass seems to be a bit low in the mix and some songs sound a bit more 'echoey' than others, probably because of difference in venues.
One of the best things about preserving the recordings this way is that we are actually treated to the roughness and rawness of the band in their live setting. The sheer power of playing live inspired Bruce Soord to write the Someone Here is Missing album, as he explained in the interview I had with him in October. Listening to Someone Here Is Live (couldn't they have come up with a less obvious and more creative title?) you can tell what he meant. All the polished sound of the records is dropped for a full-on attack when the band play on stage. And even the heavier tracks of the last two albums sound rawer than ever. Songs like Wake Up The Dead, 3000 Days, Show A Little Love and Preparation For Meltdown just seem to be written to be played live, while the freak out in the mid section of Too Much To Lose conjures up memories of Hendrix burning guitars and Pete Townshend smashing his axe on his amps.
What I also like about these live recordings is that many songs differ from their originals one way or another. In most of the cases it's the mentioned rougher approach, but there's more. Set opener God Bless The Child starts with a looped intro tape before the band walk on stage and start playing on top of that. There's an acoustic section in the mid of the show where we find My Debts To You (which also features piano instead of a flute solo) and the brand new Counting The Cost flowing straight into an acoustic rendition of Part Zero. Halfway through this classic the band switch back to full electric power for the guitar solo.Wake Up The Dead has an extended intro with some reverb effects and Light Up Your Eyes features a very sad and haunting harmonica solo, while Snowdrops moves into a powerful climax after some audience participation (handclaps) in the mid section (but not nearly as much as this classic song deserves).
The album is not available in physical format but can be downloaded as 320kbps MP3 files (8 GBP) or lossless FLAC (10 GBP), which seems like a very reasonable price for 2 hours of music. Included in the download package is a 38 page PDF file with all lyrics plus pictures taken on stage and backstage during the tour. All in all, a recommended purchase for Pineapple Thief fans (it's an excellent souvenir of the last tour) and prog rock fans that want to check out what this energetic band sounds like on stage.
Gert Hulshof's Review
Their tour has just finished and here it is, a live registration of the tour, appropriately called Someone Here Is Live. When I was offered a chance to do a review of this download only live album of The Pineapple Thief, I didn’t hesitate one minute.
At first glance this is not the kind of live recording that I am used to listening to. First of all it appears as if all tracks have been recorded at different shows, although I cannot say as I was not there for all of them, but presumably the boys have selected those recordings they thought best. The live capture however is as raw and good as it gets live, with hardly any additional remixing and overdubbing.
Listening to this recording was like being back at “de Pul” at the 24th October concert and a review of this gig can also be read here. The set listing gives a great overview of the career and development in music of The Pineapple Thief - from nearly every album a track is present with the largest portion, of course, from the last album Someone Here Is Missing. But Tightly Unwound also has a great portion of its material featured. As I already said before, the recording is rather raw with the occasional missed note and glitches present and as they should be, after all it’s a live recording.
The overall atmosphere on these recordings is not always consistent as is the sound, and this must be due to the fact that the recordings are taken from different venues. Not every venue has a good sound for this type of music. On a few tracks the sound was even fading a bit and the meters on my stereo dropped about 20%. On other occasions they did not leave the red area (more than 110%) at all. It is not to say that it doesn’t sound OK, it does really, I merely wanted to address this as a fact of the rather raw production of the whole. You might even call it a real live recording in this way. The bass is almost completely gone in a couple of songs, like in Shoot First, where it is hardly noticeable and therefore the song lacks the dynamics it so obviously has. On the other hand the acoustic set really comes out beautifully, even the part where the band go from acoustic back to electric again sounds great.
In my concert review I have made some remarks on what has been performed, some additional information on the music maybe, but most certainly about the atmosphere of the gig in “de Pul” Uden. I have also shed some light on the live recording here as there were likely songs on it from that gig. I enjoyed listening and going back to the performance with this live set.
The download is available in two formats lossless FLAC and MP3 [320kb], with both formats giving an acceptable sound. I would also like to add that the accompanying booklet, in PDF format, is nicely made with a few photographs of the tour and band members. It also contains the lyrics to all of the songs, which makes it a good add-on to the download.
For fans this is a must have, as it is a good capture of the music live. Personally I’d go for the little more pricey FLAC format as it usually has a better sound quality. If you happen not to be familiar with The Pineapple Thief then the best way would be to buy the 3000 Days compilation. But if you don't mind the fact that this is live, then it is a good start and gives a great overview of their career thus far and certainly tells you what The Pineapple Thief sound like live.
Play very loud - that sounds best.
Mostly Autumn – Go Well, Diamond Heart
Tracklist: For All We Shared (7:21), Violet Skies (4:09), Deep In Borrowdale (6:55), Something Better (3:59), Go Well, Diamond Heart (7:55), Back To Life (6:27), Hold The Sun (5:51), And When The War Is Over (7:33)
Given their popularity and standing, the release of a new Mostly Autumn album is usually an occasion for celebration. Sometimes the end results do not fully live up to expectations as for me was the case with their last and slightly disappointing studio recording Glass Shadows. That was two years ago and since then Heather Findley the band's lead singer and visual metaphor has departed. Her replacement Olivia Sparnenn is of course no stranger to the band having excelled on backing vocals as well as (until recently) fronting Breathing Space. Her partner from that line-up keyboardist Iain Jennings also returns to the MA fold after a two-album absence. Remaining of course is the bands guiding light, guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist, principle songwriter and producer Bryan Josh. With the absence of Heather, Josh’s role here is even more acute which along with Olivia’s performance provides the main focus of attention for Go Well, Diamond Heart.
Certainly from the opening strains of For All We Shared, the album seems to deliver on its promise. The symphonic (and very Celtic) intro of keys, female choir and Uilleann pipes (courtesy of Troy Donockley of course) is probably the most grandiose three minutes ever recorded by the band. By the time the main vocals have entered, beginning with Josh in acoustic mode followed by Olivia (sounding curiously low-key here) it’s developed into a mid-tempo mainstream rock song. The guitar punctuation at the midway point is similar to the riff that opens and closes The Strawbs infamous Part Of The Union hit.
Violet Skies follows in a similar vein and is a very compact but memorable offering with Olivia sounding more confident supported by acoustic and electric guitars from Josh and Liam Davison. Deep In Borrowdale is a much heavier affair with Josh taking care of lead vocal duties backed by a relentless Led Zep style riff. Following a brief acoustic respite featuring the flute of Anne-Marie Helder it plays out with a powerful coda with Olivia demonstrating she can rock with the best of them.
Something Better is a no nonsense rocker (which Josh seems to favour these days), complete with a Black Sabbath flavoured riff and biting lyrics. It lays a solid foundation for the expansive title song Go Well, Diamond Heart. The lyrical content, menacing tone, stinging vocal delivery, and sounds of war reveals it to be an effective indictment of the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan. In contrast the acoustically sweet Back To Life is an elegant folk ballad with Olivia at her dreamy best building to an epic and suitably spine tingling finale showcasing Josh’s trademark soaring guitar.
The two concluding tracks contain some of the albums strongest moments. Hold The Sun is a very catchy song with an uplifting tone that motors along at a surging pace rounded off by a blistering guitar solo. And When The War Is Over on the other hand develops (in calculating fashion) from humble beginnings into a full blown, uplifting finale. It certainly provides an optimistic postscript to the title song and the only reservation I have is that the anthemic melody line (as emphasised by Donockley’s pipes) sounds a tad too close to the Cliff Richard standard All My Love for comfort.
Given Heather Findley’s untimely departure it was obviously important that Mostly Autumn come up with a strong and confident response. They have for the most part succeeded with Olivia Sparnenn (as was to be expected) proving to be a more than adequate replacement. On a personnel level I’m not completely in tune with Bryan Josh’s more basic musical tendencies typified by riff dependant songs like Deep In Borrowdale and Something Better. On most every other level however the album scores very highly.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
SBB - Blue Trance
Tracklist: Etiuda Trance (3:18), Los Czlowieka (4:47), Red Joe (6:28), Swieto Dioni (2:51), Szczescie Jak Ne Dioni (5:04), (5:01), Karida Beach (4:16), Blue Trance (3:44), Musniecie Kalimby (3:45), Pamiecy Czaz (4:39), Coda Trance (4:57)
SBB are the godfathers of Polish prog and I am sure that most progheads will know the band at least by name. Almost 40 years in the business as SBB, bass player and singer Józef Skrzek and guitarist Apostolis Anthimos (yes he's from Greek ancestors) are left from the original line up. Between the two of them all keyboard duties are divided. Drummer Gabor Nemeth completes the current line up. Although the band reached out for Western Europe and beyond many years ago, they have always stuck with singing in Polish with an occasional English lyric here and there. SBB has produced many live albums and since 1975, Blue Trance is their fourteenth studio album, the successor to Iron Curtain form 2009.
The first track is an instrumental gem with lush keyboards, (organ and Moog), with beautiful melodies and intelligent driving drumming. Whereas the second track is quite different: Skrzek's vocals are more like a proclaiming poem rather than really singing. The music is rather slow in tempo and a mix between pop, rock, blues and folk - but with a nice to sing-a-long chorus.
Red Joe is a slow blues song with lyrics in English. The lyrical content is not too far fetched, the melodies are rather simple and Skrzek sings with a distinct accent. And Skrzek hums only in next song, again a keyboard driven tune featuring piano, Moog and electric guitar. The music reminds me of some of the works by Kit Watkins. The opening notes of Szczescie Jak Ne Dioni almost tend to be a cover of In The Court Of The Crimson King, but although the tempo and atmosphere are similar, the melodies and interludes are different with some jazzy influences. Beautifully orchestrated and nice piano playing make this track to one the band could be really proud of.
Doliny Strumieni is a mid tempo tune with a very catchy melody, played in different keys and varied, good soloing by Anthimos. Karida Beach is a gentle song with influences from the sunny Mediterranean. A delightful instrumental tune featuring heavenly sounds of the Moog. The title track is a straight forward rock song, nothing spectacular and the challenge here for us western Europeans is to get used to this singing in Polish! The solos by Anthimos should lead to a climax but his strength lies more in playing very melodic solos than in his attempt to be shredder.
Happy The Man and Kit Watkins can be recognized in the third instrumental track off the album: Musniecie Kalimby. The mighty Moog will be appealing to any prog head alive while the shuffling rhythm prevents you from sitting in your chair without moving at least one part of your extremities. The delightful ballad, with classically influenced piano playing, is called Pamiecy Czaz and is SBB at their best - although the instrumentals still are my personal favourites.
The last track is the most bombastic and symphonic one, a state of the art mid tempo progressive instrumental piece with good drumming, lush keyboards and highlighted through solos by Anthimos on guitar and Skrzek on the Moog. At some points memories of Eloy crossed my mind.
A worthy addition to the SBB discography and a fine moment for any prog fan not familiar of the band to check out the music of these Polish veterans. Not a classic, but a very enjoyable album full of surprises and craftsmanship.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Ocean Mind – Alone We Walk, Together We Fly
Tracklist: 2 Weird 2 Live 2 Rare 2 Die (4:45), The Mushroom Fever (6:11), JellyFish (3:00), Never Know (3:07), Moments (3:08), Learn To See (4:43), Drugstore Mama (2:53), Mind Trippin’(1:14), Winter Stride (2:50), Myra (2:46), Erased (4:09)
Ocean Mind is a band I stumbled across by accident whilst looking for something else (I cannot remember what I was looking for now, but that is of little interest now). So once at Ocean Mind's MySpace I had a listen and as I found that the music I heard from their album was certainly worth a review I contacted them. So now here I am reviewing Ocean Mind with their debut album Alone We Walk, Together We Fly.
Ocean Mind hail from Greece and are Zach Dulos (vocals, grand piano, Hammond organ & synthesizers), Peter Pierrakeas (electric & acoustic guitars & synth bass) and Lefty Papagiannakis (drums & percussion).
Right from the first track Ocean Mind leave no doubt that they mean business and the business on 2 Weird 2 Live 2 Rare 2 Die is one of very heavy nature in a post rock formation. Although I got hints as if it were The Cult with Ian Astbury I was listening to. Hard and heavy stuff, fast riffing, clear pitch and the production done just right.
In The Mushroom Fever Ocean Mind take us on a journey, complaining about the atom bomb as such, in a real psychedelic tune. Jellyfish, Never Know, Moments and Learn To See follow on in a similar framework to that layed down in Mushroom Fever and continue pricking our minds with squealling guitar, pounding drums and throbbing bass. Great keyboards (piano), these boys know what needs to come across to be successful - well at least in Greece.
Coming to Drugstore Mama that distinct Cult sound is back, although I more and more hear a Jim Morrison influence. And listening very closely the music also gives way Sisters of Mercy. It’s all in all there are great many different artists whose influences are apparent on this album. In Mind Trippin’ I believe it was the Hammond sounds that lead to Uriah Heep song. Whilst Winter Stride continues this, with beautiful soundscapes.
Myra is an instrumental tune which sits very well among the other tracks. Whilst the closing track on the album, Erased, is a tranquil and peaceful piece with mainly synth, Grand Piano together with the voice.
As a conclusion I can say Ocean Mind have succeeded in releasing a debut that they can be proud of. Too bad it has gone unnoticed for too long - but reading between the lines you can tell there are reference points toward others.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Koi – In Tomorrow Hid Yesterday
Tracklist: The Rabbit (6:44), Woodnote (6:14), Terminal Souls (9:01), Navigated To The Blank Undrawn (5:57), In Tomorrow Hid Yesterday (6:29), Eventide (0:49), In A World Of A Child’s Mind (6:20), Breaking Of The Day (4:40), Metamorphosis (1:23), Swaying To Sleep (0:41), Less Than Abstract (8:37)
On the website of the Swedish band Koi you can read a bold statement: “Our goal will be to prove that everything in music has not been done yet”. This mission statement truly sounds promising to those with a true “progressive” (read: innovative) spirit. That’s why I started to listen to Koi’s debut album In Tomorrow Hid Yesterday with high expectations. And I was not disappointed, on the contrary.
Koi released this album in December 2009 as a free download. They literally gave away this “result of one year's endless struggle and tears for free because we believe that music belongs to everyone!”, according to their website. Again, a very sympathetic quote. Half a year later, the album found a label and was released as a proper CD.
Koi’s music is addictive in a way that I also experienced when I heard Radiohead’s OK Computer for the first time: you want to replay the whole thing again once it has ended. In the philosophy of the band, every track has to reflect a thought or a feeling. Well, apparently, this philosophy works for me. And this compensates the fact that the poetic lyrics are rather incomprehensible to me.
The focus of the band is on composition rather than on exposing the musical skills of the five individual musicians. Tracks are not hindered by the traditional chorus – verse – bridge scheme. They are more like atmospheric expeditions, a bit like Sigur Ros, but with more variation. Sometimes with heavy guitars and double bass drums (Breaking Of The Day). Sometimes with a romantic undertone (Terminal Souls, I hear a bit of Mike Rutherford's Small Creeps Day in this track). Sometimes with the creepy experiments of the psychedelic Pink Floyd period (Metamorphosis). And sometimes with classical orchestral arrangements without rhythm section (In A World Of A Child’s Mind). In this latter track by the way, guest cello player Pia Henoch excels with her contributions.
The band itself was responsible for the production, including the recording and mixing, which was done by guitar player and Koi member of the first hour, Eemu Ranta. The production, which is clearly not up to modern standards, is the main weakness of In Tomorrow Hid Yesterday. The drums were poorly recorded and disappear in the mix, while it is sometimes not clear if the vocals were intentionally or accidentally made to sound “vintage”.
After only a brief search on Youtube I found a live acoustic version of Less Than Abstract by vocalist Patrik Andersson, in which he sings a lot better than on the album. Does this also say something about the production? Or is it that Andersson is already taking the next steps in his development as a singer?
But it’s the job of a reviewer to listen beyond technical aspects. The argument can go in reverse as well. If the production brings the quality of the album down, I couldn’t help imagining what this album might sound like if a top of the bill producer (let’s say, Stephen Wilson or Arjen Lucassen) would work with this material. It makes you realize even more that the compositions themselves are really good.
In Tomorrow Hid Yesterday is an excellent debut, but, most of all, a big promise for tomorrow.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Believe – World Is Round
Tracklist: World Is Round [Part 1] (0:34), No Time Inside (5:15), World Is Round [Part 2] (4:25), Cut Me Paste Me (2:46), Lay Down Forever (5:50), So Well (4:18), Bored (4:44), Guru (4:52), New Hands (5:57), Poor King Of Sun/Return (9:54)
Believe are back with a vengeance, returning to the romantic splendour of their second album, Yesterday Is A Friend, after a sombre, less well received third, last year’s This Bread Is Mine. That album from the Polish art-rock band did have its admirers, but they were not so numerous as those for Yesterday Is a Friend. Such a trend is reflected in, amongst other things, DPRP’s reviews of the band’s first three albums: Tom de Val’s review of Hope To See Another Day (2006) scored 6.5 out of 10; Andy Read’s review of Yesterday Is A Friend scored 9, but This Bread Is Mine’s score (from Andy again) was back down to a 7. These reviews are a very good reflection of the band’s music on those three albums.
The elements that elevate World Is Round to the same plane of the second album are the return of the key elements that made that so enjoyable (melodic strength, compositional variety and beauty of the musical textures – in particular Satomi’s violin and gentle, tasteful keyboards/piano). World Is Round makes a very good other half of the pair to Yesterday Is a Friend. My personal prejudice is that this has happened because the band have once again recruited a full time keyboardist in Konrad Wantrych: his keys are, as those of Adam Milosz on Yesterday Is a Friend, judged to perfection, whereas this was not the case on This Bread Is Mine. However, there is no one instrumental element which dominates Believe’s music on World Is Round, instead each is controlled as part of a whole: the success of each composition – or the difference that makes it rise above the average – is the skill with which the arrangements are constructed. Crucially, Satomi’s violin is again allowed space to breathe and to shine and her contribution to this music is once again an absolute joy.
I mentioned the word “romantic” in the opening paragraph. Don’t make the mistake that these are love songs on World Is Round, not in the conventional “pop” sense at any rate. Rather, “romantic” refers to the band’s capability to conjure up gorgeous “classic” melodic phrasing at various stages during the songs – these melodies, whatever instrument they are played on, or sung, are the “cherry on top of the cake”; they are the diamonds that transform this musical “jewellery”. Lay Down Forever, Bored and New Hands , to mention a few, all have sumptuous examples, as does the phenomenal finale Poor King Of Sun/Return. This last composition is the most complex, beginning with Eastern phrasing and rhythms before opening up to the finest melody of the album: the way this is taken up and developed by all of the instruments and the voice is just superb and then – and then you have the “cherry on the top” – in the shape of a whimsical and very pretty piano outro. It works fantastically well and ends the album in superb fashion!
Elsewhere, there is rock and plenty of bite in the guitar, examples being Cut Me Paste Me and Guru but, thankfully, the arrangements are skilfully handled such that the effectiveness of Satomi or Wantrych is never lost overall. It’s a clever album rhythmically too; some prime examples coming in World Is Round [Part 2] and Bored. Finally, it is also fair to say that, in this more open soundscape, Karol Wróbleski’s vocal is more than effective (Andy hadn’t enjoyed in his review of This Bread Is Mine).
For me, this is near perfect music. Being on the art-rock side of progressive music, it’s not going to appeal to “pure” proggers (which, again personally, I think is a contradictory concept, but such fans exist), but everyone else will find much to enjoy, whether it’s the rhythm, the melody or the textures in the soundscape. And if you enjoy all of its elements, it’ll become one of your favourite albums of the year. It’ll be in my Top 5!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Discipline – Live Days
CD 1:Mickey Mouse Man (6:17), Before The Storm/Blueprint (18:18), Circuitry (6:22), Canto IV (Limbo) (15:15), Homegrown (11:05), Systems (7:47), When The Walls Are Down (6:47), Safe In Your Vision (4:37)
CD 2:Crutches (14:04), Wrists (9:21), Carmilla (10:06), Into The Dream (22:08), The Nursery Year (5:27), Diminished (8:29), Between Me And The End (5:38)
In this writer’s humble opinion, Discipline are one of the very best progressive rock bands, period, and in Unfolded Like Staircase they can rightly be said to have recorded a bona fide masterpiece. It’s my favourite album. Ever. Yet they never truly broke like Spock’s Beard, The Flower Kings or other third wave pioneers. Due in no small part to the fact that they only ever released two studio albums (the other being Push And Profit) before disappearing from the scene altogether. Prog in the 1990s required if anything perseverance, and, pre internet explosion, if Discipline could have just kept going as a recording entity they would I’m sure have been right up there with the biggest names in prog. As it is they have a legendary, nay cult status amongst the progniscenti. There was a live album, 1999’s Into The Dream, and a live DVD (Discipline Live 1995) released in 2005, but that, as they say, was that. Hopefully this double compilation of rare and never before released live tracks will expose them to the audience they so richly deserve. They’ve already started playing live again, including 2008’s NEARfest. And I understand a new album is in the works. Happy days.
They are unlike any band you’ve ever (not) heard but touchstones would surely be Van der Graaf Generator, Anekdoten and King Crimson. Matthew Parmenter’s passionate vocal delivery, his tortured lyrics, the sublime guitar work of Jon Preston Bouda, who makes the instrument sing, ample mellotron and the quite audacious use of saxophone marked this band out for me, on first listen, as one of the best I’d ever heard. I played Jonno the live DVD recently and he immediately began a worldwide hunt to try and source a copy. And he knows his prog. He is but one of my prog friends I have prodded and poked, encouraged and exulted to buy Unfolded at merch stands. I should be on a retainer.
Opening with the previously un-released Mickey Mouse Man, from ProgDay ’98, which is on the DVD if you can find a copy, the track was regularly played live but never recorded in the studio. Disc one then has the monumentally epic Before The Storm (from ULS) also from 1998’s Progday gig concluding with the guitar solo from Push And Profit’s Blueprint. Circuitry (which can be found on the DVD), is another lost track, and begins a series of five tracks from Progday ’95, including another ULS track, Canto IV. Next the unreleased Homegrown, with superb Bouda guitar solo, is followed by a rarely played live version of Systems. When The Walls Are Down, which appears on the DVD, concludes the ’95 material for this side and the disc is rounded out by a rare 1996 recording of Safe In Your Vision.
Disc 2 has a storming version of Crutches, perhaps my favourite track from ULS. From Progday 1998 followed by the rarely heard unreleased Wrists, from a small 1997 show, which shows the band’s early Genesis influences. I’d never heard this track before, and it’s wonderful – check out Bouda’s guitar – how can he make one instrument sound so different? That, added to Parmenter’s vocals make your heart break. I’ve not been as blown away on first listening to a newly discovered track since I heard Shades by Echolyn nigh on ten years ago. A version of Push And Profit’s Carmilla from the Orion Studios, Baltimore, Progressive Rock Showcase 1996/1997 leads into the truly epic twenty minute long centrepiece of Unfolded, Into The Dream, a rarely heard performance from 1998's Progday festival. The lyrically disturbing Nursery Year, from the Push And Profit album also from the Orion showcase segues into Diminished (from Push And Profit), another unreleased track. Orion recording, Between Me And The End (which appeared on Into The Dream) ends the album.
It’s not jolly music by any stretch of the imagination. It’s bleak, in places, if I’m being totally frank. But it is exceptionally powerful, melodic and above all passionate music. Matthew Parmenter combines the theatrics (and, if you watch the DVD, the costume changes) of Gabriel with the tortured angst of Hammill, and wrings every last drop of emotion from his often brutally stark lyrics. And he plays a mean piano, too, coaxing the most beautiful, fragile melodies out of his instrument. And then he pounds the crap out of it. All in service of mood, context, and the emotion of the moment. The single creative vision. And before you think I’ve gone a bit flakey, did I mention he plays the mellotron? He’s released a couple of DPRP recommended albums – 2004’s Astray (not ashtray) and 2008’s Horror Express. Three words. Add. To. Cart.
Musically this band is without equal. Bouda’s guitar swirls and soars, pleads and shrieks. He can make the bloody thing talk. Drummer Paul Dzendzel fair beats the living heck out of his kit, yet when the mood dictates he can gently caress it like a sado-masochistic lover after way too much Mountain Dew.
Bassist Matthew Kennedy was recently seen by UK audiences playing with Phideaux at Summer’s End. Enough said. He’s such a great bass player you don’t at first notice his contribution, a bit like Mike Rutherford I guess but put some decent headphones on and you quickly realise the man is a genius.
This is complicated music. It is complex music with more time and tempo changes than you can shake a stick at. It is all the more impressive that they can play this stuff live. Listening to this makes you remember just why you like prog in the first place. And not boy bands.
Sound quality is very good, given the age of the original tapes, and there’s a ‘warts and all’ aspect to the recordings that you’ve just got to respect. The booklet is nice too, with plenty of rare pics. There are enough unreleased live tracks to make this an essential purchase even for hardcore Discipline fans, who may already have the increasingly rare live album, DVD or seven disc Progday boxset (limited to a thousand copies).
My review, then, can be distilled into a couple of words. Buy this. Or ask Satan to buy it for you for Christmas. And no, that’s not a typo. But then what do I know?
And all I am is a bucketful in a waterfall And all I am is a raindrop in a bucketful And all I am is an atom in a molecule(Diminished)
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Root - Bird's Eye & Tiger Stripped
Tracklist: Our Town (6:55), Lay Down (8:42), Need So Much (7:16), The Wrong Kind Of Living (5:09), Calm Of The Ages (6:01), There's No Charge Today (7:10), Slow Down (6:06), The Perfect Day (6:34), We Believe (7:24), Someone Like You (4:50)
David Kendall's seventh album under the name of Root continues this truly independent artist's so far solid musical career. The three years since Wooden Hill hasn't seen any dramatic change in the style of the music that Kendall produces, nor has there been any decline in quality. Although there are no great surprises, all of the songs on Bird's Eye & Tiger Striped are a delight: sublime melodies, tasteful instrumentation and solos, and gracefully arranged vocal harmonies. Kendall is primarily a guitarist but doesn't shove his six-string skills down the listener's throat for the song is foremost, displays of technical proficiency secondary. The album consists of ten great songs which, even the longest of which (Lay Down) one feels could easily be extended without ever becoming boring.
This is the strength of the album: it engages the listener making the 66-minute running time fly by. Ostensibly on the more mellow side, largely due to Kendall's more languid vocal approach, BE&TS is enjoyable from start to finish and, as with all of his albums, the artwork throughout the booklet is sumptuous in the extreme. At the prices that Kendall charges for his albums BE&TS is easily one of the better bargains that anyone could indulge themselves with.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
The Ocean Band – Couch Dictators
Tracklist: Midnight At The Mitre Hotel (0:46), Come On (3:15), Eskimo Sun (3:55), Tie Your Hands (4:27), Much Too Alarmed (3:24), Change (4:55), Waiting (3:34) Travelling Artist Or Salesman (3:35), Hyacint (4:23), Sixteen Cans (1:30), Equal (3:29), The Sembawang Incident (0:16), Wheels (3:56), Made Up My Mind (3:52), Outside The High Times Saloon (0:51), Spinning Lady (4:19), Sooner (4:00), Now That You Came (2:01), Image Of You (6:17), The Sermon (1:44), High Shutter Speed (5:09), Insomnia (4:01)
Now - about the music on this album - I have to say that I have seldom heard an album with more musical diversity than can be found on Couch Dictators - it’s like everything is present on this album. The band themselves state on their MySpace page that the sound of The Ocean Band is like Pearl Jam with Led Zeppelin elements combined with The Police and Jeff Buckley and I guess they hit the nail right on its head with that. Still there are more musical references points possible but within those four lay pretty much the sound of The Ocean Band. There is also an extensive guest list of musicians, (32 in total), on the album and this may well be why we have so many diverse streams present here.
According to the band Couch Dictators is a massive album of conceptual form, although personally I couldn't really find the concept, but that might be just me.
There are no less than 22 songs on this album varying in length a mere 16 seconds up to just over six minutes for the longest of the tracks, and what The Ocean Band have been doing here comes close to incorporating all genres within the music in one way or another. So I can hear so many genres that the variation on the album is huge. From your sailor’s shanty in Sixteen Cans, to the punk rock á la The Tubes in High Shutter Speed.
Great songs are followed by linking passages of spoken word or some instrumental interludes. These intermezzo’s have a meaning within the whole of the album and it is through these bridges that The Ocean Band establish their concept. Some of the intermezzos are quite hilarious, cynical cabaret like bits and pieces. There is so much present on this album from the playing to the structuring of the songs, so much so that you cannot mention everything.
Might I add the production of this album has taken a few years to accomplish, but the end result is well worth while. Don’t be afraid of getting bored, If you happen to dislike a song then simply skip and tune into the next, you’ll probably be the audience for that track.
I find it amazing that it has been possible to incorporate say Southern rock, Hill Billy, Melancholia, rock, grunge, rock'n'roll and jazz, through blues, pop/rock as well as say punk on one album and somehow make it a coherent piece of work.
Did I mention it’s amazing - well this album is truly amazing and it has grown on me every time I have played it. Each time I hear something more and I still do that it has become my road companion for the last few weeks.
Perhaps worth mentioning here is the packaging of the CD. The CD comes wrapped in a Digi-Pack, with a CD layout looking similar to our old fashioned records - black Vinyl and we even get the grooves.
So concluding - we can all find something here.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
The Opium Cartel – Night Blooms
Tracklist: Heavenman (5:03), Better Days Ahead (5:07), Skinnydip (4:42), By This River (3:18), Three Sleepers (5:36), Honeybee (3:34), Beach House (8:13), Flicker Girl (6:22), The Last Rose Of Summer (5:14)
This is one album that nearly got away - one that was nearly forgotten. I really thought I had written the review but that proved to be not true. Shame on me! So why still review an album that was released in 2009? Well, I think that it is still a very interesting album for the readers of DPRP.
The Opium Cartel is a “solo” project by White Willow main man Jacob Holm-Lupo. After 2006 Signal To Noise, WW’s fifth excellent album in a row (imho anyway), Holm-Lupo decided that he wanted to take a break from WW (they are in the midst of recording the follow up from Signal To Noise right now) and concentrate on a project that would be more folk than prog orientated. It would be a singer-songwriter album. Did he succeed? Well partly, because luckily for us proggers more than a little progressive rock found its way onto Night Blooms.
The first thing that jumps out at you, after you admired the beautiful sleeve drawing by Mako, is the impressive list of guests on this album. From the White Willow camp Lars Fredrik Frǿislie, Mattias Olson and Ketil Einarsen are all present as are new WW members Ellen Andrea Wang (bass guitar) and Sylvia Kjellestad (vocals). But there are more impressive contributors: Tim Bowness sings on By This River, (he will also sing a track on the forthcoming new WW album). Rhys Marsh sings on Heavenman, Beach House and Better Days Ahead. Rachel Haden (from The Rentals and who has played and toured with people like Beck, Todd Rundgren and Brendan Perry) sings three songs. One of them being By The River with Tim Bowness. It’s a cover from a Brian Eno song which appeared on his 1977 album Before And After Science. Stephen Bennett sings a duet with Kjellestad on Skinnydip.
The first four tracks on the album are all acoustic based pop songs with added electric guitars, ambient sounds and Frǿislies wide range of analogue keyboards. Skinnydip and By This River are beautiful duets and Marsh graces the first two tracks with his impressive voice. Honeybee, which is sung by Holm-Lupo himself, is a far more rockier straightforward affair (relatively speaking). But then it’s time for Beach House, an impressive, monster track. In this track all the above mentioned characteristics of the first four tracks are there but mixed with full on prog on the chorus and the instrumental end section. The emotional vocals of Marsh and impressive drumming by Olson make this track even stronger. The following Flicker Girl with just acoustic guitars, flutes, percussion, piano and the really beautiful vocals from Haden form a perfect counterpart to Beach House. What a beautiful song. The last rose of summer ends the album and it’s a melancholic song, again sung beautifully by Haden. Einarsens flute playing and Sigrun Eng on cello really enhance the melancholy feel of this song.
If Night Blooms was meant to be a totally different album for The Opium Cartel, then Holm-Lupo did not succeed. He has a very distinctive “sound” when it comes to writing songs. No matter how you arrange these songs. More folk, more singer-songwriter etc these songs still bear the clear signature of Holm-Lupo. Does it matter? Not at all because Night Blooms is another beautiful album packed with very strong songs and impressive guest performances.
There is one thing that I would like to know. Is Sylvia Kjellestad the same person as Sylvia Erichsen who sang on Sacrament and Storm Season?
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Nordagust – In The Mist Of Morning
Tracklist: In The Mist Of Morning (5:58), Expectations (5:29), Mysterious Ways (7:05), In The Woods (3:52), Elegy (8:59), Forcing (5:00), Frozen (6:20), The Tide (4:45), Make Me Believe (8:31), Elegy Epilogue (2:51)
Remember the early nineties when suddenly out of Sweden bands like Anglagard, Anekdoten and Landberk seemed to just be there? They introduced a whole new type of progressive rock. A mixture of folk, heavy rock, King Crimson and influences from those classic Italian bands from the seventies. Their albums also had a certain type of melancholy that was called typically Scandinavian. A feeling that was also enhanced by large doses of “mourning” mellotron.
Do you still play these albums often? And are you still craving for more? Then look no more and start listening to Nordagust from Norway. Although I must add that Nordagust are operating on the less complex end of that progressive spectrum which limits the comparisons to Anglagard and Anekdoten only to the dark atmosphere that is present on In The Mist Of Morning. So do not expect any Wobbler complexities, but for the most part slow and dark songs that are chock full of emotion. Songs that tell stories from times when life was so much simpler and people lived together with nature and treated it with respect. Not unlike the sentiments that were present on Midlake’s latest album The Courage Of Others and of course a subject matter that has always been very important in folk music. Nordagust are named after the spirit of the North wind. This spirit was also called “the grieving souls spirit”.
The band released their first demo in 1999 and two further demos in 2001 and 2003. In 2007 they released the demo version of In The Mist Of Morning and a demo called Naudr. Now in 2010 they signed a deal with Karisma Records and the first thing they did was remix and remaster the In The Mist Of Morning demo for their first official release.
The core of the band constists of Daniel "Solur" Solheim (Vocal, Guitar, Keyboard, Samples, Kantele, Dulcimer, Mandolin, Sallowflute, Mouthharp, Conch, Axe and Hammer), Ketil Armand "Bergur" Berg (Drums, Percussion, Kantele, Saw, Accordion, Hammer, Bells, Voices, Grindstone, Kettles and Barrels) and Knud Jarle “Strandur” Strand (Bass) with Sissel Oss (Keyboards, Samples and Voice), Guro Elvik Strand (Guitar and Keyboards) and Jostein Aksel Skjonberg (Keyboards, Voice and Flute). The instrumentation is, as you can see, quite diverse. This is however not so apparent when you listen to the album. I think that has a lot to do with the production of the album. Despite the fact that the album has been remixed and remastered the sound is not great. It sounds a bit muddled especially during the louder and full on progressive sections. It’s hard to distinguish the different instruments and that is a shame. Especially Mysterious Ways and Elegy suffer from this.
It also strikes me that it seems like they use the same sounds during the entire album. I am a lover of the lovely mellotron, but there is a bit of an overkill of mellotron samples here. It’s an instrument with a sound that is able to take a song to a higher level when used with restraint and I feel that, with the extensive use, it loses a bit of its charm. There are a lot of strong emotional guitar solos on the album but again they seem to use the same effect each time. And the last critical thing I like to point out are Daniel Solheims vocals. They are an acquired taste. Again; there is a lot of emotion in his vocal performance but it’s (to my ears) not always very solid. Maybe these words sound a bit harsh; however that does not mean that this is a bad album because when these guys get it right they do get it right.
Expectations is a fantastic track with a beautiful guitar melody at the end of the track. And where the use of the mouthharp gives this track an Ennio Morricone feel and proves that these additions give the music something extra like the keyboard sound that opens the The Tide. It’s a great track that also proves that when Solheim has “room” for his voice he sounds much better. Another example where the band get things right is the heavy instrumental Forcing which has an Eastern string melody and a great section with tron choirs and high howling guitars. It reminded me a bit of Sinkadus. Excellent stuff. Highlight of the album however for me is the impressive Make Me Believe. Again, Solheims vocals have enough room and the opening of the track is graced with a majestic guitar riff. Also the wordless backing vocals are adding to the brooding atmosphere of the song. I’d like to mention especially drummer Berg who has a very versatile and also relaxed way of drumming with all sorts of fills and rolls.
In The Mist Of Morning is an impressive debut album full of dark, brooding and emotional songs, but it’s not without its faults. I think however that these minor negative points can be easily erased with their next release. I think that a lot of our DPRP readers will love this album! Anyhow; Nordagust is a wonderful new band that can be added to the ever expanding progressive landscape. And that right at the end of 2010.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Three Monks – Neogothic Progressive Toccatas
Tracklist: Progressive Magdeburg (8:22), Toccata Neogotica # 1 (11:25), Neogothic Pedal Solo (5:03), Herr Jann (6:33), Profondo Rosso (4:22), Profondo Gotico (4:07), Toccata Neogotica # 7 (10:14)
Three Monks may be responsible for possibly the most pretentious album title of 2010 (not to mention album artwork – Spinal Tap anyone?) but musically they’ve come up with an original and intriguing concept. A three piece line-up consisting of keyboards, bass and drums is hardly innovative of course but here keyboardist and composer Paolo Lazzeri concentrates exclusively on pipe organ. The end results may bring comparisons with the likes of ELP and Rick Wakeman but the style and content is more grounded in the baroque classical tradition.
Each piece appropriately pays tribute to a renowned cathedral organ and/or its creator. Progressive Magdeburg for example is dedicated to the German town of the same name whose cathedral organ was destroyed during the Second World War. The sound is strident and gothic with Lazzeri’s virtuoso performance underpinned by the superb bass and drums of Maurizio Bozzi and Claudio Cuseri respectively. Cuseri is one of two percussionists on the album being responsible for the opening and closing tracks with Roberto Bichi providing the drums for those in between.
Neogothic Pedal Solo is the albums only non-fully instrumental piece and features a (sampled) male choir along with an impressive solo interlude from bassist Bozzi (aka Bozorius). As sound engineer Bozzi is also responsible for the albums clean and crystal clear production. This is particularly notable on the pairing of Profondo Rosso and Profondo Gotico, the albums only non-original music and a cover of Goblin’s soundtrack to the 1975 Dario Argento horror movie Deep Red.
The final piece Toccata Neogotica #7 is dedicated to Anton Bruckner and amongst its many shifting moods it evokes the famous Austrian composer’s style, particularly in the mellow mid section. Elsewhere however the mood of the piece is distinctly progressive in its flamboyant delivery bringing the album to a suitably rousing conclusion.
This debut from Three Monks may not be to everyone’s tastes but should certainly appeal to those that appreciate superbly executed keyboard driven music. It does of course help if you have a liking for the stately sound of the church organ, an instrument that has become recognisably associated with prog in almost the same way as the Moog, Hammond and Mellotron.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
A Genuine Freakshow - Oftentimes
Tracklist: We Are The Undercurrents (2:43), I Can Feel His Heartbeats (3:49), Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness (3:46), New Houses (3:12), She's Got A Shooter (Part 1) (2:43), You Cut Me Out (6:37), Our Bodies (4:13), Holding Hearts (4:25), Warning Shot (4:05)
A Genuine Freakshow are a seven-piece group from the Reading area of the UK. Their rather unusual line-up includes Melanie Dickson on cello, Simon Evans on guitar, John Szmidt on bass, Timothy Sutcliffe on vocals & guitar, John Dunstan on trumpet, Jack Bryant on drums and Marianne Casey Canning on violin. They have been in existence for four years and have released a couple of EPs and singles one of which, Holding Hearts, was included on Tom Robinson’s 'Best of 2008' on his BBC 6 Music radio show. They may be familiar to Marillion fans as they have appeared at at least one of that band's convention weekends. Oftentimes is the groups debut album, released on their own Peartree Record label.
First off, it should be stated that one needs to drop any notion of categorisation when considering this group. Sure they can't be easily shoe-horned into a classic prog rock genre, but then neither do they easily fit into any other genre you care to mention. What can be said is that the band perform intelligently crafted, multilayered songs that are genuinely enjoyable to listen to. We Are The Undercurrents begins proceedings with a solo piano onto which are gradually introduced the other instruments with Casey Canning gaining my plaudits for her lovely violin lines. Lyrics that are superior to a lot of stuff that is churned out these days complete this intriguing opening number. The album continues straight into I Can Feel His Heartbeats with its rousing chorus and interesting guitar effects. Hatty Taylor provides excellent female vocals on the duet Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness which would get my vote as single of the year if it was released as a single. However, as it hasn't (yet!) it will have to be content with being a contender in song title of the year! New Houses benefits from the unique make-up of the band with violin and cello providing a fresh sound, the only criticism being that the song ends too soon; I really think that it could have been developed further and is worthy of extension.
Given the short running time of the album it is surprising that only the first part of She's Got A Shooter is included on the album. Given that a live performance of the whole song extends to over 10 minutes it would have been good to have the complete version included as part of the album. Still, at least the band have provided a free 4-track live EP free of charge to anyone signing up to their website which is certainly worth getting hold of, if only for this track. Continuing with the longest track on the album, You Cut Me Out, a big atmospheric ballad that displays the band's confident arrangement skills, not afraid to leave unadorned the simple piano and vocal sections only adding in other individual instruments when necessary but utilising the majority of the group to add greater structure to the ending of the song. Our Bodies combines the strings and trumpet to good effect with Evans contributing some animated guitar to up the tempo on the song's finale. A re-recorded Holding Hearts has a middle section that reminds me of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra for some reason, however, the repetition of the final verse is a bit wearing and, for once, I think more lyrical development would have benefitted this number. Final song, Warning Shot closes the album on a more acoustic level and has a very Tom McRae feel to it, never a bad thing in my book.
A Genuine Freakshow are certainly a band to listen out for as they have plenty of original ideas but perhaps need to mix up their output a bit more. From what I have seen on YouTube and heard on the free Live EP, they are certainly an interesting live act and I hope that they can build on this mostly impressive debut.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
US – Feeding The Crocodile
Tracklist: Feeding The Crocodile (42:52), The Greatest Show On Earth (8:00), The Winds Of March (11:24)
US is two people, Jos Wernars and Marijke Wernars and between the both of them they have performed Feeding The Crocodile. Or should I say Jos has played all instruments and taken care of the male vocals whilst Marijke has taken care of the female vocals on the album.
Feeding The Crocodile is their 8th effort and features only three tracks. So we can speak of true epics and this is especially true for the title track running a stunning 42 minutes. Now multi-instrumentalist efforts are always layered musical pieces which take an awful lot of patience and skill to mix the complete tracks to make the songs sound as complete songs. More often than not the sound of such multi-layered production becomes too mathematical precise - like clockwork, leaving less room for the emotional involvement needed in music. These days anyone with Magix Music maker, Cubase or the likes can record himself and try mix it to create his own music. But to create a real song takes more skill than just that.
US' music is story telling big time, Jos and Marijke try to get across tales and stories. The music in essence is old school progressive rock music with a touch of aArt-rock and eclectic. The title track with its near 43 minutes length has a wide variety of let’s call them solo’s. It all sounds to me as if it has been lying next to Steve Hackett albums, as the guitar playing sounds very Steve Hackett, whilst listening to keyboard playing then indisputably Rick Wakeman influences can be heard.
The Greatest Show On Earth I cannot quite point my finger as to what song it is - I get pointers - but one thing is sure to me it has a familiar sound. Once again I find that Steve Hackett has been of influence here. And as one of my collegues mentioned in his review of Reflections, Renaissance's music can be heard and also this track has this feel to it.
Starting with acoustic guitar The Winds Of March also has a familiar sound and it may well be that old school progressive music is debt to this.
As a lyricist Jos does a great job, as he does playing all the instruments himself, however as he probably knows himself, he is not a great singer and this is an issue on the album. Along with this Jos Wernars' distinctive voice comes with a discernable Dutch accent. So the lyrics are good, however the delivery is lacking.
If you happen to like story telling in prog, then you could give this a try, as certainly the storyline is quite good, but even with this and after a few spins I cannot say that the albums sticks. The album was and is entertaining right now but will it stay that way?
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Angelzoom – Angelzoom
Tracklist: Turn The Sky (4:48), Back In The Moment (4:23), Blasphemous Rumors (3:22), Otium (2:40), Falling Leaves (1:06), Guardian Angel (3:09), Crawling (3:52), Bouncing Shadows (3:09), Fairyland (3:51), Dream In A Church (2:47), Newborn Sun (3:35), Lights (3:51), Into My Arms (4:03), Christmas Dreams (3:00) Bonus tracks: Peace Of Mind (4:46), Fairyland [Multimedia Track] (3:32), Fairyland (3:03), The World Between Us (3:07), Sapphire Sky/Fairyland* (6:03), Fairyland (5:09)
I will keep this review brief, as certainly this release from German vocalist Claudia Uhle, under the name of Angelzoom, would stretch the limits of progressive rock for even the most generous of listeners. So why review it at all I hear you cry. Well firstly had it not come from the respected Polish label Metal Mind Productions then it may well not have hit the radar at all. Secondly and perhaps more importantly it is an enjoyable album that may well find favour with a few prog fans...
A Potted History: During the late 90s Claudia Uhle was a member of "German pop ensemble" X-Perience who had a couple of major European hits. During a sabbatical and in 2004 Claudia concentrated on the material that would appear on this, her self-titled, debut album. Following the release of Angelzoom, (originally released through Nuclear Blast), Claudia toured with Apocalypta in 2005, before calling it a day on this project. She also left X-Perience in 2007. So would this self titled debut be the end of Angelzoom? No. Claudia returned in 2010 with a 4 track single (The Things You Said) and a follow up album, Nothing Is Infinite.
As mentioned earlier Angelzoom might well find favour with some progressive listeners. Amidst the obvious pop sensibilities of the album there are distinct flavours of a wider palette. There are tracks, or sections of tracks, that move into the atmospheric areas pioneered by Clannad or Enya. The album features instrumental (film score) pieces and instrumentals with "wordless" voices. We touch on Vangelis, (Bouncing Shadows), here and there. At times elements of classical music can be found - with deep and lush strings forming the foundation for the predominately electronic basis of the music. Musically there are also hints towards bands like Depeche Mode. Finally if you add to this that Claudia has a delightful voice, (that sonically extends to the top of the human hearing range ;0), along with a keen ear for an infectious melody, then this album is racking up some plus points.
Highlights: The album opener Turn The Sky with its pulsing string bass and delightful melodies - a touch of the Annie Lennox's here. Standout track, for me, opening with harp-like keyboard and equally infectious melodies is Into My Arms. The gently atmospheric Peace Of Mind taken from the motion picture "Alone In The Dark". Staying with the instrumental offerings Dream In A Church is another atmospheric piece as is the aptly titled Guardian Angel which along with the strings and choirs features angelic voices. Similarly Claudia's heavenly (high) voices make the lyrically crafted and melancholic Crawling another stand-out track. As these tracks are well covered on YouTube - I've included links...
On the downside, there are some of the tracks that were a little too twee for my tastes and as the CD also has a few tracks with a distinct Christmas(sy) feel there were times when the music did become a little saccharine. But as the album arrived just leading up to Christmas festivities perhaps it did fit the moment.
The album cover lists 21 tracks although I can only find 20, not that I'm complaining, but certainly something has gone awry with the bonus tracks listing. Track seventeen listed as Fairyland is more likely to be the Enya-esque Sapphire Sky. Certainly the last two tracks are versions of Fairyland - a club mix and and a version with heavier guitars. This aside and in typical Metal Mind style the album is well produced and the accompanying gatefold CD cover is excellent.
This is NOT a prog album per se, but well worth investigating if you enjoy the more melodic, lightweight, electronic and female fronted side of music.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
The Colourphonics – The Colourphonics
Tracklist: Looking Back At It All (3:28), Good Within You (4:00), Find A Home (3:17), My Daydream (3:59), Sunset (5:26), Found (4:12), Blossom Haze (5:03), This Is Not An Exit (6:13), Underwater (5:38)
Information on The Colourphonics is sketchy but it appears they were formed in Adelaide, Australia around 2007 from The New Translators by Corey Taylor (vocals, guitar), Steve Deer (drums), David Merigot (keyboards) and Shaun Martin (bass). They now also include saxophones and trumpets with vocals from Tony Minnieconn and Miranda Maz.
With an original aim of integrating numerous musical influences and breaking free from genre-based music they integrate elements of funk, motown and soul into their uptempo sound. There is a definite ‘70s vibe involved but not one that will be familiar to retro prog fans. The percussion clatters, the guitars are funk with added rock and the vibe is all important. Tony’s vocals are smooth and soulful with Miranda having a more powerful edge and they split the vocals between themselves, sharing the opener where the vocal styles mesh quite nicely.
The Sunset trilogy is noteworthy as Sunset itself, Found and Blossom Haze are played in sequence as one long piece but this is not clear on the CD sleeve and only apparent in the press release. The opening and closing instrumental sections are the best. Sunset has a driving pace and Latin horns, changing track to add a brief, dissonant drum and piano section; Found is up-tempo and motown influenced with a vocal from Tony; Blossom Haze ties the 15 minute “piece” together nicely with some blues and jazz influences, solo sax taking the melancholy lead. Also interesting is the brooding Underwater. Sung by Miranda there is a rocky vibe and the horns are not used making this one stand out from most of the rest.
The album has a variety of sound and overall it suggests that The Colourphonics would be a very entertaining live band but, to me, this isn’t very prog at all. Throughout the playing is good but the material stays too close to its soul/funk roots to be overly interesting. I enjoy the texture of brass instruments and the colour they add when used sparingly but here they are employed too frequently. The rating for this album would be higher if reviewed by a site with more interest in funk and soul but for a prog fan this is pleasant at best and never going to be a frequent visitor to the CD player. Nevertheless, those looking for something a little different may find what they are looking for here.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Vonassi - The Battle Of Ego
Tracklist: The Drudge (4:42), Gini (4:23), Beginnings (5:24), Strong Arm Welfare (4:54), Posing For The Cold (2:28), The Battle Of Ego (2:59), Authenticity (3:10), Open Hands (3:59), In The Mirror (5:16), The Now Game (4:11), Field Of View (4:32), Coiled (10:59)
Vonassi started with only two members, Jeff Vaughn (drums, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) and Vince Buonassi (bass, guitars, keyboards). With the success of their first project it became apparent that a full album was needed. With the inclusion of vocalist Chase Carter as the third members of Vonassi things progressed. The sound on The Battle Of Ego is rock orientated with the guitar more prominent than the keyboard and it cannot be classified as standard rock nor as highly experimental.
Vonassi is a band with its own distinctive sound and whilst musically it does not differ significantly over the length of the album it is diverse enough to remain interesting. The best part, in my opinion, of Vonassi are the powerful songs, typified by tracks: The Drudge, Strong Arm Welfare and The Now Game, which are all very good rock songs. Whereas Field Of View is a bit more funky, but still on the rock side. As an idea these songs sound as a mixture of Bon Jovi, Spock's Beard, Pearl Jam and Sieges Even.
There are also a couple of songs on the album in which they try to stretch their boundaries and without stretching really far they come up with some entertaining bits. Beginnings, The Battle Of Ego which continues in Authenticity and Open Hands are the songs with progressive tendencies. Vonassi also try to go for an epic song, but to me In The Mirror and Coiled lack descent structure and get stuck in the middle of it all.
Vonassi sure is a promising band and one to keep in your mind. On The Battle Of Ego they show they are a very talented bunch and there is no really bad song on this album, sadly also none that really stands out. Therefore a nice debut album and for people who like their rock music not in a standard manner. An average rating for an average album from a band that will hopefully prove they are not average at all...
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Various Artists - Guitars Dancing In The Light ~ A Tribute To Santana
CD 1: Carl Hupp Project ~ Touissant L'overture (5:55), Nemo ~ Incident At Neshabur (4:33), Spirits Burning ~ Soul Sacrifice (6:33), Goad ~ Black Magic Woman (9:02), Maury E I Pronomi ~ Flor De Luna (4:48), Canvas ~ Brightest Star (4:53), Viima ~ Taboo (5:21), Projecto Heleda ~ El Farol (4:37), Jeff Bragg Band ~ Hope You're Feeling Better (4:09), Sonic Pulsar ~ Mirage (5:22), Individual Choice ~ Life Is Just A Passing Parade (4:11), Violeta De Outono ~ Let The Children Play (4:53), Giogentile ~ Europa (5:03), Madmen And Dreamers ~ The Nile (4:14), Fonderia ~ Jim-Jeannie (5:58)
CD 2: Central Unit ~ Eternal Caravan Of Reincarnation (7:13), The Rob Sbar Noesis ~ Open Invitation (6:35), Ten Midnight ~ Just In Time To See The Sun (3:55), Elicotrema ~ You Just Don't Care (4:22), William Red Rossi ~ Samba Pa Ti (4:59), S.A.D.O. ~ Jingo-Tales Of Kilimangiaro (5:20), Conqueror ~ Love Devotion & Surrender (5.42), Giobia ~ No One To Depend On (4:06), Kephas ~ Smooth-Guajira (6.27), Fabrizio Fedele ~ Bella (4.07), Pleasure ~ Persuasion (7:05), Lucio Lazzaruolo ~ Oyo Como Va (3:17), Mist Season ~ Aqua Marina (4:58), Berna Park Hotel ~ Days Of Celebration (5:58), Quiet Celebration ~ El Morocco (4:47)
Mellow Records have released another tribute album of a famous recording band, this time choosing the awe inspiring Latin band Santana. Guitars Dancing In The Light A Tribute To Santana really has got its work cut out, as Santana has a definite unique sound that usually within an instant is recognisable, one of the true original guitar / music innovators, so this could go one of a few ways. I suppose this is the usual case for these albums, either being stupendous, falling flat on their face or just be an average release. Unfortunately the album falls somewhere in between the later two. To be honest I am struggling as to see who these sort of albums appeal to, as I would imagine most Santana fans would have all these recordings in their collection. Completists step forward please.
The nice thing about the album is that the artists have really made the tracks their own, probably realising quickly that note for note rendition are not what their target Santana market really wants, with the exception of the aforementioned purists, who in all honestly may well frown up on the whole affair. A wide geographical area has been used, targeting bands from places such as Italy, USA, Finland, France, Portugal and even Brazil with most of the tracks being from his earlier albums, which for me, is really what Santana are all about, in my eyes the classic era of the band.
The production of these CDs is very good, for the most part, as is the packaging, with the incorporated booklet which includes details of all the participating bands and their associated websites for you to investigate at your will should you feel like doing so.
So down to the music presented here, which most of you will already know, is of a high standard, with one or two bands mixing it up like S.A.D.O. with their medley of Jingo – Moonflower - Tales Of Kilimangiaro and Pleasure’ Persuasion – Fried Neckbones And Some Homefries Medley. Black Magic Woman by Italian band GOAD sees the band turning the song on its head, making it more spacey than the original Latin flavoured approach, Canvas’ rendition of Brightest Star, featuring the stunning female vocals of Tammy Lounsberry. Jeff Bragg Band who covers Hope You Are Feeling Better also has the assistance of a female vocalist which does add an extra dimension to the song, although in saying that I did find Gio Gentle’ version Europa very disappointing with the production being somewhat poor; some instrumentals should be left untouched.
Central Unit and Ten Midnight both add their stamp on tracks from Santana’ fourth album, Caravanserai, which saw Santana changing his musical approach, moving away from his mix of fusion, salsa, jazz and rock, concentrating more on his jazz like instrumental passages. Both Eternal Caravan Of Reincarnation and Just In Time To See The Sun are fitting tributes, with Just In Time To See The Sun having a more rock approach, as does Elicotrema’ version of You Just Don’t Dare, with the song sounding almost unrecognisable, whilst Greta Taffelli inserts her unusual vocal tones. William Red Rossi performs an unusual take of Samba Ti Pi, with its acoustic intonations and use of saxophones. Giobia’ take a somewhat new wave approach to No One To Depend On from Santana III, which is intriguing. Staying with Santana III and including Supernatural, American artist Kephas shows that he has more than an understands what is required, being a one man band offering up Smooth / Guajira medley being the best cover of the whole album. A rather adept and stunning version of El Morocco by Quiet Celebration closes the album with style.
On the whole the bands that have been involved in this project have offered some rather interesting versions of Santana classics as well as choosing a few interesting tracks too. I am not too sure that there is enough to hold your attention repeatedly, but they certainly are interesting versions on offer.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10