REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Flying Circus - Forth
|Country of Origin:||Germany|
|Year of Release:||2010|
|Time:||CD 1 59:42 |
CD 2 71:50
CD 1: The World Is Mine (9:25), Draw The Line (4:49), In Your Hands (4:05), Pride Of Creation (5:37), In The Mo(ve)ment (6:47), The Rope (4:31), Mad Woman In The Attic (5:18), Overload (3:21), Holy Water (4:48), Forever And A Day (6:14), You’re Waging A War (4:48)
CD 2: The Mover (6:07), Free (5:24), Long Gone By (6:39), Southbound (4:53), Just A Few Hours (6:26), Walk Away (5:57), Magic Land (5:49), I’ll Go My Own Way (6:11), Trip To Heaven (4:33), Till The End Of Time (5:40), The Heat Is On (5:55), Roll The Dice (4:06), The Shadow Is Over (4:10)
Flying Circus, who are celebrating their 20th anniversary, consists of Michael Dorp (lead and backing vocals), Lars Frik (keyboards), Lorenz Gelius-Laudam (electric guitar), Falco Kurtz (drums), Michael Rick (electric and acoustic guitar, backing vocals), Roger Weitz (bass, mandolin, backing and additional vocals), being formed in Grevenbroich in 1989/1990.
This is the Bonus Edition which comes as a two CD set, Forth and Back: The Rest Of Flying Circus, featuring thirteen re-recorded songs. As the title suggests this is Flying Circus’s 4th album, their previous albums being Season’s ‘97, Out Of The Waste Land ’00 and Pomp ’04. Not the most prolific band in the world, but a band that has produced some very nice recordings.
The band state their influences as a well mixed version of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Rush, Yes, Genesis, Deep Purple, The Tea Party, Porcupine Tree, and Muse, which is quite an impressive list, and is right on the money, in some places it is very obvious that this is the case.
Forth is an album that I have played several times, something just keeps drawing me into what has been created here. The band has been very effectual and clever with both their lyrical content and their musical approach, which is the thing that keeps pulling me back, having me pressing the repeat button. In saying that, there is a real air of familiarity with what has been created sound wise, as you can hear distinctive musical passages, from the bands that have influenced them. For me personally this has been one of the hardest albums that I have reviewed so far, it’s that feeling of, I like it, but I’m not too sure why, but I do syndrome.
We have five musicians and one vocalist that make up this band, who in their twenty years have not been prolific in the recording department, but with quality songs like these, the wait between albums can be accepted, as we all know its quality that counts not quantity.
OK clichés over, musically the album works on so many different levels, with the entire band contributing their parts, creating the eleven tracks presented on this album. All the tracks take a varying approach, with no two songs sounding the same, which is always a good start, whether it’s the drums, bass, guitars, keyboards or mandolin, each contribution has been perfectly placed, note perfect, but more importantly, not one instrumental interlude is more important than another, unless it has been allowed, leading me to think that Flying Circus are a band of perfectionists. Even Dorp’s vocals are used very effectually too, adding to the whole package.
The album has a smooth fluent neo prog sound going on, interspersed with other musical genres. Hooks and melodies is undeniably an area that Flying Circus doesn’t struggle with, which is obvious from the outset of the album.
The highlights on this album are many but the outstanding tracks for me are The World Is Mine which starts of the whole affair with its moody atmospheric eastern mystical sounds, strong rhythms, layered guitars, strong bass lines and rigid drumming. Dorp’s vocals really set the song off, as he weaves his magic through the song, building character, having a more than Zeppelin flavour to it. Frik’s keyboard work is very effectually, allowing the song to have a platform to work on, being a very strong opening song. Pride Of Creation is a very strong and powerful song lyrically, making a statement about some of the ‘isms of life, especially racism, meeting it head on with clever lyrics:
“Pride of creation, you call these names. Now who are you?” or “Now don’t you see these others are a lot like you? Now don’t you see that they are human too?”
The music matches the muscle of the lyrical content, which you could just quote again and again, powerful, intelligent and thought provoking. Gelius-Laudam and Rick do a really fine job throughout.
Mad Woman In The Attic takes a similar approach as The Rope; Rick opens the piece with a beautiful and clear sounding acoustic piece, which underpins the whole song. Christine Hellweg adds some additional vocals, giving the whole piece an ethereal and haunting sound. The track builds, having the band working together as one, in perfect unison; it just works on so many levels. The more you play this song the more you discover. Overload has a more basic rock approach with a strong drum line from Kurtz and a repeating guitar rhythm, dealing with a mass killing within a school, where a pupil goes on the rampage with a gun. The rest of the group build on this, keeping it dark and poniant, with what certainly sounds like a riff from Whole Lotta Love. The song closes with a news broadcast from Tagesschau from 20/11/2006, which makes the piece even darker and dare I say engaging. You’re Waging A War the album closer, which is another fine example of what this band can and has achieved, which reinforces what the band are all about, great songs, meaningful lyrics; no, thought provoking lyrics, showing that the band aren’t afraid to tackling and questioning those more taboo subjects.
“You’re scheming without any feeling, you’re leading though you don’t believe in anything you say - You’re waging a war!”
Back has a somewhat naive sound, where you can definitely hear their influences very clearly, Forth somewhat updates this sound, but the influences can still be heard. Even though the songs are naive, the band resisted the temptation to change the compositions on re-recording them, which I tip my hat too, because of the thirteen tracks presented, there isn’t any real what you would call fillers. The songs themselves have class, but do sound basic in places, skirting the more classic rock end of the music scale than progressive, which is not a bad thing. Every band needs a foundation, this is Flying Circus’s.
The guitar work is exceptional throughout, passionate and emotional, which is a theme throughout the album, along with Dorp’s vocal dynamics, which are fitting, powerful, but don’t take over the show. The band obviously know how to write a good tune, leaving me somewhat at a loss as to why they aren’t bigger or better known than they are?
The band have used varying styles of musical approach with The Mover, Long Gone By, Walk Away, Till The End Of Time and The Show Is Over being the stand out cuts. Just A Few Hours is a nice little blues number and Southbound is for me the weakest track, which displays the bands inexperience in song writing, that is comparing it to the other tracks on the album. In saying that, some bands would still love to have a song like this in their repertoire.
All in all this is a nice package, which has been produced well, including some really good pencil artwork, which is very much in the vein of The Plague by Demon taking a similar kind of approach with subject matter, to a degree.
To me this is more or less a perfect album, the only down side for me and being where the rub is, their influences come through too strong at times, which is the only negative I can hand on heart say, I can find. If I was to be honest, this is probably the demon I am fighting, to stop me giving it 10 out of 10. There aren’t any twenty minute plus prog epics here, but what we do have here is excellent.
I asked myself, would I buy this album? The answer is definitely yes. There is something here for everyone. You may even find yourself asking the same question I did. Why isn’t this band bigger than they are?
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
An Endless Sporadic – Ameliorate [EP]
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2008|
Tracklist: Anything (4:48), Impulse (4:25), Sun Of Pearl (5:06), The Adventures Of Jabubu (3:48)
The lengthier, and even though I say so myself, highly informative review for An Endless Sporadic’s eponymous full-length (although it is only a tad over an half an hour long) offering is re-produced
below. That disc received a DPRP recommendation, due in no small part to the involvement of Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold. Who you might have heard of. This, the band’s debut debut (if there can be such a thing) is just them. When I say them I mean of course Andy Gentile, who plays drums and percussion and Zach Kamins, who plays everything else.
In my capacity as henchman to an Evil Genius I get to listen to a lot of the Great One’s cast-offs and CDs that worthier henchmen bag first. Imagine how gutted I was to discover than an Evil Empire, like most other organisations, is a bureaucratic hierarchy. With rules and a pecking order. I’m not, if I’m being particularly honest, a great fan of hierarchies. Which makes me question some of my career choices I have to admit. Nevertheless, ‘I know my place’ and am truly ‘umble. However, I take all the responsibility for An Endless Sporadic. I listened a little to them on the world wide internet, liked them and put in place a master plan for us to bag them. Of which see the above-mentioned lengthier (and much funnier) review. I fully appreciate, though, that if they proved not to be as good as the samples suggested I would be ‘let go’ by the organisation faster than a baton by the British and American 4 x 100m relay teams. And by ‘let go’ I mean ‘killed’. Fiendishly.
So, how do An Endless Sporadic fare without the involvement of their Swedish friends? And remember, there’s a lot hanging (bad choice of word) on this.
Well, turning on its head the old adage that everything from Texas is much bigger than everything else this instrumental EP clocks in at a little over the seventeen-minute mark. Already the beads of sweat are forming. And George Michael thinks he might be let down by a lack of length…
The boys met in Texas, so the line above is grounded in fact. However, Andy now lives in LA and, and Zach moved to Boston. The write together over the internet, and hope to gain enough support to do AES full-time
Well, praise be to the Gods of Guitar Hero, we have a winner. And before you write in I fully appreciate how I could have written a glowing, entirely subjective review, dressed it up in some objective language, and spared myself a fiendish death.
Three of the tunes have been featured on computer games - Sun Of Pearl on Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, Impulse on Guitar Hero 3 and Anything on Guitar Hero: World Tour – so if you dig these tunes, which you will if you like thoughtful, incredibly catchy instrumental prog-metal music played by ludicrously talented musicians, you can recreate their wonderfulness in the comfort of your own living room. There are some lovely retro-sounding keyboard touches, and time and mood changes aplenty on the disc’s highlight The Adventures Of Jabubu. Only problem is it’s only three and a half minutes long. This song best signals the direction they were to take with Messrs Stolt and Reingold onboard, featuring as it does a jazzy lounge-room vibe to close.
They are starting to play live in the States, and have recruited a bassist and a guitarist for that purpose.
As a standalone purchase its length probably counts against it but I’d heartily recommend you give it a listen if buying the longer CD.
As a self-release, sound quality and packaging are excellent, putting many releases by mainstream labels to shame.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
An Endless Sporadic – An Endless Sporadic
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Waking Hours (2:22), From The Blue (2:55), Point Of No Return (2:16), Shell (3:05), Treading Water (4:00), The Triangular Race Through Space (4:58) Eternal Bloom (6:22) Subliminal Effect (3:43), Beyond The Horizon (3:19)
Drummer Andy Gentile, 23-years old, and 22 year old guitarist/keyboardist Zach Kamins (who composed all the music on offer here) founded An Endless Sporadic in 2004 in Houston, Texas while the two were still in High School. Kamins, who started playing piano by ear at 4-years old, is the cousin of film composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings, The Silence of the Lambs, The Departed, Aviator to name but a few) and is presently enrolled in the Berkelee College of Music in Boston pursuing a dual major in Film Scoring and Music Synthesis. Gentile is a game developer. Now, I remember the “pong” tennis one, and used to skive off school from time to time to play Space Invaders in a café in Bradford but I understand now that technology has come on a tad.
Jordan Rudess and Mike Portnoy have had nothing but positive things to say about the band - this, for example, is Jordan Rudess’ opinion, from the PR pack,
"It's thrilling to hear progressive rock that is this fresh and inspiring. These guys are obviously very skilled and their music is brimming over with youthful creativity and vitality."
Mike Portnoy is similarly impressed, commenting on their “youthful energy and a strong will to create masterpieces with no boundaries."
"Building on their excellent 2008 EP release Ameliorate, a tuneful prog-metal affair which featured tracks on Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and Guitar Hero World Tour, three songs from this new CD (From the Blue, Point of No Return and The Triangular Race Through Space), have been released as additional downloadable content for Guitar Hero 5."
‘So far so good’, you’ll be thinking. ‘I’ve got a Play Box 180, and a flimsy plastic guitar controller. And no friends. Bet it sounds a bit like Dream Theater’.
Well think again, game boys. On this record these lads are no mere prog metal clones. In fact, they sound little if anything like their illustrious supporters.
I first became aware of the band after checking, as I am prone to do, The Flower Kings website.
As a result of listening to the samples available on the world wide internet I sent off a flurry of electronic letters to DPRP HQ - which is in a hollowed-out volcano somewhere in the Indian Ocean - suggesting to DPRP kingpin Bob ‘Blofeld’ Mulvey that we just had to bag a review copy of this record. Perhaps now you’re beginning to get an inkling of where the band’s musical influences truly lie, and that I might like them. Quite a lot.
Now, in an uncertain world it’s nice to know that there are some things that won’t let you down. Banks may fail, wars may rage and broadband speeds may be woefully slower than advertised but The Flower Kings never truly disappoint. OK, so they may disappoint those of you waiting for a new record from The Flower Kings but, when it comes to their solo work, their side projects and their collaborations there is, I’m sure we’ll all agree, an enviable consistency in the quality of their output.
Which bodes well for this record, since it was recorded and mixed in Lund, Sweden (in only three weeks), with Roine Stolt producing and a certain Jonas Reingold playing bass. So what we have is an Instrumental Fusion/Progressive Rock album, described by Jordan Rudess as “a wild progressive sonic ride". Blimey. It’s effectively a single suite of music, with reoccurring themes, split into nine tracks that segue into one another, encompassing progressive jazz, metal, fusion and symphonic movements. It’s just over half an hour long, so is barely more than an EP in terms of length.
Waking Hours serves as a gentle introduction, with languid, jazzy bass, before From The Blue explodes from the speakers, sounding like a drugged up outtake from the abacab album recording sessions played at 45 rpm. With barely time to pause for breath we segue into Point Of No Return, a Pain Of Salvation / Flower Kings hybrid. Shell begins with lilting piano and synth strings, and has a mellow, laid-back jazzy vibe, a bit like the theme from Hill Street Blues before that gorgeous Reingold bass sound propels you into Spock’s Beard territory with the beginning of Treading Water which subsequently incorporates more sumptuous, jazzy piano then unfolds in a suitably Flower King-ly way.
The Triangular Race Through Space has more than a hint of the ELP's about it whilst Eternal Bloom, the ‘epic’ (at nearly six and a half minutes!) has the improv sensibilities of Umphrey’s McGee.
Subliminal Effect could be a ‘lost’ Flower Kings song too. Album closer Beyond The Horizon puts Jonas’ bass work front and centre, and has a suitably (albeit somewhat muted) symphonic climax.
I have been fortunate to listen to some cracking instrumental albums this year, and this is an excellent addition to my burgeoning collection. The production, as you might expect, is outstanding and the Stolt/Reingold/Rudess/Portnoy/Watson (vanity, vanity) stamp of approval should be more than enough for most visitors to our ‘umble little site.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Anyone's Daughter - Adonis
|Country of Origin:||Germany|
|Record Label:||Tempus Fugit|
|Catalogue #:||SPV 79082 CD|
|Year of Release:||1979/2010|
Tracklist: Adonis Part I: Come Away (7:50), Adonis Part II: The Disguise (3:29), Adonis Part III: Adonis (7:50), Adonis Part IV: Epitaph (5:11), Blue House (7:23), Sally (4:23), Anyone's Daughter (9:16) Bonus Tracks The Taker [live in Schorndorf 1977] (9:10), The Warship [live in Schorndorf 1977] (10:06), Adonis Part I: Come Away [Video: Studio Zuckerfabrik 1978] (7:49)
It is often said that bands have a whole lifetime to write their first album and for Germany's Anyone's Daughter that was truer than for most. Formed in 1972 and named after the Deep Purple song that appeared on their 1971 album Fireball, amazingly, the two mainstays of the band, keyboardist Matthias Ulmer and guitarist Uwe Karpa, were only 14-years-old when the band formed. However, this was not just a bedroom fantasy group, even at that tender age the two were gigging regularly and even performing their own songs alongside various covers, mostly belonging to the Deep Purple catalogue. Lacking a frontman, these early gigs were all instrumental affairs. Eventually the classic line-up of the band came together with drummer Hans Derer joining in 1977 two years after a suitable frontman in singer and bassist Harald Bareth had joined the fold, oddly enough on the recommendation of the previous drummer!
Recording of the album began in September 1978, only two months after the majority of the band had finished school and shortly after the band had turned professional. The broadcast of a demo recording of Adonis on a local public radio station led to the signing of a publishing deal while the fortunate coincidence of having a fan whose father was the CEO of PolyGram ultimately led to a recording deal with Brain/Metronome, the famous German progressive label owned by PolyGram. The album is dominated by the title track, a four part, 24-minute song that took up the entire first side of the original album. It is a bold opening statement for the group which displayed their progressive credentials to the full. The first and third parts, Come Away and Adonis respectively, are quite epic songs in their own rights featuring a multitude of sound effects and some fine guitar work from Karpa. Ulmer gets a look-in too, particularly in the second half of Adonis where his Moog playing dominates a fine ensemble performance. However, it is in the second part, The Disguise, that the band hit a progressive peak with some great playing that shows off the skills of the young musicians to the full. Technical expertise is combined with compositional skill, emphasised by the structuring of the entire song and, in particular, the final part Epitaph which is perfectly paced and arranged to bring the song to a truly epic conclusion.
The second side of the original LP started with the instrumental Blue House, named after the house the band lived and rehearsed in. Unsurprisingly, the house was painted blue! The kudos on this piece undoubtedly belongs to Ulmer whose use of a variety of keyboards generates multiple layers of textures. The group also manage to successfully blend the keyboards and guitars so that they are in complete harmony. Despite what the sleeve notes to this new edition suggest, there is no real suggestion of 'blues music' in the piece! In complete contrast, the shorter Sally (shorter in comparative terms, it is still nearly four and a half minutes long!) is much more of a contemporary pop song featuring some nice melody lines, a lot of piano and some excellent contributions from guest saxophonist Pit Widmer. However, it does stick out as something of an oddity amongst the other more progressive numbers. Final track, the group signature tune Anyone's Daughter, is another great progressive number that has shades of Camel about it, particularly in the introductory section where Ulmer's organ and Karpa's electric guitar and presented in finest Bardens/Latimer tradition. The vocal section features another fine melody and, overall, the group once again show a compositional expertise well beyond their tender years.
This newly remastered edition also adds in some excellent bonus material, particularly in the form of two songs that have never seen the light of day before. Indeed, neither The Taker or The Warship were ever recorded in the studio but were amongst the large amount of original material the band had amassed over the years prior to recording their debut album. Both are taken from a 1977 concert and, thankfully, the quality is very good. As older material, the songs display the group in a more formative stage, which is not to denigrate the quality of the music. The Taker features some rather naive harmony vocals at the beginning and end of the song but these are forgivable given Karpa's extended guitar solo which is very nice indeed! The Warship is the closest one gets to hearing anything of the original group's obsession with Deep Purple, admittedly restricted to Ulmer's Hammond organ playing, as the song is far more akin to early/mid 1970s progressive music that the 'proto prog' of early Purple material. Saying that, Karpa's final solo could give a certain Mr Blackmore a run for his money. Inserting the CD into a PC also reveals the final bonus track, a film of the band performing the first part of Adonis live in the studio where the album was recorded.
To my mind, Adonis was always the finest album recorded by Anyone's Daughter and this remastered edition provides a well worthwhile reissue, both for fans of the group as well as anyone unfamiliar with their music. As was the norm for the time, the lyrics are in English resulting in an accessible album for native English speaking prog fans who are negligent in the language department (which, let's face it, is most of us!). On this basis Adonis is a recommended release as there is a lot to enjoy here. However, one has to take into account that the album was recorded at the tail end of the prime progressive era and really does not feature anything new but harks back to the golden times of the genre. If the album had been recorded and released four or five years earlier then there is no doubt that it would be regarded as one of the classics that paved the way for progressive music. But all of that aside, it is a very good album and worthy of this excellent release with comprehensive sleeve notes (in German and English), a new cover design (which is far superior to the original) and a facsimile concert poster contained within the slip case. Limited to a mere 2000 copies, if you are interested I would recommend snapping up this release fast!
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Marco Ciargo – Poema Sinfónico Eléctrico
Tracklist: Movimiento no 1 (7:21), Movimiento no 2 (2:23), Movimiento no 3 (6:21), Movimiento no 4 (2:15), Movimiento no 5 (4:41), Movimiento no 6 (10:35), Movimiento no 7 (7:36), Movimiento no 8 (8:06)
Hailing from Caracas, Venezuela, Marco Ciargo has been composing and recording since 1977 when he was just 16 years of age. Poema Sinfónico Eléctrico however is his first solo release which has been evolving following the appearance of a 6 minute segment in 2007. Previously he enjoyed a 10 year stint as guitarist with Venezuelan metal band Resistencia who released three albums during the 1980’s. Since 2003 he has been residing in Madrid, Spain following a 14 year residence in Florence, Italy.
As the sleeves notes are exclusively in Spanish the credits (for me at least) are difficult to decipher although this appears to be a one-man effort with Ciargo providing electric guitar and keyboards. He’s guitar technique is very much in the melodic prog vein echoing both Andy Latimer and Mike Oldfield with a welcome absence of overblown soloing. Keyboards provide a symphonic soundscape that convincingly replicates strings, brass and woodwind whilst percussive effects bring tympani, military drums and crash cymbals to the mix. Sampled voices add a choral grandeur and the crystalline production is a real bonus providing a spacious and dynamic feel to the whole proceedings.
Given that the album is subdivided into eight movements, Ciargo clearly has classical pretentions, or perhaps he’s simply lazy when it comes to track titles. Either way each movement segues seamlessly into the next lending an air of continuity helped by the consistent mood and tempo of each piece. Movimiento no 1 with its strident orchestral arrangement, massed choir and crashing percussion is pure Hollywood bringing to mind the biblical epics of the late 50’s and early 60’s under the musical direction of the legendary Miklós Rózsa. In a lighter moment it also strays (albeit briefly) a little too close to James Horner’s My Heart Will Go On theme from Titanic (yes the one sung by Celine Dion).
Although the rest of the album is less pomp and bombast, the overall flavour continues with some lovely melodies along the way. That’s especially true of the lyrical theme that graces Movimiento no 5 which is evocative of The Enid in all their glory. With its contemporary and easily digestible orchestral style I was also consistently reminded of Tony Banks’ Seven: A Suite For Orchestra (an album well worth investigating on the budget Naxos label). In terms of style and content Ciargo’s expansive classical sound also encompasses the 19th Century romantic period epitomized by composers like Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Beethoven. Following the lengthy but elegant Movimiento no 6, the album returns to the strident tone of the opening with Movimiento no 8 concluding on a suitably rousing note.
Poema Sinfónico Eléctrico may not be everyone’s cup of symphonic-prog but it certainly struck a chord with this reviewer particularly as it bridges the musical gap between several of my favourite genres. Ultimately however, whilst I have a good deal of admiration for Ciargo’s impressive achievement, after several spins I found myself hankering for the genuine article with Mahler’s majestic Symphony No. 8 soon finding its way back onto my CD player.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Témpano - Selective Memory
|Country of Origin:||Venezuela|
|Record Label:||Musea Records|
|Catalogue #:||FGBG 4751|
|Year of Release:||2008/2010|
Tracklist: Victoria Pírrica (5:59), Falling Senses (7:27), Argos (2:53), Despair, Shout (8:15), A Farewell To Seasons (9:03), Irus (8:56), The Blind Crow (4:42), Path (3:14), Embestida (6:51), Cristalizado (3:14), Aguas Redondas (6:56), El Gran Inquisidor (9:57)
Témpano are Pedro Castillo (guitars, violin, mellotron and vocals), Guiglio Cesare Della Noce (Yamaha acoustic piano, MKII Rhodes Electric Piano, Hammond B3 Organ, Farfisa Organ, Wurlitzer Electric Piano, Minimoog, Polymoog, Elka Strings, Hohner Clavinet and Roland Space Echo RE 201), Miguel Angel Echevarreneta (bass and acoustic guitars) and Gerardo Ubieda (drums, percussions and additional keyboards on Cristalizado).
Here we have Témpano’s tenth album, (now receiving world-wide distrbution through Musea Records), Selective Memory, a band that formed in Caracas Venezuela in 1977, having recorded and released their first album in 1979. Two of their albums have been previously reviewed by DPRP. Their debut album Åtabal Yémal (reissue 1998) received 6 out of 10, whilst
The Agony And Ecstasy received a healthy 8.5 out of 10, giving it a position on the prestigious DPRP recommended list.
So how does Selective Memory fair? Well, looking at the initial list of instruments used to record this album, to use a phrase, it’s a bit of a wet dream list really. So does the instrumentation live up to expectations? The answer to that is an emphatic yes.
The band has recorded an album that is full of superb melodies, complex passages and more importantly originality. Although the prog scene has moved forward, this album does have a 70’s retro sound, mixing prog rock with a little jazz fusion, but this doesn’t detract from what is presented here; plus there is a reason for the approach taken. The band has a beautiful symphonic feel that is very European in approach, to these ears. As an indicator of what we are talking about, look no further than referencing bands like King Crimson, ELP, Happy The Man, Return To Forever, Camel, The Enid and The Flower Kings.
Most of the music on this album was commissioned for two projects,
The Seven Samurai and
Odyssey, being based on simple ideas; a homage to the sound of early 70’s prog, using instruments of that era, giving a chance to revisit a chapter of Témpano’s history. Aguas Redondas, Embestida, Despair, Shout, Victoria Pírrica and El Gran Inquisidor are the only tracks that were not recorded during 1977 and 1980. Apparently there are several hours of music still unreleased to date; this really needs to be addressed.
This really is keyboard heaven, with interjections of guitar work, whether it’s acoustic or electric, the results are rather stunning, creating fantastic musical interludes, dynamically twisting and turning. There are many highlights on this album, more importantly it is an album of warmth, depth and character, that you won’t be disappointed in discovering, if you are unfamiliar; or sitting back and smiling as you listen to what Témpano have created this time around, if you are.
Victoria Pírrica opens this wonderful album, with some very nice King Crimson sounding soundscapes, incorporating some very ingenious keyboard work, solid drumming, punctuated with some really nice bass and guitar passages, setting the scene and tone for the rest of the album. Failing Senses has vocals that are perfectly places, tonally, deepening the atmosphere of the music. The guitar lead on this track is stunning and majestic to say the least, a theme that runs through the whole album. Argos is the shortest piece on the album being keyboard driven, being under pinned by Miguel Angel Echevarreneta acoustic work. Despair, Shout follows having a more experimental approach, with a nice deep bass line running through in conjunction with Gerardo Ubieda percussion work. Guiglio Cesare Della Noce adds some very haunting keyboard passages and interjections as does Pedro Castillo with his effects laden guitar work which climbs, creating a very powerful track.
Farewell To Seasons opens with grandeur, happy melodies that bounce along, strong chord progressions are presented, as the meter and timbre weaves in and out of each other perfectly. The rhythms are complex, bass work stunning, time perfect changes, at the blink of an eye, driving to a big crescendo. Irus is an interesting piano lead piece, sounding like it has been inspired by Van Der Graaf Generator, having additional keyboards being introduced through the song working in conjunction with the percussions and bass, allowing each to display their dexterity and skill. It’s is a very moody piece, with Castillo throwing in some small vocal pieces that add to the grand scale of things, heightening mood.
The Blind Crow is a jaunty short piece which bounces along, which vocally sounds vaguely like Roine Stolt, having a straight forward approach. Castillo’s guitar tones are never far away, which really makes the piece, which could have been otherwise boring and dull. Path tightly works the drum and keyboard interaction very well, as they support each other. Echevarreneta bass is allowed a little soiree of it own, weaving its way in and out of a rhythmic clapping. Embestida is another beautiful and melodic crafted piece, with its happy tones and bass heavy lines. Musically the band are tight really working their groove, with the piece being lifted from their session from The Agony And The Ecstasy album, being one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Cristalizado features additional keyboards from Ubieda who also contributes some powerful stickmanship, there is a towering guitar solo, but no sooner has the piece started, it ends, leaving the listen feeling slightly bemused and cheated. Aguas Redondas has a more rounded straight forward, laid back approach, seeing the band working in their native tongue, but still encompassing all the heady emotional interludes. El Gran Inquisidor has a very dark undertone, having a South American feel to it, coming across as a sound track piece, experimental in approach, which eventually drops into melodic sonic semblance of sorts, well for a while at least, making the whole piece quite unique and interesting.
Although you look at the instruments used to create this album, the heavy keyboard inclusion has been very cleverly used, allowing all the other instruments to breathe, never being pushed into the background, allowing them to contribute emotion, rhythm and power. It could have been quite easy to produce twelve like minded sounding tracks, but Témpano have resisted that. The music created here is filled with maturity and experience, being an album you must get hold of.
Now you have read this review, the next thing you need to do is visit their web page(s) and go get yourself a copy of this album. Why are you still here? Go!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Red Orchid – Sky Is Falling [EP]
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Revive (7:40), Walking In The Sky (6:25), Sky Is Falling (7:59), Eclipse (1:23), Silence Within (7:25)
Red Orchid is the brainchild of Sanmeet Sidhu, a musician from Virginia in the USA and he is the composer, producer and performer of the music on this his debut album. There is a story to this debut album - it was originally released in early 2010 as a full length, seven track and with a forty minute duration CD, whereas the EP I have here consists of five of the seven tracks from the original release. On the Red Orchid website the reissue of this release, as a five track EP, is explained as their way of keeping the emphasis and to ensure the progressive sound stayed intact.
The musicians playing are Sanmeet (vocals, guitar, synth, flute & piano), Tom Dupree (drums) and Steven X (bass & some backing vocals). Parth Sen plays Tabla on Silence Within and Rick Stu, piano on the same track.
Sky Is Falling is a great debut album by yet another excellent musician and band. Once you start listening to the album you are immediately struck by the great guitar work of Sanmeet, at times the guitar playing reminds of the great guitar players from the Seventies. Another comparison is sound - all of the music has a certain Steven Wilson sound or better perhaps Porcupine Tree... Still these are only comparisons, although Sanmeet counts Steven Wilson as one of his influences so it is probably is not a coincidence that there is some resemblance.
Without doing a track by track I would say Red Orchid have delivered a wonderful debut CD, even if this is a reissue. I would love to hear the other two tracks that are now missing - were they that bad or so different - I wouldn’t know. We can only guess at this unless of course you happen to own the first issue?
Sky Is Falling is a melodramatic, melancholic, emotional intoned album made by a band/musician I hope to hear a lot more of in the near future. Even if it is only an EP, as in my opinion Red Orchid is one of the best new bands to surface in 2010 and have delivered an awesome debut.
I would truly recommend this CD to anyone that likes Porcupine Tree and the likes.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Miguel Kertsman – Time? What’s Time?
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Universal Clock: Gravity Tunnel Reprise (1:00), Contact (1:50), Which Path? (2:05), Masters Of Vega (4:05), The City (2:55), Promises, Lies And Deception (6:28), The City Postlude (1:55), Chasing Love (3:03), Tomorrow’s Desert (4:56), Dawning Interlude (0:45), The Drifter (6:12), Mad Quite Mad (4:07), The Calling (10:30), The Muse (3:32), And We’re Still Not Listening (4:40), Time? What’s Time? (4:25), Maracatuwarp (3:45), Intergalactic Telepathic Intercourse (8:00)
Although Miguel Kertsman was born and raised in Recife, Brazil where Latin music and rhythms prevail, it’s as a classical composer following his relocation to the USA that has attracted international recognition. With several jazz, chamber and symphonic works already under his belt, he has turned his attention to a far more eclectic undertaking in the shape of Time? What’s Time? Created in his New York based studio, the album is based on a concept of sorts, which is far too deep (and obscure) for me to dwell upon here. Suffice to say it provides an excuse for Kertsman to incorporate all manner of generic styles and influences into his work.
The album is a veritable patchwork of musical pastiche including classical, jazz, ambient, pop-rock, Electronica and ethnic rhythms. You may well have noticed that I have not included prog-rock amongst the list. That’s because despite Kertsman utilising a plethora of keyboards that would put Rick Wakeman to shame there is very little here that would qualify as prog. He also contributes occasional vocals and drums and is joined by a host of percussion players, singers, rock instrumentation and orchestra. The end result is a soundtrack in search of a film.
Despite the instrumental excess, keyboard virtuosity is not on Kertsman’s agenda. Instead synths are often used to create atmospheric spacey and rhythmic effects as in Mad Quite Mad and the more restrained Which Path? which sounds uncannily close to Seventh Wave’s criminally ignored 1974 album Things To Come. There are times when the keyboards and orchestra seem far back in the mix to the point where the strings in particular sound like they’ve been sampled. The emphasis is certainly on percussion and here at least Kertsman provides some genuinely authentic and vibrant Brazilian rhythms (not surprising giving his background). That’s particularly true of Tomorrow’s Desert and the all too brief Universal Clock: Gravity Tunnel Reprise which opens the album.
Elsewhere, as in Promises, Lies And Deception the rhythm loops are relentless to the point of monotony. It’s at these moments when the music seems to suffer an identity crisis, is it meant to be listened to or danced to? Kertsman also has a tendency to take a simple musical phrase as in Masters Of Vega and Chasing Love and repeat it endlessly. The Drifter on the other hand (currently available for free download) with its incessant guitar riff is in a more conventional song format albeit with the leftfield stance of Peter Gabriel.
If the extravagant instrumental and vocal credits were anything to go by, the lengthy The Calling would have all the makings of an epic although you’d hardly know it from what actually comes out of the speakers. With its dull programmed rhythm and aimless backing voices, at its best it could be an outtake from Mike Oldfield’s The Songs Of Distance Earth album. One of the better tracks in my opinion is the concluding Intergalactic Telepathic Intercourse. Despite the pretentious title, it effectively combines new age synths, orchestra and operatic vocals with haunting results.
Structurally and instrumentally Kertsman’s ambitious offering brings to mind Patrick Moraz’s excellent debut solo album Story Of I which also featured massed keyboards and Brazilian percussion. Sadly however Kertsman lacks the Swiss maestro’s flair for strong melodies, compensating by including as many musical devices as the mix (and his budget) will allow. A bold endeavour certainly, but ultimately this album tries to be too many things to too many people. Its cause is not helped by the most uninspired cover artwork I seen in a long time.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Various Artists - Recital For A Season's End - A Tibute To Marillion
CD 1: That Time Of Night [The Short Straw] (4:30), The Great Escape (6:20), Afraid Of Sunshine (5:18), Script For A Jester’s Tear (8:15), Incommunicado (6:17), This Is My Life (4:16), Market Square Heroes (7:27), Go! (6:24), Assassing (7:06), Lavender (7:54), Fantastic Place (6:39), Waiting To Happen (6:14)
CD 2: Cinderella Search (5:40), Living In The Big Lie (6:56), The Web (8:33), Fugazi (8:20), Slainthe Mhath (6:54), Somewhere Else (7:48), She Chameleon (10:14), White Russian (6:34), The Invisible Man (16:14)
CD 3: After Me (3:37), Heart Of Lothian (7:51), Sugar Mice (10:31), The Party (5:47), Incubus (9:39), You’re Gone (5:24), Lords Of The Backstage/Blind Curve (12:23), Made Again (5:27), Splintering Heart (6:20), That Time Of Night [The Short Straw] (6:06)
All these songs will be familiar to most of you. Although the recordings are not note for note perfect replications, which is a positive, the bands involved have stamped their own mark on their track recorded, another positive, which does make it a somewhat more inviting and appealing proposition to invest your hard earned cash. These are classic tracks, with the focus being on the operative word classic and in my own honest opinion, the originals can’t be bettered. Something’s in life shouldn’t be tampered with and I am afraid that this is one of them.
Mellow Records have presented this triple album, which features just over three and a half hours of Marillion covers, for me this is nothing more than a promotional tool, offering the label an opportunity to promote somewhat lesser known acts, recording well know songs from one of the godfathers of Neo Prog. The booklet that is enclosed is a neat piece which gives band details, a list of personnel and details of their websites.
I did enjoy what has been presented here, but on merit, I don’t think I would go back to the album repeatedly. It is more of an album for diehard fans / completists that need to own all things Marillion related, or a way of discovering new names, once you check out their websites. I personally would dig out Marillion’s original albums and play them. If you don’t own any, then shame on you, this maybe a way of hearing a good cross section from their career, giving you an idea as to whether you would dip your toe further. As a footnote to that, the originals are much better, as you would expect.
The highlights for me were Marco Masoni’s Afraid Of Sunshine, Conqueror The Great Escape, NoSuchThinking’s Fugazi, Progchard She Chameleon (Marillion’s Medley), Bitter Suite’s Script For A Jesters Tear, Trama’s version of Slainthe Mhath, Garden Wall’s Incubus, Unicorn After Me, Armalite’s Lords Of The Backstage/Blind Curve and the clever way 3RDegree and Echoes open and close the set retrospectively with the same track, but differing versions That Time Of The Night [The Short Straw].
Although most of these tracks don’t have the same bounce as the original, it is nice to hear slightly different arrangements and dare I say female vocal versions of certain tracks. It’s all very saccharine and sweet, but it’s not the real thing. Does it work? Well on some levels it does and on others it doesn’t. This is one that you will have to make your own mind up about.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
The Flow – No Guarantees
|Country of Origin:||Netherlands|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Greed (3:57), Everything I Used To Be (3:56), The Secret (3:57), Feel Them (4:28), What’s The Future Saying (3:40), Start Bleeding (3:29), No Guarantees (3:20), Feel Alive (5:17), Without You (3:51), Now (5:45)
The Flow are a new band from Holland, formed in 2008, whose members – Jos Zoomer (drums/percussion), Jacques Suurmond (bass), Erik de Boer (guitar) and Marten Jan Rerink (vocals & guitar) – have in the past been playing actively in bands such as Shiver, Vandenberg, Marathon and Harrow. They describe their own music as “melodic rock with a touch of prog and pop with 70s influences, all wrapped up in a song structure”. From my perspective, I cannot discern the “touch of prog”; this sounds like plain rock to me.
Nothing wrong with that, of course, but, the problem here is that there is also little about the music or musicianship to set No Guarantees apart from many other bands; whilst it is not poor by any means, neither does it inspire in any sense.
Should you be interested in seeking out the CD, having listened to the samples, it can be purchased from the band’s own website or from CD Baby (links above)
Conclusion: 5 out of 10