REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Hasse Fröberg & The Musical Companion - FuturePast
Tracklist: Sounds From The Empire (1:27), Fallen Empire (10:20), Song For July (4:59), Piece Of The Sky (14:18), I Wouldn’t Change A Thing (6:49), Above (10:27), Everyday (4:57), The Ultimate Thrill (6:34), Only My Blood (13:01)
Dave Baird's Review
After years of being nagged by his fans, Hasse Fröberg has stepped out of the shadow of The Flower Kings to release his first solo album - you can read more in-depth Hasse's own thoughts in out two interviews we have with him here. Of course solo albums and side-projects by Flower Kings members are not at all uncommon, but this is a little unusual insomuch as it doesn't feature any fellow band members, instead Hasse has deliberately chosen to recruit a new band in an effort to establish his own sound. In this respect I have to say he's been largely successful, yes of course he is actually The Flower Kings singer so you'll get some familiarity there, and also working with Roine for 15 or so years has a heavy influence, so there are some TFK moments, but these are very much the exception.
Hasse has managed to put together quite a diverse array of songs, from the up-tempo West-Coast feel of Song For July to the heavy riffing Above. Overall you would say it has a classic-rock feel meets mellow-prog and some funk/jazz moments thrown in for good measure. Hasse's voice is of course the main attraction and he doesn't disappoint with a tremendous range of vocal styles on display - belting prog-metal on Fallen Empire, the countertenor intro to Only My Blood and his best Jon Anderson impression on Piece Of The Sky. He's incredibly versatile and the passion he's put into it is very evident. It's these three songs which are the proggier on the CD, all displaying multiple changes of pace, direction and texture. Fallen Empire starts-off with a very immediate 90's-prog-metal section that really took me by surprise on the first listen, I didn't expect that at all. It shifts gear with a huge, bombastic string-synth break, then mellotron flutes, acoustic guitars with a more folk feel, a few solo and a reprise back to the main song. It's a fantastic opening.
Piece Of The Sky doesn't just sound like Jon Anderson singing at times, it has a huge Yes vibe going on all over. Some really excellent guitar work here and more nice keyboard work - has to be said that the keyboards are superb throughout, not only great playing at the right level for each track, but very tasteful choices of instruments and patches with the focus on classic sounds - organ, piano, Moog, warm strings, a little mellotron. I can't say the same for the rhythm section though, well the bass playing is pretty much fine and 90% of the time the drumming's good too, but occasionally when the pieces get a bit more up-tempo the drumming isn't changing gear to suit. Sure the rhythm is correct, but there are times when they need to be a bit busier and add some excitement, it just isn't always working for me. The album closer Only My Blood is a prog-delight too - moody synths, bombastic and great singing. Sounds like there could be some Rush influence along the way, but there's also a tremendous guitar solo that could easily be Roine Stolt himself - think of the solo on Transatlantic's All Of The Above and you get the idea - it's also played early in the song and reprised at the end. There's a funky feel going on towards the end and some mellow jazz moments too, it has it all.
The Ultimate Thrill is notable that it is surely inspired by Spock's Beard from the classic period around Beware Of Darkness, quite uncanny but it's all part of Hasse's wide palette of influence. The main feature here is the organ - can we be sure that's not Ryo Okomoto? Some great heavy guitar work as well which is in stark contrast to the mellow bottle-neck on Above - Anton Lindsjö seems to be a very versatile and talented player, a great find for Hasse. Everyday is one of the more Flower Kings influenced pieces - well one that may have been written by Hasse and played by TFK, could easily been a B-Side from Space Revolver or The Rainmaker. I already mentioned that Song For July has a West-Coast feel, really this song wouldn't be out of place on a Don Henley album, I really feel it would make an excellent radio-friendly hit, a real foot-tapper. To be fair the drumming and bass are really superb on this piece, plus Hasse is displaying his voice at its very best too - very typical singing for him and crystal clear. This just leaves I Wouldn't Change A Thing to mention and, well this is perhaps my least favourite piece on the album - it's rather too generic for my liking and then it has this weird instrumental section that just sounds too contrived and awkward for my taste.
To conclude, this is a really solid first effort from HFMC, aside my occasional reservations on the drumming the musicianship is excellent, the songwriting good, the arrangements interesting and varied, the range of styles is quite wide and of course it's a great vehicle for Hasse to show his vocal talents more than we've seen in The Flower Kings. The production quality is very acceptable indeed, perhaps I would have mixed Hasse a little higher, especially in Fallen Empire. Huge credit must be given that HFMC have a sound all their own - yes there are influences galore, but this is normal, Hasse has managed to break away from the typical Flower Kings sound and that can't be easy to achieve at all given their long history. This CD is an absolute must-have for any Flower Kings fans and it's also very appealing to general lovers of classic prog/rock.
Jon Bradshaw's Review
Like the rest of his fellow bandmates, Hasse Fröberg has taken the occasion of a hiatus in the Flower Kings’ output to write and record his own music which has materialised on Reingold Records as FuturePast. There the links to TFK end as, unlike his bandmates’ solo projects, there is no collaboration with any of them on this album. This is a new band with Hasse at the helm handling the compositional duties, singing (of course), and playing guitar as well lending his formidable studio experience to produce and mix the material with Petrus Konigsson. He has surrounded himself with a talented bunch of players to form a five piece unit (and they are a unit) that features Thomsson on bass, Kjell Haraldsson on keys, Anton Lindsjo on lead guitar and Ola Strandberg on drums. Mercifully for us, they are vastly better musicians than they are models. The band photography that decorates the booklet is risible. I’m not sure what sort of image they wanted to present but it appears to be an attempt at ‘fun and sexy’ as they pose in one laughable picture after another, including Hasse holding what appears to be a jelly and a couple of Reubens-esque portraits of Thomsson and Anton in semi-recumbent positions. What were they thinking?! I mention this only in the hope that they never allow it to happen again for verily, it offendeth mine eye. However, this small sin has absolutely no bearing on the music.
Hasse’s voice is unmistakeable. Consequently, and unavoidably, one immediately places his inimitable vocal style into the context of a Flower Kings’ song. The remarkable thing is that FuturePast is unlike a Flower Kings’ album and I passionately and enthusiastically applaud Hasse (and the band) for creating something new. Naturally, there’s the occasional nod in a Flower Kings direction, but these moments are subliminal. The overriding sensation is of a new band with a fresh but reassuringly familiar sound fronted by a familiar voice. And what a voice it is! Hasse’s work with TFK has always sent shivers of delight through me and he never fails to raise the hairs on my neck at least once on every TFK album. With his own project, he not only accomplishes this effect in spades, he also seizes the opportunity to swagger his way through a wide range of vocal idioms: from all-out, full-throated rock to sensitive soul; from operatic vocal callisthenics in the same vein as Freddie Mercury, to spitting fire and brimstone. Whichever way you spin it, Fröberg is a versatile, dynamic and massively gifted vocalist – we get to revel in his talents on FuturePast.
Similarly, the song styles here demonstrate a masterful grasp of everything from classic rock to commercial, jaunty, pop-oriented gaiety. Within that broad framework, every track is dappled with a host of progressive shades and colours. The whole thing sounds so effortless and natural that it is almost instantly affecting, with one hook-laden chorus after another giving way to emotional peaks and troughs in a 70 minute carnival of sound that I have hardly had out of the CD tray since the day it landed.
Leaving aside the opening track, which is a minute or so of Sounds From The Empire, the album kicks off with Fallen Empire. Lyrically, this catalogues the short-sighted greed and ruinous brutality of humankind and musically it creates great hefts of sound in a punchy and dramatic 12/8 tempo. Seamlessly, it shifts mood from dark and furious to positive and hopeful then back again by employing richly textured and melodically varied sections with great solo features. You couldn’t ask for more from an album opener. The quality is sustained in Song For July, which follows and is brimming with the joys of summer. Utterly infectious, the melody attaches itself to the aural centres of your brain like a limpet and ‘rings in your ears’ as the lyric suggests long after the album is over. Piece Of The Sky is an elaborate and expansive piece, driven once again by Hasse’s vocal delivery with a heavy, powerful chorus, an up-tempo section that recalls 10cc’s Dreadlock Holiday and a movement of lovely funky organ and skanking guitars accompanying a glorious MiniMoog solo. But all of this pales into insignificance against the closing passage which is achingly beautiful with stunning choral arrangements. This is early Queen, Yes and Led Zeppelin incarnated by six minutes of passion-filled, soaring music. The chord progression may be lifted from Zeppelin’s Rain Song, but I don’t care. For my ears, it’s worth buying the album for these six minutes alone.
I Wouldn’t Change A Thing is catchy as hell with glimmers of Blinded By The Light (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) and Supertramp in its composition, combined with Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and some Hall And Oates White-Man’s Soul in the verses. Above begins as a straight-ahead rocker that is echoed in its powerful chorus but the verse consists of a laid-back country-blues vibe to provide a startling contrast. The instrumental interlude is different again with an excellent jazz piano solo and an intricate guitar solo that crescendos in its intensity before ushering in another fine MiniMoog solo spot, after which, the bombast of the chorus is reprised... Another wonderfully catchy chorus stands out in Everyday alongside a clamorous and energetic synth solo from Kjell Haraldsson, whose work throughout the album is majestic.
Like above, The Ultimate Thrill takes a heavy rock groove as its substance with fluid and muscular guitar riffs supported (as in so many of these songs) by swirling Hammond organ and more stellar vocal arrangements. Only My Blood closes the album in that slightly funky style that has cropped up here and there throughout the album and is memorable for yet more excellent guitar and keyboard solos, as well as its anthemic closing passage that rounds out the music before birdsong and running water provide a Zen moment to finally punctuate the album with a blissful ellipsis.
Hasse’s solo debut references some of the greatest rock artists of the ‘70s in its sonic palette. From The Who to Argent, From Bob Seger to Little Feat and from The Band to Todd Rundgren, as well as those I’ve already mentioned. I’ve found it thoroughly entertaining and addictive from start to finish. The band play together like seasoned vets, but the tenor of the whole has a zest and freshness that’s impossible to deny or ignore. Admittedly, now I’ve spent some time with it, I would say there are 5 truly wonderful songs married with four good songs that have wonderful moments or sections, but taken as an entity, FuturePast is peppered with breathtaking musicianship and song writing that blends the best of the old with the best of the new to stand as a paean of what’s possible in modern rock. What’s more, the production is devastatingly good and creates a unique and original sound for the band to cohere around. I find it difficult to find fault with this wonderful piece of work that stands out as one of my albums of the year.
DAVE BAIRD : 8 out of 10
JON BRADHAW : 9 out of 10
Sleepy Hollow – Legend
Disc 1: Out Of The Mist (5:42), The Mirror (6:03), Cousin Katie (2:21), The Wanderer (10:08), Come With Me, Melina (7:17), Too Late (3:14), Nadia's Song (4:11), The Soldier's Lament (5:09), The Butterfly Queen (1:04), Sorrow's Might (13:11)
Disc 2: Farewell To Wilderness (4:29), Armageddon (8:30), Unselfconscious (7:59), Joan (1:20), Troubled Times (5:23), For The World Is Hollow (6:05), La Femme Arme (6:01), I'm Insane (3:13), Aristotle's Lantern (8:56), Hall Of Voices (18:47)
Sleepy Hollow (who describe themselves as ‘progressive acid metal’) formed in Lodi, NJ in 1999 around core members Joe Dell (piano, organ, synthesizers, harpsichord, bass, orchestra samples and vocals) and Matt Schwarz (electric, classical and acoustic guitars, bass, flute, folk harp, mountain dulcimer, mandolin and vocals). Interestingly, Matt performs solo harp music at Renaissance Festivals, playing a mixture of renaissance, medieval, and traditional Irish and Swedish pieces. This may well give you an inkling of what’s to come, but before we get to that let’s introduce Gary Rinaldi, the third credited member of the group, who ‘hits things with sticks’ and who doesn’t sing but who has played with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Iron Maiden. They are joined by three additional vocalists – Annie Dell, Christina Kirk and Anna LaBella – together with a host of other guest players.
It’s ten years since their eponymous EP was released, and Legend comprises songs dating back to their formative years as well as new material improvised in the studio. Out Of The Mist, which opens the album, was the first song the band ever wrote whilst Hall of Voices was completed this year. The band also released Goin' Over in 2004 and The Lazarus Project (a distillation of the heavier parts of the Legend sessions - featuring alternate mixes and versions of 8 songs from Legend, a non-album track, and 6 lost ([all-instrumental] rehearsal tracks from Dell’s previous prog-metal band Spectrum Green) in 2008.
I can’t do better than to quote from Sleepy Hollow’s stated influences in trying to describe this record. So you’ve got a little Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Iced Earth, more than a hint of Jethro Tull, and Genesis (particularly in Schwarz’s flute work) mixed in with some (Grendel-y) Marillion, and some Tori Amos as well as jazz, classical, folk and renaissance music, together with some Opeth, Nevermore and Blackmore's Night.
Additionally, I’d venture to suggest that there are elements of Yes, most notably found in Dell’s ample use of the harp and pipe organ (check out The Wanderer for a particularly wonderful example of the latter), the art rock of Phideaux, the bombastic theatricality of A.C.T and Black Bonzo, the bleakness of Van der Graaf Generator (and Peter Hamill’s vocal delivery in particular) and the East Coast psychedelia of Blue Oyster Cult’s earlier work. Oh, and The Doors.
The result of all these musicians, all these instruments and all these influences, spread across a two CD set, could easily have been a catastrophic cacophony. Fortunately for us, the record is an ambitious, eclectic masterpiece. Awesome in scope and completely bonkers in places.
I’ve never heard anything quite like it, put it that way and would go so far as to say that it’s a record every truly progressive rock fan should have in their collection. Get a refund on that BigElf record you were (heavily) encouraged to buy by that glossy prog magazine (who just so happen to own the label on which said record is released) and buy this instead. Tell the record store it was an unwanted gift.
A tip of the hat, too, to the engineer/producer Bob Both, who worked with James Brown in the 1970s and who has influenced many, from John Lennon and Led Zep all the way up to modern rap artistes. And all of this is cloaked in fantastic artwork by Ken Kelly, who is famous for his work with Rainbow, Kiss and Manowar. Welcome to independent progressive rock music, 21st century style.
So. Where to begin? It’s a mammoth album, containing over 20 songs, and over 2 hours of music. If your purchasing decisions are based purely on value for money considerations then it’s a no-brainer. It would, however, take a separate review to examine the lyrical complexity on offer. Suffice to say this isn’t a verse-chorus-verse record, and there isn’t a lot of romantic “love” (baby) about the place, but there’s “creeping fog, blood chilling cold”, “disembodied spirits” as well as a “mountain and forest filled with peace”. Center Parcs it ain’t.
What amazes me is that Sleepy Hollow are clearly influenced by so many other classic bands but manage to sound completely and utterly original and “modern”. Progressive, even. Which in the increasingly bland and homogenised commercial world of progressive rock is hugely satisfying to behold.
I can’t, obviously, go into detail on every one of the twenty tracks on offer. The album has taken a great many listenings for me to even try and start to do it justice. And when it’s over two hours long means the female members of the Watson family aren’t overly enamoured of my holing up in the man cave. What I can say is that every song is a standout, in its own particular way, but there are a couple of ‘epics’ that are particularly worthy of mention.
Sorrow’s Might closes disc one, and clocks in around the 13-minute mark. Quiet, contemplative organ and acoustic guitar, harp and oboe are book-ended by heavier, more intense passages.
Hall of Voices ends the record. It’s over eighteen and a half minutes long, length fans. It’s a swirling, improvisational melange of all that’s gone before. And, for you Blue Oyster Cult fans it’s got cowbell. Eastern mysticism meets East Coast acid-trip spiritual psychedelia. Like a soundtrack for a David Lynch movie reinterpreted by a metal jazz-fusion jam band. With the exception of sampled, conversational voices it’s entirely instrumental and includes Ursula’s Nightmare and Bob’s Astral Door. All of Sleepy Hollow’s influences collide and implode but not before bearing witness to beautiful explosions of colour and sound. It’s by no means the best song on the album but boy, has it got (a) soul. And a heart.
And it’s just those attributes that seem to be missing from much ‘modern’ “prog”. If Sleepy Hollow wore silly hats, and make-up, then maybe they’d be famous, and feted by the prog media and heralded as ‘the next big thing’. Until that day, revel in your individualism, and your lawnmower-ness. This is a must buy and one of my top 5 of the year.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Anthriel - The Pathway
|Country of Origin:||Finland|
|Record Label:||Lion Music|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Devil's Lullaby (6:01), Mirror Games (5:36), Guardian (6:25), Repression (2:13), Haven Of Grace (6:38), Dark Divided Minds (5:14), The Deliverance (1:48), Controversial Euphoria (6:42), Light Divine (4:41), Scent Of Dawn (1:07), Promised Land (5:50), Chains Of The Past (13:47)
This is the debut album from Finnish ProgMetal quintet Anthriel. They have been in existence for six years. However it wasn’t until the release of a three-track EP in 2007 and the recruitment of impressive vocalist Simo Silvan a year later that the band started to cause a stir.
I rather like this. Consisting of nine ‘songs’ and three short, instrumental links, The Pathway doesn’t strive to offer anything radically new. But what they do, they do very well.
Stylistically, as one colleague put it, this is ‘solid Symphony X worship with good song writing’.
Those of you into angels will know that the band is named after Anthriel; the angel of balance and harmony. In that respect it’s a great name.
With a sound driven by meaty riffs, considered keyboard touches, a dynamic rhythm section and expressive vocals this is an album with an harmonic balance of melodic sensibility, progressive ambition, heaviness and shade.
This is music that can be easily digested after a single spin, yet where repeated plays reward the listener with new depths to explore.
An excellent production allows all the classy musicianship to shine. With a superb range and depth of tone, Simo Silvan is a singer to watch out for.
Mirror Games is one of the best metal songs I've heard all year. The keys and guitar trade solos to great effect in between a masterful, looping riff and intense vocal melody. I love the mix of heavy and light spread across Haven Of Grace and the another catchy melody found within Promised Land. The album closes with an ambitious 14-minute epic. It has some clever moments but is taken a little past its sell-by-date.
If you’re into fantasy storylines then you’ll love the concept inspired by R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms: "The Dark Elf Trilogy". If, like me, the world of wizards, barbarians and mind-flayers leaves you rather cold, then don’t worry as the storyline never really invades one’s enjoyment of the music.
Whilst there are no bad songs here, the album doesn’t quite have the strength in depth required for me to give a top level score. I do find the band more effective with their more aggressive moments. When treading through the mid-pace melodic rock of Light Divine my attention wavers after a few listens.
The Lion Record label has had a good year in breaking new progressive metal talent to a wider audience. Debut offerings from Mindsplit, Dreyelands and Grönholm are already on the shelf. However I must say that Anthriel is a class above all of these. For those who enjoy Symphony X, Savatage, Beyond Twilight, Tomorrow’s Eve and Lanfear I’d expect these Finns to be strong contenders for best newcomers of 2010.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Grönholm - Eyewitness Of Life
|Country of Origin:||Finland|
|Record Label:||Lion Music|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: One Minute Of Reality (1:04), Awaited (4:10), Fate & Belief (4:28), Life Is (4:35), Meet The Maker (4:26), You And Me (3:44), Misfortune-Teller (2:31), Learn To Crawl (4:46), Eyewitness Of Life (4:23), Place For Freedom (6:28)
It is not uncomon that a band is in fact just one multi-instrumental person and such is the case with Grönholm. The man behind Grönholm is Mika Grönholm, this Finnish man is the songwriter/guitarist but also plays the keyboards and the bass. On Eyewitness Of Life he is supported by Markku Kuikka on vocals and Tom Rask on the drums. Also on this album there are two guest appearances from Derek Sherinian and Ty Tarbor ( Kings X). The music is progressive metal, very much like Threshold with a big nod to AOR. Also some similarities with Allen ~ Lande and House Of Lords.
Like many albums Eyewitness Of Life opens with atmospheric keyboards. The first actual song on the album is Awaited, the start reminds me a lot of the opener Slipsteam of Threshold's album Dead Reckoning. The music of Grönholm is more accessible and focusses more on the guitar and you can hear that the guitar is Mika Grönholm's first choice of instrument. The vocals are great, Markku Kuikka has a powerful rich voice and he never sounds out of control - great. The same sound continues in Fate Belief, another rock song with a focus on an accessible chorus. It has the spirit of eighties rock, especialy because of the Gary Moore like keyboards, but does not sound outdated. Life Is is slower and darker. Again the focus is on an accessible chorus but in the case of Grönholm this is a positive aspect. Many times I have heard bands trying to get an accessible sing-a-long part, but when it fails it sometimes sounds really cheesy. Grönholm is on the better side when it comes to that aspect.
At this point in the album the rock sound of Grönholm needed some alternation and which is supplied in Meet The Maker. We have groovy dynamics with a jazzy influences on this instrumental track, although I must say the keyboard parts sound very thin, especialy when it is followed by a greased up guitar riff. Nice bass on this song. You And Me is a great ballad and again Mika Grönholm writes an accessible song without becoming predictable. Great guitar solo, reminding me of Michael Schenker.
This is followed by another ballad, Misfortune Teller, which is short and is mainly driven by an acoustic guitar. Learn To Crawl is another slow pounding heavy rock song, a bit like tLife Is.
On Eyewitness Of Life the keyboard is more prominent but still I must say that Mika Grönholm is far better on the guitar as the keyboards are a bit too thin and too simplistic. Highlighted by the next track, the instrumental Place For Freedom which features Derek Sherinian. A huge increase in the keyboard parts and automatically means a better balance between guitar and keyboard - the best song on the album.
Mika Grönholm has done a pretty good job with Eyewitness Of Life, certainly a good debut album. As mentioned earlier the best musical resemblance is to Threshold, but without the lengthy song stuctures. The music of Grönholm is more accessible but certainly not to be classified as standard material, as there are enough progressive elements to tickle my imagination. Mika Grönholm's main instrument is the guitar and although his keyboard playing is not bad, it is certainly the weakest link for me, with the guest appearance by Sherinian showing exactly what I mean - it just completes the music. Get Sherinian for a whole album and you have got a killer album. As for the guest appearance by Ty Tabor - well I didn't spot it, but as Mika Grönholm plays the guitar very well himself it didn't really matter.
The vocals by Markku Kuikka are great, he has a powerful rock voice and I hope to hear more from this man. The production is good, so if you like accessible progressive metal this album is a good choice.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Paidarion - Hauras Silta
|Country of Origin:||Finland|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Hauras Silta (5:25), Polku (3:50), Oljenkorsi (5:54), Pieni Askel (4:59), Eksynyt (3:56), Kipinat Vedesta (6:14), Kultapallo (7:57), Tyhja Takki (4:48), Tuulensuoja (5:43), Hahmo (6:10), Paivan Kajo Hileessa (5:58), Hauras Silta II (3:19)
There are many ways in which music lands at DPRP HQ, either via a record label, distributor, promoter, publicity agency or perhaps directly from the artist themselves. Others, as with this release from Paidarion, come to our attention through the
DPRP Forum and or by the recommendation of our readers. So subsequent to one of these recommendations I contacted Paidarion who kindly sent me a copy of their debut release, Hauras Silta.
If, like me, you are unfamiliar with this Finnish band then let me give a brief background. Formed in 2006 and comprises, amongst others, members of Mist Season and Progression. The line-up is Harri Göös: (guitars), Jari Markkula (vocals), Olli Jaakkola (flute, saxes), Jaan Jaanson (guitars), Kristina Johnson (vocals), Timo Kajamies (keyboards), Jan-Olof Strandberg (bass), Tommi Varjola (guitars) and Kimmo Pörsti (drums). The album has been mixed by the Tommi Liuhala (noted for his work with Kalevala and Haikara).
To my ears Paidarion's music covers two distinctive and contrasting styles and is reflected by the deliveries of their two vocalists, Kristina Johnson and Jari Markkula. To a point this has presented me with a dilemma whilst listening to the album for reviewing purposes - although less so on a purely listening note.
Let us start with those tracks which primarily feature Kristina Johnson. In general these are reflective, folky ballads accompanied by some rather pleasant flute from Olli Jaakkola. Kristina has a very listenable voice and the tracks are full of melody and strong hooks. Eksynyt being an excellent example and one of my favourite songs from Hauras Silta. The album opens with two tracks sung by Kristina and infers that we are in for a enjoyable and somewhat mellow listen. This said opener Hauras Silta has a beefed up chorus section and a really nice middle instrumental section with the top line of the band taking on brief, but well executed solo passages. Languishing in the background are some Enya-esque wordless vocals. The album closes with a reprise of this track under the guise of Hauras Silta II. Classical guitar (Tommi Varjola), flute and Kristina's lovely voice. Both versions are excellent.
Polku is a dreamy song and again Kristina's voice carries the track. Harri Göös provides the melodic lead guitar themes lifting the track in the middle and end sections.
So sat in my chair and ready for just over an hours worth of gentle acoustic balladry, albeit with a few strong instrumental sections thrown in for good measure, I was somewhat taken aback by Oljenkorsi. Totally unexpected as the band bounce in and really cut loose. The track brought to mind some early 70s prog/funk/fusion as well as pointers to similar sounding film music from the same era - Lalo Schifrin - perhaps. With its busy drum work, underpinned by some even busier bass playing, funky clavs, brassy arrangements - the scene is set for some splendid performances from all concerned. Not an instrumental entirely though, but a track that brings Jari Markkula to microphone. A distinct voice, which once I had heard a couple of times, sat very well with the music.
Oljenkorsi just rips along with brief solos from Göös, Jaakkola, Kajamies and Strandberg. If you are into early seventies jazz fusion then certainly this track is worth checking out - a taster can be found on the band's MySpace.
As suddenly as it arrived it has gone. Next up is Pieni Askel, which combines the band's two vocalists, along with a school choir in the choruses. I have struggled with this piece as it has all the hallmarks of a tune written for theatrical production. Despite a nifty guitar solo and a proggy end section, complete with rip roaring guitar fade out, the track didn't quite work for me. The previously mentioned Eksynyt returns us to more familiar ground. Note here of Timo Kajamies lead keyboard sound which on paper seems odd, but works an absolute treat.
Kipinat Vedesta is possibly the proggiest track from Hauras Silta. Again the band let rip and again with Jari Markkula at the microphone. The rhythm section is tight and busy once more and Jan-Olof Strandberg demonstrates his command of the bass. Everything just falls into place - the sax arrangements work nicely with the keys and guitar - which in turn rest nicely on the Hammondy organ and vibrant rhythm section. Another cracking guitar solo... After this workout we need a resting point and that's exactly what we get with the opening of Kultapallo. Female vocals and lilting flute set the early mood, with the choruses benefitting with some crunch from the guitar. But, as with much of the album, the quieter tracks have elements that raise the prog element considerably. Here we have a stomping middle section with the flute supplying the initial melody followed by another fine guitar solo. We return to the song to conclude.
Tyhja Takki offers another side to the band with Ian Dury and The Blockheads popping to mind each time I played this track. The school choir also make a return and the middle section has brief solos from all...
The pace slows for Tuulensuoja, but this time with a driving pulse, nice fretless bass and a great floating flute parts. Kristina Johnson heads up the microphone in this mainly instrumental offering. The track has a hypnotic quality which you feel could go on and on without ever becoming tiring. It does conclude however, drifting nicely into the atmospheric opening of Hahmo. With Jari Markkula once again in the vocal seat the track ties stylistically with those previously performed by the band and him - so therefore busier... Göös offers up a great solo section, initially with a bluesy feel, before letting rip to close the track out.
The pace once again slows as Paivan Kajo Hileessa leads us towards the end of the album. The vocals are handed back once again to Kristina Johnson joined as always by the flute. The track features an enjoyable extended fretless bass solo and melodic solo to fade. With only the aforementioned Hauras Silta II to close.
Worth mentioning that all the vocals are sung in the band's native tongue, so as to the lyrical content I can offer no insight. If it helps, it didn't bother me one iota what they were singing about as the melodies and the instrumentation were strong enough to carry the material. So I let my imagination offer an interpretation.
So there we have it - and you may detect a slight note of reservation in that comment - and you would be right. All in all Hauras Silta is a very enjoyable CD, but I have some reservations. The main issue is that as an album it just didn't flow for me, although I can find little, if anything, to fault with the individual songs from Hauras Silta. The band are great, starting with the solid and versatile rhythm section of Kimmo Pörsti and Jan-Olof Strandberg and as mentioned throughout this review the musicians have keen sense of melody. The playing is faultless and complimented by the performances of the two vocalists, who offer contrasting styles - one slower paced and the other more vibrant and up tempo - but, and here is the rub, they seldom come together.
So the material and vocals are strong, it's just it appears that there are two bands on the album. Along with this a couple of tracks didn't quite sit comfortably for me either, so maybe it is just that the material is a little too diverse for its own good... Not sure folks - it has taken me a long time to review Hauras Silta and every time I have returned to the album, I've thought - this is good album, I like this.
But I don't want to conclude this review on down beat as Paidarion have produced an album that has been an absolute pleasure to listen to and as mentioned above every track stands up in its own right. If you a liking for the gentler side of female fronted prog, but still with a bite in its tail, then you should certainly check out this album. As pointers - Renaissance, (early) Quidam, Annie Haslam, Mostly Autumn and Quikion might guide you to the material featuring Kristina. The flip side of the coin are those excellent tracks featuring Jari Markkula.
This album has had many plays over the last few months or so and will certainly be played in the future. I look forward to Paidarion's next album...
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Blue Floyd – Live In Pennsylvania
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2010|
|Time:||Disc 1 63:25|
Disc 2 73:12
Disc 3 14:14
Disc 1: Keyboard Jam (2:38), Shine On Your Crazy Diamond (9:09), Have A Cigar (12:02), Us & Them (19:24), Another Brick In The Wall [Pt.2] (7:38)
Disc 2: Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (17:03), Interstellar Overdrive (2:18), Wish You Were Here (9:03), Sheep (8:45), Drums (8:43), Fearless (9:42), Money/Fever/Money (17:34)
Disc 3: In The Flesh (4:50), Hey You (9:22)
This is all my birthdays arriving all at once, self indulgence time. Blue Floyd, anyone familiar with them? Well let me tell you that if you’re not, then you need to be. They are the first Super Jam Band Group.
Allen Woody (guitar, mandolin, steel, bass and vocals), Matt Abs (drums and djambe), Marc Ford (guitar and vocals), Johnny Neel (keyboards, harmonica and vocals) and Berry Oakley (bass, percussions and vocals) make up the band who offers a blues exploration, into the music of Pink Floyd. These guys are of a high pedigree, being mainstays in some of the biggest and best American bands ever. The Allman Brothers Band, Black Crowes and Gov’t Mule. So based on the balance of that information, what is there not to like about this. You maybe asking what have these guys got to do with prog. Well the honest answer to that besides this being an album full of Floyd tracks, absolutely nothing. In the grander scheme of things, they have more commonality than you think which I am not going to go into here.
I heard Blue Floyd’s first album Adventure Begins when it first came out, being taken aback by how good it was; as were the people I played it to. Live in Pennsylvania adds to the legacy that is Blue Floyd.
Having just played the recently released Gov’t Mule live album Millennium, (which I might add is stunning too), this goliath dropped through the door, which immediately went straight on my CD player and has remained there for some time, somewhat slowing down my review rate. It really is that good.
The songs presented here are all familiar Floyd tracks; where the interest lies now for the potential listener is in the interpretations of these classics. Trust me you won’t be disappointed, (well I’m sure some purists might, but hey ho, some people, you just can’t please). If you want to add dimension to these classic Floyd tracks, then there isn’t a better bunch of musicians out there to take this task on and succeed.
Whether the band are playing out their stunning extended versions of Us And Them or Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun or shorter pieces like Interstellar Overdrive and In The Flesh, they are at one, never losing sight of what they are trying to achieve, being creative and passionate. There is not one weak cover throughout this live set; in fact, I am going to be as bold as to say that some of these versions, match the originals with their intensity and approach.
I can’t recommend this album enough, not because I am a big fan of this style or that I am being self indulgent, but, well, this album really is that good.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Mushroom – Naked, Stoned & Stabbed
Tracklist: Infatuation (1:53), Celebration At Big Sur [The Sound Of The Gulls Outside Of Room 124] (3:59), Jerry Rubin: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (4:31), All The Guitar Players Around Sean Smith Say He’s Got It Coming, But He Gets It While He Can (8:12), Take Off Your Face And Recover From That Trip You’ve Been On (4:55), The Freak Folk Walk By, Dressed Up For Each Other (0:59), Tariq Ali (7:44), Though You’re Where You Want To Be, You’re Not Where You Belong (4:54), Indulgence (4:20), Under The Spell (4:18), Walking Barefoot In Babylon (3:45), I’ll Give You Everything I’ve Got For A Little Piece Of Mind (1:17), Singing A Song In The Morning (3:56)
Mushroom is a collective of musicians from San Francisco’s Bay Area. Naked, Stoned & Stabbed, a dozen recordings into their 15 year career, features Josh Pollack (guitar), Matt Cunitz (keys), Erik Pearson (guitar/sax/flute), Ned Doherty (bass), Pat Thomas (drums), David Brandt (percussion), Tim Plowman (guitar), Alison Faith Levy (vocals) and Ralph Carney (woodwinds & percussion). Between them they have collaborated with the likes of Gong, Acid Mothers Temple, Ruins, John Cale, Daevid Allen, Billy Talbot/Crazy Horse, Terry Reid, Cluster, Brian Eno and Damo Suzuki making them a thoroughly well travelled group.
Throughout this very relaxed recording influences come and go including the acknowledged presence of Alice Coltrane, Eno and Fela Kuti. There are geographical references from Eastern, African and Latin sources that mingle nicely with the Western traditions of folk and past times influences including psychedelia and early prog. The album is all original (the titles themselves oozing psych) other than the “remaking” of Kevin Ayres’ and Syd Barrett’s Singing a Song In The Morning.
First off is the Indian/Pink Floyd influenced Infatuation; a warm acoustic guitar & flute interlude that could have gone on well beyond the fade without becoming tedious. Celebration At Big Sur conjures up Californian beaches of the late ‘60s with a relaxed vibe and swaying bass. There are elements of the more reflective side of early King Crimson in the keys which continues into Jerry Rubin... with snatches of violin and a more up-tempo rhythm. Ambient themes and textures evolve and pass; the rhythms low-key but effective.
All The Guitar Players... keeps the focus on the acoustic guitars but with psychedelic overtones later in the track. Nick Drake is never far away within the trippy folksiness of it all. Take Off Your Face... features ‘60s organ and a variety of guitar sounds with acoustic bass and a Duane Eddy meets Santana break in the middle. Weird.
Back to flute with The Freak Folk Walk... , fine sitar and rhythms continuing an Indian theme on Tariq Ali which develops into a very eclectic piece. Though You’re Not Where You Want To Be... starts quietly, scratchy violin carefully picking out a path through the other instruments that seems to build with developing confidence. Indulgence features African rhythms and incongruous sweeps of electronica while Under The Spell again uses Krimson-esque mellotron. Walking Barefoot In Babylon is sinister and otherworldly and I’ll Give You Everything I’ve Got... is a Freak nursery rhyme of tinkling percussion that leads into Singing A Song In The Morning, the only vocal track on the album, a fitting conclusion to the proceedings.
I’m not familiar with their previous recordings but by all accounts this album is a development of the Mushroom sound, recorded in one weekend of both planned and spontaneous sessions. The arrangement of instruments varies from track to track in different combinations giving an interesting and thoughtful flow through the album. This isn’t rock but it isn’t really anything else either.
Having played it a few times and then left it for a while it was very rewarding to return and just let this album happen. Great chill-out fare for late summer evenings or to add warmth as the nights draw in. There is an infectious quality that gets under your skin. Rather than simply being a nostalgic listen that relies on its influences this CD is extraordinarily contemporary in both sound and approach and very rewarding to live with for a while; a quiet gem.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Sun Travellers – Excursions
|Country of Origin:||Netherland|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: A Thousand Stars (4:31), Calypso (3:56), Shades Of Madness (4:44), Skywalker (6:03), Insomnia [Part 1] (1:58), Miss Escapade (4:48), Spirit Dance (5:03), Mirrors (3:39), Company Man (5:53), Insomnia [Part 2] (1:04)
The personnel of Sun Travellers are: Gian Luc Giustiniani (guitar, lap steel & bass), Gordon Todd (vocals), Paul Ehn (vocals, guitars, keyboards & percussion), Tom Pettit (drums), Marc Antonio Spaventi (keyboards & percussion on Calypso), Jon Miller (drums & percussion on Insomnia & Spirit Dance), Marco Giuseppetti (rhythm guitars on Company Man), Martijn Klippel (guitars & scat on Miss Escapade, bass on A Thousand Stars & Miss Escapade).
Well there you have it, the crew members that have been recording, in one way or another, on the album Excursions. Sun Travellers consists of members from various countries around the globe, therefore is more or less an international band, although the founding members and also the recording of their album took place in the Netherlands. The core of the band met during their studies at universities in Holland.
At just over 41 minutes Excursions is not a very long album, nevertheless the music on the album is as varied as you can get. The kick off is done by the song A Thousand Stars, which has a strong melody, good lyrics and a more or less contemporary blues/rock feel. Excellently played, this song is easily picked up and could do very well as a single, extending the horizons of The Sun Travellers. Definitely a song with potential.
Next up is the instrumental tune Calypso, the title has been chosen excellently as the song has a Hispanic touch to it and sounds as if someone was coming from the islands of Jamaica or Cuba to play us a calypso. The song swings with great percussion work as well as lap steel. We have a journey to the Pacific.
Following this is Shades Of Madness and from the beginning to the end of this song I had the feeling of listening to Pink Floyd. The song structure is vein of many a ballad like Floyd song and even the guitar sound is like David Gilmour himself is playing along - which he isn’t. The more nasal sound of the vocals completes the picture of this Floydian like piece of music.
Next up is Skywalker with a rough edged psychedelic blues feel dedicated to the first man on the moon. The feeling is like we are back in the sixties, a great composition, excellent melody and another song with great potential.
Insomnia [Part 1] makes little sense to me - more or less a break from the music, with indiscernible noises.
Miss Escapade again has a high Pink Floyd feeling to it, although a more up tempo piece, it sounds very contemporary, classic rock with some progressive edges. The guitar again sounds a lot like Dave Gilmour’s playing, but then again one of the main influences of the band is Pink Floyd, together with Tangerine Dream, so not so surprising. Similarly the two songs up next, Mirrors and Company Man give me the same type of experience - influenced by Gilmour and Waters, but it is not copycatting.
Spirit Dance, the second of the instrumentals on the album, is a real journey through the psychedelic world of the spiritual dances - lots of bass and percussion, giving the song the exotic, spiritual intonation that makes it outstanding. It has become my favourite song on the album.
The last track returns us to Insomnia, although [Part 2] this time - again I do not know what to make of it. Both Insomnia’s had far better been left off of the album as they add very little and tend to bring the whole thing down.
Concluding - Sun Travellers have made a good debut album with Excursions, with the best track undoubtedly Spirit Dance. A few fillers, but nevertheless a good listen.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Edensong – Echoes Of Edensong: From The Studio And Stage
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Beneath The Tide (10:19), Lorelai (4:11), To See But Not Believe (8:42), The Reunion [Live in NC] (10:02), Beneath The Tide [Live in PA] (13:12) Bonus: The Sixth Day [Live in QC] (9:57)
Released in 2008, Edensong’s debut album The Fruit Fallen was greeted by the DPRP with a Duo Review, a rare thing for a first offering particularly when the band members are all relatively unknown. With opinions (and ratings) divided on that occasion, I felt compelled to checkout this latest release for myself. As revealed in the previous review, the band was conceived at Wesleyan University, Connecticut in 2002 and is the brainchild of one James Byron Schoen. Much water and several personnel have flown under the bridge since then with Schoen (vocals, guitars) currently supported by Stefan Paolini (keyboards), TD Towers (bass), Anthony Waldman (drums), Matthew Bauer (percussion), Barry Seroff (flute) and Mike Lunapiena (cello). Additionally, there are no less than nine assorted guest musicians credited on the album.
On paper this is a hodgepodge affair comprising live and re-mastered versions of previous releases, with Schoen and friends seemingly killing time before the next fully fledged studio recording. It does at least contain one new song in the shape of Beneath The Tide, originally written in 1997 and finally making its CD debut here in two formats. The studio version which opens the album is strident to begin with, driven by power riffs and a gutsy vocal courtesy of Schoen. The 10 plus minute duration however allows for mellow interludes and a proggy instrumental closing section with lively flute bringing Jethro Tull to mind. Overall it’s a strong offering that bodes well for the bands future. The live recording from 2009’s 3RP Festival in Pittsburgh is hardly disguisable from the studio version, a mark of the bands professionalism and the quality of the live sound.
Elsewhere the songs seesaw between the acoustic tranquillity of Lorelai to the powerful dynamics of To See But Not Believe which originally appeared as a ‘hidden’ track at the end of The Fruit Fallen album. The Reunion (recorded at Progday 2009) belies its live performance origins with the kind of agile instrumental interplay that Gentle Giant would be proud of. It’s also notable for a brief but showy synth solo from keys man Paolini. The only issue I have is Schoen’s OK if unremarkable voice which adopts a raunchy delivery that to my ears would be better suited to hard rock. The ‘bonus’ song The Sixth Day (how does the final track on a CD qualify as a ‘bonus’ track I wonder?) goes down well with the appreciative Canadian audience. Despite being based around the lilting instrumentation of acoustic guitar, piano, cello and flute it features plenty of fire and energy from the whole band.
If their debut album passed you by this would make is a fine introduction to Edensong, demonstrating their qualities both on stage and in the studio. Their brand of prog is often inspired containing contrasting moments of light and shade and Schoen’s thoughtful song writing is suitably complimented by the surreal artwork. I feel however that the best is yet to come from Schoen and co.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Abacus – Destiny
|Country of Origin:||Germany|
|Record Label:||Musea Records|
|Catalogue #:||FGBG 4856 AR|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: When I Depart (7:30), Promised Land (6:53), One More Embrace (8:01), Destiny (10:08), The Light (13:21), The Fight (8:24)
German prog act Abacus hasn’t churned out a lot of recorded output since their fourth full-length Midway in 1974. In the intervening years, only a single in 1982 and their fifth full-length from 2001 have been released. So in the better late than never department, Abacus have bounced back with their latest release, the perhaps aptly named Destiny.
The band is made up of long time keyboardist and vocalist Jürgen Wimpelberg, stalwart rhythm sectioneers Reinhard Schulte on bass and Rainer Niklowitz on drums and percussion, Manfred Degener on cello, new vocalist Stefan Mageney (another potential vocal slot filler, the Birmingham-based Chris Williams, had regrettably passed away), newcomer Mario Schramme on guitars; and another new guy, Werner Schimaniak, on guitars, sitar and tambura.
Abacus plays vintage style progressive rock, with early Genesis commonalities abundant throughout the Destiny CD.
The stylishly rocked Genesis influence is evident on The Light, which starts off melodically but gives way to a harder section with rising synths, haunting mellotron style cushioning and a Floydian synth solo from Wimpelberg. Wimpelberg hangs ten on that swelling wave of synths, and then the song soothes off with some classically influenced guitar and piano style keys.
The darkness and synth elements are also evident on The Fight, which also features some eastern-navigating sitar from the talented Schimaniak.
Wimpelberg is a versatile keyboardist, and Mageney makes a good first recording as the Abacus vocalist, with a vapoury flair not unlike that of Peter Gabriel. The rest of the band are talented as well, but whilst the CD at first seems to contain enough variety and originality, I would not say it is sustained enough across the CD to allow it to escape my criticism of the music as being somewhat recycled at points. Recycling helps the environment, but only hurts creative expression.
If you dig classic style prog, you may want to check this out. Purveyors of conventional song based music should steer clear.
The production quality of the CD is high and the CD booklet is artistically designed; no problems there. To move forward with their next release, I would say that Abacus need to have a closer self-assessment of their recording activity, to keep the originality above the bar.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Lehto & Wright – Children’s Songs
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||New Folk Records|
|Year of Release:||2010|
|Info:||Lehto & Wright|
Tracklist: Wasn’t That A Time (3:17), The Broomfield Hill (6:30), Children’s Songs (32:00), Betsy Bell And Mary Gray (18:25)
Lehto & Wright are a folk-rock trio from the Minneapolis area of the USA who believe that their progressive leanings would make them an interesting listen for fans in the progressive rock community; hence they are promoting their latest disc, self-styled as their “most adventurous”, to a wider audience than before.
The “most adventurous” folk-rock has long been accepted as being a progressive form of music despite many fans not accepting it as “progressive rock”. This is a subject I’ve touched on before when reviewing an album by Creedy, so I’ll just concentrate on the review this time.
Children’s Songs begins conventionally, with the first couple of songs being straight folk-rock tunes, reminiscent of Richard Thompson-era Fairport Convention. The second of the tunes, The Broomfield Hill is arranged by Lehto & Wright using ideas “borrowed from the version arranged by [Fairport’s] Dave Swarbrick and recorded by Martin Carthy”.
The main progressive element comes with the 32-minute long title track, Children’s Songs. Listening to this unaided by the information provided in the CD booklet, most fans would consider it a medley of - aside from the very short, Pythonesque introduction – instrumental folk jigs, reels and melodies. That is how it plays out: some are danceable and some are not. The trick is, of course, that as well as calling upon the time-honoured folk tradition of “retelling” old tunes, the guys have also sought out material from composers as diverse as Schumann, Bartók, Chick Corea, John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin and others! All these snippets are seamlessly woven into this folk-rock medley. Incidentally, it is Chick Corea’s Children’s Songs, of which there are three interwoven here, which gives the medley and album its title.
It’s an interesting “experiment” that one has to conclude works, certainly up to a point. There’s no doubt that the medley sits well on this folk-rock album. The issue that I have with it, as a folk-rock medley, is that, coming in at a hefty 32 minutes of instrumental music, it doesn’t hold the attention. Not all of the tunes are danceable and, in the slower sections, there is insufficient of interest to captivate the listener; so the medley’s appeal waxes and wanes with the music. It may have been more successful to have reduced the number of tunes within the medley, or included some singing. The balance wasn’t quite right, in my opinion (which this latter paragraph is, of course, you may feel the medley is just right).
Betsy Bell And Mary Gray is similar, although the music is entirely written by the band, and it does include a couple of sung sections. That, and its reduced duration, make it more successful, although it’s still a very long folk-rock album track, progressive or not.
Overall, there are positives and negatives to take from the album. The band certainly strikes one as a folk-rock outfit with some innovative ideas, but the delivery on this disc is not always one hundred percent and my favourite moments remain the opening, straight folk-rock songs. Album dynamics suffer from the length of the two main tracks which remain, essentially, folk-rock jigs. Betsy Bell And Mary Gray is the length of one vinyl-record side and Children’s Songs the length of some vinyl albums! Not even Fairport Convention would get away with that! It strikes one that these forays might work better live in concert although, for me, the delivery of the concept would have to be sharper for a 32 minute piece to be delivered with a really positive effect.
The digipack also comes with a DVD containing a film of the band “live in the studio” as well as an “extended interview” but I have not watched the DVD for this review.
Those fans who have enjoyed conventional folk pr folk-rock in the past may well want to check the band out.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
The Giles Brothers - 1962 > 1967
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Little Sue (2:13), Julie (2:24), Big Big Fella (2:23), Don’t Ever Change (2:53), Breakups (2:09), A Love Like Ours (2:06), In A Big Way (2:45), Lucky Date (2:13), Go Away (2:45), Lollipops & Roses (3:43), Hello Josephine (2:34), Move On Over (2:43), You’ve Sure Got a Funny Way (2:57), I’m Coming Home (2:54), Sarah Darling (2:20), It’s Not As Easy (2:36), Boyfriends & Girlfriends (2:37), Shot On Sight (3:38), Kick The Donkey (2:28), Nightmares In Red (2:24), Nobody Knows The Game (2:17), One In A Million (2:12), Most Likely You Go Your Way… (2:37), Murder (2:25)
This is a review I’ll keep short and simple. First, a message of warning for all purists and fanatics: THIS IS NOT PROG. No my friends, there isn’t anything resembling progressive or symphonic contained on this compilation. In fact, the music presented here is far removed from any experimentalism or musical avant-garde innovation.
What you’ll find here are 24 tracks, mostly clocking at under 3 minutes, of pure and unadulterated 60’s British pop, with the obvious R’n’B and American leanings, often accompanied by lyrics dealing with love and all its circumstances. Song titles like Breakups, A Love Like Ours or Boyfriends & Girlfriends, and band names such as Trendsetters or Johnny King & The Raiders leave little room for misinterpretation. Yes, you guessed, it’s all very innocent and naïve, disarmingly simple and even primitive if you will, but also surprisingly catchy (check Lollipops & Roses and Shot On Sight) and, on tracks such as Nightmares In Red (One More Red Nightmare anyone?) or Murder, a prelude (maybe only a hint, a vague clue) of bigger and better things to come. This where it all begun.
In case you didn’t know (I’m sure you do), the legendary rhythm section conformed by brothers Peter (bass) and Michael (drums) Giles were to team up with Robert Fripp first to form Giles, Giles & Fripp and record The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles & Fripp (1968), then subsequently give birth to King Crimson along with Greg Lake and Pete Sinfield and change the face of rock music forever with the mighty In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969). Enough said.
The sound quality is crude in most tracks, and there’s almost nothing in terms of musical innovation but, if you’re a fan of the Crims, this is a must if only for historic purposes; if you’re a completist, you’ll need to own it in order to have perspective and a full understanding of where our beloved music (and its performers) came from; and even if you’re not particularly interested in the history of progressive rock (if that’s the case, I don’t know why are you reading this!), but enjoy The Rolling Stones, The Animals or… well… even Cliff Richard, I’m sure you’ll have a good time with this compilation.
Obviously, I believe I can’t (or shouldn’t) rate this, as its relevance and interest have not much to do with its intrinsic artistic quality.