ISSUE 2014-73

Reviews in this issue:

Amoeba Split - Dance Of The Goodbyes
Amoeba Split - Dance Of The Goodbyes
Country of Origin: Spain
Format: CD
Record Label: Azafran Media
Catalogue #: AP 1422
Year of Release: 2010/2014
Time: 63:42
Info: Amoeba Split
Samples: Amoeba Split on Bandcamp
Track List:
Dedicated to us, but we weren't listening (3:50), Perfumed garden (9:43), Turbulent matrix (10:47), Blessed water (12:26), Qwerty (0:49), Flight to nowhere (23:39), Qwerty revisited (Bonus Track) (3:49)
Dance of the Goodbyes was originally released in 2010 and gained many positive reviews. Sadly, it has long been out of print. In 2014 it was thankfully reissued and this new edition includes a bonus track Qwerty revisited.

Dedicated to us, but we weren't listening is the opening track. Its title was derived from the enigmatic piece Dedicated to you, but you weren't listening that featured on The Soft Machine's Vol 2 and which subsequently inspired many similarly-titled compositions such as, Dedicated to you, But from The Keith Tippet Group's Dedicated To You release and Dedicated to Hugh found in Matching Mole's self-titled debut.

From the moment the rich organ tones emerge, it is evident that the music of Amoeba Split is heavily influenced by the Canterbury sub-genre of prog. It is a delightfully auspicious beginning to a release that is crammed full of whimsical charm and will not disappoint fans of National Health and Hatfield And The North and other bands associated with the Canterbury sound.

Perfumed Garden heavily features vocalist Maria Toro, who on occasions treads a similar sonic territory to Barbara Gaskin. Her voice also displays the frailty and subtlety associated with the Northettes. More often though, throughout Dance of the Goodbyes, Toro has a raw dissonance and intonation that reminded me of Dagmar Krause. In the context of this track and in the album as a whole her delivery is very effective.

In this deceptively tranquil composition, the sweet-smelling garden of delights created by the musicians is highly captivating and enchanting. Human voice, organ, guitar, sax and flute are all utilised to good effect. These elements seamlessly combine, to weave fully engaging melodies that have many unexpected twists and changes of pace, helping to maintain listener interest and enjoyment. The Hammond organ and assorted keys playing of Ricardo Varela in this piece and throughout the album is consistently excellent.

Turbulent Matrix begins with a swirling organ. The piece develops into a relatively traditional jazz structure that allows numerous opportunities for all of the musicians to improvise and express themselves. It has a Big Band feel that swings and bounces through its jazz-inflected passages. It includes within its ten-plus-minutes some fine solo slots for guitarist Lopez, flautist Toro and bassist Lamas.

Within Turbulent Matrix the most effective solo though is undoubtedly the well-constructed and free blowing saxophone part by Pablo Anon. This is swiftly followed and complimented by some flowing synthesiser whirls and a drum, piano and bass interlude.

There are many fine moments to appreciate in Turbulent Matrix. Many aspects of the piece reminded me of the work of Alan Gowen and Elton Dean in the Soft Heap release, Rogue Element. Some of the more intense passages though, brought to mind the work of Phil Miller's band Incahoots.

Blessed Water has many qualities that shine brilliantly in its slow-burning and majestically intense twelve minutes. The flute playing in this track is wonderfully sublime. The shrill vocals work perfectly as a foil to the melodious features of the piece. The middle section features a highly enjoyable flowing guitar and saxophone passage that has all of the right ingredients. The concluding instrumental passage was very enjoyable; sounding like a strange amalgam of Genesis' The Return of The Giant Hogweed and National Health. After a further vocal interlude, the piece ends with a tasteful sax solo and a mix of baroque and experimental organ sounds. Qwerty is a short but pleasant flute-led interlude that exudes joy and happiness

Flight To Nowhere is the strongest and most satisfying composition on the album. It is a lengthy piece that is embellished at its beginning by some fine guitar playing in the style of Phil Miller. The track as a whole is carefully composed and skillfully executed. The vocal parts play their part in comfortably dividing the music into different instrumental parts. In this piece, the vocal style sometimes felt a bit out of step with the excellent musical interludes that grew and developed within each section. I could imagine that some might be put off by the recurring vocal chorus, or indeed by Toro's unique delivery.

Nevertheless and for the most part, the quirky nature of Toro's vocal delivery adds to the piece's overall charm. It is a track that will reward frequent plays, as it reveals lots of hidden nuances within its instrumental passages. The surprising grand piano conclusion was unexpected. Flight To Nowhere is ethereal in its nature and timeless in its cathedral city qualities. I have returned to this composition many times and continue to enjoy it.

The bonus track Qwerty revisited is one of the shorter pieces on the album. It is rooted in an improvised style, has a discordant ending and features bellowing saxes and purposeful ensemble playing, that wrap and drape the listener with subtle shades of vintage Soft Machine.

The reissue of Dance of the Goodbyes is highly recommended to those who like Canterbury-style music. It would be a very welcome addition to the collection of any listener who is appreciative of the roster of bands that have been influenced by Soft Machine. Whilst more recent interpretations of the Canterbury sound such as, Schnauser's excellent 2014 release Protein For Everyone might be even more enjoyable and satisfying in the long-term,Dance of the Goodbyes is nevertheless an highly competent album that should appeal to many.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

The D-Project - Making Sense
The D-Project - Making Sense
Country of Origin: Canada
Format: CD
Record Label: Ozeta Productions/Universal Music Canada
Catalogue #: OZP2-4411
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 45:47
Info: The D-Project
Samples: D-Project website
Track List:
Rear view Mirror, Making Sense, What is Real, Nothing here is Innocent, Missing Star, Spanish Castle, Dagger, Out of Range/Out of Line
Intelligent articulate rock? Check. Canadian power trio making a sound far bigger than the sum of their parts? Check. Some mind-bending bass? Check (especially on Nothing Here is Innocent). Must be a Rush album? Incorrect!

This mighty sound that is Making Sense, is the fourth album from Canadian-based trio D-Project, and other than the fact that they are both Canadian power trios making some mighty fine, intelligently written and soulfully performed progressive rock, that's pretty much where the similarities end.

The work of Stephane Desbiens (vocals, guitars, keys), Matthieu Gosselin (bass and backing vocals), Jean Gosselin (drums) and producer/lyricist Fransic Foy, is a sublime mix of dark and shade. Heavier passages move into complex sections, whilst the cast of collaborators they have on here includes work from the wonderful Sean Filkins and Lazuli's Claude Leonetti, whilst a string quartet fills out their already big sound beautifully.

The opening Rearview Mirror is a superb statement of intent, mixing the dark and light contrast to superb effect, plus an immense hard rock sound, some wonderful lyrics and a mighty, epic closing coda.

Then you have the elegiac beauty of Missing Star, with its wistful and haunting lyrics, combined with an astonishing guitar solo and mournfully beautiful sax break, courtesy of Giovani Orteaga. There is a Floydian air to this mini-epic with its string section and its paean to a lost friend. It's a genuinely beautiful classic and one of the most heartbreaking songs you'll hear all year.

Then mixing it up entirely, you get the almost folk work out of the instrumental Spanish Castle, which shows the diverse skills and tautness of D-Project. If they can sound this tight on record, I would imagine their stage shows are immense, particularly with music like this to perform.

The lyrics throughout are faultless. Each song is a poetic gem in its own right, while the band shows off some spectacular musical chops. This is a perfect example of where the music and lyrics combine in a performance where you can't see the join.

The closing 'big' number, Out of Range/Out of Line, has echoes and shades of Pink Floyd and Yes (the Floyd connection being provided by Andy Jackson who mastered the album), whilst the way the flute of Sylvain Laberge soars and flies throughout the track is sublime. The power of the drums and bass that allow Desbiens to solo and throw out riff after riff, as the whole ensemble drives-on to a magical, musical climax is joy to hear. It's one of those songs, in fact this is one of those albums, that puts a smile on your face as you hear it the first time.

This is a fantastic record from a band who have the confidence in their performance and their collaborators to pull out all the stops and just go for it. There is no weak track, the record ebbs and flows like all the best records do, and it's one you'll keep returning to again, and again. Also, it's all finished in just over 45 minutes; no note wasted, no song padded out.

In other words I think this record is bloody marvelous. Buy it. Your ears will thank you for it later.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

Forest Field - Onwards And Upwards
Forest Field - Onwards And Upwards
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Format: CD
Record Label: Rock Company
Catalogue #: VRCCD 062014
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 48:38
Info: Forest Field
Samples: Forest Field website
Track List:
Onwards (2:26), The Secret Flame (5:34), Hope (4:42), Dreaming (5:20), Car Park Pleasures (5:14), Stronger (7:28), The Wanting (2:56), A Miracle (5:29), Believe (2:47), Sun Sinks Low (5:10), And Upwards (2:32)
Forest Field (FF) is a project started by guitarist Peter Cox (Chinawhite, Earthshine). It's a Dutch/American co-operation featuring Phil Vincent (USA) who takes care of all vocals. He might be known for his earlier achievements with bands called Legion, D'Ercole and Tragik. Also present on the album is Sue Straw (USA) who plays some native American flutes on the track Hope. All other instruments (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and programming) are performed by Peter Cox (NL) who's also responsible for the recording and producing of this second full-length album under the FF name. Most "famous" person mentioned in the credits, is Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa) who handled the mix. The album is a mixture of instrumental and vocal tracks. The odd-numbered tracks are all instrumentals. The even-numbered tracks have vocals.

This year I've been treated to several high quality albums from Dutch bands, so I was curious about what FF had to offer me musically. After having played the album in my CD player and listened with great attention, I was very disappointed by what I heard. After repeating the same procedure, my feelings about Onwards and Upwards didn't improve.

The compositions are all a bit mediocre and sound not very dynamic. Only the parts where Cox plays the guitar sound okay, like the instrumental Believe. Phil Vincent isn't a bad singer but even he is unable to upgrade the quality of this album. Maybe Cox's role as a musician should be more modest. He'd be better sticking to just playing what he does best, and that is the guitar. For future recordings he ought to look for some good guest musicians on keyboards, bass and drums. Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) also started with their projects and look how far they've come. They should be fine examples for Cox to show him that it can be done.

There are enough fine and talented musicians around in the Netherlands, so that can't be a problem for making a future release more worth listening to. Sadly this album is a missed opportunity. Third time lucky, perhaps?
Conclusion: 5 out of 10

Looking-Glass Lantern - The Hound of the Baskervilles
Looking-Glass Lantern - The Hound of the Baskervilles
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: N/A
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 61.53
Info: Looking-Glass Lantern
Samples: Looking-Glass Lantern website
Track List:
Curse of the Baskervilles, Baskerville Hall, The Light Upon the Moor, The Man on the Tor (Part 1), The Man on the Tor (Part 2), Death on the Moor, Fixing the Nets (open your Heart), The Hound of the Baskervilles, Retrospection
Professor Graham Dunnington, also known as Looking Glass Lantern, continues his musical quest to put the great works of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle to music.

This is the companion album to 2013's Tapestry of Tales which set some of the shorter stories from the Sherlock Holmes canon to music, in a vein similar to the approach taken by legendary prog visionaries such as the Alan Parsons Project, Arjen Luccason or Steve Hackett in his early work.

This new project is Dunnington's most ambitious yet. Celebrating 125 years since The Hound of the Baskervilles was first published, this album takes one of Conan-Doyle's most celebrated tales and turns it into a nine-part musical extravaganza.

As a one-man interpreter of Conan-Doyle and a purveyor of classic symphonic rock, this is no mean endeavour. The fact that it works so well is due to Dunnington building on the styles and musical cues used on Tapestry of Tales, whilst following the nature of the source material, to add a more pastoral vibe. Think classic prog Strawbs or early 70s solo Rick Wakeman to get an idea of the vibe that flows through the album.

The nine-minute-long Baskerville Hall is a musical gem, with many Wakeman-esque overtones, as Dunnington builds up the keyboard layers whilst the musical motifs whirl round as the story builds.

In fact this album as a whole is a cleverly-constructed and expertly-produced piece, pulling together the narrative of the book, the traditional Victoriana instrumentation (particularly prevalent in The Man on the Tor (part 2)) and the musical pieces that any fan of classic prog will love.

Death on the Moor, as befits the title, is filled with the mystery of the album. There's some fantastic keyboard work that again builds with some wonderfully traditional prog keyboard sounds, whilst the traditional instrumentation acts as an excellent counterpoint to the synth sounds. A superb fusion of Victoriana and prog. Almost a new genre in fact, can I get away with calling it Steamprog?

The title-track has some fantastic riffs and great keys and drums working together to drive the narrative, as Dunnington ups the tension throughout. The closing Retrospection is an excellent piece of musical introspection. With its blend of symphonic prog sounds, dramatic counterpoints and traditional music, and with the violin to the fore, it wraps things up in an elegant and elegiac manner.

With nods to classic Yes and Genesis as well as some fantastic vocals, this is a worthy companion to Tapestry of Tales and is very much a musical labor of love. Having enjoyed both albums and hearing how the Looking Glass Lantern sound evolves and progresses, it's fascinating to wonder where the project will go next.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

The Moor - Year Of The Hunger
The Moor - Year Of The Hunger
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD
Record Label: Lion Music
Catalogue #: LMC334
Year of Release: 2012
Time: 55:00
Info: The Moor
Samples: The Moor website
Track List:
Hyperuranium (5:33), The Others (4:17), The Road (4:32), Covered (3:58), Year Of The Hunger (3:15), Clouds And Shales (5:24), Before Abigail (3:40), Liquid Memories (5:21), Antikythera (3:37), Venice (4:53), The Arising Of Volition (5:15), Venice (Instrumental) (4:56)
The Moor out of Italy, being a vastly competent metal band infused with intermittent progressive overtures, delivered their first full album in 2012 and really came out swinging.

Year Of The Hunger is an album full of changes without some of the overt prog trappings (I love trappings!) that tend to divide the metal from the prog metal crowd. To wit, the song lengths are frequently over five minutes but never over six.

The audio quality is outstanding for this style of music. It is mixed for maximum metal effect without sacrificing the subtlety that this band relies upon for the overall aural experience. The sound is spacious and comes with ample sound effects to fill the audience with something new, often enough to keep them interested. The melodies are catchy enough, memorable and the riffs dig-in just enough.

Without being overbearing, the vocals from Enrico Longhin stand out and range from melodic, to infrequent growls and cover the span in between. One section even hearkened to Lemmy Kilmister! Guest vocals from Debbie Hyshka in the song Venice play well to enhance the dynamism of this album.

Any fan of active drumming will love the work of Alberto Businari in this album. The drums are as much a part of the melody as the guitar (Davide Carraro). One word of advice for the next release: turn up the bass slightly. I want to get to know Massimo Cocchetto a bit better. I can tell he is working it, but I want more.

A great deal of the appeal for this album is the wide range of song mood and feel, despite the music staying in a narrow metal spectrum. In a genre that has been handled from every possible angle over the years, The Moor has really come out with something sounding fresh. Between interesting song writing and the arrangements using piano, effects, dynamic vocals, and a lot of trading between the primary instruments, we have a great album that will keep your attention. It is worthy of active listening.

For this site, maybe it isn't as prog-friendly as we would like, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. The song variety is maintained throughout the album and may be just enough to keep the attention of cross-over fans. There are moments of brilliance, such as in Venice that pull this together into a memorable work. I will call this album 'well done'.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Phoenix Again - Look Out
Phoenix Again - Look Out
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 61:47
Info: Phoenix Again
Samples: Phoenix Again on Bandcamp
Track List:
Adso da Melk (11:50), Oigres (6:19), Look Out (10:36), Summer (6:54), The Endless Battle (5:37), Invisible Shame (8:23), Winter (8:45), Dance of Three Clowns (3:23)
This Italian neo-prog band has its roots way back in the early 80s but never released a studio album. Back then they were simply called Phoenix and featured three brothers: Claudio Lorandi (lead guitar, voices), Antonio Lorandi (bass) and Sergio Lorandi (guitars).

The band broke up around 1998 and it wasn't until the sad death of Claudio Lorandi in 2007 that the surviving members began their determination to release an album that featured their sibling. That album was 2011's Threefour,under the band name Phoenix Again. The band continued and recruited another Lorandi family member (Marco) on guitars and released their next album Look Out in 2014. And what an album this is.

The album is mainly instrumental except for Invisible Shame which features the late Claudio Lorandi on vocals. It has to be said that this track is probably the weakest song on the album and, not being too disrespectful, should either have been a bonus track or shortened to an instrumental. The song is salvaged by a good keyboard solo towards the end.

The opening track, Adso da Melk, is an absolute cracker that instantly grabs your attention. From Gregorian chants, acoustic guitar picking, electric guitar solos, sublime Joe Pass guitar jazz moments and bedrock bass and drums, this is an exceptional piece of music. This track really defines the band's sound, and everything that follows cements the feel that these musicians have a strong love of progressive music but with a healthy dosage of jazz-rock fusion thrown in.

The album has its heavier moments and the riffs are sprinkled throughout the title track, Look Out. It has a funk edge to it that reminded me to some extent of what Jeff Beck has done in the past.

Endless Battleopens with a strong, heavy Zeppelin-style guitar riff. When the organ stabs enter, you are reminded of Deep Purple. Another way to look at it, is to think of Rush with Jon Lord as a new member of the band.

Summer shows another side to the songwriting talents of this band. It has a Marillion/Pink Floyd feel, with spacey synth solos, Mellotron strings and delicate piano playing. The song has some catchy, laid back melodies and once again features some lovely jazz lead guitar work. A beautiful song.

Winter is another bristling, busy track with groovy, up-tempo percussion, superb drumming and captivating guitar work that together reminds me of a slightly heavier Santana in parts. It also includes wonderful keyboard playing. This song would be absolutely riveting in a live context.

The last track, Dance of the Three Clowns, is a very clever ternary (waltz) tune that is a surprising, but welcome departure from what has come before. A medieval-style dance with period-sounding instrumentation: lute sounding guitar, flute, violin, pipe and recorders. You can't help but picture some ancient castle hall full of people dancing and being merry.

Overall this is a very good album and definitely worth checking out, boasting excellent musicianship and song construction.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

The Prodigal Sounds - Fruit of the Steel Tree
The Prodigal Sounds - Fruit of the Steel Tree
Country of Origin: USA
Format: cd
Record Label: CdBaby
Catalogue #: PSCDA21
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 62:33
Info: The Prodigal Sounds
Samples: The Prodigal Sounds on Spacefold
Track List:
The Great Escape (2:28), Head in the Game (5:49), Playing with the Big Boys (6:02), Painting Abstracts (6:13), A Sample of One (3:54), Solo Flight (8:59), Prologue (1:52), The Steel Tree (3:19), Into the Shade (5:01), Interlude I (1:56), Selling the Dragon (5:00), Interlude II (3:29), Future Imperfect (5:08), Epilogue (3:33)
One of the nice things about being a reviewer is that you can regularly pick an album by an artist you've never heard of. Sometimes it is bad, most of the times it's quite okay, sometimes it is even quite good. But on a rare occasion you just have to conclude that the prog world should be feasting upon the birth of a new and promising act. That's exactly the case with this album.

The Prodigal Sounds are Colin Nicholls, who played all instruments and sang all vocals, and his brother Walter. Together they wrote the music somewhere back in the eighties. Colin re-recorded all the songs between 2010-2013 alone, with full approval from his brother, who only contributes a synth solo originating from 1995.

Colin also did all the production and the photography in his home studio. It must have taken an awful lot of time, since he first had to convert numerous cassette tapes to the computer. But the result is very rewarding. This is a very good album for those who like to listen to well-crafted songs, clever soundscapes and some weird time signatures (not too many though). Don't expect heavy guitar riffs, extensive soloing or other proofs of excellent skills; this is an elegant craftsman product and a good one too.

The album is divided in two parts. Part I is comprised of tracks 1 – 6 and represents the more poppy side of The Prodigal sounds. It starts off with the keyboard soundscape The Great Escape, a nice, laid-back instrumental that is pleasant but not special.

Head in the Game is a song that you either like or dislike; the use of some distorted, spoken vocals makes it a remarkable track and after a couple of spins you get used to it. But as Colin Nicholls has a nice, rather soft voice, the combination with these distorted vocal sections will not work out very well for everyone. Yet it is done in a clever way, reminding me of some of the more experimental tracks by 10CC in their heydays.

Playing with the Big Boys is a really catchy song with a very attractive chorus and nice orchestral keyboards. The same can be said of Painting Abstracts which has a very unusual time signature scheme that works, after some turns. The guitar solo at the end of the song is nice and flows almost naturally into the intro of A Sample of One, another instrumental but this time guitar-driven. The guitar playing and the overall atmosphere are reminiscent of the music recently released by the Steve Rothery Band; very nice music indeed.

Solo Flight, the epic of the album, is embedded in a rich soundscape with dreamy guitars and piano, Porcupine Tree-like vocals and an extended instrumental middle section.

All songs in part II flow into each other, fluently making it one epic suite of songs of almost 29 minutes. The separate songs are glued together by two beautiful instrumental interludes, in which an acoustic guitar and nice, dreamy keyboards dominate. This listening experience is quite similar to Phideaux's Doomsday Afternoon or Manning's Charlestown. It is quite soft and easy in most parts with a slightly harder edge in Selling the Dragon and Future Imperfect. Imagine a nice flaming hearth, some good wine and nice company and there you have the perfect setting for this excellent set of songs.

After having listened to this album several times, there are two bands that come to my mind when trying to characterise the music: 10CC and Blackfield. 10CC because of the poppy character of the first six songs. That's meant as a compliment, as 10CC was quite an original band, apart from being very commercial too. It is the more symphonic side of 10CC as displayed on The Original Soundtrack and Deceptive Bends that The Prodigal Sounds 'mimic'. The similarities with Blackfield lie in the really nice vocals, the laidback and sometimes overly romantic atmosphere of the second part of the album and of course in the use of the dreamy guitars and keys.

All-in-all this is a very convincing album that will certainly rank amongst my favourites of 2014.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

Thee Image - Thee Image / Inside The Triangle
Thee Image - Thee Image / Inside The Triangle
Country of Origin: USA
Format: CD
Record Label: Cherry Red
Catalogue #: MANTCD 1015
Year of Release: 1975 / 2014
Time: 64:27
Info: Thee Image
Track List:
Good Things (2:53), For Another Day (4:05), Drift Off Endlessly (4:22), Love Is Here (4:06), So Hard To Say (3:46), It Happens All The Time (3:07), Come To You (3:03), Temptation (5:13), Show Your Love (6:43), Fly Away (6:42), Far Away Places (3:03), High Time Feeling (3:39), I.O.U.S.(2:35), All Night Long (4:20), Good To You (6:10), Alone With You (5:08), Rapture Of The Deep (1:45), Nobody Wins Till The Game Is Over (4:15)
Esoteric Recordings and Cherry Red Records have an unbelievable knack of digging stuff up, that for many years, or indeed ears, have not seen the light of day. Look up Mike Pinera on Wikipedia and you'll find out that he is a guitarist who was in Iron Butterfly and Cactus and even did a stint as Alice Cooper's side man.

However, what about his tenure in the band Thee Image; a three-piece with Duane Hitchings on keyboards and ex -Blues Image drummer Donny Vosburgh? Not a sausage, but they (and I am holding the proof) formed in 1975 and produced two albums for ELP's Manticore Label. Thee Image was also the name of a Miami-based rock club in the golden era and these three were the house band. So that's where their name comes from then.

Emerson and co. launched their own label in time to have their magnum opus, Brain Salad Surgery, Giger us all to our local record shop in 1973 and also introduced us to the mighty PFM who might be selling pizzas if it wasn't for this exposure.

By the time these two LPs, Thee Image and Inside The Triangle, came out it was Motown Records who would be the distributors, better known for their hit-making soul R&B. Needle (or laser, or whatever) has not touched down on track 1 yet, but methinks Premiata Forneria Marconi mark II this ain't gonna be.

Good Times starts the first album and it is a good indicator of what's to follow. Obvious leader and six-stringsmith Mike Pinera handles most of the lead vocals and if I may draw comparisons, his voice ranges from sounding like 10cc's Eric Stewart, Ace-era Paul Carrack, and John Miles. Now maybe imagine these three playing what they play, and add the soul/70s pop/ballad feel of both these albums and that gives us the overall feel of the music.

Love is Here with its staccato Moog bass and Temptation with it's Blaxploitation, Funkadelic, platform shoe, dude vibe wouldn't be out of place in a New York disco and besides the uncharacteristic, Faces-like For Another Day plus two Duane Hitchings sung ballads, that's basically this first CD.

But like you've wandered into the wrong room of an underground lair, where clones of Utopia and Edgar Winter are experimenting with electricity and oscillators, the 6:43 of Show Your Love finishes the LP - not prog as such, more a Klingon fist fight. Oddly out of place to say the least!

White soul and a good impersonation of Otis Redding, funks us through track 1 of Inside The Triangle. More future nods to Toto and Little Feat in Far Away Places stamps the slightly rockier feel to this album.

I.O.U.S sounds a bit like Kansas at their boogiest (not progiest) and the voice is now Robbie Steinhert's in flavour. Hints of Redbone's Witch Queen of New Orleans imbue Good to You, whilst Alone with You is the summer hit that George Benson never had.

The bass part of this trio is played on a Moog and if those notes are held, they give that sustained lowness that can lift a track into prog territory, but play all the notes and it can become disco! That's one factor in both these albums. By the time we get toNobody Wins Till The Game is Over, the realisation dawns that neither of these albums even belong on this website.

However, if the powers-that-be send out these albums for review, then I'm beginning to think: "Well let's review them as stand-alone pieces". I used to say that I was a lover of prog rock, but because I grew up in the 70s all my mates (and older brothers) all loved it too. The music I had then is still with me. Winter is here and to me Jethro Tull's Songs From The Wood is the perfect Pagan soundtrack to a frosty afternoon.

But I have albums by Earth Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye, Little Feat and now Thee Image and to be honest, I'd rather hear this than most of the Prog Metal that assaults the senses and upsets the cat.

This is a cornucopia of well played soul and R&B, with occasional keyboard flourishes and rock drumming to occasionally lift it out of its pigeonhole, all wrapped up with fine singing.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Tinkicker - The Cup Of The Lord And The Wine Of Demons
Tinkicker - The Cup Of The Lord And The Wine Of Demons
Country of Origin: Denmark
Format: CD
Record Label: MALS
Catalogue #: MALS405
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 58:27
Info: Tinkicker
Track List:
Good Evening (2:16), Confession Of A Clown "Spin The Wheel"(4:45), Lucid Dreams (2:24), The Boy Who Found God (1:37), Which Box Is Yours (2:53), A Beautiful Day (3:23), Intermission (0:43), St. John (4:29), Last Of The Bohemians (6:39), Chasing Rainbows (3:47), Intermission II (0:48), The Mailman's Last Route (10:06), Same Old Different Song (4:28), Flight Of The Moose (3:24), Playlist In The Sky (5:44), Farewell (1:01)
This, the wonderfully entitled The Cup Of The Lord And The Wine Of Demons is already Tinkicker's third release. As the band put it: this is a concept album that can be seen as a sequel to the both previous releases, yet this one also very much stands on its own.

According to the title, you may expect not to be able to serve two masters, which is how it was written in the Bible, in Matthew 6:24. Still, looking this particular text up (Corinthians 10:21), there is a lot of debate going on about the exact meaning of these specific words. Yet, let's not get diverted from the music too much. At least, that is what we are here for.

Tinkicker is not your average progressive rock band, if there is a general denomination for prog rock bands, that is. What we have here is much more of a hard rocking band that has progressive leanings, instead of being a progressive rock band that has its heavy moments. Guitars to the fore and a voice that holds a vulnerable balance between Graham Bonnet (MSG, Rainbow, Alcatrazz), Andrew Eldritch (Sisters Of Mercy) and just a pinch of Geoff Tate (Queensryche), Martin Fry (ABC) and perhaps Dave Hill (Demon).

Despite his voice perhaps appearing to be an acquired taste, Klaus Bastian, Tinkicker's singer, deserves compliments as he finds his way through quite difficult vocal lines throughout this album and always clearly stays within his reach. Lesser singers might have tried stepping beyond their reach. Here it is Klaus' singing that adds to the band's authenticity and flavour, as A Beautiful Day demonstrates.

Even though guitars dominate the album, the album is not an all-out shred-fest. There is variety in the songs and in the use of the guitars: Tinkicker knows how to write diverse songs and knows how to balance different feels and atmospheres. The band makes use of several sounds, phone calls etcetera, just like Pink Floyd used to do, and they know just as well how to rock. The concept of a rock opera-like album is something that Tinkicker surely have learned to master: there are no two songs very much alike on this album.

Yet, the rockier parts are what sometimes make it difficult to listen to Tinkicker being just Tinkicker, for there are these moments that have me thinking of other hard rock or metal bands and their songs. Was that an adaptation of a song by Savatage in Lucid Dreams, just before it ends? I do have the feeling that the heavy parts sometimes hark back to songs more familiar by bands that are just a little better known, even among the most fervent of prog rockers.

Part of The Mailman's Last Route to me clearly resembles Savatage, whereas the ending part of Playlist In The Sky could easily have been written by Iron Maiden. The general heavier approach likens to Black Sabbath the most. Tinkicker's influences are far from bad, yet it's their occurrence, on purpose or not, that diverts from what Tinkicker mean to bring themselves composition wise. Tinkicker are no copycats, but the sometimes, even if unintended, obvious appearance of influences, is alas too bad. Given the variation the band know to put into writing songs, I think they can readily do without that.

Keyboards are not mentioned on the band's website, I cannot but think they are used throughout the album. Little, or even not so little, accents added to The Mailman's Last Route, Lucid Dreams and Playlist In The Sky, to these ears can only be played by keys. Then why not be explicit about it?

It is the variation in the album that, on one hand, keeps the interest in the concept album going, yet on the other hand (to almost quote the song title Same Old Different Song) makes it difficult to point out songs that truly stand out as gems on their own. Perhaps cut back on the variation to raise the bar on the individual songs? If Tinkicker can manage to write songs that are memorable, who knows where a next album might take them.

So, where does that leave us? If you like your music to be hard rocking and have its variety in the way it is performed throughout an album; if you don't mind that obvious influences seep through music while the band does try their best to write songs that are their own, and if you are willing to explore the world that is held within Tinkicker's concept albums, as long as you don't expect a Streets or an Operation Mindcrime, then this might be just for you.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10

EP
Walrus - Walrus
Walrus - Walrus
Country of Origin: Norway
Format: CD EP
Record Label: Electricity Records
Catalogue #: ECD-201
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 33:30
Info: Walrus on Facebook
Samples: Walrus on Bandcamp
Track List:
Tromso 111 (7:15), Signals (8:59), Spitsbergen (14:09), Static (3:06)
Well this is a bit of an oddity for me, it's a CD that is well outside of my normal listening preferences and to be honest it's taken me a long time to actually understand it in any shape or form. So my view here is very subjective, but that said, I'm glad I persevered with this disc as it has a certain charm to it.

Firstly it's very bass driven and rhythmic in the sense that there is no guitar, so the bass player tends to lead much of the pace of the music. There is a very psychedelic feel about these pieces too and an almost minimalist, ambient vibe portrayed throughout.

The four pieces are each very different. The opener Tromso 111 is a swirling bass-driven head rush of sound. Whilst Signals expands that texture by adding lots of keyboard work, Spitsbergen adds Mellotron voices to the mix making an ethereal sounding meander.

It's a very slow-paced piece, heavy on sampled noises and atmospherics, until at the four minutes mark a very fuzzed bass takes the piece off in a different direction temporarily, before reverting to the staid pacing. This music evokes in me images of the dark, cold days and nights of northern Norway, as it has a dense, dark sound to it.

In fact at times Spitsbergen reminded me of (believe it or not) some of Tangerine Dream's mid-period Virgin output around the Stratosfear and Encore albums but with bass added – it was the bleakness of those soundscapes really that this evoked.

The final track Static is very minimalist, opening with a burst of static and a few single bass notes and some sparse drums, over which some organ sounds are overlaid before a simple, almost treated piano motif is repeated against that same simple, uncluttered bass pattern with occasional drums before ending on just piano – very simple yet somehow effective.

I wouldn't say this disc is really my scene but I would say for anyone with an interest in almost avant-garde obscurest music, this may work for you. It's not something I'd return to very frequently but it is different and hopefully others will find much to enjoy here.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10

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Published Sunday 21 December 2014

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