Small as a Ball (6:22), Metro Scheme 69 (6:51), Back to Horn (7:12), FŸr Deine Kleider (6:37), Heaven Can Wait (2:43), Will We Dream About the Ball? (7:53), And the Boy Gets a Cigar (5:01), Story Harp (7:17)
Lars Boutrup is clearly a busy lad. In addition to supplying keyboards for other artists, and collaborating on projects such as Sonic Tool Box, Boutrup has just released his third album under the Lars Boutrup's Music For Keyboards band name. The first eponymous album came out in 2005, although Boutrup has been active as a musician since 1979. He is, for the second straight release, joined by drummer Fredrik Sunesen and bass player Niels W. Knudsen.
While it might not be the catchiest of monikers - it would be a bugger on a festival poster - he's obviously hoping that this upbeat music strikes more than a chord or two with progressive fans and keyboard aficionados alike.
It's obvious from the first notes of this entirely instrumental disc, that the trio can play, and the musicianship is very tight throughout. It also firmly crosses into the progressive genre, with smoother passages followed by more aggressive sections, such as on Back to Horn, which floats along before taking off into heavier territory, before diverting into a more pop vein. Other tracks, such as Will We Dream About the Ball? tread more lightly, setting a brooding, atmospheric, late-night feel before meandering into a more jazzy realm.
Comparisons are tough. There are moments that hint of Anthony Phillips' catchy and uncharacteristic 1984 release, music by Jan Hammer or the underrated James Reynolds. Anyone familiar with the Innovative Communication label, and electronic bands in the vein of Mind Over Matter, Software and Megabyte will find much to admire here, although Boutrup's music is livelier and somewhat heavier and jazzier at times.
Possibly the one exception on offer here is And the Boy Gets a Cigar, which bounces along with a strong melody that wouldn't have been out of place on Camel's Nod and a Wink album, which itself paid more than a passing doff-of-the-cap to early Genesis.
Anyone enthralled by keyboard-led bands will lap up the array of instruments, sounds and musical chops on display. Repeated listens definitely highlight the quality of playing, however, it's hard to remember any of the melodies. It's also, very importantly, missing some of the prog traits of variety.
Sure, there are different tempos and sounds, and Boutrop uses his instruments well and appropriately. But there's a spark missing. There are times when it's crying out to be changed around a little. For anyone looking for a little more depth, especially from an instrumental album, the sense of how much better this could have been is palpable.
Stereo (Intro) (0:27), Play (3:19), 80s Overture (3:40), Painful Dream (3:57), Breakdown (4:51), I Will Walk (8:34), Second Awakening (3:59), In Our Life (6:51), My First Song For Him (4:21), Again (3:33), Tuesday Nights (8:08), Stereo (Reprise) (2:26)
Brainsqueezed is a French musical project written and created by Sebastien L, who contributes all guitars, bass, keyboards, programming, harmonica and backing vocals. Lead vocals are credited to 'Claire from Opal Sounds'.
The music brings a melodic alt underground sensibility, flirting with progressive rock and acoustic pop influences. As the album title suggests, all of the lyrics speak about emotions felt by people being happy, sad, or desperate. The album was recorded over four years between 2010 and 2014.
The opening song Play does what all opening songs should do, and grabs one's attention. "This is a bit different to my usual fare", my ears opine, as the harmonica solo interrupts an edgy guitar mixing-for-a-fight with jumbled electronica, and a catchy alt-pop vocal from 'Claire from Opal Sounds'.
The harmonica sadly stays in its box for the rest of the disc, but the assorted off-beat clash of sounds also makes for an interesting time listening to Painful Dream. This is very much the sort of thing I used to experiment with by staying up late to listen to John Peel. (For those outside the UK: Mr Peel was a legendary national radio DJ who for almost half a century showed a rare knack for uncovering the unknown for the unknowing).
There is the occasional burst of guitar riffage and some mild experimentation with time signatures and electronic sounds, but what progressive rock influences Sebastien L has absorbed, he doesn't really show them via much progressiveness nor much rock.
"Claire from Opal Sounds" is most certainly not the usual prog frontwoman. More akin to Blondie in a Suzanne Vega cover band, there is a clear street-accent to her vocal, which may endear some.
At around the halfway mark the album seems to get rather stuck with an emotion. It's the emotion characterised by acoustic guitar or piano ballads (sad?), by drumming that could never be accused of being over-complex (light-headed?) and by guitar solos which are straining to flow and remain in tune (desperate?).
Overall this is a pleasant enough listen for those who like their music to be heavy on the underground alt pop but minimalistic in terms of complexity and musicianship.
Real Life (5:05), Phosphorescence (4:51), Days Of Flaming Youth (4:59), From Far Away (5:36), Bite The Bullet (4:54), Defying Gravity (4:13), Behind The Glass (2:47), 9:47 PM Eastern Time (11:00)
Back in 1997, Italian composer and producer Saro Cosentino assembled a somewhat exceptional cast of international musicians to assist him on his fourth album Ones and Zeros. Amongst the assembly were some leading lights of the progressive world: vocalists Peter Hammill and Tim Bowness, guitarists Jakko Jakszyk and David Rhodes, bassist John Giblin, drummer Gavin Harrison and Stick man Trey Gunn. With such a line-up, one would hope that plenty of prog boxes would be ticked and a good time would be had by all, right? Well not quite, the album is very much a collection of atmospheric pieces that are generally pretty low key. The album did not really catch the imagination of the buying public at the time and so has been re-released in a new edition with an extra track and the whole album being remixed and remastered.
The songs are best distinguished by the vocalists that sing on them,and also provide the lyrics to accompany Cosentino's music. The album kicks off with the 'new track' Real Life, featuring the absolutely gorgeous voice of Australian Karen Eden. A lovely ballad which is mostly a showcase for the vocals as the music is rather pedestrian, which is okay as it lets the voice shine through. Eden sings on two other tracks Bite The Bullet, a more upbeat number with some fine rhythm section work from Giblin and Harrison nicely complemented by the angular guitar lines of Rhodes, and the brief Behind The Glass which is achingly atmospheric, very haunting and a prime candidate for inclusion in a film score.
Hammill gets two songs to sing, the first of which may be familiar to any aficionados of Mr. H as he recorded his own version of Phosphorescence on Everyone You Hold, his own solo album that was released almost simultaneously with Cosentino's Ones And Zeros. There is not a great difference between the two versions, the Cosentino version having rather more musical input, with Harrison adding a rather strange beat (particularly if one is more familiar with Hammill's version), Giblin providing some great fretless bass and the legend that is Shankar contributing some of his infamous double violin. I have to say that I think Hammill's vocal performance on this version surpasses that on his own album. From Far Away has a more ethnic feel provided largely by Pandit Dinesh on tablas and Kudsi Erguner on Ney flute. Another fine vocal by Hammill and something a bit different and rather more ambient.
Whatever Tim Bowness sings it always, in my opinion, ends up sounding like No-Man, with that whispered/sung intonation and breathy sigh of a voice. Days of Flaming Youth could easily be taken from a No-Man album and would probably be considered one of the stronger numbers on such an album. Defying Gravity is probably not anything like the material Jakszyk will be singing with King Crimson but he still provides the most vocally diverse performance of the album. The song, and Jakszyk himself, sounds remarkably like something from one of the more recent, and very good, albums by Nik Kershaw, not a name that does not feature often in the pages of DPRP!
The album closes with 9:47 PM Eastern Time which despite having a very Hammillesque title is actually an instrumental. Co-composed with Gunn the piece is heavily influence by the instrumental half of David Sylvian's Gone To Earth album. Indeed, it could quite easily be a remix of one of the pieces from that album, the style is so similar!
A rather mixed bag but one that serves up some highlights for those in the mood for something a bit more relaxing than normal. Nice to hear combinations of musicians that don't often cross paths although one expects that the results would be very different if they had a larger input into the writing. But all-in-all a good effort worthy of a re-release, particularly with its rather more engaging cover art.
A Year on the Moon (4:04), Twenty One Four (4:34), Metrospective (6:00), Road to Mulveria (5:33), Peanut Butter Surprise and Jelly Jams (7:29), Bailout on AstroTurf (4:05)
Eighth Whale is a Pennsylvania-based instrumental quartet comprised of a guitarist, keyboardist, bassist, and drummer. In 2010 the band released an EP, Basement EP, and in 2014 came a live album, Live at Howlers, taken from a 2010 gig. Now, with a different bassist, the band has released its first full length CD (although the CD is still quite brief). The new CD contains three of the tunes off the live CD, along with three other compositions.
The band's sparse website describes their music as "instrumental music with elements of progressive, fusion, and post-rock." That's on target, although the band's emphasis is on the fusion of jazz and rock.
The music here is a mixed bag. The band's sound, mostly mid-tempo and guitar-driven, is raw and confident. Things keep moving forward fairly smoothly, although internal repetition is a downside (on Twenty One Four, for example). Some tasty, catchy guitar licks, such as on Road to Mulveria, smooth out the roughness, although a few of the tunes seem to fizzle mid-way or at their end. One example is Bailout on Astroturf, which ends relatively abruptly during a stand-out guitar solo. Longer stretches of high energy would certainly be welcome.
At times, faint references to mellow aspects of the Mahavishnu Orchestra can be heard, and the guitarist's tone sometimes pays homage to Jimi Hendrix, but Eighth Whale doesn't overtly display chops and will not cause any jaws to drop. The defunct 1970s jazz group called Dry Jack also comes to mind, but Eighth Whale lacks the bright, optimistic sound of that band.
So, this music is for fans of unpolished electric jazz-rock fusion but probably not for most progressive rock fans. The CD is certainly a good listen, but it doesn't call out for regular return visits.
Bamija (8:04), Ljetni Hit (7:07), 58 (7:37), Anunnaki Dance (17:10)
Vintage, analog and live. That's exactly what this debut release by Croatian krautrockers Lizard Exist is.
The album's music basically consists of four guys jamming their brains out on drums, bass, guitars and organ/synth, during some lengthy space rock workouts.
Loose, yet dexterous drumming, teasing bass guitars, endlessly meandering blues-infused guitar licks, and keyboards ranging from moody Rhodes to screaming Hammond. It is highly inspired by the stylings of 70s Krautrock bands like Can and Neu!, and this recording feels as authentic as the work of those bands.
The band performed and recorded this performance whilst using exclusively analogue equipment. Nothing against digital, but the end result here speaks for itself. The album sounds fantastic.
The band plays with a lot of joy and energy, and because of the excellent production, that can really be felt. It's like being in the same room with the band.
I have to say the actual playing and production impresses me a lot more than the songs themselves. Undoubtedly, the strongest track is the 17 plus minute Anunnaki Dance. If it weren't for the overwhelming length, I would've chosen this as the opening track.
This track immediately introduces the most intriguing musical ideas that the band offer on this album, establishing an atmosphere that is sustained surprisingly well, considering its length. The minimal ambient section in the middle could be a little bit shorter, but the band picks it up afterwards, with an immense explosion of energy and excitement.
The other three tracks didn't impress me that much, mostly due to a lack of strong melodies and a bit too much of that simple, pentatonic blues guitar. But with the talent on board, and the synergy they create when playing together, I'm sure their second release - which I definitely hope to hear - will be an improvement.
In the end, there is some really nice music on here, that's not without flaws, but definitely deserves to be heard by fans of space rock music.
Vickey Goes to the Skyscraper Basement (1:10), Voyeur Part One (2:16), Vickey Mouse (5:14), Barbiturates Gentleman (7:14), Mr. Moore (7:02), The Usurper (5:20), Shiny Eyes (5:30), TV Queen (6:52), The Queen Goes to Bed (2:18), Message from the Last Floor (7:08), Voyeur Part Two (4:25)
Moongarden returns with a concept album about Vickey, who lives in a skyscraper and spies on her fellow residents. It's a far cry from its predecessor, A Vulgar Display of Prog, their sixth album from 2009, which divided opinion thanks to the last track, Compression, a cover of Mike Rutherford's rare B-side (which in itself was taken from the GenesisSelling England by the Pound sessions). The music was faithful to the original, until the middle section, which featured rap. Yes, rap in a Genesis-related cover.
This new album commits no such apparent prog sacrilege, and stays faithful to the bands which Moongarden clearly reveres - Genesis and some of the more famous modern neo-prog bands being the most obvious. However, this is neither tribute nor copy, and Voyeur has its own distinct style.
While possibly rivalling Yes for line-up changes, the one constant in the band is founder Cristiano Roversi (keyboards and bass). Let's hope this line-up remains stable and intact for some time, given its ability and quality.
The opener merely sets the scene as the protagonist, Vickey, click-clacks up the stairs, before the music takes over with the moody, lively Voyeur Part One. It is typical current neo-prog, bordering on heavy prog in the Arena, IQ and Pendragon vein, as a soaring guitar solo takes over from the keyboards in fine style. In spite of being considered more of a Genesis-sounding band in their early days, this has much more of a feel of IQ's outstanding The Road of Bones than anything from any of the Genesis eras.
When Barbiturates Gentleman starts out, there is a danger that's it is the album's equivalent of Steve Hackett's The Ballad of the Decomposing Man, but such fears are allayed as the piece progresses, as it simply turns into a much lighter song than those that surround it. The middle section of this song, with beautiful violin, gives way to some treated vocals, and then a deliciously sparse guitar solo in the John Mitchell-vein that the great man himself would be proud of. The song ends with some all too fleeting Mellotron, but that's soon forgotten as Mr. Moore kicks in. The vocals here start a little strangely, but again, all is forgiven once the song takes off. It's a mix of IQ, Porcupine Tree and later Genesis. It's an unmissable piece of music, again with a very tasty guitar solo.
The sparsely-used violin returns on the beautiful The Usurper, which throbs and bubbles, before soaring to its conclusion. The quality continues to the very end with Message From the Last Floor containing some nice piano, evoking latter day Genesis, and some more gorgeous violin. There's nothing overly spectacular when it comes to the vocals, but nor are they weak. They simply complement what is a thrilling musical journey.
Any collection of prog that includes The Road of Bones or an Arena album, but no Moongarden, should immediately be addressed by adding this to the shelves. Never mind whether or not the concept works, the music is simply exhilarating.
We Only Come to Help You (5:45), Future (6:16), Journey in Time (5:19), I Put a Spell on You (4:34), Empires of Steel (9:16), Walk with Angels (4:40), Time Captives (7:39), Sunset Sail (6:20), Demon of Love (4:06), Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood (4:47)
Kingdom Come (not to be confused with the German metal band of the same name) was an early 1970s group led by Arthur Brown, who is best known for the classic rock staple, Fire. The band released three albums before dissolving in 1973. Victor Peraino joined on keyboards for their final album, Journey, and though they never garnered significant success, Kingdom Come is notable for their early use of synthesisers.
In 1975, Peraino released an album titled No Man's Land under the moniker of 'Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come'. The album was a very limited release and did not include Brown or any other members of the original band. Interestingly, three re-recorded tracks from that release appear on Journey in Time.
No Man's Land received little notice upon release and that seemed to be the end of the story, until almost 40 years later when Paraino and Brown reunited for this new album. This is essentially a Victor Peraino project with Brown serving as a guest, but there is still an interesting historic angle to the proceedings.
Perhaps appropriately enough, pretty much everything about this album sounds like it could have been released in 1975. It is about as retro as things gets. Instrumentally, there is a fun Deep Purple-like vibe running throughout. Ultimately, this is more of a hard rock showcase than prog, but there are moments straight out of the early 70s/Keith Emerson progressive rock manual.
That said, the album follows a pretty consistent course, with only one ballad, Walk with Angels to break things up a bit. Therein lies one of the problems with Journey in Time. The songs tend to blend together, without a lot of variety to distinguish one track from another. This is further complicated by a certain lack of significantly memorable hooks or choruses. The chops are there from a performance perspective, but there is something left to be desired in the songwriting category.
Two very notable exceptions are the cover versions of Screaming Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You and The Animals' Please don't Let me be Misunderstood. Peraino is a very good keyboard player and there are some highlights, such as the ELP-like instrumental title track. The band that he assembled here is very talented, and the album contains impressive work from each musician. With some alterations, Journey in Time may have been a very entertaining instrumental album.
If you are a fan of Arthur Brown, you will most likely get some mileage out of Journey in Time. His theatrical style has never been to my liking, but I recognise his talent. He performs on five of the album's ten tracks and his melodramatic technique is prominently displayed on each.
Peraino handles vocal duties on the remaining songs, and though his voice is not bad, a better singer may have improved the final product. All things considered, the album is a moderately entertaining trip back in time. There is nothing terribly original here and you may get the feeling that you've heard it all before. Particularly on the album opener, We Only Come To Help You, which contains a prominent riff that is reminiscent of the classic Kansas song, Carry on my Wayward Son.
I think it is safe to say though, that originality wasn't the goal here. This is a very clear nod to the past and from that perspective, it works to a certain extent. Overall though, the lack of strong and diverse songwriting keeps this from being a definitive success. Criticisms aside, it is fascinating to see two artists work together after 40 years and though the end results aren't perfect, there are still things to admire about Journey in Time.
Drift (1:10), Transit (3:50), To Battle an Island (4:27), Collector (4:24), Dark Matter (3:50), April Blades (2:54), The Summit (3:43), Let It Dry (4:39), All Burn (3:43), How to be Young (4:42), These Days (5:06)
In 2005, brothers Casey and Jesse Cooper, from Ohio, formed The Receiver. Between them, they play keyboards, bass and drums, both also sing. Their debut CD, Decades, was released in 2006, and in 2009 they released their sophomore CD, Length of Arms. The band explains that the new CD, All Burn, "focuses on a dreamier aesthetic" than the earlier releases. Among the stated goals for the new CD was to create music that is not only catchy, but that also possesses staying power.
The music here consists of smooth, flowing vocals layered a-top a slow- or mid-tempo, keyboard-based soundscape, sometimes mixed with a dose of 1980s-era electronica. The most mellow music of the Eurythmics (but with exclusively male vocals) comes grudgingly to mind. The sound is fairly spartan, and the notable breathiness of the vocals can create dreariness.
There are few surprises along the musical ride, and few highs or lows appear. Rather, the compositions are similar and the prominent vocals mostly monotonous. The effect is that the songs are only marginally distinguishable from each other. If you like one, you will like them all, and vice versa.
A few well-sung harmonies present themselves, and the production quality is high throughout, but this music will likely appeal only to those seeking relatively mellow and predictable (yet electronic) background music. Indeed, the CD scores low on the originality, diversity, and complexity scales, and so progressive rock fans are unlikely to find much to hold their interest.
Let It Slide (4:49), Vital Signs (3:27), It Doesn't Matter (Who You Are) (3:59), Go With the Flow (5:26), Press 9 (3:48), Wake Up (2:34), Don't Forget to Breathe, (3:24), The Further You Go, (4:04), On My Way, (5:15), No Two Sides (3:58), Luck (3:39), I'll Be (6:21)
The second album after Michael Sadler's return brings yet another spin to the rollercoaster they currently ride, but it's a good one. For The Human Condition, they decided to push the Saga-sound into a slightly different direction to provide a fitting space for Rob Moriatti. After a couple of more or less mediocre albums, Moriatti brought a fresh wind to the band and they put out an album that was way more progressive than its predecessors. With Sadler back, the band slipped back to normal, so it seemed. 20/20 contained the usual set of mediocrity of right before his retirement.
But it looks like the band has gained some extra ambition and decided to do a lot better than that. Sagacity turns out to be a very good album. It is composed of a standard set of songs that Saga usually produce and the compositions follow the band's formulas. But this time everything is way more thought-through than usual. Everybody in the band spent an extra eye on the little details in the songs and every single note has had all the attention it needs to make it all work. Even all solos and interplays fit their surroundings so perfectly as we know it only from their golden times in the eighties. The arrangements are perfect and the production value of the album is finally at a level that meets the musicianship of the band. They must have recapitulated the creative output of their career so far and excavated a lot of stylistic nuances that seemed forgotten or lost, at least so it seems to me. The variety in style provided on Sagacity is better than ever and each song has its very own trademark. Together they document the range of emotionality and dynamics that Saga is able to deliver.
Besides The Human Condition, Sagacity stands out and is a peak of the band's work in a decade. It is to hope that some of this fresh wind remains for long in the band and we'll get to hear a couple of more albums of this great quality in the future.
Oh, and for Saga's very own Spinal-Tap-record, Brian Doerner is replaced by Mike Thorne due to health reasons.
Dominion (5:15), Images (3:10), One Day (2:19), Harbinger (3:36), Lost One (3:24), Pain Map (7:25), Persona (3:16), Splendid Sisters (3:16), Tilting At Windmills (6:11), Accord (2:32), Dichotomy (3:33), Drama of Display (3:58)
Spoke Of Shadows is an all-instrumental musical collaboration between drummer Bill Bachman (ex Neal Morse) and multi-instrumentalist Mark Cook (Herd Of Instinct). Cook plays guitar, fretless bass and keyboards but his instrument of choice, the Warr guitar, is what really stands out. The 14-string, Warr guitar adds a distinctive coloring to the music that appears on this CD. Aided by a talented bunch of collaborators, Bachman and Cook have created a modern prog album to be reckoned with.
Dominion kicks off the album with some tough, grinding, King Crimson-style riffing. Multiple guitars duel with one another, while the rhythm section reinforces their thunderous pace. A touch of Mellotron lends an air of majesty and melody to what is otherwise a very intense track. In contrast, Images opens to a pleasant wash of Mellotron and electric piano. It has a delicate, yet brooding feel to it, punctuated by some impressive electric guitar and Bob Fisher's tasteful flute playing.
Spoke Of Shadows are definitely influenced by King Crimson and its various formations. The band is able to mix very intense electric guitar riffs with very quiet and melodic passages. Most of the tracks are not long but they are filled with nuance and surprises.
One Day shows off the band's jazzy side. Built around Mellotron, bass and electric piano, it is reflective and very atmospheric. Harbinger is up-tempo and driven by punchy guitar and bass. Mark Cook's guitar drones and soars, adding coloring and contrast to Bob Fisher's melodic flute playing. Lost Out showcases more of Cook's fretwork and Fisher's melodic contributions. It has an early King Crimson feel to it with Fisher summoning the spirit and feel of Ian McDonald's classic contributions.
Pain Map¬ showcases Bachman on drums and adds some additional guitar from Tony Rohrbough, Persona features some strident Fripp-like guitar, while Splendid Sisters is a study in melody and Mellotrons. Accord is a moody, thoughtful piece which adds Joe Blair on second guitar. Much credit must be given to Bill Bachman's drumming throughout the album. His playing is steady, yet powerful and creative. He holds things together and yet pushes everyone on to greater things.
In summation, Spoke Of Shadows has produced a very exciting and inventive debut album. They may be influenced by the mighty Crimson, but they are strong musicians who are adept at mixing classic prog concepts, with modern technology. If you are a fan of instrumental prog, you can't go wrong with this one.