Apocalypse (6:10), Keep Calm (2:56), Loolita (3:06), The Day (4:45), Wake Up (4:25), It's Calling Me (6:51), We Can Dance
In the last few months, when thinking about prog from Poland, it was all about the tragic death of Piotr Grudzinski the brilliant guitarist of Riverside at the age of 40 years old. He and his bandmates have very often been the inspiration for newer Polish bands.
One newish band from Poland is The Adekaem. Formed in 2013 they released their debut album at the end of 2015. So it's time to give it some attention.
The Adekaem doesn't sound like their aforementioned compatriots, having more neo-prog, classic rock and AOR influences, reminding me more of Satellite, Saga and the British neo-prog bands from the 80s. Most of the tracks are up-tempo but quite short, all but three dropping short of the five minute mark. There is some fine guitar soloing Krzysztof Wala and also on the keyboards by Andrzej Bielas throughout the album. There is a vocalist present. Szalony Iwan isn't an official member of the band but he does have a pleasant voice.
The melodies on the album don't sound too complicated and to me the compositions on the first half of the album weren't as interesting, with the last four tracks having more diversity. The spooky It's Calling Me shows the skills of all musicians and the dreamy I Can't Leave It All Behind is also one of the highlights.
The final eponymously-titled track is by far the longest one. It's an 11 minute instrumental recorded live in the studio during a jam session. Fortunately it not a case of ego-tripping by the instrumentalists but a bit of space rock which sounds very melodious and is a pleasant end of this album, again offering lots of room for all musicians to showcase their talents. It is probably a bit weird compared to the other tracks but very enjoyable.
In general, I think the production could have been a bit more sparkling to really make it more interesting but overall this is a very nice debut by this Polish band. It can only get better if they keep the band together and also include a vocalist in their line-up.
Except Hate (5:26), For You (6:43), Here With Me (7:38), Clay Masks (6:31), The Silent Moonchild (The Song) (4:30), The Silent Moonchild (Instr.) (2:46), Fading Under a Large Hat (3:34), Ballad in the Moonlight (3:31), The Book of Time (4:13), The Silent Moonchild (The End) (8:00), Moonchild End (3:45)
Goad is an Italian prog-rock group founded in the 70s in Florence by the brothers Maurilio and Gianni Rossi. Having released a considerable number of recordings during their existence, the music fits into the tradition of being inspired by the pioneers of the 1970s, that characterises many Italian prog rock bands.
Their latest album, The Silent Moonchild, is undeniably influenced by bands such as King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Genesis. If you know Goad from their previous album, Masquerade (2011), and you enjoyed it, then you will most likely love this album as well.
Newcomers to this band might need some time to get used to the raw and somewhat theatrical voice of Marilio Rossi. It's quite dominant on the album, but if you're not distracted by the vocals (or even like them), there is enough to enjoy here. There are some great compositions that sound very melodic and it's clear that we are dealing with some very skilled musicians.
The organ, piano, flute and guitar sounds are very apparent from the pasts of the aforementioned bands. Some stunning soloing on guitar by Gianni Rossi and also several excellent contributions by some guest musicians can be heard throughout the album.
I think this release will divide the listeners: either you love it or you hate it.
Having listened to the album several times, I am slowly beginning to discover its beauty and if you're really crazy about 70s prog then I think you should give this album a chance. I couldn't find a bad track and For You, Clay Masks and the three-part title track, appealed to me very much.
Äntligen (Finally) (5:25), Händer (Hands) (6:13), Regn (Rain) (5:43), Standen Lever (The Town Is Alive) (4:15), Elgrandi (Elgrandi) (2:37), Krig (War) (5:03), Älska Med Mig Igen (Make Love To Me Again) (6:44), Med Trasiga Segel (With Broken Sails) (4:55)
Following the departure the previous year of Roine Stolt, Kaipa released their fourth studio album in 1980 with founding member and keyboardist Hans Lundin assuming main authorship of the songs, aided and abetted by drummer Ingemar Bergman and lead vocalist Mats Löfgren.
Sadly, the contrast between this album and its predecessors is all too obvious. It's very much a product of its time, with commercial European pop-rock pretentions. I was living in Belgium in 1980 and I heard a million songs on the radio that sounded just like Äntligen and Händer, whilst Standen Lever even sounds like a riff-off of Umberto Tozzi's Gloria (later recorded by Laura Branigan) which had been a big hit around Europe the previous year. The curiously titled Krig (War) (given with its bubbly synth line), owes a clear debt to Abba.
The moody Regn, and the short synth anthem Elgrandi are more like it, but sadly they aren't a patch on previous Kaipa instrumentals, despite Bergman's powerful Phil Collins-like drum sound on the latter.
Although the songs are mostly keyboard-driven, Lundin had abandoned his array of analogue keyboards in favour of two polyphonic synths for this album, resulting in a limp, one dimensional sound. New guitarist Max Ahman has his moments, but unfortunately he is given few opportunities to show his real worth. The same goes for drummer Ingemar Bergman and bassist Mats Lindberg, although they do come out of this album with top honours.
The original production and the re-mastering for this reissue are impeccable, but that can't disguise the fact that this a low point in the Kaipa canon and for the most part a waste of talent for those involved, especially considering past glories.
Following the release of Händer, Kaipa continued to tour under various line-ups with Hans Lundin remaining the only constant factor. They released one final album Nattdjurstid in 1982 before calling it a day at the end of that year. For most bands that would have been the end of the story, but, as we know, for Kaipa life would begin again some 18 years later. That, as they say, is another story.
Den Skrattande Grevinnan (The laughing countess) (4:50), Sen repris (Late reprise) (3:20), Flytet (The flow) (2:40), Anar dig (Sensing you) (4:02), Frog Funk (Frog Funk) (3:25), Visa I sommaren (A summer air) (3:30), Tajgan (The Taiga) (3:16), Respektera min värld (Show respect to my world) (6:05), En igelkotts död (Death of a hedgehog) (3:38), Total förvirring (Total confusion) (7:22), Sist på plan (Last man standing) (7:35)
In 1978 the classic era of progressive rock had already reached its peak and albums like Yes' Tormato, Genesis' And Then There Were Three and ELP's Love Beach were indications that the genre was struggling to maintain credibility. There were however several worthy entries that year, including UK's debut album, Rush's Hemispheres, Jethro Tull's Heavy Horses, Mike Oldfield's Incantations, Anthony Phillips' Wise After The Event and Solo by Kaipa.
Formed in 1973, Solo was the band's third studio album, following in the footsteps of Kaipa (1975) and Inget Nytt Under Solen (1976). The line-up responsible was Roine Stolt (electric and acoustic guitars, guitar synthesiser, percussion, vocal), Mats Löfgren (lead vocal, percussion), Hans Lundin (keyboards, piano, vocal), Mats Lindberg (bass, percussion) and Ingemar Bergman (drums, percussion, vocal).
Although the band had undergone a couple of personnel changes the previous year, with a replacement bassist and the addition of a full-time singer, the compositions remained evenly divided between Lundin and Stolt, with the emphasis on instrumentals. The keyboardist had proposed a side-long epic, as he had done on Inget Nytt Under Solen but he was over-ruled by the rest of the band in favour of shorter, self-contained pieces.
Solo is generally perceived to be the highpoint of Kaipa's 1973-1982 period and it's not difficult to see (or hear) why. A more confident work than its predecessors, it is melodic progressive rock at its most tuneful with Focus, Genesis and Camel being conspicuous role models, along with traces of Italian bands like PFM.
That said, the opening instrumental Den Skrattande Grevinnan with is quirky keyboard sounds and syncopated rhythm owes a debt to King Crimson and Gentle Giant, although the second half takes into familiar Genesis territory. Sen repris is clearly a homage to The Beatles in their psychedelic Magical Mystery Tour phase, along with elements of early Queen.
If, like me, your introduction to Stolt's gifts as a songwriter and guitar player didn't happen until 1994 with The Flower King album, then his contributions here will be a revelation. The haunting Flytet demonstrates Stolt's mastery of the weeping guitar sound, as pioneered by Jan Akkerman, and whilst the atmospheric Tajgan is mostly piano and Mellotron, it concludes with a brief but tasteful blues solo evocative of David Gilmour. En igelkotts död is a majestic march in the mould of Genesis' Hairless Heart, with Stolt perfectly capturing Steve Hackett's stately guitar tone, as he also does on the penultimate Total förvirring.
The romantic Visa I sommaren and the lively, organ-driven Respektera min värld are more song-based offerings, featuring the dual lead vocals of Löfgren and Lundin, although the singing remains the band's weakest link.
The album's tongue-in-cheek moment is Frog Funk, which despite the disco beat (this was the height of the Saturday Night Fever craze after all) sounds remarkably similar to Celtic Rain from Mike Oldfield's Voyager album, which didn't appear until 18 years later. The final track, the appropriately titled Sist på plan (Last man standing) is the album's icing on the cake, culminating with an energetic sparring match between guitar and synth, driven by Lindberg's articulate bass line and Bergman's busy drumming.
Perhaps the only (minor) disappointment with this Tempus Fugit release is the absence of the bonus live tracks available on previous CD reissues. By way of compensation however, the re-mastered sound is exemplary.
Despite the considerable contributions from the rest of the band, especially Lundin and his arsenal of analogue keyboards, it's the young Roine Stolt who is the high achiever on Solo, with some of his most memorable playing ever. It is a real pity then, that a full 24 years would pass before his next appearance on a Kaipa album.
Love in Barrenness/Remorse Code (10:07), Symptoms (9:16), Splat (6:55), Alleycat (11:54), Phaideaux Corner (5:59), Mutatis Mutandis (7:57), You Can't Be Serious/You Must Be Joking (7:09), Things Past (11:25)
White City Blues (9:37), Lady Bountiful (9:59), Out of the Long Dark (11:43), Something For Mr Jelly Lord (9:56)
Author, teacher, band leader, composer and trumpet virtuoso Ian Carr died in 2009. His erudite written legacy can be experienced in his superb biography of Miles Davis, whilst his vibrant musical legacy can be heard throughout his extensive discography spanning across 30 years. Carr's reputation has recently been further enhanced by the release of two live CDs featuring him at his most expressive, ably supported by his band Nucleus.
Ian Carr formed Nucleus in October 1969 and for over 30 years they were at the forefront of the jazz-rock movement in the UK. The importance of Nucleus as one of the earliest and most innovative pioneers of fusion cannot be underestimated. Over the band's long history they consistently amalgamated the freedom of expression of jazz, with the structured security of rock, to create their own, unique voice.
Nucleus' trademark sound was characterised by Carr's fluid melodies, balanced by flowing embellishments provided by reeds and keys and sometimes guitars. These essential elements were underpinned and often driven into exotic territories by the rhythmic punch and teasing counter melodies of a succession of fine bassists.
Early incarnations of Nucleus included such gifted players as Jeff Clyne, John Marshall, and Karl Jenkins. Later contributors included many other notable musicians such as Kenny Wheeler, Dave McCrae, Norma Winstone and Roy Babbington. It was also Ian Carr who gave Alan Holdsworth the opportunity to make what was then only his second appearance as a recording artist on his Belladonna album (1972).
Gonzo multimedia should be congratulated for releasing these two wonderful live albums which give listeners a glimpse of why Ian Carr remains as highly regarded as a soloist, as a composer and as a band leader.
Both albums are dedicated to producer Mike King who died in March 2015. King was renowned for his ability to restore analogue archive recordings and was responsible for setting up Reel Recordings which unearthed and released amongst others Soft Heap's Al Dante. King was also known for his collaborative work with Cuneiform Records which resulted in the discovery and release of such gems as Soft Machine's Middle Earth Master's.
Both Nucleus albums sound remarkable. King and executive producer Rob Ayling have done a wonderful job in bringing the band's crisp and inventive performance to life. One can only speculate what the sound quality might have been without their expertise.
Three Of A Kind has a running time of over 70 minutes and features three performances taken from 1983, the mid-70s and 1980. Bracknell Sunshine runs for a mere 41 minutes and features the band's performance at the 1980 Bracknell Jazz Festival.
From a prog fan's perspectiveThree Of A Kind is probably the more appealing and attractive of the two discs. Firstly, two out of the three performances are embellished by a Nucleus line-up that included a guitar player. Secondly, Three Of A Kind contains a performance culled from an unknown date in 75 or 76 that features the band playing cuts from their Alleycat album.
This was an era when the music of Nucleus was arguably at its most accessible. The band's shining performance from this time is full of funk and thrust as they rip through searing and stretched-out versions of Splatt, Alleycat and Phideaux's Corner. Their exciting and energetic performance is full of invention, improvisation and guile. The faultless delivery of these pieces demonstrates and affirms why the group were considered to be one of the leading UK jazz-rock bands of that time.
Sadly, the limitation of the original source material seeps through from time to time. For example, in Splatt, as the wonderful call and response between guitarist Ken Shaw and keyboard player Geoff Castle develops, the keyboard occasionally bulges and bursts through the right channel in an unwelcome wave of distortion. In many ways, this adds to the album's charm and reminds the listener that although this is a very technically proficient band, their performance on that day had an edgy rawness.
Three Of A Kind opens with a performance section of three pieces captured on tape in 1983. This is the only performance across the two albums to feature a Nucleus line- up that includes drummer and founder member John Marshall. As expected, his contribution is full of power and subtlety, and he adds his own unique touch to the proceedings. The performance is also notable for including saxophonist Charlie Mariano as a guest. Mariano's mouth-watering and moody introduction, where he is featured on the Nadaswaram in the atmospheric opening piece Love in Barrenness, is simply superb.
However, in this performance section of this album, it is the swirling input of guitarist Mark Wood which would most likely appeal to prog fans. He garnishes the music with an expansive backdrop of atmospheric chords, which gives the whole thing a spacious and other-worldly feel. When his playing, as in the wonderful Symptoms, is coupled with Mariano's uplifting and lofty solos, the result is highly satisfying.
The third segment in Three Of A Kind is arguably not as readily-accessible as the two previous performances, but in many ways this section reveals itself to be the more interesting and fulfilling. The trio of tracks showcases the band's jazz roots and heritage, whilst still managing to please those who enjoy their jazz wrapped in a cloth of fusion. However I can imagine that some might be put off by the standard jazz convention of a theme, followed by a solo, and then once again by the theme, that is employed by Carr in the arrangements.
The band is propelled by the lush bottom-end work of Chuco Merchan and it is his contribution in this incarnation of the band that really catches the eye. His underpinning of Carr's delightful solo in the challenging and thoroughly rewarding Mutatis Mutandia is simply breath-taking. The swooning Moog solo that also brightly cascades this track in bubbling torrents, makes this piece a highlight of the album.
This excellent album closes with the lengthy ballad Things Past which contains some great phrasings by Carr and an emotive sax solo, superbly crafted and executed by Brian Smith.
Overall, there is much to discover and enjoy in Three Of A Kind and it is highly recommended to any readers who wish to acquaint themselves with the work of Nucleus, or to those who are looking for a companion disc to complement some of the previously released live albums featuring different incarnations of the band such as, the Cuneiform label's Live in Bremen release, or Hux's The Pretty Redhead.
Bracknell Sunshine contains four pieces taken from a radio broadcast of the band's appearance at the aforementioned festival. The sound quality of the set is excellent and the performance of the ensemble is suitably polished.
The band on the recording consists of Ian Carr, trumpet and flugel horn, Brian Smith on tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and alto flute, Geoff Castle on keyboards, Chuco Merchan on bass and Roger Sellars on drums.
Over the course of the album Carr excels, supplying numerous solos which highlight what a fantastically agile and adaptable player he was. Although heavily influenced by Miles Davis, Carr has his own distinct voice and this is totally apparent in the lengthy and technically brilliant solo that dominates the middle section of Lady Bountiful.
Lady Bountiful originally appeared on the 1979 album Out of the Long Dark and the live version presented here fully exploits the firm foundation of the tune that is provided by the rhythm section.
Although Chuco Merchan's bass is again a highlight during the set, on this particular track I missed the tone and ebullient feel of Billy Kristian's original. Similarly, Lady Bountiful also features on the wonderful United Jazz and Rock Ensemble's United Live Opus Sechs release. In the UJRE version, the glittering cast (including master bassist Eberhard Weber) manages to take the piece to an altogether different level. Against this, the piece performed at Bracknell fares relatively poorly.
The other pieces which make up Bracknell Sunshine are nevertheless highly rewarding. None more so than the dawn-lit and atmospheric Out of The Long Dark. This piece is undoubtedly my favourite composition on this set. It features the radiantly-fragile tones of Brian Smith's alto flute which are beautifully counter-balanced by some outstanding and emotive bass parts.
The album concludes with an up-tempo blues piece dedicated to Jelly Roll Morton that is aptly titled Something For Mr Jelly Lord. This is crammed with a series of repeated phrases that make it difficult to resist the pull to shake the limbs and tap along to.
Of the two albums, I probably prefer Bracknell Sunshine as its style is more consistent and it is a faithful representation of one moment in the band's long and illustrious career. Three Of A Kind on the other hand has a more general appeal, as it showcases three subtle variations of the band's style and three different incarnations of the line-up. Three Of A Kind would also most likely satisfy those who enjoy an identifiable strand of rock, mixed into fusion. On the other hand Bracknell Sunshine is more likely to satisfy those who prefer a hefty amount of jazz infused into fusion.
There is no denying though, that whatever preference a listener might have, both albums showcase a group of musicians who are on top form. The various performers all deliver their parts with confidence and with such firm conviction that is difficult for any fans of progressive music not to be impressed.
Expectations (7:56), To A Friend (7:01), A Strange Encounter (4:46), I Keep On Looking (5:23)
Trond Øie is a Norwegian singer, harmonicist and composer who grew up in Oslo. After some collaborations with duos and groups, and after the release of an EP called Dreams (2008), he started a solo project that culminated in 2015 with the release of this EP called Expectations.
These four tracks could be labelled as "progressive rock" due to certain aspects such as the length of the songs (between 5 and 7 minutes long) and the intensive use of a Hammond-like keyboard sound. However, the main influence is clearly coming from Øie's blues background.
The EP opens with the most recent song written by the Norwegian composer, which also gives the title to the whole record, Expectations. In the same way as the other three tracks, it starts with a 30 second-long keyboard introduction, recalling prog rock artists such as Neal Morse or albums such as Genesis's Watcher of the Skies. Soon after this intro, the mood completely mutates into a much happier one, supported by blues guitar riffs and easy-listening vocal lines. Everything leads to an enjoyable, easy-listening refrain which would perfectly fit as soundtrack to a mediocre comedy movie. The sound of keyboards certainly predominates throughout this song (as well as the whole album), with harmonica insertions here and there. It is right at the end of the harmonica solo that this track moves towards a more funky-oriented groove, leaving space for an unexceptional guitar solo before the final reprise of the refrain.
Even if not impressed by the music, I can't deny that I am fascinated by the theme constituting the skeleton of the song. Basically it deals with the problems encountered by each one of us (I'm sure) while confronting other people's expectations, and it highlights the difficulties sometimes experienced trying to respect those opinions. However, at a certain point in our life (I hope) we understand that we are living our own life and we should not worry about other people's opinions and expectations. Now, although it is not the most original topic I've ever heard, I truly appreciate the lyrics and the theme itself.
On the other hand I cannot help being somehow unsatisfied by a mismatch between lyrics and music. Indeed, the first part of the track deals with these oppressively high expectations, and the music here is meant to be oriented towards more gloomy atmospheres. Contrarily, it seems to me to be very happy. This way we lose the contrast with the second half of the song, where the mood becomes even happier, when we realise we don't really need other people's judgement if we're doing what we really want to do. It might be something that doesn't really matter for people who usually do not take notice of lyrics in the songs they're listening to. However I find that many times here it means the difference between a song with great expressiveness, and a song that will soon bore me.
Besides the title track, this EP also includes a sad section dedicated to a friend who passed away (To A Friend), and two happy-oriented blues songs (A Strange Encounter and I Keep On Looking). There's nothing to say about these other pieces that I didn't say referring to the first one.
But there's a specific reason why I decided to spend so much time on the song, Expectations. Trond's lyrical theme of confronting other people's expectations are exactly expressing my dilemma about reviewing this album.
As a reviewer, I hear many professional albums, from many interesting artists who have submitted the results of their hard work from all over the world. Thus, in every case, my expectations must be high, and I try to weigh everyone with the same balance. That's why, in this case, I'd lack professionalism if I said that this is a good album. It's not. Expectations is a mediocre EP in which I really didn't find anything interesting from a music point of view.
Also the recording quality and the mixing could have been better. I'm not saying it's super-bad, and maybe someone else will appreciate it more than I do, but I doubt I will spontaneously come back to its music after this review.
On the other hand, who am I to tell anybody not to persist in following his or her passions? Trond Øie, clearly loves what he's doing and you can really feel this strong emotion throughout this EP! I appreciate this, more than any other thing, and in this sense any high expectation is irrelevant.
From this point of view, this EP, which is not pretending to be the next big hit, is a thousand times more valuable than many other albums that have been made by great musicians who have lost their passion on their way to success.
Drones From Home (4:27), Cracked Eggs Don't Hatch (3:55), Under Warranted Suspicion (4:37), Rigged (4:38), Stretch Armstrong (4:10), A Wizard's Touch For All You Skeptics (4:49), Interlude (Take What You Have and Give) (0:51), Almost Hihg Noon (5:55), Reaching For Pins (5:42), I Went To Orion's Belt (7:36), Primal Discourse (featuring Pnut) (4:26), Goner (4:49), Call It Collateral (4:46), Modern Revisionists (4:55)
Ian Campopiano and Matthew Walshe are the Ontologics. Just two people seem to be enough, if you want to build up a powerful and interesting sound made in Providence, Rhode Island.
While the latter is a drummer, able not only to support the whole rhythm but also to play a central role in a song's structure, the first is alternating himself between metal-oriented guitar riffs and rap vocals. Bass (with Steve Johnson playing on half of the LP) and electronic effects are added in the studio and the result is truly impressive. It's like a mixture between Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit, sometimes invading classic hip hop and rap territory, and often diverging in metal riffs and atmospheres coming straight from Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.
Fourteen relatively short tracks constitute Drones From Home, which opens directly with the title-track single. This is enough to give you a clear idea about the kind of music proposed by the band. The extremely interesting riff characterising this song is built on a 4/4 pattern but, due to its uncommon structure and accents, the riff resembles a more complex progressive metal arrangement. The very enjoyable refrain is accompanied by a funky section recalling the first Red Hot Chili Peppers' album and it's followed by a pure rap section built over a powerful base, characterised by many overdubs and electronic effects.
Then, after three minutes, the song unexpectedly shifts towards metal tones, before a conclusive guitar solo. These metal riff invasions can be considered a peculiarity of the band's music, as we find them in many other tracks. These sections are again recalling the Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence sound and honestly they constitute the aspect I appreciate less about the band's music. Nevertheless, this opener is a really cool and impressive song.
Concerning the other 13 tracks, some of them are heavier, some are softer, some are 100% hip hop, some are closer to progressive tunes. Other than Drones From Home other highlights are Rigged, Reaching for Pins, I Went on Orion's Belt and Goner. Finally, I should mention the interesting Modern Revisionists' riff and the song Primal Discourse, which features P-Nut of the American band 311.
Despite thr variety of ideas and the different influences, the sounds and the song structures are pretty much the same across the whole album. Thus, in order to best enjoy this record, I'd rather taste it in small bites instead of listening to it in one go.
Another positive is the interesting album cover art painted by the drummer, Matthew Walshe: a sad girl sitting on her refuge on a tree while a rainbow is hitting the ground as a thunderbolt from its cloud.
As a conclusion, I definitely suggest this album as listening for everyone. It is not merely for rap lovers, nor specifically for nu-metal lovers. Even less for progressive rock fans. It's potentially for everyone! I have already suggested it to my friend, whose head is full of Steven Wilson's music, as well as to my friend who goes crazy for Eminem.
I'd very much like to check out their live performance for my own curiosity. I'm not super optimistic about it, since they will most probably be using recorded bases, playing only drums and vocals, with guitar riffs and solos whenever an instrumental section permits it. But maybe I'm wrong? Maybe the two Ontologic guys would manage to surprise me performing live, as much as they have surprises me when I listened to their Drones From Home for the first time.
The Garden of Love (3:35), Alleluia 7 (4:23),The Downs (4:25), Scape (3:12), Lost in Love (3:42),Lost in Love (3:42), My Longest Day (5:29), Half Moon (2:58), England Dear England (3:35), This Winter (4:38), Butterfly (5:57),A Different Point of View (2:43), A Simple Farewell (3:45)
Multi-instrumentalist and session player Geoffrey Richardson is probably best known in prog circles as a member of Caravan where he provides guitar but mostly that very distinctive viola that I first heard gracing their wonderful live album Caravan and The New Symphonia and my favourite with him, Blind Dog at St. Dunstans. Hmmm, must dig them out and see if I've got any Sauvignon Blanc left...
Anyway, 2016 and he has a solo album under the Esoteric Record label umbrella called The Garden of Love, an apt title for this mix of folk, country, and west coast ditties.
The viola is there but so is everything else he can play and he does it very well. First three tracks are pleasant enough in a folksy kind of way then instrumental Scape gets my attention with a synth bass and penny whistle motif that sounds like it's highlighting a short film about crop spraying.
From then on there is a kind of later Mark Knopfler and Gallagher and Lyle vibe to proceedings with My Longest Day and This Winter reminding me of John Lodge's more pastoral moments.
Butterfly has hints of reggae albeit diluted for the local flower show, with its refrain of "life's too short" probably echoing the despair of not winning the giant marrow rosette, then next non vocal A Different point of View is the background to a TV item on fence erection.
Ending with the more than appropriate A Simple Farewell with the heartfelt longing that only a cello can provide, this piano and Conga led track is the nearest to The Penguin Café Orchestra (with whom he has played) that parallels his previous output.
This is not for fans of Caravan but it is for a summer picnic in an English country park (or the Caravan site) played through the ubiquitous Bluetooth speaker propped up by one of the empty wine bottles. The almost abrupt ending of a Tibetan bowl being boinged would serve as a gentle reminder to alert the wife to un-cork another chilled bottle.
Only One Way (6:56), Only Through Faith (2:10), Only Today (7:00), Prisoner (8:54), The Moment Is Here (4:44), About Time (5:09), You're All I Need (5:38), River Of Sorrows (4:24), Water Girl (4:24), Love Is Here (7:26)
Time Horizon are a four-piece from North California. All members have many years of musical experience and released their debut Living Water in 2011 (also reviewed here on DPRP). It offered a mixture of classic and symphonic rock, influenced by bands like Yes, Kansas or Pink Ployd. The lyrical themes are affected by the band members' strong belief in Jesus Christ. Catchy tunes, good musicianship, vintage keyboard sounds and a singer with a pleasurable voice made Living Water a joyful listen for any fan of catchy and sophisticated melodic rock. So I was very curious if the new album would be able to live up to the debut.
For the first half of the album I can definitely say that it does. Only One Way and Only Today (tied together by a nice "only synth" instrumental) are excellent symphonic (progressive) rock songs in the vein of early Saga, 80s Kansas or Uriah Heep. Or if you'd like a comparison with a newer vintage sounding band, Presto Ballet is a good hint. The following and longest song on the album, Prisoner still maintains that high level and through the use of a B3 organ, played by Tony Kaye, this track has the biggest 70s vibe so far. Only towards the end, does the track become kind of uninspired and ends a little dissatisfying.
The next song was a surprise for me being a cover version of the The Moment Is Here from World Trade's debut album released back in 1987. For those who don't remember, this was the album where Billy Sherwood laid the foundations for becoming a temporary member of Yes in the 90s. The new version doesn't add much to the original (which in my eyes was already great) and is mainly a 1:1 remake with some slight differences. However it fits well into Time Horizon's portfolio. Mr Sherwood himself contributes a guitar solo to the new recording and he is also credited for mixing the album. For my ears the sound is bigger, but less transparent and bright than on the debut.
Until here Transitions lives up to expectations and proves a worthy follower of Living Water. The next four tracks sadly don't keep up that level. The instrumentals, About Time and Water Girl, are nice tunes, but don't offer any real highlights. You're All I Need starts well, but has an annoying refrain, that might work live, but not in a studio recording, and River Of Sorrows is a rather dull, bluesy ballad. Luckily the final Love Is Here shows again all the good things Time Horizon have to offer, and brings the album to a positive ending. The lead vocalist on this track is Jake Livgren, the nephew of Kerry Livgren.
Transitions is an albums that seeks to bring back "the good old times". It could have well been released in the late 70s/early 80s, and I mean that in a completely positive way. Everyone who loved the debut won't be disappointed, although the new album doesn't keep the high level from start to end. Unfortunately the weaker tracks (6-9) keep me from giving this a higher rating, but all the longer tracks are great, and lovers of vintage synth sounds and symphonic prog/rock should definitely check this band out.