Alms' second album follows the template set by the 2013 debut Beyond, featuring just three long tracks mostly performed by Spaniard Aitor Lucena, who to all intents and purposes is Alms. He is assisted on this release by drummer Luis Arnaldo, keyboardist Eduardo G. Saluena and cellist/violist Hector Braga (and no that is not a typo, Hector plays the viola!).
The album is a concept one, reflecting on the three ages of the protagonist's life, childhood (U'ula), adulthood (Tapwala) and old age (Doginala). Not that you would be able to tell this from any musical clues, as the music has no obvious ties to the eras. This album sums up all that is wrong with progressive rock and the idiotic belief that the longer the song, the more progressive it is. The musical elements to the album could easily have been derived from the cut-up process made famous in the literary world by William Burroughs, with various parts appearing at random, and juxtaposed against other musical snippets.
Lucena does have some good ideas every now and then, but they are buried within a mass of other material, thus being a definite case of not being able to see the wood for the trees. Things are not helped by a rather thin production and over-use of an annoying synth sound. The only things that really stood out for me are a section towards the end of Tapwala with some nice cello and excellent flute playing, surrounding a more dissonant guitar, and the heavier section in Doginala which throws everything at the wall to see what sticks. The piano and synth are pushed aside for a brief harpsichord section, leading into some meaty organ and flute playing that gets the foot tapping.
Undoubtedly the vision for Alms is restrained by financial restrictions but I do think that, overall, extending all of the pieces to 13+ minutes dilutes the overall impression, and lessens the value of the interesting components. Just because a track can last for a quarter of an hour doesn't mean it should. Maybe next time, a collection of more discrete pieces, each with a separate identity and style would come over better, as An Irosmic Tragedy is too much of a muchness to offer up anything truly original and exciting.
An no, Irosmic doesn't mean anything, at least not in English!
The Chimney, the Wheel and the War (18:04), Somewhere (10:50), Flowers (6:03), Clockwork Heart (4:08), Train to Future (15:13), Lone Rider (7:22)
Three years after The Lamplighter, Anima Mundi presents an album that shows that the band continues to make good progress, managing to tidy up their compositions a bit and get rid of the light kitsch, which always bothered me a bit on their previous albums. But apart from that not much has changed. All the songs are great slices of retro prog, ranging in style from ELP to Pink Floyd, whilst adding a good dose of Spock's Beard from their Neal Morse era.
The compositions are mainly based on little stories, and the music has enough variety to create wonderful cinematic arcs that entertain very well throughout the entire album. Mellow parts walk hand in hand with dramatic outbursts; spacey moments make room for some heavy riffing, and melancholic Mellotron leads are pushed away by overdone organ and synth dramas. All are well placed on the underlying story-telling of the lyrics. The stylistic alterations are wonderfully woven and each part is kept short enough to never become boring. For some reason the album appears to me as a neo-prog album that successfully avoids every neo-prog stereotype. This it is a clear winner over that entire genre.
A positive change in the line-up also brings the music into another height. New on vocals is Michel Bermudez, who fulfils the duties much better than his predecessor, not only in style, but also in his English pronunciation. The drums and percussion department has been overtaken by Marco Alonso, who also brings some fresh air to the band's sound. He also adds some good saxophone moments, which work very well with the trumpet, which is performed by guest musician David Blanco.
All in all, I Me Myself is a great album that entertains the listener throughout. It is perfectly performed and produced and should please all fans of retro and neo prog.
CD 1: Back to You (7:26), Coffee in Neukolln (8:33), Save Your Soul (6:30), Fool's Epiloque (8:56), Inside My Dreamer's Eyes (11:23), Un Altro Mondo (6:45), Duellum (8:46), Los Endos (6:44)
CD 2: Overture (3:54), Gold (8:39), Roadkill (6:28), Skyline (11:02), The Silence of Our Wake (10:50), The Longest Sigh (8:23), My Silent Sea (Studio Track) (9:06)
The Italian band Barock Project made a big impression in 2015 with their studio album Skyline mainly because of keyboard wizard Luca Zabbini, great vocals by Luca Pancaldi and the beautiful compositions. Sometimes very bombastic and sometimes a little more jazzy, but most important really interesting for lovers of great prog.
Vivo is a recording that contains tracks from their four studio albums that they recorded in approximately 10 years since the band was founded.
On the first CD we can hear 4 songs from the album Coffee In Neukolln (2012) which was more or less the breakthrough album and showed the real potention of this band. On the album we can hear a band bursting with energy playing a kind of seventies prog with jazzy and classical elements. The powerful voice of Pancaldi is also one of the attractions of this band, he has a voice most reminiscent of Steve Walsh (Kansas) in his good days. I also must mention the drumming of Eric Ombelli that adds to a solid base with some spice at times. But main composer and band leader Zabbini really is one of the best keyboard players in the prog world at the moment. He is one of the reasons that the legendary Keith Emerson still lives on. It's no secret that Zabbini is a big admirer of one of the worlds most famous musicians on that instrument and he also can perform those skills live on stage. The final track on the first CD is a Genesis cover that we all know entitled Los Endos and it's played in a very convincing way.
The second CD is all about their latest album Skyline and it opens with the magnificent Overture where Zabbini plays the star role in ELP-style. Jethro Tull influences can be heard on the title track although the flute section isn't present on this live recording. Other strong tracks like Gold, The Silence Of Our Wake and the sparkling final live song The Longest Sigh make up the rest of the second part. The final track is a studio track that might give us an insight of what to expect from future music by this band. A bit worrying for hopefully the next few years is, how to replace the brilliant voice of Pancaldi , who left the band shortly after -Skyline was released. If they succeed in this quest for a new - equally as strong - vocalist, I think we can rest assured that the future looks very bright for the band and for all lovers of great prog music. Proggers in the Netherlands (and maybe other countries) can look forward to this band performing at the Progdreams Festival_ in March 2017 at The Boerderij in Zoetermeer. Keep an eye on these guys!
Mortalman (11:08), Home (14:22), It Only Takes a Second (4:09), Funny Farm (9:01), Fingers Pointing at the Moon (5:19)
Class, Sheer Bloody Class!
I am tempted to end the review there and let you go and check out this album for yourselves, but I'm pretty sure the DPRP editor would have something to say about it! (Correct - ed) Dworniak Bone Lapsa, you may think, is a rather strange name for a band, except that it is no such thing, a band name I mean. Instead, much like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, it is the surnames of the three main musicians: Chris Lapsa (lead vocals, rhythm guitars, synths and songwriting), Greg Bone (lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals) and Joe Dworniak (bass, synths, backing vocals). Although you may not be familiar with the names, you will have undoubtedly have heard some of Dworniak's and Bone's work, as they have produced, remixed and played on numerous albums over the past 30 years or so, including on material by such artists as Sting, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, and Chrissie Hynde. Not only that, but Matt Kemp, who engineered and co-produced the album alongside DBL, has previously worked alongside Robbie Williams and Robert Wyatt, who is one of the guests on the album alongside ace sessioneers Jim Watson (keyboards), Danny Cummings (drums), Melvin Duffy (pedal steel guitar) and Phil Smith (sax).
Dworniak and Bone first met up with Lapsa when they contributed to his solo album Green And Purple, the experience being such that the trio resolved to work together on a more formal basis. Lapsa's songwriting reveals such a level of maturity and sophistication that I am surprised he doesn't have a string of releases behind him; other than the solo album mentioned previously, I can't find anything that else he has released or been involved with.
Inspired by classic rock bands, every second on this 44-minute CD oozes quality. Mortalman sets a high benchmark from the start, opening with some lovely harmony singing and then lapsing into a lovely, mellow groove, all enhanced by the trumpet playing of one of the UK's genuinely most treasured artists, Robert Wyatt. He is also fond of this album, having publicly stated: "It's a great album and I'm glad to be on it".
Home is divided into several sections that show a wide dynamic, from full band, to gentle acoustic sections with just a single guitar and Lapsa's vocal. Things are tastefully assembled, with Duffy and Watson's contributions bringing an array of textures to the music. There are also some lovely backing female vocals provided by Annette Brown, Sam Smith, Emily Holigan and Nicky Brown. Unlike some albums they are not over used, just adding enhancements were necessary.
It Only Takes A Second is the most experimental track, with the only lyrics being: "It only takes a second to lose your mind". There are a few off-beat effects thrown in, but it is a perfect intro into, for me, the album's standout track, Funny Farm. This song definitely has hints of classic Pink Floyd in its structure, style and definition, yet maintains an identity of its own throughout. Yes the synths and organ could be Rick Wright, the guitar solo could be David Gilmour and the saxophone solo could be Dick Parry, but the song is no mere pastiche. Anyway, who cares if it sounds like something Floyd could have come up with? The fact is that it is simply a great song.
The title track closes things out and has a feel very similar to Butterfly from the first Brad album. Lovely dual acoustic guitars, steady piano lines and more divine backing vocals. If I am not mistaken the wonderful Dorie Jackson appears on this song, although she is not credited on the album, she is, unlike the other backing vocalists, mentioned on the website. It is a perfect ending to a perfect album. No wonder it is revered by Roger Water's manager Mark Fenwick, who called it "exceptionally well accomplished".
If you like classic English prog, then this is an album for you.
With This Heart (4:14), Visibility Zero (4:28), The Unsung Heroes (5:02), Rhuthm in the Spirit (5:59), Refugee (4:24), The Voyage of Eight Eighteen (8:19), Camouflage (6:43), Summer (4:07), Crowded Isolation (6:11), Section 60 (3:59)
Peter Swanson's Review
When I heard the news that this band was making plans to release a new album without Steve Walsh and Kerry Livgren, I wasn't immediately thrilled with excitement. Livgren's guitar and songwriting would be sorely missed, and despite the fact that the voice of Walsh has lost much of its power over the years, he still also had his songwriting skills, just like Livgren.
However after hearing the first tracks, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this new album. The new vocalist Ronnie Platt has a powerful voice that is a mixture of Steve Walsh (in his good days) and John Elefante. So in my opinion that's a quarantee for good quality vocals on the album. (Some may know Platt as the successor to Kevin Chalfant in fellow US AOR band Shooting Star - ed)
Of course longtime members Richard Williams (guitar) and Phil Ehart (drums) are still in the line-up. Billy Greer (bass, vocals), former lighting engineer David Manion (keyboards), Zak Rivki (guitar) and David Ragsdale (violin, vocals) complete the current Kansas.
The characteristic Kansas sound can be heard on most of the tracks, but is most recognisable on Visibility Zero and The Voyage Of Eight Eighteen. On those tracks the violin is very present. This new Kansas has powerful drums, lots of variety in the keyboard sounds, and raw, aggressive guitar riffs supported by the pleasant powerful voice of Platt.
Maybe the compositions miss the extra sparkle that Livgren probably would have given them, but this is an album that can proudly take its place in the impressive discography of these veterans. Tracks like Rhythm In The Spirit, Crowded Isolation and Section 60 have a more proggy approach. The other tracks that i have not mentioned yet have a touch of AOR. Manion proves to be a really good keyboard player who can also rock his Hammond organ.
I think hardcore Kansas fans can sigh with relief, because this is still how Kansas has to sound. So no surprises, but this is just a generally good album from start to finish with some real Kansas magic to be heard on several tracks. Lets hope they will come to Europe soon to perform live on stage with their new vocalist and new found spirit.
For this review I listened to the standard edition of this album. There's also a Deluxe Edition with two extra tracks; Home On The Range and Oh Shenandoah.
Andrew Halley's Review
Kansas's eponymous debut of 1974 was part prog, part boogie. It had AOR flowing through its veins, and sat perfectly within American art music acts like Styx and early Toto.
Due to this mixture of styles, I'm not sure the UK "got it". I did and collected all the back catalogue after hearing the ubiquitous Carry On Wayward Son whilst working in the States, and have never stopped playing those albums. I was once on a plane circling Los Angeles when it was attempting to land in a huge lightning storm, and the stewardess told us all to switch off our electronic equipment. I really thought this was it, so defied her instructions and blasted Song for America from my portable CD player which accompanied me until we landed. Just thought I'd tell you that!
Anyway, loads of great Kansas albums followed right up until Somewhere to Elsewhere in the year of our Lord 2000. This was a great and different sounding Kansas and incorporated many members who had departed as special guests. That seemed to be the last time this band would record.
Move forward to 2016 and Amazon send me an email inviting me to pre-order the new album by this fantastic institution. Featuring two original members in the shape of superb drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams, augmented by long-term member Billy Greer on bass and vocals, his band member David Manion on keyboards (plus top drawer organ), new boy Zak Rizvi (giving a two guitar sound not used since Steve Morse was released from guitar heaven to grace them) and brand new singer (and keyboard player) Ronnie Platt, who is just perfect in his new role, sounding like a combination of departed Steve Walsh and 80s singer John Elefante.
His vocals really do define this new album, The Prelude Implicit, bringing it bang up to date - although as the AOR has always been there, this CD sounds as "Kansas" as all their albums. That said, the icing on an already well iced cake is David Ragsdale's violin. Having played with them off-and-on since 1991, his contribution to the sound fits like a pair of favourite, well-worn shoes that have found the fountain of footwear youth.
The debut single and opener With This Heart fits the new sound of prog rock that has been so well-defined by bands such as Spocks Beard, but with the addition of that perfect violin. Visibility Zero's stadium rock is followed by a kind of Eagles / Don Henley ballad with The Unsung Heroes. Then with Rhythm in the Spirit, things start to rock, and hark back to nearly every album this band is recognisable for.
Refugee is the album's Dust In The Wind, before the album highlight The Voyage of Eight Eighteen brings eight minutes of time and key changes, cadence resolving, crashing drums, Vivaldi violin flourishes, organ and guitar solos, plus the best vocal that Steve Walsh never sang. This track really sounds like it has followed from the last album without a hint of the 16-year lapse in years. A timeless classic that that has all the majesty that A Glimpse of Home from Monolith or Leftoverture's Cheyenne Anthem delighted us with, way back when MP3s were still an experiment in a test tube.
Camouflage doesn't disappoint either, and the question of whether or not this new line-up can deliver the Kansas legacy is truly answered with a resounding thumbs up from the baying stadium crowd? This track has some great riffage with everyone playing the same notes to produce an impenetrable wall of solid rock.
Summer is sung by Billy Greer and is more than a worthy replacement for the well-missed Robby Steinhardt who used to be the second vocalist. It has shades of an organ-led Deep Purple-type blues, stomping along like a juggernaut from Ice Road Truckers.
Crowded Isolation continues the "absolutely no fillers" guarantee. This is another great rocker and the band even treats us to some proggy synth solos, just to gild a flower shop of prize-winning lilies.
Two bonus tracks are featured to close the Deluxe version of this album. The Jethro Tull meets Country and Western of Home on the Range and the final widescreen Top Gunned coming into land instrumental Oh Shenandoah. Another highlight, in an already well-lit stage, is the other instrumental Section 60.
Anyone familiar with this band will know how every now and again the purely musical passages can soar and drag at the heart strings in a way that no other band of merry minstrels can achieve. Think of the gorgeous violin in Nobody's Home from The Point Of No Return or the flying-into-the-sun-to-save-the-planet coda to Freak of Natures's Peaceful and Warm.
Well Section 60 not only does that, but actually means it, as it's a tribute to the final resting place for United States military personnel that lost their lives during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which is located at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. It is a beautiful and uplifting composition that really makes its emotional point superbly.
This is yet another album I'll playing for years to come. Kansas 2016 is like Star Trek - The Next Generation; the crew might have changed but all the original philosophy and wonderment still exists, to lead us into a hopefully optimistic new world. Topeka's Kansas, Live Long and Prosper.
Going Home (4:57), Ruined by Them (4:22), Blue Bird (4:42), All I Am (4:50), In Obscura (4:39), Blueprint (4:08), Shadowbox(ers) (4:01), Gently Blow Out (4:15), She's Wild (4:38), Fear No Ghosts (5:47)
Se Delan is comprised of multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves from Crippled Black Phoenix and singer Belinda Kordic. Drifter is their follow-up to debut The Fall released a couple of years ago.
Although being somewhat of a fan of CBP I had not heard anything from this offshoot prior to this. And quite frankly, if the first album is anything like Drifter then I can't say I have been missing out on anything much. To me, the album was a trip back to the mid 1980s and the Goth scene centred around Leeds in Yorkshire, although not coming close to even the lowliest examples of the genre. Sounding like a fifth-rate Sisters of Mercy from before their debut album, or a distant relation to The Mission before ambition surpassed their ability, the music is turgid, uninspired and uninspiring. For heaven's sake, they even use a drum machine that probably dates from that era, its programming is so simplistic.
Kordic's vocals are not my idea of dreamy, being devoid of emotion and mono-tonal. The only dream-like quality is derived from the fact that they may very well put you to sleep! The instrumental In Obscura is straight from the Sisters discard box, but it at least, along with Ruined By Them, features real drums, performed by engineer and co-producer Ritchie Chappell.
The Drifter is as progressive as Donald Trump, with about as many original ideas. I'll be sticking to CBP.