Reviews in this issue:
Big Big Train - Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
|Country of Origin:||England|
|Record Label:||GEP (UK) / Belle (Japan)|
|Catalogue #:||Belle 97322|
|Year of Release:||1997|
Tracklist:Wind distorted pioneers (3:21), Head hit the pillow
(5:50), Edge of the known world (4:47), Landfall (4:18), Dragon bone hill
(3:53), Blow the house down (9:21), Expecting snow (2:37), Blue silver red
(10:05), Losing your way (7:30), Tow poets meet (4:30)
Recently we received two CDs from the British based GEP label (IQ, Jadis),
which both have several references to trains and other types of tracked
transportation in their band and album names. I wonder if this part of a
new selection policy adapted by GEP! ;-)
The first of these albums is Goodbye To The Age Of Steam by Big Big Train,
recorded in 1993. The music is pretty keyboard dominated, which is not very
strange considering the fact that no less than three of the five band
members play keyboards on the record. Besides Ian Cooper, they are Andy
Poole and Greg Spawton who also play bass and guitars, respectively.
Spawton is also responsible for almost all music and lyrics. Big Big
Train's line up is completed by drummer Steve Hughes and vocalist Martin Read.
In places the keyboard sound sounds a lot like that of IQ's Martin Orford,
who also did aditional production and backing vocals on the album. In the
backing vocal department he is assisted by a long string of well known
names in prog world, like Jadis' Gary Chandler, Sally French and Galahad's
Stuart Nicholson. In addition Jadis drummer Steve Christey plays windchimes.
Big Big Train's music is not very easy to characterize. From cacaphonic
Yes-like violence in opener Wind Distorted Pioneers to the delicate
acoustic guitar driven instrumental Dragon Bone Hill, Big Big Train's
style is quite diverse.
One of the high points of the album is the nine minute Blow The House Down
which opens with some great piano playing before going into a more heavy
part halfway into the song with a leading role for the guitar. The middle
part of the song is a great instrumental with alternating leading roles for
guitar and keyboards. The vocal part that follows is very yes-like (around
Tales From Topographic Oceans) and the song ends just like it started with
Recommended if you're a fan of modern neo-prog.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Yanni - Tribute
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||1997|
|Info:||Official Yanni Homepage|
Tracklist: Deliverance (8.33), Adagio In G Minor (3.50),
Renegade (7.14), Dance With A Stranger (6.45), Tribute (6.40), Prelude (2.27),
Love is All (5.25), Southern Exposure (6.48), Waltz In 7/8 (5.32),
Nightingale (5.44), Niki Nana (We're One) (8.15)
And now for something completely different ....
Maybe you know the feeling .... You're bored and are switching
through all of those lousy TV channels on a cloudy Sunday morning and suddenly
you see and hear
something which totally blows you away. It happened to me about a year ago
when I came across the awesome sight of a gigantic stage set in front of
the Taj Mahal (India) and later the Forbidden City (China). The stage
carried a full symphonic orchestra and a man dressed in white playing
piano and sort of conducting the whole thing.
The whole set-up immediately reminded me of the TV broadcast of Mike Oldfield's
Tubular Bells II, and the song they were playing could easily have
been part of that piece. Who was this man and what music was this ?
The long-haired guy with the moustache turned out to be one Yanni, seemingly
the lover boy of Linda 'Dynasty' Evans, not someone you would come across
often on DPRP. The piece of music was called Deliverance. Eventually I
got my hands on the CD and could enjoy this piece of art again.
Deliverance is without a doubt the best track on the album, combining great rhythms,
string orchestra, Oldfield-like chants by the female vocalists and marvellous
melodies and native instruments into a splendid 8+ minutes composition. This track alone is more
than worth the price of the CD.
Adagio In G Minor is a very soundtrack-like piece with piano and string
orchestra. Renegade is sort of a soprano saxophone/violin duet.
Dance With A Stranger is a piece where various instruments (several
wind-instruments, violin, bass, piano, etc) play a short solo. A very relaxed and
Tribute is another highlight with ethereal vocals in the intro, followed by
some beautiful violin playing accompanied by a choir. Very classical oriented.
Prelude a very Gabrielesque Passion-like short piece with native
instruments. After a couple of minutes this piece goes into Love is All,
which is one of the two only tracks with lyrics on the album (not counting
the chants in Deliverance). Accompanied by Spanish guitar this is a rather
radio-friendly tune with great soulful vocals by one Vann Johnson and the full choir.
Southern Exposure starts another laid back tune with female backing vocals,
saxophone and violin. Later on in the song things get more rhythmic and swingin' with
nice interplay between the violins and female vocalists. Great stuff.
Okay, you prog fans like 7/8 time signs, right ? Well, try Waltz In 7/8 then.
Great piece of work with flutes, latin influences and a keyboard solo !
Nightingale is probably one of the quietest songs on the CD. As you can imagine
it features some bird like flute-playing with a slight Japanese feel. Of course the big
string orchestra is present as well.
Niki Nana (We're One) starts with the native sounds of a didgeridoo. After about half a minute the
electric band picks up, a flute plays and the vocalists start. The main female vocalist, Alfreda
Gerald, goes into an amazing vocal jam. The song also features a guy who goes into a scat jam
with the percussion, like the eighties song Din Daa Daa by George Kranz. Marvellous !
Even though some of the songs on this album might be considered great background
music, tracks like Deliverance, Tribute, Love is All, Southern Exposure and
Niki Nana are definitely full volume material !
I have to admit though that listening to the whole album at once normally is a bit too
much for me. I normally end up programming several songs or playing the first or second
half. Sometimes I even have to 'balance' myself again by playing some Metallica.
Tribute will certainly not appeal to the average prog fan. However, if you
like the world music influences in Peter Gabriel's Passion
and Us and can't get enough of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells
II, read on. If you like big string orchestras combined with electric
bands (Alan Parsons Project ? Night of the Proms ?) this might be something
for you. If you like instrumental stuff and don't shun the occassional piece
of light classical music ? Bingo !
For more information about Tribute and some mov/avi files of the live
broadcast and sounclips of the songs, check the
at the Yanni web page.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
Supertramp - It Was The Best Of Times
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||1999|
|Time:||69:02 & 61:05|
Tracklist: It'a A Hard World (9.20), You Win, I Lose (4.07),
Listen To Me Please (5.03), Ain't Nobody But Me (6.15), Sooner Or Later (7.35),
Free As A Bird (4.50), Cannonball (7.53), From Now On (7.37), Breakfast In
America (2.47), Give Me A Chance (4.39), Rudy (8.05).
Downstream (3.53), Another Man's Woman (9.27), Take The Long Way Home (5.11),
Bloody Well Right (6.58), The Logical Song (4.05), Goodbye Stranger (6.53),
School (6.28), And The Light (5.03), Don't You Lie To Me (3.31), Crime of the
This new Suptertramp live album was recorded during three nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London during the
102-gigs Some Things Never Change Tour.
The 48 track recording was optimally balanced and mixed but hardly any
overdubs were made.
The band is made up of original band members Rick Davies (vocals & keyboards),
John Helliwell (sax) and Bob Siebenberg (drums). Added to this were
guitarist Carl Verheyen, bass player Cliff Hugo, Bob's son Jesse Siebenberg
on percussion and Lee Thornburg on trumpet and trombone. Mark Hart, ex-Crowded
House, who had been working with Supertramp in the eighties as well,
took up the part of Rodger Hudgson on vocals, guitars and keyboards. A
tough job ....
The album features in total six songs from the latest studio album
Some Things Never Change. As with that album, the live CD opens
with the splendid It's A Hard World (without a doubt their best new
song) and their flopped single You Win, I Lose, which is still a
very nice toetapper although that bit of guitar twanging annoys the hell
out of me (Dutch folks will know what I mean when I say 'Corry en de
Listen To Me Please, which follows, is another highlight from the
studio album. Lyrically the song seems to be Supertramp's answer to
Pink Floyd's Have A Cigar. The live version is even better and
has more power. It's obviously a song that really comes to life on stage.
Compared to this, Sooner Or Later is a pretty lame song that's
only interesting for the many jazzy/swing solos in the second half. The
song was written by Mark Hart and Rick Davies together. Their other
collaboration Give Me A Chance, a silly and cheesy pop love song,
proves to me that this is certainly not the combination that will carry
the Supertramp sound into the future.
And The Light is a nice quiet ballad, giving the necessary diversion
after some of the rougher tracks.
The rest of the CD is classic stuff. Especially the Davies songs sound
solid as a rock. Ain't Nobody But Me, Rudy, Bloody Well Right, From
Now On, Goodbye Stranger and Crime of the Century are performed
very well and do not yield to the versions on Paris, which was
recently reviewed in our Counting Out Time
Free As A Bird, from the highly critisized album with the same
name, has a nice gospel feel to it.
Cannonball, played in the full-length version, is nice but does not come close
to the album version. Personally, I would have liked some more songs
from the underrated Brother Where You Bound album.
Downstream, from the Even in the Quietest Moments album, is a beautiful
The ten minute Another Man's Woman is the definite highlight of the album. This song from the Crisis ?
What Crisis ? album features a marvelous piano improvisation and a delicious bombastic
Don't You Lie To Me is a cover of a bluesy song from the fourties and will have you
swinging around the room.
Mark Hart sings all of the Hudgson classics like Breakfast in
America, Take The Long Way Home, The Logical Song and School.
He doesn't do bad, but I personally do miss Hudgson's sound in these
songs. I won't have complained if this would have been an album without
any of the Hudgson songs.
The whole band is playing very tight and especially Davies is in top shape ! Sound quality
is good and the whole thing has a great live atmosphere.
The 12 page booklet features pictures of the musicians, liner notes
by Rick Davies and full credits.
If you can't get excited about a Hudgson-less Supertramp and you already have the Paris
album, you might not want to bother with this live album. If you think you can get used to
Mark Hart doing his Hudgson impression and you like the last Supertramp studio album, this live
CD is a must. Personally I think it contains some great stuff and the live versions of
some songs like It's a Hard World, Cannonball, Downstrean and certainly Another Man's Woman
need to be present in any Supertramp collection.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Kings Karma - Initial
|Country of Origin:||Germany|
|Year of Release:||1998|
Tracklist: Back in time (5:40), Get Back (4:46), On my Way (05:52), Time (5:49).
This band was founded in 1995 under the name King Size. For some reason they changed
their name to Kings Karma last July. The band consists of Dierk von Tesmar (ex-Vaudeville:
Bass, Vocals, Acoustic guitar), Joschi Hensel (ex-Vaudeville: Lead Vocals, Percussion),
Marco Schilling (ex-Kansas cover band 'Portrait': Keyboards, Vocals, Bass), Norbert
Arndt (Guitars, Vocals) and Volker Schülein (Drums).
Kings Karma list bands as diverse as Yes, Queen, Kiss, Toto, Genesis, Rush, Kansas and
many more among their influences. In 1998 they released their first debut mini-album with 4 tracks. The thingy seems
to be titled 'Initial' although I cannot find a name on the packaging anywhere.
Back in Time is a very catchy tune which starts with a howling guitar before it picks up an uptempo rhythm.
The melody and structure of the song reminds me a bit of Don Henley's Boys of Summer. There's a quieter
intermezzo as well. I could easily imagine coming across this tune in the US charts. Seemingly,
this song was number one in the Progressive Rock Charts on mp3.com for weeks.
Get Back features a nice piano-keyboard intro and some chunky guitar. The vocal melody at times isn't very far
removed from the previous track, just a bit lower in tempo.
On My Way features constant rhythm changes, acoustic guitars, close harmony vocals, keyboard solo, march
drumming and windchimes to close it. Probably the most prog oriented tune on the CD.
The CD closes with the semi-ballad Time which is nice but nothing extremely special. Starts as a Queen-like
ballad, but then detoriates into a track which features nice cross singing but doesn't seem to have a good sense of
direction. A bigger difference between refrains and chorus (which is actually quite nice)
would have done the song some good.
Voals are quite good (no German accent) but might be a bit too hard rock oriented, you know, the intentional wobbly voice, comparable to
Equinox. Personally I wouldn't mind a bit less exaggeration. The sound is indeed very AOR and commercial. The songs would definitely
not be out of place in certain radio shows.
Production is quite okay for a debut mini album, although the drums sound a bit too dry and far in the background.
Compositions are good and just need a bit of patching-up by remixing here and there. The music could use a bit more
diversion to keep it from sounding too much the same in every song.
If you don't shun AOR and like bands like For Absent Friends and Equinox, you might want to try this CD as well. Others have
also compared them to Journey. The
Kings Karma web site holds a couple of MP3 files of their music, so try it before you buy it. The band sells their home
produced 4-track debut for $5.99 through mp3.com and their homepage. A remaster with 3
additional live tracks is planned to be released soon,
as well as a full-length album later this year.
Professional band, great debut ! Can't wait to hear the full album.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Mike Oldfield - Guitars
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||1999|
Tracklist: Muse (2.09), Chochise (5.13), Embers (3.49), Summit Day (3.46),
Out of Sight (3.46), B. Blues (4.27), Four Winds (9.31), Enigmatism (3.29), Out of
Mind (3.44), From the Ashes (2.28)
I had actually given up on Mike Oldfield after the horrible Tubular Bells 3,
which was supposed to breathe new life into his (financial) career last year. Therefore I
was rather sceptical upon reading about his new release filled with guitar music. And for
the first time in 9 years I didn't buy the album within a week of its release.
However when I found it on sale last week, I couldn't resist buying it and giving Mr
Oldfield just one more chance. After all, an album filled with guitar music played by one
of the world's best guitar players can't be that bad, now can it?
His last contractually mandatory album with Warner consists of 10 tracks and I expected
these to be quiet, serene pieces played on acoustic or Spanish guitar. The first track
Muse confirms this thought. It's a nice simple tune played on acoustic guitar.
The second track, Cochise, starts out the same way: one acoustic guitar playing
riffs and another playing the melody. The melody reminds me of the guitar parts of 1994's
Let There Be Light from the album Songs of Distant Earth.
But then electric guitars join in and the song becomes a lot heavier. Drums pound in the
background and you can hear synthesisers joining in. Suddenly it is the whole one-man-band
playing again, with at least 10 overdubs!
Embers is much mellower again. Soft synthesiser tones and an acoustic guitar. It is
a moody piece, which brings back some of the moods found on the second side of
Tubular Bells II.
More TBII moods in Summit Day: mellow synthesiser soundscapes, a
heavy bass-drum while an acoustic guitar plays. The melody gets repeated and more
(electric) guitars join in. This is becoming classic Oldfield stuff, which builds up to a
classic grandeur finale, before turning back to the original acoustic guitar where it all
started. If you put this song on "repeat" then you can hear that it starts off just the
way it finishes, as if there is no real start or a beginning.
Out of Sight is a heavy track, which sounds a lot like Outcast of his
latest Tubular Bells 3 album, only better. The only thing I don't like
about the track is the boring drum-track. Live drums would have done better here than a
B.Blues: A nice crisp blues guitar played in the Oldfield way, accompanied by
heavy rock-guitars. At some points this almost sounds like early Pink Floyd. Good stuff.
Usually the longest track on an Oldfield album is immediately also the best track. The 9-minute Four Winds proves no exception. Four Winds consists of four completely different musical themes, which makes it a very unpredictable song. Well, not a real song then, but different fragments woven into one consistent piece in the way only Oldfield can do this.
It starts with a fast paced aggressive piece which then turns into a soft and moody, second theme. The third theme reminds me of the 1975 classic album Ommadawn before it changes into some sort of "ode to Morricone" western style finale.
Enigmatism is again a very mellow track; synthesiser and acoustic guitar. A bit
of rest before Out of Mind (the sistertrack of Out of Sight) blasts through
your speakers. A heavy track with a catchy melody. Sounds a bit like early eighties'
From the Ashes is the chance to calm down again after the heavy Out of Mind,
or is it? It does have that classic "Oldfield-ending".... 'Nuff said!
So why is it called Guitars then? True, all songs feature a guitar, but that's
nothing new on an Oldfield album. But then I read the liner notes (all eight lines of
them) where it says: "All sounds on this recording, including drum sounds, were
generated from live guitars, midi guitar or individual guitar samples"
So there you have it. Mike hooked up a midi-guitar to his synthesiser and played all synth
sounds and drums on his guitar. Not that you can hear this, but it is indeed a very
original way to create an album. It seems as if "The Master of Overdubs", who had
become more of a "Master of Tapeloops and Samples" lately, has found at least some
of his originality again.
Unfortunately the album is quite short - back to conventional LP length or so it seems.
Then again, his albums used to be even shorter when they were still released on vinyl.
Not one of his best albums, but he is definitely back on the right track again!
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Bart Jan van der Vorst
Liquid Tension Experiment 2
Tracklist: Acid Rain (6.35), Biaxident (7.40), 914 (4.01), Another Dimension
(9.50), When the Water Breaks (16.58), Chewbacca (13.35), Liquid Dreams (10.48),
For me last year's Liquid Tension Experiment was the biggest surprise of
1998. A lot of DPRP readers must have agreed with me as this occasional band was voted
"Best newcomer of '98" in the DPRPoll. The (mainly) improvised combination of heavy metal
and jazz-rock of the gentlemen Levin, Rudess, Portnoy and Petrucci did not only please to
the audience: the four were so happy with the result that only a few months after the
release of their first experiment they went back in the studio again.
The formula has stayed the same: four very talented musicians improvising and jamming,
while self-indulgence is more an advantage rather than a nuisance. As opposed to the
previous album, this experiment contains a few composed songs as well. And it is these
songs that make the album more consistent that it's predecessor. Like the epic When
the Water Breaks - undoubtedly the best track on the album - this could easily be a
Dream Theater track without vocals.
The title of this track comes from John Petrucci's wife giving birth to their third child
Kiara. When she was in labour Petrucci left the studios to be with her and the Liquid
Tension Experiment was reduced to a trio for a few days. The three remaining members
simply went on jamming and recording. Of these jams only 914 made it to the album
and on three more tracks, Chewbacca, Liquid Dreams and half of the
aforementioned When the Water Breaks, Petrucci simply added his guitar parts to the
already recorded tracks. On Chewbacca he copied Jordan Rudess' keyboard lines, but
for Liquid Dreams he just improvised along with the tape, recording it immediately.
Like on the previous album the liner notes are written by the four band members and they
are quite funny to read. Opener Acid Rain was created when they felt they needed
"something REALLY SICK on this album", so they went back into the studio to see how fast
they could play. Well, they might call it sick, I think it's a great track.
Also funny are all the titles on the album. Some of them are explained in the liner notes,
like When the Water Breaks and Biaxident (Biaxine was a medicine prescribed
to Petrucci during the recording sessions, as he was suffering from extreme headaches)
but others have to be figured out. Another Dimension probably got its name from
the main riff, which sounds like the Beastie Boys' single Intergalactic-Another
Dimension. But don't be afraid, apart from that riff it sounds nothing like the
The last track Hourglass is also easy to figure out: it was played live by Petrucci
and Rudess at 2.28 AM on the last day of the recording sessions, as a closing of the
sessions. It is like State of Grace on the first album, a gentle and serene duet,
this time acoustic guitar and piano only. Beautiful!
Just like the previous album: Highly recommended!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
Bart Jan van der Vorst
Cyan - The Creeping Vine
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||F2 Records|
|Year of Release:||1999|
Tracklist: Original Sin (8.47), Valhala (3.42), Gwenan (6.17), I Will Show You
Life (5.30), Goodbye World (9.54), The River (7.22), Home (4.36), The Creeping Vine (9.30)
The main man behind Cyan is multi-instrumentalist Robert Reed. After his one-man
show debut For King and Country he added the vocals of one Nigel Voyle for his
second album Pictures from the Other Side. For this third album Cyan is further
expanded with drummer Tim Robinson and Bassist Pete Hurley, and a wide range of guest
For me Cyan's second album Pictures from the Other Side is one of the highlights
of the early nineties' neo-prog wave. The somewhat commercial sounding prog, with heavy
Genesis influences is one of my favourite albums on the now defunct SI-label.
Therefore I really yearned for this album, which has taken four and a half years to
record (!!). Unfortunately the waiting wasn't worthwhile, as the album doesn't live up to
the expectations - it doesn't reach the standard of its predecessor.
Like the previous album -and many nineties neo-prog albums- you can clearly hear the
influences: Genesis, Mike Oldfield, It Bites, but also things that could easily be found
in the music of IQ, Arena or Spock's Beard. But in spite of all these references it sounds
mainly like Cyan's previous album, but without a real highlight such as the epic
The album opens with a Spock's Beard-like organ before bombastic Arena-like synthesisers
join in. Original Sin is one of the best tracks on the album, with lots of
The second song Valhalla is a pretty straightforward song, nothing too special.
The only remarkable thing is the excellent guitar solo.
Gwenan sounds like some sort of cliché Celtic folk-rock songs, which every
artist seems to record nowadays. Musically it is quite good, with very Oldfield-like
guitars. But somehow Nigel Voyles voice doesn't seem to fit with the music. Despite the
Oldfield sound the song reminds me more of Runrig or even Ultravox - with the difference
that these are Scottish bands and their music sounds more "natural". I don't know, but
somehow this just doesn't sound right, and the lyrics, frankly, are terrible: it's a collection
of clichés, with "Celtic crosses", "dancing on the moors" and
"pipes and drums".
Despite all this, it is one of my favourite songs on the album (can you follow that?).
I can't say that about the next song, I Will Show You Life. It starts quite
original with real saxophones instead of synthesisers, but they become quite irritating
during the song. And the double-voiced vocals are terrible. Skip!
The next track is Goodbye World which starts with a pure piece of plagiarism. The
piano-intro sounds exactly like Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and
Carpet Crawl. For the rest it is quite a nice track, and it is also the longest song
on the album. Again, with great guitar work by Chris Fry, one of the many guest-musicians
on the album.
The River shows the full range of Nigel Voyle's excellent vocals. It's the ballad
on the album and also one of the better tracks. After about four and a half minutes the
whole song suddenly changes completely with a hobo-alike solo. It's a pity really, as I
really like the atmosphere of the first part. Fortunately Voyle manages to safe the song.
Again a great guitarsolo by a guest-musician, this time Andy Edwards.
Another mellow track is Home with excellent synthesiser work and great guitars by
Pendragon frontman Nick Barrett. The song is mainly instrumental, with only four lines
sung at the end of the song.
The last track, The Creeping Vine is supposed to be the grandeur finale of the
album. It starts with a very tropical vibe: sounds of a seashore, crickets, flutes and
Spanish guitar and a very Latin rhythm. After the first two verses it gets more "proggy".
An excellent album closer.
So in the end I was a bit disappointed by the album, especially when comparing it to its
predecessor, however it grew on me after a few spins.
It is definitely not a bad album at all, there are plenty great things on it for any
prog-lover, yet that is also the main drawback of the album: It is all way too safe.
There's nothing new or groundbreaking original to be found!
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.
Bart Jan van der Vorst