Alan Case - Wide Awake
I was very suprised when I received a JAPANESE copy of this album for review from the USA and found out that the artist concerned was DUTCH. Music works in mysterious ways.
Alan Case is in fact a pseudonym of Ernst van der Kerkhof. Strange enough the credits of his
CD mention him both as Alan Case on guitars, keyboards and vocals and as Ernst van der Kerkhof
on bass and drums! So it seems we've got ourselves a multi-instrumentalist here!
Alan was influenced by many of the seventies' prog bands, as well as pop and classical music. He's been involved in music since 1989 in different projects. Sadly enough his solo work was completely ignored by the music industry in his home country and he ended up with a Japanese label, Belle Antique, which released several of Alan's songs on compilation albums. Some of these songs appear on this album in re-recorded versions.
The album is mostly a mixture of straightforward rock songs like Make it Happen (4.36) and Dark Nights (3.56), dreamy ballads like Innocent Eyes (4.29), Mindless (3.02), The Borderline (3.06) and The Hurting (2.00). All About You (2.35) is a rather jazzy little ditty. Celebrate your Love (4.04) is a very nice catchy tune with a wonderful piano intro.
Crawl Out of these Mountains (5.00) has a bit of an Alan Parsons Project feel and
features a singer (Raymond Harris) who sounds a bit of a cross between George Michael and
Christopher Cross. It's got a catchy melody and is a very enjoyable tune.
I Don't Need a Lover (6.22) is an uptempo rock song with nice proggy keyboards and a great break in the middle after which the song picks up again. One of the highlights on the album.
Fast Asleep (11.11) is the absolute highlight for proggers on this album. Lots of melodies, tempo changes, different instruments. Wide Awake (5.14) is the uptempo instrumental closer of the album and features some heavy guitar, (synth?) saxophone and piano solo.
Some of the songs remind me of The Alan Parsons Project and Keats, a spin-off of that band.
Alan Case doesn't do all lead vocals on the album, instead he works with four different vocalists
who all are very good, most of the time better than Alan himself (his efforts to get some high
notes on Mistake of a Lifetime (4.58) are far from perfect). The variation in vocalists
is probably one of the strengths of the album.
Production of the album is okay, except for the drums which sometimes sound a bit flat and artificial.
This album is a great piece of music and it's unbelievable that Alan has been completely ignored in this own country. This probably tells us more about the current state of the music industry than about Alan.
If you don't mind some more commercial influences in prog music and if you like the bands I compared this CD to, go ahead an give this one a try. I bet you won't be disappointed.
Conclusion: 8- out of 10
Grand Stand - In the Middle : On the Edge
Grand Stand is a a band consisting of only two members who have been making music together since 1987; Olov Andersson (born 1964) on Keyboards and Tomas Hurting (born 1962) on Drums. Both musicians do not make a big secret about their favourite bands and main influences; Spock's Beard (Neal Morse), Genesis (Tony Banks and Phil Collins), Yes and Pink Floyd.
After the termination of one of their former cover bands 'Big Blue' the two went
on to practise old Genesis tunes, which inspired them to start composing
their own songs. They started a new project called 'Marble Stains' and recruted
a vocalist. When a bass player joined, the name was changed into 'Grand Stand'.
The band's performances featured lots of Genesis songs, as well as own material and covers of Gabriel and Kansas tracks.
In mid '96 the vocalist left the band and in the beginning of '98 the band once was a duo once again. In April '98 they released their first album, In the Middle, On the Edge, which was recorded over a period of three years (94-97) at several locations.
The album is fully instrumental and sounds a lot like instrumental
parts of the old Genesis. Some keyboard solos could have been taken straight
from a seventies/early eighties Genesis album. There's also a clear similarity with some
with the work by Spock's Beard, especially their Beware of Darkness
There's also some specific things which sound extremely familiar, like a drum part which is very similar to Phil Collins' drumming on There's Something in the Air (by that Abba lady, what'shername ?) and the intro of the fifth track sounds an awful lot like Changes by Yes. Another theme on the album sounds like a remake of Abacab.
The album sounds very good in itself and I really enjoyed listening to most of it. I do think it's a pitty that it's fully instrumental because you tend to lose attention. Maybe the band would reconsider to change the line up for their next album ?
The major problem I have with this album is that it's far from original. It sounds exactly like the bands I already mentioned. This is probably also the reason why I enjoyed the album so much. Nevertheless, in the end, both members sound like very capable and talented musicians.
If you are looking for new, original music, this might not be your cup of tea. However, if you really like the bands I mentioned and are not put off by fully instrumental albums, you should definitely give this one a try.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Pallas - Complimentary Tape 25/04/98
|Country of Origin:||Scotland|
|Year of Release:||1998|
Tracklist: Beat The Drum, Blood And Roses, Refugee
After years of absense, Pallas is finally working on a new album again. They were
supposed to be playing on the Day of Dreams festival in Holland but had to cancel the
gig because their drummer, Derek, got an accident. This tape was made for the visitors
of the festival as a way to say sorry.
The tape is now also given away for free through the Pallas Web Site.
The tape features three songs; two early versions of tracks which will appear on the forthcoming album Beat the Drum (Beat the Drum and Blood and Roses) and a track which was recorded for the aborted Voices in the Dark album (Refugee).
Although Pallas hasn't got my favourite vocalist of all times, I really enjoyed the
songs on this tape.
Beat the Drum (9.04) is a wonderful epic and although this version is still a rough mix and the drums are electronic, it already sounds very good. Solid playing, good melodies and a great drum solo break; I'm looking forward to hear the finished version.
The next new tune, Blood and Roses (4.42) is still in a very early stage of development. It's a nice ballad, which starts with beautiful piano and vocals. After several minutes the whole band comes in and after a great guitar solo the song ends with a bit more piano.
Refugee (6.49) is a very powerful track with lots breaks, tempo changes and some great guitar and keyboards. This rarity is a great closing track for the tape.
The tape comes with a nice inlay with the Pallas logo and notes about the cancelled gig and the songs on the tape. You also receive a Pallas mail order flyer and the Sentinel Newsletter with the tape. The latter includes more information about the current situation with Pallas, the forthcoming album (including four lyrics), the web site and the free tape.
If you want to hear these songs yourself, go ahead and visit the Pallas Web Site and order one for free.
Conclusion: 8- out of 10
Fruitcake - Have a Slice
After the albums How To Make It and Room For Surprise, Cyclops-records released another album of the Norwegian band Fruitcake. Although we received this album already some months ago, you didn't have the chance to read a proper review until now. In this way Fruitcake is a nice desert, with sweet and bitter flavours, but most of all it will remind you of some old times!
The Joke is a wonderful starter with a nice seventies-sound. The Hammond and the bass sound from time to time a bit Camel-like. All instruments have a very distinctive sound. Since Pal Sovik is not only the singer of the band, but also the drummer, there are many instrumental parts and all musicians have full opportunity to show their talents.
Spirit of this Day starts with a nice acoustic intro, which gives it the atmosphere of a medieval tale. Sovik is not a brilliant singer, but he doesn't spoil the pleasure of listening. In some parts he's even very close to Roger Waters!
Hell's Kitchen starts with a heavy guitar-part with again a haunting keyboard-solo. With only six lines to sing, this is almost an 8 minute instrumental. With many breaks and interludes the heavy guitar-riff hits you over and over. Love it !
Between Reality and Dream starts a bit like an excerpt from Pink Floyd's The Wall. The on-going bass-line and the weeping guitar are very Floydian, although rhythm and keyboards are of a very early Camel-trademark. Again bass-player Nygard starts the very jazzy middle part and keyboard-player Skaarseth and guitarist Hauge have their solo-parts, before returning to the main theme of the song.
Have a Slice is a nice up-tempo song with several rhythm-changes that gives this slice of the Fruitcake a little Kansas-flavour. The backing vocals of Hauge give something extra here.
As I mentioned the Waters-vocals already, in Final Signals they can be heard again. For the rest the song is totally different, but the similarity in vocals was special. The piano part in the middle is very nice. I wish they did such changes more often.
To be honest, I think the stronger songs are the first on the album. Even after listening to the album. Although the rhythm and volume in the songs change very often, which gives them a dramatic, epic feel, some songs sound too much like each other. I love the retro-sound of the keyboards, but with Hammond and Moog all over the place, the unique aspects of these instruments get lost a bit. A bit more variation in style would make this album interesting till the end. Nevertheless, with the nice drawing on the cover and the strong first half of the record, I had enough reasons to take this album from the shelves from time to time. One more slice, please!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Mushroom - Alive and in Full Bloom
When I read the name of the band and saw the flowers and mushrooms on the booklet
and CD I already got a pretty good idea what this thing would sound like.
Unfortunately, the music was even worse than I expected. Psychadelic rock, and not even very good.
The songs feature a nice bass line and drum parts which go on and on without any change for minutes so that they start to get on your nerves rather quickly (one song even goes on for more than 20 minutes !). Now add a lot of melodieless, freaky and distorted guitar and keyboard to the song and you have another Mushroom composition. No sir, I didn't like it.
If you really like things like the start of Pink Floyd's Saucerful of Secrets or the middle part of Interstellar Overdrive, this might just be your kind of music. I myself however tend to think that Mushroom sounds like a couple of five year olds who just discovered some instruments in the basement and are trying them out.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10.
Salem Hill - The Robbery of Murder
A couple of years ago the American band Salem Hill recorded a concept album called The
Robbery of Murder, which was only available on cassette. The concept was about a boy who
loses his father in an accident caused by a drunken driver. After a lost childhood he dedicates
his life to tracking the killer down so he can take revenge.
Now the band has re-recorded the whole piece and added several new passages and songs adding up to an additional 20 minutes.
DPRP News guru Rene had already been raving about the album for a while and when he finally forwarded a copy for reviewing purposes my expectations were quite high. I wasn't disappointed ....
Overture: after some musical chaos - which could have been a bit shorter as far as I'm
concerned - a medley of some of themes of the album follows. Although this doesn't flow as good
as for instance IQ's Overture for Subterranea, it does give a good feeling about
the stuff that will follow.
Swerve (3.05) is sung from the perspective of the father ('Son, you didn't deserve to lose me') and is a short emotional piece starting with a guitar solo and sound effects of rain and ending in one of the most beautiful piano/guitar solos I've heard in a long time.
In the next song, When (5.58), we see the boy going into a phase of denial, through his mother's eyes ('You know you break my heart. It's hard on me you know'). This ballad is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. It will be especially meaningful to anybody who has ever lost someone.
When we cross over into the next song the boy finally comes to realisation and acceptance that
his father dies when we hear the
gentle young voice asking 'daddy ?' turn into an adult voice screaming 'daddy !!!'. In
Someday (6.13) we see the anger and hate building up inside him as he grows older
('Someday I'll get you, you son of a bitch'). This is a powerful track with a splendid vocal
melody and great violin/guitar solo in the break. One of my favourites on the album.
In Blame (4.00) the perspective switches to the 'killer' who tries to find excuses to get rid of his sense of guilt ('How can you blame me, it isn't my fault'); he blames everything on a bad childhood and society. The track itself is a semi-acoustic ballad with great choir-like backing vocals.
In the catchy rocker Dream (4.34) he starts to look for ways to get in contact with his father again ('I've been to the gypsies, the old mountain sage'). It stands out on the album as the only cheerful tune and flows into the instrumental Father and Son (3.16), which is in fact a continuation of the piano/guitar solo of Swerve with additional violin.
To The Hill features great atmospheric percussion instead of drums while the rest of the instruments add a very laid back mood. The song either is about the killer visiting the grave the father as an effort to get rid of his feelings of guilt ('You must have been special, I see they carved it in the marble'). This is absolutely spine-tingling with brilliant lyrics like 'I see you've got a thousand neighbors'.
Than the anger hits in full blow again with the hard rocking Revenge (7.31). A heavy
slap bass accompanies the raw vocals which tell us how the young man finally tracks down his
target. The heaviest track on the album, with great melodies nevertheless, as well as lots
of breaks and tempo changes.
And then finally he meets the killer in the next song, the ballad Trigger (6.24). I'm not going to spoil the story for you by telling what happens then, but the song itself sounds a bit like Klaatu's So said the Lighthouse Keeper.
After the nice acoustical guitar piece Interlude (2.43) follows the last track, Epilogue (7.00), in which the man looks back on meeting with his father's killer and the way their confrontation ended. The track is your basic concept closer, starting as a ballad and ending with a climaxing guitar solo.
The vocals and all instruments are absolutely splendid. The concept is easy to follow (for a change) and extremely effective thanks to the switching of perspectives. The music fits perfectly with the concept and different moods of the story.
I find it very hard comparing this album to the work of another band, which is okay with me because it confirms the band's originality. The album features David Ragsdale of Kansas on violin, which adds a beautiful extra dimension to the sound of this work of art.
Conclusion: this is definitely going to be one of the highlights of 1998; 9 out of 10.
Phreeworld - Crossing the Sound
This new album by the American band Phreeworld features 9 tracks ranging from 3 to 8 minutes, but most in the 3 to 5 minutes range.
I've listened to this album several times hoping the it would grow on me but I have to come to the sad conclusion that it doesn't and that it leaves me rather unimpressed. There are several band members singing on the CD. As a result the vocals vary from quite nice to rather awful, especially China.
Everything sounds very forced and I miss good melodies. At times the music sounds so complicated and messy, it's almost a chaos. The mediocre production of the abum might have something to do with it as well. I also miss real emotion on this album; everything sounds so clinical. There are quite a lot of breaks in the tracks, but no real changes of musical themes.
Some songs remind me of less popular songs on the Yes albums of the end sexties and early nineties. The CD has a few enjoyable moments (for instance the first half of the last track, The Chariot) but on the whole it leaves me completely cold.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10.
Cyan - Remastered
Cyan were formed in 1984, but split up after some gigs and a demo. Thanks to an intervention by Nick Barrett of Pendragon, Rob Reed got the opportunity to record some of the old material and some new songs, and release them through SI-music. This first record, For King and Country, was in fact an entire solo-project. For the second album, Pictures from the other Side, Reed invited Nigel Voyle to take charge of the vocals. After the demise of SI-music, nothing was heard from Cyan until this collection of the two albums was released.
This collection contains 9 songs, of which the first four are from For King and Country
and the others from Pictures from the Other Side. Two tracks (For King and Country
and Nosferatu) have been remixed. The musical talents of Reed are remarkable. He
plays all instruments and does that in quite a fair way.
For example, the keyboards in the 11 minute counting opening-track The Sorcerer, are really fine. The vocals remind me a bit of Nick Barrett's. This first song has several changes and I think Grey Lady Down-fans will like this stuff a lot.
Don't Turn Away has a sort of classical intro with a very Wakeman-like keyboard-
sound. This could have been an ouverture to Journey to the Centre. The guitars have
sort of China-influence as we know from some of Steve Hackett's stuff.
For King and Country starts with a lovely piano-introductions. The ending is very joyful. The trumpets fit very well into the theme of the song. The Pendragon-link is very obvious here, but it's done in a fine way, at least in the first part of the song. It's a pity the drums sound remains a bit plastic as a result of using a drum-computer. Remixing this song couldn't help this problem.
In fact, I like the second part of the album much better. Voyle is a better singer, the
second album is better produced and the song-writing is much more mature. I
wonder what a third album would have sounded like.
The 12 minute long epic, The Guardian is probably, together with Nosferatu, the best track of the album. After an aggressive first part, the rhythm changes dramaticly and acoustic guitars and keyboards have chance to lead to the second part, where aggression takes over again until a Spanish interlude brings you at ease again. Quite nice! The guitarsolo is subtle, but alright.
Pictures from the Other Side is a joyful song with nice harmony vocals and a beautiful flute intro. The backing vocals really add something, as in the wonderful Broken Man (featuring Bagpipes!) and in All Around The World, which is a sweet ballad. Including a choir-part this is a real peace-anthem.
Nosferatu (Requiem for a vampire) has a threatening opening, which really sets the
atmosphere for the song. There are many changes in mood and tempo that fit to the
story of the vampire. The violin-solo adds to the dramatic aspect of the song. The
ending is very bombastic and features some Carmina Burana-like melodies.
This record is a chance to obtain Cyan's music again. It's a pity this project was one of the victims of the musical death of SI-music. But with a vampire you never know what follows ...
Conclusion: 6 out of 10