Album Reviews

Issue 2000-005

Reviews in this issue:

Derek Sherinian - Planet X
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Magna Carta
Catalogue #:MAX-9036-2
Year of Release:1999
Info:Derek Sherinian
Tracklist: Atlantis (16.55): part 1 "Apocalypse 1470 BC" (6.59) - part 2 "Sea Of Antiquity" (4.18) - part 3 "Lost Island" (5.38), Crab Nebulae (4.07), Box (5.05), Money Shot (4.26), Day In The Sun (4.58), State Of Delirium (2.48), Space Martini (3.47), Brunei Babylon (5.39)

It was never much of a secret: Derek Sherinian got fired from Dream Theater in favour of Jordan Rudess of whom they felt fit better in the band. And with Dream Theater's latest, Scenes From a Memory, they have proved that this was probably the right decision.

Sherinian (and Dream Theater as well) always remained very open and honest about his departure, while in the meantime he came with the best revenge one can think of: this excellent solo-album.
Well, maybe revenge is a bit of a harsh word, but at least he showed that he wasn't sacked for incompetence or whatever, but that he is just heading into a different direction than Dream Theater. And it has to be said, Planet X can easily match the two Liquid Tension Experiment albums on which his 'rival' Rudess first made his appearance.

So how to describe the album then? Difficult. Don't expect a Jarre or Vangelis here. Of course the music is keyboard orientated, but not so that the other instruments play a minor role. On the contrary, there are tracks which are far more guitar-orientated and where the keyboards are more of an accompanying instrument. And the strong hard-hitting rhythms of co-writer Virgil Donati are the basis to every track - another unusual thing on a solo album of a keyboardist.

No, forget about the likes of Vangelis, Jarre or Yanni, Sherinian is definitely a keyboardplayer in a heavier vein. And backed by the aforementioned Donati on drums, Tony Franklin on bass and Brett Garsed on guitar, this is actually a full band playing.

The seventeen minute Atlantis Suite opens the album and is divided into three parts, although it is not really clear to me why these three tracks should be regarded as one song, as they don't have much in common.
The first part, Apocalypse 1470 BC, starts very bombastic - really apocalyptic one would say - with a lot of heavy keyboards and powerful drums. Then it changes to something that could easily have been on one of the two Liquid Tension Experiment albums: superb timing, weird short riffs, an excellent guitarsolo and even a church-organ. With Apocalypse 1470 BC Sherinian throws a complete manual on "how to create a great progressive rock track" at you.
Sea of Antiquity is much mellower. The track starts with atmospheric sounds, samples and piano, backed by some great warm fretless bass. This bit is actually the closest it comes to the works Vangelis et al. Then the drums kick in and Brett Garsed plays a superb guitarsolo making it sound much more like early seventies Pink Floyd.
With Lost Island things speed up again. Backed by a jazzy rhythm, the song is based around a very fast keyboardriff, which recurs several times, before the Liquid Tension-alike fills from Apocalypse 1470 BC make a reappearance. It ends in a similar bombastic way as it started. This track reminds me a lot of Yes or even King Crimson.

Crab Nebulae is more like early nineties Neoprog. Starting with some heavenly keyboard-sounds it emerges to another great bombastic fusion track.
Box reminds me a lot of the Miami Vice theme by Jan Hammer (anyone remember that one?) but then with more melody and more emphasis on the drums (instead of the terrible drum computer Hammer used).

The next track, Money Shot, is a typical prog metal track. Superfast and it leaves you wondering "How does he do that?"
The song is mainly one long high-paced keyboardsolo, backed by guitar, drums and bass playing just as fast. Tony Franklin's bass-playing sounds a lot like Tony Levin's, especially on this track.

Day in the sun is a much more cheerful song and has a bit of an eighties feel over it. You could almost dance to it!
Moods grow darker again with State of Delirium, a short UK-like track which doesn't really have a lead-melody, just mainly very heavy keyboards, bass and guitarwork accompanying a steady rhythm. The last 40 seconds could easily be part of the soundtrack of a horror-movie.

A short drumsolo leads into Space Martini where everything goes at double speed, or even triple speed again. The jazzy rhythm reminds me a bit of the Golden Earring's Radar Love, while the guitar-melodies are like an instrumental from Alan Parsons. The melody of this track sticks in your mind and it could easily go on and on all day. Too bad it's only short, 3.47 minutes, because they could easily have expanded this track a bit further. Must be pretty tiring to play live though.

Then we end in a similar way as how we started: loud and heavy. Brunei Babylon (where did he get these titles anyway?) is another feast of heavy drums and fast paced keyboard solos, until the whole things slows down a bit near the ending and the guitar takes over in another wonderful solo.

And that's it. The album is over before you notice it - and with a running time of barely over 45 minutes the album could have done with a few more tracks. But that is the only criticism I have for this excellent album.

With Planet X Sherinian has proved that he is much more than an unworthy Dream Theater player. That he actually is a surprisingly talented and diverse keyboardist. Coming from the likes of Kiss and Alice Cooper, while grown up with bands such as Van Halen and Jeff Beck, this is not quite what you'd expect of him.
And although the album is marketed as a solo album (as it says Derek Sherinian's - Planet X) it seems as if Planet X has now become a real band and will be on tour later this year. Check the Nlgigs for more details.

So how to compare this album, any references? I don't know, those who like the Liquid Tension Experiments or Bill Bruford's solo work will definitely appreciate this album. But apart from the fusion and jazz influences it also shows a lot of Floyd influence and could even be regarded as a more keyboard-orientated type of Yes.
I don't know, Planet X has managed to create its own identity, which is not easily compared to others. So I guess you just have to go out and buy the album.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10.

Bart Jan van der Vorst

Welcome - Welcome
Country of Origin:Switzerland
Record Label:Black Rills Records
Catalogue #:BRR CD 005
Year of Release:1997 (original released 1976)
Tracklist: The Rag Fair (8:52), Dizzy Tune (7:41), Glory (3:43), Chain Of Days (8:50), Dirge (12:31)

When you listen to this for the first time, Welcome might sound like a poor man's Yes. The way some of the songs develop from quiet intros into heavier parts and the high vocals and the use of harmonies is reminiscent of the ones who have obviously influenced this Swiss band. However, there's more to it than that. Although influenced, the music on this album cannot be discarded that easily. Only with the releases by Swiss record label Black Rills Records, the world outisde Switzerland and their direct neighbours, is able to hear that country has brought forth very fine musicians and bands, who lived and played their music in a time when releasing LPs was a very expensive business, especially when you're playing music that is not commerically interesting.

Welcome listened carefully to Yes, but it was clear enough what to leave out. Where Yes tend to forget about bits of quiet and laid-back pieces, Welcome use more acoustic guitar, and are able to let things progress slowly.

To be honest, it's not all like Yes, but you cannot help thinking of Anderson's voice. And although the vocals are good (not as high and clear as Anderson, but the roughness has its charm and shows more emotion), they are simply distracting your attention from the rest of the music. And it's the music that makes an album, of course. The songs sound like they were composed out of jamming - the real way of letting music come to life. Soloing is good and well-used, although I wouldn't mind a little more of that. I hope Black Rills Records are able to re-issue the second album and unreleased third album of this band soon, because I really would like to hear them when with more experience in the studio.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Drama - Flying Through The 21st Century
Country of Origin:France
Record Label:Musea Productions
Catalogue #:FGBG 4228.AR
Year of Release:1999
Tracklist: La Magna Carta (9:44), Rooftop Sauce (6:43), Punchinello Dying (8:53), Big Bang (9:36), Forbidden Roots (4:47), Taj Mahal (7:09), Proxima Centauri (6:48)

A band with a name like this make me wonder and biased, ever since I heard the Yes album by the same name. In Dutch, "drama" is also used as a noun for something dramatic, in the negative sense of the word: a disaster. However, there's an American band with this name as well, and I quite enjoyed them. I have tried to listen to this disc as objectively as I could.

Objectively speaking, the music on this disc is not very innovatie. We cannot all be exactly like Genesis, but why the hell can't we play in the vein they did? No problem with me! There are so many bands who try and play somewhere between influence and copying. The way Drama play their music, is enjoyable, very good at times. The opening track is an instrumental, based on the movie picture "Braveheart". So... bagpipes! Yes, a very nice song - alternating and very melodic. The bombastic parts are very clear (good production!) and very melodic; alternated with quieter parts - these guys know how to write symphonic music.
It can be described as Eighties' prog, but not entirely neo-prog. It should have ended after seven and a half minute, though. There's a great ending section there, but the song continues with an unnecessary, quieter outro.

The second song is the first to contain lyrics. Reading them, the words and phrases made me frown and take a look at the line-up, noting this is a French band and that they even have an outside lyricist. Well, we can't be all exactly like Peter Sinefield or Peter Hammill (who write in their own language), but why the hell do so many non-English speaking lyrics writers make that stupid mistake to try and write such pretentious words?! You see this a lot with Italian bands, but some German bands practice this habit a lot.
Worst of all, the words did not make me frown by merely reading them, but also by hearing them. They are sung by a signer that obviously does not understand a single word, a single syllable, a single letter of what he is signing. Excuse me - of what he is trying to sing. The vocals remind me of that stomach-aching Kampai singer from Germany! He just vomits every word the way it suits him, stressing the wrong syllables at the wrong time. Sorry, but I just cannot listen to this voice, sounding like Peter Gabriel with a severe throat infection and a rope around it...
If you cannot understand what you're saying, why do you do it? I think this man should stick to singing in French. I wouldn't like his voice either, but at least the words come out right.

Having said that, let me continue writing about the music. It's so sad to say that this is actually very good! Sorry for this, the vocals come in again - it's such a weird combination, this music and this voice! Alright, the music... The second song is simpler than the first, with a catchy verse and chorus. The music is simpler, increasing the need for lyrics. The instrumental parts are on par with the first track.

The conclusion of this CD is heavily based on the singing. The music alone would be awarded a lot more points, but I could not listen to this album without being bothered by the singer.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Side Steps - Alive
Country of Origin:Japan
Record Label:Musea
Catalogue #:FGBG 4267.AR
Year of Release:1999
Info:Side Steps website
Tracklist: Inner Space (9:10), Morbid Lot (7:16), Fairydom (8:14), Jazz It (8:11), Valkyrie Of Sorrow (8:51), Metropolis (10:58), Broken Wave (10:22), An Eternal Tide (9:34)

My god, not again... Take these keywords: Japanese and instrumental. The first stereotype that comes to mind is that of cold technical jazz. And how this record confirms that stereotype is amazing. The musicians may be technically skilled, but they lack the ability to play music with any form of emotion. It sounds like a band of selfish instrumentalist freaks. What amazes me more is that Musea dare to release this.

Well alright, some more objective words then. The musicians are highly skilled at their respective instruments and manage to blend their freaky riffs and solos together into songs. Don't expect emotional playing, but if you like this form of jazz where complexity has a higher priority than songwriting (OK, let's drop a name or two... Liquid Tension Experiment ? Contemporary King Crimson?), then you should definitely get this CD.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Lizard - Noc Zywych Jaszczurów
(The Night Of The Living Lizards - Official Bootleg)
Country of Origin:Poland
Record Label: (official bootleg)
Catalogue #:VKD 0001
Year of Release:1999
Info: Lizard
Tracklist: 21st Century Schizoid Man (6.04), Galeria Iluzji (6.36), Strefa (5.34), Moonchild (2.24), The Court Of The Crimson King (4.42), W Krainie Szmaragdowego Jaszczura (12.05), In The Dead Of Night (6.31), Bez Litosci I (7.57)

I first heard of Lizard in 1998, when this Polish band played at DPRP's first festival. I was impressed from the first second when they opened with 21st Century Schizoid Man and that's exactly what they do on this album. Lizard's roots are very clear: they band called themselves after King Crimson's third album and no less than three compositions of this latter band are featured on this official bootleg.

By saying this, I have explained my only problem with this album. Only 4 out of 8 tracks are Lizard-compositions. I do understand the (commercial?) reason behind their decision to include some songs, which will appeal a larger audience. Nothing's wrong with trying to attract some new fans. But, with the album being 50 minutes long, I think the band could/should have included some more songs from their stunning debut-album Gallery Of Time (W Galerii Czasu). Especially since this album is currently 'out of print'.

But, let's return to the music. Schizoid Man is a great, bombastic opener of the album. Of course, it sounds different from the KC-version with synths included and without a sax, but the power remains, mainly as a result of Mariusz Szulakowski's energetic drumming and the great guitar-solo by Miroslaw Worek.
Galeria Iluzji from Gallery of Time originates (audibly) from a different concert, but regrettably my (promo-)version of the album doesn't tell where and when the songs were recorded. I am very impressed by the live version of this song. Because of the key-sounds and the jazzy and funky elements this song comes close to the first UK-material. The track consists of two parts, the first being haunting and fast the second of a more romantic nature.
It leads into Strefa, a re-worked version of Strefa Cienia, a song with a very catchy guitar-riff, followed by a lovely bass-part by Janusz Tanistra. Singer Damian Bydlinski remains interesting (although I don't understand a single word), largely because of the changes in lower and higher parts in the melody. The song changes dramatically when Andrzej Jancza comes in with that typical Lizard key-sound, which is very close to Eddie Jobson's.
A very atmospheric part of Moonchild, played with a lot of subtlety, serves as a bridge to another Crimson-track: The Court Of The Crimson King. This abbreviated version lacks some of the original atmosphere. Maybe some mellotron or organ would have suited here well. It sounds a bit 'bare' here, although the interlude still is very nice.
The longest song, by far, on this album is W Krainie Szmaragdowego Jaszczura (couldn't they think of an easier title?). The opening part is very dark and haunting, followed by a much more optimistic theme, with a touch of Camel here and there. After a story telling-part, a heavier part follows with great drum-dynamics en a prominent role for Andrzej Jancza. At three-quarter of the composition, a bolero-rhythm leads the listener slowly, but surely to a splendid finale. Awesome track!
After the introduction of the band, another cover (this time by U.K.) is played. Lizard's sound is very close to U.K.'s, so it's no surprise that the band comes very close to the original version of In The Dead Of Night. Of course, Wetton's vocals cannot be copied, but the energy is kept alive.
Bez Litosci (No Mercy) fits perfectly after U.K.'s In The Dead Of Night. This track is, in fact, only part one of an un-released song by Lizard. Recordings of both this song and part 2 are waiting on the shelves to be released on the second studio-album. Bez Litosci really is a fun track with a great drive. It makes me looking forward to Lizard's new studio-album.

Since money seems to be the bottle-neck for the second studio-album, I hope this live bootleg will give them some 'air'. Although the recordings on this album have been taken (directly?) from several sources at different events, the overall quality of the sound is quite good. The combination of well-known covers and Lizard-material will make this album really enjoyable, both to those who own Gallery Of Time and to new fans. The Night Of The Living Lizards will especially appeal to early-Crimson and U.K.-fans, but I would do no justice to Lizard's own skills by stating that they're a 'clone'. They're not. Lizard is keeping a spark alive... A small, but pleasantly glowing spark.

The album is directly available from the band by e-mail.

Conclusion: 8+ out of 10

by: Jan-Jaap de Haan.

Mind's Eye - ...waiting for the Tide
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:Round Records
Catalogue #:RR001
Year of Release:2000
Tracklist: Frozen Tears (6.53), Calling (Father to Son) (5.48), A Pond of Thoughts (4.46), Closer (Spirits in the Room Part 1) (5.19), In my Mind (Spirits in the Room Part 2) (7.52), Primitive Light (5.42), Jealousy in Disguise (6.21), Fall on Trust (4.19), Circles in the Sand (6.34), ...Fade Out (1.10)

Since I started reviewing albums for the Dutch Progressive Rock Pages I've had the pleasure to get acquainted with some progressive rock bands I've never heard of before. When I first heard pieces from the new Mind's Eye album ...Waiting for the Tide I hoped it would be one of the next albums that would be assigned to me. And I was lucky !

This is one of those bands I hadn't heard of before, though they've been around since 1992. But as this is only their second full-length studio album, I see no reason to be ashamed of that. However it is not quantity that is at stake here, rather quality.
...Waiting for the Tide is a piece of work provoking pure pleasure. There's excellent musicianship, imaginative composition and great lyrics; in short this Swedish band manages to push all the right buttons.

Mind's Eye was originally formed as Afterglow by Frederick Grünberger (guitar), Johan Niemann (bass) and Daniel Flores (drums and keyboards) in 1992. They released the 4 track promo CD Afterglow the next year with German Pascual as vocalist, then took five years to produce their first album Into the Unknown for the American label Sensory. By that time Johan Persson had replaced Pascual as singer and the band name was changed to Mind's Eye.
Their latest CD was released this February, on privately formed label Round Records, with Andreas Novak as the most recent in the line of vocalists. Lyrics are by Flores and Grünberger, with Niemann sharing credits for music. The band produced ...Waiting for the Tide itself.

The instruments are handled with high technical skill. Bass and drums are excellent, keyboards are strong, but special mention must be made of Grünberger on guitar. Some parts he plays in a style very reminiscent of Steve Rothery, as on In my Mind and Primitive Light, but he just as easily cuts to the heavy riffs.
In the versatility departement he is even outdone by Novak, who has the perfect voice for this kind of mixture between prog rock and prog metal. Here's a guy who can remind you of Jon Anderson at one time and Geoff Tate at another, while he retains his own style overall. Novak performed in Andrew Loyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar in Sweden and Lithuania in 1999. (Which reminds me of a certain vocalist of Vanden Plas. :) Let's hope he lasts longer than his predecessors in Mind's Eye.

The compositions are often complex, full of rhythm changes and changing melodies, even when these songs often follow a lyrically more standard form. From the diverse tales that make up this album it's clear Flores and Grünberger are very concerned with story-teling. Let me just make of note of the two-part Spirits in the Room which weaves a tale of a man who keeps dreaming about a girl being killed. (Shades of Dream Theater!)

The influence of bands like Rush and Yes is obvious, but some harsher melodies assure that Mind's Eye keeps a distinct identity. So while not all their material has the same originality, I can't really care when it's this beautifully executed.
Soundclips (MP3 format) from the first three album tracks are included on The official Mind's Eye website.

The artwork was created by DPRP's own Mattias Noren, who's earlier work includes covers and booklets for Arena and Darius. The beautiful cover needs special mention, but there's some excellent work in the booklet also. You can check out Mattias' work on his homepage Progart, including upcoming covers for Forgotten Suns and Sonic Debris.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Mark Sander

Mastermind - Angels of the Apocalypse
Country of Origin:USA.
Record Label:InsideOut Music
Catalogue #:IOMCD 053
Year of Release:2000
Tracklist: The End of the World (10.35), Perchance to Dream (6.19), 2000 Years (6.16), This Lover's Heart (6.00), The Queen of Sheba (6.26), With dignity and Grace (3.35), A Million Miles Away (6.30), The Beast of Babylon (5.30), The Endless Enigma (12.18), Only in my Dreams (6.03)

Angels of the Apocalypse is the sixth album by New Jersey band Mastermind, following the release of their highly acclaimed, instrumental album Excelsior! last year, which DPRP colleague Jerry van Kooten rated 9.5 out of 10!

As Mastermind seems to be an ever evolving band it shouldn't come as a surprise that their latest piece differs radically from Excelsior!. It's a big step from a purely instrumental CD to an album with only the three and a half minutes long With Dignity and Grace in the instrumental department. But have no fear! The other tracks, among which two over ten minutes in length, have instrumental parts aplenty.

Since the addition of vocals is the main difference with the last album, it seems an obvious choice to start right there, and not only for that reason. Angels of the Apocalypse is the first album I've heard by Mastermind and surprisingly it were the vocals that made the most immediate impression. Like many a metal fan I don't particularly care for most female singers in this genre. But here I must stand corrected. The vocals of Lisa Bouchelle are fantastic! She has a rich, powerful voice that blends in perfectely with the music.

Bouchelle puts her stamp on the album in the first song The End of the World, guided through more then ten minutes of speed and power by Rich Berends on drums, great guitar play and harmonic backing vocals by his brother Bill (the mind behind Mastermind) and virtuose keyboards by Jens Johansson (Stratovarius). The instrumental part in this track catches some wonderfully atmospheric moments.

This is followed by the equally catching Perchance to Dream where Johansson sets the pace with some very fast keyboard work, while on 2000 Years Bouchelle shows off her vocal control as Rich hammers away on drums. On The Beast of Babylon guest vocalist John Poaline joins in with his performance of 'The Beast' as he grunts along with the lyrics.

Speed seems to be a key word here. Guitar, keyboards and especially drums achieve such tempo it sometimes dazzled me. On The Queen of Sheba Johansson and Bill Berends seem to be holding some sort of instrumental race as the guitars try to keep up with the keys. Which is not to say these guys don't have their more subtle moments. 2000 Years has some lovely acoustic guitar play, while keyboards provide the background for the more quite parts of The Beast of Babylon.

All music and lyrics were written and arranged by Bill Berends, who shares producers credits with his brother Rich. This off course excludes the classic ELP song The Endless Enigma. While the basic ELP sound is maintained, it's really no holds barred here as Johansson and the Berends boys give it their all.

Thomas Ewerhard provides the fitting artwork. His earlier work includes artwork for the Spock's Beard album Day for Night and Threshold's Clone.

The gap between prog rock and metal isn't widening, it is ever closing. And a band like Mastermind seems to have found the right bridge for a crossover. After first being impressed with the vocals, I have come to love the music overall. This is one of those albums that gets better each time you hear it.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Mark Sander

The Flower Kings - Alive on Planet Earth
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:InsideOut
Catalogue #:IOMCD 054
Year of Release:2000
Time:50:25 & 64:51
Info:The Flower Kings
Disc 1: There Is More To This World (11:31), Church Of Your Heart (9:41), The Judas Kiss (15:43), Nothing New Under The Sun (4:13), The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (9:17)
Disc 2: Big Puzzle (18:29), Sounds Of Violence (6:37), Three Stories (6:04), In The Eyes Of The World (12:14), The Flower King (11:27), Stardust We Are, part three (10:00)

The Flower Kings is a band that needs no introduction. However, because this is the first time any of their albums is reviewed in this column, I will start with a brief history.

Founded in 1993 by Roine Stolt (of Kaipa fame among others, and active in the 'business' since 1974!), drummer Jaime Salazar and percussionist Hasse Bruniusson (still in the band but not appearing on this live album), they released an album called The Flower King in 1994. However, because the band wasn't called The Flower Kings yet, this is not regarded as their debut album.
After the release of the album the line up was completed with the addition of keyboard player Thomas Bodin and Roine Stolt's brother Michael Stolt on bass and vocals.
1995 saw the release of the real debut album, Back in the World of Adventures, and The Flower Kings have since quickly risen to the upper echelons of the progressive music scene. Their back catalog includes four studio albums to date, of which the last two, 1997's Stardust We Are and 1999's Flowerpower, are monumental double albums.
Their latest release and the subject of this review is another double album containing the recordings of two live shows, falling chronologically between the aforementioned Stardust We Are and Flowerpower.

The first disc contains the concert that was played at Progday, in the USA on September 6th 1998.

There is more to this world
Derk: Typical TFK track from third album Retropolis, incorporating Stolt's distinct vocals, the heavy use of analog keyboard sounds (a typical Scandinavian trait, think of Anglagard, Anekdoten, etc) and the positive vibe.
Remco: Being completely new to this band, the remarks I make in this "roundtable" review cannot be taken as that of the expert, but as that of the lover of great music. The first thing that struck me was the shear length of the Flower King compositions. This reminded me of the Great Bands of the Seventies, like Yes and Genesis. Indeed the opening chords are very Genesis-like. Including the great analog synth meldoies (Tony Banks - style, Winds and Wuthering era), their main influence is obvious. The vocal melodies and the quieter moments, however, are very Yes-like (Awaken - style). Indeed, some of the backing vocals seem more Jon Anderson than the guy himself recently. I now understand the title Retropolis, as in: tribute to the 1970's symfo.

Church from your heart
Derk: This track from Stardust We Are starts out (and ends) as a ballad, but the real treat is the middle part, heavily laden with beautiful church organ sounds, reminding of Yes' Awaken, one of Rick Wakeman's greatest moments.
Remco: One of these songs, indeed Awaken has the same effect, but also Going for the One, where you feel that the melody is reaching for something, like someone stretching to the max to pick an apple, catch my drift? Derk is absolutely right when he descibes the organ section as Awaken-like. Gorgeous track. You can imagine in your minds' eye the enormous lightshow one wants to put over this track live (if you had the money).

The Judas Kiss
Derk: As far as I know this is an unreleased track. It very aptly (Judas is of course a bible figure) starts with church organ. This is followed by a part which is very early Marillionesque, which then turns into late seventies early eighties Genesis, especially the keyboard sounds a lot like Tony Banks did around that time.
After the fifth minute an extended improvisation starts where influences follow each other rapidly. The overall feeling of this part is of what Frank Zappa used to play during his concerts (think of Make A Jazz Noise Here), complete with vocal effects and jazzy guitar playing. But King Crimson and Focus also make their appearances.
The end repeats the opening theme. The church organs are back, and a great guitar solo ends the longest track on this first disc.
Remco: Some Bachian church organ plays and the band massively set in. Derk's Marillion reference is probably caused by the bassline (which plays Clutching at Straws) during a couple of bars. Actually I was thinking of even earlier Genesis, since the song is quite theatrical. Again the wall of organ is put up, over which the guitar sours. Suddenly, more psychedelic sounds are heard. The spooky wailing guitar, the jazzy organ, and then the almost Silence...slowly going into a Latin/Gipsy sound. Sweeds playing suntanned rhythms. And it swings! Even Funk rears its ugly heaad in the last couple of minutes. Great fun. The longer sections of guitar, bass and organ interplay do indeed remind of the more experimental Focus tracks. The song ends as massive as it started.

Nothing New Under The Sun
Derk: Also an unreleased track. A very gentle song, which could have come straight from a Focus album. In fact, if I didn't know it was by The Flower Kings I would have sworn it was actually Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer up there on the stage!
The track gains a bit in energy in the second half, and therefore becomes a lot more TFK-ian in nature.
Remco: I definitely agree with Derk here. My God, I hardly ever heard such a Focus imitation (think Eruption). You just wait for the guitar to set in the melody of Focus' Tommy. Since this is so obviously "borrowed", I think that's why the gave it this title.

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Derk: The final track of the show is a cover from the classic album of the same name by one of Roine Stolt's favourite bands, Genesis (he even named one of his children after Peter Gabriel).
This is a perfect rendition of that classic track. The difficult piano opening of this song is played flawlessly by Robert Engstrand, Thomas Bodin's stand-in for this concert (Bodin himself is not always available due to other commitments).
As was to be expected from a band whose principal player is a guitarist, this version contains more guitar than the original, which is fine because I think Steve Hackett was too invisible on the original. As if to prove my point further, Stolt gives it his best with a blistering guitar solo ending the track and this concert in great style.
Remco: What a weird thing to find a cover on a live album, of a band so gifted itself. But it fits in seemlessly, indicating that the early Genesis reference is definitely the main influence of the Flower Kings. This is also the only track on which the audience can be clearly heard singing along. A shame that the live feeling is not reinforced on other tracks, since on some of them you have the impression to listen to a studio recording.
The rendition of the Lamb itself is not half bad at all, with a little playing with the audience halfway and a cool guitar solo to add to the song what Genesis omitted.

The second disc contains six tracks recorded during three concerts the band played in Japan, on March 15th, 16th and 18th 1999.

Big Puzzle
Derk: The moody piano in the opening of this track sounds like parts of Garden of Dreams, from the TKK's latest album Flowerpower, yet this is an extended version of a track that first appeared on Back in the World of Adventures.
Again this is a great driving song, with nice interplay between keyboards and guitar, somewhat reminiscent of Steve Hackett (his early solowork).
The middle part starts with a very Yes-like (Close to the Edge) atmospheric piece, due to the use of mellotron and Steve Howe influenced guitar.
Remco: The opening piano, with guitar improvisation over it, creates the atmoshpere of rainy days. Fortunately no annoying sound effects to stimulate this feeling (apart from a few bidsounds in the background). The crying electric guitar prepares the way for the ballad to follow. Soon this enters in an uptempo track though. Lots of nerve-wrecking guitar and keyboard solo's follow. The part that follows sounds a bit like the part in Gates of Delirium just before Soon starts. Instead, a bit more uptempo part follows. Well, basically, in an 18 minute track you can put all your talent and references, and that is what they did here.

Sounds of Violence
Derk: A freaky instrumental from The Flower King album, with great performances from all band members, but especially Salazar, who really goes out of his head on this one.
Remco: Powerful keyboard work on this one. Both keyboard, drums and guitar battle to be the toughest, meanest sounding instrument on stage. Cool!

Three Stories
Derk: The contrast between this and the last track couldn't be bigger. This is Thomas Bodin solo-ing on piano, playing a track from his solo album An Ordinary Night In My Ordinary Life. Although Roine Stolt is still TFK's principal composer, Bodin has gradually increased his influence in the songwriting, having an almost even share of the credits on the latest, Flowerpower. Bearing that in mind, and listening to this track, it is easy to spot Bodin's influence in a track like Garden of Dreams from that album.
Later in the song the rest of the band rejoin and the track gets on a feeling of Camel's Ice as Stolt finishes the track with an emotional guitar solo in the best Latimer tradition.
Remco: A nice piano track, jazz-ballad style and even a touch impressionistic. A bit like the opening of the Don't Go track (don't remember the exact title) of Don Airy's K2 album. Personally, I would think more of Akkerman than Latimer for the guitar solo, but I can see Derk's point, though. It's the drumming under the guitar that Ice-es it. You can even hear the audience applaude at the end (the second time on a live album....).

In The Eyes Of The World
Derk: This track stays quite close to the original from Stardust We Are. It's got a catchy rhythm, which makes you want to jump like the clown in the subject, which is probably just what Stolt intended!
Remco: A very driving track, with quite a high tempo. It sounds quite massive, and is the most modern and original sounding track on the album. I don't know why but Arena's The Visitor popped up in my mind when listening to this track. And trust me, the weird middle section has nothing to do with Arena whatsoever. I guess it's the massiveness of the track.

The Flower King
Derk: This is not one of my favourites, except for the middle part with great guitar work by Stolt, which shows what an incredible talent he has.
Remco: Quite a happy track. I do like it, it is sunny. A bit of a sing-along track, almost gospel in the chorus. The powerful guitar playing is outstanding and must have sounded absolutely fabulous live. The keys also get their change to do their stuff, the song quitens down and it's back to Close to the Yes again...hmmm, they do tend to repeat themselves a bit.

Stardust We Are, part three
Derk: The last ten minutes of the epic from the album with the same name. This features Hans Froberg on lead vocals, taking over from Roine Stolt for the high notes. This is a great sing along track (although I can't hear if the audience actually did), and a perfect set closer. The middle part is as powerful as we're used to from the band, and the ending leaves a real sense of completion.
Remco: Again a big massive ballad, with a singalong chorus. Quite nicely done and indeed a good closing of a set. The middle section even becomes threateningly dark, the first time I hear such a thing on the album....

Derk: For fans of The Flower Kings, this set is essential. The band more than stands up to their reputation live, delivering spirited versions of some of their best tracks. You can just hear the enthusiasm with which the songs are performed.
If you're new to the band and want to check out their sound, this set is a great way to discover their music, although you might also try the sampler Scanning The Greenhouse.
Remco: As you can see, on most of the tracks I agree with Derk. In general, ALive on Planet Earth is a very nice registration of performances by a very gifted band. Musically, they do lean very much on music of the past and there is not much experiment. After about an hour I personally got a bit tired of the big large epics, and longed for a simpler, clearer song. I do like the album in general though, but I am not tempted to buy the whole back catalogue. On the other hand, if you like symfo and early Genesis and Yes, the Flower Kings should not be absent in your collection. For me, this was a great way to discover their music, and I'm glad I did. If I get the change to see them live I definitely will. Until then, I will settle for this album.

Derk: 8.5 out of 10
Remco: 8 out of 10

Derk van Mourik & Remco Schoenmakers

Album Reviews