Reviews in this issue:
Anyone's Daughter - Requested Document live 1980-1983
CD1: Between The Rooms (5:38), Adonis I: Come Away (8:35), Adonis II: The Disguise (3:58), Adonis III: Adonis (8:43), Adonis: Epitaph (5:52), Superman (4:09), Blue House (8:01), Thursday/Solo (Drums + Bass) (15:06), Moria (4:54), Anyone's Daughter (11:34)
CD2: Sonnenzeichen - Feuerzeichen (6:19), Nichts Für Mich (7:42), Der Plan (3:46), Sonne (5:31), Carrara (7:29), Tanz Und Tod I: Der Begleiter II: Yaqui III: Tanz Und Tod (16:23), Für Ein Kleines Mädchen (6:13), La La (3:23), Ilja Illia Lela (7:05), In Zerbrochnem Glas (3:33)
German band Anyone's Daughter hail from the southwest of Germany and were formed in the mid-seventies, lasting till 1984. Though a new line-up does exist and still tours and records, this double album includes a collection of live recordings that capture the band when they were at their musical peak. The line-up for this album includes Matthias Ulmer (keyboards, vocals), Harald Bareth (vocals, bass), Uwe Karpa (guitars), Kono Konopik (drums until summer 1981) and Peter Schmidt (drums after summer 1981).
Another feature of the band is the fact that they also wrote material in their native German tongue, not a very common occurrence in the progressive rock scene. Actually this shift to the use of German lyrics came about after they had released three albums. The tracks on the double album are taken from both sections of the band history with the first CD dwelling on the "English" phase of the band and the second CD on the "German" phase.
Admittedly I had never heard music by the band but I was taken aback by their great musical structuring as well as their delivery. When I came across this album (and band!), I realised how many musical gems have lain undiscovered, and are awaiting discovery by yours truly!
The recordings on the album are placed in chronological order with the oldest of the tracks starting off the album. Between The Rooms immediately sets the pace for the musical style that dominates the album. In fact I can fully understand how many musical critics have even called Anyone's Daughter as Germany's best product in the symphonic rock genre. Undoubtedly their main influence lies in the classical seventies bands such as Genesis. This is something which was prevalent in almost all "new" bands from this era who would go on to be dubbed as the neo-progressive genre or the New Wave Of Progressive Rock, as some musicians from then would have it!
If one had to make comparisons to the music that Anyone's Daughter play, then one should think of fellow German bands such as Eloy and Novalis. However one could also mention Camel in the same breath, especially with Uwe Karpa's guitar playing that so resembles the style Andrew Latimer uses.
The first album that the band released was in 1979 and was titled Adonis, after the epic track that dominated one side of the vinyl issue. For those who do not possess the studio version, this live album presents all four parts of this track. The interplay between guitar and keys is wonderful with everything you would want to find on a progressive rock track included here. Shifts in time signature, unpredictable tablatures whilst at the same time the music sounds extremely pleasing to the ear with some pleasant vocals from Harald Bareth.
When one mentions the neo-progressive rock scene, one obviously starts thinking of similarities between the various bands that made up this popular genre. IQ is a name that comes to mind when I hear this band, though at various moments I feel a certain resemblance to The Flower Kings (or vice-versa!). Each track has its individual peculiarities that give the band its identity. Take Superman with its rich chorus that involves the use of harmonies while Blue House has a lengthy keyboard introduction and is played at a mellow placid pace.
Thursday also includes within it a lengthy drum solo coupled with a bass solo that incorporates a touch of Glen Miller in it. No album of Anyone's Daughter would be complete without the inclusion of Moria, the most successful single from the band's repertoire. This is one of the more rocking numbers that the band present in their set and it works wonders with some great interplay between the keyboards and guitars. The first CD comes to a close with Anyone's Daughter, the title track to the band's second album. Played out in a classical progressive rock style, the first section of the track acts as a showcase for the antics of keyboardist Matthias Ulmer which consistently picks up in pace and power. Suddenly the music dies down and the mood of the track shifts radically. There is a sense of expectation until everything breaks out again to reach the peak attained earlier on in the track.
The second album consists of tracks taken from the second phase of the band's history where Anyone's Daughter shifted their attention to the German audience with a resultant effect that their lyrics were also written in German. This might have a somewhat negative effect on the non-German speaking listeners such as myself. However the music is extremely pleasant striking a balance between Camel and a latter day Marillion. As on the previous CD, the music seems to be calculated and disciplined (much like the German nation!) with everything meticulously taken care of till the slightest detail.
The guitar work remains impeccable as does the remainder of the band. Some tracks such as the Nichts Für Mich have their roots firmly within the symphonic progressive era with the keyboard work within the vein of bands such as Greenslade. Sometimes the music takes on a more modern approach verging on the AOR such as on Der Plan, a track written about children starving of famine whilst some other tracks have vague references to musicians such as John Wetton with Sonnenzeichen - Feuerzeichen reminding me of Battlelines.
One feature that seems to have changed within the musical structure of the band on the second CD when compared to the first one is that the music seems to have mellowed. True, there are times when the band really do make out with the pace picking up as on Nichts Für Mich, but overall the music is somewhat more subdued.
Possibly due to my unfamiliarity with the German language, in my opinion the strongest tracks on this part of the album are the instrumental tracks. Carrara has a great Alan Parsons Project rhythm that accompanies the swirling keyboards and soaring harmonies while La La brings out the band's power. The short track has no lyrics except for the repeated La La, while the music is basically a variation on a theme that is repeated throughout to great effect.
As much as Adonis dominated the first CD, this one is dominated by the lengthy Tanz und Tod which sounds like a cross between Marillion and Asia. However my favourtite track on this seciton of the album is Ilja Illia Lela with its ambiguous lyrics and distorted ambling bass. This track features all of the ingredients that are required of a great progressive rock tune with clever hooks, great rhythm and abrupt shifts in time signature. The album comes to a close with the most ballad-like track on the album, In Zerbrochnem Glas.
This album makes a worthy introduction to a band that theoretically should have made a bigger name for itself outside of Germany, especially from the material present on this double live album. As an incentive the album is for sale at the same price as a single CD and can be purchased from most major online distributors or direct from Tempus Fugit.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Scapeland Wish - Reason
Several elements are typically AOR or melodic rock. The singing, arrangements for a full sound, a lot of parts that sound like ballads (although the songs are too diverse for just being labelled as ballads). Many parts of the songs feel like the beginning of a ballad, or a quiet part that is introducing a heavier part. But the heavier parts don't come very often. Good singing that reminds me of gospels, and there's also jazz (The Tonight Show). Overall, they have an American sound, but a little warmer. The vocals are a lot like many AOR voices. It made me think of Steve Perry now and then, although Perry's voice is really unique.
The compositions are worked out very well. They paid a lot of attention to their songs. The double vocal lines in As A Child and Reason for example are very good. The music is not too complex, but has lots of very nice changes. The vocal melodies are very nice. There is a nice contrast between some straightforward choruses and the musical changes in rhythms and melodies. You don't know this album after hearing it once or twice, you really have to listen carefully.
I can't help but smile hearing some of the lyrics ("man and nature joined as one", "can you imagine a universe beyond the boundaries of our minds"), or read the inside of the booklet ("Think! Look! Deeper! Understand! Read between the lines! Understand the meaning! Open up your mind! Know the passion! Feel the passion! Be the passion! Let these thoughts bombard your senses! Sign the mind!"). Things like these sound too much like a starting poet being very proud of his first works. They sound a bit forced, thought of too much instead of letting inspiration flow, or simply a lack of experience. A bit childish, actually. But with more experience this can only get better.
A quite unusual album, I have to say. And that's a positive thing. Something out of the ordinary. It sounds very fresh. Not heavy, almost "nice", but it's got a lot more than just being nice. It sounds... happy! The album is made by people with a positive attitude, and it shows in the music. I am curious to what these guys are going to do with their next album, with their grown experience. I hope they will bring in different emotions, to make the atmosphere more diverse. Until then, this remains a very pleasant album to listen to.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Cliffhanger - Circle
Shortly after I received this CD to review for you all, I heard the news of Cliffhanger breaking up. A pity, I thought, as Holland was losing a well-respected progressive rock band. To be honest, I thought they had split once before, or was that only keyboard player Dick Heijboer leaving for a while? Whatever, Dick Heijboer is back in the line-up, and wrote three of the songs.
The first thing I noticed was that Cliffhanger's music is less complex and less ELP than before. After a couple of albums they found a sound more of their own, which is good, of course. (I must admit that I don't know their previous album, so I am comparing with music from some time ago here.) The long songs always sounded like patchwork to me, connecting pieces that didn't relate to each other.
The main element is still a lot of keyboards, of course. Most of the time it's a nice carpet of keyboard chords for the guitar to play its nice melodies to. Wasn't there a bigger keyboard contribution in the past? Of course there are keyboard solos - we're talking Cliffhanger here. But they seem shorter and less varied. The sound is more open, less full. Parts of Port, for example, are very good and the sound like I thought Cliffhanger sounded. But the guitar solo could have been mixed more up front. The energy that is in the guitar solo is not big enough. Yes, it's the energy. It's like the sound needs a recharge.
One thing I have always felt uncomfortable with, are the vocals. Not that guitar player Rinie Huigen has a bad voice, but it's a bit limited. He wrote all the lyrics, and so I assume also the vocal melodies. And although he has a recognizable voice, the way he sings and the vocal melodies he is using, are not very diverse. I notice a flattening of emotions. I thought he was capable of putting some aggression in his voice, too. This is related to the decrease in energy that I hear.
The impression this album leaves me with has less impact than what their music did to me several years ago. I am not a big fan of the complex music, but still it was more impressive. The music is well composed and well played, but I didn't expect an album like this from a band like this after so many years. There's less heart in the music. Maybe the formula is no longer working and they should have quit one album previously? The playing is still good - the band simply consists of four very good musicians. But the material lacks strength.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10.
Aviary - Aviary
In the 1980s, I was listening to AOR and progressive rock and everything that was in between. And then someone let me hear this LP that I still think is in the very middle of those two musical styles. Difficult to label, but what a performance, what an impact it had. I was already planning to write about it for DPRP's Forgotten Sons section, when I got an e-mail from a record label saying the album was finally released on CD. And that's why you're reading about it here in the CD Reviews section.
I have heard people call Aviary AOR or pomp rock. But like I explained before, I don't agree. The album cover (the back cover of the CD is the front cover of the LP, showing the five band members in glamrock suits...), the structure of the songs with verses and choruses, the length of the songs, the musical and vocal performances (at first glance) might make you think it is that. But it's got so much more!
First, the keyboards have a much bigger role than in AOR or pomp rock (singer Brad Love and Paul Madden both play keyboads). The resulting sound is much less guitar-driven than regular AOR. (Mind you, I still like a good deal of AOR.) There is a lot of piano, reminding me of Queen now and then. In Puddles, there is also a hint towards The Beatles.
But there are more differences. The music is much more diverse, the compositions are much more complex. Many parts have guitar and keyboard lines alternating quickly or playing different lines simultaneously. Orchestral arrangements add even more elements to the songs. All songs are written by singer and keyboard player Brad Love. And the vocal performance is amazing, majestic! Freddie Mercury's voice is a tad more grand, but Brad Love is sounding like a choir of angels. His voice is clear and he has a very wide vocal range. Some parts in the music, both music and vocals, sound like Queen. But where Queen start to rock heavily, Aviary take the melodics a step further, adding progressive complexities.
For the CD issue, the original tapes have been handled very carefully. I now hear orchestral arrangements I have never heard on the LP. What a great improvement. And I already found the LP was amazing...
Oh, those powerful and haunting organ sounds at the beginning of Feel The Heart gives me goosebumps already in the first second! (Think of Head East's Jefftown Creek.) It always amazes me how relatively short the songs are - there is so much happening that they seem a lot longer. It's not a couple of verses and choruses. The verses themselves are even very diverse, long before a chorus is due.
I have always wondered why a band like Aviary didn't record more albums. The song writing and the musical performance are so good. It must have had something to do with the time the album was recorded and released, and with record companies. The booklet contains a five-page story about the band, and yes, bad luck led the record companies to force the band to modernize their sound. After a name change (to Curves) they got a support tour with The Stranglers, while they could have been the support on a Queen tour!
By the way, the LP (even my copy, printed in Holland) contained the lyrics to the songs on the inner sleeve. The CD booklet does not.
The booklet tells me the band recorded several demos before they recorded this album, and there are also two full albums recorded but not released! Also Brad Love's solo album Colours from 1982 has not been released on CD yet. I hope someone has the sense of releasing this stuff one day. I'll be the first to buy them!
You're reading DPRP, which probably means you have some interest in progressive rock. If AOR or pomp rock or melodic rock of any kind (think of Journey, but also Queen) is also within your musical interest, you should definitely try this album. You won't be disappointed.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Procosmian Fannyfiddlers - The Rolling Court Massacre
The official title of the album is The Rolling Court Massacre - A Rock Opera by the Procosmian Fannyfiddlers. And indeed it is a rock opera, in the sense that one has different vocal characters, and it's rock. It is even prog/symphonic rock, which makes it even better. The vocals in general are mediocre, nothing special and sometimes on the verge of being out of tune. But the general feel of the album is a positive one. Not a great bombastic prog album, but more an album made by individuals who have a lot of fun at creating the music they like, without a thought of commercialism. No modern keyboards here, all real instruments and old keys. Good to hear that such albums can still be made!
The album starts of with a gunshot, followed by a little tune that is very seventies, maybe Caravan/Camelesque with quite a bunch of folk influences. This holds true for most of the album, it is folk based prog rock. The section in which female vocals are featured in the ouverture has some Genesis influences. The little play with which Aunt Mary Get Arrested opens is really silly and (purposely ?) amateuristic, and becomes annoying after two listenings. The musical section that follows is quite good though. It reminded me a bit of Inquire. The Charges is almost classical, with spinet and flute, going over in a sailors song. Things get more hectic in the complex Unveiling The Idiocracy, which edges towards the prog-fusion style in some places. The vocals are quite weak in this track, but the mildly psychedelic nature of the track justifies that. Especially in the middle section it sounds like Genesis on dope. Excommunicatio is a kind of prog-house or something, a bit Ozric Tentacles-like. Good for the necessary change of style and pace to include that here! Mr. Moriarty is Out Of His Wits has some Spanish/Gipsy influences, and is quite up-tempo with semi-acoustic guitar. Despite the title, No Time To Use The W.C. is a sensitive ballad with acoustic guitar and flute. The first act ends with the muzak waltz Pause.
The second act continues in exactly the same musical style with Children Of The Pee. Complex Genesis-like prog, with a difficult melodic and rhythmic structure and mellotron. Watery Blood on the other hand is almost psychedelic jazz/fusion like and even more difficult to grasp. Things ease back to more familiar prog with a hint of folk in Brother Of Bruce. The vocals are quite weak in this track. Forceful The Knife/Selling-like music, supplemented with a male folk vocal harmony follows in Midget. A simple yet effective track. The album ends with a long track, Verdict Overruled. The intro is a bit of a mix between a fast version of Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun and a The Lamb ... track until the vocals set in. Some of the themes reoccur here, and it is a good closing in the style of the rest of the album.
Quite a funny album, and with music that is in a sense still "pure" prog. Complex at times, easier at others, and with a good overall attention for melodic structures and folk oriented. The story is a bit too silly for my taste, as are the vocal sections. The production could have been better, as could the mix in some places. Despite these shortcomings, I had a good time listening to the album, which I can't say of many other albums I review. Enjoyed it!
PS: Their website doesn't work (I had to figure out the site's address myself as they state in their booklet: "you may contact us through our website, search for it!"). So if you want to have the album, I guess you have to take some trouble...
Conclusion: 7 out of 10