Album Reviews

Issue 2010-019

Reviews in this issue:

Osada Vida - Uninvited Dreams

Osada Vida - Uninvited Dreams
Country of Origin:Poland
Record Label:Metal Mind
Catalogue #:MMP CD 0674
Year of Release:2009
Info:Osada Vida
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Uninvited Dreams (8:13), My Nightmare Is Scared Of Me (10:25), Childmare [A Goodnight Story] (10:15), Lack Of Dreams (13: 00), Is The Devil From Spain? (2:12), Is That Devil From Spain Too? (9:35), Neverending Dream (11:05)

Poland has always been (or at least that’s what it seems from the distance) a good place for progressive and symphonic rock. Classic bands such as Quidam, Collage or SBB, as well as one of the biggest names in prog right now, Riverside, are Polish and proud to be.

Now, I believe we can add Osada Vida to this illustrious list of remarkable bands; not that they are exempt of their own flaws, and there are a few things they can (or should) do better, but their music is definitely of a very high standard of quality, specially for a band that’s relatively “new” in the prog arena.

I say relatively because this is already their third release on Metal Mind, after the highly acclaimed Three Seats From Behind A Triangle (2007), which I haven’t had the pleasure to sink my teeth into, and The Body Parts Party (2008), an album I certainly enjoyed but felt lacked that “something” that could have made it special.

With Uninvited Dreams, the band more than makes up for all their past shortcomings, and with this I mean good professional production values (which sadly weren’t present on their previous efforts), good performances (often great and very engaging, though I’m still not too sure about drummer Adam Podzimski, whose playing has improved substantially, but still needs some polishing… no pun intended), and structured songs (which are long, but very well balanced).

The music you’ll find on this album could be labeled as neo prog, but it certainly is a bit more aggressive and intricate than the average neo stuff; certainly not as intense as Riverside’s, and less focused on social and political issues. In the particular case of Uninvited Dreams, I am reminded of Pallas and, in particular, their excellent The Dreams Of Men (2005); both albums deal with dreams, be it fantasies, ambitions, nightmares or premonitions, a subject which adds a colourful edge to the epic music. Also, both albums are similarly structured, each of them constructed around long, layered pieces full of powerful choruses and long, intricate and often intense instrumental passages.

From opening title track, we’re in for a treat and, for the first 5 tracks, the band just doesn’t let up for a second, until reaching the climax on Lack Of Dreams, the longest and probably most interesting track on the CD, and then releasing all the tension built up until then on the short (and very Jimmy Page/Led Zeppelin) acoustic instrumental Is The Devil From Spain?.

The album could end there, and you’d have 5 tracks and 45 minutes of astounding music, but there’s still 2 tracks and twenty minutes ahead; unfortunately, the band haven’t kept the best for the end, as 9 minute instrumental Is That Devil From Spain Too?, (what do they have with Spain? Being Spanish myself, I’m just curious about this kind of title), is just OK (and a bit too long), and while Neverending Dream is certainly an enjoyable 11 minute (not the longest on the CD despite the title…) piece of music, more moody and atmospheric than the rest of the album, it’s also a bit too restrained and lacks the necessary intensity and scope to end such an epic work on a high note.

Still, this is one hell of an album. In particular, I feel Bartek Bereska’s guitar solos (check Childmare for some wonderful Rothery-style playing) and Rafal “R6” Paluszek’s great, dynamic keyboards (combining vintage synths with more modern edged sounds) are the soul of this band.

On the other hand, Lukasz Lisiak’s vocals are the weak link and, being as correctly “average” as they are, they certainly lack personality and power, not to mention the need to eliminate an often too evident accent. Certainly, the lyrics, too simplistic and full of clichés, don’t help, and are the aspect the band urgently needs to substantially improve if they want to make it really big and become the “other” great Polish band of the 21st century.

In any case, recommended.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


T.Phan – Last Warrior

T.Phan – Last Warrior
Country of Origin:France
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG4833
Year of Release:2009
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Last Warrior (5:33), The Bridge (2:52), Livin’ God Pt 1 (5:47), Livin’ God Pt 2 (3:59), After Storm Piano (2:03), No Ambition (3:39), Walking Alone (3:27), Play Like That (7:04), New York Lights On (2:24), Intro To Nothin’ (1:51), Nothin’ Grows (4:26), Not Mine Pt 1 (2:57), Not Mine Pt 2 (3:12), A Little War (3:43), Lost In The Koursk (5:11)

We have a bit of a strange release here from a name that I am unfamiliar with, which is a good thing, as you can’t jump to any conclusions of what the product should sound like. So what we have here is the new project of Stephan Caussarieu, who is the historical drummer from obscure French prog band Tai Phong which by all accounts sounds like a French version of Barclay James Harvest.

Last Warrior by T.Phan could be a lost album by Camel, Nude or Stationary Traveller era. What is interesting is that Nude is a concept album based on a true story about a Japanese soldier being marooned on an island during the World War 2 and doesn’t realise that the war is over. In stating that, I am not implying that Last Warrior is about the same subject, far from it, as it’s not a conceptual piece but it does have an oriental tone running throughout the album musically.

Now let us deal with the term historical drummer, as I am unsure of what this term really means? Anybody at the back of the class know? When I think of drummers recording albums I never really expect to come across something as clear and defined as this. I mean hands up those of us that have albums recorded by drummers who also handle lead and backing vocals, drums and percussions, piano, keyboard, electric and acoustic guitar. Well besides Phil Collin’s that is. Exactly!

This is one talented musician, and prog and pazz seems to breed them in abundance. I bet you could rhyme off a half dozen names, and then come up with another half dozen? Point made! Here is one for the uninitiated like myself to add to that list, having certainly grabbed my attention, making me want to investigate his recording career further.

We have fifteen tracks spread out across this album five of which are instrumental prog and jazz toned, and if you are familiar with the Camel era albums, you seriously know what’s on offer here

For me the highlights from this album are many, from the opening track Last Warrior with its military beat and jazzy instrumentation building and incorporating some really fluid bass and guitar work and regal oriental sounding percussion.

Again The Bridge has a real oriental feel too, which is so precise with its rhythm and beats layered with more beautiful guitar work.

Livin’ God Pt1 is has a faster tempo still crafted with the loving touch of the previous songs, the first thing that jumped into my mind when I heard this song was Steely Dan, segueing into Livin’ God Pt2 which is a jazz rock number with some really nice drum work.

After Storm Piano is a beautiful haunting piano piece, sounding exactly like what the labels says.

No Ambition follows with pop sensibility carrying the best vocals on the album with Caussarieu singing his heart out, and his French accent slips in from time to time, accentuating the emotion of the words in the song. Again it is another very strong track and probably the most commercial on the album along with Little War.

Walking Alone sounds like it has been lifted from a film noir soundtrack.

Play Like That has a soundtrack feel to it with some really funky bass lines.

New York Lights On sounds like a French version of Sting, even down to his phrasing. It has a real Parisian feels to it, a jazzy summer number.

Intro To Nothin’ instrumental has some beautiful bass and drum playing layered with some ethereal keyboard work, segueing into Nothin’ Grows a funky jazz number having great beats and the keyboard playing for me being the highlight of this song.

Not Mine Pt1 opens with bass and keyboard setting the pace, driving forward with confidence, with the vocal interjections being in synch with the bass, which works very effectively. Having an eastern feel to it has some really nice melodies and Not Mine Pt2 steps up the game up by two gears giving the instrumental some real body and soul. To me these are the best two tracks and Caussarieu really goes all out to prove his point of how much class and style he really has.

A Little War a Beatlesque number follows, all this song is missing is a place on an official Beatles album, it’s that good, piano lead, harmonies to die for propped up by some very strong lyrics, close your eyes listen and then tell me I’m wrong.

Lost In The Koursk which maybe not everybody knows was the ill fated Russian nuclear submarine that sunk a few years back. Caussarieu has chosen to tackle this topic with some grace, passion and emotion. You can almost imagine being aboard looking at the face of one of the men, lost, alone, inconsolable about losing his loved one telling her not to fear his death although he does, featuring a beautiful guitar solo almost Floydian with strong keyboard work heightening the emotion. This too is a stand out track.

All in all we have a very proficient debut album that has been well executed and produced containing some very engaging melodies and has a strong rhythmic sense of which you would expect especially from someone of this calibre. On a few occasions when I hear certain albums that have basically been recorded by one person with some slight assistance, I ask myself two questions. Firstly, is it going to be any good? On this recording Caussarieu has recorded one of the best albums of the year, and is definitely on is on in my top ten of 2009. Secondly, how can one person have so much talent and creativity? At the end of the day I always come up with the same answer for this question. Does it really matter? As long as we have musicians like Stephan Caussarieu recording and producing albums to such high and exacting standards, the musical world is going to be all the better for it, and I for one, want to be part of it. Like I said this album is certainly one of the best albums that I have heard this year. This album is a prog/jazz album worth investing in, trust me you will not be disappointed.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10


Alan Parsons - Eye 2 Eye ~ Live In Madrid

Alan Parsons - Eye 2 Eye ~ Live In Madrid
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Frontiers Records
Catalogue #:FRCD451
Year of Release:2010
Info:Alan Parsons
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: I Robot (5:34), Can't Take It With You (4:48), Don't Answer Me (4:39), Breakdown / The Raven (5:44), Time (5:24), Psychobabble (7:32), I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You (3:56), Damned If I Do (5:31), More Lost Without You (3:25), Don't Let It Show (4:25), Prime Time (5:58), Sirius / Eye In The Sky (7:12), (The System Of) Dr. Tarr And Professor Fether (4:13), Games People Play (5:18).

For most fans of progressive and/or symphonic rock, the Alan Parsons Project must have been an enlightened name. The producer of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon is a legend in the field. When after 10 studio albums the APP seemed to have ended and Eric Woolfson decided to try his luck with musicals it was quiet for a about six years. Until, in 1993, Alan Parsons 'out of nowhere' came up with the release of Try Anything Once and began to take the APP on the road. Finally all that great symphonic pop music could be heard and seen live! This touring resulted in the only other live album by Parsons and dates from 1994. Since then a few more albums by Parsons were released.

This concert was recorded back in 2004 and from 2006 onwards all original APP albums were released, fully remastered and with numerous interesting bonus tracks, thus creating a newly triggered interest in APP's music. Now that Woolfson is sadly no longer with us, there's no chance of hearing songs like Don't Answer Me ever again, at least not sung by him. From an interview I had the pleasure to do with Woolfson several years ago, I know he intended to go on stage himself (with a.o. Ian Bairnson) and perform the songs his way (and maybe even as he would have liked to have them sound in the first place). My interpretation of this extensive live album is, that it's a tribute to the great songwriter that Woolfson was. There's only one 'new' song on the album and that, in my opinion, is the only mediocre song. This one can be found on Parson's solo album A Valid Path.

The live line up: Alan Parsons (acoustic guitar, keyboards & vocals), P.J. Olsson (acoustic guitar and vocals), Godfrey Townsend (lead guitar & vocals), Steve Murphy (drums & vocals), Manny Focarzzo (keyboards & vocals) and John Montagna (bass guitar & vocals)

Although P.J. Olsson is the lead singer for Alan Parsons' solo works, Parsons carefully selected the members of his band and made sure each one of them was able to sing too. Thus, without big names like Blunstone, Miles, Rainbow, Paton or Zakatek, Parsons has managed to bring the Alan Parsons Project to stage in a way that will appeal to many lovers of this kind of symphonic pop with progressive edges. The instrumental songs I Robot and Sirius really sound great and most of the renditions of the other songs are more than worthwhile. Most harmonies are quite okay and everyone in the band is in great form. Still I prefer the original recordings but since the situation is as it is, this live project is the closest to those original recordings you will ever be able to hear. Nice artwork by Storm Thorgerson (a.o. Pink Floyd!), because the woman in water is, together with her reflection, the shape of an eye. You really must have an 'eye' to see these kinds of things and transform them into art! Alan sings the lead vocal in three tunes, the last one being Games People Play. A nice detail is the '10 seconds tribute' to Jimi Hendrix (All Along The Watchtower) by guitarist Townsend near the end of that same last track.

It's hard to say if the visual content of the DVD (also available) would contribute to the appreciation of the music, but the fact is Eye 2 Eye is a good and solid live album. Why it had to take 6 years before this concert is finally released, is not clear to me at all.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Parade - The Fabric

Parade - The Fabric
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:NAUTCD004
Year of Release:2010
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Intro Thing (0:33), Come Alive (4:34), Start Again (4:36), The Diamond (5:51), High Life (4:41), The Dogs (5:48), Facing Down (4:40), Feedline (6:16), Cut (4:27), All That I Wanted (5:34), Ending (6:44)

Despite some fairly hefty progressive rock credentials, York based Parade seem to have fallen under the prog radar somewhat. A little surprising as collectively they are members of, have performed or recorded with, an impressive list of familiar names: Fish, Mostly Autumn, Karnataka, Panic Room, Icon, Dave Kilminster and the list goes on... Add to this we have guest appearances from Bryan Josh, Heather Findlay and Breathing Space's Olivia Sparnenn. Strange?

So who are Parade? Spearheaded by songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Chris Johnson, with Anne-Marie Helder undertaking the vocal/keyboards duties and Gavin Griffiths taking up the drum stool. Completing the line-up are guitarist Simon Snaize and bassist Patrick Berry.

Introductions over and straight into the music on this, the band's debut release The Fabric. Intro Thing pretty much speaks for itself, (spacey noises and effects), whilst Come Alive is a curious opening number. There's a somewhat downbeat nature to the track with indie meets smokey, bluesy-prog (you've made that up). Portishead came to mind almost immediately, but the Hammondy organs had shades of Floyd about them, whilst the "tonky" snare drum and slightly aggressive guitar tones added a smattering of Crimson. The smokey blues comes from Anne-Marie Helder's melancholic vocal line, which nicely sits in the track. A rich tapestry of backing vocals enriches a song that grows with each listening. In contrast Start Again is a fairly straight ahead rocker, although still with a menacing indie flavour and some interesting rhythm patterns from Gavin Griffiths. The main thrust of the track is sung by Chris, with strong vocal hook lines courtesy of Anne-Marie in choruses. With a different production even a chart hit, however I don't quite see this the market Parade are aiming for with this CD.

The Diamond opens with acoustic guitar and Anne-Marie Helder on vocals. The almost six minutes of the piece are used to the full as subtle atmospheres and instrumentation are added gradually. Once again strong harmony vocals flesh out the choruses and building up the end section which concludes with a fine melodic solo, courtesy of Bryan Josh - and one that I feel sure would be extended upon in a live situation. High Life offers an Eastern flavour both musically and rhythmically. A smouldering track with superb close vocal harmonies reflecting some of the greats from the late sixties, early seventies.

Porcupine Tree and Radiohead might give a clue to The Dogs... Muddy guitar and slightly distorted vocals from Chris set the tone for this darker song - initially only lightened by the Anne-Marie's harmony vocals in the chorus. The end instrumental is more about atmosphere than dexterity. In complete contrast the delicate acoustic guitar, light drumming and intertwined bass offer a suitable backdrop for the delicate vocal line in Facing Down.

Feedline and Cut display more of the alternative/indie leanings of Parade and proved to be a tricky part of the album for me. The former being the more accessible with jangly guitar and a strong vocal line from Chris. This track, like many of the others from the album, incorporates underlying sound effects, which come more to the forefront here. Not an unpleasant track as such and certainly the choruses are infectious. Cut starts promisingly with acoustic guitar, subtle drumming in the background and gentle vocals. However the heavily processed vocals circa a minute and half in held a deja vu moment and I suppose I'm just tiring of this particular effect. Three minutes in and the track picks up pace...

All That I Wanted is a gentle, acoustic style ballad with Chris Johnson taking on the main vocal duties and Olivia Sparnenn providing the delicate harmonies. The track is nicely underpinned by piano, light strings and tasteful guitar. A splendid song that had shades of Steven Wilson poking through along with the flavour of Irish band The Frames. Now as we approach the final track, note here that according to Chris some of the material from The Fabric was penned for Mostly Autumn and certainly the rousing finale to the Ending would have sat comfortably in MA's repertoire. A melodic guitar solo rounds off a good track and an extremely good album.

Having listened to this album many times now I can see possibly why this release may have eluded the prog net. The often moody, absorbing and somewhat darker tone takes time to weave its magic, but the more I listened to The Fabric the more it grew on me. The album isn't overtly proggy, but there are certainly enough pluses to entice you in. Originally an independently distributed release in 2009 however in 2010 the CD became available through the mighty Voiceprint label. Hopefully this will give the band the exposure they rightly deserve.

Chris Johnson and Anne-Marie Helder will be performing, on Sunday 9th May (at 1pm!), acoustic versions from the album at this year's Progeny 3 Festival...

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Colossus Project (VA) - Rőkstenen:
A Tribute To Swedish Progressive Rock Of The 70’s

Colossus Project (VA) - Rőkstenen: A Tribute To Swedish Progressive Rock Of The 70’s
Country of Origin:International
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG4837
Year of Release:2009
Time:CD1 76:59
CD2 76:59
CD3 79:49
Samples:Click here


CD1: The Samurai Of Prog Drottningholmsmusiken Sats 1 [Blåkulla] (2:20), Jinetes Negros Mars [Blåkulla] (6:18), Contrarian Sirenernas Sång [Blåkulla] (6:11), Simon Says Tajgan [Kaipa] (7:02), Keybridge Den Skrattande Grevinnan [Kaipa] (5:35), Progchard Från Det Ena Till Det Andra [Kaipa] (3:57), Willowglass Oceaner Foder Liv [Kaipa] (10:06), E.D.O. På Gata [Atlas] (8:09), Revelation Björnstorp [Atlas] (6:04), Beardfish Pop Poem [Made In Sweden] (4:09), Bootcut Gånglåt Från Ovanåker [Merit Hemmingson] (2:45), Anima Morte Den Gamla Skogen [Bo Hansson] (3:10), The Grand Trick The Black Riders [Bo Hansson] (5:00), Echoes Andra Sidan [Trettioåriga Kriget] (5:47)

CD2: Primo Intermezzo (2:41), La Bocca Della Veritá War [Dice] (11:39), Kate Disease [Dice] (8:20), Karmic Juggernaut Greed [Dice] (7:51), Blank Manuskript Death [Dice] (11:05), Jetset Into The Mist [Jetset] (2:45), Tkingdkeys Ingeting [Samla Mammas Manna] (2:40), Villebråd Rockgift [Trettioåriga Kriget] (2:59), Soniq Circus Stockholm [Pugh Rogefeldt] (4:45), Magnolia Ganska Långt Från Sergel [November] (4:19), Wasa Express Apkalops [Egba] (6:23), Mist Season Promenader [Ragnarök] (7:02), Vanilla Project Gånglåt [Atlas] (4:48)

CD3: Secondo Intermezzo (2:46), Daal Var Glad Var Dag [Ragnarök] (5:31), Pseudosun En Av Oss [Life] (7:00), Anya Mount Everest [November] (4:55), The Moor Grävmaskinen [Pugh Rogenfeldt] (7:00), The Divine Baze Orchestra Här Kommer Natten [Pugh Rogenfeldt] (5:10), Matthijs Herder Two Hours Over Two Blue Mountains... [Älgarnas Trädgård] (10:15), Moosquartet Vi Valde Inte Våldet [Fickteatern] (5.56), Darxstar Cosmic Love [Ralph Lundsten] (7:08), Pensiero Nomade Jatten Feeling [Flasket Brinner] (6:10), In The Labyrinth Worlds On Fire [Handgjort] (5:52), Orient Squeezers Ödet [Zamla Mammaz Manna] (4:43), Jerry Johansson Kontinuerlig Drift {Bonus Track} (6:59)

If you’ve been collecting the Colossus (aka The Finnish Progressive Music Association) CD’s of late then you may well find that your shelves have been groaning under the weight. Following hot on the heels of Dante’s Inferno ~ The Divine Comedy Part I, Tuonen Tytär II and Dante’s Purgatorio ~ The Divine Comedy - Part II (all 3 or 4 disc collections) this latest follows in the footsteps of their previous tributes to Finnish prog bands. It’s the Swedish acts of the 1970’s that come under the spotlight this time around with each of the contributing bands supplying a cover version of what to my ears is mostly unfamiliar songs. Whilst Kaipa and Bo Hansson are well known, not being an ardent follower of Swedish prog prior to The Flower Kings arrival in the early 90’s the vast majority of the songs here could easily be original offerings.

Whilst the subject matter may be Swedish, those contributing represent a diverse cross section of international acts including several of the usual Colossus suspects. As ever the brief was for each band to observe an adherence to vintage instrumentation. The Samurai Of Prog open proceedings with the first of three tracks by Swedish legends Blåkulla. It has a classical but chirpy neo-baroque sound in the style of Handel serving as a perfect introduction to Jinetes Negros’ sweeping symphonic piece resplendent with piano, keys strings and operatic choral voices. Whilst it may be a Swedish tribute, Mars is stylistically more akin to Italian prog ending with a grand flourish lifted from GenesisMusical Box. Contrarian continue in a similar vein with Sirenernas Sång, a catchy song that combines elements of prog and The Beatles enriched by a full blooded Steve Hackett flavoured guitar sound.

Being one of the more familiar bands from the era, Kaipa are represented by no less than four instrumentals. Simon Says open Tajgan with ambient sitar, wind effects, melancholic piano and distant Mellotron before weighing in with melodramatic and faintly gothic guitar and keys. Keybridge (or KBridge if you prefer) turn in an equally ambitious version of Den Skrattande Grevinnan with tricky, counterpoint instrumentation and the warm sound of the Rickenbacker nicely upfront. Several memorable themes and tempo changes are packed into a relatively lean five plus minutes with synth and Hammond featured prominently throughout. Progchard’s interpretation of Från Det Ena Till Det Andra (another tuneful offering this time from the pen of Roine Stolt) is a curiously hit and miss affair. It begins with some particularly fine classical guitar and Moog work but then looses its grip with a cacophonic mid section and some sloppy drumming before redeeming itself with a sharp guitar hook.

The final Kaipa track Oceaner Foder Liv belongs to Willowglass (aka the multi-talented Andrew Marshall) who’s produced music of a consistently high standard for all of the recent Colossus releases. This is no exception as he carries off this extremely melodic 10 minute opus in style with a smoothly vintage organ sound. Likewise his guitar is sometimes twangy, sometimes weeping and in its more invigorating moments sometimes early Steve Rothery. E.D.O. is another mostly one man affair this time from the Netherlands and again captures the 70’s spirit with a reworking of Atlas’ På Gata. A lush combination of Hammond and Mellotron provides a solid platform for the melodic guitar and synth interplay. I was reminded of fellow Dutch proggers Flamborough Head and the infectious organ hook in particular nudges into pole position as probably my favourite track of the entire set.

Revelation provide a deceivingly eerie Middle Eastern intro to Atlas’ Björnstorp (not unlike The Specials Ghost Town) before morphing into a lively Andy Latimer flavoured guitar instrumental. It comes complete with an extended (and slightly indulgent) drum solo at the halfway mark. In contrast Pop Poem is a bluesy rocker with histrionic vocal posturing by the Beardfish frontman. It’s delivered with bags of energy and conviction but it’s not really my cup of tea it has to be said. Two instrumentals follow from Bootcut and Anima Morte respectively. Some glorious Hammond playing livens up the former which for me is an otherwise pedestrian, overtly pop-MOR affair whilst the latter sees guitar and organ entwine superbly for a crisply dynamic, free flowing Bo Hansson composition.

Also from the pen of Bo Hansson is The Black Riders from his Music Inspired By Lord Of The Rings, an album that I found extremely disappointing first time around. The Grand Trick’s version is convincing enough but the laidback Mike Oldfield styled acoustic guitar and organ does nothing to evoke the grandeur of Tolkien’s vision whilst the raunchy guitar break is overlong and completely out of step with what’s gone before. Disc one ends on a high note with Echoes’ performance of Andra Sidan which is a unlike anything else that has proceeded it. The solid wall of guitar sound has a very contemporary feel in the style of Porcupine Tree and Riverside and whilst I’m unsure how accurately it reflects the original it certainly works for me. It has a relentless but tuneful tone with a perky bass pattern and superb full on drumming adding to the heavyweight dynamics.

Disc two gets off to a very promising start with Primo Intermezzo, a sprightly Moog and organ led instrumental from the pen of 18th century Swedish baroque composer Johan Helmich Roman. Also featuring strongly is La Bocca Della Veritá’s version of War (by Sweden’s Dice and not Edwin Starr) which includes moments of instrumental bombast ala The Nice and ELP in their Tarkus phase. The upfront bass playing sounds very Greg Lake and added muscle comes courtesy of powerhouse guitar and gothic Mellotron. Disease as performed by Kate is also a quality instrumental where the guitar dominated sound constantly veers from the angular tones of Robert Fripp to the weeping beauty of Jan Akkerman. In fact the rhythmic organ backdrop and the pastoral acoustic guitar and flute section make it sound positively Focus like at times although the searing synth break is from another place altogether.

It’s at this point however where things begin to go downhill. Karmic Juggernaut’s contribution is fast, frantic and authentically retro particularly the fuzzed organ sound but for me tedium set in about two minutes before the end. The appropriately titled Death by Blank Manuskript is mostly bleak, dissonant and tuneless although the trumpet solo is an unexpected twist as is the arresting guitar an organ coda. Jetset’s cover of Into The Mist is a rarity here, not just because it’s a song amongst so many instrumentals but also because the band wrote and performed the original song. This is more mid 70’s mainstream-rock than prog however bringing Free readily to mind. The prominent bass line is the best part of Ingeting by Tkingdkeys otherwise it’s a forgettable performance of an equally forgettable instrumental.

Swedish bands Villebråd, Soniq Circus and Magnolia all have the advantage of being able to sing the songs in their native language but sadly the consistently raw sound and virtual absence of melody did nothing for me. The latter’s performance in particular is very un-prog like with drawn-out bluesy guitar histrionics in the same style but not the same class as Cream and the Edgar Brougton Band. In contrast Wasa Express’ interpretation of Apkalops is a jazzy synth and guitar workout that twists and turns impressively and despite the demo feel I rather liked the live drum sound.

Promenader by Mist Season is a tranquil but memorable instrumental that comes as a welcome breath of fresh air after the lacklustre tunes and unpolished performances of some of the previous tracks. Melodic guitar, bass, flute and soprano sax intertwine beautifully before it kicks up its heals with a ringing guitar break to play out. To conclude disc two, Vanilla Project’s Gånglåt is an engaging if not exceptional mellow jazz-fusion offering with tight unison playing from all concerned, especially drums, sax, electric piano and guitar.

After the disappointments of the previous disc, I had high hopes for the final disc but sadly my optimism was unfounded. In fact the introductory Secondo Intermezzo proved for me to be the best track. Like the opening to the previous disc it’s based on a classical piece by Johan Helmich Roman with a baroque-meets-medieval timbre. The creative use of Moog, flute, classical guitar and mandolin harks back to Gryphon in their 70’s glory. The keyboard and drum duo Daal compensate for the lack of bottom end with extensive use of bass synth but this strident instrumental hardly develops beyond its initial promise. Pseudosun’s En Av Oss is another song performed in Swedish with an aggressive 70’s hard rock tone and overblown guitar soloing. Although Anya doesn’t have a particularly strong voice her rendition of Mount Everest is a welcome and rare injection of female vocals although the absence of melody leaves her little to sing about. The hard edge tone and basic riffing also sounds uninspired despite the presence of Par Lindh and his Mellotron flute break.

The unusual pairing of trumpet and synth in the instrumental mid-section proves to be the best part of The Moor’s contribution which is otherwise a heavy and doomy space rock offering with a monotonous melody and equally monotonous vocals. On their promotional photo The Divine Baze Orchestra look like archetypical hippies so unsurprisingly Här Kommer Natten is trippy nonsense that’s heavy on the Mellotron but very ragged around the edges (playing and production wise) saved only by the passionate lead vocal. Matthijs Herder’s Two Hours Over Two Blue Mountains... not only has the longest (and most bizarre) title it’s also the longest track on disc three. It has a certain hypotonic intensity as Herder’s sustained guitar attack is underpinned by his own tide of Mellotron strings and choirs.

Things hit a real low with Vi Valde Inte Våldet from Moosquartet, a tuneless, avant-garde affair with an eccentric lead vocal, random percussion and a wailing lead guitar dirge. Had I not been listening to this track for review purposes I would have hit the skip button long before the end. Darxstar’s appropriately titled Cosmic Love is very laidback and psychedelic, sounding like early Pink Floyd on valium. From around the halfway mark onwards this one again outstays its welcome. Better is Jatten Feeling by Pensiero Nomade which following some hesitant flute musings features a sharp guitar line reminiscent of Mike Oldfield and Jade Warrior in particular in a laidback jazzy context.

Better still is Worlds On Fire by In The Labyrinth with sitar, violin, flute and ethereal female voices adding an exotic richness to this tranquil an engaging respite. Orient Squeezers continue the Indian and mellow instrumental vibe with the sound of the tabla, darbouka, sitar and brassy keys providing an exotic eastern flavour. This would have made an effective closer had it not been for the inclusion of the ‘bonus track’ Jerry Johansson’s Kontinuerlig Drift. This is a recent piece so its appearance here is a tad suspect especially as its devoid of any kind of melodic content souding like a serious of cacophonic and piercing sound effects with a few sampled voices thrown in for good measure. Not the most auspicious way on which to end a collection such as this.

Given the high standards of the previous Colossus projects, overall this for me is their weakest collection yet. In his review of the triple disc Tuonen Tytär II my colleague Mark concluded that it would have been more accessible as a double album. In the case of Rőkstenen I would say that there is sufficient quality material here for a single album, albeit an excellent one at that. Very little reshuffling would have been necessary as the majority of the better tracks already appear on disc one. As it stands it does at least provide a valuable showcase for a variety of prog acts (40 in total) with many new names amongst them. As is the norm with Colossus, the packaging and booklet is a lavish affair with full band details and an insightful overview of Swedish Progressive Rock of the 70’s.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10


Kinetic Element - Powered By Light

Kinetic Element - Powered By Light
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Info:Kinetic Element
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Riding In Time (9:06), The Ascent (8:20), Now And Forever (7:29), Peace Of Mind, Peace Of Heart (12:20), Meditation (5:53), Reconciliation (16:07), See The Children (9:58)

Kinetic Element hail from Richmond, Virginia in the USA. Keyboardist/vocalist Mike Visaggio originally put a band together to perform material from his 2006 solo album, Starship Universe, but only drummer Michael Murray remains of the first incarnation with newer members Tony D'Amato (bass, who left the band shortly after the album's release) and Todd Russell (guitar) being the other players on the CD. All of the material was composed by Visaggio with the exception of the instrumental acoustic guitar piece Meditation which is by Russell.

I have to say I did like the musical description on the info sheet that accompanied the album: "...reminiscent of Yes, ELP, early Genesis, the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd, but have their own style" - such a mixture would inevitably have their own style given that fundamentally each of the bands mentioned are essentially pretty dissimiliar! However, I guess the message is that Kinetic Element play prog rock, as if a band that features organs, synths, mellotrons, an assortment of guitars and plays songs that approach and exceed the ten-minute mark could play anything else!

The album starts with Riding In Time which has just about everything thrown into its nine minutes: a main theme focusing on the Hammond organ, a brief harpsichord solo, an (awful) spoken word section (sorry, I hate those type of interludes!), a jazzy piano section, a concise guitar solo, a more laid-back, almost ambient, section before finally reprising the main theme. The Ascent has a similar timpani beginning as Fanfare For The Common Man and when the song begins it does resemble something that ELP in their latter Atlantic years (think Love Beach) could have come up with. Visaggio's vocals are a tad one dimensional and he lacks a really dynamic range, but performs well enough, and in tune, throughout. And thus it continues. Keith Emerson is an obvious influence and there is no denying that Visaggio is more than competent on coaxing out the appropriate sounds and runs from his keyboards, but, to me, it started to get rather too formulaic; a Hammond solo, a piano solo, a guitar solo, another Hammond solo. Not that the solos are not well constructed and played, they are, just that it seems that every song each had to have a number of solos played on different keyboards. And Russell only seems to employ one guitar sound in his solos! The effect is that each song is not an inherently distinct track with a structure dictated to as being necessary for the piece but is almost constructed in a modular way - in several of the songs it wouldn't be all that noticeable if the odd solo or two were excised and to me that makes them superfluous. Of course, this is just a personal preference and I am sure that many prog fans would lap up this album with the greatest of pleasure. However, 70 mins was too much to take in at one sitting and listening to it through I began to be a bit bored, which is a shame as there is enough talent in the band's performance and execution for them to find a niche in the prog market place.

With a bit of editing and a few different song structures, Kinetic Element may be a band to look out for. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad album, far from it. It just failed to engage me and capture my imagination. As I have said, I am sure that many would revel in this album and I hope that they find their way over to the band's MySpace page to listen to the samples posted there.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10


Modest Midget - The Great Prophecy Of A Small Man

Modest Midget - The Great Prophecy Of A Small Man
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2010
Info:Modest Midget
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Follow The Noise (0:55), Contemporary Ache (5:17), Troubles In Heaven (3:13), Coffee From Yesterday (2:40), Back From My Trip (3:34), Home Seek (4:26), Here I Go (3:22), Baby (3:05), Jorge Knows How Difficult A Musician’s Life Can Be, But Then Again, Who Doesn’t? (4:00), Buy Me! (2:13), Evolution (3:18), I Came, I Saw, I Left (5:29), The Last Straw (5:13)

Hardly modest and certainly not midgets are the four guys from the band with the peculiar sounding name Modest Midget. This is a band that can stand out proud for making their debut album is real fun listening album. Collectively MM is a four piece band with Tristan Hupe: (keyboards & vocals), Artis Orubs (drums), Lionel Ziblat (guitars & vocals) and Richard Zoer (bass guitar & vocals). In making this album they have had musical assistance of five other musicians: Vera van der Bie (violin), Ilse Eijsink (clarinet), Oene van Geel (viola), Emiel de Jong (clarinet, saxophones & vocals), and Bas Wiegers (violin & vocals)

The album starts out with a title called Follow The Noise and this is exactly what it sounds like, following the noise of a carnival show. Following the noise then brings us to a steaming rock song, reminding me of Neil Young's classic Rockin’ In The Free World which flows into a jazzy break back again rocking further until we meet the second jazzy break. All together a straight rock and roll song with a few nice breaks. All it needs now is some airtime on a radio show. The next track brings us to a different Modest Midget. A strong melody line played with a number of more classical oriented musical instruments like the violin and here the band experiment with different styles in music in just a little over 3 minutes. Nonetheless the melody stays ever present making the song enjoyable and one not affected by the different musical styles.

Coffee From Yesterday is an instrumental track in the veins of former super groups like The Nice, Focus and Exception. Classic rock at its best, the only annoying bit to me was the sound of the drums, maybe a little too much up front. Back From My Trip again is a song in the classic rock sphere, this time vocals have been added. Again enjoyable music, although lyrically they could do better. Which brings us to Home Seek and almost instantly I feel myself going back to the "Flower Power" era. The song reminds me very much of music by the famous Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, maybe a bit of Simon & Garfunkel and definitely going into a Beatlesque sound. Here I Go Again rocking this time with a ever present retro feel to it, influenced by The Yardbirds maybe or other late sixties bands. Good chorus lines and together with Contemporary Ache could do very well in pop charts, creating a broader audience for this band. A lot of distorted guitars, and yet again the drum sound is too present. Definitely a point of attention.

Going on with Baby, lyrically very odd although with a good melody. Almost like chamber music. The next track is very experimental, theatrical music, with way to many changes in the song and therefore becomes almost too difficult to listen to. After four spins I still didn’t dig the song. Jorge … is absolutely hard to get for me at least.

They continue with Buy Me!, a straight on rock and roll track. Evolution returns to the experimental, theatrical, using cello and violin, although easier listening than Jorge…. I Came, I Saw, I Left is an instrumental track, guitar driven and influenced by Dutch band Het Goede Doel, I think, as it reminded me of some of their music. The Last Straw completes the CD with a retro 60’s psychedelic feel to it, also a good song with a strong melody line.

I would say overall this is a very good debut album by a band capable of playing various musical styles. The album has a retro feel all over, even in the straight forward songs or the more experimental ones. You could argue about the music being progressive rock: it is rock music and considering the different styles combined into enjoyable songs, considering the longest song is not even 5:30. But they have made progressive music with a new refreshing edge. You could call this "retrogressive" prog rock for the definite retro feel.

I have enjoyed the CD very much and certainly would like to hear more of this band. The music may well appeal to a broader audience than just the prog field.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Legend - Ritual Echo

Legend - Ritual Echo
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Triple Aspect Overture (6:19), Dance (6:01), Windsong (8:21), Mordred (12:18), Holly King (7:47), The Chase (4:12), All Hallows Eve (6:22), The Wild Hunt (13:03), Light In Extension (6:25)

Legend was founded 21 years ago by Steve Paine and Ritual Echo is a compilation disc to celebrate their 21st anniversary, I guess. The music of Legend is very melodic, almost the stereotype sound of progressive rock, with thick layers of keyboards, melodic guitar solos and melodies, lots of melodies, and enchanting female vocals. The lyrics deal with pagan themes, folklore and Myths. So if you combine those ingredients you can easily figure out their music sounds not unlike Mostly Autumn and Blackmore's Night. On the music part you can also add Camel, Jethro Tull and Pallas. In their catalogue you can find three CD's made in the first part of the nineties, each album provides three songs for this compilation disc.

Triple Aspect Overture is the first part of the song Triple Aspect which not surprisingly is present on the album Triple Aspect. It is a thirty minute track divided in five parts and you can hear the first part builds up and at the end of the song you can hear there is more to come. Because only the first part is on this album it feels like listening to an intro.

Dance sounds like Pallas with female vocals, the music has a lot of changes and many many melodies. The vocals of Debbie Chapman sometimes sound operatic but I must say at times she barely cuts it. This album features a live version Windsong, where the start is a bit more technical but the song is in many ways very comparable to Dance. In contrast to someone like Mostly Autumn, the music of Legend just seems to go, go and go. There is no resting place with a gentle mellow part. Mordred starts like a Marillion song from Fugazi. This one has the mellow part I missed in the preceding two songs, the centre part is where the fast action is. After a mellow part the song is ended with many guitar solos. Holly King starts like Rush but soon has the more swaying mythical sound of Blackmore's Night. The guitar solos are not as melodic as before and sometimes a bit too sharp sounding. Whereas the solos with both guitar and keyboard are much better. The Chase is an instrumental track and the version on this compilation disc is a live one. Many guitar and keyboard solos in a mainly up-tempo pace.

The balance on this album is too much leaning towards the up-tempo music, it would be nice if the stepped down a few notches. I am usually the first to start wining about too many mellow parts but I would really like more of those on this album, they should find a balance more in the likes of Mostly Autumn. The problem partly continues on All Hallows Eve, this song is mellow but the solo part is very fast, a soulful melody would have been a better choice.

The Wild Hunt is more diverse and one of the better songs on this album. Dark sounds give this song a more threatening feeling, not many vocal parts, mainly instrumental. Light In Extension is another live recording but my main problem with the music of Legend is very clear on this song. So the best song on the album is followed by the worst, too bad.

I must say I do not understand why this compilation disc is released. A celebration of their 21st anniversary as a band or a 19 year anniversary of their debut album, I have no idea? Legend is also not a band you need in your collection. By this I do not mean Legend is a bad band, some parts on this album I really liked, but mainly this album is predictable and too much up-tempo in the same pace. Ritual Echo contains three live songs and six re-mastered songs but I must say the quality is not superb. I cannot compare with the original recording and Ritual Echo did not interest me enough to go and find out.

So is Legend a band to forget immediately? Not really! There are plans for a new album and I am certainly going to check it out. They do however need to improve on their song writing and create more songs like The Wild Hunt, they also need to improve the production level. Do you need this compilation album to get acquainted with the band? Absolutely not. Just remember the name of the band and check out some samples when they have a new album.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10


Album Reviews