Album Reviews

Issue 2014-033

Steve Hackett - Genesis Revisited Live

Steve Hackett - Genesis Revisited - Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Country of OriginUK
Record LabelInsideout music
Catalogue #n/a
Year of Release2014
Info: Steve Hackett
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
Dance On A Volcano (6:40), Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (7:53), Fly on a Windshield (3:40),Broadway Melody of 1974 (2:55), Carpet Crawlers (6:10), The Return of the Giant Hogweed (8:39), The Musical Box (11:26), Horizons (2:02), Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers (2:13), In that Quiet Earth (5:00), Afterglow (4:12), I Know What I Like (6:37), Firth of Fifth (10:16), Ripples (5:29), The Fountain of Salmacis (8:01), Supper's Ready (26:16), Watcher of the Skies (9:08), Los Endos (8:56)
I have seen Steve Hackett twice so far, but not for very long. The second time was when I got sunburn whilst being roasted along with a smallish crowd cheshire catting as Steve and co launched into Everyday at the start of a slightly curtailed set on the High Voltage Festival Prog Stage in July 2010. The warmth from the band and audience more than competed with the one supplied by god's own celestial BBQ.

The first time, however, was almost missed as as lights came up and talk of post show beer-ing was interrupted by said lights going back down again and then with no added piano intro, The Royal Albert Hall was treated to yet another rendition of Firth of Fifth by mighty French-Canadian and Genesis endorsed band The Musical Box but with you know who as guest.

I'd witnessed this wonderful tribute act before and to the collective we thought this was the closest we'd ever get to seeing Genesis live again. The show they give is a replica of what used to be and it's both interesting and ironic that Genesis Revisited is more a version of the original than these testimonials.

The first Genesis Revisited was, for me, more interesting than Genesis Revisited II as it used the songs in different guises whereas by the next, I was seriously wondering why? The people spoke and I was wrong to question the motive for it has become a seriously successful album.

Now in it's live setting things really start to make sense as fans of Steve Hackett always hope for the occasional Genesis song but to have an entire concert devoted to his former transit van companions is just a revelation. The first leg of the tour was captured for posterity on Live at Hammersmith and although Live at the Royal Albert Hall still has thirteen of the same songs, you gain (as you can see from the track listing) five that are "new" to this live variant. For your hard earned, you also get different guest singers: Ray Wilson - Carpet Crawlers and I Know What I Like, John Wetton reprises the Tokyo Tapes version of crowd favourite Firth of Firth, with Amanda Lehman (whom I seem to recall playing a rather tasty guitar at High Voltage) now showing us her Ripples, albeit in an acoustic setting and missing that lovely long guitar solo that is this song's highlight. Drummer par excellence Gary O'Toole still sings on Broadway Melody of 1974 and in another echo from that festival, The Flower Kings' Roine Stolt returns the favour, when Steve joined Transatlantic for a horrah inducing version of The Return of the Giant Hogweed, to play on the same track. Afterglow (formally Mr Wetton's patch) and all other vocals are by Agents of Mercy's Nad Sylvan who does a good turn at Gabrielish and Collinsish.

The rest of the band are Hackett stalwart and long term collaborator, the shiznatical Roger King. (He's worked with the snoop doggie style dog chappie, don't you know...). Clever woodwind and stuff by Rob Townsend, and top sessioner Lee Pomeroy double necking on 12 string, bass, and quite loud bass pedals. In fact production wise, the stereo version of this concert does sound a little like the 5.1 subwoofer has been fed into the mix to give a big beefy bottom (can't think of a vegetarian equivalent) which can muddy the image some what, but I'm sure that was intentional.

As previously suggested all the tracks are interpretations of the songs that most of us know and love and to that end it is probably the saxophone playing (we're used to the flute) that shifts the message into new and maybe fresher territory, especially on Firth of Fifth (where it is also a joy to hear that piano intro that not even Tony Banks did) and the jazzy solo (also a great penny whistle motif) on I Know What I like.

Elsewhere the performances are faultless from the wuthering heights of Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers / In That Quiet Earth, via the (my personal favourites) classic The Fountain of Salmacis, a memorable and very faithful Supper's Ready, and usual concert opener,Watcher of the Skies, returning here as the first encore.

Concert closer Los Endos, takes us back to Genesis revisited the first time round with it's jazz rock jam, and concludes what has been a very gratifying visit indeed.

I suspect the best way of enjoying this set is to watch the DVD and then when you play this, you'll still see the pictures, in your mind, of the majesty of Steve Hackett and chums playing in a venue that truly befits this most revered of music.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Electrotype - 7.50

Electrotype - 7.50
Country of OriginUSA
FormatCD (EP)
Record Labelindependent
Catalogue #n/a
Year of release2013
Info: Electrotype
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
Both Sides of the Atlantic (4:38), Pound of Flesh (3:19), How Many (00:34), Clockwork (1:47), Hard to Believe (3:07), Invisible Shadows (5:25), Night Visions / In the Blink of an Eye (4:21), Ready (4:47)
Electrotype is an independent "art rock uno" based in Philadelphia, PA, USA. The brain child of multi-instrumentalist and lyricist/composer Beth Maplesden, Electrotype "reshapes the familiar into the unexpected." The latest EP 7.50 (Seven and a Half) fuses art rock and alternative rock-new prog and "old" prog with touches of garage, punk, metal and grunge.

What began as dream in 2004 started to take shape in 2008 with the 30-second piece How Many – the sound track to one of Maplesden's animations. From there Electrotype snowballed into an endeavour that would become front and centre. "Piece by piece and bit by bit", to quote Maplesden from her lyrics, this debut EP slowly came together over the course of nearly three years.

Seven and a half songs – and seven and a half years after the original conception of Electrotype 7.50 was first released as a digital download in 2011, and subsequently on CD in 2012. Ranging from semi-acoustic prose to dissonant experiments to stadium rock, Electrotype explores a gamut of moods and thoughts through sound and words.

On first listen the music of Electrotype comes over as a discordant mish- mash of guitar riffs /words and keyboards, seemingly jumbled together without thought. Some pieces seem unfinished and some seem to hardly begin, and some are hauntingly magnificent in particular Night vision / in the blink of an eye.

Beth Maplesden is a multi instrumentalist and as such not a virtuoso on any of her chosen instruments. In the world of prog, her musicianship and vocals are questionable (and at times very raw), however given that that she is an artist in the "larger" sense of the word, her music and its experimentation should be heard with an open mind. There are elements of Genesis, Radiohead, Rush and even Keane together with Black Angels, New Order, early Ultravox and Laurie Anderson. But you will have to listen carefully!

This is not an easy listen by any means! For those of you, who (secretly) liked a bit of punk, listen to a bit of grunge and metal now and then, and who like experimentation, there are some ideas on this EP that you will love. I suspect however that most prog lovers will hate it. Even after many a listen for this review, I am at a loss to decide whether this is music that is art, or art at the expense of music!
Conclusion: 5 out of 10

Vital Element - Our Modern Age

Vital Element – Our Modern Age
Country of OriginNetherlands
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release2014
Info: Vital Element
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
(Re)birth (2:42), Our Modern Age (6:45), The Well (6:45), The Golden Ratio (3:32), Makers (6:42), Red Wire (1:19), Whispers On the Wind (8:48)
A promising debut album from a young Dutch quintet which should appeal to fans of fellow countrymen A Liquid Landscape.

After a slow start, the title track settles into an ambient, post rock groove around a great hook and some beautiful little guitar details. The energy builds nicely towards the climax, reminding me a little of Polish Progsters Believe in their more melancholic moments.

The Well is of a similar melancholic quality. Here, a clever second phase maintains the interest. Singer Jesse Biël had by now suggested more than a passing resemblance to Gazpacho's Jan-Henrik Ohme.

From here we've two instrumental interludes and two songs, which despite consistent performances, don't really deviate from the initial template enough for me.

The band's website has them performing a very impressive cover version of Karnivool's tricky New Day. To move forward, I feel the band needs to take on board a few lessons from such bands and create more moments of the unexpected into their song writing. The lack of a varying styles, moods and textures is the difference for me between the debut album from A Liquid Landscape (9.5 out of 10) and this album (score below).

With only four full songs and three interludes, this does struggle to be more than an EP. However Our Modern Age provides a very solid foundation for this band to secure some decent gigs and festival appearances. Hopefully that will be the basis for their songwriting and playing to evolve and grow over the coming year. Their next album will be one to watch.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Seasons of Time - Closed Doors to Open Plains

Seaons of Time - Closed Doors to Open Plains
Country of Origin: Germany
Format: CD
Record Label: Progressive Promotion Records
Catalogue #: PPRCD018
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 62:09
Info: Seasons of Time
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
An Overture in my Head (3:23), Expectations I (2:38), Someone (4:08), Bite the Bullet (3:40), Closing Doors (4:24), Burning Bridges I (2:28), Fuzz & Buzz (2:52), A Step Ahead Behind (3:19), The Station at the Border of the Mind (5:29), Expectations II (4:50), You’re Not Needed Anymore (4:28), There are Times (2:22), Ignorance (4:30), Expectations III (1:54), Burning Bridges II (1:19), Wide Open Plains (10:21)
Krautrock. Caution - that sounds like a warning, I wonder why this brandmark is used to promote this release? PPR (Progressive Promotion Records) knows, a fine record company from Germany which is providing us with nice outputs. "Krautrock And Eloy, Marillion and Pink Floyd" Oh my god! Okay, nearly everbody needs some information and hints of what to expect - but you have to be careful. Which Marillion would they mean? The Script one or those composing elevator music? Which Floyd? Shine On - or The Final Cut? So I was more afraid than excited putting the CD into the stereo.

Closed Doors to Open Plains is a concept album. The story behind the music is about the struggeling of mankind getting faster, higher, quicker, richer and thereby dirtier every day. "We seem blind to all the beauty of this world; compared to the wonders of our life itself. We have forgotten to lay back, relax and enjoy what nature has given us. But we are among the very few living creatures on this planet that can do just that. Therefore, we should do it. We as individuals. We as a society." (Seasons of Time) I like that - it's true, and maybe man and woman have to become 50 years old to realize. An ambitious storyline. So let's go.

Tweeting birds in the air accompanied by a very gentle guitar sequence on one chord, rising keys and vocals thru the box - a short acoustic tune - wow, what an intro. Very short hints of the coming main themes - you'll not recognize during your first listening. At 2:30 the first change of chords - for ten seconds. Back to the tonika - fade, slowly... A very classical and stately Overture.

Boom! Expectation I rocks along with a very fine hookline and ends up with a nice piano outro which leads over into Someone. Starting quiet with a pulsing bass and erasing keyboard tune drums and guitar pick up pace. Shock! Here's is that Krautrock element I thought just in the moment the vocals started... brrrrr. I'm not quite sure if that was really necessary.

A very nice up-tempo piece, that finds quickly the way in your ears based on the cool hookline. Leading directly into Bite the Bullet, an instrumental that takes over the pace and shows us fine keyboard work. Suddenly and unexpected keyboards sounding for the last 10 seconds like tony Banks' slipperman. A charming gimmick!

Break - Closing Doors has got other vocals with an acoustic atmosphere and starts to be a reflective ballad but turns out to become my skip song. The song features nice harmonies - but all in all it is harmless. Burning Bridges I shows again gentle keyboard synthie tunes in the beginning and surprises with a spacy vocoder part in the middle and has a really relaxed mood with a catchy melody. Fine guitar works leads us into Fuzz and Buzz - another rocking tune in 60s beats, just followed by A Step Ahead Behind, as well provided with a very fine hookline. Rocking and not disturbed by overambitious breaks this track features a rough and raw singing, something different (but not in the way track 3 does).

The Station at the Boarder of the Mind is time to slow down. Very relaxed and evolving the noteworthy guitarsolo which is rousing and dramatical - but cooling down to the end. The synths lead directly with female vocoder vocals into Expectations II. The whole track turns out to be a poppy chilling tune - provokating as well the text "Does life turns out to the way you expected it?" You're Not Needed Anymore is the answer - and here we have all Seasons of Time ingredients again - midtempo relaxed tune, a fine melody and the rough vocals we learnt to like before.

Another break - in the storyline and the music is shown in track 12 There Are Times. Horns provided by guest Pete Harrison are well played - but this track does not work. A slow tune in a dark mood - but the suspense is missing. But that is quickly corrected by the following Ignorance - not even quicker but with much more dynamics and a nicely developing hookline which leads into an full-band ending, much better. Expectaions III is a clear short tune - positive mood and acoustic. Seamlessly followed by Burning Bridges II, a short bridge that leads into the final track Wide Open Plains. Like a positive solution this track takes up speed (in the sense of this record of course) and provides us again with a fine melody you will remember. This will surely be a good showstopper, with the band playing tough and giving room for the last dominating guitarsolo. Finally you hear steps walking around, where to go? Maybe outside and listen to some tweeting birds.

This album has definitely its charm and is providing the listener with much fun. It is very well constructed and well-rounded. From the intro until the outro you will recognize the typical elements of a really good concept album: recurring musical ideas and melodies fitting to the intense of the story. The classic instrumentation (keyboards, guitars, bass, drums, and vocals) provided by the four actors is well produced. The general tempo is a little above the midtempo and far away from bringing you to sleep. For me my two skip tracks (7 of 62 minutes) don't have too much weight - as the rest is much better than the average outputs labeled - labeled as krautrock. There could be a little more power, sometimes more speed and dynamic contrasts.

Would I say Pink Floyd? Would I say Eloy or Marillion? Well, that's not the question. The question is: would I recommend that album? Yes, I would. And I will do it again.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Nami - The Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind

Nami - The Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind
Country of OriginAndorra
Record Label: Kaiowas
Catalogue #Grav16
Year of Release2013
Info: Nami
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
The Beholders (7:58), Ariadna (5:11), Silent Mouth (5:57), Hunter's Dormancy (6:22), The Animal and the Golden Throne (3:23), Bless Of Faintness (3:16), Hope in Faintness (6:52), Crimson Sky (4:23), The Dream Eater (9:36)
This is not my usual bag of heavy progressive stuff. But despite the growls, I rather like what this band from Andorra has done with their second album.

In a similar way to fellow countrymen Persefone, they create an intense musical smorgasbord which captives your attention as you remain excited by exactly what is coming next. It could be a deliciously brutal riff or a saxophone solo! Opening track The Beholders has a wonderful electronic vibe whilst several other tracks dip into the casual Post Rock.

For those seeking additional layers, there is a lyrical concept "focusing on the advancement of dreams through our conscious and unconscious". You can also enjoy the results of collaborations from Loïc Rossetti (The Ocean) and Carlos Lozano and Marc Martins from Persefone.

For those who like their progressive music to be challengingly varied and extreme, then The Eternal Light of the Unconscious Mind is a very thoughtful and mature album that is well worth seeking out.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Various Artists - Dutch Woodstock

Various Arists - Dutch Woodstock
Country of Originvarious
Record LabelGonzo Multimedia
Catalogue #GONZO GZ0102CD
Year of Release1970/2014
Time:CD 1: 53:09
CD 2: 57:29
DVD: 97:00
Track List:
CD 1: Cuby & The Blizzards - Dust My Blues* (4:45), Canned Heat - Human Condition (3:08), So Sad (5:31), Livin' Blues - Big Road Blues* (2:41), Al Stewart - Zero She Flies (2:19), Quintessence - Giants (2:38), East of Eden - The Sun Of East* (15:49), Irish Theme* (3:19), Country Joe - Freedom (3:54), Dr. John And The Night Trippers - Mardi Gras Day (4:31), Family - Drowned In Wine (4:28)
CD 2: Santana - Gumbo (3:57), Savor (4:28), Jingo (4:25), Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit (2:18), The Ballad of You And Me And Pooneil (3:02), It's A Beautiful Day - Wasted Union Blues (7:23), Bulgaria (4:01) T-Rex - By The Light Of The Magical Moon (3:18), The Byrds - Old Blue (3:35), The Flock - Big Bird (4:49), Soft Machine - Ester's Nose Job (6:03), Pink Floyd - Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (3:42), A Saucerful of Secrets (6:21)
DVD: Santana - Gumbo, Al Stewart - Zero She Flies, Canned Heat - Human Condition, The World's In A Tango**, So Sad, Quintessence - Giants, Jefferson Airplane - Won't You Try**, Saturday Afternoon**, Pink Floyd - Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, It's A Beautiful Day - Wasted Union Blues, Country Joe - Freedom, Dr. John And The Night Trippers - Mardi Gras Day, Family - Drowned In Wine, It's A Beautiful Day - Bulgaria, T-Rex - By The Light Of The Magical Moon, The Byrds - Old Blue, The Flock - Big Bird, Soft Machine - Ester's Nose Job, Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit, The Ballad of You And Me And Pooneil, Santana - Savor, Jingo, Pink Floyd - A Saucerful of Secrets
* tracks exclusive to CD, ** tracks exclusive to DVD
The end of the sixties and early seventies saw the rise of the music festival as a major expression of the young, and sometimes not so young, and although only a few are overtly familiar, Woodstock, Monterey, Altamont and Isle Of Wight, immediately spring to mind, there were plenty of others held around the US and Europe. It was one of these, held in Rotterdam between the 26 and 28 June 1970, that is the subject of this release.

The DVD, or at least 85 minutes of it, saw a limited theatrical release as Stamping Ground in the UK and Love and Music in Europe, but has long been unavailable, if indeed it was ever commercially released. Back to the film in a moment, first we have to deal with the CDs. Quite frankly I have no idea why these CDs have been released as the audio quality is quite atrocious, poor bootleg standard at best. There is no definition, the mix is all over the place and sounds like it was recorded via a blown speaker. Although, for the purpose of this review, I sat through the recordings on several occasions, it really was an effort to finish and I can honestly say I would never play these CDs again.

With the abysmal sound of the CDs I had great fears that the film would be just as tortuous a viewing, but happily the soundtrack of the movie is a lot better than the CDs, which, given that with a few exceptions, the material is the same makes me wonder why CDs are much poorer quality? Anyway, naming the event The Dutch Woodstock, even if this was in hindsight, is not such a bold claim as the two festivals had many similarities, not least of which was the appearance of American acts Country Joe, Canned Heat, Santana, and Jefferson Airplane at both events. The fact that there was also a major rain storm, during the performance by It's A Beautiful Day who cope admirably under the circumstances, only intensifies the similarity. Other US acts included Dr John, The Byrds, and It's A Beautiful Day while the UK provided some of their most exciting young bands including Pink Floyd, Family, Quintessence and East of Eden, while the more established Soft Machine adds a jazzier edge to the progressive scene. The fetival also included one of the last appearances of Tyrannosaurus Rex before they shortened their name and became glam rock stars.

The film content is pretty much as one would expect from that era, plenty of nudity, dope smoking and, of course, rock and roll. The film is quite roughly edited in places but there are some nice interview sections and the aerial shots of the festival site and audience are pretty impressive. If you have any interest in the era then you will be pretty familiar with the musical content which does contain some entertaining footage.

Highlights include the Santana percussion heavy jam on Gumbo/Jingo, the snatches of Pink Floyd, and the quite unique, for the festival, appearance of Al Stewart performing a solo acoustic Zero She Flies. However, as much as I admire the man, it doesn't quite reach the heights of the Woodstock solo troubadour performances of John Sebastian or Richie Havens.

Not so great are the performances of Canned Heat, a band I have never really liked, although the recording is fairly historic as it was the last gig to feature guitarist/vocalist Alan Wilson who committed suicide shortly after this concert, and The Byrds with their dreadful paean to a dog called Old Blue. Nice footage of Soft Machine with the great Robert Wyatt flailing away at his drums and Mike Ratledge laying down some nice keyboard lines on Ester's Nose Job, although saxophonist Elton Dean looks very bored throughout and seems to be totally unaware of anything else, including the rest of his band!

The festival was obviously an important even in Holland with in excess of over 100,000 people attending and a lot of good music being performed. However, by 1970 such large festivals were no longer unique or all that newsworthy and no great myths or legends were created over that weekend in 1970. All of this means that the Dutch Woodstock is largely a footnote of the era and although the film is certainly worth seeing if one is interested in that musical era, it is not of the quality of the original Woodstock film. For historical purposes the re-release of the film of the Dutch festivalis certainly a valid undertaking although it would have been far better if a better booklet had been produced and the completely shitty CDs omitted.
Conclusion CD: 1 out of 10
Conclusion DVD: 5 out of 10

Pineapple Thief - Introducing...

The Pineapple Thief - Introducing...
Country of OriginUK
Record Label: KScope
Catalogue #smdcd907
Year of Release2013
Info: The Pineapple Thief
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
CD1: Warm Seas (3:58), Give It Back (7:00), Someone Pull Me Out (3:59), Wake Up the Dead (4:23), Preparation for Meltdown (7:28), Barely Breathing (3:45), Bitter Day (4:50), Second Chance (5:11), Different World (10:55), And So Say All of You (4:04)
CD2: 1. West Winds (8:57), Well, I Think That`s What You Said? (5:27), Dead in the Water (5:31), We Love You (8:38), The Answers (5:28), It's Just You and Me (4:59), Clapham (4:32), We Subside (4:56), Vapour Trails (9:10), Doppler (7:29)
Apart from the world's best (small) football team, there isn't really much to recommend the English country town of Yeovil. So as it is my home town of youth, I've always felt I should make an effort to support probably the only Progressive Rock band to ever emerge from amidst its motley collection of discount shops and factories making helicopters.

Since 1999 fellow Yeoviltonian Bruce Soord has steadily grown his project from home-made albums, to a band with a worldwide following. I initially heard the odd Pineapple Thief track. They never seemed progressive to me. I bought their 2010 album Someone Here Is Missing. It had the same non-effect.

The band's first six albums came out on the Cyclops label. After going for silly prices on ebay and the like, their new label Kscope has been slowly reissuing them. This mid-price Best Of collection thus provides an excellent sampler for those like me who missed out on the start of the band's story and want to see what they missed.

Following the footballing analogy, after running through this double disc set, what I have now appreciated is that The Pineapple Thief career is definitely a game of two halves. Until signing with Kscope its music was firmly in the mould of the other PT band - Porcupine Tree. Definitely progressive in the meandering ambient way of Steven Wilson and co. Since their arrival at Kscope, The Pineapple Thief is more of a guitar rock band with, to my ears at least, very limited prog ingredients.

This collection runs in reverse chronological order. The first disc covers the Kscope years, starting with their band's most recent album, All the Wars. The second disc runs through the Cyclops years. It doesn't have anything from the band's debut album, Abducting the Unicorn which is the only one yet to receive the reissue treatment.

I can enjoy most of the songs on the second disc, albeit the Porcupine Tree influences can be a little too familiar. From the first disc nothing really stands out at all. Bitter Day has a good melody and the expanded length of Different World allows a bit of variety to seep in. I do generally find that guitar rock style of Radiohead and Coldplay far too simplistic and repetitive. There are no extras, thus existing fans can compile their own Best Of if they wish.

So overall this is a well-structured, full career (almost) Best Of which provides a good oversight of the band's career. Those who wish to explore further will be ale to decide which albums deserve further investigation. For me it has confirmed, the fact that they also hail from Yeovil is about the only interest I have in The Pineapple Thief.
Conclusion: unrated

Royal Hunt - A Life To Die For

Royal Hunt - A Life to Die for
Country of Origin: Denmark
Format: CD + bonus DVD
Record Label: Frontiers Records
Catalogue #: FR CDVD 628
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 46:19
Info: Royal Hunt
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
Hell Comes Down from Heaven (9:28), A Bullet's Tale (5:54), Running Out of Tears (5:31), One Minute Left to Live (5:50), Sign of Yesterday (6:02), Won't Trust, Won't Fear, Won't Beg (5:10), A Life to Die For (8:38)

I'm going to start... with a question of semantics. I notice that this latest release from Copenhagen based ROYAL HUNT entitled A Life to Die For is via Frontiers Records. Navigating through their extensive web page to the "About Us" section, I notice that they are nostalgic about the Melodic Hard Rock music of the 1970s and 1980s and insight such outfits as Toto, Journey, and Survivor as examples.

I subscribe to a magazine called Classic Rock Presents Prog, but the Classic Rock series include versions with blues, country, and... ahem... AOR. Now this all starts to make sense as I can approach this kind of music from a different view point as, and hitherto only suspected, I am not necessarily dealing with prog rock.

The band has the same line up as the previous album, Show Me How to Live, in the sense that singer D.C. Cooper has stayed, implying a welcome stability and continued "return to form". This time, though, the distinguishable orchestral keyboards (Andre Andersen) are augmented by real string players and choir. Jonas Larsson again handles the guitar (with a guest spot from former minstrel Jacob Kjaer on Running Out Of Tears). Bass is played by Andreas Passmark and the impressive drumming of Allan Sörensen completes the roll call.

Although the lyrics are ostensibly simple in execution, there is a lot of philosophy running through the relatively short (by modern standards) CD. All the songs up to the closing A Life to Die For appear to show various measures of existential angst and a resignation to fate. By the time we get to that last track it appears that there might be a second chance after all! Kal Brockschmdt's cover of a small boy looking across a grim city (I'm not clever enough to work out what the Wolf means...) further parallels this conclusion.

The music is as grand as the concept albeit in a melodic softer approach which I realise is the trademark sound of this genre. Medium paced soft rock, with occasional guitar flurries, cemented with a modern drum approach and those lush stringy backdrops replete with soaring choruses. But besides the lyrical ideas, there's no darkness or mystery in it and the corners are all rounded off.

That huge orchestral accompaniment is there on all the tracks, so I guess the light and shade that prog often gives us is somewhat missing... But as I said before, this isn't prog. Although the band look great with impressive hair, I can't stop picturing string players in dinner jackets diluting the "rock" experience. There is also, for me, a hint of European Song Contest In the production.

That said, the vocalist does an impressive job as the story teller with backing vocals by Kenny Lubcke and Alexandra Popova further adding to the radio friendly feel to the show. Andre Anderson was born in Moscow and the arrangements have a definite Russian bias, which does add to the overall enormity of the soundscape.

The package comes with a bonus DVD, but I haven't seen it so can't comment, but you get more than your money's worth with the amount of instrumentation easily making up for the price of admission. This CD will appeal to, well... fans of Royal Hunt.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Andy Summers - Synaesthesia

Andy Summers - Synaesthesia
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD / digital download
Record Label: Esoteric
Catalog #: B00GXQEINU
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 46:57
Info: Andy Summers
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
Cubano Rebop (5:31), Chocolate of the Desperate (1:08), Monk Hangs Ten (4:08), Umbrellas Over Java (6:30), Low Flying Doves (5:42), Invisible Cities (5:47), Synaesthesia (5:00), I Remember (4:05), Triangles (4:13)
I've never been an especially devoted fan of The Police. Or, I guess it's more accurate to say that I've never been a devoted fan of the band's albums.

I was in high school during the band's heyday and I heard all of the radio singles... every day, in heavy, repetitive rotation. But I still enjoyed most of them. I can never dismiss catchy pop songs with sly lyrics.

Sting had a strident but appropriately frenetic voice for the earlier music and then his voice smoothed out once the tunes became sultry and finessed. I was always impressed by the graceful tact and patient restraint of both Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. Obviously, they each had (have) skill galore but, more impressive, each knew how to accent a song for precise emotional impact. And even if Sting's bass work was somewhat simplistic, still, I'm a sucker for walking bass lines, and always felt he added the right bottom touch. In short, a great singles band. However, I find all of the albums, excluding perhaps Outlandos d'Amour , to be uneven, like a see-saw with a hulking kid on one end and a small fellow on the other – unbalanced and incongruous. In this sense, I've always drawn a parallel between The Police and The Doors. There's certainly no stylistic similarity between the two groups but they both produced superb radio tracks, a better-than-decent debut, an interesting (at the least) swansong recording, and a handful of middle-career, muddled albums. So, for me, The Police are a greatest-hits-only sort of band.

That said, the few albums I've heard from Mr. Summers post-Police career (some Windham Hill stuff and I Advance Masked) have been at worst proficient and at best engaging. Synaesthesia falls somewhere in the middle of that continuum.

Now, I'm not entirely certain how this release ended up in my review queue. Well, to clarify, I selected it to help clear a DPRP backlog. But, as far as I can tell, the album was recorded/released circa 1995. I suspect I've been listening to a re-release but I can't find much information to confirm the suspicion. The version I have in hand contains the ever-popular, obligatory (but trite by now) bonus track, so I'll posit that this is either a re-mix or a re-master. (Amazon lists the release date as 2013, so Synaesthesia must be a re-release of some sort.)

Synaesthesia features Andy Summers on guitars and piano; Ginger Baker on most of the drumming; Jerry Watts on bass guitar; Mitchel Forman on keyboards; and The Trouserfly String Quartet (Charlie Bisharat, first violin; Joel Derouin, second violin; Steve Richards, first cello; and Larry Corbett, second cello) for the oh-so-orchestral moments. Gregg Bissonette lends a hand with drums on Monk Hangs Ten and Cubano Rebop. To be frank, the band, as such, is definitely in the background and is a bit bland: it's very obviously the canvas for Mr. Summer's oils.

The strong points of the album are the variety of guitar textures Mr. Summers employs and the fact that each track has it's own inner context. Synaesthesia avoids the same ol', same ol' pretty well. Also, I was happy to hear a willingness to abandon blues-based soloing: I've heard enough to hold me over for a long span.

Standout tracks are Cubano Rebop with it's slinky Santana-lite-meets-slowhand-Holdsworth groove; Meshes of the Afternoon, which echoes the menace of I Want You (She's So Heavy) before segueing into some spy vs. spy dramatics and an angular, Frippian mini-freakout; Monk Hangs Ten, within which a punked-out Batman theme song riff is wed to a 60s garage band, in surf-rockabilly mode; and Umbrellas Over Java, an infectious piece of world music utilizing indigenous instrumentation, a cool, meandering mood, and some In Through the Out Door Page accents. Also, Low Flying Doves is a pretty slice of instrumental dream pop, airy and drifting, with a touch of David Gilmour spaciness.

The final few tracks of the album are all of a piece – mild, ambient, keyboard-heavy – and, while non are repulsive, non offer any special wow moments, either.

All-in-all, a nice once- or twice-through album. Synaesthesia isn't tremendously adventurous or bold. It has some flavor and many well-added spices but it's still weak on the palette. I'd rather hear something in this vein than anything by The Police – a comment emerging mostly from brutal overexposure to the threesome's radio ubiquity – but I was very neutral about the album, in the end. There's nothing wrong with Synaesthesia and it gives a few kicks, but it's not a life-altering or even day-altering listen. It's a pleasant diversion, which is OK.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10

Mother Turtle - Mother Turtle

Mother Turtle - Mother Turtle
Country of OriginGreece
Record Labelindependent
Catalogue #n/a
Year of Release2013
Info: Mother Turtle
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
707 (A November Less) (9:27), Mother Turtle And The Evil Mushroom part 1: The Turtle Conjuration (6:51), The Elf (9:34), Bridge (6:07), God Games (12:16), Rhinocerotic (6:48), Attic (11:09)
Formed in 2011, Greek band Mother Turtle (previously known as Hogweed) have released their self-titled debut. The band members cite as their inspirations Frank Zappa, Rush, Camel, Genesis, Marillion, and other prog rock legends. The CD beautifully couples the zaniness of Zappa with the operatic playfulness of Queen or Ambrosia, although nary a reference to the other inspirations, apart from Rush, can be discerned. The lyrics are appropriately offbeat, ranging from obtuse (e.g., "Twice upon a time, Once upon a dream") to downright strange (e.g., "Praise the Mother Turtle and his evilness the mushroom growing on her shell").

The musicianship - founded on a mix of classic and progressive rock - is excellent throughout. There are catchy guitar leads, retro-sounding keyboards, punchy bass, vigorous drumming, and dramatic, melodious, and seemingly tongue-in-cheek vocals (which are sung without any Greek accent and, at times, evoke Geddy Lee of Rush). These guys have musical chops, and they want you to know that.

One has the sense that, although the musicians are working really hard, they are also having real fun. The playing is intense - the freneticism of Rhinocerotic, the sole instrumental on the CD, could induce a panic attack in a meditating monk - but the vocals retain a lightness that offsets the riotousness. Striking this balance well, as the band has done, is quite an achievement.

Of the seven pieces, all are worthwhile listens. The apex is the closer, Attic, which displays a bold, electric sound, myriad shifts in time and tone, and striking vocals. And, the guitar playing on the tune absolutely shines. Also intriguing is God Games: the beginning and end sections sound like classic jamband music, with in-your-face guitar and driving drums, but the mid-section includes a brief spoken (and sometimes yelled) religious lecture. (Indeed, on this varied CD, nothing lasts too long.) Only one tune, The Elf, underachieves: it lacks any substantial hook but, fortunately, is salvaged by creative drumming.

Open-minded fans of eclectic, electric rock, and, in particular, fans of Zappa, should seek out this CD. This is rich and original music that cries out for repeated listening.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Syndone - Odysseas

Syndone - Odysséas
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD
Record Label: Synpress44
Catalogue #: FAD-012
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 63:32
Track List:
Invocazione Alla Musa (3:11), Il Tempo Che Non Ho (5:33), Focus (4:24), Penelope (4:44), Circe (2:31), Ade (5:01), Poseidon (2:21), Nemesis (5:10), La Grande Bouffe (4:52), Eros & Thanatos (2:04), Vento Avverso (3:43), Eleutheria (1:47), Daimones (4:54)
I have to confess that Syndone are an Italian trio I know very little about although by all accounts they've been around for over 20 years with 4 previous albums to their credit, the most recent of which The Beauty is the Beast was favourably reviewed by the DPRP in 2012.

Read the sleeve note credits and it's obvious that instrumentally Syndone are not your typical line-up. Nik Comoglio is credited with keyboards, Francesco Pinetti vibraphone and Riccardo Ruggeri vocals. No guitar, bass or drums you will notice although these are present courtesy of an array of guest musicians including a small orchestra plus Steve's brother John Hackett on one track. The guitars (beautifully played by Pino Russo) are all acoustic whilst the articulate bass and drums are provided by Federico Marchesano and Marco Minnemann respectively, the latter having previously performed with Steven Wilson and Adrian Belew. It's their partnership combined with Comoglio's mainly analogue keys that occasionally brings ELP to mind.

Things get off to a very promising start with the percussive fusion instrumental Invocazione Alla Musa where vibraphone and drums combine to lively effect recalling UK in their prime and more specifically Bill Bruford's The Sahara of Snow. Likewise the rhythmic instrumentals Circe and Poseidon take the band even further into jazz-rock territory featuring some exceptional piano, organ and synth gymnastics from Comoglio.

Despite the multilingual titles, the remaining songs are fittingly and expressively sung in Italian although as vocalists go Ruggeri seems to have something of an identity crisis. During Focus for example (which otherwise recalls mid-period Genesis) he screams out the words like a frustrated heavy-metal singer whilst on the acoustic ballads Il Tempo Che Non Ho (classical guitar and stings) and Penelope (grand piano and flute) he croons in true Freddie Mercury fashion. In fact it's not until the concluding Daimones where a more neutral performance reveals his true voice and very appealing it is to. This is also one of the albums best tracks with a lyrical melody that reaches a fitting crescendo although sadly it's undermined by a lazy solo synth arrangement. In my opinion the orchestral instrumentation incorporated elsewhere would have provided a more deserving treatment.

In fact the orchestra is sparingly but effectively integrated throughout the course of the album with the horns at their most strident during the aforementioned Focus whilst the strings provide a suitably romantic intro to Vento Avverso. And whilst orchestras do not always sound at their best in a rock setting, here, thanks to the sympathetic production, every note is rendered crystal clear in the mix.

If like me you appreciate ensemble musicianship of the highest caliber that fits comfortably into the virtuoso category then you will find Odysséas a rewarding listen. Although 13 tracks may seem excessive they are not as random as you might expect with each track seamlessly linked with the next. Perhaps the melodies could be more memorable and the vocals less self-indulgent but overall this is an album that has a good deal to recommended it. It's also smartly packaged in a glossy digipak and in response to the early Queen albums that boasted that no synths were used, Syndone proudly state "No electric guitars"!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Rocket Scientists - Supernatural Highway

Rocket Scientists - Supernatural Highway
County of OriginUSA
Record LabelThink Tank Media
Catalogue #TTMD 1056
Year of Release2014
Info: Rocket Scientists
Samples: Click Here
Track List:
Traveler on the Supernatural Highway (26:09), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (4:14)
This is an interesting one really, just two tracks as both a celebration of 20 years of Rocket Scientists and also a a precursor to a new full length album that will hopefully emerge later is 2014. This EP consists of just two tracks, both instrumental and one being a long 26:09 and the other a cover of the them of a James Bond movie theme from 1969 – the whole EP has a run time of just over 30 minutes.

So what do you get then?

Firstly the long track – Traveler on the Supernatural Highway. If you are familiar with previous Rocket Scientsts releases or even Erik Norlanders Galactic Collective output then you will know that we are talking lengthy instrumentals with a healthy dose of Moog synthesizers (Erik calls it the "wall of doom"), amongst soaring guitar and NS Stick basses weaving multi rhythmic patterns to create a evolving and constantly shifting soundscape with great depth thanks to the bottom end of the Moog, this piece also features Cello which adds new voicing's to the sounds, there are lots of solos from all concerned and it is best played loud to appreciate the subtleties contained herein, with its use of ethnic percussives and Cello it has a very organic feel to it as it moves through its distinct sections.

There is also some simply beautiful piano playing on here which shows the skill that Erik Norlander possesses and that he can do subtle dynamics as well as keyboard bombast, but it is most definitely a group effort as Mark McCrite's solo shows when he is so adroitly backed by the others, Don Schiff shows why he is a master of the NS Stick, laying down a very funky groove indeed at the 14:30 mark, over which Mark McCrite lays some tasty atmospheric guitar parts. There is an almost fusion type feel herein as well yet never is it just "chops for the sake of chops" this is far more focused than that and when Mark and Erik trade licks it's a great moment as both are very tasteful players and spur each other onwards to greater heights.

The continued use of percussion adds to the unfolding musical journey as the piece changes continually but with a recurrent motif being reintroduced throughout, Erik's soaring synth work being the prime exponent of this melody. I think live this would be a showstopper not only due to it's length but because of its wonderful musicality and vibrance, a great use of atmospherics and harmony. At the 23:30 mark too, with Don's Stick laying down a very interesting rhythm indeed. The piece closes on sustained voicings, acoustic guitar, rumbling NS Stick, and Erik's low moog notes concluding matters.

It's a piece that you need to listen to several times to get where it's both coming from and going to, but it's well worth the effort. Exemplary produced to great sonic effect it sounds fabulous, especially loud. It is a worthy addition the their already extensive back catalogue and body of work.

OHMSS is a cover of the John Barry classic James Bond theme and it stays faithful to the original version complete with brass section and some soaring guitarwork from Mark McCrite. You can tell this was a lot of fun to record and it shows just how strong a theme it actually was, considering that it was written by John Barry some 45 odd years ago. Rocket Scientists add their modern embellishments yet without detracting from the original version and one can imagine John Barry nodding his head and just loving this version. It's a tasteful and respectful homage to John Barry of whom Mark McCrite is a huge admirer.

So that's it in a nutshell just two tracks but when they are as good as that, then who cares? I heartily recommend this and look forward eagerly to what this talented trio (and friends) bring next. But hey guys, not another seven year wait please
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
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