It's Prog-Tober! 31+ albums and reviews in 31 days!
Realisea — Fairly Carefree
In 2020 the Mantelpiece album by Realisea, at that time thought of as a solo project of Silhouette-founder Brian de Graeve with his wife Marjolein, took the prog-world by surprise. The album gained quite some recognition leading to several gigs in-between the Covid lockdowns. During these shows the musicians that formed the Realisea live band, clicked so well that founders Brian and Marjolein decided to form a real band with this line-up and to record a follow-up to their debut.
Fairly Carefree saw the light of day on October 19th this year. It is packed again in stunning artwork, this time painted by Coby van der Burgt. The artwork is not just on the outside, CD buyers won't be disappointed in the booklet that contains bright and colourful paintings to illustrate the lyrics of all songs. Great job done!
That artwork may indicate another romantic, maybe mellow, album but that first impression proves totally wrong. The present line-up of Realisea, which also consists of Christophe Rapenne on keyboards, former Silhouette drummer Jos Uffing on drums and vocals, Mark op ten Berg on bass and Rindert Bul on guitars, rocks heavier than on Mantelpiece but without ever losing sight of the melody and subtlety.
Erik Laan (keys), Geoffrey de Graeve (bass), Mila Kamstra (violin) and Tamara van Koetsveld (clarinet) guest on several tracks on the album. Brian de Graeve produced the album, while the mixing and mastering was done by Bart Laan, son of his Silhouette bandmate Erik Laan. They all did a splendid job.
The hour-long album contains two epics of well over 10 minutes. I Could Never Learn opens in true Pendragon-style with a very fine guitar intro, after some environmental sounds. The song develops into a slow but naturally-flowing piece with lead vocals by Brian in good interplay with Marjolein's backing vocals. The rather cheesy lyrics are a bit over the top but the music is fabulous. The vocal lines are melodious, graciously changing height and tempo regularly, to change the mood completely. Clever bass lines link the keyboard solos to the guitar solos, a trick De Graeve has done before in Silhouette, and it works again here. The music is tight, it rocks, it's mellow and it's romantic. It's prog in every second. Simply a great opener for the album.
Strange enough I found Trilemma, with its more than 15 minutes the other epic of the album, quite hard to get into. That is not because it would be a bad song, on the contrary. So much is happening in the song, so many musical themes are glued to so many instruments, that it is simply hard to discern all that beauty. Marjolein does the lead vocals here and does it well as she doesn't have to reach very high notes. The lyrics of this song, telling the story of a relationship undergoing quite some problems, contain the album title.
In between the two epics, are five slow-to-rather-fast songs with a wide musical variation. There are three slow ballads with Marjolein on lead vocals. In Crackled Colorite, the rather low vocal key is totally in her comfort zone, which leads to a really fine vocal job. Rindert Bul excels with several heavenly solos while in the midst of the song there is a very fine quiet keyboard- and bass-dominated part. In spite of all the musical variation, the song is very coherent, making it one of the highlights of the album.
Pretending is the other ballad; opening up for romanticism to return. It's a very quiet and slow song dominated by the rather high-key vocal melody, acoustic guitar and piano and soft keys. Halfway Bul comes in and the soft song gets some fine guitar and keyboard soloing, up to the rather spicy end. The high notes in the end section are actually a bit too difficult for Marjolein's voice, which make her voice a bit of a shriek here.
Sheltered Dreams, well sung by Brian on lead vocals, is the last mellow ballad, with a really beautiful and romantic acoustic accompaniment of guitar and piano. Towards the end, the drums and bass fall in to support a quiet keyboard solo, leading towards a full band coda dominated by Bul's electric guitar, backed by choir-like keys. There are hints of Pendragon and Panic Room all over the place.
Your Lies and Out In The Cold show the faster side of Realisea with Uffing firmly leading the way on drums. The electric guitar is the dominant instrument here, with several great solos, sometimes alternated by flute and Mellotron. What better combination is possible? The references that these two songs bring to mind, range from early Genesis and nineties Pallas, to present day Mystery and Kayak.
The latter is one of De Graeve's favourite bands, so it must have been a great honour for him to have Ton Scherpenzeel guesting on keys on the album closer Malgré Les Vagues. That song works in the same manner as Turn It Off, the closing song on Silhouette's last album The World Is Flat. It is the first single off the album and contains everything that makes this a great band; a very fine vocal melody, beautiful, almost classical music with very quiet piano and clarinet but also fine electric guitar playing.
This album shows clearly the great inspiration that the new line-up has brought to Marjolein and Brian. The tight rhythm section is the solid pillar under the band. The supporting keys constantly set the mood but never dominate, the prolific electric guitar never exaggerates its role, while there are numerous moments for reflection presenting acoustic instruments to add an extra musical flavour. It's all very tastefully done.
Fairly Carefree is a stunning album in all respects and is a no-brainer for all those prog lovers who like real melodies, numerous electric guitars solos, good female and harmony vocals, lots of musical variation, and last but not least, some well elaborated artwork to come with the music. Maybe you'll have to get acquainted to the lead voices but it will be very rewarding if you take that effort. The only downside of this release is that I fear that a new Silhouette-album will not released very soon.
This album will end up in my top 2022 albums for sure. Highly recommended!