Showing posts with label Music Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music Reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Progressive Music Review On Vinyl: Pink Floyd-Animals

Release Date: September 16, 2022

Label:  ‎Warner Music (Sony Music outside Europe)

Website

Release Info: Animals 2018 Remix will be released on CD, LP (with gatefold artwork), Blu-ray, SACD, and Deluxe Gatefold formats. The Deluxe Gatefold version includes LP, CD, audio Blu-ray, audio DVD, and a 32-page book. The Blu-ray and DVD audio include the 2018 remix in Stereo, 5.1 Surround (both by James Guthrie), and the original 1977 Stereo mix. The 32-page booklet features rarely seen behind-the-scenes photographs of the album sleeve shoot, along with live images and memorabilia. The album artwork has been reimagined for this release.

Animals is one of many Pink Floyd classics. I heard the album when it first came out years ago and thought it was bizarre, and I was unappreciative. I also knew it was stoner music without realizing what I was hearing was brilliant and imaginative progressive rock. For those of you newer to this musical world, this overview will give you a glimpse into one of the greatest bands and a fresh look at a timeless classic slice of progressive rock for those long ago initiated.


This most recent release comes in many flavors for the completist. I am sure the 5.1 surround sound mix is fantastic, and this vinyl version was very satisfying with the oversized colorful booklet. The sound is phenomenal, as one would expect.


Side one starts with a quick acoustic guitar introduction with waters doing the honors on vocals. Then it launches into the meat of the album with "Dogs." I call the track's lyrics backstabbing set to rock. The animals referred to are the greedy politicians and the gluttonously wealthy; at least, that is what I can ascertain based on the band's output. It starts with some dogs barking, an excellent electric solo kicks in, a lovely synth passage, and some superb guitar work from Gilmour. By the time the fourth verse starts, Gilmour's vocals are reigning supreme, and a lot of echo effects help to emphasize those words, then more dogs barking. Some wild synth parts come in, followed by some weird sound effects, then an acoustic guitar mellows things out and leads into the fifth verse. 


Waters takes over the vocals, followed by some stinging electric leads, then a tasteful lead supported by some strong bass lines courtesy of Waters. The sixth verse has a repetitive message to solidify the track's meaning. Waters consistently would deliver vocals with the needed emphasis.


On to side two with "Pigs" (Three Different Ones) with the entrance of a funky guitar intro as Waters sings, "pig man charade you are." I love the energy and how different from side one it was. The lyrics bite with cynicism like "you radiate cold shafts of broken glass" and some pig sounds, then into the third verse and more political pokes. Gilmour uses the talk box, and steady rhythms carry it through to some echoing guitar sounds. Then Water's vocals start in the fourth verse. The vocals lead out to a magnificent lead guitar break. This is vintage Gilmour complimented by another outstanding bass run with great drum fills from Mason, which bring it to a fade out with sheep chattering and on to the next track, of course, "Sheep."


A tasty jazz keyboard run from Wright starts things off, then the bass enters, and Waters begins singing, followed by keyboards and drum mixing in with a prolific explosion as Gilmour peels off some more licks to astound with some effects. Waters delivers with preciseness and impact with the lyrics as usual. A nice transition changes it to a different purposeful pace, then a switch to a mellow downswing with the bass. The third verse is a prayer with lines like "getting converted to lamb cutlets." Are we talking about the animal itself here or god's children? The track leads out with a flourish from Gilmour, then a segue with sheep once again with birds chirping this time, then on to the finale "Pigs on the Wing (Part Two)" with Waters and the acoustic guitar ending it all as it began and you get "a shelter from pigs on a wing."


Animals is cynical, satirical, and a musical masterpiece. In 1977 it was a true wonder of music, and it stands today the same, only heard with different, perhaps older ears, remastered to accentuate all of the subtilities that may have slipped by or ignored on the first run. This essential release in the Pink Floyd catalog deserves another look and listen in 2022.


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Progressive Music Reviews Founder

July 18, 2022


Tracks:


Side One:

1. Pigs on the Wing (Part One)

2. Dogs


Side Two:

3. Pigs (Three Different Ones)

4. Sheep

5. Pigs on the Wing (Part Two)


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Symphonic Prog Review: Oliver Wakeman-Collaborations

Release Date: April 11, 2022

Label: Elflock Records

Website

https://soundcloud.com/oliverwakeman/albums


While I have been aware of Oliver Wakeman for a long time, I have not listened to his music, but this changed a while back when I obtained a box set of 3 cds, Tales By Gaslight, which was a collaboration with Clive Nolan from the band, Arena. 

Now, I have been presented with another box set from Oliver, specifically called Collaborations which brings Oliver together with Steve Howe (Yes) with an album called The 3 Ages Of Magick, with Gordon Giltrap on an album called Ravens And Lullabies and a third disc, From A Stage, a live album, which pulls together music from Giltrap/Wakeman concerts.

The first disc, The 3 Ages of Magick, was originally released in 2001 and the Yes guitarist, Steve Howe worked together with Oliver. Oliver then joined Yes, I believe replacing his father, Rick, in the line-up, from 2008 to 2011. At that point, Oliver began working with another guitarist, Gordon Giltrap, resulting in the release of Ravens and Lullabies.

The 3 Ages of Magick contains 16 instrumental tracks with a total playing time of just over 74 min (74:04) with track 13, “Hy Breasail”, the longest at 8:36 min and track 12, “Through The Eyes of a Child”, the shortest at 2:13 min. 

The opening track on this album is “Ages Of Magick” (5:49) and starts with some very atmospheric keyboard swathes and great guitar work before some amazing violin work leads into a gothic style choir. The guitar and keyboards carry the track onwards, featuring some excellent piano work and a very melodic keyboard passage that moves the track towards the finale. The choir re-joins the proceedings and the guitar of Steve and the keyboards of Oliver merge to take the track out. An excellent opener which should draw the listener into the tracks that follow. 

Track number 10, “The Enchanter” (6:04) is another stunning track which again starts with the keyboards and there is a very classical feel to the music before the rest of the musicians join in. There is a keyboard passage which leads into a slow section where the guitar of Steve appears. From this point, the keyboard and guitar play little themed sections which should bring a little smile to the listener. This is the result of two excellent musicians being "in tune" with each other and enjoying themselves.

Ravens and Lullabies comprises 17 tracks with a running time of just over 71 minutes (71:13), with track 7, “Is This the Last Song That I Write?”, the longest at 10:02 min and track 12, “One For Billy”, the shortest at 2:11 min.

This album is very different from the first disc and although we have the same main instrumentation with keyboards and guitars, the feeling of the music varies. The opening track "Moneyfacturing” (4:10) begins with some excellent acoustic guitar from Gordon, soon to be joined by the rest of the band. This album also features Paul Manzi on vocals, and he possesses a very powerful, versatile voice. The lyrics themselves are very interesting and the track is filled with those little "hooks" that are not easily forgotten. One listen to this album and I guarantee that you will be singing along on the next play.

Track number 3, “From The Turn of a Card” (3:47), is another example of a piece of music littered with “hooks”, whether they be a repetitive lyric line or a little theme from the guitar or keyboard. It may be only 3:47 minutes in length, but it is a very enjoyable experience.

From A Stage has 15 live tracks with a total playing time of just over 68 min (68:06), with track 8, “Dodo’s Dream”, the longest at 8:09 min and track 4, “Glimmer of Light”, the shortest at 3:11 min.

Track number 14 from this album is one of the tracks from Ravens and Lullabies, “Ravens Will Fly Away” (4:51) and starts with some superb acoustic guitar from Gordon, soon to be joined by the voice of Paul Manzi. This is a very melodic track which has Oliver providing an “orchestral accompaniment” as the track approaches the four-minute mark and then flows onwards to the finale. 

The final track on the album is “Heartsong” (4:21) which comes from the album Perilous Journey by Gordon released in 1977 and is an excellent instrumental highlighting the musical skills of both Oliver and Gordon and is a fitting finale to the live album and indeed the Collaborations box set.

The Collaborations box set is a very good package, bringing together the musical skills of Oliver and Steve, Oliver and Gordon and a live Giltrap/Wakeman band retrospective. I will admit to enjoying the smooth melodic music produced across all 3 albums and suggest that people grab a listen to this release as it might well surprise people. 

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson

May 1,2022


Track Listing

The 3 Ages of Magick:

1. Ages Of Magick

2. Mind Over Matter

3. The Forgotten King

4. The Storyteller

5. The Whales Last Dance

6. Time Between Times

7. Flight Of The Condor

8. Lutey And The Mermaid

9. Standing Stones

10. The Enchanter

11. The Healer

12. Through The Eyes Of A Child

13. Hy Breasail

14. Hit 'n Myth

15. The Faerie Ring

16. Dream Weaver - (The Storyteller Demo)


Ravens & Lullabies:

1. Moneyfacturing

2. Fiona's Smile

3. From the Turn of a Card

4. LJW

5. Maybe Tomorrow

6. Wherever There Was Beauty

7. Is This the Last Song I Write?

8. A Mayfair Kiss

9. Anyone Can Fly

10. A Perfect Day

11. Credit Carnival

12. One For Billie

13. Ravens Will Fly Away

Bonus tracks

14. Praeludium (from the Well Tempered Clavier)

15. The Forgotten King

16. Roots

17. The Wedding Approaches (Instrumental version)


From a Stage:

1. Nature's Way

2. Wherever There Was Beauty 

3. Elizabethan Pirates

4. Glimmer of Light

5. Isabella's Wedding

6. Maybe Tomorrow

7. If You're Leaving

8. Dodo's Dream

9. Picture of a Lady

10. Anyone Can Fly

11. Lutey and the Mermaid

12. Roots

13. Mother's Ruin

14. Ravens Will Fly Away

15. Heartsong

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Symphonic Prog Review: The Flower Kings-By Royal Decree

Release Date: March 4th 2022 (2CD, 3LP + 2CD and Digital)

Label: Inside Out Music

Website

The Flower Kings came into being in 1994 in Uppsala, Sweden, and apart from a 4- year hiatus from 2008 to 2012, they have played and recorded albums for over 20 years. The band have released 15 studio albums, from the debut in 1995, Back in The World of Adventure up to 2022, By Royal Decree, which is the album under review.

The band on this recent release had a total of 7 members, plus 4 guests. The band are Roine Stolt (vocals, guitar, ukulele, additional keyboards and orchestration), Hasse Froberg (vocals, 12 string guitar), Zach Kamins (organ, piano, synths and orchestration), Michael Stolt (bass, Moog Taurus and backing vocals), Jonas Reingold (fretted and fretless basses), Mirrko Demaio (drums and percussion) and Hasse Bruniusson (acoustic and electronic percussion).

By Royal Decree is a 2 CD release with a total playing time of just over 94 minutes and 18 tracks, 9 on each of the albums. The longest track on offer is found on disc 1, track 3 "Blinded" running for 7:52 minutes and the shortest track is to be found on disc 2, track 8, “Shrine” clocking in at 1:11 minutes.

For over 25 years now, The Flower Kings have been a constant in the world of modern prog but have retained the influence of the classic prog from the 70s, ensuring they produce music that appeals to prog fans globally.


The opening track, “The Great Pretender (6:59) is a perfect example of what The Flower Kings do very well. The basis of the sound is simple, drums, bass and guitar with a healthy scattering of organ, piano, Mellotron and Moog synths and the 2-pronged vocal attack provided by Roine and Hasse Froberg. The track is instantly recognizable as The Flower Kings, with the power of the bass and drums, the keyboards always there or thereabouts and the guitars adding just the right riffs at the right times. There are hooks throughout this opening track, which, in my opinion, is a superb introduction to the rest of the release.

Staying with disc 1, track 4, “A Million Stars Above” (7:19) moves to the ballad style of The Flower Kings and seems to be a plea for love, with its warm melodic style topped by the addition of a Roine Stolt ultra-smooth guitar solo which he throws into the mix with such ease. This track is a great example of the quieter side of The Flower Kings.

Still, on the first disc, Track 8, "Peacocks on Parade" (5:22) shifts the emphasis away from the vocals, i.e., it is an instrumental to all intents and purposes, which highlights the superb keyboard work of Zach Kamins above the guitar of Roine Stolt. This is another good example of the different facets shown by The Flower Kings.

By Royal Decree is an album that improves each time it is played as the hooks latch on inside the listeners’ heads. Double albums can sometimes be criticized for “filler” tracks and comments such as, “if only they had missed off the album, tracks X, Y and Z they would have made a killer single album”. The Flower Kings new album appears to have sidestepped these thoughts and while it is true there are no epic-length tracks as many previous albums have included, the band have made an extremely listenable, good album. I will concede that By Royal Decree is not the best Flower Kings album I have heard but I will never sit on the fence and heap praise on any release that falls below the levels I would expect from a particular band.

By Royal Decree is a great album, perhaps not quite deserving the use of stunning or superb, but these 18 tracks showcase a band that knows what they are good at, and I would ask people to give By Royal Decree a few listens, let it settle into your head, and I am sure many listeners will find a space for this album on their CD shelves.


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson
April 10, 2022

Tracks :                       
CD 1 (52:19)
1. The Great Pretender (6:59)
2. World Gone Crazy (5:07)
3. Blinded (7:52)
4. A Million Stars (7:20)
5. The Soldier (5:26)
6. The Darkness in You (5:17)
7. We Can Make It Work (2:53)
8. Peacock on Parade (5:22)
9. Revolution (6:03)


CD 2 (41:48)
1. Time the Great Healer (6:17)
2. Letter (2:26)
3. Evolution (4:50)
4. Silent Ways (5:04)
5. Moth (4:41)
6. The Big Funk (4:44)
7. Open Your Heart (5:20)
8. Shrine (1:11)
9. Funeral Pyres (7:15)


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Progressive Rock Review: Mobile Fidelity- Electric Light Orchestra-Eldorado

Release Date: April 8, 2022

Label:  Mobile Fidelity

Website

Source Link

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, or Mo-Fi, is a label known to many music enthusiasts worldwide. They know how to take music and bring out its best for discerning ears.

Audiophiles will be buzzing once they have a chance to purchase Electric Light Orchestra's classic progressive orchestrated rock album Eldorado.

This version is the 180-gram single LP, cut at 33RPM and pressed on SuperVinylTM. Mastered from the original analog master tapes, pressed on 180-gram SuperVinyl at RTI, and housed in a tip-on jacket, Mobile Fidelity's numbered, single-LP edition. There are other editions to choose from as well here.

It has been many years since I had the opportunity to work with Mo-Fi, and I am grateful for the opportunity. The detailed and critical process to produce this pristine vinyl is priced at $79.99 for the single LP version I received for review. What I found fascinating about this black vinyl is when you hold it up to the light, you can see it in a transparent black. The process of pressing each of the copies individually allows for this quality.

I got the album when it was released in 1974. At the time, I was not too impressed because of my need to be a teenager and rock out. I still like to rock, but my mind has expanded considerably since that time. Eldorado receives an injection of new life through the Mo-Fi process. For those younger fans in the audiophile audience, the picture on the cover is from the original Wizard of Oz movie.

Side one begins with the short-lived and epic beginning "Eldorado Overture (Instrumental)" then segues right into the immensely popular "Can't Get It Out of My Head," which still sounds great to this day. It is one of their most memorable and beloved tunes. Every track segues into the next on the entire album, with no pause to cue you that a new one is starting; you have to get a feel for it, which comes with time. I could tell when there was a change into the next track, even though the album is full of many distinct and progressive changes.

"Boy Blue" has a regal intro like the queen is entering the palace to her receiving line, and they all are bowing to her grace and symbolic power. The changes come quickly in an upbeat fashion with some solid rock and an excellent rhythm section. There are some lovely transitions over to some piano, then to guitar, and a mixture of violin and cello (which you will frequently hear throughout). That particular element lends a definition and substance that would be nonexistent.

"Laredo Tornado" enters with a cool synth, which is gentle and funky at the same time. There is no storm going on here, as the title would suggest. There are good rhythms, Jeff Lynn's vocals rang true, and he elevates the instrumentation to higher highs. His voice could get relatively high. Strong guitar lines, albeit occasional, come and go, and the drums are outstanding and shine in this mix.

"Poor Boy (The Greenwood)" closes out side one with some nice acoustic guitar as the track quickly takes flight and continues to gather momentum with elements of pop, then to a strong closing.

Side two begins with "Mister Kingdom," and you can hear the Beatle's influence. The moptops were one of Jeff Lynne's main influences. The synth comes in with help to the movements that reach highs and lows for the ears to absorb. Jeff's vocals are passionate as he gives meaning to the lyrics. The synth is steady throughout, and the sounds are atmospheric layers where every musician has an opportunity to be heard.

"Nobody's Child" has the repetitive lyric of "painted lady" followed by some honky-tonk piano (something you would hear on ELP's Brain Salad Surgery, for instance). That rollicking sound gives way to the ELO orchestral pieces, and many changes come about, then it flips over to some toe-tapping rocking sound before introducing the next track.

"Illusions in G Major" is short and sweet but tasty and without all the changes and complexities of prior tracks. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

"Eldorado" is filled with consistent movements of ballad territory; however, it again illustrates the eclectic style presented by this amazing group of musicians and their output for the time.

There are not so many swift changes, and the progressiveness is left behind, then the orchestrations come in to open the door to the curtain closer to "Eldorado Finale."

If you search for a classic slice of progressive rock handled with care and delivered with fantastic sonics, colors, and subtleties you had not previously heard, this Mo-Fi masterpiece will be a revelatory experience.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-PMR Founder

March 26, 2022



Side One:   
1. Eldorado Overture (Instrumental) 2:12
2. Can't Get It Out of My Head 4:21
3. Boy Blue 5:18
4. Laredo Tornado 5:29
5. Poor Boy (The Greenwood) 2:57

Side Two:
6. Mister Kingdom 5:50
7. Nobody's Child 3:40
8. Illusions in G Major 2:36
9. Eldorado 5:20
10. Eldorado Finale 1:20

 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Progressive Instrumental Vinyl Review: The Hallucinant Telepherique-Call of The Resonant Star

Release Date: April 1, 2022

Label:  Erratic Music

Website

That fantastic and versatile sibling team of Gino Montoya (Guitars) Sergio Montoya (Drums, Bass, Keyboards, Guitars) are back on the progressive music radar with their third embodiment of The Hallucinant Telepherique. I know that is quite a mouthful but a genius name for a group. The latest effort is titled Call of The Resonant Star. It keeps them on track for their sci-fi storylines and more esoteric subjects.

They always release a limited number of copies (500) of the recordings on vinyl. And it sounds incredible. You all knew I was going to say that, didn't you? Well, it is true; most music does sound better on vinyl. When it's all progressive instrumental, it is a party of assorted ear candy.

Side one starts with "No Third." It begins with a layer of keyboards that follow the pace and changes that the guitar offers. They go from fast and furious to quirky and complex. That is their template for this band, and it never fails to entertain. The keys are a nice touch and give some space and order to the otherwise extreme changes. It is a classic prog instrumental track and a great way to open the curtain to more.

The title track "Call of The Resonant Star" is the magnum opus clocking in at 12:02. What you hear is everything that they can produce in one track. A nice acoustic guitar starts with a gentle keyboard passage, and then they are blasting off the launching pad into a more aggressive-driven style. Jazz flavored guitar lines enter the mix with more keys and more muscular guitar work. I was reminded of Al DiMeola's electric phase (Electric Rendezvous is my favorite). A multitude of changes is the goal here and a different kind of segue into heavy bass and more of the jazz-prog keys. What an amazing slice of music!

"Spider" is a shorter track at 5 minutes, but in the realm of prog, that is the norm for one that is not extended, such as the previous track. It closes out side one with a light and airy atmosphere, some great bass, and some nice blended guitars. Keys are in the spotlight, and I couldn't help myself; Chick Corea came to mind more than once. The keys that drank too much energy drink imitates a spider on the move going in for the kill.

Side two opens with "The Unread Letter" (4:54). It sounds like a soundtrack to conflicting emotions reaching an apex. Then it all stops and changes course with the entrance of a bass line to drive it all along further. It is like a dream state of pensiveness, then back to a more energetic path of swirling emotions and all the color they hold and ever-changing, then to the finale of musical fireworks. It is instrumental genius from where I sit.

"Turn" offers some lovely Latin flavored picking to start some nice rhythms between several different musical passages of joy and excellent instrumentation. At times it is intense and complex to a lighter instrumental road with some of those melting synth sounds for that sci-fi effect. I could liken it to a classic sci-fi movie like the original The Day the Earth Stood Still. That came to mind and this music ignites those kinds of images in your mind.

"Penumbra" (4:17) has a very mellow start with the soft guitar sounding very Yes like. 70s prog but reinvented with some jazz-infused guitar to follow it up. That distinct synth with the prog-rock flavor adds more ingredients to the classic sound. Things change to the more aggressive side of the coin towards the end, with sharp guitar licks shredding the air you breathe and cascading to the finish line.

Relearn (3:38) closes the curtain on this magnificent display of musical prowess. It is under 4 minutes; can you imagine that? The drive-it-home bass line enters the mix, and some fast keys and guitars get hard at work. A very compact moving composition that is all organized to close out the proceedings.

Call of The Resonant Star
is a masterful collection of musical diversity that should not be missed.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Progressive Music Reviews Founder


March 15, 2022


Side One:
01. No Third (4:21)
02. Call Of The Resonant Star (12:02)
03. Spider (5:00)


Side Two:
04. The Unread Letter (4:54)
05. Turn (6:48)
06. Penumbra (4:17)
07. Relearn (3:38)

Friday, May 14, 2021

Amazonian Rock Band Pentral Keep the Groove but Turn it up to 11 on New Single!


Pentral are to release their new single, Aiming for the Sun, from their forthcoming album, adding even more ferocity to their sound but retaining the groove and rhythms which made the likes of Prog and New Noise hail them as ones to watch. Their first single, Silent Trees, received glowing praise from both Prog and New Noise and All My Wounds raised the bar yet further, a colossal burst of energy and riffs, continuing the story of a young family lost in a world filled with anger and hate, set against the backdrop of the Amazon jungle. Aiming for the Sun picks up the story of the couple ousted from their rainforest home and battling against a tyrannical regime. 

“Aiming For The Sun” is a heavier song without leaving groove behind. It’s the second chapter of the couple's saga, when the Amazon land-grabbers show their real face and what they are up to. Through its dark vibe and pulsating lines, this song tries to express a feeling of urgency, a claim for help, showcasing the agony of the people in the woods.”


Passionate about environmental protection, equality and the fight against racism, their music and lyrics reflect their beliefs, with the band seeing music as a powerful and positive way of changing the world for the better and their album, What Lies Ahead of Us is a concept album exploring the fractious relationships between people from different backgrounds and cultures and ultimately Mankind’s war against nature itself.






Thursday, April 1, 2021

Symphonic Prog Review: The Emerald Dawn-To Touch The Sky

Release Date: March 20, 2021

Label: World’s End Records

Website

I have been an avid follower of the band, The Emerald Dawn, since before the release of their debut album, as I received some demo material for airplay on my radio show. With each release, the band has evolved and grown in confidence with their music and album No 4, To Touch The Sky, raises the bar yet again.

The Emerald Dawn was formed in Edinburgh in 2010 by Alan Carter (Ally) and Katrina Stewart (Tree), both multi-instrumentalists and then the band relocated to Cornwall. Joining Ally (electric and acoustic guitar, guitar synth, tenor and soprano saxophone, keyboards and vocals) and Tree (keyboards, piano, flute, acoustic guitar, percussion and vocals) was Thomas Jackson (drums) and the debut release was in 2014, Searching For The Lost Key. This first album was followed in 2017 by Visions and in 2019 by Nocturne together with some personnel changes. Under
review now is the most recent album No 4, To Touch The Sky.

The band on this newest album is Ally, Tree, Tom and David Greenaway (fretted and fretless basses) and they have produced a superbly atmospheric album. To Touch The Sky comprises just 3 tracks and has a
total playing time of just under 50 minutes (48:39), with the opening track “The Awakening” the shortest in length at 11:15 minutes and the final track, “The Ascent,” the longest at 22:17 minutes. This last track is
also split into 14 sections/parts.

The opening track, "The Awakening" (11:15), starts with a simple piano passage above some excellent bass playing and sympathetic drumming. There then follows some superb keyboard work before the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Tree enters the proceedings. This atmospheric, powerful start to the track will have drawn the listener into the world of The Emerald Dawn and the instrumental passage that follows will have transported them deeper into that realm. Some stunning guitar work by Ally carries the track along with superb support from the keyboards, bass and drums before those ethereal vocals from Tree reappear around the 7:15 minute point, and the guitar takes the lead again just after 8:00 minutes. This is the driving section towards the track finale, and the ending is reached after a short piano and guitar passage.

This has been an excellent opener to the album and should certainly have grabbed the listener by presenting them with entry into the symphonic, cinematic, powerful music of The Emerald Dawn.

Track 2, “And I Stood Transfixed” (15:07), commences with acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums and bass and continues the aural soundscapes that the opening track introduced. The feeling depicted in this piece of music is uncertainty and of meeting with the unknown. Melodic passages, interspersed with some stunning saxophone playing, those ethereal vocals, orchestral keyboard sweeps and gentle melodic flute hold the listener a little on edge as the music swirls through phases of light and dark. The way the band move from the light melodic passages to the darker more discordant themes and back shows the confidence that The Emerald Dawn now has in their music.

The first two tracks have been setting the scene for the 22:17 minute track, "The Ascent" when our imaginary group start on a climb having passed through feelings of excitement and uncertainty. With 14 parts to this epic track, ranging from “Exordium,” “In The Foothills,” “Passing Through The Final Village With Its Bustling Street Market, They Ponder The Challenges Ahead,” to “The Last Push,” “As The Wind Dies Down And The Clouds Part, They Find Themselves at The Summit,” “On Top Of The World” and “Addendum: The Dangerous Descent Commences,” the music of The Emerald Dawn continues to paint such detailed soundscapes that the listeners are there beside the group, feeling the emotions every step of the way.

The music starts gently before moving into a simple classically-styled piano passage with a flute motif appearing before the piano leads into the electric guitar passage leading to the start of the journey. These themes will be revisited throughout the length of the track. There is a change as those beautiful vocals appear after a stunning keyboard theme to explain that the travellers have glimpsed “The First Sight Of The Mountain." The band released a couple of the parts of "The Ascent" as a sampler/teaser before the pre-order date of To Touch The Sky, and these were part (vii), "While Pausing On A Steep Slope, They Watch An Eagle Soaring Effortlessly Above Them" and part (viii), "Resuming The Climb, They Feel The Wind Rise As The Clouds Close In." I was standing in my kitchen gazing into the distance at the snow-covered Red Cuillin mountains in the sunshine listening to these clips of music and the view, the music and my imagination all combined to produce the "perfect moment." "The Ascent" is a majestic track that shows the musical evolution of this band.

From the melodic to the edgy guitar, the stunning keyboards and piano, the ethereal vocals of Tree, the haunting flute and that superb melancholy, discordant saxophone all underpinned by stunning bass and excellent drumming, I think I have a contender for my “Album Of The Year 2021.” I am aware that it is only March, but To Touch The Sky is a magnificent album that seems to provide evidence that The Emerald Dawn are truly on their way. The first 3 albums showed a progressively evolving style, but this release has taken a quantum leap forward.

My simple advice is to clear a space on your CD shelves to house this masterpiece.


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson    Prog Rock Music Talk Staff.
March 25, 2021
 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Prog/Cinematic Rock Review: Esthesis-The Awakening

Release Date: November 14, 2020

Label: Autoproduction

Website

 

Esthesis is a French project formed by Aurelien Goude (keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass) and inspired by 70’s British Rock, especially prog rock. In collaboration with three other musicians, Baptiste Desmares (lead guitar), Marc Anguill (bass) and Florian Rodrigues (drums), the four-piece band have released an EP, Raising Hands, in 2019 and a full-length debut album, The Awakening, in November 2020.

I chanced upon this band by accident, and count myself very lucky to have done so, as I was instantly transfixed by the stunning music found on the full-length debut. I was lucky enough to get hold of one of the limited-edition CDs initially released as they sold out fairly quickly, but the band have now issued a standard CD to allow for the increasing demand for the bands' music.

With repeated plays, it is possible to detect very specific influences, such as Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree from the UK, Rick Miller (another great discovery I came across late in 2020) from Canada and those Norwegian giants, Airbag.

The Awakening is a six-track release with a total playing time of just shy of 60 minutes (59:39), with the opening track, “Downstream,” the longest at 16:31 minutes and the penultimate track, “The Awakening,” the shortest on offer at 6:26 minutes.

To start a debut album with “Downstream,” a 16+ minute epic, shows the self-belief that the band carry at the moment. An atmospheric start leads to guitarist, Baptiste, gets to show his bluesy side before the vocals of Aurelien appearing, smooth and understated, but so fitting the music. The track progresses with instrumental sections interspersed with those vocals and that blues styled guitar very much the central feature. The band even manage to fit in an atmospheric whistling section, which reminded this reviewer of the whistling section in the “Wind Of Change” track by the Scorpions. This opening track gently transports the listener along on a very subdued, laid back journey. During the journey, the piano of Aurelien, the guitar of Baptiste, the soft gentle vocals of Aurelien and the tight power unit of Marc (bass) and Florian (drums), flow effortlessly. At around the 9:30 minute point, there is a change in tempo increasing the urgency of the track, but the superb guitar playing maintains the atmospheric soundscape. At 11:30 minutes, another change reinstates the piano as the main instrument with the guitar slotting into the background but exerting a huge influence. A bit of vocalization adds to the aural picture the band are setting out for the listener. Entering the last 2 minutes, the track starts to drive toward a finale. Some more aggressive playing takes the track out and sets the listener up for the rest of the album.

“No Soul To Sell” (8:33) track 2 on the album is a very different style and hints at the wide-ranging ability of the musicians. With a chunkier guitar riff, more "in your face" drumming and a superb bass produce a total style contract to the opening track of The Awakening. A heavier riff-laden section fades and the bass reappears away in the distance as the track moves into an atmospheric meander, leading to an acoustic guitar passage before the organ, bass and guitar drive the track to completion.

“Chameleon” (8:06), and the fourth track, starts with an acoustic guitar riff before being joined by the smooth vocals and then some vocal harmonizing. The sound continues to be “fleshed out” by the presence of the bass and drums and ultimately, the organ appears swirling away in the background. Just before the 3:00 minute point, that bluesy style guitar soars over everything before disappearing as firstly the voice takes over and then the organ. A chunkier section of the acoustic guitar then gives way to a simple but sublime organ passage and a little more of the harmonizing vocals. An interesting change of sound style just before the 7:00 minute point ushers in a swirling heavier sounding organ that escorts the track out.

The Awakening is an amazing debut album by Esthesis which is a pleasure to listen to. From the smooth vocals, intense drumming, intricate and chunky guitars, superb bass lines and beautiful piano plus swirling organ, the members of the band grab the attention of the listener at the album outset, take them on a 60-minute journey of discovery before gently returning them as the last few notes fade away.

My simple advice is to grab a listen to The Awakening and then add it to your collection.

By the way, Esthesis has just announced that a trip-hop version of the closing track, "Still Far To Go" will be released on Bandcamp on March 5th 2021.



Jim "The Ancient One" Lawson Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
February 26, 2021

Tracks:
1. Downstream (16:31)
2. No Soul To Sell (8:33)
3. High Tide (10:35)
4. Chameleon (8:06)
5. The Awakening (6:26)
6. Still Far To Go (9:28)


Friday, February 12, 2021

Neo-Prog Review: Fish - Weltschmerz

Date: September 25, 2020

Label: Chocolate Frog Records (Self Released)

Website

The new, and final studio album from Fish (David Dick), is the superb Weltschmerz, which is album No 11 from the ex-lead singer of Marillion (1981-1988). The debut release of Vigil In A Wilderness of Mirrors was issued 30 years ago (1990) and we have now reached the end of the line.

The album is available as a 2CD, 2CD and Blu-Ray deluxe edition, a digital version and a 2-album vinyl version.


The band on Weltschmerz is Fish (Vocals), Steve Vantis (bass/keyboards and guitar), Robin Boult (guitar), John Mitchell (guitar), Craig Blundell (drums), Dave Stewart (drums), David Jackson (saxophones), Liam Holmes (keyboards), Foss Paterson (keyboards), Doris Brendel (vocals), Mikey Owers (brass) and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (strings). Many of these musicians have been long term members of the Fish band and hence the band members are comfortable with what is required of them.

I have at this point to state that I preferred the Fish led Marillion rather than the post-Fish band, but I was never “blown away” by his solo material. There were some great tracks, but I tended to feel that the consistency of the music could be variable. That state of affairs however changed with the release of Feast Of Consequences, album No 10, which was a superb piece of work, especially the 5 part "High Woods Suite." I have looked forward to this final studio release from Fish for several months before the release.


The title, Weltschmerz, translates as world pain or world-weariness and may well sum up the feelings of the artist at the time, but the contents of this superb double album certainly are a long way from that downbeat title.
 
The Fish voice has been described as both distinct and also as a fusing of Roger Daltrey (The Who) and Peter Gabriel (Genesis), but it is his lyrics, classed as “poetic prose” that add an additional facet to the mans’ music. Fish can and does, interject spoken word lyrics into his music which seem to accentuate the storytelling aspect of his work.

Weltschmerz is a 10 track release with a total playing time of 84:30 minutes, track 5 “Rose Of Damascus” being the longest track at 15:45 minutes and track 4, “This Party’s Over” being the shortest at under 5 minutes (4:22).

The opening track, “Grace of God” (8:19), is exactly what I want to hear when listening to a new album, and that is something that immediately grabs the interest of the listener. There is a sparseness about the music behind the voice of Fish as he ventures into his storytelling, which is somehow very compelling. The lyrics paint such detailed scenarios that the listener becomes immersed in that storytelling.

The longest track, “Rose Of Damascus" (15:45) brings together the aspects that make the area in question such a volatile area to exist in, as seen through a young woman (Rose) who is trying to flee the war-torn area. In under 16 minutes, the listener is taken on a long journey through different sections with those superb lyrics tying everything together and trying to make sense of the problems that exist. The music twists and turns and holds the listener almost spellbound as the storyline unfolds.

Starting the second album is track 6, "Garden of Remembrance" (6:07) and is, for me, the most powerful, emotive track on Weltschmerz. Based on the changes in a relationship due to Alzheimer's, the lyrics are simple but literally oozing emotion as Fish relates the interaction, or rather, the lack of interaction between husband and wife. Musically there is a beautiful melody on piano behind his voice which underpins those lyrics, and latterly, a superb orchestral theme.

As a final studio album, Weltschmerz is an excellent way to bow out of further studio recording. Early in the review, I suggested that with the title translating as world-weariness, that could sum up how Fish must have felt with the personal situations that he had to confront during the recording process. Over the 5 years that Weltschmerz took to get to completion, he has touched on these moments throughout the ten superb, if very different, tracks and has produced a stunning swan song.

If you haven’t already purchased the album, I would humbly suggest that you give Weltschmerz a listen from start to finish and then part with some of your money to add the album to your collection.


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson Prog Rock Music Staff 

February 9, 2021

Tracks:

CD 1:  
1. Grace Of God (8:19)
            2. Man With A Stick (6:27)
            3. Walking On Eggshells (7:18)
            4. This Party’s Over (4:22)
            5. Rose Of Damascus (15:45)


CD 2:   
  1. Garden Of Remembrance (6:07)
             2. C Song (The Trondheim Waltz) (4:41)
             3. Little Man What Now? (10:54)
             4. Waverley Steps (End Of The Line) (13:45)
             5. Weltschmerz (6:51)


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Crossover Prog Review: Lunatic Soul-Through Shaded Woods (Deluxe Edition)

Release Date: November 13 2020

Label: Kscope

Website

Lunatic Soul was founded in 2008 in Warsaw, Poland, and to date, has released 7 studio albums, from the debut, Lunatic Soul in 2008 up to the album under review here, Through Shaded Woods earlier this year. Lunatic Soul is the creative vehicle for Marius Duda, the vocalist, and bassist for the Polish band, Riverside.


Through Shaded Woods is available as a single CD, a 2CD deluxe edition, as well as in vinyl and digital versions. The review is based on the deluxe version of the release.

Through Shaded Woods (Deluxe Edition) has 8 tracks and a total running time of just over 72 minutes (72:27) with the final track, “Transition II,” the longest at 27:45 minutes and the penultimate track, “Hylophobia” the shortest at just over 3 minutes (3:20).


Although being aware of both Riverside and Lunatic Soul and having featured tracks from Riverside on my radio show, I had never managed to “get into” Lunatic Soul releases, and I approached the review of Through Shaded Woods with no real expectations.

Regular readers of my reviews will be aware that I put a great deal of value on the opening track of releases, and am always looking for a hook, an amazing riff, basically something that “grabs your ears and shouts, Listen.”. Enter track 1 of this album, “Navvie” (4:03) and we find exactly what I am looking for. Obviously, folk-based and immersed in the more Nordic/Scandinavian folk arena, "Navvie” has a repetitive riff that becomes almost shamanic and in just over 4 minutes has succeeded in drawing the listener into a stunning mesmeric aural landscape.

Track 6, "The Fountain" (6:04), starts with a simple acoustic guitar, then Marius’s clear vocals take the track on and a piano appears in the background before moving to center stage. This is a beautiful, melodic track that flows along, carrying the listener along with it. As the song progresses there is the addition of some amazingly symphonic orchestration. Around the 4:40 minute point, there is a change to leave the piano theme to carry the track to its finale. This is another superb track from a stunning album.

The final track, “Transitions II” (27:45) is a real epic in terms of length and is a simply wonderful working and reworking of riffs and themes, reminiscent of Mike Oldfield. The original “Transitions” appears on Lunatic Soul II and initially, the opening of "Transitions II" harks back to this 2010 release. The additional instrumentation starts to suggest a change of direction and indeed, around the 4-minute mark, the “fuzzy” guitar starts the track moving into the realms of the aforementioned Mike Oldfield. For several minutes this style is maintained before moving into the sphere of New Age music, carrying the listener along with a minimalist soundscape style. The music is melodic, gentle, and intensely relaxing, before another change in style and direction nudging the 18-minute point when the piano takes on more responsibility and the other instrumentation washes in and out again, continuing the painting of an aural soundscape of gentleness, but different to that which had gone before. The track almost stops around the 21-minute mark and a very different picture comes into focus. The breathy vocals, or to be more correct, vocalizations, from Marius, float over an acoustic guitar theme and there is again a return to the folk area prevalent in “Navvie." This carries on until around 24:30 minutes when an ethereal choral section seems to appear, with an acoustic guitar theme in the background before the final section which harks back in time to a Gregorian chant before slowly fading away.

Through Shaded Woods is a superb release and well worth checking out. As I suggested early in this review, despite being aware of Lunatic Soul, I was not “into” the solo work of Marius. This album has changed my mind and I will now be revisiting the previous releases with more interest. Through Shaded Woods demands a place in many peoples’ CD collections, so grab a listen and see what you think

Jim “The Ancient One “ Lawson Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
January 22, 2021
 

Tracks:

1. Navvie (4:03)
2. The Passage (8:57)
3. Through Shaded Woods (5:51)
4 Oblivion (5:03)
5 Summoning Dance (9:52)
6. The Fountain (6:04)
7. Vyraj (5:32)
8. Hylophobia (3:20)
9. Transition II (27:45)

 

,br>

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Instrumental Progressive Ambient Review: Green Isac Orchestra-b a r (140 gram vinyl LP)

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Label:Spotted Peccary

Website

 

My only regret after hearing the most recent Green Isac Orchestra’s release b a r, is that I did not discover them years ago! This is some of the most creative and color progressive instrumental ambient music I have heard in some time. I had the pleasure of hearing it for the first time on 140 gram vinyl.

Morten Lund and Andreas Eriksen were together know as Green Isac for 25 years as a duo only, until the Green Isac collaboration expanded to a five member ensemble and rechristened themselves Green Isac Orchestra in 2015. bar is their second release as a quintet.

There is never a dull moment on b a r, in fact, this is full of brilliantly executed compositions. The operative words here is “creative” and “expansive.”

“Volcanic” starts things off and the title is very descriptive of what you will hear to get your heart pumping and your imagination kicked into high gear. It comes in just shy of a healthy 8 minutes of instrumental bliss starting off with ambient texture and building into a volcanic eruption of sounds. The track ebbs and flows between power and softer moments provided by the cello then it switches back to that colorful blasts of passion and sound. I do not think there could have been a better track on the album to get things started. When you look and see six tracks your first impression may be that is not many however you can take my word for it, it more than fills both side of the 140 gram vinyl.

“Le Grand Sportif” is 7+ minutes and it begins with a spacey intro into nice keyboard work allowing for a minimalist approach to introduce the cello. The track engages you and is in a continual evolving cycle that can be fascinating. Some good percussive sounds push it to another level as it moves closer to the end before closing out.

“With Hat” is shorter journey at 3:25 with orchestral sounds of the cello leading the way then a heavy drone like sound comes in sounding like a powerful but suggestive hammer then the gentler part of song is ushered in with an emphasis on the synths. The track has some very strong progressive movements that would please any instrumental music listener.

Side B opens with “Don Progini” (note the last name) letting us all know if we already didn’t that this is definitely progressive music! There are some interesting changes going on in this track and so many sounds converging into a blossoming full sound taking advantage of all the tools at their disposal, the band makes sure you are still paying attention. The keyboards reminded me of Tubular Bells.

“Aarwaaken” comes in over 6 minutes and starts with a spacey/spooky synth with a world edge provided by the percussive elements then it morphs for a very short period over to classical path. Mind melting synths arrive to give it that sci-fi feel as well to keep things interesting. The only way to describe this masterful composition is to call it acoustic-progressive-ambient with a classical underpinning.

“Without Hat” closes the curtain on this aural journey starting with a guitar, which was different in comparison to all the other tracks. Various synths are the building blocks of the track and it provides excitement and leads the listener to a colorful ending to close out the album.

Why stay the same is the mantra for b a r and that works very well for this excellent recording. They never do the same thing twice and that is what makes b a r  so enjoyable and something you will want to hear more than once.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-TFOV Founder

January 3, 2021

Track List:

Side A:
1. Volcanic
2. Le Grand Sportif
3. With Hat

Side B:
4. Don Progini
5. Aarwaaken
6. Without Hat