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

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Cinematic/Progressive Rock Review: Ben Craven-Monsters From The Id

Release Date: May 6th, 2022

Label: Self-released, available as a digital download from Bandcamp


Ben Craven is an Australian composer and multi-instrumentalist who first came to the music world's attention with the release in 2005 of the debut, Two False Idols. This was very much a "solo" work by a musician who had tired of the "group approach". This initial release was issued under Tunisia, but subsequent releases carried the Ben Craven name. 

These further releases were Great and Terrible Potions (2011), Dissected (By Ben Craven and The Section 2014), Last Chance To Hear (2016), and, the album under review Monsters From The Id (2022).


I had been aware of the music of Ben Craven from the time of the release of album no 2, and featured tracks from both the two early albums, and then album no 3, on my radio show, but somehow missed out on the fourth release. When Monsters of the Id appeared for review, I was intrigued to see where Ben had gone musically since 2014.


I will say that I did not get past the first track for over an hour, as it was listened to three times before continuing. Occasionally, you come across an album that blows you away from the start, and this is one of those albums, as far as I am concerned. While listening to the rest of the album and working towards writing this review, I was aware of other reviews extolling the virtues of this Ben Craven release. Still, I can summarize the rest of my review very simply. Monsters Of The Id is a stunning album, and if you still need to get a copy, you are missing a gem from 2022. This album will feature in my Best Of 2022 radio show early in 2023. 


There are two epic-length tracks and four single/radio edit tracks on this album, as it is unlikely that many stations will play either of the two 19+ minute tracks. The opening track on the album, "Die Before You Wake" (19:32), comprises 7 sections, "Sleeping Spectre", "Ancient Majesty", "Die Before You Wake Pt 1", "Warming Glow", "Wicked Delights", "Die Before You Wake Pt 2" and "Endless Night", suggesting that there are 7 thematic areas within the 19+ min. The opening sequence is designed to grab your ears from the off, with an insistent thumping beat and a choir building the tension, before it drops into a quiet short section and then returns to the starting sequence with the guitar heralding in the section called "Ancient Majesty." Although the notes supplied suggest an instrumental album, the dulcet tones of Ben adorn the "Die before You Wake Pt 1" with the sound slowly building, including the appearance of a gothic-style choir behind the voice. As the music moves into section 4, there is some lovely guitar work as the track evolves into a more spacey atmospheric soundscape with some acoustic guitar and piano coming more to the fore. There is another guitar-led section, backed by the piano and joined by a synthesizer. The guitar then takes the theme on to section 5, an orchestral sequence that evolves into the second part of the "Die Before You Wake" section with the return of Ben's voice. A guitar and synthesizer section then takes the track into the final sequence, which returns to the more open, spacey, Floydian area and towards the return of the gothic-style choir, which takes the track out.

The instruction at this point would be to listen to the opening track again before proceeding with the album. Take another 19+ minutes to let the majestic opening track sink in.

Having done that, move to track 2, "Amnis Flows Aeternum" (19:11), and prepare to be blown away again.


I had liked the earlier material by Ben, but to be honest, nothing prepared me for the sheer excellence of Monsters From The Id. This is an album that grabs your attention from the opening few seconds and takes you on a fantastic journey. If you have not heard this album, do so as soon as possible and be prepared to add it to your collection.


Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson

Oct 13th, 2022


1.  Die Before You Wake (19:32)

2.  Amnis Flows Aeternum (19:11)

3.  Die Before You Wake (Single Edit 4:47)

4.  Wicked Delights (Single Edit 2:40)

5.  Guiding Voice (Single Edit 3:31)

6.  Amnis Flows Aeternum (Single Edit 4:51)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Progressive Music Review On Vinyl: Pink Floyd-Animals

Release Date: September 16, 2022

Label:  ‎Warner Music (Sony Music outside Europe)


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


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


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

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Book Review: Emerson, Lake and Palmer-ELP

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Rocket88 (November 12, 2021
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1910978647
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1910978641
Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 years and up
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 9.69 x 1.18 x 11.26 inches

ELP and I go way back to the '70s. I recall being introduced to the band by an excellent friend. I also remember making sure we watched the California Jam and the now legendary footage of Emerson spinning in the air playing his piano. Things like that you can never forget. What it was like being a music fan so long ago is what shaped the listening tastes that I have arrived at later in life.

Keith Emerson (keyboards), Greg Lake (vocals, bass, guitar), and Carl Palmer (drums and percussion) were three extraordinary musicians that came together to create some of the most groundbreaking music in the progressive genre. While leading entirely separate lives with no friendships conceived outside the studios or stages, they could make magic happen where it counted the most.

I have had a great interest in the music of ELP and found all of the remastered catalog to be excellent. I did not know all the details about the men of this band or what made them so successful. This book, titled Emerson, Lake and Palmer - ELP, tells the tails of a run of success for several years that led them to exhaustion and the end of the band for many years.

The book is hardbound and quite beautiful, serving as a detailed remembrance of what it was like being a rock star in the 70s that produced unique music in rock. Today the only surviving member is Carl Palmer, who continues to bring the legacy of ELP to fans around the world. There are great pictures to enjoy while taking in this very personal account of a famous band. Nothing is sugar-coated. It is all based on reality and the words of each member of the band. I found that refreshing and intimate without any needed embellishments or cover-ups of good or bad feelings about the members.

The book is extensive and a tell-it-like-it-is account of an eight-year continuous recording and touring run. Brain Salad Surgery was the high watermark of their career, and they never reached those heights again. What I found interesting was reading about how they got that point of creativity. The music contained in their recordings and subsequent tours and adding an orchestra and going on tour changed the face of music forever. Progressive music took a giant leap forward thanks to ELP, and this fantastic account of that story is in this book's pages.

Of course, this is a highly recommended resource for any prog rock or ELP fan, and music fans in general, I believe would find a lot of enjoyment from reading the text and flipping through all the photos. Books about bands do not get much better than this! The 70s was a great time for rock music, and if you were there to experience it all, that says it all. If you were not there, this will give you a glimpse of what it was like and never will be again. It serves as either a remarkable memory or a lot of newfound facts and realizations that are well worth your time to experience.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Progressive Music Reviews Founder

April 24, 2022

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


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)

Thursday, March 17, 2022

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

Release Date: April 1, 2022

Label:  Erratic Music


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)