Sunday, 31 March 2013

National Health - Complete (1990)

This is a double album, lasting two and a half hour which include all their studio albums. That means National Health (1977), Of Queues and Cures (1978) and D.S. al Coda (1982).

The English band National Health released one great, one brilliant and one good album. That is how I rate the albums above. Their music was clever jazz, fusion and prog with some great tunes. Of the Canterbury scene bands, National Health was one of the best bands. Their crowning glory, and indeed one of the best Canterbury scene albums of all time, was their 1978 album  Of Queues and Cures. A truly brilliant album which I am getting more and more fond of every time I am listening to it. I have to admit that I am doing that on a far more regular basis than I should do. The self titled debut album from 1977 is also a great album. Those albums is essential purchases in my view and this album has both of them plus the D.S. al Coda album.

In short; this is a great compilation which include all their studio albums and therefore highly recommended if you can find it. Add the Playtime live album too and you will have the complete collection of this band who due to Alan Gowen's untimely passing in 1981 not lived up to it's potential. I regard myself as a National Health fan and would recommend this band to everyone. True legends with great music.

4 points

Rovescio Della Medaglia. Il - La Bibbia (1971)

The debut album from this Italian band who went onto release seven albums. Their 1973 album Contaminazione is a classic in the genre.

The genre we are talking about is off course Rock Progressivo Italiano. Rovescio Della Medaglia occupies the more heavy end of this scene on this album. Most of this album is bombastic heavy rock. That and a lot of bombastic symph prog. The music is dominated by hard edged electric guitars, bass and drums. That and some very good Italian vocals. The sound is not particular great.

There are some good stuff on this album. But the half an hour long bombardement of heavy rock both sounds a bit one dimentional and dated. I am afraid this is only an album for those who either like old style heavy rock or want everything from Italy. This is a pretty decent album though. But not my style.

2 points

Eulenspygel - Staub Auf Deinem Haar (2004)

The only live album from this German band, recorded back in 1973 or thereabouts.

Eulenspygel was one of the bands in the rather leftist end of the krautrock scene. The music was a vehicle for the lyrics. A type of missionary leftist lyrics. The music is pretty standard rock'n'roll with some space rock and jazz influences. That when the music is allowed to flow freely. That is not often as the lyrics is the main thing here.

The sound quality is very good and the Garden Of Delights record label has done a great job in cleaning up the sound. That is the best I can say about this album which I find pretty uninteresting. A weak two pointer is awarded.

2 points

Minstrel's Ghost - The Road To Avalon (2012)

The second album from this Blake Carpenter lead project. He has got some help from some other musicians too on this album. My version of this album includes two long songs + a bonus track (the title track). I believe this is the CD version. Just to mention this first in this review.

I remember a Dutch band, still very much alive, named Us which I have reviewed all their nine albums for. If I had not been sent this album from Messr Carpenter, I would have wondered if this was Us tenth album. An album they have announced through their Bandcamp page. That is after the first twenty minutes of the Minstrel's Ghost album.

The Road To Avalon is about King Arthur and his adventures. A certain Rick Wakeman released a multi million selling album about the same theme back in the 1970s. It is a good theme, in other words. I am not one of the millions who bought that Rick Wakeman album so I am a bit blank here when it comes to comparissons. Minstrel's Ghosts music is also down the neo prog street with some symphonic prog connotations. The Road To Avalon is also very much a concept album. Blake Carpenters and his knights is running through the King Arthur saga throughout the seventy seven minutes it lasts.

The music is dominated by a mix of keyboards and guitars. I feared this album was about a man & his machine. I am glad to report that my fears was unfounded. The vocals is perhaps the weakest point of the whole album. Some female vocals would had done this material a lot of good. Not to mention the bank balance. The rest is great. That also goes for most of the songs too. OK, we are not talking a masterpiece here. This is still a great album with a lot of great melody lines. Blake has taken a huge artistic risk on this album and I am glad to report that it has paid off. The great Ed Unitsky artwork is also a vital part of this album too.

In short; this is not a masterpiece. It is still a, under some doubts, great album. The vocals bit needs some rethink next time around though. That is another day, another worry though. The Road To Avalon is a great album.

4 points

Across The Waves - War Ends, Misery Stays (2012)

The debut album from this Iranian post rock band.

Iran is perhaps most known for it's prog metal scene and for a banned black metal band who are playing the Inferno festival in Norway this year. Post rock is not what I did expect from Iran. Cool, breezy post rock, that is. Post rock with a lot of shoegaze in it and not any middle-east influences at all. I first of all thought this was another American college band who had been listening far too much to Sigur Ros. But no, Iran it is.

The Sigur Ros influences is pretty obvious on this seventy-seven minutes long album. There are some heavy guitars here too who draws influences from post and prog metal. The ambient stuff is also pretty much in play here. The band builds up a lot of moods on the rather long songs here. Some songs hits the ten minutes mark. Others are more like down to five minutes long. Radio friendly, this album is not.

The melodies takes a long time to develop and open up. When they opens up, not much is happening. I do like most of the songs and I understand what they are aiming at. The band knows what they are doing and I urge them to keep up their good work. There is nothing wrong with their formula. My gripe is the lack of any really great songs. Besides of that, this is a good album. Link below to the streamed album and you can make up your own mind.

3 points

The album

L'Ombra Della Sera - L'Ombra Della Sera (2012)

L'Ombra Della Sera is La Mascera Di Cera on a slightly different approach to music than their usual albums. Hence them using a different name this time around.

This album is their debut album and very probably a one of album. It is the band doing their versions of, for Italians, some well known Italian TV music themes. Hence the different band name this time around as the music is far removed from the normal La Mascera Di Cera's symphonic prog. L'Ombra Della Sera plays a much more lounge jazz and funk themed music in line with the usual TV music themes.

When I said Italian TV music themes, let me also add that some of the themes and melodies also sounds familiar even to me. I guess most of you will also be familiar with this music too. The result is a mostly lounge jazz and funk dominated album. Some of the synths used are dubious to say at least. I have never been a fan of the 1980s. The mellotron used is far better. The music is good throughout, taken the limitations into account. TV music themes is not my cup of tea. The more jazzier parts here, which is very Canterbury like, is saving this album for me. I have enjoyed it and I will still continue to enjoy it. No real great melodies here though. Still.......

3 points

Friday, 29 March 2013

Franc Albir - Hoc (2013)

The second album from this six piece big Spanish band. A band from Barcelona, Catalonia. I guess the average age of the band members are around 45 years young too. I take it that this band is a case of happy middle aged men's labour of love.

It is difficult to argue against an album like Hoc who displays such a variety of spiritually uplifting pieces of music. Music ranging from symphonic prog, new age, film music, Celtic folk music and Catalan folk music. This album has musically gone down the same route as the excellent Kompendium album (see own review) from last year who was the best album of 2012 in my view. Conceptiually, that is. Quality wise, Hoc is not on the same level as the Kompendium album. But you get my drift.

Beautiful music, but no great songs. That is my gripe with this album. There is nothing here which really makes a great impression on me. It is still a good album. The art of great song writing is an art that has eluded this band on this album. This and their first album Tres is streamed on the link below so make up your own mind. This is only a middle of the tree album for me.

3 points


Seid - Magic Handshake (2012)

The third album from this Norwegian space rock band.

Starting out as a rather garage feel space rock album, Magic Handshake branches out in many directions. Mostly into Gong territory. Still with a garage and space rock feeling though. The use of mellotron gives the album some 1970s feel. The fuzz box elements reminds me a lot about Red Harvest.

It is somewhere between Red Harvest, Gong, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind you will find this album. An hour long album which has a lot to offer the spaced out space rock fans out there. There are even strong elements of Canterbury and krautrock here.

Quality wise (ie my opinion), this is a good album where my only gripe is the lack of some great melodies. There is none and that is somewhat missing on a rather enjoyable hour with Seid. It is a recommended album though.

3 points

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Alex Oriental Express - Tales of Purple Sally (1995)

A very obscure German krautrock band who released around ten albums between 1973 and 2005. Tales of Purple Sally is their eight or so album.

Alex Oriental Express sound can best be described as a mix of Indian music and Americana. The music here is song based without any krautrock powertrips. In this respect, this is an Americana album. The first five minutes is krautrock though. Ditto for the final ten minutes.

The result is a decent album which I cannot really say interests me. The Americana element is too overpowering here and I am not a fan of that genre. But I have heard worse albums in my life. This album is as obscure as it can be and deserves a bit more attention. Attention hereby given.

2 points

National Health - D.S. al Coda (1982)

The third and final studio album from this excellent English band.

...Although I am not so sure if this is a real National Health album though. Alan Gowen, one of the mainmen in this band passed away the year before and left some unfinished stuff. This was released as this album and under the National Health name. I think pretty wrongly too. D.S. al Coda is very different from the first two National Health albums. Too different, in my view.

D.S. al Coda is a jazz album with Alan Gowen compositions and pieces. Jazz, but not the mix of fusion, symph and rock as on their first two album. There are even at least one Gilgamesh composition here. There are also a lot of guitars here. That is not something I associate National Health with. There are this good female vocals, used as a sound effect though here and there is a great deal of National Health DNA traces on this album.

The quality of the material is also good throughout. The jazz is very introvert as if Alan Gowen was looking at himself and towards the inside of himself during the last year or so of his life. He passed away after a long fight against cancer. The music is introvert and not particular easy listening. There are no real great songs here either and large parts of this album has this awful 1980s synth sound. It is still a good album though. It is also by far the weakest of their studio albums. If this can be regarded as a National Health studio album, that is. I don't think so.

3 points

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Disperse - Living Mirrors (2013)

The second album from this Polish band.

Their debut album Journey Through the Hidden Gardens from 2010 was a nice mix of neo-prog and prog metal. That got them signed on the metal label Season Of Mist (Mayhem etc etc) and the band has taken a big step towards prog metal. Or djent as some call the type of music where the guitars is distorted while still playing the usual prog metal fare. Which Disperse is doing on this album.

I really liked their first album which was like a breathe of fresh air. They have gone slightly stale on this album though and they are running a pretty safe race on this album. Safe enough to please the prog metal/djent fans. And there are far more of them than neo-prog fans. There are still enough small details to keep this album pretty interesting though. My biggest gripe is the lack of any really great tracks here. Or even good tracks. There are some flashes of greatness inbetween the pretty safe, dull pieces of music.

The result is a pretty dull album which does next to nothing for me. I am afraid this band has lost me. Sorry.

2.5 points

Budjana. Dewa - Dawai In Paradise (2013)

The first international album from this Indonesian guitarist and songwriter and his fifth album overall. The Wikipedia article has a lot of info on him.

This album is indeed a reminder that we should check out the Indonesian scene a lot more. Thankfully, Moonjune Records is doing that job for us and this is another great find. What should we compare Dewa Budjana and this album with ? Guitarists like John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny is obvious references. Add a lot of local Indonesian folk music and jazz too + the likes of Weather Report and Return To Forever to the mix too = this album.

The music is very laid back with extensive use of acoustic guitars. I expected an all out electric guitar attack like on the first Mahavishnu Orchestra albums. I got a light breeze instead with music that breathe instead of rages. The quality of the material is not great either. I am also kind of missing the concept here. Maybe because I suspect this is more a compiliation album of his Indonesian releases than one studio session. I may be wrong, but this album sounds a bit fragmented. Actually, I am wrong here. This is a proper studio recording. It still feels a bit fragmented to a prog rock and metal listener like myself. I am not used to jazz yet.

When that is said, this is still a very good album which is opening my eyes to Dewa's music and makes me want more from him. I sincerely hope we get a lot more from him in the future. I also really like the album cover and would not mind having that on my wall.  The album is streamed below.

3.5 points

The album

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Abstraction Layer - The Glass Flower (2010)

The debut album from this three piece Brazilian band.

We are into melodic, bohemian and theatre influenced symphonic prog land here. The music is not far from what Ange has done. It is also leaning pretty heavy on Genesis and Yes too. The music is performed with acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, drums and bass. That and the weakest link on this album; the pretty paltry sounding vocals.

The music is competent enough. It is ticking over nicely without really sounding impressive. The theatre element is what really saves this album. The vocals is a bit difficult to ignore. It is also difficult to overcome the feeling of having a bit of an overdose of this type of music. There is nothing here that grips me and makes me overcome the feeling of boredom.

....When that is said, I am in doubts if this is a decent or a good album. The vocals is pretty dire and needs to be fixed on the second album. If the band is going forward with a second album, that is. This is a decent to good album which does not re-invent the wheel, but which fans of symphonic prog will like. I have my reservations.

2.5 points

Present - No 6 (1999)

The fifth album from this Belgium avant-garde/RIO band.

Present is indeed one of the founders of the Rock In Opposition (shortened to RIO) scene. They are also an offshoot of Univers Zero. But back to this album.

Present has specialised themselves on harsh sounding avant-garde with plenty of piano, guitars, synths, bass and drums. The music is instrumental and pretty disharmonic and distorted harsh throughout. This album is by no means easy listening. No Present album is easy listening. The music also has some chamber orchestra feel with the piano setting a gloomy tone. The industrial mass hypnosis feeling also dominates parts of this album.

The result is a pretty disturbing album which speaks a world in turmoil. It is also a very good album which is sadly only lacking some really great pieces of music. That is my only gripe with this album. An album that really leaves an impression on the mind of the listener.

3.5 points

Bondage Fruit - Bondage Fruit III (1997)

The third album from this Japanese zeuhl band.

A zeuhl band is what they started out as. This album, a live album with entirely new material, takes the listener through a landscape filled with King Crimson'ish sculptures. There is also a lot of avant-garde aka Present here. Harsh avant-garde material with distorted guitars. Add a lot of fusion/jazz too and you get this album.

The music is performed with guitars, violins, vibraphone, synths, bass and drums. The bass is pretty deep and grunthy. The rest is pretty standard stuff.

The music is entirely instrumental and pretty complex throughout. The sound is great. I am still left a bit disappointed. The material here feels a bit lacklustre and disjointed. It is simply not good enough in my view. This is still a good album which requires a lot from the listener. I am not really as entusiastic about this album as others are. Hence my verdict.

3 points

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Magma - K.A (2004)

A great comeback album from these masters of zeuhl.

K.A, short for Kohntarkkosz Anteria and contains three x twenty minutes + compositions. And for those of us who feared the worst after three not so good/great albums, K.A is a return to Magma at almost their best. Most of their harsh distorted edges has gone. But what remains is the good old opera - jazz crossover music I really value this band so highly for.

The first of the three compositions here is a welcome return to the old style Magma with a mix of opera and jazz. This piece of music has more in common with opera than rock. The second composition is much more a hommage to jazz and it is a great composition too. Magma/Vander's love for gospel music shines through in the third and the weakest composition here. Still a very good composition which I feel is too light and too uncomplicated.

The end result is still an album which makes me very happy. It is a great album and a reminder about how great Magma is. One of the best bands ever. And it also reminds me how great zeuhl is. One of the most obscure music styles there is. This album is a timely reminder how much I love zeuhl.

4 points

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Arena - The Seventh Degree Of Separation (2011)

Their seventh and so far latest studio album.

Arena is in my world a byword for wall to wall sound neo prog. The music is big with lots of keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and vocal harmonies. A lot of their sound has been taken from heavy/power metal and adapted into neo prog by Arena. The music is very much rooted in the 1990s. An era Arena made their own and never really moved out of.

In the case of The Seventh Degree Of Separation, we get a lot of cleverly crafted songs with a big sound. Everything is there with the exception of any really great songs. The quality of the songs are pretty disappointing. The music is also pretty heavy and trespassing into pure heavy metal at times. Not a territory I really like. This is still a good album though. It is though a bit of a drop in the standards from this band. One of the best ever neo prog bands, if not the best. The Seventh Degree Of Separation is not Arena at their best.

3 points

Hostsonaten - Springsong (2002)

The third album from this Fabio Zuffanti project.

Hostsonaten is a project where he lives out his classic symphonic prog personality. That is; Northern-Europe classic symphonic prog. The band name is taken from one of Ingmar Bergman's movies and there is indeed a lot of Swedish melancholy in Hostsonaten's sound.

Springsong is Hostsonaten's take on the spring. What a pity that every time I have been listening to this album, a snowstorm has mysteriously appeared. Nevertheless; I still get the gist of this album and I don't think the snowstorms has influenced my views on this album.

Music.... OK, it is not a bad idea to write about the music on this album too. This album is basically a one theme album, lasting forty-five minutes. The album starts with a long flutes passage before moog and melotrons joins in. A long guitar solo and some meddling avant-garde stuff has been added in the middle to break up this long theme before it returns at the end again. This album is instrumental throughout.

When I said Sweden, I really meant Ireland. Well, a mix of Swedish prog and a big chunk of melancholic Irish folk music. Keltic folk music is what it is called. A very warm sound.

I really like this album as it is playing on my heart strings throughout. The sound is great and the music is great. Yes, it is a one dimentional album and if you don't like the first ten minutes, just give up this album as there is nothing else/better turning up later on this album. For me, this album is balsam to my soul and one I will enjoy for many decades. It is a great album.

4 points

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Goat - World Music (2012)

...goat as in my least favourite animal....... their smell alone makes me physically sick....

Goat is a Swedish space rock band. Or rather; make that a krautrock band. This album, their debut album World Music takes me back to Amon Duul. Not Amon Duul II, but rather their first incarnation. A band who released three albums from one record session. That was my first impression of this album. An album that opened up like a rose later on.

The music here has both a garage and a punk feeling. Just like many new space rock albums these days. This sound and music is very popular and Goat has already got a pretty large following. In this genre, they are really good. Distorted guitars galore, rampant bass and drums, atonal female vocals and some very good songs makes this an album well worth checking out. The more punk elements does not go down well with me. But the heavy krautrock influences more than makes up for that.

This is a very good album from a band which may go far if they want.

3.5 points

Controtempo - Controtempo (2013)

The debut album from this Italian band, released eight years after the band split up. This album was supposed to be released in 1998. Psych Up Melodies had thankfully picked up this album and released it earlier this year.

We are deep into RPI territory here. Lush Italian progressive rock with Italian vocals, Hammond organs, guitars, piano, bass and drums. The sound is very flowery and pastoral. The music is the typical Italian blend of folk, symph, fusion, pop and rock. This album is pretty much a middle of the road Italian prog album, sound and music wise. The vocals are very good.

Very good is also the music here. I really like their sound a lot. The very lush sound is a good advert for this scene and Italy in general. Do I have any chianti or Italian wine in my house tonight ? No. That is a pity because this album is the perfect soundtrack to a night in the garden with Italian wine and food. The party mood will hit the moon, guaranteed.
My only gripe is a couple of disco/euro pop orientated songs which spoils this party and the lack of any really great songs. Besides of that, this is a very good album which I will play again on a much warmer night than this one. This is not an album for frosty nights. Besides of that; a very good album.

3.5 points 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Archangelica - Like A Drug (2013)

A new neo prog band from Poland. Some groans can be heard. Well, at least from my living room. I have to admit Polish neo prog is not high on my list of pleasures I take out of life..... although Disperse has done a lot to change my negative opinions about this scene.

Archangelica is in the same landscape too. Somewhere between neo prog and prog metal. The music pretty hard with some decent vocals. The music is sometimes straying into power metal (= one of my pet hates). Sometimes, it stays within neo prog and it also takes some influences from post rock too. The music is performed with the normal guitars, keyboards, bass and drums setup. The use of half acoustic guitars is clever and very post rock.

The music is not as bad as I feared. There are some very good songs here inbetween some rather mediocre songs too. The band really never raises their head over the parapet and takes any chances. The formula used is safe and sound. The audience is there, ready to embrace this album and come to their gigs. No need to take any chances and the band does not stray away from this big road. This is still a good album which I perhaps will never play again but still has it's place among the many quality albums in my far too large music collection.

3 points

Cantina Sociale - Cum Lux (2009)

The second and so far final album by this Italian symph prog band. Their debut album Balene from 2002 did not set the world alight. So the band gave it another try.

The music here is middle-of-the-road Rock Progressivo Italiano. The music varies from pretty pastoral to pretty heavy which throws an emotional punch. The vocals are in Italian and they are good. The sound is not the classical 1970s RPI sound. They have removed some of the more folk pop aspects of that sound and replaced it with a more post jazz sound. The result is a pretty cool, laid back sound where mellotrons and sax also adds a lot of textures to the RPI sound.

The music is pretty good throughout. My usual gripe is the lack of any really great songs here. The music works, but it does not really grabs my full attention. I still manages to make myself a dinner without any accidents at the same time as listening to this album. That is not a sign of a great album. But by all means; this is a good album.

3 points

Monday, 11 March 2013

Yagull - Films (2012)

Why ???

Yagull is an acoustic cinematic ambient music based project lead by Sasha Markovic as the only member, assisted by various other members. The instruments here are chello, acoustic guitars, flute and sax. The music is instrumental.

Films is basically acoustic versions of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Black Sabbath) and other tunes. That is it really. This is the type of music you hear when you walk into a shoe shop in a quest to find some new shoes in size 10 (in my case; size 13..... now you know my shoes size). That is the value of this music. The version of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is pretty horrendous. In short, I am struggling not to write anything really insulting here. Let me be brief and say that I am struggling really hard to find any artistic merits in this album.
Please don't give up your daytime job.

1 point 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Cosmograf - The Man Left In Space (2013)

Cosmograf is Robin Armstrong's project and he hires in other musicians for his so far four neo prog albums.

The previous Cosmograf album When Age Has Done Its Duty from 2011 was excellent. It was no doubts Cosmograf's breakthroug album too and created some big waves in the scene. The Man Left In Space is the follow up album. And it is also a very ambitious concept album project about a man left in space. The lyrics describe his life there.

Concept albums is in most cases creative and commercial suicides. We are talking the nerdiest of all nerdy things to do. In Cosmograf's case, there is also the small matter of keeping up the interest and harness the interest created through the  When Age Has Done Its Duty album. In short; Robin Armstrong has done a very brave thing by releasing a concept album. He is far braver than me.

... But he has pulled it off. Not only will he keep the fans he got through  When Age Has Done Its Duty. He will also add additional fans too. The Man Left In Space is a very modern sounding concept album who weaves itself through a largely electric landscape where the great vocals is doing the narrations. The music is surprisingly enough dominated by both electric and acoustic guitars. I was expecting to be bombarded by a cascade of keyboards and is pleased that this is not the case. The many good and long guitar solos is a joy to behold. Those and the vocals.

There are some really superb songs here too. My only gripe is the lack of some really killer tracks. But all songs here are great and the concept makes sense.

I have myself been one of the many converts championing this band after the excellent 2011 album. It is nice to be proven right for a change. I am positive surprised by this album. Cosmograf has in my eyes and ears established itself as one of the best neo prog acts now.

4.5 points

Room. The - Open Fire (2013)

The debut album from this new English band.

It is another neo prog debut album. One of the many debut albums from the last 12 months. It seems like this genre is getting a lot of new blood these days. The Room consists of members from another band called GLD. The Room and many other new neo prog bands is really only bands created by inbreeding in the neo prog scene.

The album starts with the best song, by a mile, on this album. Flesh And Bones is a great, catchy song. The band sets out their stall in the 1980-1990s neo prog scene. You get the slighly English pop sounding neo prog from that era. The same keyboards, the same vocals, the same guitars, bass and drums. The result is a nostalgia fest of an album. That is; for those who like this type of music, were young back then, drinking far too much Scrumpy Jack cider,  got their business degrees, got married and is now living happily after with their second wife and a fat moggy on the sofa. They will listen to this album and say "I was a student back then".

But I still pretty much like this album. It is a pretty naive, happy chappy carefree sounding album. The quality is also good with the above mentioned song as the highlight of the album. This is an album well worth checking out. See link below.

3 points

The album

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Banana - Aun Es Tiempo De Sonar (1979)

The only album from this Argentine symphonic prog band.

Banana played symphonic prog with plenty of Spanish vocals, keyboards, some guitars, drums and bass. Comparissons are Genesis, Camel and actually the likes of Italian bands like Le Orme.

The music is nice and gentle. The band hardly ever raise their voices as in becoming heavy and aggressive. The music is almost too pastoral for my liking and it most definate appeals to those who prefer their prog gentle and pastoral.

There is nothing bad about this album. It is nice..... and not great. Nice, good and comfortable with some great guitar solos and melody lines interluded with the good stuff. This is a pretty average album which does not raise my pulse at all.

3 points

Friday, 8 March 2013

Pymlico - Directions (2012)

One man and his band. An phenomenon replacing one man and his dog. In this case, this is the second album from the Norwegian artist Arild Brøter & friends. Also called Pymlico.

I had a look at Youtube for videos of this band and found a live video of the band doing a Genesis cover. Then I put this album on and the meaning of li.... sorry, this album revealed itself to me. The music on this fifty five minutes long instrumental album is very Genesis at time. In particular on the second track, the fourteen minutes long Heroes. Would I be far off the truth if I said the "heroes" here is Rutherford, Collins, Hackett, Gabriel and in particular Banks ? That track sounds very much like Genesis anno Selling England By The Pound and is very probably a tribute track to them. And a deserved one too. I really like that track which is also available through Youtube. The best track on this album and a tribute the heroes here can be happy with.

Pymlico, who perform their music with tonnes of keyboards, mellotrons, guitars, flutes, bass and drums. They use plenty of guitars and that's why they are not a Genesis copycat on the rest of the album. The second half of the album is more in an experiemental but still classic symphonic prog direction. The lack of focus only a vocalist can give is a bit of a problem and the album is sailing a bit too close to Little Tragedies territory for my liking. But Directions is still a very good album which should give Pymlico the attention they so richly deserves.

3.5 points 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Earth And Fire - Andromeda Girl (1981)

The seventh album from this Dutch female fronted band who made a good fist of it, sounding like Renaissance.

Unfortunate, they also copied Renaissance's descent into mainstream pop music. In the case of Earth And Fire; they went disco and euro pop. Very catchy disco with a lot of Saturday Night Fever'ish stuff. The result is fever like symptoms for those of us listening to this album thirty years later. OK, I may have man flu though or being exhausted after a hard day.

Anyway, this album features late 1970s/early 1980s cheap euro pop and the result is a turkey of an album. Cheap, nasty melody lines and terrible plastic sounds not fitting a vocalist like Jerney Kaagman. Some of the cheap strings arrangements are also very cheesy and should have been banned as this danger to public health they are.

This album is truly horrible. Avoid this album at all costs.

1 point

Green Violinist. The - More Thrill & Never Ending Blessings (2013)

The debut album from this Belgium band.

The amount of debut albums in the neo-prog genre is staggering high these days. There is flood hitting our homes now. Most of the music sounds like a mix of Marillion, Gazpacho and Pink Floyd. Just like this album.

Their label has sugar coated  the pill as organic, ethereal music. The prominent use of piano and acoustic guitars in addition to keyboards, electric guitars, bass and drums gives credence to their claims. Ditto for the great female and male vocals too.

Their music and their image, chosen band name from a Chagall painting, hints about some strong art rock aspirations. And there is a lot of them on this album. This album is not a straight forward neo prog album. But despite of that, the first half of the album is pretty dull neo prog and I got the feeling of deja vu. Mostly from other albums in this genre. The album becomes a lot more interesting in the final twenty minutes of this forty five minutes long album. Forty five minutes is a perfect length for an album like that and the band deserves praise for getting this right. They also deserves praise for releasing a very good album too. This is not my type of music and I guess fans of Marillion will lap up this album like a cat laps up a bowl of milk. Belgium has got themselves a new band it can be happy with.

3.5 points

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Amon Düül II - Made in Germany (1975)

Their eight album and an unexpected turn into conceptual symphonic prog. Sort off.......

This art work and the music has a concept album feeling hanging over it. Or the feeling I got when I was listening to Clash's Sandinista album. That too was a strange album coming from a band you believed you knew. Made In Germany (and Sandinista) turned that belief uside down.

Well, in the case of Amon Düül II and German krautrock bands, expect the unexpected. This album continues down the folk/space rock and standard rock autobahn the band had set out on some albums ago. There is not much space rock here though and the music also have a strong cabaret feel over it too.

The end result is pretty strange and very German humour, krautrock like. The feeling of witnessing a cabaret is at times overwhelming. This album is a cabaret. There are some good songs here though on this album which requires a lot from the listener to sink in. I have actually started to like this album so it is a weak three pointer from me. I wonder what the next Amon Düül II album will bring me on my journey through their discography...... a horse ?

3 points

Monday, 4 March 2013

Arkham - Arkham (1994)

Arkham was a band in the 1970s which included Daniel Denis, later in Magma and Univers Zero. This album, the only album with their name on it, was released by Cuneiform Records with the help of some long forgotten tapes from a gig they did in the 1970s. This is a compilation album of some sort, released long after their demise. Some of the music is also live.

The sound is not particular great. Their music is a mix of Egg and Soft Machine, two of my favourite bands. That is why it is such a pity that the sound is pretty abysmal at places. This is the type of music I normally regard as great. OK, some parts of this album has a tolerable good sound. The really good tracks here is the ones with the bad sound. The good sounding tracks is not that really good. I am in two minds, but regard this as a decent to good album. I may upgrade the score later if I like this album better in some months time. I am not sure if this album is a worthy investment though and I am not sure why some labels this a zeuhl album. The music is not zeuhl at all. So...... OK, a weak three pointer.

3 points 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Lifesigns - Lifesigns (2013)

Sometimes, you just have to look at an album cover to get the complete picture of the music inside. The green and pleasant village scene with a cathedral this English supergroup has chosen as a cover artwork for their their debut album is brilliant and one of the best cover art work I have seen lately. It also perfectly describe the music on this album.

Lifesigns is a band with members from Genesis (Steve Hackett), Focus, Strawbs, King Crimson and other bands. The music is English symphonic prog with a lot of neo prog too. The sound is big and dominated by a Chapmann stick, keyboards, bass, drums and multi layered male vocals. The opening track Lighthouse is a superb track and one of the best songs this year...... so far. Brilliant guitar solo from probably Steve Hackett in the middle. The rest of the album... well, look at the art work. Herein lays my only gripe with this album too. It is a bit too green, too bland and without a couple of more killer tracks. That aside, this is a great fifty odd minutes long album. This is an album everyone into symphonic/neo prog anno 2013 must purchase.

4 points

Happy Family - Happy Family (1995)

The debut album from this Japanese zeuhl combo who is mostly known for their excellent Toscco album.

Happy Family sadly only released two albums. This and Toscco. This album is much more King Crimson orientated than Toscco. King Crimson and a lot of Univers Zero. The guitars is very Robert Fripp'ish. Heavy chugging guitars. The drums are really frantic. The keyboards is in the background on this very guitars orientated album. This album has a metal feel too. The bass is also adding to that feeling. This album is instrumental throughout it's sixty-four minutes. The sound is rather good too.

The music is good throughout. Good to very good, in fact. It has this mad Japanese zeuhl feeling I really enjoy. The music here is a times both melodic and frantic insane at the same time. This is very much music I find very satisfactory and life loving. Hence my love for zeuhl. This is a very good album from a band I hope will one day make a third, fourth, fifth.... well, some more albums.

3.5 points

Disperse - Journey Through the Hidden Gardens (2010)

The debut album from this Polish band.

I have to admit that prog metal sends shivers down my spine and I normally run fifty miles in the opposite direction just to avoid it. Polish prog metal sends me running eighty miles. By mistake, I thought this was neo prog so I went for it. What I got was progressive metal...... and neo prog.

Disperse's sound is the typical slightly melancholic Polish sound. No wonder with their history. Holocaust, invasions galore from east, south and west and a lot of poverty. Melancholy explained.... But this is a good sound though although I am pretty sure the Polish people could have lived without it. God bless the Polish people. No, I am not sarcastic. I am honest.

OK..... Disperse has got the balance between prog metal and neo prog almost spot on. There is plenty of guitar solos here, good melody lines, a great keyboards sound, good drums and bass + a very good vocalist. This gives Disperse almost their own sound. Well, they does this sound better than the vast majority of the bands who has tried this sound. This album is vastly better than most other prog metal neo prog crossover albums I have been listening to during the last ten years. This being their debut album, they most certainly have a good base to work out of. My only gripe is the lack of any great tracks here. This is still a very good album who has restored my belief in this crossover genre.

3.5 points

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Mold. Colin - Girl on the Castle Steps (2012)

The second album from this English folk rocker.

Colin Mold has been in the scene for some years. He is also a touring member of Karnataka and founding member of Kara. Which does not tell me much.

Anyway, he is presenting us some sixty minutes of progressive pop/rock in the song writer tradition. That means he is playing all the instruments plus doing the vocals himself. His vocals is good. The music too is competent performed. The music is pretty symphonic at times. The folk aspect is not that obvious here besides of  the violins he sometimes uses. One violin does not make a full folk rock album. Keyboards and guitars are the dominant instruments here.

The result is a good album in the good old English melancholic songwriter tradition. Good, but not particular exciting though. I quite like this album as a relaxing remedy to cure all the ills of the world with. To give me peace of mind. But it does not get my braincells working overtime. Check it out.

3 points

Colin Mold's homepage

Materya - Case (2012)

This is the debut album from this AltaVia side project. Who, you may say. OK..... We are in Italy now and AltaVia is an Italian neo prog band who released one album some time ago. I have reviewed it, but is unable to remember much of that album.

Materya and this album has been unleashed through Rob Reed's (Magenta, Kompendium) own record label and the music is female vocals focused pop/rock. Well, make that female fronted progressive rock. The vocals are both in Italian and English.

It is pretty obvious that this band is latching onto the English/European female fronted prog rock band wagon. I like this type of prog rock a lot. The best bands in this scene, that is. Materya is not adding anything to this scene besides of some Italian vocals songs and their Italian origins. The vocals are great but all these bands have a great female vocalist. You would not choose a crow to front music like this. The music itself is pretty bland with tonnes of keyboards, the obligatory guitars, bass and drums. The male vocals supporting the female vocals is also good. The duets are good too. And to be fair; most of the music is good here. So good that I am awarding this album a weak three pointer. This album is not particular exciting though and is not raising my pulse at all. So there we go.

3 points