Tuesday 31 December 2013

Fairport Convention - Unhalfbricking (1969)

The third album from these English folk rock legends.

Both Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson is involved in the band and this album at that time. Both legends in their own right as this band is also legends. Sandy Denny is now sadly departed and much missed. Richard Thompson is still very much with us and has just released a new album.

Both are in free flow on this forty minutes, eight songs long album. Sandy's vocals are wonderful while Richard does a brilliant job on guitars and everything else with strings he could get his hands on. They are very much supported by bass, backing vocals, fiddle and drums.

Folk rock is a genre which was and still is pretty limited in it's expression. This album is pretty much pushing the envelope in this genre and musical expression. The eleven minutes long A Sailor's Wife is Richard in full flow on his guitars and strings. A genius at work, no less. That goes for a lot of other songs too. Although I love Sandy's voice, I have to admit this is Richard's album. Sandy does some stunning vocals on this album too. The opening song Genesis Hall is her in full flow. Her best song is Who Knows Where The Times Goes where her vocals is simply stunning.

The rest of the album is not up to that standard. A couple of songs are throwaway songs and barely fillers. This leaves a very good album which I really like a lot and which rekindles my interest in a band who can only be called legends. A band who every year is staging the Copredy festival and a lot of good things for the British music scene.

3.5 points

Terraced Garden - Braille (1984)

The second album from this Canadian band.

Their debut album Melody And Menace from 1982 was an eclectic prog album with a lot of references to the likes of King Crimson and in particular Gentle Giant. A very good album too. They have changed their tune two years later on this album, Braille.

First of all; their vocalist Carl Tafel now sings like if he was Richard Sinclair in Caravan. The rest of the band has also shed of most of their King Crimson and Gentle Giant attitudes and adopted a much more Caravan like style. At times, they sounds like Caravan. The introduction of violins and a more folk rock sound sets them apart from Caravan though. There are also some typical 1980s like new rock stuff here.

I really like the vocals as I am a big fan of Richard Sinclair's vocals. The music on this forty-five minutes long album is still on the complex, eclectic side and still pleasantly enough influenced by Gentle Giant. The music here is by no means straight forward and has several layers of details and melodies.

Braille is a very good album which I recommend. Check it out if you can.

3.5 points

Monday 30 December 2013

T - Psychoanorexia (2013)

The fourth album from Thomas Thielen from the band Scythe who also release albums under the moniker T.

There seems to be various sub genres within the neo prog genre these days. Some tries to sound as commercial as possible, preferable with a female vocalist. A sure winner. Others again tries the prog metal route. Also a winner. Musicians like Thomas Thielen and mostly German bands tries the melancholic, still very majestic route.

Psychoanorexia is a majestic album with a lot of soaring guitar solos, great keyboards runs, piano, bass and drums. And let's not forget; Thomas excellent understated vocals. That is a good recipe for creating moods and ambiences. A bit ebb and flows, symphonic drama and time to let the melodies develop over a long time. Which he does on this almost seventy minutes long album which is divided into four songs. Four suites, I think it is right to call them. Three of them are twenty minutes long. The fourth song, make that song three on the album, is only ten minutes long. I think it is still only fair to regard this as one seventy minutes long piece of music.

The sound is excellent and the album is both an immediate hit and a grower at the same time. It grabs hold on the listener from first minute, but it still needs some listening sessions to really sink in properly.

There is no really killer tracks here. Nevertheless; this is a great album and one heck of a classy neo prog album. It comes highly recommended.

4 points

Zartong - Zartong (1979)

The only album from this Armenian band. Back in those days, Armenia was a member nation of the USSR, Soviet Union. Now, they are independent.

Zartong is nominally a folk rock band. But they have mixed in disco, a lot of pop music, fusion and rock into their Armenian folk music. The music is rather commercial. Or make that; very commercial. Back in 1979, that is. This album is a melting pot of violins, local instruments, bass, drums, guitars, keyboards and male vocals.

The result is a couple of good songs in the folk rock vein and some rather dubious material throughout this almost forty minutes long album. The band is trying to cater for a lot of various scenes and does not really satisfy any of them. Check it out if you want, but be warned. Those disco rhythms is nasty.

2 points

Elegant Simplicity - Studies In Heartbreak (2005)

The seventeenth album from this Steve McCabe project since 1992. A pretty impressive work-rate, although quantity rarely means quality. But as long as he and his fans loves it; no harm is done.

Studies In Heartbreak is another instrumental symphonic prog album. Loosely, in the Camel genre. But Steve also uses more classical music instruments on this album in addition to his guitar and keyboards. I guess most instruments are sampled as hiring a full orchestra is beyond the financial means of this project.

There is a lot more to this band and album than electric guitar solos. Of whom, there is not many off, in fact. Flutes seems to be everywhere, though. The music is very elegant at places. Elegant, but not toothless and new age and ambient.

The result is a pretty good one hour long album and I now understand why Steve and this band has enough fans to sustain this amount of album releases. I am not a fan of instrumental albums. But this one is rather good and a weak good status is awarded.

3 points

New Grove Project. The - Fool's Journey (1997)

The first of two albums from a Swedish/USA based band. Roine Stolt were a member of this band too on this album and this album is therefore an obligatory album for those who want a complete Roine Stolt discography.

Fool's Journey is a journey through neo prog and symphonic prog land. Very light and flowery music, it is too. Roine Stolt does all guitars here and he is supported by keyboards, bass, drums and vocals. The vocals are pretty decent. There is some Flower Kings over this music. There is also some retro 1970s and Kaipa feel over this album. Kaipa is probably the best comparison.

The music is not particular good. Not to mention impressive. It is very sparse on details, melodies and hooks. The sound is very good though. But that is really it on a decent album I really don't like that much.

2 points

Sunday 29 December 2013

Thork - Nula Jedan (2007)

The third and so far final album from this French eclectic prog band.

Their previous two albums were all pretty dark and eclectic. They established this band as a hidden gem in the French scene. They never got the attention they deserved. Their more accessible symph prog eclectic sound on this album, Nula Jedan, may have been an attempt to reach out to more people at the same time as keeping their core eclectic sound and music ideas alive.

Nula Jedan is pretty much symphonic and majestic at the same time as being eclectic. I don't think it is much wrong to point out that this may be the French answer to the more eclectic Gentle Giant albums. Nula Jedan is more elaborate and melodic at the same time. There is a richness of details here which is one of Thork's trademarks. Nothing here is what they seems. Hence; this album requires a lot of time to really gel with the listener.

The end result is a very good album and a confirmation that Thork was a unique band. Their mix of traditional instruments with the likes of violin, cello, trumpet and other woodwinds is really great. Ditto for the French vocals and the many different type of vocals and vocal harmonies. Thork went where very few dared to go. The end result is their three albums which is highly recommended. That includes this album too.

3.5 points

Corte Dei Miracoli - Corte Dei Miracoli (1976)

The debut album from this Italian band who went on to release in total two albums. The final album in 1992.

This band was a five piece with Vittorio De Scalzi guesting as a guitarist. The main instrument here is keyboards though as they had two keyboards players. Guitars, bass and drums is supporting the keyboards and the Italian vocals. Very good vocals, it is too.

Music wise, the two keyboards gives the music away a bit. Italian symphonic prog, it is. ELP and Keith Emerson is a big influence here. They have also combined this with Italian rock, folk and pop music. The arch typical Rock Progressivo Italiano sound & music, in other words. Good references are the likes of Banco and Le Orme.

The songs and material here is good throughout. A great or even a killer track is missing here. It is good to hear the ELP like keyboards riffs on this album. It brings a smile to my face. Besides of that; this is a good album well worth checking out.

3 points

Daymoon - Fabric Of Space Divine (2013)

The second album from this Portugal based band. Or rather; project lead by Fred Lessing. Their debut album, All Tomorrows from 2011, turned a lot of heads and gave the band a solid platform. Hence my curiosity and purchase of this album.

To say that I was surprised is a bit of an understanding. Fabric Of Space Divine is truly an album full of ideas and different music genres. The music is all over the place from Eastern music to more Americana, calypso pop music, prog rock and other more obscure musical expressions.

The music is created by a bewildering amount of instruments, the list far too long for this review.

Strangely enough, the music here works. I am not so sure if it works under the album concept. But it still works. The music is good throughout. It is far, far out though. A kind of an anarchistic commune somewhere in the forest. But the music is good.....

3 points

Saturday 28 December 2013

Killed On X Mas - III (2000)

The third and so far final album from this German krautrock band.

The previous two albums were pretty hard metallic growling affairs where the listener was hit by a wall of sound. A wall of disharmonic guitars, that is. Krautrock meets metal and sludge. This album though is a very different kettle of fish again.

The band has gone far more indie rock and ambient on III. The music is still spacy and you get the occasional guitar walls with some feedbacks and distortions. The main emphasis is half accoustic guitars and vocals though. That and bass with drums in the background.

This album is sixty-three minutes long divided on eleven songs. That means this album is more songs orientated than spaced out as their previous albums too. They have in the process lost some of their charm and is now demanding to be taken as a serious space indie rock band.

That is a bit difficult without any really good songs. The album is middling along here. The sound is good and there are some good ideas along the way. There are also some dull moments here too. I land somewhere between decent and good on this one, a free download album. Check it out yourself.

2.5 points

The album

Zauber - Est (1991)

The second album from this Italian band.

Their debut album Il Sogno from 1978 did not set the world on fire, but the band still returns again thirteen years later for another crack at it. Their brand of Italian prog rock is pretty pastoral and folk rock influenced. They use both female and male vocalist. The dominating instrument is keyboards, supported by bass, drums and guitars.

The sound is not particular good and so is the music. Not particular good. The music sounds disjointed and dull. The band tries to hook onto the Renaissance band wagon on the female fronted songs. On the other songs, they sound listless and without any life.

This is nevertheless a decent album which may interest some. I am not one of them.

2 points

Sailor Free - Spiritual Revolution (2012)

The third album from this four piece Italian funky heavy prog band.

Sailor Free is one of those sadly ignored Italian rock bands who I think warrant a lot more attention. At least; based on this album.

This seventy minutes offers up fourteen songs based on keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and vocals. The sound is pretty retro. At least the guitar sound is pretty retro. The band still looks a bit forward too on the more pastoral songs. The vocals are very good and they are also in English.

The music may be a tad more mainstream rock than I would had liked it to be. This album does have a great sound though and the songs are good. This is a good album which may please others more than it pleases me.

3 points

Friday 27 December 2013

Taal - Skymind (2003)

The second and so far final album from this French band. Taal was sold to me as one of the most eclectic bands to come out of France. Hence, I got this album.

The sales pitch was not much wrong either. The first half of the album is like the band having a small gathering in a French cafeteria with coffee, a bit wine and a lot of French pastry. Translated to something you would understand; the music is based on theatrical and French cinema music with a lot of influences from jazz, zeuhl, avant-garde and symphonic prog. Very French and very eclectic. So far, so great and that is what this album is so far. The details are rich and the songs great.

The band moves to a more bigger open space on the final half of the album and the Dream Theater influences kicks in. Still with a great French influence with some avant-garde and lots of symphonic prog too. Still very theatrical and cinematic.

The music is created with guitars, keyboards, cello, violin, bass, saxophone, flutes, drums and viola. That and some very good vocals.

The result is a very good album. The first half is great. The final half is good. Hence my very good verdict. It is an album well worth checking out as it is as eclectic as it can get.

3.5 points

Visual Cliff - Out of the Archives (2013)

The sixth album from this US fusion band.

Out Of The Archives is the first of two albums released this year by the band. I therefore take it that the music here is what it says on the tin; an archive outtakes or a best of album. After a research on their homepage, it turns out to be demo material from 2003-07. The band also turns out to be a Christian band.

Not that this means a lot, although that is not a bad thing. The music on this album is wholly instrumental. Take a lot from Rush sound and fuse it into a more fusion landscape and you end up with this album. You probably ends up with the essence of this band too. I do not know them as this is my first musical meeting with them.

The sound is mostly created with guitars, bass and drums. The guitars drives the music along. Guitars as in Rush, that is.

The end result is a good heavy fusion album with a lot of good details. No great tracks here and no mind blowing music. This is still a good album and probably a very good companion on the car journeys or rides across USA. This is open music for the open landscapes.

3 points

Legend - Spirit (2013)

The fifth album from this English band who sounds like nobody else. A truly original band.

I became aware of this rather obscure band, who for some reason I don't really understand is described as a neo prog band, through their excellent 2011 album Cardinal Points. An album that blew my head away and it did not take me long time to purchase Spirit too.

A rather inspired choice as it turned out. Due to some unspent Amazon credits, it only cost me two quid anyway. The mother of all bargains. I was smirking like a cat who had just caught and eaten a finch.

Spirit is a bit different from Cardinal Points again. At first glance, make that first listening session, the band sounds like they have gone gothic rock with female vocals & co. In Beck Sian, the band has one of the best vocalists in the scene. Her vocals is very Kate Bush'ish at times. Her range is so big that she can quickly move from one expression to another. In her voice, Legend has something that can only be described as a battle ship among canoes. She easy goes into my top five best female vocalists ever. That among the likes of Kate Bush, Sandy Denny and Annie Haslam.
Her voice is also pretty theatrical at times and reminds me about Christian Deschamps in Ange.

Legend and this album is not only about her. The theatrical and operatic music reminds me about Ange and that French theatrical symph prog scene. What at first glance comes across as gothic is in fact theatrical symphonic prog. While that was the dominant scene in France, England just across the water has not had many of those bands. From the top of my head, Legend is the only band I can remember in this scene.

Hence.... Spirit is really an opera. Not like one of those concept albums the likes of Ayreon and others release without using operatic vocals who covers all vocal ranges. Spirit is a REAL rock opera where Beck Sian and the rest of the band covers all bases. Besides of their sound sometimes being really majestic big, the band also knows how to undress the soundscape and become more pastoral minimalistic. Spirit is an album where darkness follows light, where the grandeur soundscapes sometimes gives way to more pastoral simplicity. That is where the strength is and that makes Spirit a pretty unusual album.

It also makes Spirit a great album. Beck Sian's excellent vocals is already mentioned. The rest of the band also shows up with some great guitars and keyboards runs. This supported by great bass and drums hooks.
The melodies are also great and the mix of shade and light is a great asset to this album.

Spirit is one of the better albums from this year and is highly recommended.

4 points


Thursday 26 December 2013

Hostsonaten - Autumn Symphony (2009)

The fifth album from this Fabio Zuffanti project.

Hostsonaten has taken it's name from an Ingmar Bergman movie and is very much following down that theme on this autumn orientated album. Golden leaves and lots of cold wind. The nature is dying, only to wake up again a few months later. At least in Italy and in the northern hemispheres.

The album starts with a Miles Davis inspired jazz intro and I wonder if I am listening to the wrong album. After this shock, I am relieved to note that the album moves into a more familiar Hostsonaten territory with cascades of guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and various other instruments. We are deep into symphonic prog again. Instrumental symphonic prog.

The end result is forty minutes with very good instrumental symphonic prog which will please the many Hostsonaten fans out there and other fans of this genre. I am missing a great track or two some of the other Hostsonaten albums had. Something that grips me. That is missing here. Despite of this; this is still a very good album.

3.5 points

Inner Road. The - Ascension (2013)

The second album from this Steve Cresswell fronted band. The band is from England, btw.

The band continues on from their 2011 album Visions with much of the same. The electric guitar is still the main instrument and all music is instrumental. The guitars is supported by keyboards, bass and drums.

The band has changed a bit style from Camel and Genesis to a more guitar album orientated mix of symph prog and progressive metal. The album feels like one long guitar solo with a lot of Steve Vai like runs. A bit too one dimensional.

When Jay Parmar's guitar solos last around one hour, I think I am justified in labeling this a guitar album. The music is a lot better than most music you find on guitar albums. Jay Parmar's style is a bit on the repetition side with very little variations.

On the positive side; the music is good throughout. But it is not particular interesting. I will play it again if I feel up for an hour long air guitar session. Preferable behind closed curtains.

3 points

Novela - La Songerie (1980)

The debut album from this Japanese band who went on to release eight albums before they split up. Eight albums in six years.

Novela was considered as being a symphonic prog band. One of the better Japanese symphonic prog bands too with a penchant for ELP. That may be true too... The first minutes of this album is pure Japanese heavy metal though and it takes me back to the likes of Loudness and bands I would rather forget. A strained to breaking point male vocals on the top of some third rate heavy metal. I cringed. The album then moves more into a more symphonic prog landscape with lots of synthesizers and an ethereal soundscape. But this album returns to the heavy metal themes on a sporadic basis.

The heavy metal stuff is pretty dire, but some of the symphonic prog stuff has some good melodies. The end result is a decent debut album and my loss of interest in pursuing other albums from this band. I am not impressed by La Songerie.

2 points

Rachel's Memory - Understated Drama (2012)

The debut album from this German band.

I am moving away from my well trodden path on this album and into a more trip-hop electronica landscape. That is in essence what this band is dishing up here. Let me add the correct label: Progressive Electronica. A bit of a mouthful, but it is also a correct label. A reference here is The Third And The Mortal on their second and third album.

What makes this album a bit special and not at least progressive is Antje Auer's stunning (female) vocals. She also serenades us with violins. The other two members are Jurgen Rennecke on bass and the hardest working musician of them all; Andreas Hack on electronic and analogue soundmaking. Mainly on computers and keyboards, I guess.

The result is forty minutes with floating ethereal music where all three members are painting a beautiful soundscape. Beautiful and haunting at the same time.

The end result is a very good album whose only weakness is the lack of a great track or two. It is an album I really like and I will keep an eye out for them.

3.5 points

The band

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Terpandre - Terpandre (1981)

Another French band who released an album and then were disbanded.

Which is a bit pity when it comes to this band. They released this album in a year where prog rock were as popular as a nuclear attack. The lack of an audience may be the reason why they gave up. I am very glad this album was re-released on CD some years later.

To the music though. Terpandre is a fifty minutes long instrumental symphonic prog album which comes across as a mix of Camel's epic Snow Goose, a bit jazz, folk and a lot of French symphonic prog. Ange springs to mind, even without the vocals. The music is romantic and it is performed with mellotrons, synths, guitars, violins, bass and drums. Although divided into five songs plus two live songs, this album is in effect one long symphony. A pretty innovative and unusual symphony which clearly has it's own identity and sound. A great sound, btw.

The result is a very good album which is lacking a great piece of melody to elevate it to something greater again. I really like this album and in particular the mellotron parts. This is indeed a romantic, slightly melancholic symphony well worth checking out.

3.5 points

Taproban - Posidonian Fields (2006)

The third album from this Italian symph prog band.

It is many years since I last listened to this band. I loved their 2004 album Outside Nowhere according to my review in ProgArchives. I also noted their ELP influences.

The ELP influences are still here on Posidonian Fields. There is a lot of them. I also note their crossover to more commercial accessible songs too. This album has an almost incoherent mix of neo prog songs and ELP like themes.

The ELP like themes with majestic keyboard runs is the ones that sticks out as a positive aspect of this recording. Some very good melodies. The more songs based material is not particular good though. The vocals is a bit thin and not to my liking. Then again; it suits the more songs based material which is a bit thin and weak. The vocals is supported by synths, guitars, bass and drums.

Posidonian Fields is a good album in it's own right and well worth checking out. I have my reservations.

3 points

La Barca - La Barca (2002)

La Barca is an Argentine band and I don't know anything about them. This is probably their debut album. I got their albums from an internet retailer.

La Barca is safely in the neo prog genre. Neo prog with some AOR and Latin-American pop rock too. Their music is performed with the usual neo prog setup; keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. On the top of that again; some male Spanish vocals.

The music is pretty mainstream commercial and very melodic. The music is not technical and filled with interesting details. The good tune and melody is the main emphasis here.

The sound is good. Unfortunate, there is no good songs here. The music is wishy-washy bland and without much identity. The music appeals more to the mass market than the fringes. For example a prog head like myself. This is a decent album though which does not appeal much to me.

2 points

Red Sand - Cinema du Vieux Cartier (2013)

Their sixth album and the follow up to the 2012 album Behind The Mask.

Red Sand is a Canadian band. A neo prog band, no less. Their music is very much in the classic neo prog tradition with keyboards, vocals, guitars, bass and drums. The vocalist is trying to sing as operatic as Ange's Christian Deschamps without succeeding that much.

Cinema du Vieux Cartier is about the life in cinemas and in movies. It is a concept album with six songs, lasting fifty minutes. Red Sand still sounds like a mix of Marillion and Pendragon with a 1980s synths and guitar sound. They are a retro band, looking back to the golden age of neo prog.

The music is pretty, surprise surprise, cinematic here and I think they have succeed well in their concept. They are though limited by their choice to stick to the strict retro neo prog formula. A bit more symphonic music would not be a bad idea.

The lack of any great songs here is also another gripe I have got with this album. This is though a good album and a must have album for those retro neo prog, Marillion and Pendragon fans out there. I like this album.

3 points

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Solstice - Prophecy (2013)

The fifth album from this English band.

The band had been lumped into this neo prog crowd by the prog authorities. Personally, I don't find anything neo prog in this band. They and Legend occupies their very own genre. You can also add Iona to that genre too.

Solstice's new album Prophecy is continuing in the same form as their previous albums. That is flowery hippie like fusion of symphonic prog and folk rock. Andy Glass guitars is still prominent here. So is Emma Brown's vocals too. They are supported by keyboards, bass and drums. Emma Brown sings beautiful. The sound is great. The music is very symphonic and there is also a great deal of celtic folk music here. I think they have moved a lot closer to the likes of Mostly Autumn here. Not to mention The Reasoning and Iona too.

The end result is a very good to great album from a band I think is criminally underrated and overlooked. It is also a very long album too. Seventy-seven minutes is value for money. Not everything here is great and this album is not as good as their 1993 album New Life. It is still a great album, well worth checking out.

4 points

Analogy - Analogy (1972)

The debut album and the first of in total three albums from this Italian psychedelic rock band before they were disbanded around the end of last century.

The music on this forty-five minutes long album is dominated by the vibrato and totally over the top female vocals from Jutta Nienhaus. It is like listening to a fog horn. She is supported by guitars, Hammond organ, bass and drums.

The music here is not particular hard or spaced out. The music is mostly poorly performed and it is not particular interesting. The rhythm section offers up nothing of interest. Bang bang and thump thump. The saving grace here is the Hammond organs who is pretty interesting. In particular when taking down the tempo to a more ambient level. A level the band is sufficient enough to master.

This album is not horrible. It is just decent with some interesting Hammond organs now and then. Hence my verdict.

2 points

Franc Albir - Tres (2013)

The third album from this Spanish band.

I have previously reviewed their Hoc album which I mistakenly listed as  their second album. It is in fact their fourth album and the follow up to this one. Hoc is also pretty much different from Tres.

Tres gives us one hour of pop with Spanish vocals and some ambient soundscapes inbetween the Spanish pop music. All the ingredients for love, hope and desire pop music is here. Spanish male vocals in the passionate lover mould, keyboards, some guitars, bass, percussion and drums.

The quality is not that good. The ambient stuff is the best ones here. The pop music too calculated commercial. The music is too simple too and offers nothing in details and textures. This is barely a decent album and far from what I expected from this band. It is barely....

2 points

Monday 23 December 2013

Killed On X Mas - The Lost Hamburg Sessions (1996)

The second album from this German space rock band.

Make it garage space rock in this case. Even sludge metal is an appropriate label here. The sound is dirty, hard and metal like. Well, most of these forty-five minutes is sludge metal. The sound is dirty and mean. No mercy given and no prisoners taken.

The harsh and atonal guitars is driving this music forward. The vocals is growling. The bass and drums is thundering along.

Dirty is the word, but there are no really good songs here. The Lost Hamburg Sessions also have this compilation feel with different sounds from recording to recording. In small dosages; this is a fun music. As a full album; nope. This is a decent album and a free download. Make up your own mind.

2 points

The album

Gizmo - Victims (1989)

The third or the fourth album from this very obscure Canterbury, England based band. Their founder sadly passed away earlier this year and the band have now disbanded after some farewell gigs in the Canterbury area.

Their 2012 album was rather very good and made me aware of them. Hence the purchase of this album. An album containing music I did not expect. I did expect neo prog and got something else again. Something entirely else again.

What is the label I should put on this album ? Avant-garde with Gong and Daevid Allen whimsical music is probably one of the better labels on this music. There is a lot of Daevid Allen's spirit over this album. Clash's album Sandinista springs to mind too. There is a lot of children rhymes and nonsensical stuff here. There is also some straight faced neo prog tunes here plus some jazzy tunes. The sound is pretty poor throughout and the straight faced stuff is pretty abysmal.

In other words; chaos reigns and I am not sure what the point of this album is. Victims is a title which the album buyers may think fits themselves. I find this fifty minutes long album a waste of time due to the lack of quality. I despair.

1 point 

Sunday 22 December 2013

Rafart - The Handbook Of The Acid Rider (2013)

The debut album from this Chilean band.

Rafart is the Chapman Stick player Francisco Rafart plus a guitarist and a drummer. Their music is instrumental throughout. Instrumental music somewhere between symphonic prog, eclectic prog, new age, fusion, jazz, movie soundtracks and electronica. Francisco is the dominant player here on the stick.

The first part of this forty-five minutes long album is the most interesting part with a lot of good details and melodies. Elegant melodies where the stick really proves it's worth as an instrument. Parts which probably makes more musicians want to buy themselves a stick.

The final ten minutes is not that interesting though and the album ends with a pure electronica house piece which sullies my good impression of this album. My other gripe with this album is the lack of some really great stuff here. There is none and the album tends to make me nod off too many times. Yes, I agree that the stick is a very impressive instrument and that Francisco Rafart is a great player and that this band has a great future if the art of song/melody writing too can be mastered.

This though is a very promising good debut album well worth checking out. I believe it is being streamed at Progstream. Check it out.

3 points 

Klaatu - Sir Army Suit (1978)

The third album from this Canadian band who were accused for being The Beatles in disguise. Well, they were not.

Their previous albums were very much The Beatles anno Let It Be with some symphonic prog influences. Not unlike Electric Light Orchestra. On Sir Army Suit, they have stripped away this and ended up with pop rock in the vein of The Beatles. I would also add The Madness here as a good label too. Although The Madness appeared long after Klaatu had been disbanded, some of the music here sounds like The Madness and the more poppy end of the new-wave scene.

The songs here is not too bad. Some of them are catchy too. It has this bubblegum factor and this album leaves no aftertaste. It is a decent album though. Fans of The Beatles may want to check it out.

2 points

Gong - Wingful of Eyes (1986)

Wingful of Eyes is a career retrospective, covering the post Daevid Allen albums Shamal, Gazeuse and Expresso II. Three good albums in it's own right.

Virgin Records released this budget album to raise awareness of those three albums who were not selling that well and to boost the interest for this band. The one hour long Wingful of Eyes includes what Virgin Records thought was the best songs from those three albums.

I think these three albums stands perfectly well on their own feet and should not be chopped up as a food dish. But this budget album was probably a good idea anyway. The music here is jazz and fusion, the Pierre Moerlen way. Steve Hillage is also present here.

The end result is a good album, well worth the purchase if you can find a cheap copy. Those who already have the three above mentioned albums should not bother.

3 points 

Terraced Garden - Melody And Menace (1982)

The debut album from this Canadian band who released three albums before they were disbanded.

Terraced Garden offers up an untraditional sound and is a nice change of scenery for me. Their music can best be described as a crossover between Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Echolyn and Genesis. Mostly Gentle Giant as they use a lot of similar vocal harmonies. A lot of atonal vocals. The vocals are great, though.

The sound on this thirty-five minutes long album is very good throughout. The music and sound is created by flutes, keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. The song structures is eclectic and unusual. They are progressive rock minded, I would say.

The quality of the music is very good throughout. A killer track would had elevated this album to another dimension. But I very much like what I hear from this band. A band everyone into eclectic music should check out.

3.5 points

Elegant Simplicity - Improper Advances (1992)

The first of many Elegant Simplicity albums from the English composer and musician Steve McCabe. He/Elegant Simplicity released his/their 20th album earlier this year, in 2013.

Improper Advances is the debut album though and it is basically Steve on his own with electric guitar solos supported by his own keyboards, bass and drums. I believe both bass and drums was produced through synths. It feels like it.

The result is an hour with ten guitar solos compositions. The sound is not particular good as this was a cassette album. It still is, btw. Some of the compositions are rather good. Others are not. It is a debut album from a man who tries to find his own style. A style later abandoned and this album is not representative for his later work. It is a decent debut album. End of it...

2 points

Saturday 21 December 2013

Esthetic Pale - Long Forgotten Words (2005)

The second album from this German neo prog band.

Not another neo prog album, I groaned.... Well, Esthetic Pale is a band with a rather original line up in the form of two female vocalists in addition to keyboards, drums, bass and guitars. A six piece band, in other words.

The two vocalists Katrin Litty and Claudia Speicher is not the best vocalists I have ever heard. That said, their vocals and vocal harmonies are pretty good though. They floats on the top of some pretty heavy neo prog in the same vein as The Reasoning and Touchstones.
With an average song length of ten minutes on four of the six songs, these songs are in the symphonic epics vein. Which makes this album pretty interesting.

The end result is a good album which does not really stands out besides of being dominated by two female vocalists. The music is not that special. The band has just released a new album with a bit of a different lineup. Check them out.

3 points

Earthling Society - Zodiak (2013)

The seventh album from this English band. Please note that this is a review of the CD version of Zodiak and not the LP version. Those two are pretty different mostly due to the limitations of an LP. The CD version is seventy minutes long.

As you may have noticed by the band name, we are deep into space again. Space rock, that is. It is really a toss up between space rock and krautrock, though. This band has taken a lot of influences from both Agitation Free and Hawkwind.

The sound is downtuned and spaced out into outer space. Two of the compositions here are over twenty minutes long. The music is pretty hard with very little ambient stuff. Fred Laird's guitars are shredding through the six compositions like a fox is shredding through a poultry farm. Most times both dissonant and disharmonic. It is still a joy to behold. He is supported by some vocals, thundering bass and drums. Some synths and saxophones is also helping out here.

The end result is a very good album. It is a great album for those into space rock and spaced out krautrock. Some great songs would had elevated this album up a notch. It is still worth checking out.

3.5 points

Friday 20 December 2013

Farpoint - Kindred (2011)

The fifth album from this US band.

Farpoint has specialized themselves in delivering folk rock tinged melodic rock. Some would even call this prog rock. Well, it is prog rock then.

The band uses both folk rock instruments like acoustic guitars and flutes in addition to keyboards, electric guitars, bass and drums. That and a lot of folk rock like vocal harmonies. Where the likes of Jethro Tull are raw and rocking, Farpoint is much more polished and vocal harmonies focused. In this respect, this album is very much in the vein of contemporary British folk rock.

Some of the music here sounds like it comes from an apple and pear orchard in Somerset, England. The music is nice, flowery and a bit country'n'western too. That takes us to Nasville, Tennessee in US of A. You get my drift.

The music here is good and nice throughout the fifty-one minutes this album lasts. There is nothing here I dislike. There is nothing, besides of the sound, I really find great either. Farpoint is in desperate need of a flash or three of brilliance. That would elevate this band from barely "nice" to the breakthrough they deserve. A breakthrough I would want them to get. But......

3 points 

Mucchio.Il - Il Mucchio (1970)

Another Italian one album only band.

Il Mucchio was a band who released some EPs and singles before they released this album. Their music was a mix of beat and ELP like symphonic prog. Surprisingly lot of ELP like symphonic prog. Add a lot of Italian pop too and you get this album. No wonder many consider this as the first ever real Rock Progressivo Italiano album. As far as I am concerned; they are right.

The sound is reasonable good. Ditto for the Italian vocals and vocal harmonies. The guitars, Hammond organ, bass and drums are reasonable good too. The songs sounds dated and not so good. They are still in the late 1960s Italian pop mood and not so advanced as ELPs music.

This is still a decent to good album well worth checking out. I guess it has some historical value too. Not bad at all.

2.5 points

Thursday 19 December 2013

Morphelia - Prognocircus (2003)

The debut album from this German neo prog band.

Germany have their very own neo prog scene which is as strong as the British one. Perhaps even stronger. Morphelia's sound is much more British than German, though. In particular; Scottish. Pallas, Citizen Cain and Comedy Of Errors springs to mind.

The vocals are in good English and they are supported by keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. The music is pretty bombastic and somewhat symphonic. The music is also very neo prog with all it's ills and good stuff. If I one day is going to explain to someone what neo prog is, I will probably put on this album (note to myself on the wall: Neo prog = Morphelia "Prognocircus").

The music is good throughout without really exciting me. The cliches from the 1980s and the 1990s comes thick and fast. In particular; the vocals. This is still a good album which I would recommend to anyone into neo prog.

3 points

Sagittarian - Sagittarian (1984)

Another one album only band. I evidently have a lot of those albums in my collection. Obscure from bands you have to be barking up the tree mad to be interested in. Hence my interest in them.

Sagittarian is from Japan and released this album to a thundering silence in a year where prog rock were as popular as pestilence. Which explains why they gave up. The six members are probably doctors, teachers and accountants now.

Sagittarian is an album performed by no less than three synths, electric guitar, bass and drums. Some sporadic vocals can also be found here. The sound is a bit substandard. The music is a mix of neo prog and symphonic prog. They are difficult to pinpoint. I would label them as melodic neo symphonic prog. Melodic without that many good melodies.

This is a decent to good album which suffers from quality in all departments. It is well worth checking out, but not worth spending much money on.

2.5 points

Electric Light Orchestra - Time (1981)

Their tenth album if Xanadu is included.

Electric Light Orchestra have moved on from being The Beatles younger brother and have embraced the sounds and music of the final half of the 1970s. That means disco and bubblegum pop music. Which there is plenty of on this album.

Gone is most of the classic Electric Light Orchestra sound. A sound I really like. It has been replaced with some plastic fantastic sound and noises. Like for example disco rhythms and pop music. Something I am sure pleased the commercial audience they were catering for at that time. Only a couple of classic Electric Light Orchestra sound songs can be found here, Ticket To The Moon being one of them and an album saver. Besides of that.... there is not much fun here.

This is a decent album. But the end of the road were approaching and this is not an album I want to remember Electric Light Orchestra for.

2 points

Pi2 - Silent Running (2009)

The fourth and so far final album from this Spanish symphonic prog combo.

Pi2's album has never really impressed me. They have been decent pedestrian, plodding pieces of symphonic prog. They are still pretty pedestrian on this album too.

This sixty-six minutes long album is basic symphonic prog with a lot of AOR influences too. Alex Warner's vocals and Juanjo Verdu's long electric guitar solos is what elevates this album to a new level again from their previous albums. The guitar solos is long and tasty. The vocals are great.

There are even some good songs here too. Both the AOR songs and the instrumental bits. This album has a mix of both. This is a good album. It is not a terrible interesting album though. A weak good is awarded.

3 points

Sankara - Guided By Degrees (2012)

The debut album from this British band. A band with associations to The Reasoning, one of the better female fronted English prog rock bands in the scene.

The Reasoning is not the associations I get when I am listening to this album. Only one song has something that reminds me about them. No, this is classic US melodic rock and AOR throughout this forty minutes long album.

Bad Company springs to mind when I am looking for something to attach this band and album to. The music is melodic to hard. There is some country'n'western twang in the music. Most of all; this is almost a tribute to the US scene. That with the exception from the female vocals on the song that reminds me about The Reasoning.

The result is a good album who sounds nice and offers a lot. A great song or two is missing though. This album will satisfy those into US rock and AOR. Not to mention those into harder rock. Recommended.

3 points

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Astrakhan - Retrospective (2013)

The debut album from this retro hard rock Swedish band.

The album title really says it all. This is another retro hard rock album from Sweden. A country where the retro hard rock scene is very strong now. I have been through some albums from this scene now.

Style wise, this album reminds me about Whitesnake and the hard rock scene in the late 1970s. You get the thunderous guitars, Moog, bass, drums and powerful vocals. The vocals is great. The music is also very dark and somber. It is also very progressive symphonic. Fans of hard, dark prog rock will lap up this album like a cat is lapping up a bowl of milk.

This fifty minutes long album has a lot of good songs. All of them are good. There is no great songs here though. The sound is great though and ditto for the vocals. This is a very good album which I am sure will win the band a lot of fans. If you like good 'ole hard rock; this is an album you need to get.

3.5 points

Panama Red - Limited (1981)

A one off album German band. This band is unknown and Limited is a very limited pressing, sold at Ebay for some pennies.

Their music is pretty standard though. Take blues, hard rock, psychedelic and fusion. Mix it into one album and you got this album. I would label this krautrock, though. The music is delivered by lots of loud guitars, some keyboards, bass, drums and a mix of German and English vocals. The dominant instrument is electric guitars though and there is a lot of guitar solos on this thirty-five minutes long album. The guitars are very fusion like with a lot of long jazzy runs.

The end result is actually a pretty decent to good album. The songs are not that good though and I cannot fail to understand why this band did not make it. Lack of good songs, for a start. Anyway, if heavy krautrock is your thing, check out this album.

2 points

Karmamoi - Odd Trip (2013)

The second album from this Italian band.

Karmamoi was formed in 2008 and released their self titled debut album in 2011. Their female vocals gives them a bit of an identity in their scene. Their music is very much influenced by the likes of Tool and other more contemporary hard rocking bands.

Their music is not quite heavy metal either. I would compare them to Garbage, the once so popular UK band who did the title track for the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough back in 1999. They were pretty popular back then and is still alive. Karmamoi is in the same mould, although not that popular.

Add their edges with chugging guitars and great female vocals.... and you got Karmamoi. A band not afraid to also include a tender ballad on this album too in addition to some cyber hard rocking tunes with chugging guitars, samples and electronica, bass, drums and keyboards. The contrast between this ballad and the rest of the album is huge.

That makes for a very varied album who should appeal to anyone into contemporary hard rock with lots of melodies and hooks. Unfortunate for Karmamoi, this album comes up short when it comes to commercial tunes or even great tunes. I am afraid obscurity still beckons.

In my own views though, this is a decent album which hits me as much home as a vegetarian dinner hits a lion at home. This is a decent album and nothing more than that. Serena Ciacci's vocals is great and that is the only positive I get from this album.

2 points

Pablo El Enterrador - Pablo El Enterrador (1983)

The debut album from this Argentine band.

The symph prog rock scene were dead and buried in 1983. Pablo El Enterrador arrived a bit too late with their symph prog. Music strongly influenced by both Genesis, ELP, Italian symph prog and the Argentine symph prog bands from the previous decade.

The music on this album is performed with keyboards, bass, guitars and drums. That and some very good Spanish vocals. The keyboards and Moogs is pretty dominant in the sound though. The music is symphonic with some lighter pop included too. Elegant is the word I would use on the music on this album. Slick is another word I would use too.

My gripes....... oh yes, I have my usual gripes..... is the lack of any really great melodies and songs here. This forty minutes long album comes up with some very good details, but nothing more than that. The sound is surprisingly good, though.

The end result is a very good album which would interest anyone into symphonic prog. It is recommended indeed.

3.5 points

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Grimalkin - The Drifting Sailer (1996)

The so far only album from this Italian band.

Going on a gold mining trip in the Italian musical landscape sometimes, make that most times, wash up some golden nuggets. This album is pretty shiny.

The vocals are in English and the music is symphonic prog vein. Genesis and Yes springs to mind. The music is pretty grandeur and bombastic at times. Not as bombastic as ELP, but still bombastic and not at least; symphonic. The music is also pretty eclectic in the vein of Gentle Giant.

This album throws up some unexpected details too. Saxophone is one of them. Another one is a great sound, this being an album from the 1990s. The not so unexpected thing about this is the usual symphonic sound. Something I don't feel is unwelcome.

The vocals is very good. Ditto for the keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. The songs are not that great though. The great second song Ambush is the best song on this fifty-five minutes long album. The rest of the songs are good. The Drifting Sailer is a very good album well worth checking out.

3.5 points

Zauber - Il Sogno (1978)

The debut album from this Italian band.

Zauber was mainly a folk rock band with a soft folk rock sound and not much hard rock around. There is no hard rock here. Their music is also related to Italian symphonic prog. Take of the Italian pop and beat element from Italian symphonic prog and you get Zauber and this album.

Their folk rock is performed with Italian female vocals, flutes, Moogs, keyboards, guitars, cello, bass and drums. The music is surprisingly symphonic throughout. Their use of Moogs explains that.

The result is a both nice and good album with no great songs, but who still ticks over nicely. There are a lot of very good details here which should appeal to anyone into the Italian scene. Check it out.

3 points

Denny. Sandy - The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (1971)

Sandy Denny.......... Her thirty-one years long life was like a shooting star. Bright and brilliant, but still far too short and unfulfilled. A life cut short by drink and drugs in 1978. So tragic, so tragic. Still so brilliant. When it comes to tragedies the scene has seen, she is up there along Janis Joplin, Alan Gowen, the fallen guys in Lynyrd Skynyrd and Jimi Hendrix.

The tragic is also that most people does not know the name Sandy Denny. So let me remind you that she was probably the best vocalist UK has ever seen, just there among the likes of Annie Haslam and Robert Plant. Her duet with Robert Plant on the Led Zeppelin evergreen The Battle Of Evermore from their IV album is a good example.

She is though most known for her work in Fairport Convention, Fotheringay and her solo albums including the posthumous boxes.

Her voice and her songs..... Truly brilliant. Her face and appearance also bore witness of a truly gifted, yet troubled musician. Very few, if anyone, has done folk music better than Sandy Denny, both solo and in her bands. Her voice just grabs your heart and never really let loose again. Sandy Denny...... one of the greatest ever vocalists in my view.

Her debut/second album The North Star Grassman and the Ravens is a good example of how great she was. It is a true folk music album with some orchestral instruments, piano, guitars, drums and bass. All of them with Sandy Denny's voice in the foreground with the instruments just backing up her and the melodies.

Her voice, her delivery and her conviction is shining through here. Not all songs are great and they are perhaps a bit too dominated by her voice. But this album is still a great album and one I really enjoy. It comes highly recommended.

4 points


Monday 16 December 2013

Flamborough Head - Lost in Time (2013)

The seventh studio album from these Dutch neo prog veterans.

Flamborough Head debuted in 1998 with their Unspoken Whisper album. Their journey to this year's album has been a lot more topographic challenging than Holland itself. It think it is fair to say that this band has been very talented all the way without really fulfilling their talents.

Flamborough Head's music is a mix of folk rock and neo prog. A very good mix. It is also a mix which allows long, lingering guitar solos and lots of flutes when desired. A mix of female and male vocals is added on the top of that again with keyboards, bass and drums filling in the rest of the sound. A very good sound.

This one hour long album also have some very good songs. It also has some very good details. My gripe is that I think it is a bit dull at times. But this is still a very good album and one I really like. This band is bound to deliver a classic one day. This album is not a classic album, though.

3.5 points

Dunwich - Eternal Eclipse of Frost (1999)

The third album from this Italian band.

Dunwich made four albums from combining folk rock with goth metal. Eternal Eclipse of Frost is no exception from this formula. Take some folk rock, a very good female vocalist, a lot of acoustic instruments, metal guitars, bass and drums plus operatic male vocals, flutes and violins. It is a formula many bands has tried and got commercial success with. I am not sure if this goes for Dunwich too.

It is pretty hard to spot any good melodies or songs here. There are some sporadic good stuff here on an album who suffers from a 1990s sound and excess all areas attitude. The metal drums, bass and guitar walls is annoying to say at least. It is the worst of German power metal. If combining water and fire, you get fog. And there is plenty of fog on this album.

Eternal Eclipse of Frost is a fairly decent album filled to the last forty three minutes with cliches and other nastiness from the 1990s. A weak two pointer of an album.

2 points