Saturday, 30 November 2013

Branduardi. Angelo - Domenica E Lunedì (1994)

The twentieth album from this Italian artist.

An artist with a great voice who released a couple of very good prog rock albums in the 1970s. He has later focused on blues, pop and in particular commercial folk music.

Domenica E Lunedì is a folk music album with some slide guitars and a commercial sound. It is based around Angelo's great voice and a couple of supposed to be hit songs. The sound is typical 1990s and a bit dated. The orchestration is sparse, to say at least.

The title track is a good song. The rest of the album can be forgotten. It is always nice to hear Angelo's voice. That and the title track elevates this to a decent album. Besides of that; forget this album.

2 points

Solstice - New Life (1993)

The second album from this English neo prog band.

Neo prog is not the label I would put on this album, though. But I see ProgArchives labels them as a neo prog band so I guess that means they are that.

This album though is much more a mix of of Jean Luc Ponty, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Pink Floyd and Mostly Autumn. Andy Glass long guitar solos and his interplays with Marc Elton's violins plus Heidi Kemp's vocals is the trademarks of this album. This is my first ever meeting with Solstice's music and I sincere hope this is this band's trademark too.

Andy Glass guitar solos is excellent and Marc Elton does a great job on the violin. This is my sort of heaven. I also very much like the laid back nature of the songs. Great songs they are too. Some celtic folk rock is creeping in too.

New Life is a great album and one I really enjoys. I will get more Solstice albums.

4 points

Friday, 29 November 2013

Flaming Bess - Der Gefallene Stern (2013)

Their sixth album since 1979. I suspect this German band has been an on and off band, sporadic returning back to life again after long periods of inactivity.

Flaming Bess has always been into sci-fi and Der Gefallene Stern is a concept album about stars and the outer space. Concept album with spoken narration and all that. Spoken narration in German. All lyrics are in German too and that is a very good thing. My German is a bit rusty though and I could not be bothered to call upon one of my neighbours to get the lyrics translated. I am sure they are great lyrics.

The music is performed with synths, guitars, bass, drums and a lot of female and male vocals. The music is a mix of AOR and symphonic prog. Far too much AOR in my view. The songs falls into the AOR category. But there are some very tasty instrumental symphonic prog parts here too throughout these seventy-seven minutes this album last.

There are some great music here and some less great music too. I find the overall quality very good though and would recommend this album to you as it is a real grower on me. That during the three weeks it has taken me to form an opinion about it. Check it out yourself from the normal shops.

3.5 points 

Dunwich - Il Chiarore Sorge Due Volte (1995)

The second album from this Italian folk rock duo.

Well, not folk rock in a traditional sense. Dunwich has blended opera, goth metal and celtic folk rock into one entity, the music on this album. I also believe they did that on their debut album Sul Monte e il Tuono from 1993 too.

You get female and male operatic vocals here on the top a mix of metal and celtic rock. The sound is very 1990s (yes, I was there). The guitar sound is horrible dated. Not to mention; just plain horrible. The synths too sounds dated. The celtic rock parts are a lot better though. The metal parts is just cringe-worthy bad.

The end result is a decent to good album who reminds me far too much about the goth metal scene from the 1990s. Reminders I do not want. There are also some good stuff here too. Hence my verdict.

2.5 points

Pez - Folklore (2004)

The seventh album from this Argentine band.

You never know what you get from this band. From punk to heavy metal and prog rock. Pez has done it all. Folklore is a move towards prog rock again. They still have this punk and Latin-America rock sound. But a Hammond organ and some good symph prog elements is also sneaking in here and makes this album a more prog rock orientated album than their previous albums.

The vocals is great and they are thankfully in Spanish. The guitars are great too. The Hammond organ adds textures and some elements of heavy prog. The bass and drums keeps the band steady. The added percussions also add a lot of great details to the sound. A great sound, btw.

It is rather unfortunate that the songs does not really live up to the sound. They are pretty good, but the sound deserves better. This is still a good album and a free download from the link below.

3 points

The album

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Eloy - Ocean (1977)

Their sixth album and the follow up to the great Dawn album from 1976.

Ocean follows in the footsteps of Dawn. At least the first track Poseidon's Creation which sounds like a track from the Dawn session. Both the track and album thankfully takes on it's own identity halfway through the twelve minutes long Poseidon's Creation. A great track, btw.

The music is as on Dawn dreamy, melodic space rock with some strong krautrock and symphonic prog influences. It is like hearing Pink Floyd at their best. This is a concept album about the ocean as far as I know and the big wide ocean is a theme when it comes to the music too. Everything floats away like this album and I love this album. A killer track would had been nice. But fans of Pink Floyd and dreamy space rock should embrace Eloy and this album.

4 points 

Echoes - Rachel (2007)

The second album from this French band.

I am trying my best to label albums and bands just to give the readers their compass and maps bearing in the landscape. In this case; that is not such a easy job. French bands does their own things and their own scene. Echoes is among those bands making life slightly more difficult for us music reviewers.

The music is performed with English vocals, drums, bass, keyboards and guitars.

Start with early Pink Floyd anno Ummagumma and move slowly towards ELP and Ange. There is plenty of church organs cascades on this album on the top of Pink Floyd'ish bass and melody lines. Unfortunate; the pretty poor English vocals spoils a bit of my Ange comparisons. But Ange is still present here.

The end result is a very melodic album which also has some good details too. Unfortunate, the music is not that good. The plus sides is they keyboards sound which I very much like. None of the songs really shines and I find this album a bit of a frustrating listen. It could had been so much better. But the songs are not great and I am therefore awarding is a weak three pointer.

3 points

Xna - When We Changed You (2013)

The debut album from this US band.

Symphonic prog is the dish served hot here. Supposed to be served here. Symphonic prog with references to Genesis, Starcastle, Echolyn, ELP and Yes.
The music is performed with guitars, keyboards, drums, bass and vocals. The vocals is very good and very melodic.

As you may have guessed from my "Supposed to be served here" comment above, I take a bit issue with the symphonic prog tag. This album is also tagging along the neo-prog path. Pendragon springs to mind. To a large degree; this band sounds like Pendragon. So does the songs on this album too.

The result is a one hour long album which ticks all the right boxes with the exception of great songs. The art of great song writing is unfortunate absent here. The result is therefore also a good album with a great sound not backed up with great songs. Please push the boat out next time, folks. Make some great songs.

3 points 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Yearstones - Comet (2013)

The debut album from this Norwegian band.

This band hails from Fitjar on the west coast of Norway and from the same area as D'AccorD. That band is one of the best Norwegian prog bands at the moment. Yearstones shares vocalist with D'AccorD. Vocals which is very distinct. I guessed Mr. Årstein Tislevoll after the first tones of this album and I was spot on. His vocals is very 1970s and so is the Hammond organ on this album. Those two are helped by drums, guitars and bass.

D'accorD is a good reference when it comes to the music on this album. Yearstones sounds as the 1970s distilled down to one band. A bit funk, a bit hard rock, a lot symph prog rock, a bit space rock, a bit rock, a bit krautrock and a bit pop. Everything with a 1970s sound.

This album is also blessed with some great songs too. Not many, but enough to keep it interesting throughout. Yes, it is an unrepentant retro-rock album. I really like the Hammond organ and the vocals here. There are not enough great stuff on this album though. But this is still a very good album well worth checking out.

3.5 points

Ezra Winston - Ancient Afternoons (1990)

The second and final album from this Italian symphonic prog band.

Ezra Winston does not play symph prog in the Italian vein. They have looked towards England and USA instead of looking at Italy and bands like Banco and PFM. The vocals are also in English and the sound is also very much born in USA.

The music is performed with keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. The sound has a pretty big neo prog influence with some ELP like keyboards added onto the sound. Symph prog sounds just about right here.

The sound is pretty much the 1980s one and the music is only sporadic good. Very sporadic, in fact. The few good things here sounds very generic too. The guitars sounds out of tune too. The guitar sound is very poor, in other words. The songs is also not good enough and totally lacks any substance.

Ancient Afternoons is a decent symph prog album which is well worth avoiding.

2 points

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Australasia - Vertebra (2013)

The second album from this Italian band.

Or to be more precise; this is an EP and their second release. It is a follow up to their 2012 album Sin4tr4.

We are deep into post rock and according to the band; post black metal. OK, I don't really know where the post black metal comes from. There is no black metal here. Not even in the track titles on this instrumental EP.

When I say instrumental, that also includes the female voices which is used as an instrument. These voices are backed up by tonnes of guitars, bass, drums and some keyboards. The music is ebb and flow. Big sound walls are followed by more pastoral melodies and then followed by big guitar walls again. Typical post rock in my view.

The music is pretty good without really being terrible interesting. The female voices is the real interesting parts here. In short; this is a decent to good album. Check it out on the link below.

2.5 points

The album

Giannini. Franco Maria - Affresco (1974)

The one and only album from this Italian artist.

Affresco was actually the most sought after and rare Italian prog album for a while until it was re-released on CD some years ago. People paid fortunes for a copy of the vinyl version, pressed in only 700 copies.

I have no idea why, though. Affresco is an half an hour romp through some hard Italian folk rock/pop landscape. Franco's vocals is great. The lyrics is in Italian and the vocals is the only pleasing thing about this album. The music is Italian pop/rock anno 1974. The stuff we got through Melody Grand Prix and worse. There are some violin and mandolin here to give it some female hearts stopping effects. The rest of the music is produced by guitars, strings, bass, drums and some keyboards.

The songs are not particular interesting and the vocals is the only interesting thing on this album. This is a decent album though who does not live up to it's hype. If Italian pop is your thing, you cannot go wrong with this album.

2 points

Final Conflict - Redress The Balance (1991)

The latest Final Conflict made me interested in finding more album from this band and I went through my collection. I found a dusty copy of this album, their debut album.

Redress The Balance is an album from a band yet to find their style and their music. They dabble into folk rock, epic rock, rock, neo prog and hard rock on this album. Everything with the keyboards, guitars, bass, vocals and drums base line. The band tries their hardest and some of the songs sounds forced and laboured.

Redress The Balance also has this late 1980s sound. Not a good sound. The songs are not good at all. But the band still proves that they have a lot of talent and the end result is a decent album. Perhaps not an album worth checking out, but still a decent album.

2 points

Gaia Consort - Vitus Dance (2007)

The fourth album from this US folk rock band.

Although folk rock in USA means something entirely different than folk rock in UK and Ireland. Gaia Consort's folk rock has taken some influences from Jethro Tull and a lot of influences from what is now called Americana. That is another word for US folk rock. The likes of bluegrass, country'n'western, gospel and blues. In this case, country'n'western and blues. On the top of that, you got what we can call the modern US folk rock; AOR. In UK and Ireland; folk rock means a lot of celtic rock and shanty songs.

The music is performed with keyboards, viola, violin, flutes, pipes, guitars, bass, drums and some very good vocals.

Vitus Dance is one hour with a mix of UK folk rock, US folk rock and a lot of standard US rock. The kind of John Cougar Mellencamp and Bob Seger. There is also some AOR here. This album does not have a slick AOR production though. It still retains plenty of folk rock sound and I would label Vitus Dance as a US folk rock album. Which is different from UK and Ireland folk rock. You got me ?

The result is a good, warm album who unfortunate is missing a killer track or two. A track or two who would had set it apart from other albums in this genre. Besides of that, it is an album well worth checking out.

3 points

Monday, 25 November 2013

Ken's Novel - Domain of Oblivion (2004)

The third and final album from this neo-prog band from Belgium.

Ken's Novel is not a band many have heard about. I suspect even prog fans from Belgium is unaware of their presence. The band tried to do something about that with Domain of Oblivion though. A pretty ambitious album with a broad soundscape going from funky rock to more symphonic prog. From INXS to Genesis. Off course with a long stop in Pendragon and Marillon land too.

The sound is big and the vocals is very good. The band uses keyboards, guitars, bass and drums to back up the vocals. The music is at times very heavy and one heck of a racket. Some of the songs are a bit verse-chorus-verse too and with strong memorable verses.

The end result is a pretty good album who never really develops a great character and personality. The problem with this band and album is that they are pretty anonymous and generic. This album is a good album which should get more attention from neo prog fans. I enjoyed most of this album. It is not an album I will remember though. Still........

3 points

Mercer - Futures Market (2013)

The debut album from this Chicago, USA based band. And a Name Your Price Bandcamp album too. Link below.

The music on this album is somewhere between art pop, art prog and eclectic prog. The male vocals is pretty theatrical, the inclusion of some sporadic trumpets and the rather untraditional take on traditional instruments gives this album a lot of character and style. The vocals is also great and the sound takes me back to ragtime and one of my favourite movies of all time; The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. That means the 1930s gangster and bohemian sound.

Futures Market is a stylish album in other words which would not shame any record collection. It is slightly unfortunate that the sound and style is not backed up by some great tracks here. There is none here. The music is very good throughout though and Futures Market is one of the best Name Your Price Bandcamp albums of the year. I would not mind paying for this album.

Mercer is a band I have noted down as a band worth keeping an eye on for the future.

3.5 points

The album 

Echoes Of Giants - At The End Of Myself (2013)

Another debut album from USA in the modern prog genre. Echoes Of Giants is a trio with a hired vocalist.

Modern prog normally means a mix of Marillion, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd. In the case of Echoes Of Giants, it is a case of Pink Floyd, Marillion, Radiohead, AOR and indie rock. Eagles and west coast rock also creeps in here and so does Gazpacho from Norway too.

The music is performed with Joey Myers great vocals, programming, guitars, drums, keyboards, percussion and bass. The music is mellow and softly spoken throughout. There is a lot of shoegaze in this music and some post rock too.

This creates a very inward looking, soul-searching album where the lyrics and music is pretty powerful. It creates a good sound and a mellow mood. Not an uplifting mood, but rather a more reflecting, somber mood.

In other words; At The End Of Myself is a post-millenium album which fans of Yes, Genesis & the old prog may have problems getting their heads around. In my case; this is the case. According to other reviews, At The End Of Myself is a modern classic. They may be right. They may be wrong. I would still recommend this album to everyone as it is a very good album from a band I am sure we will hear a lot from in the future.

3.5 points

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Tai Phong - Windows (1976)

The second album from this Vietnamese - French band.

Taï Phong's self titled debut album was a symphonic prog album. They are still loosely speaking playing symphonic prog. But symphonic prog with a lot of what in 1976 was pop music. That means a lot of tears inducing, passionate vocals over some slow orchestral pop music. Very Melody Grand Prix and Euro-Pop kind of music. Well, in 1976, that is. I am old enough to remember. Soft rock, it is called today. French chanson, I have heard it is now also called.

The vocals is passionate and is backed up by guitars, bass, drums and tonnes of keyboards. The music is very mellow and has a lot of classical music inspirations.

The end result is a decent album which sometimes shows up with some good melody lines. I don't like the sound and the vocals. Far too melodramatic for my liking and far too shallow. There is not many interesting details here either. Neither is this album a total waste of space either. It has something good in it. It is a decent to good album.

2.5 points

Volare - The Uncertainty Principle (1997)

The first of two albums from this US band.

Volare is serving up a nice dish of Canterbury prog in the vein of National Health, Gilgamesh and Hatfield & The North. The music is instrumental and is performed with keyboards, guitars, drums and bass.

The keyboards sounds like Alan Gowen and most of this one hour long album has a lot in common with National Health. That also includes the sound. The music on The Uncertainty Principle is more introvert and a tad more disharmonic avant-garde than the more driving melodic two National Health albums. The material on The Uncertainty Principle is not as good as the two National Health albums. Or for that matter; the Hatfield And The North albums either.

The Uncertainty Principle is still a very good Canterbury album which makes me scour my record collection for the National Health, Gilgamesh and Hatfield And The North albums again. I will most certainly archive The Uncertainty Principle among those albums too.

The Uncertainty Principle is a very good album who just lack some great material to cut the mustard.

3.5 points

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Caravan - The Unauthorised Breakfast Item (2003)

The so far final album from these English Canterbury legends and their in total 12th album. The band is currently in studio with a view to release a new album sometimes in 2014.

The Unauthorised Breakfast Item is a pop-rock album with some Caravan trademarks. Yes, you can hear that this band was once a great band in the fusion-pop-rock genre on this album. Some of the fusion bits are sporadic present here.

The songs are pretty decent and the band sounds like they have run out of the type of steam that made Caravan such a great band in their heydays. I find this a pretty uninteresting album. It is still a decent album.

2 points

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Bondage Fruit - Bondage Fruit V Skin (2002)

The fifth album from this Japanese band. A band who you never know what comes up with from album to album. From zeuhl to fusion. But never dull or uninteresting.

Bondage Fruit V Skin is a total departure from their previous albums. The band is trying to create a sonic landscape here. An avant-garde album it is and as much avant-garde as it is possible to come. I would call this a lazy album from a band who has not any other ideas to put out. The album is so far removed from their other albums that I wonder what's the point with it.

I have heard avant-garde sonic landscapes like this done by other bands and far better than this album. I just find this album uninspired, very disappointing and a waste of time. Hence the turkey status I am awarding it.

1 point

Mother Black Cap - Energy (2013)

The third and so far final album from this hard gigging British band. A band who is playing more gigs in a year than most bands does in a lifetime.

I was not particular pleased about their 2009 album The English Way. Thankfully, the band has moved on from that album too. Moved to a more live friendly sound. A sound which is a mix of pub rock, prog rock and just rock. The roots in their music can be found in the 1970s. There is no trendy arty farty in their sound and music. Just hard working honest rock based on melody and musical skills.

Some woodwinds and female background vocals has been added to their sound. Ditto for some folk music. A sound rich with Hammond organ, guitars, bass, drums and male vocals. I am not a big fan of the vocalist. But he has found his range this time and how to operate within it. The vocals are therefore good on this album.

The songs are also good to very good throughout. The band know how to write good stuff and this is not a band who should be dismissed out of hand. They and their sound is as trendy as sliced bread. So is their songs. Most of their songs is sing a long and will work far better in a live environment in the very untrendy Norfolk area of Great Britain. And yes, there are some Alan Partridge over their sound. I call this honest rock though and I really like this album. A very good album. If I ever go to Norfolk, I will seek out a Mother Black Cap and a pint of bitter to go with it. That is the English way.

3.5 points

Final Conflict - Return Of The Artisan (2012)

The sixth album from this British neo prog band.

There is a lot of relative unknown neo prog bands in Great Britain who has never really got the same fame as Marillion, Pendragon and Pallas. Final Conflict has been around since the late 1980s without really getting much attention.

They did not get that much attention after the release of this album either. Which is a bit of a shame because the music on Return Of The Artisan is highly potent neo prog in the good old traditional vein. Maybe that is why they have not got that much attention.

We get nine medium long tracks on an album clocking in on one hour. The music is performed with keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. That in addition to Andy Lawton's very good vocals. So far, great.

The songs are all good to very good in the epic neo prog vein. A bit Pink Floyd sneaks in on most tracks here. A killer track is sorely lacking from this album. The songs are good enough for me to check out more from this band. Neo prog fans should most certain check out both this band and this album. They have a treat in this album.

3.5 points 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Farpoint - Cold Star Quiet Star (2008)

The fourth album from this US band.

Farpoint plays a mix of folk rock and symphonic prog. Their music takes a lot from the likes of Yes and Genesis. There is a subtle change on this album, though. The band split up before the recording of this album and reformed again with a slightly different line up.

The end result is a more slick sound. They still sound like a mix of folk and symph though. The sound is dominated by keyboards and guitars with the occasional flutes too. Both male and female vocals fills in the empty gaps.

The music is good throughout. What is missing is a great song or two. The music sounds a bit generic for my liking. It is still a good album though from a band I respect.

3 points

Hiata - Vessel Receptor (2013)

The debut album from this Portugal based band. A free download album from Bandcamp. Link below.

The band has tagged this album with everything from symphonic prog to fusion. None of those labels is anywhere near the music that comes out of my speakers. The music I hear is something between boyband pop, modern rock, nu-metal, djent, alternative rock, rap, electronica and indie. Linkin Park springs to mind much more than Yes and Return To Forever. This music is the exact opposite of what those two bands dedicated their careers to playing. The music on Vessel Receptor sounds very contemporary and calculated to reach the mainstream masses. If released on a mainstream label, this album would had been pretty massive advertised.

The problem with this album is that it feels a bit calculated. The vocals is a mix of tender whispering, rap and normal vocals. Linkin Park springs to mind again. The sound and music is very commercial. Then again, the album is bereft of any great songs and even good songs. The only thing I am left to do is to getting annoyed of how slick and calculated this album sounds. And yes, I am a middle aged man. I guess this music was not meant for me. I am too old. If in any doubts; check out the album from the link below.

2 points

The album

Monday, 18 November 2013

Wooden Shjips - Dos (2009)

The second album from this US space rock band.

I have a bit of a soft spot for space rock. Space rock which takes of for the outer space. Wooden Shjips keeps is a bit closer to mother earth than heading for outer space on this album. Simple, repetitive rhythm structures with guitar solos and vocals on the top of that. That is what we get on this forty minutes long album.

The music here is not the most advanced type of music. Which is exactly the whole point of a band who drags non-musicians into a recording studio and put out albums under this name. This is the punk ideology transferred to space rock, in other words.

The result is a pretty dull, decent album who occasional is coming up with some good melody lines. This album is pretty decent, but nothing more.

2.5 points

Granada - Valle Del Pas (1978)

The third album from this Spanish band and my first ever venture into their world.

This band has been labeled as an Italian band from Madrid, Spain. Valle Del Pas has indeed some Italian symph prog trademarks like the flutes and sound. But the music also has some English and Spanish symph prog trademarks.

Besides of the flutes, we get a lot of guitars, keyboards, bass, classical symphony instruments and drums here too. This album is an instrumental album and the music is a mix of symph prog and folk rock. The flutes are lush and very dynamic. Not unlike Jethro Tull in other words. The rest of the instruments are more symph prog than folk rock. That makes this album very unlike any Jethro Tull albums.

The music is both lush and dynamic. It also has some edge and never really become dull. The end result is a very good album which makes me interested in checking out the rest of their albums too. I think this band is playing my kind of music. In short; check them out.

3.5 points

Saga - Network (2004)

The sixteenth album from this Canadian band.

Saga have their very own sound. A sound that combines the new romantics synth bands like Human League and pomp prog. Add Rush to the mix too and you get their sound. A sound they have been more or less true to since they started. The quality of their albums has been a lot up and down, though.

Network showcases Saga on a more upwards direction. A mix of pompous hard rock and ballads. The vocals is great and we get the usual Saga keyboards and guitars sound. An unmistakable sound. The songs are good to very good. This is an album that pleases old Saga fans like myself. Hence my verdict.

3.5 points

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Quaterna Requiem - O Arquiteto (2012)

The fourth album from this Brazil based band.

We are deep into symphonic prog again. Instrumental symphonic prog with violins, bass, keyboards, drums and guitars. There is no vocals here at all.

The violin are the first element of this band I notice. Jean Luc Ponty is the master of violins. He does not play on this record though and the band use the violin in a less technical capacity than he and Mahavishnu Orchestra used it. The music is rather leaning towards classical music and folk rock than fusion and jazz.

The keyboards and guitars are also pretty much present here. But the violin is the dominating instrument on this album. That sets it apart from most albums I have heard lately and most albums released during the last years.

Most things are right here. That is; the band has missed the trick of writing great tracks. There is none here. The album is ticking nicely over at seventy five minutes and is offering good value for money. Great value if this is your kind of music. Check it out if it is. If not; well, still check it out.

3 points

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Pandora - Alibi Filosofico (2013)

Their third album.

Pandora is an Italian symphonic prog band. One of the new Italian symphonic prog bands and it is lead by Beppe Colombo, Corrado Grappeggia and Claudio Colombo. On this album, they have got help from Arjen Lucassen, Dino Fiore from Castello Di Atlante and David Jackson from VDGG. That among many others as Pandora has really pushed the boat out on this album and gone for a very big sound. An orchestral opera sound.

We are really talking symphonic here as in big, complex and non-melodic classical opera. That is what this album is. It is almost zeuhl at places. It kind of feels like zeuhl too. This music also has a chamber rock feel and a opera feel too. It is an album who in many ways has left the rock genre behind and sought out the classical music and opera for a new home. This is an opera.

The end result is a very complex album who kicks in all direction. It is an album where complex overrules melodic. Unfortunate, the quality is not as great as I had hoped. That even after almost two months of listening to it as I got this as a promo download.

For me; this is only a good album with some sporadic very good stuff. There are also some less good stuff here. Alibi Filosofico should appeal to those who prefer complex music instead of great melodies and hooks. I want both complex and melody and this album is just giving me one of those two preferences.

3 points

Madrugada - Incastro (1977)

The second and final album from this Italian band.

The debut album was a decent Italian prog album. It had least a concept. Their follow up, Incastro, is all over the place, though.

Take some avant-garde, some krautrock, some Italian pop, some blues, some mindless twiddling of some knobs in the studio and some rock. Make sure the quality is poor and give it a lifeless flat sound. Voila, you get an album like this. I am not impressed at all with this sound collage. Avoid this album and their first album too unless you need everything released by Italian bands.

1 point

Mother Black Cap - The English Way (2009)

The second album from this English prog band.

I was pretty happy about their first album from 2006. An album with a lot of symph prog. The band has gone native English on their follow up, the fifty minutes long The English Way. Most of the symph prog has gone and has been replaced with a lot of Caravan like rock. The music is pretty jazzy at time with a Hammond organ driving the music on. There is also a lot of folk rock here and a lot of Pink Floyd. Wally is still a good comparison too.

Lyrics wise, this album is a journey through the green and pleasant England. A kind of their take on the hymn Jerusalem. And the band is spot on. England is a beautiful part of the world and worthy an album or hundred. I fully agree with the band here although I am living north of the border in Scotland.

The first six songs are decent to good. Unfortunate, the vocals is not particular good throughout. Then we have this eighteen minutes long title track. A song starting with some sterling great guitars before a piano chips in and then the vocalists hits the extents of his talents and over stretch himself. I agree with the lyrics here as I am a middle aged man myself who often despair about the way the world is going. The vocals is at times pretty disharmonic to be honest. And a review has to be honest. The eighteen minutes is also a bit of a mess and is not really that good. Most of these eighteen minutes is a detour into pub rock and football terrace singing. Cringe worthy is the name of the game although I suspect it is a favorite song on their pub gigs in England.

In short; this album has some good stuff and some less good stuff. It is a decent to good album which does not really lives up to it's billing as a great English prog rock album.

2.5 points

The band 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Amenophis - You & I (1988)

The second and final album from this German band.

Their self-titled first album was a rather good symphonic prog album. Very little is left of that album on this, the follow up album. They have got a female vocalist who share the vocalist duties with a male vocalist. The sound is very much in the 1980s spirit of things. A bit plastic, synthetic sound.

The music is rather all over the place with some very light hearted pop which falls flat on it's face. There are some ELP like melody lines here too. Some parts of the music reminds me about Renaissance at their Tuscanny era. The rest of the music is rather radio-jingle like with some rather cheesy melodies and licks. That and some blues stuff.

The end result is a poor album which leaves me rather sad. There is nothing really here to be happy about. This album is a turkey and it does not fly. Avoid.

1 point

Maze Of Time - Tales From The Maze (2006)

The debut album from this Swedish band.

We are in a somewhat symphonic prog landscape here. A bit like Genesis on the Trick Of The Trail album. A bit pop-rock like, straying of the symphonic prog path into a more commercial landscape.

The music is delivered by guitars, keyboards, drums, bass and vocals. All of it competent delivered. The music is a bit light and not that complex. It is complex enough to keep my interest in it. The band has not fallen for the temptation to copy the rather melancholic and dark Scandinavian symphonic prog sound either. They sound slightly like The Flower Kings at times. But not so much that it is noticed that much.

The end result is a good album which is lacking a killer track or two to make it really great. It is a good start and I hope their two other albums is worthy my purchase of them. Reviews to follow in due time.

3 points

Ficcion - Sobre El Abismo (2002)

The debut album from this band from Venezuela who has so far released three albums. I reviewed their new album Sobre La Ira De Dios some months ago.

Their new album is an instrumental ELP inspired album. Sobre El Abismo on the other hand is a different kettle of fish again. There is still some ELP here. But the main body of this album is Latin-American fusion with Spanish pop vocals. Sophisticated jazz with a laid back sound and a cool ambience. There is tonnes of cool keyboards here. The bass is rampant, the drums follows suit and the vocalist is great. This is a sunny album.

The quality is very good with some really great keyboards and bass runs. It also has some nice details too. It is an album I really enjoys and very much removes the bad taste their new album has left in my mouth.

If I ever go to a beach in South America or even Florida, I will bring this album with me and listen to it. It would be a perfect companion to sand, bikini girls, cool water, beach volleyball and sun. Even in a rather cold home office in freezing cold Scotland, this is a very good album which lacks a killer track or two to be rated any higher. Check it out.

3.5 points

Tangent. The - The Music That Died Alone (2003)

Mirror, mirror on the wall...... who is the best post millennium British prog rock band ?

The Music That Died Alone is the debut album from The Tangent. At that time, a super group which included Roine Stolt, David Jackson, Jonas Reingold, the later prolific musician Guy Manning and this band's primus motor; Andy Tillison.

In short; veteran Swedish eccentrics meets veteran English eccentrics and forms a band. The result is a blend of Swedish prog rock (Read: Kaipa and The Flower Kings) and English prog rock. In particular; the Canterbury scene and the symph prog scene.

To claim that The Music That Died Alone is a debut album is disputable with the decades of experience between the musicians here. The Tangent and this album is what the musicians has got out of their experience.

The result is a forty five minutes long album divided on three long pieces of music. The music is very melodic and epic at the same time. It is not an album that puts the emphasis on twists and turns. It is still a very interesting and captivating album. One with a lot of details and poise. One with superb melodies. It is one stunning album.

Andy's vocals is great. The rest of the band is doing a superb job too. It is an album that heralds a new era and a new band. A band which is one of the best bands in today's prog rock scene. One of the five best bands, that is. I am a fan and one of the reasons is this album. It is highly recommended.

4.5 points

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Luley. Johannes - Tales From Sheepfather's Grove (2013)

The debut album from Johannes Luley, the ex leader of the critically acclaimed US symph prog band Moth Vellum.

Johannes Vellum is a multi instrumentalist and guitarist. He has hired in three vocalists, two male and one female + a harp player for this album. An album which comes across as a crossover between folk prog and symph prog. The music is sometimes bordering to new age with some celtic prog connotations too. The sound is light and flowery. It is pretty soothing for frayed nerves.

The music is also a mix of long instrumentals and songs. Creating a mood is one of the main themes here. That more than writing effective, great songs and/or melodies.

Johannes Luley is walking into a very difficult landscape on this album. A landscape only Kompendium has succeeded in the last years. Johannes Luley is only partly successful with this album. A good album without any really great tracks. It is a weak three pointer in my estimations. A good album in other words and one to build on. It is a debut album after all.

3 points   

Fruitcake - One More Slice (1997)

The fourth album from this Norwegian neo prog band.

It is a bit sad that everyone who praise the new wave of Norwegian prog rock seems to forget this band. In many ways, it laid down the groundwork for the bands who has followed them. But they have never been credited for that. There is no justice in this world.

One More Slice marks a shift from neo prog to a more symphonic prog direction. The guitars are heavy and ditto for the keyboards. The sound is bigger than before. Unfortunate; the vocals are very poor. Sorry Pal Sovik, but you sing worse than a black crow. This is an album destroyed by his vocals, to put it bluntly.

The music itself is very good and it sometimes breaks into some great melody lines. Unfortunate punctuated by some vocals which makes me cringe.

Nevertheless; this is a good album well worth checking out. Hells Kitchen is a great song too from this undervalued and ignored band.

3 points

Mona Lisa - Grimaces (1975)

The second album from this French band who is by now turning into the band they were mostly known as. A band in the Ange modus.

We are talking theatrical symphonic prog here. Although with a lot more folk prog than I am used to by this band though. The Jaqcues Brel and Genesis influences is still here. But some more Bretagne like folk rock is also present here.

Mona Lisa is more theatrical than Ange in many respect. Dominique Le Guennec sounds even more theatrical than Christian Descampes. Mona Lisa takes this style to excess on this album and looses the melodies in the process. There is no great songs on this album. Despite of that, the music is good. But it lacks the melodic qualities they later developed on the two following albums.

This is a good album and well worth checking out for those into French symphonic prog.

3 points

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Gandalf - Erdenklang & Sternentanz (2011)

The 28th album from the Swiss project Gandalf, Heinz Stobl's chosen artist name.

It is a bit difficult for me to write anything about Gandalf as I deeply respect Heinz Stobl and his fans. The problem is that I am listening to this album which is supposed to be great.

OK, let me describe the music here. I will try my best, that is. We are deep into new age land here. Ambient soundscapes which serves as balsam on his fans souls. The music is performed with guitars, keyboards and strings. The music has a soothing feeling, bridge over troubled water sort of music. I am not referring to the Simon & Garfunkel song here, btw.

For me, the music is too ambient and too pedestrian. In particular in the beginning. The final part of this album has a lot more substance, a lot more symphonic prog feel. I like that.

For me, this is only a decent album because I am not into this type of music. I am a curious cat and likes to check out Gandalf too although it is not my cup of tea. Fans of this type of music should check out this album.

2 points 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Landscape - Staring At Utopia (2012)

A Dutch trio, formed in 1997, finally release their debut album.

One of the members of this trio is Sandra Smit, a female vocalist. The other members are Dennis Stant on guitars and Joris Wittenberg on bass, sax and synth. They are helped out by a drum machine and a St Bernhards dog with a keg of brandy. OK, I just made that one up. But you get the picture. Female fronted art rock/neo prog in the same vein as Touchstone and Mostly Autumn. That is; without the celtic influences. There is none in Landscape's music.

Their music is a bit hard, commercial and pretty complex. Complex to be a trio. Then again; Rush is a trio. Landscape's music is also complex and symphonic. Sandra's voice is very good without being the best in the scene. Besides of that, this album has the usual female fronted music. A mix of harder music and a couple of ballads. The usual fare.

The end result is a good album which breaks no new ground, but still upholds the good female fronted prog standard. I think this album is worth a lot more attention than it has got so far as it would please everyone into female fronted prog.

3 points

The band 

Tai Phong - Tai Phong (1975)

The debut album from this French band who altogether released four albums.

The strange name Tai Phong comes from the fact that the band was lead by two Vietnamese brother. Vietnam was as we know a previous French colony.

Neither this album or Tai Phong sounds like a French symphonic prog band. I would compare them to Novalis, Barclay James Harvest and Camel. A mix of art rock and symphonic prog rock.

This album includes a sort of a smash hit song in the form of Sister Jane. This and the other songs are elegant rock with good vocals, great keyboards, good guitars, bass and drums. The album sounds a bit dated and very much like 1975.

The songs are reasonable good, Sister Jane being the best song here. I also like the final song Out of the Night a lot. That is an eleven minutes long symphonic prog epic. A weak good is awarded.

3 points

Monday, 11 November 2013

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Garofano Rosso (1976)

Their fifth album, although this is not a true Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso album. It is a movie soundtrack to a movie with the same name.

Instrumental music in other words where we get some woodwinds, keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. But not their greatest asset;  Francesco Di Giacomo's vocals.

The music is somewhere between classical music, symph prog and fusion. Typical movie soundtrack in other words. The music is on the pastoral side and pretty lyrical, ballad like. But no vocals.

The music is good throughout without really impressing me. This album is an oddity which works as an instrumental album and nothing more than that. Those who want to get a taste of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso can bypass this album.

3 points

Ken's Novel - The Guide (1999)

The debut album from this Belgium based band. Ken's Novel released two albums, I believe. I got two albums of them.

We are deep into neo prog again. Take a big slice of Pendragon, add some funk and pop and then add some Arena. The music is catchy with a great Pendragon feel. Their brand of neo prog has this British feel too. The instruments are the standard neo prog fare with keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and some good male vocals.

This album has a great deal of good music. It does not have this wow factor or even any great songs. The neo prog path is wide and well trodden. Ken's Novel never deviates from this path. It is well worth checking out this album if you think Pendragon is a great band. If not; maybe do something else with your life. I still like this album, though.

3 points

Electric Light Orchestra - Discovery (1979)

Their eight album.

The band has discovered disco and the joy of bubblegum pop. Electric Light Orchestra has always been compared to The Beatles by both John Lennon and the likes of myself. To use that analogy, Electric Light Orchestra has moved from Revolver to Please, Please Me. From 1966 to 1963.

Barry Gibb is strangely enough not mentioned in the titles on the album. But Jeff Lynne sings like him on two of the tracks. Tracks which is very much like The Bee Gees. A band who were very popular with Saturday Night Fever back in 1979. Is there a coincidence that Electric Light Orchestra suddenly sounds like them on this album ? Answers on a postcard, please.

Although the band retains some of their charm on this album, the songs are pretty poor. I still have a bit of a soft spot for their music. A far too big soft spot. This album is therefore not too bad in my ears. But still barely decent.

2 points

Nexus - Magna Fabulis (2012)

Their sixth studio album and their second album that year.

Magna Fabulis is a compilation though of the four tracks they did for the Colossus compilation albums Musea did some years ago. Already released tracks and now compiled on Magna Fabulis. A close to seventy minutes long album where the longest track is clocking in at the half an hour mark.

The music is symphonic prog in the vein of ELP. That means keyboards drenched instrumental prog with some vocals and guitars in between. Most of the music is neo-classical too. That is where the muscle heavy heroes is saving the virgins from the dragons and all that. A knight in armor on a white horse rides in to the music of this album. Some may find that great stuff.

The end result is a good album which is lacking a killer track or two. The band knows what they are doing and I have heard far worse albums in this vein than this album, this compilation album. This album is also a nice reminder why I have avoided those Colossus compilation albums. I like some soul with my prog. Not much of that is present here. Despite of that; this is a good album.

3 points 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Caillou - Caillou (2013)

The debut album from this French band.

The band is fronted by the drummer in Offering, which actually is not Christian Vander. His name is Phillipe Gleizes.

The associations with Offering and the release on Soleil Zeuhl Records has given Caillou a zeuhl connection. Which is not justified, although zeuhl fans will also find a lot interesting stuff here. Caillou is offering up one hour of hard jazz fusion with a lot of guitar and keyboards solos. References are Return To Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra and One Shot. The music is at times dissonant and edgy. It is also sometimes melodic. I would not label this album as a melodic album though. The drummer  Phillipe Gleizes is very busy and is adding a lot of textures throughout this album. The bassist too is busy.

The end result is a jazz fusion album which reminds me a lot about the good old fusion albums from the 1970s. It has that feel. The intensity of the music on this album is a joy to behold. Ditto for the solos and the drums. This is in short a great album and probably the best jazz album of the year. A killer tune is missing, but that is my only gripe here. More of the same, please.

4 points

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Magrathea - In Search of the Crystal (2006)

The fourth album from this English symph prog band.

They were sounding a lot like Genesis on the previous album Legends from 2004. On the follow up, this album, please remove "a lot" from "a lot like Genesis". They sounds like Genesis, the Peter Gabriel era. To be precise, their Lamb Lies Down On Broadway era. The difference is that Magrathea did not write as good songs as Genesis did.

The sound is very Genesis and the songs here are also good. Some of them has also stolen a bar or ten from Genesis songs. The vocals is more like The Watch than Genesis. But still with the same type of vocals delivery.

I am an unrepentant Genesis fans (Gabriel era !) and find this a good album which both amuse and entertain me. My gripes is the lack of originality and the lack of any real killer track or more. Besides of that, this is an album well worth checking out.

3 points

Viii Strada - La Leggenda Della Grande Porta (2008)

The first and so far only album from this Italian prog metal band.

La Leggenda Della Grande Porta is a one hour long album which has it's foundations in progressive metal. From those foundations, the music also makes frequent raids into Italian progressive rock. The likes of Le Orme, Banco etc etc. But the basis is always progressive metal.

The instruments here are the usual guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and vocals. Italian vocals, that is. We get frequent guitar solos in the progressive metal vein. Some songs are pretty close to Dream Theater too. Others are more of a mix of metal and symph prog.

The end result is a very good album which is an almost perfect crossover between progressive metal and Italian symphonic prog. So much that both set of fans should be very interested in this album. I hope the band are still around and ready to unleash more of the same.

3.5 points

Rain - Cerulean Blue (2004)

The album from this one man English project who has got a lot of help from others.

We are talking symphonic prog here with a lot of new age and ambient connotations too. Concept album too with a lot of narrations which gives this album a movie score feel. The frequent narrations is a bit annoying and breaks the flow of the music. Music which has got a lot of strings and other orchestral instruments. Not to mention choirs and opera vocals. There are also some normal vocals here too.

The result is a pretty melodic and soft album which is bordering to new age and ambient music at times. It still have a lot of bite and symphonic prog substance. The music is also a crossover towards classic music. The music has three legs in other words.

The result is a good album which is not lacking in ambitions. As mentioned above, the narration is one of my two gripes here. The other gripe I got is the lack of any great songs. The album is a bit wishy-washy in my ears and that even after many listening sessions. It is a good album though.

3 points