Ex Touchstone and now Cairo frontman Rob Cottingham first surfaced with Behind The Orchard Tree in 2002, which was in essence the start of Touchstone. And this release is a new version of that album, an “itch that needed scratching”.
New in many ways: new programming of drums, bass and sequencers. The mighty John Mitchell on guitar and Rob’s daughter Kerry adding vocals, etc.
Not having heard the original, I cannot compare. For people familiar with Touchstone and or Cairo, this sounds familiar. In songwriting and of course because of Rob’s vocals. Also, when the female vocals share the spotlight, the comparison to his bands are even more evident.
Having said that, this is still an interesting album. The man knows how to write a tune… And having John Mitchell on board will always raise the bar. Even when the keys carry lots of the arrangements, the guitar maestro still manages to catch some light.
It turns out there have been a few changes to the songs too. One track was ditched in favour of adding an orchestral version of Hero. And a new song in the shape of Out Of Time was added. Completists might like to know 😉
A very enjoyable album that current fans will lap up. And people who like diverse and melodic progrock, should check this one.
If you think the cover of this album hints a bit at Country or Americana music, you would not even be very wrong. But the funny thing is, it is basically a progressive rock album! Although the prominent use of acoustic guitar, as well as some harmonica, flute, banjo, mandolin and violin, adds that different flavour to the album.
The album is a concept based on the childhood life of singer Saskia. And with 9(!) additional musicians featured, it will not come as a surprise that this sophomore effort is as diverse as you’d expect.
The thrill of it however, is that this is a very enjoyable discovery. There are several excellent songs on the album, and for me no filler in sight. The way their influences and inspirations are used in a prog rock setting has taken me by surprise and I find myself enjoying the album over and over.
Key tracks for me are Reverie, On My Way and especially the epic Paradise Road. Great melodies, killer hooks and instrumental sections, dynamics used to perfection, etc. So even when Yes and Genesis are cited as inspirations, this is in no way an outdated memory trip. No, it is fresh, vibrant and authentic.
Incredible that this is an independent release. The 71 minutes and 12 racks fly by! Anyone with a love for quality music should at least give it a try.
Of course this is not a 1974 CD, but the 2019 remaster of an album that is considered to be one of the best Norwegian prog albums ever.
Now the problem with such a claim is, that when you are not familiar with the original album, there will be no emotional ties to the album. And time is not always kind to such an album either.
Well, on to the album then. When listening to this, it is easy to hear why they were seen as the Norwegian counterpart to Yes. You hear similar polyphonic vocals, extended instrumental parts, a prominent bass, tempo changes and various solos. And of course long compositions with diverse arrangements.
So I have no doubts that people into the original will love it is now again available, even on vinyl. And it is clear why the album is held in such high regard. Both the songwriting as well as the playing are on par with their far more well known colleagues. So no problems there.
But it is clearly an album of it’s time, no matter how good the remastering was done. Yet when you consider how many prog addicts keep returning to the classics, that is not a bad thing either. This will sit effortlessly along all their beloved albums…
In the press sheet I read that this Norwegian band is influenced by old horror movies, German 70’s synth music, Norwegian jazz, Swedish folk, campfires, fantasy novels and nature. Resulting in murky apocalyptic forest prog? Mhm, how does that translate to this album then?
Well, in my humble opinion, I am hearing a band that has its roots deep in Seventies progressive / symphonic music. Think of a cross between In The Court Of The Crimson King, Genesis and early Jethro Tull. Nothing more, nothing less. So for people who are stuck listening to early Genesis, Yes, Tull and the like, they will get a kick out of this. Because the trademarks are all there. Flute, mellotron, acoustic guitar, dynamic outbursts, you get the picture.
To me, while I can enjoy listening to this, I am just not getting excited about it. It is fine if you want to keep reliving the past, but I prefer to move on. Don’t get me wrong, this is done with taste and a certified love of the sound many people still adore. So if that is your thing, enjoy. I prefer a bit more originality and identity.
Oh my, quite the album this! That is, if you like bands like Enchant or It Bites, spiced with a dash of Threshold. Yes dear reader, progressive rock it is, but based on groove and melody.
And I must say I am finding myself pretty impressed with this collection of songs. The press sheet did not tell me much, except this is the Nottingham’s quartet second album with Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales) on vocals and keys.
On a track like Nothing Left, Jones sounds remarkably close to Enchants’ Ted Leonard, but in a good way, as the song itself is great. Like any of the 8 songs really. All are built on great ideas and melodies that work and the sum of that sucks you into the music. Lots of dynamics and authentic performances, serve to enhance the attraction.
So it does not matter that most of the songs clock in at around 7 minutes. The diversity and intricate arrangements make sure you will not get bored. To conclude, there is no need to make this a lengthy post, people into the bands mentioned, or into prog rock in general, ought to have a listen to this! Pretty sure you will like it as much as I do.
The first thing that popped in my mind while listening to this was King Crimson. Tracks like I Talk To The Wind or Epitaph from their classic debut In The Court Of The Crimson King. Further down the listening path also one Pink Floyd came to mind.
And I guess that tells fans all they need to know. Yes, this is progressive music, heavily influenced by late Sixties, early Seventies progressive rock, with a dash of psychedelica.
But don’t get me wrong, these Icelandic dudes are not copying songs or structures or anything. The way I see it, they have created their own songs, but just wear their influences on their sleeves.
And the result is an album that feels like a warm bath for those who love the references I already mentioned. Their ability to create songs that flow like the tides is a feast. Sometimes they erupt into a more menacing modern machine, but the intense mood of their melodies and song build, is never far away. And with songs ranging from two and a half, to almost 10 minutes, prog purists will be happy as well 😉 Especially when they discover the use of vocal harmonies, soundscapes not unlike the mellotron and soaring solos…
Yes, quite enjoyable, and not only if your head is still stuck in times long gone!
If I am not mistaken, this is the second time a band sends in the vinyl edition of their release. And truth be told, it looks beautiful. And of course, a double lp, with a separate lyric sheet, brings back lots of memories… Another thing of note is that the vinyl edition actually holds a 6th track, where the CD and digital version only has 5 tracks to offer. Pretty sure vinyl adepts will dig that!
Okay on to the music then. I have listened to this a lot the last weeks and think I describe it best when I ask you to picture the highlands, in the morning, with a mist clouding the view and hearing the sea in the distance.
With that I mean this is a somewhat intense experience. Not because of heavy guitars or anything, but because this is all about atmosphere and feel. Even when the music sometimes erupts, overall this is a moody, melancholic and mostly laid back piece of art. The 5 piece band take the time to develop melodies and arrangements, in order to create that bit of magic.
I guess the William Booth quote that features on the inside and the lyric sheet says it all: “…. Perhaps we shall fail with many. Quite likely. But our business is to help them all the same.” To me that translates as even if we are bound to fail, try we must.
Believe me when I say this album does not fail at all. Beautiful.
After 2016’s Overwrite The Sin, Joost Maglev is back with Alter Ego. This time not only influenced by Robby Valentine or Valensia, but the latter is joining him on the title track too. Making it sound even more like himself…
And while the overall length of the songs on this second release is notably shorter than on his debut, I also think that the album is more varied. Opener Lucid is fairly short, with female vocals creating a lovely mood. After which Angel takes over with high energy and melody, again in the style that has been made famous by Queen / Valentine and or Valensia. But this time Maglev did try to expand on that. Corpus Christie is an example. Very rhythmic and varied, but still highly infectious. As well as a bit more heavy. Ever After holds a phenomenal guitar solo that hits me in the heart every time I hear it. But is also beautiful without that. Judith sounds closer to Ayreon, were it not for the massive vocal harmonies tying it to the sound we come to love and expect.
The biggest surprise might be the track Burning Girl, as it is by far the heaviest outing on offer. But it is also one of my favourites! The driving riffs and synths couples with the dynamics and another great chorus are just killer.
So there you have it, another great release and one where every song counts. Massive!
Originally self released in Brazil in 2017, but now out worldwide on Karisma Records, here we have the second album from Brazilian band Caravela Escarlate (Crimson Ship). The 3-piece band sing in Portuguese and are heavily influenced by the classic prog of bands like Yes, PFM, Le Orme, or ELP as well as by traditional Brazilian music.
Since I do not speak Portuguese, I was glad the press sheet told me that lyrically the album deals with science fiction, comics and environmental concerns. The music however, speaks directly to me for it does sound as described. So if you are familiar with those names, you will know what to expect. And it must be said, it does sound authentic, as if written and recorded in the Seventies.
This also means that, even when the songs are melodic, they are also fairly “busy”, with a lot happening and many twists and turns. In all fairness the singing in their native language did not bother me much, it takes nothing away from the music. And instrumental songs like Atmosfera or Cosmos are done really well. In fact Cosmos so far has turned out to be my favourite track amongst the 8 on offer. Genre aficionados will also applaud that the album closes with an 11 minute epic.
Even when you are not stuck in the days long gone by, this is a expressive album that is worth tracking down.
Do not know how often I have listened to this before I could convince myself to start writing about it. And with opening with a sentence like that, I guess many of you will wonder what is wrong with it…
To be honest, it might be just me. I mean, this is a very solid album from start to finish. That is, for those who like expressive progressive rock with loads of dynamics and maybe a bit of alternative touches. The songwriting ticks all the expected boxes, and the band sound confident. And are fronted by a female singer.
You see, it took me all this time to realise that my, eh challenge, with this release probably lies with the vocals. Not that singer Suzan van den Engel has a bad voice or sings out of key. But somehow the vocals don’t grab me. At all. The reason I suspect, is that all vocals are extremely safe, nicely coloured between the lines so to speak. No edges, thus leaving me unaffected by them. Where is the emotion? Even the (male) aggressive shouting in Smooth Skin – War Within lacks depth and true aggression. At least in my ears.
So yes, interesting songs and all, but for me to keep listening to the band, I really need them to show their true colours and add identity to what they deliver. This is too much brain and far too less heart for my tastes.