Somewhere beneath the level of timeless masterpiece status lies a group of albums whose quality and merit deserve categorization of something like "near-masterpiece." These are albums that have either achieved a Fishermetric score of between 90.0 and 87.0 or whose high points or quality level make it remarkable enough to remain affixed in my memory.
From the Year 2000, you will find below eight (8) albums releases deserving, in my opinion, of the "near-masterpiece" designation.
5. TAAL Mister Green
Loïc Bernardeau and Sébstien Constant expressing their life-in-music, music as a celebration of life point of view with intricately constructed and very dynamic and cinematic compositions through top notch musicianship.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Sébastien Constant / keyboards, backing vocals
- David Dosnon / bass, backing vocals
- Loïc Bernardeau / drums, percussion, lead vocals
- Hélène Sonnet / flute, backing vocals
- Vincent Boisseau / sax, clarinet
- Mathias Curit / trombone
- Fournier Brothers / violin, cello
- Sandrine Piat / backing vocals
3. "Flat Spectre" (12:34) another classically-informed song construction with a notably jazzier flair and swing. Once again, the over-reaching arch of the song is quite theatric--taking us through many moods via many dynamic and instrumental combinations. Though I disapprove of some of the keyboard sounds used (dated "Nineties" computer keyboards), and I get a little tired of the abrasive saw-like sound employed by the lead guitarist, I can do nothing but praise the musicianship--especially that of the drummer. The classical style here imitated (or adapted to rock "orchestra") is more Gypsy-carnival flavored than previous compositions. Again I cannot help but make comparisons to TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. Interesting choice to simplify the structure in the eleventh minute for the build up to the fiery guitar solo, Again: so theatric! (21.75/25)
Total Time: 68:31
8. GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
- David Bryant / guitar
- Efrim Menuck / guitar
- Roger Tellier-Craig / guitar
- Mauro Pezzente / bass
- Thierry Amar / bass
- Aidan Girt / drums
- Bruce Cawdron / drums
- Sophie Trudeau / violin
- Norsola Johnson / cello
- Alfons / horn (1-i,3-iii)
- Brian / horn (1-i,3-iii)
My favorite songs include "Shiver" (9/10), "Spies" (10/10), "Sparks" (10/10), "Trouble" (9/10), and my absolute favorite Coldplay song, "High Speed" (4:13) (10/10). Also great are: "Don't Panic" (2:16) (9/10); "Everything's Not Lost" (7:16) (8/10), and; "Yellow" (4:29) (8/10).
10. WHITE WILLOW Sacrament
An oddly engineered album of fine prog songs from these adventurous Norwegian prog revivalists--their third, lead singer Sylvia Erichson's second with the band.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Jacob Holm-Lupo / electric, acoustic & classical guitars, keyboards, bass, vocals (4), co-producer
- Brynjar Dambo / keyboards & glockenspiel
- Ketil Vestrum Einarsen / flute, recorder, melodica, keyboards
- Johannes Sæbøe / bass guitar
- Aage Moltke-Schou / drums, percussion, glockenspiel
- Øystein Vesaas / wordless vocals (1), co-producer, mixing
- Simen E. Haugberg / oboe (1,3,5)
2. "Paper Moon" (6:44) weird sound engineering, weird vocal on this NeoProg song but I like the instrumental section in the fourth minute and the clarity given each track. (8.75/10)
4. "The Last Rose of Summer" (3:23) acoustic guitar and flute performing a very relaxing folk duet are suddenly joined by the very pleasant (very Anthony Phillips-like) doubled up voice of Jacob Holm-Lupo. Definitely a folk song. Beautiful. Jacob is joined by the lovely voice of Sylvia Erichsen to sing the lyrics in beautifully harmonized fashion. Lacking the melodic and lyrical hooks to make this a classic, it is, still, quite lovely--beautifully composed and performed. (9/10)
5. "Gnostalgia" (10:18) another gentle, oft-times ethereal folk-rock-like song and soundscape quite reminiscent of the work being done at the same time by prog folk band IONA. Gorgeous multi-reed led instrumental passage in the bucolic sixth minute with flute and oboe weaving in and out of each other's melody lines so perfectly. Unfortunately, it is the vocal passages taht are the most incongruous in the song, often upsetting the perfect pastoral tapestry and mood set down by the instruments. At the eight minute mark the band amps things up a little with the drums and foundational instruments like bass and Mellotron--a bit like Änglagård here. The carefree, quiet, lilting final minute is quite a nice send off. (17.5/20)
Total Time: 48:09
An album I like far more than my rating scores would seem to indicate. The subtly folk-infused weaves are magnificent. What I think is lacking are the melodic or dynamic hooks and and heights that one would hope for in order to make it (or any song) particularly memorable.
87.89 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.
Pompous heavy prog, almost on the metal and/or 1980s "classic rock"vein. Nice clean sound production and enough space to hear everything--which is nice.
- Ulli Hoever / guitar
- Schymy / bass
- Christian Moos / drums, percussion, co-producer & mixing
- Axel Ruhland / violin (5,6)
- Raffael Sacher / cello (8)
- Tom Locher / classical guitar (8,11)
1. "Men Of Rust" (6:20) opening with a Iona-like near-Celtic Prog rocker, there is a great reverb effect on the prominent grand piano. The sound is so clear and clean! Great use of frequent changes of temp and motif with very smooth and comfortable/believable shifts--a feat which can only come with mature songwriting and highly proficient musicianship. I'm not quite as impressed with the vocal or vocal melody choices. (8.75/10)
2. "Perfect Remedy" (5:19) straightforward ballad with great melodic hook and catchy, pleasing music. Oliver's vocals work very well in this style and medium. (8.75/10)
3. "Fine With Me" (3:33) opens heavy and abrasive like a great BLUE ÖYSTER CULT or URIAH HEEP song. Oliver's voice here sounds quite different--nearer to Geddy Lee and Ozzie Osbourne than previously. Everything on this song is working. Great prog song. My first top three song. (9.25/10)
4. "A Day By The Sea" (5:47) some fine anthemic music with awesome textural and mood change in the mid-section and three different tempo shifts. My favorite Oliver Philipps vocal performance on the album and a top three song for me. (9.25/10)
Fantasma Suite: (55.5/65)
5. "Right Now..." (2:04) a sound that seems to combine RUSH and late-1970/early 1980s YES. (4.5/5)
6. "... Til The End Of Time" (5:16) …turns more AC/DC w/Brian Ferry singing, though a little more sophisticated on all levels. (8.25/10)
7. "Fantasma-Theme" (0:38) computer-piano solo.
8. "The Real Escape" (4:24) cello, classical guitar, and synth strings provide the foundation for three quarters of this vocal ballad. (8.25/10)
9. "Whatever It Takes" (2:10) repeat of Fantasma piano theme, this time with band support and vocals. Sounds more like a finale. (4/5)
10. "Battle Of Words" (3:42) solo computer-piano opens this one before YES-like rhythm section joins in. At 0:49 the music shifts slightly before the addition of STEVE HOWE-like lead guitar--which really picks up and shines over the course of this pleasant instrumental. (8.75/10)
11. "May You" (4:33) Oliver and piano open this delicate song, singing softly in a JOHN WETTON-like voice. (How chameleonic is this man?) Ballads on heavy prog/prog metal albums always feel a little out of place to me--and this one is very much like a Disney anthem. (8.5/10)
12. "Ghosts-Intro" (1:52) could be a Paul Speer or Chris Spheeris New Age piece. (4/5)
13. "Ghosts" (5:55) another RUSH- and THOMAS THELEN-like anthemic ballad. Great guitar solo featured in the sweet spot of the song. Nice. Great last impression to leave the listener with. My final top three song. (9.25/10)
1. "Disconnected (Part 1)" (1:16) ominous, portentous opening. (4.25/5)
2. "One" (4:23) the opening sounds like 1970s/80s metal--Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Blue Öyster Cult. When the vocals enter it becomes even more SABBATH-like. Solid performances but very little ground-breaking in the sound or music structures. (8/10)
3. "So" (8:07) cool Blade Runner-like opening turns LOVERBOY-like at 1:10. At 1:37 things stop for vocal entry. Now the song gets interesting--especially with the excellent chorus. Where it feels deficient is in the choice for pacing: it's just a little too slow. (I know: he's tired.) (13/15)
4. "Pieces Of Me" (4:24) A little more energy in this one but, again, there really is nothing new or refreshing here besides a little sonic play with the guitar in the quiet of the third minute. (8/10)
5. "Something From Nothing" (10:58) fairly simple and straightforward--nicely melodic--but hits all the right buttons to be awesome. (17.75/20)
6. "Still Remains" (16:11) firing on all cylinders, this one rocks like a RUSH classic. (27/30)
7. "Disconnected" (Part 2) (6:07) finishes like an end, bookending the album in a perfect way. Classic Kevin Moore keys beneath the recorded voice passage in the second and third minutes. Great subtle transition in the fourth minute with some techno-support. I have to admit that, with this length, I was rather surprised that there are no vocals. But, still, it's great. (9/10)
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