Friday, September 28, 2012

Top Albums of the Year 2001, Part 2: Highly Recommended

Other Albums from 2001 Worth Listening to:

Below you will find a somewhat-ordered catalogue of the album releases from 2001. These are albums that I have determined to be good or interesting enough to recommend to you, the reader, for your own exposure, awareness, and/or exploration; these are albums that were not, in my opinion, good enough to belong on my "Masterpieces" page, but which, I thought, deserved some credit and attention. 
     You will find that some of the albums below are reviewed or commented upon, while many have nothing but cover, artist and title, lineup of musicians and songs list. This variance is usually due to a lack of time and a lack of willingness or desire to give each and every album the time and energy necessary to write a review. This is done without any intent of disrespect; the albums have been included because I think them worthy enough to have others try them out and form their own opinions.

PALLAS The Cross & The Crucible

A band that I've not familiarized myself with much but here impresses. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alan Reed / vocals, acoustic guitars
- Niall Mathewson / guitars (electric, acoustic, nylon, Thai 3-string & Roland VG-8 electronic processor), tambourine, co-producer
- Ronnie Brown / piano, synths (Korg Triton & X5R, Roland D50 & JV1080, EMU Orbit, Proteus 2), sampler, Yamaha W7 DAW
- Graeme Murray / bass & fretless bass, Moog bass pedals, electronics & Fx, backing vocals, co-producer 
- Colin Fraser / drums, drum machines (Alesis & Roland)
- Gill Main / vocals (2,6)
- Laura Harrow / vocals (4,8)
- Alastair Taylor / backing vocals (2,6)
- Claire Bleasdale / backing vocals (2,6)
- Laura Sinclair / backing vocals (2,6)
- Trevor Gray / backing vocals (2,6)

1. "The Big Bang" (3:07) cinematic instrumental (orchestral) intro. (4.25/5)

2. "The Cross & The Crucible" (9:05) a challenging song to define and describe: not fast paced but driven; not boring but not really engaging; not dissonant but not really melodic. The most interesting parts of the song are the church-like choir chanting in the seventh minute and the distant church bells. Strong rhythm track from the bass and drums. (17.25/20)

3. "For The Greater Glory" (7:38) opens and sustains a kind of LED ZEPPELIN "Immigrant Song" feel. Lots of theatric vocalizations and nice background synth work. For a time it almost feels as if it comes right out of Peter Gabriel's Passion soundtrack music for The Last Temptation of Christ. Gotta admit: it's pretty powerful and effective! A top three song, to be sure. (13.5/15)

4. "Who's To Blame" (4:43) acoustic guitar, joined by fretless bass, and then whispery vocal of Alan Reed. In the second minute joined by drums, more movement from the bass, and more keys--but basically it's the same song. The chorus is jarringly horrible! Too bad! This had promise. Nice vocal work in the delicate lull of the fourth minute by Laura Harrow--but then, yech! back to that chorus! (8/10)

5. "The Blinding Darkness Of Science" (6:46) atmospheric synth and vocalise gently fill the sonic space until the second minute when the fullness of a heavy prog band enters with all the delicacy of a bull in a china shop. Another horrible chorus. Nice instrumental passage in the fifth minute with great electric guitar solo. Too bad about that chorus! (12.75/15)

6. "Towers Of Babble" (8:09) picked oddly-tuned 12-string opens this in a "Turn of the Century" kind of way before big shock wave of full band entry occurs in the second minute. Church organ enters in the fourth minute and eventually takes over for an awesome solo. At 4:25 new motif begins with guitar and bass harmonics and Rumpelstiltskin-like vocal performance before unleashing a searing guitar solo. Good vocal chorus before great synth solo. Complex band manoeuvers before chorus and choral input and mandolin. Very interesting song--worth many more listens. Another top three song. (13.25/15)

7. "Generations" (6:05) slow-strummed guitars joined by tin flute and Robert Plant-like vocal. I like that it stays acoustic through the second verse. Even with the unleashing of full force at the 4-minute mark it's still great--still restrained (not over-the-top heavy prog). A top three song for me. (8.75/10)

8. "Midas Touch" (11:11) narrated in a Orson Wells Edgar Allan Poe-like fashion. At 1:15 the band kicks in with a very basic, almost spacious soundscape over which Alan Reed sings in a forced delicate voice. The chorus allows Alan to reach for his usual near-metal power. The guitar is soloing a lot between and behind the vocals. (Reminds me of some 1980s hair band.) Interlude in the fifth minute in which vocalise of Laura Harrow plays before Peter Gabriel-like theatric voice of Alan Reed takes over. At 6:15 bass and drums burst back in prepping the listener for synth washes and a soaring lead guitar solo. Nice multi-synth work by Ronnie Brown follows. Recreation of penultimate section of YES' "Awaken" follows in the ninth minute before giving way to sensitive electric piano solo for the final 90 seconds. Great performances, just not the most attractive or engaging song. (17/20) 

9. "Celebration!" (7:22) arpeggiated electric 12-string guitar is joined by bombastic PRINCE "1999"-like full-band motif. At 1:10 it takes a turn into a busy weave of several rather discordant threads. It's like RUSH and EDDIE MONEY. At 2:50 there is a left turn into MARILLION territory. Even when Alan begins singing again, it feels like Rothery and Fish are trying something new. At 4:05 it turns anthemic with big voices and big choral shouts of things likte "one day," "one world," "one dream" and the like before sliding into a kind of finish to "Feed the World (Do They Know It's Christmas?)" and then "1999" again. Interesting smorgasborg. All in all, it kind of works! (13/15)

Total Time: 63:40

86.25 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice addition to any prog lover's music collection--highly recommended. I look forward to my journey of getting to know Pallas better.


A band that goes to GREAT lengths to imitate Peter Gabriel and Peter-Gabriel-era GENESIS--even the way the English lyrics are constructed, pronounced, and theatrically sung. It's truly remarkable and admirable, but, to make a career of trying to be someone else...

Line-up / Musicians:
- Simone Rossetti / vocals, flute, arrangements
- Valerio Vado / acoustic & electric guitars, Fx
- Gabriele Manzini / keyboards
- Marco Schembri / bass, acoustic guitar
- Roberto Leoni / drums, percussion
- Sergio Taglioni / piano, organ, synth, sound design
- Gino Menichini / keyboards, programming
- Simone Stucchi / arrangements, programming, co-producer

1. "DNAlien" (8:36) early Gabriel-era GENESIS (between Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot). Exact same Peter Gabriel-like word inflections, singing stylings, and poetic story telling. Complex music with more than competent musicianship. Just too damned similar to all of Genesis' quirks and tricks. (17/20)

2. "The Ghost and the Teenager" (8:38) more near-GENESIS but this time presenting a song that probably would have been left on the cutting room floor in 1972-74. (15.5/20)

3. "Heroes" (9:27) with an un-Genesis like piano (more like 1978 one-off band, BABYLON), still the vocalist is trying hard to be Peter Gabriel--it's just that the music has strayed rather far from the Genesis playbook (and sound palette). It never quite clicks--never quite measures up to the Genesis standard--despite the near-perfect middle section and good final third (and cute little hanger-on outro tail). (15.75/20)

4. "Moving Red" (6:34) back into full-on GENESIS (the abrasive opening a clear imitation of "Lillywhite Lillith"). Now this one feels like it could be a post-The Lamb song. The only deviation from true Genesis is in the funked up bass sounds. Cool organ play in the fourth and fifth minutes. (8.75/10)

5. "Riding the Elephant" (3:38) another song venturing away from the Genesis playbook--more akin to the sound experimentations of PG's solo career. (9/10)

6. "...And the Winner Is... (10:11) a clear imitation of the opening of "Supper's Ready." Astonishing composition and musicianship. Improving upon the original?! Astonishing band cohesion. (18/20)

Total Time 47:04

High marks are earned by imitation of Gabriel-era Genesis rather than the Brit's later music. If ever you wanted to hear "new" Genesis music from the 1971-75 period, this is both the band and the album to seek out. GREAT recording/sound engineering of technically perfectionistic compositions and performances. Drummer Roberto Leoni's playing is so crisp and enjoyable. Vocalist Simone Rossetti's duplication of Peter Gabriel's diction, range, and style is sheer perfection--remarkable.

88.25/84 = 86.125 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of retro prog. This band deserves more credit for both the incredible detail to which their imitation goes as well as to the fact that their compositions are all totally original, not remakes.

OPETH Blackwater Park

At this stage of their career, Mikael Åkerfeldt and company were a little heavier, a little harsher, a little more ensconced in the world, sounds, and stylings of metal music. As a matter of fact, much of the music is not so very far removed from the metal of the 1980s. Some of the differences include: the influence of moving bass string chords or "djent" guitar sounds and playing styles; the different lead guitar sounds used here--they are a little more evolved from those used in the 80s; Mikael's use of death metal growls; the way the drums are recorded, and; the greater presence of the machine gun bass drum play. Also Opeth shows a tendency to the use of longer song forms with multiple style formats incorporated within each--as is put on display right from the start on 1. "The Leper Affinity" (10:21) (16/20).

2. "Bleak" (9:16) is well described through its title. Actually this is quite a boring, monotonous song that never seems to go anywhere memorable or worthwhile. (14/20)

The two best songs are by far and away 3. "Harvest" (6:02) (10/10) and 4. "Drapery Falls" (10:55) with its wonderfully memorable multi-instrument-played melody carried through to the end (20/20).

The title song (12:08) is also quite a nice composition--it's performances quite powerful. (22/25)

5. "Dirge for November" (7:54) starts out quite masterfully--with many delicate nuances to feed the soul--but then at the 2:30 mark a heavier but still melodic and fairly straightforward chord progression leaps out and yet does not push away. Fairly simple and innocuous--until, a minute more in, Mikael's growls infiltrate and darken the overall timbre. The song regains points for returning to a beautiful end section filled with delicate nuances of beautiful guitar work. (13.5/15)

6. "The Funeral Portrait" (8:44) is fully steeped in harsh metal stylings--especially with Mikael's demonic growls entering from nearly the beginning--even though the rhythm patterns established from the start remain pretty straightforward and consistent. An interesting THIN LIZZY-like guitar section takes over the very middle of the song before Mikael tries to take back center stage with his disturbing vocalizations. Not a bad song. (16/20)

     As everyone recognizes, I will here reiterate: Mr. Åkerfeldt has quite a lovely voice when he's singing in his normal voice. I am glad that he eventually moved away from this aggressive, abrasive style of music--though I recognize the talent and skill involved in creating music such as is present here.

85.77 on the Fish scales = B/four stars; an excellent display of finely crafted prog metal songs; not quite a masterpiece progressive rock music but perhaps one of Prog Metal.

NO-MAN Returning Jesus

A very nice album from Mssrs. Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness that, in my opinion, stands head and shoulders above the Together We're Stranger (probably due to the rhythm contributions of drummer/percussionist, STEVE JANSEN). I love the stripped down to bare bones song compositions--they work so well with Bowness's plaintive, breathy vocals.

Album favorites: the BRIAN ENO "And Julie With..."-like 6. "Returning Jesus" (5:20) (9/10) (Jansen's amazing Balinese gamelan percussives, the sparse keys and guitar soli); 5. "Outside the Machine" (5:47) with Jansen's brush work, Steven's sparse, RYUICHI SAKAMOTO-like piano work, Colin Edwin's fretless bass work (9/10); the beautiful opening ambient instrumental, 1. "Only Rain" (7:25) (13.5/15); the 1980s PT-sounding "Lighthouse" (8:13) (13.5/15); the tense and cinematic, 7. "Slow It All Down" (3:42) (8/10), and; the SIMPLE MINDS-like "Close Your Eyes" (8:26) (16/20). Nice effort at creating music over sparsity and spaciousness.

82.22 on the Fish scales = a four star album rated up for the awesome contributions of Steve Jansen.

ANATHEMA A Fine Day to Exit 

A "Experimental/Post Metal" band that has, in my opinion, worked at a very high and consistent level throughout their career. A Fine Day to Exit despite the opinion of others, is my favorite Anathema album of the Naughties. The sound of A Fine Day to Exit foreshadows the arrival of another English band to the prog scene--though this one is somehow thrown into the "Psychedelic/Space Rock" subgenre: OCEANSIZE.

5 star songs: 3. "Looking Outside Inside" (9/10), 4. "Leave No Trace" (9/10), 8. "A Fine Day to Exit" (13.5/15), and; the fake epic, 9. "Temporary Peace" (8.5/10).

4 star songs: 1. "Pressure" (8/10), 2. "Release" (8/10),  6. "Barriers" (8/10), 7. "Panic" (7/10), 5. "Underworld" (7/10).

82.22 on the Fish scales = C+/low four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection.

FLAMBOROUGH HEAD Defining the Legacy

Line-up / Musicians:
- Siebe-Rein Schaaf / lead vocals, keyboards 
- André Cents / guitar
- Edo Spanninga / keyboards
- Marcel Derix / bass
- Koen Roozen / drums

1. Defining The Legacy (11:15)
2. House Of Cards (9:16)
3. Garden Of Dreams (12:35)
4. Assassin (9:07)
5. Impulse (11:17)
6. Bridge To The Promised Land (6:37)
7. Mind-sculpture (7:58)

Total Time: 56:10

on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. 

ANGE Culinaire Lingus

Christian Décamps is back with his best Ange release since the 1970s. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Christian Décamps / lead vocals, synth, piano (2,5), acoustic guitar (3,9), narrator (9), producer
- Hassan Hajdi / electric & acoustic (9) guitars, banjo (4), lead & backing vocals (8)
- Tristan Décamps / keyboards, piano (2,7), programming (1,4,10), kazoo (4), lead (7) & backing vocals
- Thierry Sidhoum / bass, double bass (4)
- Hervé Rouyer / drums, percussion, tambourine (3), drum programming (6)
- Caroline Crozat / vocals (1,5,10,11)
- Gilles Pequinot / violin (3,10), bagpipes (3), recorder & jew's harp (10)
- Thommy Emmanuel / guitar (12)
- Claude Demet / guitar (12)
- Dan Ar Braz / guitar (12)
- Norbert Krief / guitar (12)
- Serge Cuenot / guitar (12)
- Paul Personne / guitar (12)
- Jean-Pascal Boffo / guitar (12)
- Jan Akkerman / guitar (12)

1. Jusqu'Où Iront-Ils (8:55)
2. Cueillir Les Fruits Du Sérail (6:03)
3. Adrénaline (4:02)
4. Farces Et Attrapes (2:40)
5. Culinaire Lingus (5:05)
6. Les Odeurs De Cousine (5:51)
7. Intérieur Nuit (3:28)
8. Univers Et Nirvana (3:51)
9. Gargantua (5:25)
10. On Sexe (6:32)
11. Cadavres Exquis (10:27)
12. Autour D'Un Cadavre Exquis (11:34) *

* Bonus track

Total Time: 73:53

B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.


Talented and creative musician Michael Moss gets together with former Anathema bass player/songwriter Duncan Patterson to create an impeccably sounding experimental trip hop album with all-female lead singing.

Lineup / Musicians:
- Michael Moss / acoustic & electric guitars, bass, keyboards, lead (10) & backing vocals
- Duncan Patterson (ANATHEMA) / bass, acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards, programming
- Michelle Richfield / vocals (1-4,6,8)
- Hayley "Mags" Windsor / vocals (5-7,9)
- Robert Magoolagan / lead guitar (9), co-producer
- Brian Moss / sampling
- Les Smith / sampling
- Danny Cavanagh (ANATHEMA) / guitar & vocals (11)
- Jenny O'Connor / vocals (11)

1. Saviour (3:05)
2. Holocaust (4:19)
3. Over Your Shoulder (4:38)
4. Psalms (3:40)
5. God Is Coming (5:27)
6. Angelic (4:32)
7. Flowers (5:10)
8. The Last Laugh (5:04)
9. Going Nowhere (8:33)

Total time 44:28

B/four stars; a gorgeous sounding collection of experimental music pushing the boundaries of what is, or could/should be, progressive rock music.


Producing some of the funnest, funniest, darkest, scariest, quirkiest, most unusual, and complex music in modern progressive rock, one can only scratch one's head at the genius, lunacy, and chaos that must be on exhibition during this band's brainstorming and practice sessions. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Nils Frykdahl / 6- & 12-string guitars, Tibetan bells, autoharp, vocals
- Carla Kihlstedt / electric violin, percussion guitar, autoharp, harmonium, vocals
- Dan Rathbun / bass, electronics, Fx, autoharp, slide-piano log (9), vocals, co-producer, mixing
- David Shamrock / drums, piano
- Mario "Moe!" Staiano Jr. / percussion, marimba, timpani, guitar
- Frank Grau / drums (7)
- Michael Mellender / guitar (10-12)
- Matthias Bossi / drums, percussion & vocals (10-12)

1. "Sleep is Wrong" (6:35) a song whose music reflects the adolescent petulance of its title perfectly. I wonder how it worked out . . . when (and if) they grew up. (9/10)

2. "Ambugaton" (5:38) the amount of tension one can exude with simple, spacious chromaticism. The intro of this instrumental reminds me of PRESENT or UNIVERS ZERO while full-on ramped up belly of the song reminds me of LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT or BRUFORD-LEVIN UPPER EXTREMITIES. (8.75/10)

3. "Ablutions" (6:05) this more delicate ("fragile" might be the better word) is otherworldly eerie like a YUGEN or --at least until the three minute mark when the Stygian chorus "chimes" in. Weird but genius for creating a mood--and amazingly performed--especially by vocalist Carla Kihlstedt. (9/10)

4. "1997" (4:48) almost "straightforward" death metal! Not their strong suit; this kind of music places the band back in the categorical range of "normal" for emotive metal bands. Luckily, there is the passage in the fourth minute in which they shift to an odd time signature. (8.5/10)

5. "The Miniature" (0:59) chamber music! Gorgeous! I'd like to hear more of this side of the band's talents on display! (5/5)

6. "Powerless" (9:30) with an opening that sounds like a microphone was left on in a piano stringing factory, we are prepped for another doom-and-gloomer. But, man! are these guys talented musicians! (and creative song-crafters.) I think they've out angulated Fripp and the Crim as well as Danny Elfman and his Tim Burton soundtracks! And I love that they didn't have to use death metal growls to convey it (other than in the one-word choruses). Unfortunately, it does drag on a little bit too long in several places. (17.5/20)

7. "The Stain" (6:46) The descending chromatic scale used for this vocal--over a "musical" palette of very sparsely "decorated" industrial noise--does not work for me. The staccato Crimsonian interplay between the instruments also fails to engage me. This song is best described as an exercise in disharmony and disciplined turn-taking. (12.75/15)

8. "Sleepytime" (10:16) Another delicate attempt at Elfman-ish creep and sinister, the beginning section is simply too long, the middle "bridge" too drawn out. When the music does finally reach full scale at the end of the sixth minute, it is slightly dragged down by the continuation of the vocal chorus from before. The final 90 seconds is the best part of an otherwise disposable, sub-par song. (16.25/20)

9. "Sunflower" (7:52) eight minutes of playing around with the acoustics of a hammered dulcimer (and a couple of bells). An unfortunate way to end an album that started so dynamically. (10/15)

Total Time: 58:29

81.75 on the Fishscales = C/3.5 stars. Were it not for the descending disaster of the final two songs, this would be a near-masterpiece of adventurous and exciting progressive rock musical expression. Thus, I urge you to check it out for yourselves as the first half of the album is certainly something extraordinary. 

GLASS HAMMER The Middle-Earth Album

Fred and Steve try a familiar subject using, for them, some unfamiliar musical styles.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Fred Schendel / guitars,mandolin, keyboards, winds, percussion, vocals
- Steve Babb / bass, keyboards, percussion, vocals
- Walter Moore / vocals
- Brad Marler / vocals
- Susie Bogdanowicz / vocals
- Felicia Sorensen / vocals
- Sarah Snyder / vocals
- Thomas Hammett / vocals
- David Luther / vocals
- Jamie Watkins / backing vocals
- Tim Starnes / violin
- Bob Stagner / percussion (11)

1. "Elrenn and Endereth" (2:33) boistrous, rollicking Prog Folk in the most fairy-Celtic form. (4.25/5)
2. The Old Troll (1:56) 
3. "The Old Troll and the Maiden" (5:58) a bawdy old troubadour song: courtly male voice and "harpsicord." Very clever; very convincing. (8.5/10)

4. "Dwarf and Orc" (3:53) using an unusual "live" sing-a-long form, Fred & Steve keep it loose and friendly. Nice work with the traditional instruments (flutes/ocarina, bassoon, hand drums), boys! (9/10)

5. The King's Beer (2:41) 
6. The Ballad of Balid Longbeard (4:11) 
7. The Man in the Wood (3:27) 
8. Mirkwood (2:12) 

9. "As I Walk" (2:34) a minstrel-like love song performed to Katharine Blake perfection by chanteuse extraordinaire Susie Bogdanowicz. Kerry Minnear-like clavichord introduced with the second verse. Then harpsichord and mandolin during the chorus. Extraordinary work! (5/5)

10. The Last Ship (2:41) 
11. Mithrandir (This Fading Age) (5:08) 

12. "Sweet Goldberry" (4:41) more in line with their other Neo Prog work, thick chunky bass leading the rock ensemble format. Great use of the harpsicord sound. (8.25/10) 

13. No Crown for Balin (3:07)

Total Time: 45:16

on the Fishscales = 

Albums from 2001 that Are, IMHO, Over-rated

MOSTLY AUTUMN The Last Bright Light 

The much touted voice of Heather Findlay and the guitar play and compositional skill of Bryan Josh, and yet there is much more male lead singing, and a whole lot of familiar folk/Celtic folk or standard rock/R & B song structures. The brilliance is too little and too far between. Album highlights: the beautiful environmental advocacy folk song, "Eyes of the Forest" (9/10) and the Celtic folk song, "Shrinking Violet" (8/10). The rest is just cinematic melodrama or folk or rock rehash.


Unfortunately, three GREAT songs ("Tiny Tears" [19/20], "Nobody's Here" [14/15] and "Earth Day" [18/20]) does not a masterpiece make. The rest is music that I don't care if I ever hear again. Yet Devin sure does have a following out there. Other than the hilariously entertaining Ziltoid the Omniscient, I don't get it. His over-the-top HEAVY guitar sound never changes (is he using the same chord throughout?) and it's hard to figure out if he ever takes his music or lyrics seriously or is it all just meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Does he really want us to recycle or is he just melodramatizing the environmental cry? Does he really like being alone or is he just being facetious?

Is this album really "essential"? I'm not even sure it's "an excellent addition." It may be a good album--or perhaps its just "for collectors only"? 2.5 stars for me. Recommended only for the above three songs.

MAGENTA Revolutions

Line-up / Musicians:
- Christina (Murphy) Booth / lead vocals
- Rob Reed / electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, vocals, bass, tambourine, producer & mixer
- Steve Reed / lyrics & concept
- Chris Fry / lead guitar (CD1: 8-10, CD2: 13)
- Martin Shellard / lead guitar (CD2: 8-12)
- Andy Edwards / lead guitar (CD1: 7)
- Tim Robinson / drums
- Tim Short / percussion

CD 1 (41:05)
- Children Of The Sun (19:00) :
1. i) Spirit Of The Land (4:22)
2. ii) The Journey (4:34)
3. iii) The Battle (5:02)
4. iv) Thanksgiving (5:18)
5. Opus 1 (0:51)
- The White Witch (20:23) :
6. i) Overture (0:41)
7. ii) The White Witch (6:27)
8. iii) The Plague (4:17)
9. iv) Reflection (4:53)
10. v) The Spell (4:37)

CD 2 (55:25)
- Man The Machine (24:56) :
1. i) Man and Machine (1:11)
2. ii) War (5:34)
3. iii) Rememberance (5:00)
4. iv) The Watchers (3:53)
5. v) Lightspeed (4:08)
6. vi) First Contact (4:54)
7. Opus 2 (1:16)
- Genetesis (21:48) :
8. i) The New Age (4:49)
9. ii) Renewed Purpose (4:45)
10. iii) A New Life (5:02)
11. iv) The Search For Faith (5:23)
12. v) The Creed (2:08)
13. The Warning (7:17)

Total Time: 96:30


Line-up / Musicians:
- Hasse Fröberg / lead & backing vocals
- Roine Stolt / guitar, keyboards, lead & backing vocals
- Tomas Bodin / keyboards
- Jonas Reingold / bass
- Jaime Salazar / drums
- Hasse Bruniusson / percussion
- Ulf Wallander / soprano saxophone

1. "Last Minute on Earth" (11:40) horrible, boring, bad singing (and not even Roine!), no melodies, no interesting parts except opening and closing 30 seconds, respectively. (15/20)
2. "World Without a Heart" (4:29) pleasant, melodic, but nothing to distinguish itself from any Eagles B-song. (8/10)
3. "Road to Sanctuary" (13:50) YES and stadium rock band (THE WHO, STYX, URIAH HEEP)-oriented heavy prog driven by the STEVE HOWE country-guitar sound. At least it's more interesting than that opener. Nice wah-ed guitar solo in the fifth minute. Love the Baroque segue in the sixth minute that turns dark and ominous. And then a Spanish guitar solo before we return to singing parts. A gentle 1970s-sounding delicate singing passage very gradually builds and finally turns full prog at 8:18.  (25.5/30)
4. "The Rainmaker" (6:02) storms and church pipe organ open this one. Long, sparsely populated three-minute Ravel "Bolero"-like slow build until Roine starts rock soloing on his electric guitar. At 4:30 everything drops away for fast-chop effected synth while another sinth does cheesy computer raindrop noises. A song that I actually like. (8.5/10)
5. "City of Angels" (12:04) (/25)
6. "Elaine (4:55) (/10)
7. "Thru the Walls (4:31) (/10)
8. "Sword of God (6:00) (/10)
9. "Blessing of a Smile (3:12) (/10)
10. "Red Alert (1:10) (/5)
11. "Serious Dreamers (8:59) )/20)

Total Time 76:52

on the Fishscales = / stars; 

SHAMALL The Book of Genesis

Line-up / Musicians:
- Norbert Krüler / performer, composer & arranger

CD1 - The Book Genesis (73:52)
1. The Book Genesis, Pt. 1 (2:22)
2. New Age Krautrock Symphony, Pt. 1 (3:50)
3. Thank You (8:06)
4. New Age Krautrock Symphony, Pt. 2 (3:57)
5. New Age Krautrock Symphony, Pt. 3 (6:25)
6. Garden of Eden (3:21)
7. Lava (2:51)
8. The Book Genesis, Pt. 2 (5:13)
9. On Higher Ground, Pt. 1 (6:36)
10. On Higher Ground, Pt. 2 (5:48)
11. Knock Me Out (8:52)
12. Tai Gin Seng (3:21)
13. Eastern Sunrise (8:02)
14. Addiction (2:22)
15. Psychosis (2:46)

CD2 - Operation Brainstorm (73:52)
1. Blue Lavender Moon, Pt. 1 (5:35)
2. Blue Lavender Moon, Pt. 2 (2:37)
3. Light Up the Dark (4:13)
4. The Other Side (1:31)
5. Operation Brainstorm (5:11)
6. Blue Lavender Moon, Pt. 3 (2:45)
7. Song for a Dreamer With an Ambient Heart (16:23)
8. Invisible View (6:49)
9. Ice and Fire (12:19)
10. Cold Fusion (5:41)
11. Celtic Frost (5:55)
12. New Age Krautrcok Sympony, Pt. 4 (4:50)

Total Time 147:41

on the Fishscales = / stars; 

PENDRAGON Not of this World

Line-up / Musicians:
- Nick Barrett / guitars, vocals
- Clive Nolan / keyboards 
- Peter Gee / bass
- Fudge Smith / drums
- Tina Riley / vocals & backing vocals

1. If I Were the Wind (and You Were the Rain) (9:23)
- Dance of the Seven Veils :
2. Part 1: Faithless (4:09)
3. Part 2: All Over Now (7:30)
- Not of This World :
4. Part 1: Not of This World (7:20)
5. Part 2: Give It to Me (2:23)
6. Part 3: Green Eyed Angel (6:40)
7. A Man of Nomadic Traits (11:43)
- World's End :
8. Part 1: The Lost Children (10:46)
9. Part 2: And Finally... (7:13)

Total Time 67:07

on the Fishscales = / stars;

Top Albums of the Year 2000, Part 2: Highly Recommended

Other Albums from Y2K Worth Listening to:

Below you will find a somewhat-ordered catalogue of the album releases from 2000. These are albums that I have determined to be good or interesting enough to recommend to you, the reader, for your own exposure, awareness, and/or exploration; these are albums that were not, in my opinion, good enough to belong on my "Masterpieces" page, but which, I thought, deserved some credit and attention. 
     You will find that some of the albums below are reviewed or commented upon, while many have nothing but cover, artist and title, lineup of musicians and songs list. This variance is usually due to a lack of time and a lack of willingness or desire to give each and every album the time and energy necessary to write a review. This is done without any intent of disrespect; the albums have been included because I think them worthy enough to have others try them out and form their own opinions.


Radiohead? Progressive rock? This is a contentious topic to which I have only to add that Radiohead has certainly been a leader in music evolution, whether that be pop orientation, creative song and album formats, or technological advances and achievements--and none moreso than on this album, Kid A. Therefore, my inclusion of Kid A is more intended to give special recognition to a band that has forged new innovative songwriting, performance, and marketing techniques, and this, their finest album (their only one that I fined myself listening through, start to finish.)

Favorite songs: "Optimistic" (5:16) (10/10); "Everything in Its Right Place" (4:11) (9/10); "Treefingers" (3:43) (9/10); "Kid A" (4:44) (8/10); "In Limbo" (3:31) (8/10); "The National Anthem" (5:51) (8/10); "Morning Bell" (4:34) (8/10), and; "Motion Picture Soundtrack/untitled" (6:57) (8/10). 

82.0 on the Fish scales = four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

THE FLOWER KINGS Space Revolver 

Probably my favorite Flower Kings album--mostly due to the presence of my favorite Flower Kings song, "I Am the Sun, Part 2" (10:39) (20/20). The presence of melodic master of the fretless bass Jonas Reingold is felt very strongly throughout this album. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Hasse Fröberg / lead & backing vocals, acoustic guitar
- Roine Stolt / guitar, bass, lead & backing vocals
- Tomas Bodin / piano, organ, Mellotron, synth
- Jonas Reingold / bass, fretless bass
- Hasse Bruniusson / percussion, voices
- Ulf Wallander / soprano saxophone 

1. "I Am the Sun - Part One" (15:03) some nice melodies in the first seven minutes strung along for an interminable length. Once things leap into hyperdrive for the instrumental sections, there are some showy and silly jazz spots that make no sense to me. Excellent musicianship and creativity but . . . what was the point? (24/30)
2. "Dream On Dreamer" (2:43) delicate and spacious, with Roine's voice up front (in your ear) while Ulf Wallander performs on soprano sax beside him. (8.75/10)
3. "Rumble Fish Twist" (8:06) another jam based on an updated YES song ("Gate of Delirium" . . . again). Excellent instrumental skills on display but . . .  couldn't they start with something original? (12/15)
4. "Monster Within" (12:55) I love the church organ in the sixth minute and the Phantom-like vocal in the seventh, otherwise another waste of my time. (19/25)
5. "Chicken Farmer Song" (5:09) more upbeat and light (without being tongue-in-cheek) than the typical TFK fare. Nice vocal harmonies (prepping the world for MOON SAFARI). (8.5/10)
6. "Underdog" (5:29) never much a fan of TFK's attempts at down-home C&W music--even when it's infused with Led Zeppelin and Rick Wakeman riffs. (7/10)
7. "You Don't Know What You've Got" (2:39) a TFK attempt at DAVE MASON or PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE. (4/5)
8. "Slave to Money" (7:30) dull with all parts completely borrowed. (11/15)
9. "A Kings Prayer" (6:02) once again, nothing very new, refreshing, or special here (even with the Trans-Siberian Express like fourth minute.) (7.75/10) 
10. "I Am the Sun - Part Two" (10:48) the jewel of the album and one of the 10 Best Mid-Length Prog Epics of the 2000s. (20/20)

Total Time 76:24

I have three complaints about TFK albums and songs: 1) quite often their songs seem too familiar--as if someone else has already done this (usually YES or GENESIS; sometimes LED ZEPPELIN or other classic rock masters); 2) their albums (and often songs) seem to go on so long--sometimes seemingly pointlessly; 3) Roine Stolt's voice is not one of my favorites. There are many Christmas themes used throughout. Why?

81.33 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; another decent album with exceptional musicianship on display with all of the The Flower Kings usual quirkiness and attempt at profundity, but, ultimately, it is a bit too 'all over the map' and underwhelming. But, for all you prog afficianados, "I Am The Sun - Part Two" is essential--one of the best mid-length prog epics of the decade.

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

1. "Gathering Storm" (22:32) (41.5/45)

2. "Terrible Canyons of Static" (22:35)

3. "Murray Ostril: 'They Don't Sleep Anymore on the Beach'" (23:17)

4. "She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field" (18:57)


Line-up / Musicians:
- Sylvia Erichsen / vocals (excl. 9)
- Jacob Holm-Lupo / electric, acoustic & classical guitars, keyboards, bass, vocals (4), co-producer
- Brynjar Dambo / keyboards & glockenspiel (excl. 9)
- Ketil Vestrum Einarsen / flute, recorder, melodica, keyboards
- Johannes Sæbøe / bass guitar (excl. 9)
- Aage Moltke-Schou / drums, percussion, glockenspiel

- Øystein Vesaas / wordless vocals (1), co-producer, mixing
- Simen E. Haugberg / oboe (1,3,5)
- Erlend Sæverud / keyboards (7,8)
- Tirill Mohn / violin (7,8)
- Trude Eidtang / vocals (9)
- Lars Fredrik Frøislie / keyboards (9)
- Marthe Berger Walthinsen / bass guitar (9)

1. Anamnesis (9:11)
2. Paper Moon (6:44)
3. The Crucible (7:32)
4. The Last Rose of Summer (3:23)
5. Gnostalgia (10:18) (17.5/20)
6. The Reach (10:59)

Total Time: 48:09

Bonus Tracks on 2014 Termo remaster:
7. Gnostalgia (Demo) (11:22)
8. The Crucible (Demo) (7:21)
9. Paper Moon (Live 2005) (5:18)

TAAL Mister Green

Line-up / Musicians:
- Anthony Gabard / guitar, backing vocals
- 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
- Vanessa Ferjoux / backing vocals

1. Barbituricus (15:16) (27.5/30)
2. Coornibus (8:41)
3. Flat Spectre (12:34)
4. Ragtime (2:40)
5. No Way! (1:24)
6. Mister Green (4:35)
7. Mister Grey (4:33)
8. Aspartamus (7:33)
9. Super Flat Moon (11:35)

Total Time: 68:31

TRISTEZA Dream Signals in Full Circles

1. "Building Peaks" (4:51) (8/10)
2. "Respira" (4:37) 
3. "City of the Future" (5:53) (10/10)
4. "Shitty Drifty" (3:46) 
5. "Auroura Borealis" (4:40) 
6. "I Am a Cheetah" (5:27) 
7. "Chiaroscuro" (6:22) 
8. "Are We People" (4:05) 
9. "Opiate Slopes" (5:37) 


All of the KING CRIMSON comparisons are well justified though this is the mellower, earlier KC we're comparing DF to. Odd retro-sound choices in the production room from ANGLAGARD's Mattias Olsson, which makes one think that one is listening to an album from the early 1970s. Weird, to say the least. The melodic sides are very GENESIS-like, the acoustic parts sound like MOON SAFARI.

1. "The Pioneer (6:48) 
2. "--- Yellow Line(1:39) 
3. "OCD (2:48) 
4. "King Of The Skies (7:31) the masterful organ play in this one wins me over. (9/10) 
5. "The City In The Sea (6:26) 
6. "Dry (7:01) 
7. "Stolen Smile (5:29) opens with a cool British funk sound/feel--until that first guitar chord shift betrays its progginess. Very PORCUPINE TREE-ish. 
8. "--- Blue Line (0:51) 
9. "The Ultraviolence (6:27) 
10. "Departure (2:35) is an acoustic guitar strummed folk ballad before turning into an computer synth pop experiment. Clever and unusual. (8/10)


An Andy Tillison project that I happen to like more than his other projects--solo, Tangent, or collaborations (Big Big Train). Still, there is something too borrowed/cheezy/neo about this music for me (as is the case for most AT contributions. If they were Canterbury style, it might be different, but the bombastic YES/ELP approach doesn't work well for me).

TRIANGLE Square the Circle

Great Neo Prog music from The Netherlands. Not unlike the prime bands that popped up in the 1980s with a slightly unique presentation in the lead vocal spot. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Martijn Paasschens / vocals, keyboards
- Roland van der Stoep / guitars
- Jan-Willem Verkerk / bass
- Paul van der Zwaal / drums 

1. Foreword To The Elements Of Life (6:34) (/10)
2. "Chasing The Shadows" (7:29) (13.25/15)
3. The Centre Shines (11:08) (/20)
4. The Saddest Show (10:28) (/20)
5. Amy (5:36) (/10)
6. Pygmalion (13:11) (/25)
7. Nature's Window (11:07) (/20)

Total Time: 65:41

EVERON Fantasma

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.

1. "Men Of Rust" (6:20) 
2. "Perfect Remedy" (5:19) 
3. "Fine With Me" (3:33) 
4. "A Day By The Sea" (5:47) 

Fantasma Suite:
5. "Right Now..." (2:04) 
6. "... Til The End Of Time" (5:16) 
7. "Fantasma-Theme" (0:38) 
8. "The Real Escape" (4:24) 
9. "Whatever It Takes" (2:10) 
10. "Battle Of Words" (3:42) 
11. "May You" (4:33) 
12. "Ghosts-Intro" (1:52) 
13. "Ghosts" (5:52) 

ECHOLYN Cowboy Poems Free

1. "Texas Dust (5:16) 
2. "Poem #1 (1:33) 
3. "Human Lottery (5:32) 
4. "Gray Flannel Suits (4:47) 
5. "Poem #2 (0:59) 
6. "High As Pride (6:45) 
7. "American Vacation Tune (5:18) 
8. "Swingin' The Ax (3:15) 
9. "1729 Broadway (6:01) 
10. "Poem #3 (1:50) 
11. "67 Degrees (5:21) 
12. "Brittany (6:34) 
13. "Poem #4 (1:30) 
14. "Too Late For Everything (4:33)

STEVE HACKETT Sketches of Satie

I can't help myself here:  I am a sucker for anything by, covering or derivative of the work of French classical composer, Erik Satie. John and Steve's Hackett's renderings of some of Satie's best known pieces are wonderful, though at times I feel Steve's guitar support is either lacking emotion or evoking a very different emotion to that of his brother's flute. These are, truly, interpretations of Satie's music, though no doubt the sheet musics were the guides. To really feel the sublime power of these pieces I highly recommend viewing the 2003 DVD Hungarian Horizons which captures John and Steve's January 26, 2001 live performance before a Hungarian audience. There you can see and feel the chemistry working on all levels.

4.0 stars; rated down for it's more classical, less progressive rock nature.



Albums from Y2K that Are, IMHO, Over-rated


This 63-minute long "EP"is held in high regard by many in the prog world. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Neal Morse / lead vocals, piano, synths, acoustic guitar, co-producer
- Alan Morse / guitar, cello, sampler, vocals
- Ryo Okumoto / Hammond, Mellotron
- Dave Meros / bass, stand-up bass, French horn, vocals
- Nick D'Virgilio / drums, percussions, vocals
- Kathy Ann Lord / English horn 
- Katie Hagen / French horn
- Joey Pippin / trumpet
- Chris Carmichael / violin, viola, cello

1. "At the End of the Day" (16:30) (21/30)
2. "Revelation" (6:04) (8/10)
3. "Thoughts (Part II)" (4:41) (7/10)
4. "All on a Sunday" (4:12) (7.5/10)
5. "Goodbye to Yesterdays" (4:40) (8/10)
6. "The Great Nothing" (27:18) (38.5/55):
- a) From Nowhere
- b) One Note
- c) Come Up Breathing
- d) Submerged
- e) Missed Your Calling
- f) The Great Nothing

Total time: 63:29

I find it derivative. "Revelation" (8/10) starts beautifully but then goes over the top. The two epics "At the End of the Day" (7/10) and "The Great Nothing" (7/10), 16:27 and 27:03, respectively, are just showy and pointlessly long. "All on a Sunday" sounds as if it wants to be a pop song in the vein of BEACH BOYS (and foreshadowing the later arrival of MOON SAFARI). But it just doesn't have the hooks. "Thoughts, Pt. 2" (7/10) is a GENTLE GIANT ripoff--as if to say "Look: We can do Gentle Giant!" Even the best song on the album, "Goodbye to Yesterday" (8/10) is a bit too cliched and nothing to really write home about. Technically talented, lyrically banal, unfortunately, playing music that is so familiar, so similar to "classic" groups and songs of the 70s as to be almost embarrassing. Spock's Beard, even with Neal Morse, has never produced an album that gets rotated into my play cycle. Not even a song. And this, their most highly rated album, is nothing more than a 3 star album to me.

72.0 on the Fishscales = D/2.5 stars.

SMPTe Transatlantic

A super group bringing together SPOCK'S BEARD's singer songwriter, NEAL MORSE, THE FLOWER KINGS' singer guitarist ROINE STOLT, DREAM THEATER's drummer MIKE PORTNOY, and MARILLION's PETE TREWAVAS only creates more of what they all came from: very talented musicians creating deriviative, unoriginal music and lyrics. The low-key and brief (in comparison to the album's three 16-plus minute songs) "We All Need Some Light" is the highlight for me. "My New World" also has some nice redeeming parts. A polished, pretentious show of old-style prog--called Neo-prog. (Not my favorite 'sub-genre.' Neo-prog doesn't seem to want to say much new, instead it seems to be good at repeating and paying homage to the sounds and artists of the past.)

FATES WARNING Disconnected

Heavy prog, almost on the metal and/or 1980s "classic rock"vein. The album has nice clean sound production and enough space to hear everything--which is nice, but I'm not a big fan of the lead vocals--Ray Alder's competent and confident but there's really nothing special here. Highlights: the two epics:  the spacious, atmospheric "Something from Nothing" (10:58) (18/20) and the more melodic though more neo-oriented, "Still Remains" (16:11) (here I can really hear the Kevin Moore contribution) (27/30).

1. "Disconnected (Part 1) (1:16) 
2. "One (4:23) 
3. "So (8:07) 
4. "Pieces Of Me (4:24) 
5. "Something From Nothing (10:58) 
6. "Still Remains (16:11) 
7. "Disconnected (Part 2) (6:07)


Great drumming. 1980s King Crimson-like guitar stylings and weaves.

1. Fire Back About Your New Baby's Sex (4:42) (/10) 
2. "The Peter Criss Jazz" (10:35) (18.5/20) 
3. Haven't Lived Afro Pop (7:34) (/15) 
4. You Drink a Lot of Coffee For a Teenager (2:41) (/5)
5. "Ones All Over the Place" (9:00) (18/20)
6. I Never Liked You (4:59) (/10)
7. "Details on How to Get Iceman on Your License Plate" (5:35) (9/10)
8. A Lot of People Tell Me I Have a Fake British Accent (5:23) (/10)
9. Let's Face It Pal, You Didn't Need That Eye Surgery (5:09) (/10) 

IQ the Seventh House

Line-up / Musicians:
- Peter Nicholls / lead & backing vocals
- Mike Holmes / guitars, guitar synth, keyboards, producer
- Martin Orford / keyboards, flute, backing vocals, pre-production
- John Jowitt / basses, bass pedals (?), backing vocals
- Paul Cook / drums, percussion
- Tony Wright / saxophone (4,5)

1. "The Wrong Side Of Weird" (12:24) poor rendering of sound--especially drums and bass. Nothing very exciting or fresh here. (19/25)
2. "Erosion" (5:43) keys sounds still stuck in the 90s. Nice lull and kick into full blast at 2:00--but falls flat after that. Excellent guitar solo in the fourth minute. (8.25/10)
3. "The Seventh House" (14:23) the jewel of the album and one of the best 50 LP Prog Epics of the 2000s. After an awesome opening third, it kind of grows stale, feels drawn out, and the finish does not live up to the promise of the opening. (26/30) 
4. "Zero Hour" (6:57) basic rock ballad, with all the elements of a nice 1970s or 1980s classic rock hit (except for the fretless bass right up in front). The attempt at an eerie middle instrumental section fails miserably. (11/15)
5. "Shooting Angels" (7:24) after Martin Orford's keyboard solo intro for the long intro, a double-thumping rhythm track gets laid out like a 1970s power rock ballad (think Loverboy). The mid-section interlude kind of repeats the opening with some other support and Peter Nicholls singing over the top. This is followed by a return to the double-thump rhythm motif while Mike Holmes plays a very restrained (and boring) lead guitar solo. (10.5/15) 
6. "Guiding Light" (9:58) Peter Nicholl's vocal melody is far too driven by Martin Orford's electric (MIDI-ed) piano beneath. In the third minute there is a little shift in which Peter and Martin's melody lines diverge (thank god!). This is nice (if quite GENESIS-like). At the 3:30 mark there is a radical shift into old rock motif for the bridge into a nice instrumental section (nice Steve Hackett-like lead guitar work). Nice finish (nice Peter Nicholls vocal). (16/20)

Total Time: 56:49

79.35 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; a solid assemblage of Neo Prog music--a fair addition to any prog lover's music collection.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Top Albums of the Year 2002, Part 1: The Masterpieces

My Favorite Albums of 2002
(In some semblance of order)

***Author's note:  Below you will find two different rankings for this year's albums. The first is merely a list consisting of a Top Ten with a following list of "Honorable Mentions." These are my favorite albums of the year, that is, the albums to which I have formed the greatest emotional attachments. The ensuing Reviews are ordered according to my personal, more objective judgment as to their quality, that is, the "best" albums of the year. Here I have tried to order the albums reviewed according to my personal determination as to what are the "best" albums of the year from a more critical, qualitative viewpoint, that is, without as much emotional attachment as "My Favorite" albums.  

In my opinion, 2002 produced a rather weak collective of new studio music in the Progressive Rock world. In fact, I have been able to find one (1) full masterpiece and six (6) near-masterpieces from this year. If you know of any albums that you think I have missed or overlooked (taking into consideration what you perceive my tastes to be) please share these with me.

The Rankings
(My Favorites)

1. PÄATOS Timeloss
2. DOVES The Last Broadcast 
3. THE FLAMING LIPS Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
4. SIGUR RÓS ( )
5. AGALLOCH The Mantle
6. PAT METHENY Speaking of Now
8. FAUN Zaubersprüche
10. GRAND STAND Tricks of Time

11. TÉMPANO The Agony and the Ecstacy
12. LA MASCHERA DI CERA La Maschera di Cera
13. FROGG CAFÉ Frogg Café
14. IZZ I Move
15. PORCUPINE TREE In Absentia
16. 35007 Liquid
17. QUIDAM The Time Beneath the Sky
18. KENSO Fabulis Scripturus
19. TAAL Skymind
20. THE FLOWER KINGS Unfold The Future

Honorable Mentions:
PARALLEL OR 90 DEGREES More Exotic Ways To Die
ULVER Lyckantropen Themes

The Reviews

5 star Masterpieces
(Ratings of 100 to 93.34)

***** Album of the Year for 2002! *****

1. PÄATOS Timeloss

Päatos is a Swedish band formed in the early 21st Century by two former members of Landberk and Morte Macabre, bassist Stefan Dimle and guitarist Reine Fiske, and two relative newcomers in husband and wife Ricard "Huxflux" Nettermalm, the drummer, and cellist/vocalist Petronella Nettermalm, respectively. Timeloss is their debut album and, unfortunately, the only album in their catalogue to include axeman extraordinaire Fiske.
Päatos is another band I've been fortunate to stumble in the past year. After listening to streams, samples and making a few experimental MP3 purchases, I decided to buy the band's first album, Timeloss. Not a bad song on the disc, though the two ultra mellow ones, "Hypnotique" and "Happiness," do not get the same frequent play as the others. What really sold me on this band, aside from the dreamy voice of Petronella Nettelmans, were the drums. "Teá," "Sensor" and "Quits" have some absolutely stunning speed and subtlety--reminding me of STEVE GADD with a little more power (when he wants to). Drummer Richard "Nuxflux" Nettelmans (Petronella's husband) shows amazing restraint and never seems to be trying to steal the limelight from the others--though his every flourish and syncopation surprises and almost defies belief. Such confidence, free-form creativity, and facility!

1. "Sensor" (5:15) begins like a soft 70's jazz piece, but at 48 seconds in it kicks into high gear rock and roll. (Listen to those drums!!) Though perhaps Petronella's weakest vocal performance (she's strangely mixed into the background with the overall effect as if she's singing from inside an isolation tank!) At the 2:57 mark the tempo slows into a Yes/Genesis moment as the mellotron surges forward (Did I mention Päatos uses mellotron?) followed by a guitar solo which then carries the music back into it's fast tempo as the band jams to the song's sudden conclusion. (10/10) 

2. "Hypnotique" (8:36) accomplishes just what the title declares. It is a long, very soft piece in which Petronella's voice, combined with her husband's soft jazz drumming, lulls one into submission. But, not unlike Pure Reason Revolution's Dark Third, this CD really shines with its layers of very interesting and rewarding subtleties. For example, at the 2:40 mark the music just cuts out, leaving the listener with a rather nice piano and flute interlude. When 55 seconds have passed, Nuxflux sneaks his way back in with a little flourish on his Zildjian before reestablishing the song's original jazzy rhythm, thereby cueing the start of the guitarist's very pleasant and somewhat "raw" guitar solo. Eventually, after the mellotron has snuck into the background, at about the 5:40 mark, the flute reappears to take over the guitar solo's melody line. Then, just as suddenly, the music stops for a brief cello solo before giving way to a brief return of Petronella--this time with a bit more of a forceful presence--until the song finally devolves into another all-out band jam to it's conclusion. A song that has grown in my esteem tremendously over time. (18/20)

3. I absolutely love "Teá" (5:50) because of its native language vocals. Swedish has never sounded so beautiful! But, again, pay attention to the subtleties in this song: piano and DRUMS! The guy is amazing! (10/10)

4. "They Are Beautiful" (7:48) begins very Genesis "Entangled"-like before a double bass and tympanic percussion rhythm set the tone for another of Petronella's mind-massages. Hypnotic guitar and mellotron and with the surprise appearances of several sneaky, snaky reed instruments alternating with an electric guitar's note- and volume-play make for a very interesting and unusual song.  Again: Headphones are highly recommended. This is another song that has grown tremendously on me over the years. (14/15)

5. "Quits" (14:49) gets a lot of grief from reviewers--especially prog reviewers--but I think this song is brilliant--very reminiscent of Ben Watt of EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL's "Walking Wounded" phase. Drum machines and programs? What about all of the obviously live play Huxflux is doing? Man, the percussion work on this song alone make it a near masterpiece! And, no, I don't care if he's using synthesized or acoustic percussives. I love his guts and creativity! The synth work is also so interesting. Richard Barbieri meets Ben Watt meets Mr. Bill Bruford! And let me not forget to give this bass player his due: he does an awesome job tying husband and wife into the same cohesive piece. Awesome music. (And don't forget the horns! Amazing fun on the trumpets! Great devolution into Joni itchell/Weather Report/King Crimson-esque chaos! I love it!) (28/30)

Awesome band. Awesome album. Awesome jams at the end of each song. I forgot to mention that for PÄATOS' first album, they sported former LANDBERK and MORTE MACABRE genius guitarist REINE FISKE, one of my favorite two guitarists of the 21st Century. Sadly, Reine did not continue playing with Päatos. (But check him out on DUNGEN and THE AMAZING albums!)

94.11 on the Fish scales = five stars; a true prog masterpiece. Timeloss' only flaw is its length: a very old-fashioned 39 minutes! 

The "Minor" Masterpieces
(Ratings of 93.33 to 90.0)


If GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR went Zeuhl, the ever-evolving Zeuhl veterans have slowed things down, drawn them out, removed the vocals, and chosen to explore the sound that the space between percussive hits can occupy. Gone are the Crimsonian dynamics or Magma-esque constructs, welcome in the bluesy foundation of all rock 'n' roll, even to Zeuhl! Never before have the commonalities between Zeuhl and UNIVERS ZERO been so evident. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Kido Natsuki / guitar, mandolin, valiha, organ, co-producer
- Katsui Yuji / violin, sampler, co-producer
- Ohtsubo Hirohiko / bass, cello
- Takara Kuimiko / vibraphone, percussion
- Okabe Youichi / percussion, trap drum

1. "Skin" (29:27) Zeuhl takes a trip to the deep bayou of Louisiana. The music and the performances are still stunning, virtuosic, amazingly tight considering the pace and spacing. Drummer Okabe Youichi is especially impressive for his solid ability to adhere to this very challenging pace while continuing to display his virtuosity. Huge chills when acoustic guitar strums enter at 17:00; great chord progression.  Then, in the 20th minute, we return to awesome sparsity and restraint. Again, this drummer deserves to be credited with so much for this brave and spiritual performance. The finish is a kind of Post Rock coming together of all elements and instruments in a cacophonous anti-climax before solo bowed bass takes us slowly out.
     While not a real fan of Louisiana blues, I know when something special has been achieved, and this is special. I feel as if I have just been put through a religious ceremony. Wonderful stuff! (56.5/60)

2. "Frasco" (19:40) opens with the sound of a traditional Japanese stringed instrument called a "valiha" playing solo. Repetitive single muted electric guitar chord strum is repeated and somewhat arpeggiated while vibes, bass, heavily effected electric guitar, and hand percussion instruments play around above and beneath. Valiha continues to ejaculate riffs between those of a variety of electric guitar sounds and other instruments. In the seventh minute the electric guitar and violin begin to take over the main melody line and, as the other instruments all fall away, the musical fabric itself. By the halfway mark a kind of Japanified Latinized Mahavishnu Orchestra jam has been set in motion--violin and guitar, of course, taking the lead presentations. Interesting! The music then morphs into a more JEFF BECK-like jam with a fairly simple and straightforward melodic riff steering the course to the end. Nice but not my favorite stuff from Bondage Fruit. (34/40)

Total time 49:07

90.50 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of evolving Zeuhl and an excellent addition to the lexicon of progressive rock music. While the title piece is, in my opinion, a prog masterpiece, the second epic falls well short of these heights.

4.5 Stars; Excellent Additions to Prog World
 (Ratings of 89.99 to 86.67):

3. PAT METHENY GROUP Speaking of Now

One of Pat & co.'s more pastoral jazz albums, this one does not take the listener into realms of avant or theoretical or chromatic or free jazz, nor does it take us back to bebop or Wes Montgomery, but it is more heavily reliant on acoustic instrumentation that most PMG albums. Even in the album's credits the acoustic instruments are given first citations for each of the individuals involved in the project. Still, you will hear Lyle's familiar/signature synths and Pat's familiar/signature "piccolo trumpet" electric guitar leads but all played over piano, acoustic guitar layers, the amazing Steve Rodby's double bass or cello along with newcomer Antonio Sanchez' drumming. (Shout out to the amazing Paul Wertico! You are the best!)
     Every song on the album is replete with multiple memorable melodies and gorgeous song structures, stunning solos from Lyle ("Proof"), Pat, all of the vocalists, and trumpeter Cuong Vu.

Great songs:  1. "As It Is" (7:48) which is probably my favorite song on the album (15/15); the more Wes Montgomery-styled, 2. "Proof" (10:09) (18/20); the far-away-romantic, next-the-fireside, 3. "Another Life" (7:08) with its odd almost Gregorian chant vocal interludes (13.5/15); the wonderfully bucolic, pastoral feeling 7. "A Place in the World" (9:52) a top three song for me (19/20); what sounds like a classic jazz standard--a piece of true ear candy--as if sung by Nat King Cole or Antônio Carlos Jobim but is sung by Cameroon's Richard Bona in a language I don't recognize (what should be French?) 8. "Afternoon" (4:45) (10/10), and; the album's closer, 9. "Wherever You Go" (8:03) a real gorgeous, melodic, low key tune in which all of the band members put on display their mastery of delicate jazz play. (14.5/15)

Very good songs:  4. "The Gathering Sky" (9:22) which sounds like a piece that Gene Kelley would have used as a film score to choreograph one of his unique dance numbers (16/20); 5. "You" (8:30) which is constructed much as the Brazilian pieces the band did in the 80s like Pedro Aznar's "Más allá (Beyond)" (16/20), and; the standard PMG Latin-tinged Wes Montgomery-sounding piece, 6. "On Her Way" (5:21) (8/10).

A solid, accessible release of jazz in the familiar vein of what Pat Metheny Group has been doing for over twenty-five years only oriented a bit more to the acoustic side of jazz instrumentation and the melodic side of jazz.

89.65 on the Fish scales = B+/4.5 stars; a minor masterpiece of jazz fusion applauded for the incomparable standards of technical and melodic virtuosity they uphold for their profession; a near-masterpiece to the world of progressive rock music.

4. SIGUR RÓS ( ) 

A favorite among many prog reviewers for its darkness, I find it beautiful but overall a bit too dark and depressing. Still, there is without a doubt gorgeous music here in the same vein of Ágaetis Byrjun and Takk....

Favorite tracks:  3. "Untitled 3 (Samskeyti)" (6:34) (10/10); 8. "untitled #8 (Popplagið)" (11:45) (25/25); (I love the ENO/BUDD piano arpeggio and MIKE OLDFIELD-like screeching guitars in the background; one of my favorite Sigur Rós songs), 1. "Untitled 1 (Vaka)" (6:41) (9/10); the starkly gorgeous and painfully slow to develop and release, 5. "untitled #5 (Álafoss)" (9:57) (18/20)and; the awesomely ambiguous, simplistic and yet bombastic and gorgeous, 7. "untitled #7 (Dauðalagið)" (12:59) (27/30).

Four star tracks:  2. "untitled #2 (Fyrsta)" (7:33) (12/15); 6. "untitled #6 (E-Bow)" (8:48) (16/20), and; track 4. "Untitled #4 (Njósnavélin)" (7:32) (12/15) (love the organ).

This is definitely an album that has grown on me over the years and is rated up for the start-to-finish quality and listenability.

89.65 on the Fish scales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

5. AGALLOCH The Mantle

An album I've owned for quite a while that at first I disliked because I thought it's songs long and boring--as well as due to the fact that this was my very first acquisition that contained growls for some of its vocals. I was put off by this, especially. Now, four or five years later, I've grown accustomed to growling in prog music and The Mantle has become one of those albums whose songs always interest, surprise, and, yes, I have to admit, excite me when they come onto my iPod shuffle's random play.
     The acoustic guitar-based music has always been attractive to me, I just resisted its magic because of the vocals. Now as I listen to these songs I am always surprised to check later and be reminded that these great songs so full of subtleties were from AGALLOCH!

Favorite songs: "...And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth" (7:14) (15/15) "The Hawthorne Passage" (11:19) (18/20); 3. "Odal" (7:40) (13.5/15), "In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion" (14:45) (27/30), 6. "You Were But a Ghost in My Arms" (9:18) (16/20), 1. "A Celebration for the Death of Man" (2:25) (4.5/5); 9. "A Desolation Song" (5:09) (8/10), and; 5. "The Lodge" (4:40) (8/10)

A solid album--one of the best from a . . .  well, a pretty poor year, in my humble opinion.

A solid 4 star effort whose esteem has raised in my mind over the years. I now find myself truly enjoying and tuning in to the songs from The Mantle when they come across my playlist.

88.0 on the Fish scales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

6. THE FLAMING LIPS Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots 

This album has such an awesome sci-fi story paired with some really great psychedelia sound- and vocal-scapes that it immediately sucks the listener in. That whiney plaintive singing voice of Wayne Coyne is so unique and endearing--like Don McLean's proverbial "voice that came from you and me" (though heavily doused in reverb). The simple though catchy rhythms and drum and bass sounds are also masterful at seducing the listener into an undeniable full-body sway and groove. Plus, the story is so emotional, so considerate of the feelings of all life, all intelligence. Here artificial intelligence--robots--are given emotions--a whole can of worms both ethically, morally and metaphysically, but here the topic is treated with great respect and sensitivity--even compassion and empathy. It's such a sad and yet beautiful story conveyed equally beautifully and emotionally through this exquisitely crafted music and libretto. The music is so wacky and yet founded in such engaging melodies. No wonder it won Grammy Awards and was made into a Broadway musical!

1. "Fight Test" (4:14) (7/10)

2. "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21" (4:59) (10/10)

3. "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1" (4:45) (9/10)

4. "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 2" (2:57) (7/10)

5. "In the Morning of the Magicians" (6:18) (10/10)

6. "Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell" (4:34) (8/10)

7. "Are You a Hypnotist?" (4:44) (8/10)

8. "It's Summertime" (4:20) (8/10)

9. "Do You Realize?" (3:32) (9/10)

10. "All We Have Is Now" (3:53) (10/10)

11. "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)" (3:09) (10/10)

87.27 on the Fish scales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

7. THE FLOWER KINGS Unfold The Future

One long-playing epic is usually enough but two? And then: two discs with each over 65 minutes of music--138+ minutes in total--and, I'm sorry, you're just asking too much! (It's only taken me ten years to finish this review. Can you guess why?)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Hasse Fröberg / lead & backing vocals
- Roine Stolt / guitar, keyboards, lead & backing vocals
- Tomas Bodin / keyboards, grand piano
- Jonas Reingold / bass, fretless bass
- Zoltan Csörsz / drums
- Hasse Bruniusson / orchestral percussion
- Daniel Gildenlöw / vocals (lead 9,12,16)
- Ulf Wallander / soprano saxophone
- Anders Bergcrantz / trumpet

1. "The Truth Will Set You Free" (30:40) solid, well flowing, not too bombastic, just not as memorable as one would like. (53/60)
- I. Lonely Road
- II. Primal Instincts
- III. From the Source
- IV. Uphill
- V. The Stars the Sun the Moon

2. "Monkey Business" (4:20) excellent fretless bass work from Jonas (8.75/10)

3. Black And White (7:40) piano and voice of Roine Stolt open in a delicate ballad-like style. In the second minute the addition of a Broadway-styled voice of Hasse Fröberg reveals a theatric style more akin to Andrew Lloyd-Weber than prog. Once the opening vocal section is over the band leaps into a quirk-and-weird-filled section of YES-like bombast which lasts from the third minute through to the end of the song. Jonas Reingold, by the way, is going absolutely wild with his machine gun spraying of bass notes. Nice rhythm guitar "lead" work from Roine Stolt, as well. (13.25/15)

4. "Christianopel" (8:30) an instrumental of mostly atmospheric jazz subtleties. Nice drumming. (17.5/20)

5. "Silent Inferno" (14:25) heavy YES-ishness from the get-go until the singing starts at the end of the third minute, then it turns gentle and pretty with nice work from Jonas and the keys. After the first exposition of singing it amps up slightly into a great section in second or third gear with some great melodies, chord progressions and soli (electric guitar). near the halfway point we return to a second vocal section. The second half is more groovin' with some great performances though not over the top. One of the better songs/epics I've heard from TFK. Definitely a top three for me. (28/30)

6. "The Navigator" (3:15) opens with a kind of classical music sound and structure. Roine's vocals enter over this quartet-like weave and, lo! and behold, nothing changes. Interesting. Unfortunately the instruments are all computer synthesizers. And different. (8.25/10)

7. "Vox Humana" (4:30) another softer song with simple, thin weave of mostly acoustic-sounding instruments over which Hasse sings. Innocuous and forgettable. (8/10)

CD 2 (65:15)
8. "Genie In A Bottle" (8:10) opens with a heavy, more staccato fuzzy sound as Roine sings. The second section is soft, drumless, and very pretty. Again, halfway through, things get soft and pretty, with some nice vocal harmonies interlaced with guitar and piano and a gently pulsing bass line. Ends with the bouncy motif and lots of weird synth and guitar sounds. (12.5/15)
9. "Fast Lane" (6:35) opens with a steady, fast-driving bass-and drum based groove with some nice harmonized vocals from guest Daniel Gildenlöw and Hasse Fröberg. (8.75/10)
10. "Grand Old World" (5:10) a pretty, dreamy song with sparse instrumental input aside from some excellent non-stop soprano sax play throughout. Another top three song for me. (9.5/10)
11. "Soul Vortex" (6:00) another slow 1970s-like jazz groove. It's been done. (8/10)
12. "Rollin The Dice" (4:15) opens with some George Benson jazz guitar riff before drifting off into radio signal sounds. By 0:30 a slow, heavier, funk-attempt establishes itself before two singers step up to the mic. Reminds me a bit of The Mars Volta (before there was TMV!) That's the Gildenlöw effect. Thick rolling bass sliding up and down the fretboard is a nice change of pace for TFK and Jonas. (8.5/10)
13. "The Devils Danceschool" (3:45) jazz straight out of the 1970s school of BILLY COBHAM, Mwandishi-era HERBIE HANCOCK, FREDDY HUBBARD, JACO PASTORIUS, and, of course, MILES. Well played! Great drumming by Zoltan Csörsz. The other top three for me (and quite a different exploration of musical direction for the TFK). (9.5/10)
14. "Man Overboard" (3:40) opens like some innocuous children's music--all keyboard-driven. Roine starts to sing in the second minute, leaves for a guitar solo in the third, returns for the second verse and second solo, then the song shifts into a weird TONY BANKS-like multiple keyboard exposition to the end. Weird. A throwaway. (7.75/10)
15. "Solitary Shell" (3:10) opens with solo piano and Roine singing. Synth strings and atmospheric electric guitar join in with chorus and second verse. (8/10)
16. "Devils Playground" (24:30) opening with a very cinematic sound, the music slowly builds a story instrumentally, as if we're unveiling something monumental. At the three minute mark we jump onto a fast moving train with some horns and hand percussives in the mix as keys and bass lead the way. We slow down at 4:30 for a nice vocal section. This is a nice section, great chord and melody lines. Hopping back on the train at 6:15, we turn off into a Yes-like bridge before stopping again for the vocal motif. A little different instrumentation but same melody lines. At 8:11 Daniel Gildenlöw's soaring voice joins in with a continuous line of vocalise and then we shift into a new, slightly heavier section for some "take it away" vocals. Nice lead guitar melody line. At 10:15 everything stops as we enter a hallway to a different room. Ominous heavy guitar chord progression and add-on instrumental chatter thrown in make it feel quite unsettling. This then segues into a bit of a SUPERTRAMP-like sounding section for some circus/fair distractions--led by horns and other odd incidentals. At 13:40 we're off to dreamland with some very gentle, spacey instrumental play. At 16:00 we've launched into another new movement. Organ with classic rock chord and rhythm structure for singing and electric guitar solo. Another transition at 18:55 leads into another eerie hallway before the band reforms in a mid-tempo funked up motif which becomes more jazz-oriented after the wah-guitar solo as sax and drums lead the new way. Wah-guitar riff returns until another stop and restart at 21:30. We recapitulate the nice section from the fifth through seventh minutes with Daniel G taking the vocal lead from Roine. Man, that guy can sing! Nice low-register guitar solo ensues, trading off with Jonas' bass, before jumping up to the mid- and upper registers for the climax. Great solo to take us into the spacey end (but could have been better). (43/50)

Total Time: 138:35

I like the forays into jazz world and the mixing it up with three lead vocalists but the keyboards are just too aged, the "orchestral" sounds too obviously keyboard generated. Otherwise this is very skilled songwriting and often virtuosic performances (especially from bass, drums, guitar and Daniel Gildenlöw). 

86.98 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

8. DOVES The Last Broadcast 

Doves' second album came with a second EP bonus disc which, for me, vaults this 'album' into my All-time Favorite Album's list (#23). "Intro"/"Words" (9/10), "Where We're Calling From"/"N.Y." (11/10), and "Caught By the River" (10/10) are amazing songs that are almost able to offset the disappointing ones, but "Far From Grace" (10/10), "Northenden" (10/10), and "Willow Song" (10/10) make this an album that I come back to quite regularly--even if I do skip around a lot. "Far From Grace" and "N.Y." are both among my all-time favorite songs. It is, however, on this album that doves' weak spot starts to glare: the drumming is so one dimensional. Many people like other songs on The Last Broadcast that I don't particularly care for. To each his own. These 'sub-par' songs keep me from giving this album 5 stars. (A 'masterpiece' shouldn't sport six songs that are mediocre at best.) Still, the good ones are so far better than anything else offered during 2002 that I have to give it

86.67 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece.

9. FAUN Zaubersprüche

Zaubesprüche is Faun's first release from a major music label. The album has a sound throughout--especially the first three songs--that makes it sound as if it were harnessed straight from the stages of Renaissance Fairs. The band has a very warm and engaging sound--which is captured very nicely through some very nice engineering. The individual performances are not quite as tight and polished as they could be but, again, the sound is great (better, IMO than on quiet Licht or the washed out & over-produced Von den Elben). The mood captured on Zubersprüche is quite relaxing though mesmerizing. I can imagine sitting on my wooden bench beneath a cool August night sky being lulled into a pleasantly hypnotic state by these songs. The vocals have a ways to go before they reach the heights of Renaissance, with Oliver and their harmonies, in particular, as yet unpolished. Also, this is the era before electronic textures were added--before Niel Mitra joined the band.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Oliver "Sa Tyr" Pade / vocals, bouzouki, nyckelharp, Celtic harp, jaw harp
- Fiona Rüggeberg / vocals, recorders, whistles, bagpipes, sallow flute
- Elisabeth Pawelke / vocals, hurdy-gurdy
- Robert Geldner / bagpipes (3)
- Kenzo Gasain / percussion (3)
- Birgit Muggenthaler / hurdy gurdy (6)

1. Bean Sidhes (0:42)
2. "Rani" (3:20) great fast jam building and maintaining great tension from start to finish. (9/10)

3. "Nechein Man" (6:55) The Fiona show! Fiona and her recorder trade leads with minimal support until full sound enters at 0:45 and Elisabeth (and "distant" track of Fiona, Elisabeth & Oliver) harmonize with Fiona. Robert Geldner's bagpipe solos in the third and fourth minutes. Jaw harp at 5:00. (12.75/15)

4. "Das Schloss Am Meer" (4:56) folk guitar with Oliver and Fiona trading lead vocals. Could be FOTHERINGAY or FAIRPORT CONVENTION. Nyckelharp is the featured instrument on this one. Amazing what can be done with a drone-like foundation. Great tension. (8.75/10)

5. "Par Veneris" (2:47) ancient troubadour music! Elisabeth's turn in the lead. Brilliantly captured, rendered. (8.75/10)

6. "Tempus Transit" (4:15) another song that sounds as if it could come from the early Prog Folk movement in the late 1960s. Vocals are not recorded very well. (8/10)

7. "Des Wassermanns Weib" (3:30) Oliver and Elisabeth's gorgeous vocal duet. Beautiful soundscape created by picked guitar and Fiona's recorder. (9/10)

8. "Keridwen & Gwion" (3:07) Alan Stivell-like instrumental. (9/10)

9. "König Von Thule" (3:23) wonderful pastoral folk music with three voices working in gorgeous harmony. (8.75/10)

10. "Mehrnoush" (4:20) nickelharp solos for the first minute and a half. It then becomes a slow, plodding, dreary dirge-like tune--despite Oliver's wonderful performance on the nickelharp. (8/10)

11. "Vom Truge" (2:50) electrified acoustic guitar over which Oliver sings solo. (8/10)

12. "Troum Unde Spiegelglas" (7:37) the jewel of the album; what amazing vocal arrangements and performances; great creation and maintenance of tension. Portends of the wonderful things to come for this band. (14/15)

Total time: 47:42

86.67 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a wonderful debut of antiquated Prog Folk--one that is highly recommended to all lovers of the sub-genre.