Thursday, November 1, 2012

Top Albums of the Year 2008, Part 3: Other Highly Recommended Albums

Other Albums from 2008 Worth Listening To

Below you will find a somewhat-ordered catalogue of the album releases from 2008. 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, still deserve 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.

ONE SHOT Dark Shot

Very polished, melodic, and sophisticated Zeuhl-based jazz fusion from France. Three of these band members are alumni of Christian Vander's MAGMA lineup from his 2000s studio and touring band, while drummer and ONE SHOT founding member Daniel Jeand'heur being a long time fan of Magma and the jazz greats of the 1960s.

Line-up / Musicians:
- James Mac Gaw / guitar
- Emmanuel Borghi / keyboards
- Philippe Bussonnet / basses
- Daniel Jeand'heur / drums

1. "Black P" (9:09) plodding along with great skill, there just isn't very much for me to be drawn in by. For me, Philippe Bussonnet is the star of this one. (17.33/20)

2. "Opus 12" (7:52) a little more driven and uptempo. James Mac Gaw's guitar play is almost ALLAN HOLDSWORTH-like while Emmanuel Borghi's keyboard range is delightfully more similar to those of George Duke's or Allan Zavod's contributions to JEAN-LUC PONTY's wonderful string of albums in the late 1970s. A very solid song with some nice hooks and, of course, great performances. (13.25/15)

3. "Def MK1" (9:48) back to a more brooding jazz-rock, perhaps even closer to the Avant Garde world of GUAPO or UNIVERS ZERO, though this is still very much what we'd all call Zeuhl. Keyboards and drums are more in the limelight on this one. (17.5/20)

4. "Blade" (4:54) opening just like an old JEAN-LUC PONTY song, this one continues to move along very slowly, very delicately, as if moving cautiously through a dingy dark alley well after midnight. Cool but never really goes anywhere--never achieves resolution. (8.667/10)

5. "Automate" (7:29) more plodding suspenseful music in which the drums, bass, and keys play their parts very conservatively over the course of the opening two minutes. Drums are the first instrument to "come to life" in the third minute as the others go through some zombi-like chord progressions before returning to the opening motif. At 3:35 the soundscape shifts (though the rhythm and pacing remains constant) as keys move to the front to solo in a very JAN HAMMER-like aggressive way. The drummer is so solid, so in-sync with the pace! At 5:35 we return to whole-band solidarity (the keyboard solo ends) before we go through the "chorus" of chord progressions. Guitar takes a turn in the lead for final minute but really does nothing very dynamic. Solid. (13/15)

6. "Downwards" (9:10) dirty electric guitar arpeggi in the opening minute give this a very rock feel to it. The break and bridge at the one-minute mark is also very rock-like, but then the band picks up a new chord progression and new rhythm foundation to carry forward. Keys offer a little floweriness before the band shifts gear into a more laid-back Zeuhl motif with strong bass play and, eventually, electric guitar soloing. Despite some fine drumming on display, the repetition of the same descending chord-and note progression gets a little old; by the sixth minute I've about had enough; there's just not enough exciting music going on over the top/in the front. A little keys action, some fine bass play in the seventh and eighth minutes and, finally, some dynamic (JAN AKKERMAN "Answers? Questions!"-like) guitar work eighth and ninth minutes but it's just not enough. (17/20)

7. "Nosh Partitas" (5:56) coolness (in the engineering of the drums) and melody! Jazz-like in a JEAN-LUC PONTY way. Great keyboard chord support, great bass play (especially the funk stink in the middle), and nice drumming and guitar play. The band all seem to be working very hard to time the syncopated melody lines together as a team. And then James Mac Gaw does some truly avant (DAVID TORN-like) guitar work. Another nice JAN HAMMER-like synth solo in the fourth minute. My favorite song on the album. (9/10)

Total Time 54:18

The skill and competency levels of the four musicians is unparalleled, but the music, to my mind, misses the additional presence of human voices and maybe something else--like melodic (or non-melodic) "hooks".

87.04 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you like high quality instrumental jazz or Zeuhl.


DATURAH Reverie is listed in some places as an EP even though it's five songs total 60 minutes of music. 60 minutes of awesome music. I'm coming to believe that the German Math/Post Rock scene is where the present and future of this genre has its greatest hopes/potential. The key element of electronic keyboard use--something every German Krautrocker is at home with--is, IMHO, the key to the "renaissance" of this beautiful, though admittedly, stagnating genre of progressive music. Sampling--used instrumentally on Reverie--may be another.

1. "Ghost Track" (12:32) begins with spacey distortions and a sample from a scene from Frances Ford Coppola's Apocaplypse Now--the scene in which captured Martin Sheen first meets/hears Marlon Brando's psychopathic character, Colonel Kurtz, talking to himself, with the accompanying "dialectics" rant from Dennis Hopper's crazed character), before crashing into some very typical Post Rock patterns and sounds. At the 6:00 minute mark we collapse into a very shoegaze-like sequence of dreaminess which then uses military snare playing till the 8:00 mark to climb back to the heights of volume and distortion. It is a long song with just enough variety and melody to keep it interesting enough to engage the listener over its entire 12 ½ minutes. (21/25)

2. "Hybrisma" (9:32) is, without a doubt, one of the best Math/Post Rock songs I've ever heard and, IMO, is one of the few recent songs that could point to new directions for the genre to develop and grow (something many people believe is impossible). Voice samples, heavily treated guitars--some foreground, some very far back in the mix, unusual drum patterns/ playing (two drummers?) all help build a multi-layered, multi-textured song of deep emotional impact--one with one of the greatest, most emotional climaxes I've ever heard in instrumental music. (18.5/20)

3. For its first six minutes, "(Reverie) 9" (11:46) is a pleasant, hypnotic song with spacey, heavily treated (à la ROBIN GUTHRIE) background guitars, pulsating bass (à la early ADAM CLAYTON) in the foreground, melodies becoming harmonies by the notes' slow, echoed decays. A rather time-less interlude occurs for the next two and a half minutes, during which the song's direction is highly unpredictable. But then, Wham! The song kicks back into drive and then overdrive as several layers of melodic structure weave together before deconstructing into a easy end. Awesome climax! (22.5/25)

4. "Deep B Flat" (13:17) begins like a CURE "Fascination Street"-era song before quieting down to a structure more familiar of the Post Rock genre. 4:30 witnesses the shift into third gear before the 5:15 mark when the song's sound quite suddenly fades away, leaving the distant echoing of old notes decaying, new guitar arpeggios, and a long excerpt of speech sounding like some broadcast from the astronauts in the International Space Station. Drums and bass rejoin at 7:00. The earlier familiar Post Rock structure returns at 8:00. Nothing new or exciting really occurs until full speed is achieved at the 9:45 mark--continuing without rising any higher (though you want/expect it to do so so desperately) until it's time to decrescendo for the last minute and a half. A song with so much unrealized potential! (26.25/30)

5. "Vertex" (12:52) builds very slowly, very quietly, like a PINK FLOYD, PORCUPINE TREE or MONO song until the crash guitar chords comes at the 6:00 minute mark. After a minute it quiets down again before the 8:30 mark sees the assault of sound recommence and sustain until it shows signs of cracking at the 11:20 mark, fatiguing to the 12:10 mark when everything comes crashing down to fade. (20.5/25)

Overall a really good album, very listenable and enjoyable with many signs of innovative creativity and ideas yet to come. Keep on proggin'! 

87.0 on the Fish scales = B/four stars; a very well constructed album (at 60 minutes, this is no EP!) of top notch Post Rock but no masterpiece.


While I am choosing to not do a full detailed review of Book of Hours, it is only because the reviewers preceding me have said it all. Beauty reigns supreme throughout this pastoral and melodic CD. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Andrew Marshall / electric and acoustic guitars, 12-string guitar, classical guitar, bass, keyboards, flute, drums and percussion
- Dave Brightman / drums

1. "Argamasilla" (11:04) an enjoyable outtake from GENESIS Duke. Easily the most sophisticated, symphonic, and accomplished of Andrew's compositions to date. And great production/engineering! (18.5/20)

2. "Willowglass" (4:02) acoustic guitars (12-string and 6-) finger-picked and joined by flutes and Mellotron. I like the flute melodies much better than those of the six-string. And the Ant Phillips-like outro. Gorgeous sound palette with not enough variety or development of the two themes. (8/10)

3. "The Maythorne Cross" (10:39) children's instruments in the intro are supplanted by flute and 'tron. The second section gets into KARDA ESTRA-like territory, then we kind of blend it all together in the third minute. Love the use of recorders in the middle (with snare drum military rudiments) but it's all a bit too contrived and too restrained--even when the Hammond and bass begin to "go wild." The ideas here could have been more developed. As it stands, it is just not a coherent or "finished" feeling piece. The whole song feels like a series of rudiments strung together. The song finally gels as it amps up in the final third and lets the Steve Hackett lead guitar wail away, but then there is a really strange ending of space-scape of synths (17.33/20) 

4. "Book of Hours" (7:13) organ and guitar arpeggi. 'Tron supplants organ for second motif. This is all very familiar (similar to "Garden" from Andrew's debut album). The entrance of recorder to accompany the acoustic guitar in the next section is a nice change. Organ re-enters and then the full ensemble kicks in with great effect, great warmth, and great cohesion. (12.75/15)

5. "The Labyrinth" (16:50) with opening theme s that sound like they came straight out of GENESIS' 1974-76 period, it then switches to an almost JEAN-LUC PONTY palette before reverting back into the safety of the lush GENESIS palette. Very engaging and satisfying. Not as elegant or filled with clever subtleties in several layers as the Genesis crew would do, but a true step forward in terms of composition sophistication. I think my main frustration with this song is with the high number of riffs and motifs that feel lifted from Genesis songs--not lifted in their exact form but so close, with such little variation, that the source is immediately recognizable and identifiable. The second half feels like Andrew is trying on some of the symphonic bombast that other bands (particularly RPI bands) have gotten away with since 1971 (though in truth it feels more akin to the early works of Ant Phillips and Steve Hackett than their band of origin); it's just a bit much for me. And then the all-too-blatant rip off of Steve's "Shadow of the Heirophant" for the final five minutes is going too far. (26/30)

Total Time: 49:48

 While the highs are not quite as high as those few on the group's previous eponymous disc, the consistency is of a much higher level and a noticeable maturation has occurred in both Andrew's song-writing skills and his recording/mixing skill. Also, the drumming/drummer has stepped up a few notches. 

86.93 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice sounding album that would probably make a nice addition to any prog music collection. I feel that Book of Hours is a step forward--an improvement upon all that Andrew released on Willowglass. I guess it is my hope that Andrew moves back toward more of his original ideas for melodies and hooks.

The most important comment I have to make is: I hope Andrew keeps making beautiful music like this for years to come; an album every couple years would be great! Also, keep up the wonderful artwork: it's some of my favorite stuff since Peter Cross' work with Anthony Phillips in the 1970s and 1980s.


Line-up / Musicians:
- Łukasz Gall / lead vocals
- Piotr Płonka / guitars
- Ryszard Kramarski / keyboards, acoustic rythm guitar, voice (3), mixing
- Krzysztof Wyrwa / bass guitar
- Tomasz Paśko / drums

1. "Embryo" (13:19) constructed and paletted like a slowed down version of PINK FLOYD's Richard Wright's work. The vocal is strained and passionate like something between the work of Robert Smith at his most emotional that of The PAYOLAS on their monster teen anthem, "Eyes of a Stranger." (26.75/30)

2. "Up & Down" (12:28) plods along more like a TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS song until 2:15 when the swirling keyboard tracks and theatric vocals launch us on a kind of carnival ride (this is a vast improvement from the opening section). At 3:50 we then take a sharp turn into a soft piano-based, guitar-strum and picked "Hotel California"-like section. The nice vocals continue to make it interesting. When drums and synth washes join in, it becomes more CHURCH-like. At 7:20 it takes on a whole new DAVID BOWIE like sound and feel (even the vocals). But then at 8:10, we're off into funked up blues-rock for the guitar solo--until 9:10 when a spacious bass and drum section is all that supports the passionate ROBERT SMITH-like vocal and bluesy guitar interjections. When Łukasz stops singing, an electric bass solo ensues over the lushly washed synth background. This lasts for well over 90 seconds--in fact, right to the end! An interesting if multiple identitied song. (21.75/25)

3. "Rat Race" (11:43) opens as a straight-on late 1970s rocker--synths with guitar band. At 1:20 we shift into a totally different, PINK FLOYD-like territory. (16.75/20)
4. "Road To Infinity" (15:29) A solid if fairly simply designed prog song, the song really gets cooking after the 9-minute mark, but, unfortunately, the long guitar solo that follows in the 12th minute through to the end is straight out of NEIL YOUNG's "Like a Hurricane" from Live Rust, note for frickin' note! That's just cheating! (25.5/30)

Total Time 52:59

I really enjoy the vocal talents of Łukasz Gall. He has some qualities of THE CHURCH's Steve Kilby, sometimes like an un-reverbed ROBERT SMITH, sometimes conveying the force of DAVE GILMOUR 

86.43 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice eclectic mix of rock and prog influences inform this pleasant Neo Prog to make it an album that I recommend to all my prog loving brethren.

VON HERTZEN BROTHERS Love Remains the Same

Though steeped in some classic rock themes and sounds, the Von Hertzen Brothers have melded a collection of heavily layered and complex yet highly melodic songs in an album which feel fresh, original and which has an amazingly consistent quality. I consider this album a modern masterpiece.

It has taken me a long time to get to know this album because of the myriad layers and intricacies of each song--but it has been a 'labor' of love doing so. The numerous catchy hooks, fine production and truly clever and creative songwriting and performance will keep you coming back to this album--for years.

If there is an artist I would compare this album to it'd be DEVIN TOWNSEND. If you took away the constant tongue-in-cheek lyrics and story telling and the overwhelmingly loud, sound-crushing 'metal' quality to Devin's songs, you'd have the sophisticated music and melodic mastery of the Von Hertzen Brothers.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mikko von Hertzen / vocals, guitars
- Kie von Hertzen / guitars, vocals
- Jonne von Hertzen / bass, vocals
- Juha Kuoppala / piano, keyboards
- Mikko Kaakkuriniemi / drums, percussion
- Teemu Mattson / trumpet (2)
- Meta4 Quartet / strings (3,6,9)
- Pessi Levanto / strings arrangements (3,6,9)
- Sonny Heinilä / alto flute (7)
- Jarmo Saari / theremin (8)
- Pekka Kuusisto / violin (8)
- Maikki Liuski / vocals (8)
- Saana Koskinen / vocals (8)

1. "Bring Out the Sun (So Alive)" (10:43) is a nearly-instrumental (there is the song's title being sung as a chorus for the last third of the song) which opens sounding like some Green Linnet artists playing "Scarborough Faire." A slow folk melody is gradually, slowly, joined by a building wall of support instruments--like one of MIKE OLDFIELD's epic insturmentals--setting up the first appearance of the gorgeously harmonized chorus ("Bring out the sun, to shine on everybody...). At 4:55 vocals disappear and the song switches to a kind of JETHRO TULL/STRAWBS feel (acoustic guitar strumming) faster and faster with a synth floating chaotically over top until, finally, the full rock band joins in to help support the chorus' melody line. Around 6:45 the vocals rejoin and then there is a brief rockin' part that helps the song transition into a WHO-like vocal section at 8:00. The final minute returns to the choral with big sounds all around. What a ride! (18.75/20)

2. "Spanish 411" (6:59) opens with a kind of ethereal 'Egyptian rock' feel to it until the vocal enters at the 0:45 mark. The vocal somehow reminds me of TIM SMITH, ELVIS COSTELLO, and KEN HENSLEY all wrapped up into one. At 3:00 enters a Spanish-sounding trumpet; 3:45 guitar and synth melodies play off one another (very cool section!) At 4:30 chorus leads into a very NEKTAR-like section. 5:35 back to tight vocal section. (13.5/15)

3. "Freedom Fighter" (4:23) starts with several layers of attention-grabbing activity. This song has much more of a straight-forward rock feel to it BUT it is so heavily layered--there is so much going on, so many subtleties! Again, some very strong NEKTAR similarities. (8/10)

4. "Somewhere in the Middle" (7:06) opens with again layers of multiple sonic "hooks"--melodies which then all fade away to be replaced by a synth 'silence' à la RICHARD WRIGHT/PINK FLOYD. Guitar plays a bluesy soloover many layers of soft subtleties for over a minute before a delicate vocal over piano takes over at 2:20. By 3:00 the song has become a 'stadium rocker' in the vien of STYX, TOTO, REO SPEEDWAGON. Very catchy melodies. At 5:22 twin guitars battle it out à la THIN LIZZY. 5:50 introduces a killer melody line on piano with vocals and guitar activities embellishing awesomely! Great tune! (13.5/15)

5. "In the End" (6:06) opens with a spacey SOUIXIE & THE BANSHEES feel before straightforward vocal with piano rock support takes over. SQUEEZE & 10CC come to mind here. "In the end..." chorus arrives and is much more rocking--and is followed by "Free Bird" guitars. At 2:42 it switches to HENDRIX guitars and vocal harmonies again like 10CC or GODLEY & CREME. Such an odd song! It never seems to be sure where it's going and contains nods to so many classic songs and artists. Not my favorite song here, but an amazingly constructed hodge-podge that works! 5:40 sees a devolution to almost classical piano sonata! which then turns out to be the intro to: (8/10)

6. "Faded Photographs" (3:46) is a very straight forward rocker in the vein of URIAH HEEP. (7/10)

7. "Silver Lover" (6:04) has a bit of a 'South of the Border'/Mexican/XTC feel to it. The vocal arrives at 0:38 with a familiarity reminiscent of THE MARS VOLTA, THE MOODY BLUES, ERIC CLAPTON, GEORGE HARRISON, and ANDY PARTRIDGE/XTC! In the end it is the XTC feel that wins out over the The Mars Volta. (8/10)

8. "I Came for You" (7:17) has quite a bit of a DEVIN TOWNSEND fell to it. Happily, it never really mounts the deafening mind-numbing walls of sound that Devin does (and which I so dislike in his music); the Von Hertzen Brothers restrain themselves admirably. At 3:15 begins a very pretty piano and vocal section--again, very Devin-like (using an incredibly familiar Devin-like melody). Support instruments begin joining in and building momentum as it repeats--almost church-/worship-like. This is the best Devin Townsend song that Devin could never do! (Unless he were nearly unplugged). (13.5/15)

9. "The Willing Victim" (9:16) starts with a Middle Eastern sound. A second guitar joins at 1:00 and then violin at 1:37. A very delicate, beautiful vocal starts at 2:05. As it develops I am transported to ANATHEMA's We're Here Because We're Here album (even though Love Remains the Same came out a couple years before WHBWH) with some sensitive, plaintive vocals and familiar melodies. The shift at 3:05 deepens that Anathema feel. 4:05 enters a synth "horn" solo à la Pink Floyd and Genesis. 6:10 shifts into Devin Townsend territory--more power and with very Devin-ish melody--like the previous song. It builds to a very theatric climax--with guitars soloing--from 7:05 through 7:50. Incredible! The Von Hertzen Brothers' "Comfortably Numb"! (18/20)

Again, this is an album of incredibly well-crafted, multiply-layered, quirky, melodic songs. There are very few songwriters crafting together songs of this calibur--now or ever.

84.44 on the Fish scales = just shy of a near-masterpiece; a very good four star album; an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection. 


Wonderful Neo Prog (due to the vintage 90s sounds and production) from one-man artist-composer, John Ludi. John is blessed with a singing voice that ranges from ICEHOUSE's Iva Davies to DAVID BOWIE and ROGER WATERS. I am greatly impressed with the complexity of John's music: it's subtle; even in such a seemingly simple song as "Simple" there are many layers of instrumentation that go into the production.

1. "History Ends Here" (6:57) synthetic GENESIS. (7.5/10)
2. "God" (7:43) is an awesome song that reminds me of a cross between ROXY MUSIC, COLLAGE (synth work), and KINGSTON WALL (this latter because of the awesome lead electric guitar work and sound). My favorite song on the album. (10/10)
3. "Limitations" (8:59) another song that reminds me of some of the darker, more somber ROXY MUSIC/BRIAN FERRY music (with Iva Davies singing) from the 1980s. The synth horns sound a bit dated. (17/20)
4. "Simple" (3:49) a pretty instrumental with a PINK FLOYD The Wall or The Final Cut feel to it. (8.5/10)
5. "The Prophet" (5:50) a fast-paced rocker whose voice and lyric continue the late Roger Waters/Pink Floyd sound. The piano work in the fourth minute is my favorite part. (8/10)
6. "Singularity" (4:43) contains some great guitar riffs and chord changes as well as one (no, several) of the more interesting vocal styles on the album. A top three for me. (9.5/10)
7. "Slow Down" (7:51) a 70s-sounding rocker with a cool multi-voice approach to delivering the lyric. Reminds me of BLUE ÖYSTER CULT and URIAH HEEP and even a little PROCUL HARUM. Harpsichord! The quick-panning synth horn solo is cool, too. Unfortunately, the vocal style and repetitive stylistic sequences start to wear thin over this long song. (8.25/10) 
8. "The Madness of Crowds" (5:02) a little DAVID BOWIE, perhaps? Sure sounds like it! (8/10)
9. "Cicadas" (6:49) more ROXY TALK TALK-like stuff--with a definite stamp of originality to it. Nice vocals and lounge-jazz bass, "brushed" drums. John definitely has a talent for melodic solos from his instruments. My other top three. (9/10)
10. "The Prophet's Theme" (4:54) synth-generated strings, reed instruments, and flute make for an interesting "experiment"--but it leaves me begging for the real thing--an acoustic orchestra. (7/10)  

84.25 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid contribution to the Neo Prog world from a very talented composer-producer.


Great melodic KING CRIMSON jazz rock fusion from Spain. The mostly-instrumental album has many dynamic ranges and interesting shifts and sound effect choices and subtleties within each song. Amazing diversity and always melodic! Jazz, folk, world, space/psychedelia, lots of KING CRIMSON and PINK FLOYD and even NEU! sounds--there's a little bit of everything here!

5 star songs:  1. "Psicorickshaw" (8:07) (13.5/15); 2. "Bholenath" (5:02) (9/10); 5. "Kali, Lament" (3:08) (10/10); 10. "Electrorain" (1:46) (4.5/5), and; 11. "Segments" (10:32) (17.5/20).

4 star songs:  3. "Meetings At Dawn" (1:36) (8/10); 4. "Kali, Destruccio" (5:11) (8/10); 6. "Abstract Passage" (1:25) (4/5); 7. "Tangle" (6:04) (7/10); 8. "My Being Forgets" (3:46) (8/10); 9. "Infinite Intuition - Recapturat" (8:16) (16/20), and; 12. "Diving Deep" (3:18) (8/10).

84.16 on the Fish scales = just short of the near-masterpiece status; a solid four star album and excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

BELIEVE Yesterday Is a Friend 

The shadows and imprints of 2006's Hope to See Another Day are present but the band has gotten more aggressive, heavier. They've also gelled into a tighter, more cohesive band. With Yesterday Is a Friend they've created wonderfully rich and full sound with a top notch engineering and production. The presence of violinist "Satomi" is an extraordinary boon, with he and maestro MIREK GIL often trading punches. Also stepping in anew is keyboard whiz Adam Milosz (whose background vocal harmonies are also a wonderfully welcome addition to the Believe sound). 

All of y'all know that Mirek Gil is one of my favorite guitarists . . . certainly of the 21st Century and maybe a Top Tenner of All-time.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Tomek Różycki / vocals, acoustic guitar
- Mirek Gil / guitars
- Satomi / violin
- Przemysław Zawadzki / bass guitar
- Vlodi Tafel / drums
- Adam Miłosz / keyboards
- Winicjusz Chróst / guitar solo (3)
- Karol Wróblewski / flute (3)
- Robert Sieradzki / lyrics & spoken word

Favorites: ALL OF IT! This album has really grown on me over the past couple years. Try:  "What They Want Is My Life" (8:10), "Mystery Is Closer" (6:02) and "You & Me" (4:54)

1. "Time" (6:18) A tight, clear, intricately-constructed opener. The weaves are tight and complex. Cool song! (9/10)

2. "Tumor" (6:03) the oddest and weakest song on the album still has plenty of redeeming features (chords, violin work, drums, vocal harmonies). (7/10)

3. "What they Want (Is my Life)" (8:01) A very interesting multi-emotional, mutli-dynamic song with a completely surprising and enchanting final two-and-a-half minutes. My favorite song on the album. (15/15)

4. "Mystery is Closer" (6:00) What a great chorus! What nice work from Adam Milosz. (8/10)

5. "You & Me" (4:51) the mellow, acoustic beginning sets the stage for some beautiful melodies and soli from Satomi and Gil. (8/10)

6. "Danny had a Neighbour" (5:17) is an interesting little story with some oddly shifting dynamics throughout. (8/10)

7. "Memories" (7:22) starts out delicately, beautifully, until the vocal and electric guitar chords start to announce a shift. Satomi and Gil are awesome throughout this one! Man bass player Przemysław Zawadzki is rock solid! This jam almost has a folk feel to it. (13.5/15)

8. "Unfaithful" (6:14) is one of the heavier songs on the album but has some engineering production issues (levels, effects, mixing). Still, it's a pretty good song in the old COLLAGE vein (especially with the lengthy Mirek Gil solo work). (8/10)

9. "Together" (2:35) ends the album with a little acoustic ditty--kind of JTULL, THE BEATLES and THE WHO and all mixed together. Nice. (8/10)

Total time: 52:54

81.11 on the Fish scales = four stars; a nice addition to any progressive rock music collection.

JELLY FICHE Tout ce que j’ai rêvé 

A wonderful prog album that is difficult to categorize as it has eclectic elements throughout: symphonic, neo, jazz fusion, psychedelia, trip-hop, ANGE-like theatrics, and even funk-pop influences. The band's core is a trio each coming from quite disparate musical backgrounds, all from Montréal, Québec. Gifted bassist/singer "Syd" sings the band's poetic lyrics in French, which I love, and a very well-annunciated French, I might add.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jean-François Arsenault / electric & acoustic guitars
- Eric Plante / synth, sampler, saxophone, backing vocals
- Syd Marchamps / bass, percussion, lead & backing vocals
- Gardy Fury / backing vocals (7)
- Vanessa Caron / flute
- Mathieu Bergeron / drums

1. "Tout ce que j'ai rêvé" (8:47) one of the best songs of 2008! (20/20)
2. "Les arbres" (10:27) bluesy PINK FLOYDian (18/20)
3. "Caché au fond plus haut" (7:14) (13.5/15)
4. Source infinie (4:58)
5. In vitro (2:56)
6. Dans la peau d'un autre I (7:40)
7. Dans la peau d'un autre II (4:37)
8. La fontaine (0:45)
9. "La cage des vautours / Liberté" (15:25) quite an emotional vocal performance over some satisfying and often gorgeous music. The bass, flute, and keyboard work is particularly good. A little standard 1970s rock 'n' roll for my tastes, especially from the guitars and chord structures and progressions. (25/30)

Total Time 62:49

on the Fishscales = / stars; 

FROST* Experiments in Mass Appeal 

This album caused quite a stir when it came out because it's predecessor, Jem Godfrey's band's debut, Milliontown had garnered a lot of attention and hope. Experiments in Mass Appeal is a collection of songs that are proggy but amped up and condensed to the point of being guilty of packaging for the masses. Where Milliontown had long, slower developing and more typically prog-paced songs, Experiments has created two- to five-minute monsters that would/could have been seven to twelve minutes long. Godfrey's experience as well-known pop producer has led him to this experiment--one that, in my opinion, he pulls off surprisingly well. To be sure, one of the album's songs, "Falling Down" (5:49) (10/10), is one of the most power-packed songs I've heard--and one of the best songs of 2008. Between Godfrey's keyboard/synth work and JOHN MITCHELL (ARENA, KINO)'s blistering guitar work the album is filled with highlights. The vocals are to my liking, though I've often wished to know what Declan Burke's voice would sound like without going so many treatments. Though there are many soft parts ("Experiments in Mass Appeal," "Welcome to Nowhere," "Saline"), it's the fast-paced, incredibly full parts that are so breathtaking.

Best songs: "Pocket Sun" (4:29) (9/10), "Experiments in Mass Appeal" (7:57) 8/10), "Toys" (3:06) (8/10), and of course, the masterful "Falling Down."

The "sixteen minute" epic, "Wonderland," is worth mentioning for its first six minutes--which are top-notch prog rock--but then the song just disappears. It just stops. After about a minute's silence another totally different (and, frankly, much blander) song returns. What's up with that?!

A good album--one that I don't listen to all that often (I think cuz it all kind of blends together, homogenized, if you know what I mean, in one sitting), though I listen to "Falling Down" and the song "Milliontown" quite a lot.

LUNATIC SOUL Lunatic Soul 

RIVERSIDE's vocalist, MARIUSZ DUDA, has astounded me with a very well-crafted, amazingly well-recorded/engineered album in which the band plays an amazing array of the instruments--many of the from the "world music" realm of indigenous instruments. This is an album of great sounds in which the world instruments are treated with highly unusual effects, great--often haunting or very atmospheric--mixes, outstanding recording and engineering. It is also an album of disappointment in that no song really develops 'laterally' or 'directionally;' instead each song begins with a theme over which layer after layer of interesting instrumentation and effects are added and yet there is rarely any 'change'--tempo, key, thematic, etc. And Mariusz's wonderful voice--or rather, the one we're familiar with from his RIVERSIDE performances--is heard surprisingly little.

1. "Prebirth" (1:10) 
is a collage of world music instruments setting up the album's predominantly somber, sometimes eerie mood. (8/10)

2. "The New Beginning" (4:50) 
begins with more exotic world instruments. It has very nice guitars and vocal in the first two minutes and a great mix, mood throughout. I just keep waiting for the change, the shift, the excitement. (8/10)

3. "Out on a Limb" (5:27) 
has Duda singing in his RIVERSIDE voice. There is a very nice climax to fade in the fourth minute. (7/10)

4. "Summerland" (5:00)
 is a pretty enough song--with nice CHROMA KEY vocal and melody. The build is nice--especially after the 3:15 mark. (7/10)

5. "Lunatic Soul" (6:47)
 begins with kalimba, keys, and acoustic guitar in a very PORCUPINE TREEish sound--even/especially when the organ and drums are added. (7/10)

6. "Where the Darkness Is Deepest" (3:57)
 has a very modern, computer age/PORCUPINE TREE sound to it until the piano comes in at the 3:00 mark. (7/10)

7. "Near Life Experience" (5:27)
 is the most developed song (thus far) though still sounds like a CHROMA KEY song. Unfortunately, this one is an instrumental; it's just begging for some vocals! (8/10)

8. "Adrift" (3:05)
 begins with a very spaced-out acoustic guitar, which is then joined by drums, a second acoustic guitar, and a vocal. At 1:00 bass enters with a nice FRIPP-y guitar solo. (8/10)

9. "The Final Truth" (7:34)
 is a nice vehicle for a great voice and vocal. I t keeps building and building, adding layer after layer, but ultimately goes nowhere. (8/10)

10. "Waiting for the Dawn" (3:36) is the world music outro bookend to the album's "prebirth" intro. (7/10)

Overall a very nice album which sounds great but lacks the interesting musical constructs to bring one back again and again. (Though I keep going back again and again--thinking that I might have missed something--that the twists and hooks are there, I just wasn't listening closely.) This 'band' certainly has great chemistry and talent, but they need more ambitious songwriting/er. 

75.0 on the Fish scales = 3.5 stars marked down for monotony.


It has taken me months of repeated listenings to this album to try to write a review of Blomljud. This is not a typical prog album. There is a lot of contention as to whether or not this really is a prog album. There is a lot of beautiful music here--especially the vocal and acoustic guitar work--but I feel there is really an effort here to bring about a renaissance of the harmonized vocal stylings of eras gone by--even back to barbershop quart- and quintets. There is a lot of music here one might best call 'folk rock' in nature--even tinges of bluegrass. What astounds is that these guys aren't even American! They're from Scandanavia!

1. "Constant Bloom"(1:27) is a very cool introductory song--reminding me of the barbershop quartet "Excuse Me" on PETER GABRIEL's first solo album (except a little more somber and serious.) (9.5/10) IMO, the shorter songs work well, the longer ones tend to get lost or lose the listener's interest. The use of very traditional instruments

2. "Methuselah's Children" (15:43) has a very STYX-like feel to it, despite the strong presence of piano--even the vocals and vocal melodies. The BEACH BOYS-like harmonies and upbeat message I think must be intended to bring back to the hopefulness of the 1960s. It kind of works! For those who like to point to this album's long tunes for the listener to pay attention to (and come to appreciate) the progginess and virtuosity of the music and instrumentalists, I'm sorry, I don't see, hear, or feel it. Everything here seems to be a vehicle for the support of the vocal and that 60s/70s feel of optimism. (25.667/30)

3. "In the Countryside" (5:43) again purports to take us back to simpler, more wholesome times and feelings--in a very obvious CROSBY, STILLS & NASH way (even modeling the acoustic guitar sound, rhythms and chord progression from the sounds of the era.) (9/10)

4. "Moonwalk" (8:49) is the album's attempt at a true prog instrumental. It works on many levels and comes away, at times, with some originality, but slides a bit too often into GENESIS, YES, CAMEL, and STYX themes and sounds to truly pull it off. Neo-prog at best. (16.5/20) Until the taped voice interlude of astronaut's, I thought the title referred to the band's having gone on a kind of walkabout instrumentally.

5. "Bluebells" (10:11) is another little Windham Hill artists' collaborative jam upon which the singers put a nice REO SPEEDWAGON vocal. Pretty straightforward pop sing-a-long. Not much prog here, more 60s vocal pop. (Impressive vocal performances.) (17/20)

6. "The Ghost of Flowers Past" (9:47) begins with a rather catchy, albeit sappy piano intro before breaking into a kind of CAMEL/STYX sound. Some progginess accrues in the minute before the piano-supported vocals begin. Again, nothing really extraordinary here. . . until the "Ain't it funny . . . " section travels into some truly classical/symphonic territory before the electric guitar and mellotron support nicely recapitulate the melody. The delicate, almost a cappella, vocals are delightful, and the clever instrumental support, mirroring and recapitulation of vocal themes makes this song a true symphonic piece. The vocal harmony 'crescendos' of the final two minutes are quite taking. Nice piece though not melodically as memorable as one would hope. Still, props for pulling together one of the proggiest songs on the album. (17.5/20)

7. "Yasgur's Farm" (8:06). Let's go back to Woodstock! Get all the instrumentalists to jam together in one song and here we go! (Actually some rather nice guitar pickin'.) The vocal section, however, just isn't able to maintain that feel--and once it's lost, it is lost--despite the return to multiple sound soloing at the 4:00 mark. Nice tribute. Okay song. (8.75/10)

8. "Lady of the Woodlands" (3:37) is the most obviously bluegrass-influenced piece. Nothing to really write home about. (6/10)

9. "A Tale of Three and Tree" (3:29) is a pretty straightforward pop song--not unlike a STEPHEN BISHOP-with-THE-LETTERMEN (or COWSILLS) song. Pretty. (10/10)

10. "Other Half of the Sky" (31:44) is the epic song that has really prevented me from writing this review before: I've just never been able to get through it while truly paying attention the whole way through! Nice themes and sounds (a lot from GENESIS ["Supper's Ready," "The Knife"] to SUPERTRAMP to AMERICA to STYX and around again). The problem with "Other Half of the Sky" is that it really should be on stage--presented as a musical! Like GODSPELL or JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. This is a nice piece of epic prog--one of the two songs on the album that, IMHO, truly deserve the label "prog rock"--though instrumentation changes are virtually nonexistent (the occasional organ, mellotron, pedal steel, or acoustic guitar flourish makes itself known). This prog is very, very derivative and imitative. If I really want to hear 21st century artists doing epic prog--fresh sounding epic prog--I will turn to the last four Big Big Train albums. (56/65) 

11. "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" (5:18) is a really charming end song that truly pulls together many of the strengths and feelings from the overall effect of the album--even re-capturing that initial feeling of astonishment from the album's opening a cappella song, "Constant Bloom." This could be a great song for say, Sesame Street or some other musical revue hoping to uplift audience spirits. Probably my favorite song on the album. (9.5/10)

Nice music, seemingly effortlessly combining a lot of sounds and styles from the 60s and 70s, with great vocal harmonizing, and conveying an all-too-rare positive mood and message but, in the end, it just isn't original enough to be memorable much less life-changing. 

70.9 on the Fish scales = 3.5 stars: Good, perhaps excellent; marked down for (at times) questionable proggitude. I will say, though, that I have continued to give this album attentive listenings over the past few years and, as it has become more familiar, I find it much more enjoyable. It seems now that it's the combination of rather banal lyrics and the over-presence of themes, riffs, and sounds from other songs from the 60s and 70s that kind of turns me . . . off.

CYNIC Traced in Air 

The follow-up (14 years later!) to the ground-breaking, ear-defying 1994 classic, Focus, shows a mellower though technically and sonically still-amazing group of more-melodic metal extremists. 
Beginning with the opener, Nunc Fluens" (2:57) (9/10) the band makes it clear that it has pregressed but that it is still heavy metal. 2. The Space for This" (5:47) (8/10) starts off so mellowly that I thought it was a pop song that my daughter likes to dance to (an Adele song, I believe). But, by 1:30 it has kicked into Cynic-drive--even including a few growls. Still there is this kind of melodic, less-edgy feel to their new album. Fully half of the eight songs here begin and carry throughout a softer side.

Favorite pieces: "King of Those Who Know" (6:09) (9/10) and the albums two "Nunc" bookends. Except for "Adam's Murmur" (6/10), the rest are all solid 7 or 8s.

IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA Discesa agl'inferi d'un giovane amante

Gorgeous RPI with lots of beautiful melody and inputs from both rock and classical instrumentation.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Simone Cecchini / lead & backing vocals, classical, 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, tenor sax
- Simone Brozzetti / electric guitar
- Eva Morelli / flute, wind
- Daniele Rinchi / violin, viola
- Federico Caprai / bass
- Diego Petrini / drums, organ, keyboards, piano, vibraphone, percussion

1. Preludio: Il Trapasso (3:43) 
2. Confessione D'un Amante (3:05) 
3. La Bestia Ed Il Delirio (5:09) 
4. Recitativo: è Nel Buio Che Risplendono Le Stelle (3:58) 
5. Ricordi Del Supplizio (6:27) 
6. Nostalgia, Pentimento E Rabbia (6:59) 
7. Sudorazione A Freddo Sotto Il Chiaro Di Luna (6:03) 
8. Melencolia (5:39) 
9. E Fu Allora Che Dalle Fiamme Mi Sorprese Una Calda Brezza Celeste (3:22) 
10. Nosce Te Ipsum: La Bestia Ringhia In Noi (5:27) 
11. Corale Per Messa Da Requiem (3:54) 
12. Epilogo: Conclusione Della Discesa Agl'inferi D'un Giovane Amante (1:48) 

Total time 55:34

THE TANGENT Not as Good as the Book 

Though in general I feel about The Tangent as I do about The Flower Kings, Arena, IQ, and Marillion (very talented musicians playing melodramatic music that rarely matches up with pretentious, self-indulgent lyrics), this is a passable, decent album. I hear many complaints about the singing of front-man/songwriter, ANDY TILLISON, but I actually really enjoy his singing--voice and style. Here, especially on "The Ethernet" and "Four Egos, One War." It's the over-the-top soli and banal lyrics that sometimes irk or even repel me. Andy's music and keyboard playing style often get a bit bouncy dancey--like the Caribbean stuff of Jimmy Buffet or The Beach Boys. The lyrics are so unpoetic, so . . . unlyrical, just self-amusingly "clever."

Favorite songs: the beautifully simple "The Ethernet" (10:13) (one of my favorite Andy Tillison songs ever) (17.25/20); "Four Egos, One War" (8/10).


Matthew Parmenter of DISCIPLINE fame continues his theatrical musical expression in the same vein of PETER HAMMILL though, in this listener's opinion, Matthew does it better. Unfortunately, Peter did it first, so the comparisons will never end for the uber-talented Parmenter.

The instrumental formulae for Matthew's music is often so simple, and the song structures seem also rather predictable, but it's the performance--the power of the instruments' performances, the power of the incidentals, and, ultimately, the unquestioned power and stylings of the vocalist that make (or, at least, should make) Matthew Parmenter a superstar in the prog world.

Favorite songs: "In the Dark" (9:22) (18/20) and the beautiful, Japanese-tinged instrumental, "Kaiju" (3:52) (9/10).

MOONGARDEN Songs from the Lighthouse 

Again I must begin with my defense of this very fine but much-maligned band. To many they are too derivative or not proggy enough or whatever. To me their music is exactly what progressive rock is supposed to be: great classically or jazzically influenced songs that use modern sound and recording technologies while having the good fortune of having an eminently gifted and distinguished lead male vocalist in Simone Baldini Tosi (replacing Tonko) and know how to create very catchy melodic 'hooks'--both instrumentally and vocally.

Favorite songs are the classically tinged cello-featured "Flesh" (2:50) (4.5/5), the neo-prog KNIGHT AREA-like instrumental, "Sonja in Search of the Moon, Pt. 5" (9/10), and the awesome epic, "The Lighthouse Song" (9:33) (18/20). The latter, with Simone's sensitive, raspy COLDPLAY vocal is probably my favorite Moongarden song (though I love "Round Midnight").


Another wonderful collection of songs from a wide variety of prog all-stars based commissioned by Colossus Magazine/Musea Records to compose on the theme of Dante's Inferno (Book 1 of The Divine Comedy). Though not as consistently good as 2003's Kalevala: A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic and not even in the same league as my favorite, 2005's Odyssey: The Greatest Tale, the 4 disc, 34 song album stands up pretty well.

Favorites: Viima's jazzy "XXIII" (6:42) (9/10), Willowglass's "The Crossing" (6:13) (9/10), Il Castello di Atlante's "Maleborge" (8:55) (17.75/20), and Nexus' "El quarto circulo" (6:42) (8/10).

SIMON SAYS Tardigarde

Symphonic prog from Sweden very much attempting to replicate the sounds and styles of the Masters of the 1970s. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Daniel Fäldt / vocals
- Jonas Hallberg / guitars, percussion
- Magnus Paulsson / keyboards
- Stefan Renström / basses, keyboards, vocoder, story concept, co-producer
- Mattias Jarlhed / drums, percussion, co-producer

1. "Suddenly The Rain" (14:47) very solid retro symphonic prog; it's quite original despite the frequent reminders of early Genesis--with solid performances all around and really no weaknesses. (27/30)
2. Tardigrade (3:43)
3. The Chosen One (5:44)
4. Moon Mountain (2:33)
5. "As The River Runs" (10:40) I quite like this despite the obviousness of the first half being a "modern" reflection of GENESIS' "Watcher in the Skies" (a song I've never liked much). There's just so much embellishment and tangential in this to make it all its own. Plus, the musicianship and sound engineering are so solid. (18.25/20)
6. Your Future (0:29)
7. Strawberry Jam (2:32)
8. Circles End (6:19)
9. "Brother Where You Bound" (26:33) (45.75/50)
10. Beautiful New Day (0:43)

Total Time: 74:11

Though I could appreciate what the artists were attempting to do from the first listen, it took me many listens in order to begin to enjoy this album. Kind of like all NEMO albums. I found the vocals especially difficult to adjust to. It was actually their much more accessible song contributions to the Colossus Magazine/Musea Records theme projects that allowed me to engage and enjoy the style and work of this band.

3/8/2023 edit: I've finally made the time to sit down and really listen, really get to know this album and I have to say that all of my previous judgements were premature: this is a true masterpiece of retro symphonic progressive rock music, albeit of the retro/imitative kind. Though early Genesis and, to a lesser extent, Yes are the models for the music and individual styles on this album, the compositions are quite unique, sophisticated, performed at consistently high levels, and admirably well-engineered. I now consider this an overlooked, misunderstood masterpiece from our not-too-distant past.

on the Fishscales = / stars; a minor masterpiece of symphonic progressive rock music. 


Hard-driving, high energy (almost humorous) avant jazz-fusion from Germany.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jan Zehrfeld / guitar, producer
- Andreas Dombert / guitar 
- Gregor Bürger / saxophone
- Florian Schmidt / bass
- Sebastian Lanser / drums 
- Andy Lind / vocals (2,4)
- Naomi Isaacs / vocals (2)
- Conny Kreitmeier / vocals (9)
- Peter O'Mara / guitar solo (1)
- Ulf Wakenius / guitar solo (5)
- Nguyen Le / guitar solo (6)
- Jan Vacik / keyboard solo (7)
- Alexander V. Hagke / saxophone solo (4)
- Heiko Jung / bass (5) 

1. "Pink Panther" (5:18) the famous movie theme song played by a band that very well could be on hallucinagenic amphetamines. (8.75/10)
2. "M.w.M.i.O.f.R" (3:54) (8.677/10)
3. "Smoke on the Water (3:22) (/10)
4. "Friede, Freude, Fußball (7:53) (/15)
5. "Wind of Change (4:42) (/10)
6. "Birdland (4:21) (/10)
7. "Dreamology (6:53) (/15)
8. "Thunderstruck (3:27) (/10)
9. "Zickenterror (3:49) (/10)
10. "Paranoid (4:09) (/10)

Total Time 47:48

ASTRA The Weirding

Nice Space/Psychedelic jams from Southern California.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Richard Vaughan / vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, Mellotron, ARP Odyssey, Echoplex
- Conor Riley / vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, Mellotron, ARP Odyssey, organ, piano, electric piano
- Brian Ellis / guitar, Moog
- Stuart Sclater / bass
- David Hurley / drums, percussion, flute

1. The Rising Of The Black Sun (5:44)
2. "The Weirding" (15:27) a bit like the original DOORS recordings--both in sound quality and sound. Nice feel to it but a bit too raw for my tastes. (25.75/30)
3. "Silent Sleep" (10:41) oddly soporific and rudimentary. (17/20)
4. The River Under (8:41)
5. "Ouroboros" (17:23) borrowing riffs and inspiration from several classic YES songs, including "Close to the Edge" (and perhaps some others from other Yes albums), everybody gets to jam on this one but none more than the drummer and lead guitarist. Very entertaining, interesting, and engaging. The lead guitarist is certainly gifted for playing catchy hooks and riffs (many of which are borrowed). I found myself thinking several times that I'm listening to a very talented, eclectic guitarist playing his favorite riffs over a variation of Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs." The 'tron players are definitely having fun, as well. (31/35)
6. Broken Glass (3:45)
7. The Dawning Of Ophiuchus (5:29)
8. "Beyond To Slight The Maze" (11:36) sounds as if it's modeled off of a combination of Steve Hackett's "Shadow of the Hierophant" and Pink Floyd's "Time" (17/20)

Total Time: 78:46

Despite its proclivity for borrowing riffs a mile a minute for each and every song, this feels like a solid four star album.

Albums from 2008 that Are, IMHO, Over-rated

BIRDS AND BUILDINGS Bantam to Behemoth

I have very mixed feelings about this album. It has musicianship and composition of the highest level. It has many, many familiar-yet-"forgotten" sounds magically and often surprisingly exhumed from the 1970's prog scene. It has highly complicated and often unpredictabily shifting song structures. It is mostly instrumental (and when vocals are used they are strangely treated and/or mixed into the music. It is synthesizing many many familiar music styles from YES to GENESIS to KING CRIMSON to Canterbury to CHICK COREA Spanish/Latino, even to Zeuhl (frenetic drumming) and MIKE OLDFIELD. But in the end it's just too busy, too frenetic, not engaging enough for me.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dan Britton / vocals, keyboards, guitars
- Brett D'Anon / guitars, bass
- Brian Falkowski / saxophones, flute, clarinet
- Malcolm McDuffie / drums
- Megan Wheatley / vocals (5)

1. "Birds Flying into Buildings" (9:12) opens the album at quite a pace and with a rather annoying choice for bass sound. While I like and appreciate the use of jazz sounds and instruments (here saxes, Farfisa organ, Fender Rhodes electric piano, hollow-bodied guitar picking), it's just overdone and too chaotic (for my enjoyment) here. Get off the amphetamines and slow down and I might enjoy it. (17/20)

2. "Terra Fire" (3:33) begins in a kind of minimalist, dreamy jazz way while the vocalist of the Dracula/Peter Cushing School sings about who knows what underneath the music. The music of this (luckily) brief song isn't even very engaging. And the bass is mixed and effected annoyingly. Kind of like some of CHRIS SQUIRE's worst recordings. (4/10)

3. "Tunguska" (6:33) is an impressive song with too many familiar sounds and styles to enumerate. Wow! What a trip! (9/10)

4. "Caution Congregates and Forms a Storm" (10:51) a song beginning with a very New Age Spanish flare (cue GOVI or BRUCE BECVAR) though, of course, it moves into many other directions--in a very "eclectic"-meets-symphonic way. A song with many pretty, though often ever-so-briefly explored themes and riffs. (17/20)

5. "Chronicle of the Invisible River of Stone" (9:18) is another WILLOWGLASS-revives-ANT PHILLIPS' / GENESIS song with some strangely mixed and less-than-enthused female vocals (sounding very much like CRYSTAL GAYLE or NICOLETTE LARSEN mixed with a little ANNETTE PEACOCK). The song proceeds very much like a STEVE HACKETT dream sequence--very unpredictable and often light-hearted musical shifts. A tough song to rate--like a lot of this album--so many moods and themes that it makes the song difficult to assess much less remember. (17.25/20)

6. "Yucatan 65: The Agitation of the Mass" (10:38) is a nice STEVE HOWE plays over a WILLOWGLASS Spanish tango. The range of instrumental sounds these guys drag up from out of the archives of early 70's music--both with keyboards and guitar effects--is absolutely amazing. In spite of this--and not unlike ANDREW MARSHALL's WILLOWGLASS orks--this one gets a little mired down in repetition and contrivance. (17.75/20)

7. Chakra Khan" (5:57) is a bit too frenetically paced for my tastes. It is very jazz-based though it has a very straightforward beat. The question here is: Just how fast does one need to go? While I appreciate speed, I'm not a Ferrari-Porsche guy. (5/10)

8. Battalion" (9:57) is, again, just too hyped up JOE JACKSON pseudo jazz for me. Let me out! I can't take it anymore! (4/20)

9. "Sunken City, Sunny Day" (3:23) is a very pretty, slow, mostly acoustic song with nearly unintelligible samples of a British man's recorded speech (Sounds like the dude BILL NELSON and DAVID SYLVIAN used speech samples of in many of their songs.) Interesting way to end such a dynamic album. (7/10)

Total Time 69:22

Overall, an impressive set of performances but of music(s) that I just don't feel attracted to.

76.79 on the Fish scales = 2.5 stars (rated up for musicianship, composition, and admirable revival of many old prog sounds).


Very abrasive, angular, frenetically-paced avant jazz from France.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aymeric Avice / trumpet
- Joachim Florent / double bass
- Francesco Pastacaldi / drums 

1. Tourlac (6:57)
2. Maximator (2:31)
3. ... (1:10)
4. Zakir (9:31)
5. ... (0:50)
6. Airbus (7:00)
7. Tranche (6:17)
8. Chasseurs En Transe (5:44)
9. ... (0:43)
10. Kasams (8:45)

Total Time 49:28

KARMAKANIC Who’s the Boss of the Factory? 

THE FLOWER KINGS' bass master Jonas Reingold's 'solo' group has had a few albums, but this is the first without the overbearing influence of TFK band-mate Roine Stolt. And, irony of ironies, the best song on the album is the one that Roine is credited on: "Two Blocks from the Edge" (9:54) (18/20). An oddly constructed song (rather like five or six pieces had been laying around and were decided to be sewn together into this one song), it does, have many high points, especially (dare I say it?!) the sax playing.

HOSTSONATEN Winterthrough 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Matteo Nahum / lead & rhythm guitars
- Alessandro Corvaglia / Mellotron, synths (Minimoog, Crumar, Roland, Yamaha), RMI keyboard
- Roberto Vigo / grand piano, Hammond, church organ, electric piano, String Ensemble, glockenspiel, horns, sound designer, mixing
- Edmondo Romano / soprano saxophone, clarinet, brass
- Fabio Zuffanti / bass, bass pedals, rhythm, 12-string & classical guitars, percussion, composer & producer
- Maurizio Di Tollo / drums, percussion

1. "Entering the Halls of Winter" (10:13) - (16.75/20)
2. Red Sky (3:43)
3. White Earth (1:20)
4. Snowstorm (3:18)
5. Over the Plain (2:04)
6. The Crystal Light (6:46)
7. Outside (2:18)
8. Ruins (2:17)
9. Through Winter's Air (1:42)
10. "Rainsuite" (i. Prelude, ii. New Year's Theme, iii. Winter's End, iv. Celebration / To the Open Fields...) (12:42) with several earworm melody lines in the various component parts, this is easily the best song on the album. (23/25)

Total Time 46:23

While I agree that the music of FABIO ZUFFANATTI is very pleasant and pastoral, it is my opinion that the engineering, mixing, production values on all Hostsonaten albums are rather second rate. Even the instrument choices are often over-the top cheesy--like they're really just making New Age elevator music.

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