Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The 2000s: Favorite Neo Prog Releases

 Not my favorite 'sub-genre' of progressive rock music, 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 patterns of artists from the past. However, as a subgenre, it has really flourished in the 21st Century.

These are my favorite Neo Prog studio albums from the 2000s:

1. SYLVAN Posthumous Silence (2006) *

SYLVAN's Posthumous Silence has garnered a lot of praise from some very worthy reviewers--and rightfully so. The album is a masterful, insightful, emotional, empathic and introspective theatric/ musical rendering of the toll that the psychological pressures of modern human society can exert on its individuals. Theatrically and emotionally, it is devastatingly powerful--especially the second half. There is, however, the question of categorization: Is it Neo Prog, Prog Metal, Heavy Prog, or even prog at all (i.e. is it really more straight rock, e.g. like TRIUMPH, RAINBOW or JOURNEY?) Whichever you may decide, I must here acknowledge that, as a vehicle for an amazing story, and as a vehicle for showcasing the extraordinary voice talents of Marco Glühmann, Sylvan have succeeded extraordinarily well.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Marco Glühmann / vocals
- Kay Söhl / guitar
- Volker Söhl / keyboards
- Sebastian Harnack / bass
- Matthias Harder / drums, loop programming, sound effects, conductor (1)
- Guido Bungenstock / additional guitar
- Stefanie Richter / cello
- Ensemble Vokalkolorit / chorus vocals
- Angela Reinhardt / choir conductor

1. "Eternity Ends" (2:03) (5/5)
2. (I) "Bequest Of Tears" (3:19) (9/10) 
3. "In Chains" (8:38) (17.25/20) 
4. (II) "Bitter Symphony" (1:20) (4.25/5) 
5. "Pane Of Truth" (9:06) (20/20) 
6. (III) "No Earthly Reason" (1:57) (4.5/5) 
7. "Forgotten Virtue" (6:43) (9/10) 
8. "The Colors Changed" (5:58) (9.5/10) 
9. (IV) "A Sad Sympathy" (1:42) (5/5) 
10. "Questions" (6:59) (12.75/15) 
11. "Answer To Life" (5:56) (9/10) 
12. (V) "Message From The Past" (3:00) (10/10) 
13. "The Last Embrace" (3:27) (10/10) 
14. "A Kind Of Eden" (4:55) (8.75/10)
15. "Posthumous Silence" (4:59) (10/10)

Total Time: 70:02

The highlights for me include: the gorgeous "Pane of Truth", despite being a little too long and drawn out); the psychologically powerful and disturbing, "Forgotten Virtue"; the beautiful and more progressive, "The Colours Changed"; the song that really sucks you into the disturbing world of mental illness, "Questions"; the classic rock anthem with a social-political message, "Answer to Life"; the theatric highpoint of the album, "The Last Embrace" (Wow!); and the final two songs which drive the two-sided message home, "A Kind of Eden" and "Posthumous Silence" (Wow! And, Whew! I'm worn out! Aren't you?).

94.0 on the Fish scales = A/five stars; a true masterpiece of progressive rock music and an essential addition to any music lover's collection. Marco Glühmann may be the most gifted male vocalist of the 21st Century. (I bet this story is amazing to experience live!) An album that simply deserves to be heard in full, start to finish, for it's brilliant storyline.

In Sudden Walks (2009) 
AISLES' second album, In Sudden Walks, is brilliant! It is symphonic, melodic, ethnic, emotional, well performed, well engineered and recorded, beautifully sung, and very fresh and new feeling--very much, I think, due to its ethnic influences. Three of the album's six songs clock in at around 10 minutes with a fourth at nearly 15, and all are of the highest caliber symphonic prog. Only the two shorts, "Revolution of Light" and "Smile of Tears"--fall short of the standard and feel set by the rest of the album.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Rodrigo Sepulveda / guitars
- Felipe Candia / drums
- Alejandro Melendez / keyboards
- German Vergara / guitars
- Luis Vergara / keyboards
- Felipe Gonzales / bass
- Sebastian Vergara / vocals

1. "Mariachi" (9:59) comes at you right out of the starting blocks, but then surprises with layers of subtle intricacies. Then, with the incorporation of Latin telenovela dialogue and acting, it's genius! I love the muted trumpet horns in the middle followed by the lounge themes. A real treat of musical theater. (18/20)

2. "Revolution Of Light" (4:41) (8/10)

3. "Summer Fall" (9:56) my second favorite of the four epics. (19/20)

4. "The Maiden" (9:28) a prog epic of such intricate delicacy as to belong in the Valhalla of Greatness. Great blend of traditional South American/Spanish feel with prog structures and forms. Incredible melodies. (20/20)

5. "Smile Of Tears" (4:00) very 1980s synth-dominated, like the music of their debut album. Not up to the incredible standards set by the four epics. (7.75/10)

6. "Hawaii" (14:58) opens with 90 seconds that sound like The Outlaws' "Green Grass and High Tides" before turning "radio muted" as in an old-fashioned song from 100 years ago. Then another 90 seconds later the music goes instrumental and becomes very dreamy, like sitting on the beach beneath a star-filled night sky while the surf softly flows onto the sandy shore. Definitely the jazzy side of prog. At the end of the ninth minute things pick up and merge into a beautiful Neo Prog palette before then going heavier at the 10-minute mark. By 11:00 we move back into a more spacey realm with guitars and harp contributing to the sprinkled sky of subtle beauty. Of all the great songs on this album, this one definitely has the most subtleties and delicacies. Truly peaceful and serene in an amazingly appropriate beach-like way. Well worth giving fifteen minutes of your undivided attention. (28/30)

Total Time: 53:02

I love "Mariachi"(9:59) (17/20)'s exploitation of the overt sexuality so typical of Latin American television. "Summer Fall" (9:56) (19/20) and "The Maiden" (9:30) (20/20) should, IMHO, be in everyone's playlist of classic prog epics. Their multi-layered instrumental interplay is so pervasive and playful, with so many twists and turns yet with equally as many returns to very catchy melodic hooks, while all the while threaded together by some great, almost mythic, lyrics sung in absolutely beautiful vocal performances. "Hawaii" (14:58) (27/30) is often pacifying, calming, dreamy, though it too has it's tempo and mood changes (in the second half). Overall, an incredibly enjoyable and engaging listening experience. Highly recommended!!

I quite agree with fellow reviewer Cesar Inca: this little gem was one that was sadly overlooked from among the 2009 harvest. But: It's not too late!

91.55 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of unique and melodic progressive rock music and an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. Get it NOW!

 Volume 7 (2007) 

Ever since I discovered this group with 2012's Espectro I have been in love. At the time my all-time favorite album from the classic "Canterbury Scene" was KHAN's Space Shanty and with Espectro I thought I was hearing a reincarnation of the one-off Hillage, Greenwood, Stewart & Peachy collaboration. Volume 7 only solidifies this feeling. While others note some kind of PINK FLOYD sound or feeling to them, I only hear the wonderful sounds of KHAN (and maybe a little CARAVAN). And yet, Brazil's Violeta De Outono, are a major force in and of themselves--and have been since the mid-1980s.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Fabio Golfetti / vocals, guitars, producer
- Fernando Cardoso / Hammond organ, synth, piano 
- Gabriel Costa / bass
- Cláudio Souza / drums

1. "Além do Sol" (5:20) introduces us to the nostalgic sound of this band with lightly picked arpeggios on the electric guitar, Hammond organ, bass and drums. The vocalist has a bit of a STEVE HILLAGE sound to his voice--which is lightly doused in reverb and mixed into the background (as it usually is). The first instrumental solo, taking place in the third minute, goes to the Hammond, followed by the HILLAGE-like guitar in the fourth minute. Neither are anything too extraordinary but both are so perfect in further enhancing the KHAN-like nostalgia feel. If KHAN had ever continued, this is what they would have sounded like. (9.5/10)

2. "Caravana" (4:34) opens with a mellow vocal section using a melody line familiar from Pink Floyd's "Breathe" before amping up into a full out Canterbury jam and then returning for the end to the opening section. Great organ and guitar play with solid support from the rhythm section. Great pre-digitized sound to the recording. (10/10)

3. "Broken Legs" (3:08) a fairly straightforward pop/rock song with some jazzy rhythm guitar work, 1960s sounding vocals and slide guitar work. Could be off of an early BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST or REO SPEEDWAGON album! (8/10)

4. "Eyes Like Butterflies" (6:02) opens with organ, picked electric guitar, flanged lead guitar strums, and slow-paced drumming. The bass almost has the melody lead--sometimes distracting me from the vocal. The chorus melody is gorgeous, if understated. Piano, organ, and Southern Rock-like lead guitar riffs pop out from time to time making this song a real pleasure from the standpoint of unpredictability. Really a cool composition--again one that could have come from an early 1970s blues rock band like the ALLMAN BROTHERS. (8.25/10)

5. "Em Cada Instante" (5:12) another standard-constructed rock jam with a great Canterburian jam in the second half. (8.5/10)

6. "Pequenos Seres Errantes" (7:49) opens with some sliding guitar notes floating, echoing around the soundscape in the vein of DAEVID ALLEN in the GONG pre-Radio Gnome Invisible era. As it evolves it continues to develop in the vein of a couple of the space jams from Camembert like "Fohat Digs Holes in Space" or "Tropical Fish" only with synths taking the place of the saxophones. Great song--one in which the drumming and bass also stand out for the fact that they are mixed farther into the foreground. Even the vocal sounds psychedelic-Daevid Allen-esque. Awesome song! (15/15)

7. "Ponto de Transição" (3:48) is another rather simply constructed melodic pop-rock song. The vocal has a bit of a melancholy feel to it (though I don't know its content since it's in Portuguese)--though nice melodies. Piano, bass, drums and guitar--slide for the ABACAB solo. (8.25/10)

8. "Fronteira" (10:19) is an awesome jazz-tinged Canterbury-styled epic with multiple instrumental jam sections featuring the HILLAGE-like guitar lead and all-pervasive presence of the almighty Hammond organ. Great drumming on this one. Some great fast-paced sections balanced by equally great slow, spacious and delicate sections. (20/20)

Total Time: 46:12

90.53 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and one of the finest Canterbury style albums of the 21st Century. These Brazilians have mastered a sound that is, for me, one of the most engaging of all of progressive rock. And, should you find yourself liking this album, then you simply must check out 2012's masterpiece, Espectro--my favorite album of that year.

Excellent Album Releases:

WOBBLER Afterglow (2009)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Tony Johannessen / vocals
- Morten Andreas Eriksen / electric & acoustic guitars
- Lars Fredrik Frøislie / piano, Mellotron, Hammond C3, synths (Minimoog, ARP Pro Soloist & Axxe, Solina String Ensemble, stylophone), Hohner clavinet, electric pianos (Rhodes MKII, Elkapiano 88, Roland EP-10), vocals, producer
- Kristian Karl Hultgren / acoustic & electric basses
- Martin Nordrum Kneppen / drums, percussion, crumhorn, recorders
- Sigrun Eng / cello
- Aage Moltke Schou / percussion, glockenspiel, vibes

1. "The Haywain" (0:55) (4.5/5)
2. "Imperial Winter White" (15:02) (27/30)
3. "Interlude" (2:32) (4.5/5)
4. "In Taberna" (13:10) (22.5/25)
5. "Armoury" (3:00) (9/10)

Total Time 34:39

A short (at 35 minutes it is actually fairly average for 1970s standards) collection of great modern melodic medieval prog rock in the tradition of FOCUS, JETHRO TULL, FRUUPP, GRYPHON, GENTLE GIANT, and ANGLAGARD ("The Haywain," "Interlude," and "Armory") and great keyboard-based symphonic prog in the vein of ELP, LE ORME, BANCO delle MUTUO SOCCORSO, PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI and NEXUS ("Imperial Winter White" and "In Taberna"). The musicianship is outstanding--worthy of superlatives throughout--and the medieval-based songs are certainly like a breath of fresh air. Definitely a band to follow!

90.0 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars of excellent prog compositions and performances rated down for brevity.

LA MASCHERA DI CERA Il Grande Labirinto (2003)

Coming one year after their excellent debut, Fabio Zuffaniti's side project produces another fine and true contribution to the RPI collection. The maestro has done quite a marvellous job of collecting the perfect cast with which to create his retro-sound.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alessandro Corvaglia / lead & backing vocals, prepared voice, Fx
- Agostino Macor / Mellotron, grand piano, prepared piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond, Minimoog, harpsichord, clavinet, ARP Odyssey, Oberheim OB12, VCS 3, Roland analogic synth, guitars
- Andrea Monetti / flute, tenor recorder, prepared flute, Fx
- Fabio Zuffanti / 4- & 5-string basses, Roland & Moog bass pedals, guitar, Oberheim OB12, Fx
- Marco Cavani / drums, orchestral timpani, percussion, tubular bells, congas, gong, bells, timbales
- Nick Le Rose / lead guitar
- Antonella Trovato / oboe & arrangements

1. "Il Viaggio Nell' Oceano Capovolto (parte 1)" (13:45) opens with reversed tracks before giving way to spacious bass & guitar harmonics. Singer and then organ join in, then Mellotron and piano. At 2:25 we finally get the full wall of sound, but then it is quickly extinguished to revert back to the soft, spacious stuff. The two extremes alternate back and forth for a while until we get a switch into a more pastoral, yet crazed section in the fifth minute. The tension builds and builds until there is a release at 5:45. A pretty though eerie section begins with male and female singer singing together until full band enters and Alessandro takes full lead. Nice power section. for the next four and a half minutes before a jazzy-psychedelic 'tron and weird jazzy guitar section takes over to almost the end. Interesting. (25.5/30)

2. "Il Grande Labirinto" (9:43) classy and classic but nothing really new here, more of a rehashing of old music from the 1970s--though done very well. (17.75/20)

3. "Il Canto Dell'inverno" (3:00) piano. Goblin-esque! (9/10)

4. "Ai Confini Del Mondo" (12:41) with the funk! Again, the 1970s are conjured up by the clavichord and Hammond, chunky bass and flute. I must admit that keyboardist Agostino Macor is quite talented. So is vocalist, Alessandro Corvaglia. The instrumental section beginning at the halfway point is my favorite--the whole second half is so much more to my liking. I totally respect the amazing job Fabio and crew have done to re-create the sounds and styles of the RPI masterpieces of the 1970s. Unfortunately, this style of 70s RPI was never my favorite. (21.75/25)

5. "Il Viaggio Nell' Oceano Capovolto (parte 2)" (22:35) This vocalist does SUCH an amazing job at bringing the power and theatricity of the legends of the Italian 70s! (42.5/45)

While I agree with my fellow reviewer MellotronStorm that "every song on this album is of the highest calibure [sp]", I must put my hand up at the lack of originality: all of these songs and styles--even the instruments and voices--are (I take it) intended to re-create specific sounds, songs, and styles of the Italian scene of progressive rock of the 1970s.

89.61 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; though a true masterpiece of retro-prog/prog homage with some of the best instrumental performances you'll ever hear, this is only not a masterpiece of original, modern progressive rock.

MAGENTA Seven (2004)

     Wow! This album moves me to the core with each and every listen. It's taken me four years to finally find a copy of it and I am so happy I did! I don't care if it's considered "Neo-prog" or that Magenta is considered a "Yes clone": IMO, there is no better 'neo' or 'clone' album out there. Okay, "Gluttony" sounds like it came from Drama or The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and, yes, "Lust" sounds like it came from 90120, but Magenta still manages to make new, fresh music from the stylings and sounds of the much revered gods of the 70s.
     The band as a whole stands very well, with all performers adding significantly to a collaboratively beautiful album, but their stellar achievement here rests on the talents of two extraordinary lead soloists: singer Christina Booth and lead guitarist Chris Fry.
     Many people like to compare Christina to the incomparable ANNIE HASLEM, but I see more similarities to KATE BUSH. The crystal clarity of Annie with the emotion and diversity of Kate (though, IMHO, not quite as good as either.)
     Then there is the astoundingly talented, enigmatic and creative 'chameleon' guitarist, Chris Fry. He is Steve Howe, he is Steve Hackett, he is Steve Hillage, he is Steve Rothery, he is he is John Mitchell, Paul Buchanan, he is Chet Atkins, he is Jamie West--Oram (THE FIXX), he is Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson (BIG COUNTRY), he is B.B. KING, he is CORRADO RUSTICI, he is Jeff Beck--he is so many guitarists all wrapped into one. No two solos throughout this album sound anything like any of the others. Superlatives, people, only superlatives!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Christina (Murphy) Booth / lead vocals
- Rob Reed / electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, piano, harpsichord, bass, recorders, backing vocals, engineer, mixer & producer
- Chris Fry / lead guitars
- Martin Rosser / guitar
- Martin Shellard / lead guitar (7)
- Tim Robinson / drums
- The Vienna Symphony Orchestra / strings
- Christian Phillips / "Cha Cha Cha" vocalization (1)

1. "Gluttony" (12:07) begins with a very familiar YES Relayer sound to it but, in fact, this is the song where the band break out from under the grips of neo-clonehood and offer something uniquely their own, something fresh (despite the occasional Steve Howe-like leads, Rick Wakeman-like organ and Chris Squire-like bass stylings.) The vocal harmonies and lead vocals are gorgeous and the use of 'harp' and The Vienna Symphony Strings is absolutely brilliant, integral, beautiful. And the diverse guitar and keyboard sounds and soli make it much more than just another Yes clone. (21/25)

2. "Envy" (10:10) is a fairly straightforward and easily accessible GENESIS-like song (And Then There Were Three era)--guitars, keys, bass pedals, Collins-like tom rolls--except for one small detail: THE INCREDIBLE VOICE OF CHRISTINA BOOTH! At 3:20 the song shifts to sound exactly like the background set up for Tony Banks' mellotron solo (the greatest mellotron solo in the history of music) from the second half of "Entangled" when--surprise, surprise!? Rick Wakeman's organ solo from the lull part of "Awaken" enters. Brilliant!! As hauntingly effective as the two source-originals! (20/20)

3. "Lust" (12:29) begins with the movie theme-song-like Vienna Strings intro before the band joins in for a couple of minutes of jamming in a YES/STYX sound and feel. At the 2:30 mark vocals are introduced in harmonic chords before the song settles into a straightforward rock backbeat with Christina singing and STYX-STARCASTLE-like keyboards playing around. The guitar solo sections accompanying the vocal "Ahh" harmonies are wonderful. At 4:45 everything switches to an astoundingly beautiful blues setting with Chris Fry playing one of the best ROY BUCHANAN solos I've ever heard. Wish it would go on forever! By 5:50 we're into a new "confess" section with repeating bouncy piano chords and regular breaks for Chris Fry soli. The use of orchestra in the next, instrumental, section beginning at 7:30 is wonderful. Guitar solo hear conjures up pure CARLOS SANTANA before giving way to a Moogy Klingman-like keyboard solo. Very exciting section! 9:40 begins a "take my soul/give me new life" section with recorders, tubular bells and piano, before giving way to orchestral support for a blistering guitar solo. Great emotion from Christina Booth's vocals leading into the outro! Wow! What a ride! (22.5/25)

4. " Greed" (13:55) starts off so beautifully, with harmonized vocal "Ahhs" striking an arpeggiated variety notes/chords, and, despite the joining of some Yes-like instruments (keys and guitars), the song really takes on a sound and feel quite unlike the prog Masters, though perhaps at times with some ANNIE HASLEM -like (post Renaissance) vocal similarities. In the mid-sections there are actually some similarities to THE CARPENTERS (in a good way), followed by some Yes Drama-era sounds and riffs, switching around the eight minute mark to total RENAISSANCE (piano & vocal). Genius Chris Fry then takes over for a flash or two over the continued Scheherezade-like music. With two minutes to go there is a switch: it sounds as if they're about to break into "Squonk" when instead a light BURT BACHARACH-like section ensues to end. Beautiful. (28.5/30)

5. "Anger" (5:13) is an amazing little semi-pop song. A heart-wrenching vocal song over 'harp' (?) and The Vienna Symphony Orchestra strings. Does anyone hear know "A Perfect Day" by the infinitely talented Miriam Stockley (ADIEMUS)? It was used as the theme song for the 1992 BBC animated series of the Beatrix Potter "Peter Rabbit" stories. "Anger" has some of the pastoral and emotional majesty Ms. Stockely's beautiful little song. (10/10)

6. "Pride" (12:31) sees a return to a very Yes-sounding song--sounding more from the Close to the Edge to Going for the One era. This is, IMO, the song on which the band is most clearly imitative of pure YES, and, except for the incredible instrumental section from 7:56 to 9:40 (Chris Fry is an absolute genius!!), the weakest song on the album. "There Must Be Some Misunderstanding"!! (Do you hear it??!!) (18/25)

7. "Sloth" (10:08) has a very theatric, RENAISSANCE sound and style. Even the topic ("Gitchee Manitou" or pre-European conquest America) is similar to the xenophilic fascinations of RENAISSANCE (or was it lyricist Betty Thatcher's?). Absotlutely amazing vocals throughout but the CLAIRE TOREY ("Great Gig in the Sky" from Dark Side of the Moon) finale is almost as powerful as Miss Torey's original! (18.75/20)

Total Time: 75:23

89.52 on the Fishscales = IMHO, this is indisputably a masterpiece of absolutely beautiful music with stunning performances and brilliant compositions. Neo-clones: Top this one!

MAGENTA Metamorphosis (2008)

In another obvious tribute to bands and music of the past, Magenta release this 2008 album with not one but two epics of over 20 minutes in length. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Christina (Murphy) Booth / lead vocals
- Rob Reed / keyboards, acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, bass, recorders, backing vocals, engineer, mixer & producer
- Chris Fry / lead guitar
- Martin Rosser / detuned guitar
- Troy Donockley / uilleann pipes
- Tim Robinson / drums
- Steff Rhys Williams / backing vocals
- Matthew Everett / violin
- Helina Rees / violin
- Louise Evans / viola
- Claudine Cassidy / cello
- Abigail Blackman / cello

The first, the album's opener, 1."The Ballad of Samuel Layne" (20:17) is a satisfying, upbeat, melodic, easy going piece that seems to be about the psycho-spiritual perspectives of a battlefield death of an average Joe soldier--maybe from World War I or even the Iraqi and Afghani conflicts. The "heavier" instrumental section that begins at the eight minute mark is quite good as are Christina Booth's fairly laid-back vocals throughout. The second half drags on a bit---especially the "we are all forsaken" section--but overall this is a very nice musical journey with plenty of interesting instrumental and compositional choices. (36/40) 

2. "Prekestolen" (3:36) flows straight out of the end of "Samuel Layne" with synth background, delicate guitar, bass, and keyboard sequenced percussion sounds. It has a bit of a Peter Gabriel "San Jacinto" feel to it--even when Christina joins in with her singing. Troy Donockely's Uilleann pipes take it into a slightly different direction, but the song ends with a still eery PG feel/sound. (8/10) 

3. "Metamorphosis" (23:15) opens so much like the Big Big Train 'heavy' sound that will become so familiar in the 2010s. The Yes and Genesis nods are frequent and flagrant--and yet Rob Reed's work is superb--and contains just enough of his own flair and flourish to not feel plagiaristic. (39.5/45)

4. "Blind Faith" (6:22) is probably my favorite song on the album. Nice atmospherics, alternating with heavy bridges and a melodic chorus--quite catchy hooks, too--not unlike the Massive Attack song "Pearldrops" used for the theme of the TV show "House." (10/10)

If you can get past the familiar feel and sound that is so common to the Neo Prog subgenre, this is quite a nice album.

89.05 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.  

PENDRAGON Pure (2008)

I may have found a new favorite 21st Century Neo Prog Album! I really like this new heavier side of a formerly-syrupy neo-symphonic fan favorite. While I appreciated the skill and sound of the previous incarnation of Pendragon, I never loved anything of theirs. For some reason I love this album! I think it's the fact that the meaningful, literate lyrics are delivered in such a powerful and accessible fashion--with great choruses that you want to sing along with. Also, I think that Nick Barrett has matured into one of the masters of the emotionally charged electric guitar solo--especially in his gift for drawing them out and maintaining and even increasing that emotional provocation.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Nick Barrett / vocals, guitars, keyboard programming, co-producer
- Clive Nolan / keyboards, backing vocals
- Peter Gee / bass guitar
- Scott Higham / drums, backing vocals
- Rod Crisp / harmonica (7)

1. "Indigo" (13:44) (29/30) 
2. "Eraserhead" (9:05) (16/20) 
3. "Comatose" (17:38) (30.375/35)
 - I - View From The Seashore (7:41) (11.625/15)
 - II - Space Cadet (4:02) (8.75/10)
 - III - Home and Dry (5:55) (10/10) 
4. "The Freak Show" (4:26) (8.5/10) 
5. "It's Only Me" (8:16) (18/20)

Total Time: 53:10

While some members of the Pendragon fan club have lamented their beloved Neo Prog band's transition from their previous symphonic romanticism to this heavier, more protracted style, I am loving this more than the noodling nostalgia of their old pre-Believe stuff. Plus, their modern lyrics--which are wonderfully accessible--seem to have much more social relevance.

88.59 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

FROST* Milliontown (2006)

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Mitchell / guitars, vocals
- John Boyes / guitars
- Jem Godfrey / keyboards, alto vocals, composer & producer
- John Jowitt / bass
- Andy Edwards / drums

1. "Hyperventilate" (7:31) as nearly perfect a modern prog song as it gets; one for the ages (15/15)
2. "No Me No You" (6:06) Jem trying to be Porcupine Tree or Opeth? Nothing new or inviting here.(7.5/10)
3. "Snowman" (3:55) The Beatles doing BBC TV soundtrack music. (8/10)
4. "The Other Me" (4:51) opens sounding like an XTC song from the 1980s before the PETER GABRIEL "The Tower that Ate People" wall of sound hits 30 seconds in. As a matter of fact, until the chorus, this song sounds very much like an alternate version of "Tower"--and then picks it right back up in the instrumental section. (8.5/10)
5. "Black Light Machine" (10:06) very nice baseline weave of sounds and patterns supports another standard vocal. John Mitchell's guitar brilliance really comes shining through on this one (his three extended soli are by far the highlights of the song). (17.25/20)
6. "Milliontown" (26:35) (46.5/50) :
- a) One Underground
- b) Abracadaver
- c) The Only Survivors
- d) Core
- e) The Chosen Few
- f) Two Underground

Total Time: 59:04

There are some real powerful, hopeful moments of pure prog bliss here as well as many elements of heavy and crossover prog. Definitely a group to watch.

88.48 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an awesome example of the direction modern prog and Neo Prog may take--and definitely an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

QUIDAM Alone Together (2007)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bartek Kossowicz / lead & backing vocals
- Maciek Meller / guitars, backing vocals, co-producer
- Zbyszek Florek / keyboards, co-producer
- Jacek Zasada / flutes
- Mariusz Ziółkowski / bass, backing vocals
- Maciek Wróblewski / drums, percussion
- Emila Nazaruk (Derkowska) / backing vocals (2)
- Piotr Nazaruk / xaphoon (1), zither (2)
- Piotr Rogóz / alto sax (6)

1. "Different" (3:16) okay start, great end. (8.5/10)

2. "Kinds Of Solitude At Night" (6:00) great melodic hooks, solid, mature construct and palette. A great song--a top three for me. Nice to hear founding vocalist Emila Derkowska's beautiful voice again, if only in background support. (9.25/10)

3. "Depicting Colours Of Emotions" (10:18) nice mellow song with many instances reminiscent of fellow Polish proggers, Collage. A near-perfect song. (19/20)

4. "They Are There To Remind Us" (7:49) trying to go heavier, the sound is decent, it just does work for me. These musicians are too talented to have to murk things up with power chords and heavy distortion. It's good when the acoustic instruments are allowed to shine--and when the electric guitar is let loose. (12.5/15)

5. "Of Illusions" (8:04) fast-moving and extremely tight throughout, just not the most interesting song; nothing stands out or grabs me. (12.25/15)

6. "We Lost" (8:26) a song that feels based on some MARILLION-like traditional folk sounds, melodies, structures. Once the vocal starts I'm reminded of the first couple LUNATIC SOUL albums (which are yet to arrive on the Prog scene). Nice jazziness develops as it progresses--becomes especialy noticeable with the chorus. Great instrumental passage follows the first chorus--with awesome drum and lead guitar work--in the middle of which the band doubles the tempo. Wow! It's off to the races we go! How these guys can stay so tight! It's amazing! (17.5/20)

7. "One Day We Find" (6:46) solid music to support a rather straightforward vocal performance. The guitar, flute, and keyboard contributions in the instrumental section are stellar. The chorus does eventually get into your head. (12.5/15)

8. "We Are Alone Together..." (8:20) piano intro, quickly joined by Bartek singing sensitively. Very nice melodies and chords. Other instruments join in for the second verse, but they do not disturb, change, or disrupt, merely add dimension to the existing piano weave. Beautiful! Exquisite ambient textures--even from the drums! Atmospheric prog perfection. (19.5/20)

9. "... But Strong Together" (4:25) launching straight into a power drive, then turning to a Rasta rhythm and Hammond solo, the vocal section is dull, but the bridges and instrumental support passages are impressive. (I especially love the flute play.) Certainly an upbeat way to end an album. (8.25/10)

Total time 63:24

This is an album that, more than anything, showcases the virtuosity of these musicians--the seemless unity and cohesion they display in all collaborative performances of some not-so simple compositions. Kudos to these veterans: Masters of their craft(s).

88.33 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; a solid prog album from some very seasoned veterans. Definitely an album that is worthy of addition to any prog lover's music collection.

MOTH VELLUM Moth Vellum 

Moth Vellum Moth Vellum is only my second exposure to a group whose sound is mostly neo-Yes group (Glass Hammer being the other). While I agree that "Whalehead" and "Salvo" sound very much like out of some outtakes from the The Yes Album to Going for the One era of Yes, it is a very much mellower Yes, and the remainder of the album presents Moth Vellum with its very own identity. Sure there are guitar sounds similar to Steve Howe, and a vocalist similar to Jon Anderson (though with far simpler and more accessible lyrics), but the keyboards and song structures are, IMO, much more akin to those of Tony Banks, and the vocalist sounds much more, to me, like Buggles'/Drama-era's Geoff Downes or Rush's Geddy Lee. Still, a very nice collection of songs very high standards. The drums and bass playing are rock solid if unspectacular throughout, the melodies and chord progressions are almost always very catchy and ear-pleasing. The soli are very rarely deserving of Yes-like superlatives yet do a fine job of entertaining and engaging.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Johannes Luley / guitars, backing vocals
- Tom Lynham / keyboards, percussion
- Ryan Downe / bass, lead vocals
- Matt Swindells / drums, lead vocals

1. "Let the Race Begin" (9:14) has a nice neo-symphonic prog feel to it, some Yes feel to it, but, largely establishing Moth Vellum as their own entity. Something about the lyric and vocal melody I don't like (this, despite the great multi-voice harmonies). Perhaps a bit too simple. (17.25/20)

2. "Whalehead" (7:13) has a 'mellow Yes' feel with a Rush-like vocal chorus. Steve Howe-like guitar playing must surely be the aim for the familiarity is unquestionable. Here, as with "Salvo" the vocal harmonies are most imitative of the above-mentioned 1972-76 period of Yes. Nice song. Special shout out to Ryan Downe for his excellent bass play. (12.5/15)

3. "Salvo" (13:34) begins a bit like a Genesis Nursery Cryme, or Selling England by the Pound song (and ends like "The Knife" or "Giant Hogweed"), though the first solo, given to the keys, is taking full advantage of all of the technological advances made in the 80s and 90s. The 3:15 mark marks the first time of many on this album in which I thought I was hearing a female lead vocalist. (Nice voice, Ryan!) Really a beautiful voice. (Same effect whenever Ryan sings slowly, as on "Against the Suns" and "Against the Suns (Reprise)"). The 'Yes Effect' really makes its presence known at about the 6:30 mark. From there one feels as if you're floating between grooves of The Yes Album and those of Close to the Edge. Really quite a pretty song--very engaging in a way that Yes sometimes . . . wasn't. (26/30)

4. "Against the Suns" (11:22) slows it down quite a bit. Melodies and chord progressions are quite simple--kind of a Wind and Wuthering feel to it. I like the vocals of this song quite a lot--as cheesy as they kind of are. The slow pace also allows for enough space in which to hear many of the subtleties that are often lost among fuller, more dynamic, power-chord crunching songs or song parts. A nice "Close to the Edge"-like quiet period beginning at the 4:00 minute mark precedes a Rush/Marillion vocal, Steve Howe guitar bridge to a beautifully melodic love-groove section right out of a great Gino Vanelli song. Enter a very cool and unexpected Wes Montgomery-Chris Squire conversation and then lead to fade with a Hackett-Rutherford-Banks foray. Great song. Very fresh even after 50 listens. (17.5/20)

5. My favorite song on the album, "Walk it Off" (11:23), I had trouble liking until I finally got the lyrics. Now I can get passed the song's ONLY flaw: the chorus. Sounding somewhat like our friends from Down Under, Unitopia, this song is very exciting with several melodic 'hooks' which get introduced separately, repeatedly, and even get layered harmonically at times. Very reminiscent of the winning tricks of Big Big Train, especially as used on their masterpiece, The Difference Machine. I also love the moments of almost campy Broadway musical theatrics (e.g. @ 7:45). But then we return to one of the great instrumental riffs--this time taken over from the keys by a very un-Howe-like fuzz/distorted guitar before fading out with the intro's guitar's harmonic arpeggios. (19.25/20)

6. "Against the Suns (Reprise)" (5:11) is a mellow "Afterglow" type of piece in which everybody seems to get to loosen up and let the last bits of expression fly from their fingertips in a kind of "late-night, it's time for bed," loosely structured jazz format. A great wind-down song. (9/10)

Total Time: 57:54

88.26 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a VERY pleasurable and OFT-repeated listen. I think it will stand up well over time--perhaps even better than a lot of Yes because of its simpler, more melodic sounds. Can't quite give it a five, but I sure want to!

AIRBAG Identity (2009)

What a nice surprise! While some reviewers are displeased at the sameness of this collection of songs, I am pleased by this consistency. IMHO, there are three pieces that I would nominate for that pantheon of greatness known as 'classics' in "Safe Like You," "Colours," and "Feeling Less." Plus, for DAVID GILMOUR lovers, you have not one but two amazing 'Gilmour' solo in "Steal My Soul." A collection of very pleasant, very listenable, and memorable Neo Prog songs.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Asle Tostrup / vocals, producer & mixing
- Bjørn Riis / guitars, vocals
- Jørgen Grüner-Hagen / keyboards
- Anders Hovdan / bass
- Joachim Slikker / drums
- Beate Schei / backing vocals (5)

1. "Prelude" (5:11) slow, soporific PINK FLOYD-ish instrumental. (8/10)
2. "No Escape" (5:45) Emotional. Reminds me of PINEAPPLE THIEF. Masterful support keyboard work. Love, love that atmospheric final minute. (8.25/10)
3. "Safe Like You" (7:58) The best song on the album and one that has haunted me and remained an all-time favorite ever since my first listen back in 2009. Heart-wrenching. Incredible keyboard layering and textures. (15/15)
4. "Steal My Soul" (8:02) for DAVID GILMOUR lovers, there are two amazing 'Gilmour' soli here. (12.5/15)
5. "Feeling Less" (5:05) great song, lyrics, performances, balance, and emotion. (9.25/10)
6. "Colours" (8:07) great slow-paced song that builds up to some amazingly emotional guitar-over-synths work in the final two minutes. (14/15)
7. "How I Wanna Be" (7:04) very eerily emotional opening. (13/15)
8. "Sounds That I Hear" (7:26) previews of the more dominant PINK FLOYD-like sound we'll hear on future Airbag releases. Very nice, subtle instrumental work--especially Hammond organ and strumming acoustic guitar. (12.5/15)

Total Time 54:38

While some reviewers are displeased at the sameness of this collection of songs, I am pleased by this consistency. The engaging quality of these songs is of a very high and consistent level. IMHO, there are three pieces that I would nominate for that pantheon of greatness known as 'classics' in "3. Safe Like You",  "6. Colours", and "5. Feeling Less". 
Overall I agree with other reviewers:  There are no "new" innovations or complicated structures or time signatures on Identity; instead, what you have is a collection of very pleasant, very listenable, and memorable neo-prog songs in the same melodic vein as classic PINK FLOYD.
     I would like to point out, however, that the supporting keyboard work by Jørgen Hagen is perhaps the finest I have ever heard on any album. It's subtle. It is never flashy--never draws attention to itself--yet I doubt whether the other artists' contributions--or the album as a whole--would have come off half as good as it did without his work. Amazing. What Ricard "Nuflux" Nettermalm is to 21st century drumming Jørgen Hagen is to the keyboard.

88.09 on the Fish scales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of Neo Prog and an excellent and enjoyable addition to any prog lover's music collection. Definitely one of my favorite albums of the year 2009!

P.S. Does anybody else out there think that the keyboard work on this album is masterful in the way it fills space, fills the background with such gorgeous yet subtle chords and washes?

Other Remarkable Neo Prog Album Releases:

THE FLOWER KINGS Unfold The Future (2002)

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.


Though well produced, the choice of instruments, blended styles, and structural shifts often leave me scratching my head (much in the same way TFK and Spock's Beard albums do). Also, Mark's sense of melody is not always one that I find attractive or engaging. The band's skills at their respective instruments is never in question and the engineering of the sound and song tapestries are quite nice. Plus, there's an overabundant influx of 70s & 80s pop music melodies and hooks that just feel ? stolen, or ? wrong. (Think Ambrosia, 10CC, Styx, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, and so many more.)

Disc 1 (49:33) 
1. "One Day" (2:27) (4.5/5) 
2. "The Garden" (22:35): (42/45) - The Garden Of Unearthly Delights - The Dragons Lair - Underground - Realization - The Way Back Home 
3. "Angeliqua" (9:50) (17.5/20) 
4. "Here I Am" (3:19) (8.5/10) 
5. "Amelia's Dream / I Wish I Could Fly" (6:51) (13/15) 
6. "Inside The Power" (4:31) (8.75/10)

Disc 2 (51:24) 
7. Journeys Friend (16:28) (24/30) - Journey's Friend - The End Of The Beginning - The Need - The Main Attraction - The Path 
8. "Give And Take" (5:09) (9/10) 
9. "When I'm Down" (5:41) (7.75/10) 
10. "This Life" (4:47) (8/10) 
11. "Love Never Ends" (3:48) (8.75/10) 
12. "So Far Away" (2:11) (4.25/5) 
13. "Don't Give Up Love" (7:49) (12.25/15) 
14. "321" (5:31) (8.75/10)

Total time 100:57

86.98 on the Fishscales B/four stars; an album replete with mixed signals and oddly blended sounds and styles. Still, there is one excellent prog epic here, the title song, which is well worth checking out.

KNIGHT AREA Under a New Sign (2007)

A really enjoyable album of Neo Prog--the kind that is filled with great warmth, great melodies, great drama, familiar sounds, and stellar production. The only detraction here is that there's really nothing new here, at times it even sounds a bit too familiar. Kind of like SPOCK'S BEARD.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mark Smit / lead & backing vocals, Fender Rhodes (5)
- Rinie Huigen / guitars, backing vocals
- Mark Vermeule / guitars
- Gerben Klazinga / keyboards, producer
- Joop Klazinga / flute, recorders
- Gijs Koopman / bass, Moog bass pedals
- Pieter van Hoorn / drums, percussion
- Ruben van Kruishum / cello (5)
- Bas Immerzeel / 12-string guitar (5), lead guitar (6) 

1. "A Different Man" (7:50) excellent drumming, guitar work, melodic hooks. Great Trick of the Tail- or Steve Hackett-like sound palette. Love the keyboard work and sounds but I don't like the way the Hammond is used. (13.25/15)

2. "Exit L.U.M.C." (7:41) great IQ Neo Prog sound palette with stellar structure and compositional elements. Vocal is the weak spot. Love the tones and soloing of the lead guitar and lead synth. (12.75/15)

3. "Mastermind" (6:17) different start! Turns heavy after distorted chunky bass intro--more like something from 707, Winger, or Loverboy--or SYLVAN. It's a solid if heavier song. Nice vocal performance. (8.25/10)

4. "Under a New Sign" (5:44) A-B-A-C-A-B instrumental with very pleasant melodic hooks in both the A (Hackett) and B (Genesis) sections. The organ-and-lead guitar C section is very cool--very nice soli. (8.75/10)

5. "Courteous Love" (7:08) the prettiest song on an album filled with very pretty music--a true prog ballad. I love the flute and cello work and the gorgeous instrumental section in the second half. Powerful use of bass pedals. (12.75/15)

6. "Dreamweaver" (7:38) No, not the Gary Numan song! This one is almost metal with those flourishes of bullet kick drums and heavy power chord riffs. Mark Smit does a pretty nice job imitating Eric Bloom on this very BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-like song. (12/15)

7. "A Different Man - Part ll" (13:07) opens with recorders (as did Part I) before being supplanted by two arpeggiated guitars. Then solo recorder and bass join in, solo flute providing the gorgeous melodies. Mellotron joins in for the second verse--and then "harpsichord" before "Tom Sawyer"-like full-band entrance over which Mark sings. Very nice set up and transition! I don't really like the next, slowed down section set up for the (two) electric guitars soloing--but I do like the second guitar's solos. The stepped down piano-led recapitulation of Part I's main melody in the fifth minute is so perfect! And the spacious section that follows is equally welcome--which perfectly sets up the burst of GENESIS-perfect bombast in the tenth minute: bass pedals, Hackett-like guitar melodies, lush layers of Mellotron, emphatic drumming. It's prog heaven! Put this with the album opening "Part I" and you'd have one monster epic--and one of the best long-playing prog epics of the Naughties. (23.25/25)

Total Time: 55:27

Album highlights: "A Different Man" (both Part I and Part II), "Courteous Love," and the wonderful instrumental, "Under a New Sign." The rest of the album is not far below these, hovering in the B/B- range, which makes for a beautiful listen, start to finish. This remains my favorite Knight Area album despite some good ones since.

86.67 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; a very solid Neo Prog album and one that is most worthy of any prog lover's music collection.

TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Forever (2001)

An album and band whose imitative/derivative sound had repelled me for years has finally earned it's respect and admiration.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Neal Morse / vocals, piano, Hammond, Minimoog, Fender Rhodes, synth, addit. guitars, mandolin
- Roine Stolt / electric & acoustic guitars, Mellotron, additional keyboards, percussion, vocals
- Pete Trewavas / bass, Taurus bass pedals, vocals
- Mike Portnoy / drums, vocals
- Chris Carmichael / violin, viola & cello (1,4)
- Keith Mears / saxophone (1)
- The "Elite" choir / backing vocals (1)

1. "Duel With The Devil" (26:43) : (42/50)
- i) Motherless Children - incredible opening two minutes, but then things become so derivative. At the end of the fifth minute the vocals begin. So much like ASIA. Fairly good melodies. Good performances though a bit loose and out-of-sync in places. (13/15)
- ii) Walk Away - at the seven minute mark this odd pseudo-acoustic, pseudo-folk JON ANDERSON-like song is inserted. It amps up for the chorus while trying to retain fairy melodies from its start before launching into a full-on prog assault of bombastic proportions--guitar power chords and Hammond on full display. (7.75/10)
- iii) Silence of the Night - at 11:35 everything slows down as if in a jazz porno dream. Talking wah-guitar soloing over wavering Fender Rhodes. Too sexy! And then add sax! Too much! And to come out of it with PINK FLOYD's "Eclipse" from Dark Side of the Moon is just too audacious, even impudent. (8.25/10)
- iv) You're Not Alone - at 15:53 we change channels and find ourselves bouncing along a 1970s pop hit by AMBROSIA or THE LITTLE RIVER BAND. (4/5)
- v) Almost Home - at 18:40 we have our final shift into a very TFK/YES-"Soon Oh Soon"-like steel pedal guitar solo before they launch into a Relayer-like instrumental passage. The vocal section that comes next is remarkable for it's "Elite" choir gospel-church-like backing vocals. This is wonderful! This is followed by a very TFK-familiar climax and finish. (9/10)

2. "Suite Charlotte Pike" (14:30) (29/35) = 82.86:
- i) If She Runs - opens with a fade in to a jam like something from a PRINCE concert. At the end of the second minute the band congeals into a rock tune to support a EAGLES/BEATLES-like vocal section. The finishing instrumental section is very BEATLES-ish (intentionally so). Odd with all of the band members' studio commentary included. (8.5/10) 
- ii) Mr. Wonderful - at 4:40 we move into more 1960s styles, mostly the BEACH BOYS, despite Roine Stolt's signature voice in the lead vocal spot. Pleasant. (4.25/5)
- iii) Lost and Found pt. 1 - a brief Richard Wright/PINK FLOYDian synth solo (4/5)
- iv) Temple of the Gods - at 8:25 we move into a more aggressive passage of BEATLES-medley mix. (3.5/5) 
- v) Motherless Children / If She Runs (reprise) - at 10:55 we move into a mellow reprise of the Motherless Children theme and lyrics from the previous song. Nice guitar solo in the thirteenth minute preceding the return to the opening theme of "If She Runs." As is typical of the Stolt projects, the finale is the best part. (8.75/10)

3. "Bridge Across Forever" (5:33) Neal and piano. (8.5/10)

4. "Stranger In Your Soul" (26:05) (50.5/55):
- i) Sleeping Wide Awake - cheap synth strings intro precedes "Watcher of the Skies"-like entrance and beginning before Yes bass and ASIA-like synth bring us up and into the organ-dominated motif that precedes the vocals. The vocal section--which is shared alternately and, later, collectively, by Neal and at least two other members--is very nice: simple music that supports the nice melodies and stylings--until (8.75/10)
- ii) Hanging in the Balance - the jarring leap into thickness and heaviness at the six minute mark. This section is well constructed--though the drums feel out of sync with the sound of the rest of the music. (8.5/10)
- iii) Lost and Found pt. 2 - around 9:45 we move into this Southern rock-feeling passage, which decays into a pleasant little interlude of BEATLES-like pastoral bliss before jumping into a full-powered, bass-thumping instrumental section for an incredible solo from guitarist Roine Stolt. Weird then to go back to the BUGGLES-like vocal section. (8.75/10)
- iv) Awakening the Stranger - at 12:35 we descend into the crystalline waters piano with dreamy guitar, synth, and vocal incidentals in the background. At 14:15 this pretty section evolves into a very pleasant plaintive vocal performance from Neal over his piano. Great melodies, great nuanced support from the others. (10/10)
- v) Slide - This then moves seemlessly and magically into a multi-layered "strings" passage. These two passages make up the best "song" I've ever heard from TMPTE. (5/5)
- vi) Stranger In Your Soul - at 17:40 we slide into a new section in which there is a very impressive display of organ, bass, and drum mastery right off the bat. A PORCUPINE TREE-like vocal over jazzy drums and piano interrupts this temporarily, but the heavy organ-bass-drums motif reappears here and there to remind us that it's all part of the same song--and then by the 20-minute mark we are fully returned to it for a prolonged instrumental passage. Solos by synths, guitar, bass proceed to fill the next few minutes. At the end of the 22nd minute we return to the vocal motif, only with a little more power and thickness behind Neal's voice. (9.5/10)

Total Time 72:51

It sounds and feels as if the boys had a lot of fun playing the music on this record, but it also feels as if it was fairly easy to put together these songs--the motifs and styles of which have so many familiar predecessors and models.

86.67 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice addition to any prog lover's music collection--but definitely worth it if only to hear the wonderful epic, "Stranger In Your Soul." 

ALBION Wabiac Cienie (2005)

A band I've heard about for a long time but have never taken the time to really check out--even when guitarist Jerzy Antczak began his solo career in 2014 with the wonderful Ego, Georgius.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Katarzyna Sobkowicz-Malec / vocals, Classical guitar
- Jurek Antczak / guitars
- Krzysztof Malec / keyboards
- Paweł Konieczny / bass
- Rafał Paszcz / drums

1. "Motyl" (6:30) after an impressive 90 second opening, things slow down to piano and synth washes supporting the entrance of singer Katarzyna Sobkowicz-Malec. Overall, the music and approach feel quite similar to that of 1995 countrymates QUIDAM--though perhaps a bit heavier, more COLLAGE-like. I am impressed with the composure the band is showing--as if they have all the time in the world in which to unveil their tricks. An excellent song--with no fluff! (9.5/10) 

2. "Szary" (4:49) an interesting song with an engaging rhythm track at its core. Reminds me of the French band CHILDREN IN PARADISE. (8.25/10) 

3. "Bieg po tęczy" (11:15) a long instrumental that opens with churning/boiling cauldron industrial sounds. At the one minute mark the band bursts forward into a fairly plodding (and spacious) four chord progression before going ART OF NOISE just before the two minute mark. Baby gurgling over washing synth sounds precede the entrance of Katarazyna's classical guitar. Nice. At 3:15 the band returns with a motif that is familiar from ALAN PARSONS PROJECT's "Fall of the House of Usher" suite. Nice lead guitar work in the fifth minute. Keys get their turn in the sixth and seventh. Nice sound, engaging if not very exciting sound palette. Spacey pause at the 7:00 mark leads to eerie pigeon take-off sounds before moving into a pretty section around 8:20. The music builds, thickens, from there, to a satisfying if unspectacular finish. (17.5/20) 

6. "Yuppie" (4:59) nice engaging guitar melody and synth chord progression to engage the listener during the opening 45 seconds. Then Katarzyna enters, singing in Polish with some insistence. Synth solo, followed by excellent extended guitar solo, before the music thins to make way for Katarzyna's return--this time singing in a gentler, more sensitive, almost Mediterranean style.  Nice song though nothing extraordinary. (8.75/10)

5. "Inny" (5:19) guitar harmonics. Heavy bass chord. Drums. Synth "voice" washes. Katarzyna. A formula for a nice wistful ballad. Very cohesively constructed. The only thing lacking is the "big hook." Katarzyna has a very solid, very confident and versatile voice. (9/10)

6. "Wolna (7:59) piano and synth "voice" support establish the melody line in the forty second opening. Then the full band, working to fill more of the lower end, enters to expand on Krzysztof's work--until it's time for singing, then every dials back or cuts out for Katarzyna to tell us what this is about. The instrumental section that follows this first verse is thick, like a PINK FLOYD set up for a Gilmour solo--which is exactly what proceeds: another great Jerzy Antczak solo. At 3:33 we open up again for Katarzyna's singing. The 4:30 transition into heavier, thicker territory is quite magical--with layers of voices assisting Katya. Then we move into a lovely little carpeting of Richard Wright-like Fender Rhodes play, which morphs into a little "Tubular Bells" before the full band bounces back in with its thick Neo Prog support for the final minute. Nice. (13.5/15)

7. "Cienie (8:10) a very slow, gentle soundscape opens this--and continues into the first verse of Katarzyna's singing. The, at 2:15 a horrible sounding acoustic guitar enters strumming away in  a repeating descending four chord progression. Luckily, this section ends and we're back to the "Mercy Street"-like section for Katarzyna to sing over again. As the tension slowly builds, it's good: the horrible strumming acoustic guitar is replaced by Jerzy's electric guitar and then his soaring soloing. Unfortunately, for me this is the weakest song on the album. (11.5/15)

Total Time: 49:01

They have all the sounds, all the chops, all the tricks, mature compositions, and great engineering, they just lack that little extra oomph! or hook to take us over the top. 

86.67 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you're into  engaging, well-composed Neo Prog. 

Other Albums Worthy of Recognition:

Exist (2008)

The Neo Prog veterans from Poland are back with a new one--and it's good (if at times derivative).

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 at his most insistent. He is definitely the most talented and unique contributor to the band's music.

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.

PALLAS The Cross & The Crucible (2001)

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.

WILLOWGLASS Willowglass (2005)

The eponymous debut release from Andrew Marshall calling his project "Willlowglass" gives one an exciting glimpse into an artist who seems to be able to bridge the beloved prog music of Genesis, Anthony Philips, Camel, and even King Crimson & Nektar in the early-to-mid-1970s.

1. "Peace" (1:26) (3.75/5)

2. "Remembering" (8:34) some sublime, if unpolished music and ear-worm riffs. (17.5/20)

3. "Garden" (8:15) gorgeous Neo Prog in the true 12-string GENESIS format. Incredible melodies and ANTHONY PHILLIPS-like pastoral textures. Easily the best song on the album--the only one on which all cylinders are firing in sync--and, if this were any indication of things to come, a very exciting portent. One of my favorite songs of 2005. (20/20)

4. "Interlude No. 1" (1:36) a very simple STEVE HACKETT-esque classical guitar solo. (4.25/5)

5. "Tower of the King's Daughter" (7:10) slow bouncing electric piano turns 'tron-o-progic with flute and picked acoustic guitars and active, melodic electric bass. Ramped up section in the middle is straight out of a GENESIS playbook. Nice sounds (great sound palette) and melodies, but a little too derivative. Impressive Steve Hackett electric guitar lead in the final third! (12.25/15)

6. "Summer's Lease" (0:18)

7. "Into the Chase" (4:29) good Steve Hackett-like piece, but nothing terribly new here. Nice guitar sounds and melodies that are detracted by simplistic bass lines. (8/10)

8. "A Blinding Light" (6:36) too drawn out with melodies that fail to engage. The formula is beginning to wear on the straight-thru listener. Interesting solo organ (w/ chunky bass) in middle, and exciting Hackett-like solos in the final section. (8.25/10)

9. "Waking the Angels" (5:45) odd rhythm track and 'tron and piano use make this one almost like a real Steve Hackett dud! (7.25/10)

10. "The End" (1:46) Echoplex guitar and bass? Interesting. (4/5)

Total Time 45:55

The highs on this disc are extremely high (e.g., the ends of "A Blinding Light," "Waking the Angels," some sections of "Remembering," and the whole of "Garden"), but the brief interludes ("Peace," "Interlude No. 1," "Into the Chase," and "The End") are a bit too simple while "Into the Chase" and "Tower of the King's Daughter" simply fail to draw one in. Plus there's something just not right about the drumming--as if it is too simple and reserved, just fill. Despite all of my Steve Hackett comparisons, I always think of this album and it's stylistic palette as more akin to a ANTHONY PHILLIPS effort.

86.25 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a very nice first effort with some incredible soundscapes. A wonderful preview of things to come. A wonderful preview of things to come. Just look for the much more mature second release, Book of Hours (2008). Still, it's worth a listen--maybe even owning--but, essential or excellent addition? Perhaps not.

THE WATCH Ghost (2001)

More excellently composed, performed, and engineered GENESIS-imitative music from these very serious Italian artists.

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) an excellent attempt at a variation of Foxtrot-era "Watcher" Genesis. (17.5/20)

2. "The Ghost and the Teenager" (8:38) perfect duplication of Genesis. (18/20)

3. "Heroes" (9:27) would be an instant Genesis classic. Love the ANT PHILLIPS-like outro/interlude. (18.25/20)

4. "Moving Red" (6:34) opens with a burst like "Get 'em Out By Friday" or one of the segments of "Supper's Ready." Impressive! (9/10)

5. "Riding the Elephant" (3:38) some "new," non-Genesis sounds and stylings! An example of "What if Peter Gabriel had reunited with Tony, Mike, and Phil for some original material in the 1980s. Interesting. (9/10)

6. "...and the Winner is..." (10:11) more "new" sounds with modern recording techniques used for recording "plug in" acoustic guitars and 1990s computer synth sounds in a "Supper's Ready" opening section-like opening. IT turns out that this is a very closely imitative, mini- , slowed-down, and modernized version of "Supper's Ready." The only real disappointment on the album. (16.5/20)

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.

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.

CIRRUS BAY A Step into Elsewhere (2009)

I've just come into full awareness of this wonderful album of beautiful, uplifing music. As a real lover of female vocalists--and RENAISSANCE/ANNIE HASLAM in particular--this group comes as quite a refreshing reward. IONA, MOSTLY AUTUMN, THE GATHERING, PURE REASON REVOLUTION, and THE REASONING have all been teases. Hello world! This is CIRRUS BAY! Like previous reviewers, this group's excellent song structures and instrumentation choices remind me of a GENESIS-RENAISSANCE mix--or, rather, what might have been if Annie had been invited to step in once Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett had left Genesis. The song structures are very similar to the Wind and Wuthering and And Then There Were Three era--which produced beautiful music that was then diminished (IMO) by weak-to-weird-to-downright-awful lyrics. The songs (aside from the AYREON-sounding "Walking in Shadows") sound like collaborations and performances from TONY BANKS and MIKE RUTHERFORD.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bill Gillham / guitar, keyboards, mandolin, composer, co-producer
- Anisha Gillham / vocals
- Sharra Acle (Gillham) / vocals 
- Mark Blasco / drums, bass, co-producer

1. "Serenity in a Nutshell" (13:11) The album begins with its best song, a near flawless epic. Crashing in with thick waves of heavy mellotron and bass pedals, the song suddenly transitions into a much more pastoral piece with acoustic guitar arppegios and recorder, before our stellar vocalist enters. And surprise: There are two lovely voices harmonizing with each other (I wish they'd do more of this on the rest of the album for this is in fact one of the elements that makes this song stand so much higher above the others?as great as they are!) so many key and chord and tempo changes that all work--they all serve to suck the listener into prog bliss--like Ulysses strapped to the mast listening to the song of the Sirens. This may be the song they were singing/playing!!! I love the multiple guitar strumming and alternating acoustic and electric leads combining RENAISSANCE's "Can You Hear Me?" and end of "Cinema Show" between the 5:28 and 7:25 marks. Amazing! Then those amazing vocal harmonies! A masterpiece of progressive rock music for all times! (28.5/30)

2. "Out of the Cold" (5:48) begins with a definite Mike Rutherford electric guitar solo over some of Tony's finest chord progressions and organ playing. The vocals enter during a particularly straightforward "poppy" section before a Lamb Lies Down on Broadway organ bridge at the 2:15 mark brings me back to prog heaven. Love this organ sound! The Lamb similarities continue with the song's progression into a 30-second instrumental section beginning at the 3:10 mark. (Too bad it's not Phil's drumming! He was amazing!) Love the slide guitar and 12-string work--and mandolin strumming--just before the slowed-down outro. (8/10)

3. "The Exposure of Truth" (9:23) took the longest for me to like because of the many chord, key and tempo changes. Also, the vocals on this one felt a little less "stable"--i.e. because they are so isolated above the music there are times when my ear can't help but question her pitch accuracy. But then, I remember sometimes wondering the same thing about Annie H. in the earlier (less treated/filtered) Renaissance days. A great song of which Tony Banks should be quite proud! I love the (oh-so-rare) upbeat, "happy" feel of this (and many of this album's) song(s). (16/20)

4. "Walking in Shadows" (5:58) sounds so ARJEN LUCASSEN! Maybe the 'best song he never wrote'! An awesome song whose heaviness gives the album a little bit better 'fullness' or 'balance.' (8/10)

5. "The Secret Country" (3:33) sounds to me more like a 1970's collaboration between ANTHONY PHILLIPS (Private Parts and Pieces "Tibetan Yak Music") and RICK WAKEMAN (Six Wives of Henry VIII). Great song except for the odd sounding 'lonely' electric guitar solo near the 2:45 mark. (8/10)

6. "Zenobia" (16:47) is definitely "One for the Vine, Part Two." And what a beautiful song was the first! This one does not shame or disparage the first. Some actual heart-wrenching chord changes--so beautiful! Love the single strums of the flanged acoustic guitar at the 5:40 mark, followed by the nylon string solo over marching piano and snare 6:35 to 7:20. Then: Woah! Steve Hackett tries to make an appearance, only to find himself confronted by a brief duel with Tony at the 7:20 mark--which is then interrupted by a brief vocal before everyone backs into true GENESIS support of a classic HACKETT solo at the from the 8:10 to 9:12 marks. 9:42 sees Tony's turn--AAAHHHH! I'm in GENESIS heaven! And with that angelic yet-sultry voice in the mix as well! I've died and gone to heaven! Not as much a fan of the saloon piano in the fourteenth minute, but the finale saves the day as it escalates into a truly Genesis-like melodramatic ending. (30.5/35)

Total Time 54:40

I'm going to give this album five stars for its consistent level of beauty and for the gift of finally merging the sounds and styles of my two favorite 70s bands. "Step into Elsewhere" is so right! I will not hesitate to say that this is truly a masterpiece of Neo-Prog. (I apologize to Bill, Anisha, Sharra, Mark and Alex for all of the GENESIS and RENAISSANCE eferences/credits. Marvelous work you guys! More, please. LOTS more!)


Re-evaluation October, 2010:

Upon repeated listenings over the last few months, I have decided that my initial exuberance was a little over blown. The album lacks musically--in depth, variety, and complexity. As Tarcisio says, the band will be interesting to follow to see how they 'mature.' Great sound, great instrumental choices, great music, great vocalist; their compositional skill needs more development--more risk-taking (better drumming and more sophisticated rhythmic choices). Adjusted down to four stars. 83.33 on the Fishscales.

May, 2021 re-evaluation: 

There's a lot more thought and meat in these fairly simple compositions than I was previously giving credit--some fine performances, constructs, and production.

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

SATELLITE Into the Night (2007)

The third of a trilogy of albums originally intended as a solo outlet for former COLLAGE drummer Wojtek Szadkowski, SATELLITE has taken on a life of its own--and a valid place in the pantheon of Neo Prog artists. Hearing the powerful performances of former COLLAGE vocalist Robert Amirian, former COLLAGE keyboardist, Krzysiek Palczewski are always worth giving a COLLAGE/SATELLITE album a chance. This one is no exception. Interesting that it's the work of Satellite mastermind, drummer Wojtek Szadkowski, that is really the weak spot of this music. No matter, still a pretty decent album of Heavy or maybe even somewhat Neo Prog.

1. "Into The Night" (6:54) (13.5/15) 
2. "Dreams" (13:48) too sprawling and loosely threaded together to warrant high marks. Even the highly touted final four minutes is flawed in its drawn out simplicity. (24.5/30) 
3. "Downtown Skyline" (6:16) (8.5/10) 
4. "Lights" (2:15) (/5)
5. "Don't Walk In Silence" (7:36) great melodic guitar soloing. (13.5/15) 
6. "Heaven Can Wait" (9:04) a metallic opening that I'm captivated by turns into something disappointing in its simplicity and predictability. One of the poorer vocal arrangements and integrations I've ever heard from the Satellite world. Nice guitar shredding before the strummed acoustic guitar- and electric piano-based middle passage. (17/20) 
7. "Forgiven And Forgotten" (6:07) (/15)

Total time 42:00

The opener, title song, "Into the Night" shows us right off the bat that this is going to be an enjoyable listen to some beautiful, powerful music. The excellent bass playing of Jarek Michalski is well worth noting, as is the guitar work of Sarhan Kubeiski (though he is no MIREK GIL). The sound production is quite a step up from the band's 2003 debut.

Album highlights: 1. "Into the Night (6:34) (9/10);" 3. "Downtown Skyline" (6:15) (8.5/10), and; 5. "Don't Walk Away In Silence" (7:40) (13.5/15).

85.56 on the Fishscales = B/4 stars; a good, solid album but nothing Earth-shattering to write home about.

LA MASCHERA DI CERA La Maschera di Cera (2002)

A side project of Fabio Zuffanti, in my opinion, La Maschera di Cera has produced the best music Zuffanti has made. The songs are lushly created with lots of classically-influenced forms and structures using the sounds and instruments the electronic age has given us. Keyboard artist Agostino Macor is a true master of his trade, incorporating piano, Mellotron, organ, Moog, harpsicord, VCS 3, and "prepared piano" like a junior Wakeman or Banks. Vocalists Alessandro Corvaglia and Nadia Girardi do a wonderful job while not being mixed too far forward so as to dominate the music. Most of the time there is so much going on, so many layers in the songs' tapestries, that repeated listens reveal many, many nuances that are difficult to pick up upon first or cursory listens. This is good: the weaves are all beautifully orchestrated; I am never put off or overwhelmed by them. If there are weaknesses to the album they are 1) in the odd mix of individually-recorded sounds (a problem I find common with other Zuffanti projects) and 2) in the bass play: it's either cheezie pseudo-jazzy or over-the-top loud, distorted, and chunky.

1. "La maschera di Cera" (19:21) is a six-part suite introducing the band and its old-instrument symphonic approach to prog. Italian, retro/neo, but really classic RPI. At 1:30 a gentle piano and acoustic guitar section supports Alessandro's gentle, passionate vocal. At the four minute mark a chunky bass and organ-led upbeat psychedelic section ensues (kind of like a STEPPENWOLF/ BLOOD, SWEAT & Tears sound) over which synthesizer and flute trade solos. Alessandro and piano get into the mix in the seventh minute. At 7:12 we fall into a little musical 'waiting room' in which the world seems at a standstill. At 8:16 strummed guitar and organ lead us back into a forward direction. Synthesizer and piano mirror their pretty playing while Alessandro begins a new section, new theme of his story. Flutes and synth posit some nice soli in this section. Then, at the 12 minute mark, things slow and soften again before Alessandro's big voice leads us into a heavier, more dynamic section--which becomes taken over by the repetition of a plodding distorted bass riff. Then at 13:54 another STEPPENWOLF kind of section with organ and flute screaming away takes us away. The shifts toward softer, gentler melody at the end is predictable and a little anti-climactic. The song is good, polished and straightforward, but nothing very extraordinary. (32/40)

2. "Del mio mondo che crolla" (6:00) opens with some very ehavy, distorted bass and clear, precise drumming before flutes and keys join in. The first keyboard soli are from "older" keyboard sounds (Casiotone?). The instrumentalists each sound like they are in their own recording studio, in their own worlds. Finally at the two minute mark things gel before a pause after which Alessio and Hammond organ take over. The slight shift back at 4:40 brings the music into solo-support mode--in which several brief soli take their turns. If I have one serious complaint with this song it's with the way the drums were recorded and mixed so that they feel totally 'isolated' from the rest of the song. They feel compressed or digitized while the rest feel 70s analog. Weird. Otherwise it's a cool little song. (9/10)

3. "Del mio abisso e del vuoto" (9:41) opens with some flute being supported by some drums and cheezy bass playing. Piano and guitar join in to continue the soft jazzy flow. Once Alessandro's voice joins in it is melodic but a little too gritty-scratchy-gravelly to add beauty to this beautiful music. Nadia Girardi's layers of floating, soaring wordless vocals in the seventh minute are an awesome touch. Kind of a cross between Clare Torey's "Great Gig in the Sky" and Irene Pappas' contributions to APHRODITE'S CHILD's 666. The final two minutes have some great Mellotron, flute, bass and vocal cohesion--maybe the best on the album--before chaos and cacophony become the ending of choice. Cool song. (18/20)

4. "Del mio volo" (7:07) opens as a gentle ballad with flute playing counterpoint to Alessandro's vocal. In the second minute a synth gets a chance to solo before the second verse takes over. The Mellotron play really hits some great chords at the beginning of the fourth minute and proceeds to play nicely beneath the ensuing longer synth solo. At 4:15 all instruments save for a gently picked acoustic guitar drop out while Alessandro slowly sings an emotional passage. Then an organ-led full band passage jumps into the fore, playing out a Dylan-esque dirge to the end. Nice song. (13.5/15)

The music and instrumentation are actually rather simple but effective--no wasted notes or noises and plenty of great melodies and chord progressions.

85.29 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contribution to the world of progressive rock music.

SATELLITE A Street Between Sunrise and Sunset (2003)

One of the better Neo-Prog albums I've heard in that Collage/Satellite's brand of Neo-Prog is highly original, highly melodic, and contains the wonderful guitar work of maestro Mirek GIL. In my humble opinion, Mr. Gil surpasses the emotional impact of the guitar player he most emulates--Mr. Steve HACKETT. Gil just takes it to another level--almost every time his solo takes the stage, not just here and there--which is astounding. Keys, drums and bass play here are great, though the sound is often of that 90s period that COLLAGE came out of, but the compositions here are great, and the vocals of Robert AMIRIAN are wonderful--really top notch! And I love the addition of the violin, but I live to hear Mirek GIL's screaming guitar. Too bad Mirek left after this one. At least he's gone on to play in other bands.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Robert Amirian / vocals
- Sarhan Kubeisi / electric (2-6) & acoustic (7) guitars
- Mirek Gil / guitars (1, 2, 6-9)
- Darek Lisowki / keyboards, arrangements
- Krzysiek Palczewski / keyboards (5, 8), arrangements, mixing & co-producer
- Piotr Żaczek / bass guitar (1-3, 6, 8)
- Przemek Zawadzki / bass guitar (4, 5, 7, 9)
- Wojtek Szadkowski / drums, arrangements & co-producer
- Maciek Meller / electric (2, 8) & acoustic (2) guitars
- Michał Kirmuć / drum programming (5)
- Zbigniew Bieniak / backing vocals (2), arrangements (2, 7)

1. "The Evening Wind" (12:45) (20.5/25)
2. "On The Run" (14:51) (27/30)
3. "Midnight Snow" (4:59) (7.75/10)
4. "No Disgrace" (5:34) (8.75/10)
5. "Not Afraid" (3:55) (10/10)
6. "Now" (10:13) (16/20)
7. "Fight" (4:29) (8.25/10)
8. "A Street Between Sunrise & Sunset" (11:18) (16/20)
9. "Children" (3:56) (8/10)

Total time: 72:00

84.3 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you're a Neo Prog lover.

SYLVAN Force of Gravity (2009)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Marco Glühmann / vocals
- Jan Petersen / guitars
- Volker Söhl / keyboards
- Sebastian Harnack / bass
- Matthias Harder / drums
- Miriam Schell / vocals (7)
- Ann-Katrin Eisold / cello (3,5,7,11)
- Joachim Kelber / viola (3,5,7,11)
- Ida Fan / violin (3,5,7,11)
- Maike Mader / violin (3,5,7,11)

1. Force of Gravity (5:12)
2. Follow Me (4:39)
3. Isle in Me (6:00)
4. Embedded (3:30)
5. Turn of the Tide (6:53)
6. From the Silence (5:43) (8/10)
7. "Midnight Sun" (5:12) Marco has a gorgeous vocal duet with Miriam Schell. (9/10)
8. King Porn (7:31)
9. Episode 609 (6:00) (8/10)
10. God of Rubbish (4:01) (8/10)
11. "Vapour Trail" (14:30) The greatest song Marco and the band have ever done. (30/30)

Total Time 69:11

What happened? Why did Marco and friends decide to go heavier? The abrasive guitar power chords and over-effected theatric percussion and horrible drum sound, in my opinion, takes away from the vocal talents of uber-talented front man Marco Glühmann. This album is such a disappointment after such wonderful progress from Artificial Paradise through Posthumous Silence and its live album/DVD. Even the production quality on this album is inconsistent from song to song (which explains how a masterpiece like "Vapour Trail" can exist among the rest of this stuff). It's just wrong! Luckily, the album kind of evens out over the course of its 70 minutes--and it does have the amazing epic, "Vapour Trail."

THE QUIET EARTH ORCHESTRA The Quiet Earth Orchestra (2008)

Wonderful Neo Prog (due to the vintage 90s sounds and production) from a 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 Ludi'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. (11.25/15)

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. (15/15)

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. (12.375/15)

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. (13.5/15)

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)

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

MOONGARDEN Round Midnight (2003)

Often dissed by the prog community, I find Moongarden's contributions quite relevant to the prog revival, even if they are more NeoProg than expansionist. The final Moongarden album with singer Luca Palleschi in the lead position.

1. "Round Midnight" (7:48) one of my favorite prog rockers from 2003--great tension, shifts, musicianship, and melodies. (14/15)

2. "Wounded" (7:25) acoustic guitar strumming while Luca's scratch-compressed voice sings melancholically. In the third minute the music changes ('tron, electronic kick drum and bass). In the fourth minute Luca emerges from his submerged location and the music becomes flanged electric guitar strumming. Fifth minute full band coalesces and everybody is front and center--drums and sustained Hammond chords and sustained guitar (power) chords (kept in the background). Interesting but kind of scattered and nonsensical. (12/15)

3. "Killing the Angel" (4:53) builds into an excellent, power song. Great drumming and vocals. (9/10)

4. "Lucifero" (6:36) heavenly choir with spacey wind sounds panning around until the second minute when Roland electric piano takes over. Luca enters shortly thereafter singing in a voice that is like a combination of Thom Yorke and Peter Gabriel. Never really amounts to much. (7.5/10)

5. "Slowmotion Streets" (5:47) innocuous enough but takes too long to develop. (7.5/10)

6. "Learning to Live Under the Ground" (10:24) power metal? settles down in the third minute for entry of vocals. Nice melodies and chord progressions throughout the vocal sections. Stop/interlude 5:10 to 6:12 which is filled with Luca's four RADIOHEAD-like vocal tracks. Nice instrumental section follows. Another interlude 7:50 to 8:35 filled with reverse guitar notes and then solo electric piano. Interesting drumming display slowly brings us back to vocals--this time more subdued (though doubled up in harmony). (17.25/20)

7. "Coda: Psychedelic Subway Ride" (1:56) (4/5)

8. "Nightmade Concrete" (5:42) solo piano motif is joined by metronomic jazz-rock combo for Luca to sing. The stripped down solo acoustic guitar chorus is cool. A pleasant song about young love. I like the relaxed GENESIS palette of the instrumental passage. (8.5/10)

9. "Oh, by the Way, We're So Many in This City and So Damn Alone" (1:54) (4.25/5)

Total Time 52:25

Great sound, excellent musicianship (especially love the up-front bass on this LP), and a strong, powerful, emotive voice in LUCA PALLESCHI, their music is always an enjoyable and interesting listen. The songs "Round Midnight" (7:49) (14/15), "Killing the Angel" (4:53) (9/10), and "Learning to Live Under the Ground" (10:24) (17.25/20) are all worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of excellent prog music.

82.22 on the Fishscales = C/3.5 stars; Round Midnight is a solid 4 star effort; a very nice addition to a prog lover's music collection.

WILLOWGLASS Book of Hours (2008)

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.

1. "Argamasilla" (11:04) an enjoyable outtake from GENESIS Duke. (16.5/20)

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 (15.25/20)

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. (25/30)

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.

81.84 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; a very nice sounding album that would probably make a nice addition to any prog music collection. I have to admit to my surprise that this album rates lower than Andrew's debut as I feel that Book of Hours is a step forward--an improvement upon all that he 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.

Also Reviewed:

IQ Frequency (2009)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Peter Nicholls / lead & backing vocals
- Mike Holmes / guitars, keyboards, producer
- Mark Westworth / keyboards
- John Jowitt / bass
- Andy Edwards / drums, percussion

1. "Frequency (8:29)
2. "Life Support (6:28)
3. "Stronger Than Friction (10:32)
4. "One Fatal Mistake (4:54)
5. "Ryker Skies" (9:45) (19/20)
6. "The Province of the King" (13:43) (21/30)
7. "Closer (8:11)

Total Time 62:02

Though "Ryker Skies" is a great song--one of the best of the Naughties--Frequency as a whole displays nothing new except perfected, refined, even re-hashed IQ Neo-prog (which is, in itself, rehashed imitation of the melodic symphonic and crossover bands of the late 1970s). The album's much-raved-about prog epic, "The Province of the King"(13:42) (7/10) is familiar, textbook GENESIS/IQ. Too bad that Peter Nicholls' rather pleasant voice is always the same. Too bad that most of Neo-prog's good ideas have already been used. Too many times. (GENESIS were great, weren't they?!)

Four stars for great sound and performances; three stars because it's all been heard/done before. Rated up for the nice music (What if someone were to run across this album who had A] never heard Genesis before, and B] had not heard much of IQ before??)

SUBSIGNAL Beautiful & Monstrous (2009)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Arno Menses / vocals, programming
- Markus Steffen / guitars, programming
- David Bertok / keyboards
- Ralf Schwager / bass
- Roel van Helden / drums, percussion
- Marcel Coenen / guitar solo (1)
- Julia Sebastian / violin
- Theresia Lehner / cello (8)

1. Where Angels Fear to Tread (6:04)
2. Paradigm (6:29)
3. The Sea (7:00)
4. The Trick Is to Keep Breathing (6:21)
5. Walking With Ghosts (7:40)
6. I Go With the Wind (4:54)
7. To Hope the Road Is Long (4:15)
8. Beautiful & Monstrous (9:38)
9. The Last Light of Summer (4:02)

Total Time 56:23

A very nice sounding album, well constructed and delivered, Beautiful & Monstrous just doesn't have enough fresh/newness to be considered more than a 3 star, Good, but not essential album. There are plenty of good songs, nice melodies, a very good lead singer, an interesting and creative keyboard player, and very nice engineering and production--but nothing really reaches out and grabs me, sucks me in, gets my adrenaline pumping or goosebumps bumping. The music often sounds like a cross between GEOFF DOWNES-TREVOR HORN era YES/ASIA and SAGA/STYX/KANSAS--none of which are my favorite music producers--they're all good, but not great; not my cup of tea. My favorite songs are "Walking with Ghosts" because of its 'HORN-DOWNES plays OCEANSIZE' sound; the pleasant, melodic "The Last Light of Summer;" the spacious, darkly mooded though too heavy for my tastes "Beautiful & Monstrous;" and "The Sea"--which reminds me of PORCUPINE TREE "Fear of a Blank Planet," TEARS FOR FEARS "The Hurting," and 21st Century (Christian) NEKTAR. 

Nice work, nice album. 3.5 stars.

MOONGARDEN Songs from the Lighthouse (2008) 

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.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Simone Baldini Tosi / vocals
- Marco Tafelli / guitars, violins
- Cristiano Roversi / keyboards, piano, Mellotron, Chapman Stick, samples, soundscapes (7)
- Mirko Tagliasacchi / fretted & fretless basses
- Maurizio Di Tollo / drums, percussion
- Andy Tillison / vocals (5)

1. My Darkside (7:26)
2. It's You (7:04)
3. Solaris - Parts I, II, III, IV (13:00)
4. Emotionaut (3:55)
5. That Child (5:52)
6. Flesh (2:49)
7. Dreamlord (11:30)
8. Southampton Rail Road (4:11)
9. Sonya in the Search of the Moon - Part V (5:47)
10. The Lighthouse Song (9:32)

Total Time 71:06

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

GRAND STAND Tricks of Time (2002)

A very polished prog band in the vein of TONY BANKS/GENESIS, it is in their wonderfully clear, precise production that I actually find my issues: the way the drums are recorded (are they computerized? or just super cheap and super gated?), and the way the voice is mixed (seemingly without effects). The lyrics are a bit banal and the singer, though possessing a nice voice, is the least polished "instrument" in the band. In fact, some of his vocal attmepts sound outright amateur.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Göran Johnsson / lead vocals, bass, keyboards
- Michael Rank Jensen / guitars, bass, vocals
- Olov Andersson / keyboards, synths, vocals
- Tomas Hurtig / drums, voice
- Hansi Cross / backing vocals, co-producer
- Fredrik Andersson / backing vocals

1. Jurassic Spark (11:24)
2. Words Are Not Enough (4:01)
3. Waiting For Water (9:39)
4. Empty Barrels Rattle The Most (9:34)
5. Old Man's Tale (16:00) :
- I- "Make Way ForThe Old Man"
- II- "Questions & Answers"
- III- "Floating Among The Clouds"
- IV- "The Rumble Dance"
- V- "Second Thoughts"
- VI- "Back To The Park"
- VII- "Live Your Life, Be On Your Way"

Total Time: 50:38

All in all, Tricks of Time contains some very nice music--especially if you are a fan of Tony Banks' keyboards (and solo work), Phil Collins' drumming 1970s style but 1980s sound, Mike Rutherford's bass/bass pedals and solo albums, and Steve Hillage, Steve Hackett, and John Mitchell's guitar styles and Eef Albers' guitar sound, and, most of all, the music of GENESIS between 1974-1977. The album's last song, however, the 16-minute, seven-part suite, "Old Man's Tale" (8/10) has (mostly) a different (non-Genesis) sound and style to it--it sounds more like some of GUY MANNING's work (except for the middle section which is almost stolen straight out of "The Cinema Show").

THE FLOWER KINGS Space Revolver (2000)

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.

BELIEVE Yesterday Is a Friend (2008)

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.

MARILLION Marbles (2004)

Let me first state for the record: I am not, and never have been a Marillion fan. The Fish era is, IMO, horribly produced (especially the murky, soft, poorly captured 'dynamics' of Misplaced Childhood and Script for a Jester's Tear), and also often sounds so cheezy and outdated (especially Fugazi and after). The Hogarth-era stuff, while capturing more emotion and better recording engineering, just lacks, IMHO, power, prog dynamics, and even the intricate constructs that are familiar to prog lovers (and essential to some). I do think Steve Hogarth is a far superior vocalist than Fish.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Steve Hogarth / vocals, hammered dulcimer (1), addit. guitar (4)
- Steve Rothery / guitar, bass (10)
- Mark Kelly / keyboards
- Pete Trewavas / bass, acoustic guitar (10,13)
- Ian Mosley / drums
- Carrie Tree / additional vocals (3,12)

CD 1 (53:38)
1. The Invisible Man (13:37)
2. Marbles I (1:42)
3. Genie (4:54)
4. Fantastic Place (6:12)
5. The Only Unforgivable Thing (7:13)
6. Marbles II (2:02)
7. Ocean Cloud (17:58)

CD 2 (45:08)
8. Marbles III (1:51)
9. The Damage (4:35)
10. Don't Hurt Yourself (5:48)
11. You're Gone (6:25)
12. Angelina (7:42)
13. Drilling Holes (5:11)
14. Marbles IV (1:26)
15. Neverland (12:10)

Total Time 98:46

The music here on Marbles is pretty straightforward art rock, kind of mellow, with a lot of atmospheric texturing.

For me the highlights of this album are the four brief "Marbles" vignettes, and the trip hoppy, SEAL "Crazy"-like, "The Invisible Man" (13:37) (8/10), and; "You're Gone" (6:28) (8/10). The rest is space-occupying, time-sucking drivel. But, that's just my opinion. And remember: I am pretty much deaf to lyrics. (A learning disability.)

Dark Matter (2004)

Another well-acclaimed album that I find unredemptive. This band has chosen to water down all that was Genesis--even further than the Four/Three did in the Wind and Wuthering-and-after era.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Peter Nicholls / lead & backing vocals
- Mike Holmes / electric & acoustic (6- & 12-string) guitars, E-Bow, effects, producer
- Martin Orford / Korg CX3 organ, synths (Kurzweil K2500, Access Virus KB, Yamaha SY85, Roland JV1080, Korg Triton), samples, Moog bass pedals, backing vocals, pre-production
- John Jowitt / basses (4-, 5-string & fretless), backing vocals
- Paul Cook / drums, percussion

1. "Sacred Sound" (11:40) Genesis lite with no dazzle or pizzaz, simply stark and dull with flat melody lines from vocalist Peter Nicholls. (19/25)

2. "Red Dust Shadow" (5:53) Some memorable melodies and nice synth play cannot save this barely-two-dimensional song. (8.25/10)

3. "You Never Will" (4:54) clocks and rolling bass lead into a Gabriel-era feeling song. The drums' sound is horrible! The chorus is only notable for the half-Peter Hammill, half-Ozzie Osborn vocal. (8.25/10)

4. "Born Brilliant" (5:20) recorded home- and industrial sounds with sustained deep synth chord set this one up as a theatric chiller. But then the vocal takes us in a totally different, unexpected direction. What should have been a musical adventure through a house of horrors is turned sophomoric by a misfitted lyric. Weird. Did the band approve of Peter's lyrics here? Or were they just trying to get out of the studio? Kind of like Genesis' The Lamb music and lyrics rift scenario (or, at least it feels that way). (8/10)

5. "Harvest of Souls" (24:29) Nice "Cinema Show/Entangled"-like 12-string guitar based music with synth washes and orchestral hits and later bass pedals all ruined by vocals and lyrics that just don't fit. One of the poorest long-playing prog epics I've ever heard from a supposed-"elite" prog band--almost nothing works together. (35/50)
- i. First Of The Last
- ii. The Wrong Host
- iii. Nocturne
- iv. Frame And Form
- v. Mortal Procession
- vi. Ghosts Of Days

Total Time: 52:16

79.52 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; a fair contribution to the lexicon of progressive rock but nothing you'd miss if you never heard it.

IQ The Seventh House (2000)

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.


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.

Not-Yet Reviewed:

MAGENTA Revolutions (2001)

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

THE FLOWER KINGS The Rainmaker (2001)

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 (2001)

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 (2001)

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) (17/20)
- "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) (/20)
- "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;

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 = 

SMPTe Transatlantic (2000)

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.)

SHAMALL Is This Human Behavior? (2009)
DARWIN'S RADIO Template for a Generation (2009)
SILHOUETTE Moods (2009)
MARTIGAN Vision (2009)
LEAP DAY Awakening the Muse (2009)
PARZIVAL'S EYE Fragments (2009)
KNIGHT AREA Realm of Shadows (2009)
SATELLITE Nostalgia  (2009)
GLASS HAMMER Three Cheers for the Broken-Hearted (2009)
SHAMALL Questions of Life (2008)
GALAHAD Empires Never Last (2007)
MYSTERY Beneath the Veil of Winter’s Face (2007)
THE FLOWER KINGS The Sum of No Evil (2007)
ALBION Broken Hopes (2007)
GLASS HAMMER Culture of Ascent (2007)
SHAMALL Ambiguous Points of View (2006)
THE FLOWER KINGS Paradox Hotel (2006)
PENDRAGON Believe (2005)
SATELLITE Evening Games (2005)
LITTLE ATLAS Wanderlust (2005)
GLASS HAMMER the Inconsolable Secret (2005)
PALLAS The Dreams of Men (2005)
RPWL World Through My Eyes (2005)
MAGENTA Home (2005)
THE FLOWER KINGS Adam & Eve (2004)
THE WATCH Vacuum (2004)
KNIGHT AREA The Sun Also Rises (2004)
K2 Book of the Dead (2004)
GLASS HAMMER Shadowlands (2004)
SHAMALL Who Do They Think They Are? (2003)
GLASS HAMMER Lex Rex (2002)
QUIDAM The Time Beneath the Sky (2002)
COSMOGRAF The Man Left in Space (2013) 
COSMOGRAF Capacitor (2014)
COSMOGRAF Heroic Materials (2022)

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