All posts by Professor Mark

Art in America – “Cloud Born”

Art in America – Cloud Born

It all started in 1983, on MTV. I first saw Shishonee Flynn play that wonderful golden harp that cascades like a waterfall across the opening and title track for their debut album, Art in America, and I knew I was hooked. I can’t imagine how many times I lifted the stylus on the vinyl version and replayed that opening. I still have that vinyl album in storage. But when their album finally came out on CD, I relived the experience all over again.

The rest of the title song had that cool Yes’ 90125 sound and vibe to it. 90125 came out the same year. Art in America’s debut was produced by Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer producer Eddy Offord.

Cloud Born, has three different producers. Tracks 1 – 6, were produced by David Hentschel; tracks 7 -1 0 were produced by Chris Flynn; and tracks 10 – 12 were produced by Jim Kuha.

Well, skip forward 36 years later and we finally get to hear the follow up, Cloud Born, and it was well worth the wait. The album is being released through the band’s website and is available now.

Cloud Born is a combination of tracks recorded in 1983 at Cloudborn Studios in Dearborn, Michigan. Thus, the title Cloudborn. The new album also includes some tracks produced by one of my favorite producers David Hentschel; who also plays keyboards on tracks 1 through 6; and a piano solo on “Someday”.

The album opens with “A Tale of the Unexpected”. It is an instrumental that does not open with a beautiful harp, but rather a sharp line from the famous 1957 movie, Witness for the Prosecution. It is followed by percussion, drumming, and wonderful wavy synths and keyboards. That wonderful choir mellotron, permeates the soundscape and takes you back to mid-70s Genesis and others who used it so effectively to create warmth and emotion. Bass and lead guitars join in on the soft running rhythm and make this one of the best opening tracks I’ve heard this year.

“I Am I”, opens with Chris Flynn singing his first lyrics on the album. His voice reminds me a little of  Stan Ridgway’s, only less sarcastic. The song is an upbeat track full of great bass, lead electric guitar, solid drumming and wonderful keys. The song also features the first harp sounds from Shishonee. Her harp work matched with Tony Levin’s bass work, make this song magical.

“Someday”, is full of the kind of emotional keyboards and guitar music I remember so well from mid-70s Genesis and David Hentschel’s influence. It is my favorite track on the album. They use that choir mellotron sound very affectively on this track. Wonderful lyrics like, “I will arrive someday. Riding the tide someday. Open the sky and shine the dark away. Destiny, Come tomorrow let the dream arrive tonight’. This song is full of dreamy flights of musical instrumentation filled with positive lyrics.

“Drool” opens with electric and acoustic guitar with a little of a country twang. Then Flynn returns singing, “Ripping your head off. Taking out your piece tonight. Taking the edge off”. A track full of concern and loathing over the curse of alcoholism.

“The New Swami”, is another interesting track. Plenty of heavy drumming, bass, and electric lead guitar and yes, what sounds like a little sitar. A commentary on Los Angeles and its residents’ desire to embrace Eastern religions and worldly ideas. Amidst all of this, the sound of 70s Genesis keyboards and effects.

“Someone Called My Name”, is another good song full of good lyrics and thoughtful music. Flynn sings, “Waking up early morning pouring rain. Just the same as yesterday”.

“For Shelly”, opens with soft acoustic guitar and builds momentum with Flynn’s vocals, “Once I was here bright eyed ever clear. Now I can see what you meant to me. How we could talk about anything, yeah just anything”. A thoughtful love song, which is my third favorite song on the album.

“When We Were Young”, opens with cool keyboards, then that wonderful harp. With lyrics and music that tug at the heart and your memory. Flynn sings, “Another time – another place”. “A piece of time – to while away”. “Oh, Tidal Road take me back again”. “Make life flow again when we were young and life was so simple”. “Life in my town in Ohio”. Yes, Chris grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, not far from where I grew up.

“Facelift”, is a track that deals with war, especially World War II. The opening guitar riffs remind me of IQ’s monumental, “Common Ground”. The track is interspersed with the voice of Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest, which was released in 1981. It is a deeply moving track and my second favorite track on the album. Powerful guitar rhythms with great supporting bass, keys and drum beats. The lyrics are deep and moving, “This war can’t be won, and the sorrow wasted everyone. Villages on fire, courtesy of ein satz grupen”.

“Don’t Look Down”, is a strong rock track about searching out that someone you need for comfort on a weekend night at the local bar or pub. Great drumming and electric guitar.

“No Wonder”, opens with soft guitar and a rhythm reminiscent of the Genesis song, “Pigeons”. Which was a wonderful memory in itself. More harp enters the soft soundscape as keyboards, bass, guitar and drums build momentum.

“Goodbye My Love -Mind’s Eye – Peace of Mind”, is a powerful closer, full, of harp, keyboards, bass, lead electric guitar and drums. The fourth best track on the album. Those powerful synth and mellotron vibes throughout the song will bring back memories. The instrumental section that takes over halfway through the song will take you back to Mike Oldfield and mid-70s Genesis…and oh what a journey…

Cloud Born is the beginning of a comeback for Art in America. Chris Flynn posted on Facebook that they have up to three additional albums worth of music either recorded, or ready to release. That is good news for all of us fans. Please pick up this wonderful piece of history in the band’s evolution and get set for more exotic journeys in the future.

Track List

  1. A Tale of the Unexpected – 3:49
  2. I Am I – 4:17
  3. Someday – 4:44
  4. Drool – 4:20
  5. The New Swami – 3:40
  6. Someone Called My Name – 4:22
  7. For Shelly – 4:08
  8. When We Were Young – 7:40
  9. Facelift – 5:23
  10. Don’t Look Down – 5:01
  11. No Wonder – 3:52
  12. Goodbye My Love -Mind’s Eye – Peace of Mind – 8:20

Art in America is: Chris Flynn, on guitars, keyboards, and vocals; Shishonee Flynn, on pedal harp, koto, tambura, and vocals; Dan Flynn, on drums; David Hentschel, playing additional keyboards on tracks 1 thru 6, and a piano solo on “Someday”; Tony Levin on bass, for tracks 1- 6; Jim Kuha, on bass, for tracks 11-13; Gary Galloway, on keyboards, for tracks 11 -13; Karyn Ormiston, on keyboards for tracks 11 -13.

The wonderful front and back cover art were created by Ioannis, from the Zografou section of Athens, Greece. He also created the wonderful art on Art in America’s debut album.

Inside CD booklet cover art was created by Dan Flynn. Photography: Mark Swidler captured all of the photographic images. The collage and digipak design were created by Levi Gray.

Darrel Treece-Birch – “No More Time”

Darrel Treece-Birch No More Time

Darrel Treece-Birch is the keyboardist for Nth Ascension. He offered to let me listen to a couple of his solo albums that he created since I was so impressed by his keyboard’s on Nth Ascension’s latest album, Stranger Than Fiction. I was happy to receive the downloads and after listening, knew these albums deserved to be heard by others. Both Celestial and No More Time are wonderful gifts of creative talent that I hope you will purchase and listen to for yourself.

No More Time’s album cover says it all. On the oceans of times our Earth’s hour glass is broken. Time is slipping away when we can do anything to stop the effects we are having on this globe, our home. The shocking cover photo is a wake up for us to try to reverse course. The music within the album stirs consciousness and hopefully you into action to care more daily, about what it is that we are doing here on Earth.

The theme of No More Time, echoes across the music: Darrel’s notes explain it this way, “No More Time, begins at some distant point outside of our space-time and follows the very essence of human spirit through its journey to finally return home to the nexus of our eternal regeneration”. “The soul is cast on a journey that flows with artistic fluidity conveying a meaning that is eternal and universal, like the broken hourglass, our perception belies reality …There is always time”.

This album is different from Celestial, which was instrumental and keyboard driven. This album uses more guitar, bass and drums. Darrel features the piano more often on this album than the synthesizers he used to wonderful effect on the last album.

Songs like “Hold On”, truly grab at you emotionally. This track in particular is very moving. It sounds like a narrative taken from a talk between a father or elder and a son. It is one of the stand out tracks on an album full of spectacular highlights. Alan Taylor, from Nth Ascension, sings lead vocals and warmly fills this song with emotion.

“Requiem Pro Caris” follows “Hold On” and almost brings you to tears with its emotion drenching deep bass, strings and orchestration.

Fellow Nth Ascension bandmates contribute on No More Time, including:Alan Taylor, who sings lead vocals, plays acoustic and electric guitar; Gavin Walker, plays bass guitar; and Martin Walker, plays electric guitar. So, at times it almost feels like an extra Nth Ascension track, for your collection.

The bold piano and keys on “Mother (Olive’s Song)”, tells the story of someone full of grace and soaring beyond this place and time like the wind.

“Freedom Paradigm” reminded me a little of Steve Hackett’s many great moments. Like: “Shadow of The Hierophant”, “Land of a Thousand Autumns”, “The Angel of Mons”, without the clocks: or maybe “Valley of The Kings”, mixed well with some Dark Side Floyd. Deep electric guitar and soaring rhythms that make this another of the best tracks on the album.


“The River Dream” is a wonderful David Gilmour – like guitar solo with drums, bass, and keyboards backing.

“Music of the Spheres” brings back that wonderful piano, this time with Karen Fell, from the Gary Hughes Band as lead vocalist. I have to admit that I had not heard of her before. But I will search out her other works after hearing her beautiful voice.  

“Return to the Nexus” is just the closer you wanted an expected for this wonderful epic album. An over 7-minute keyboard and skyrocketing guitar soloing epic that takes you back to all of the greats, like Pink Floyd and others of progressive rocks’ Golden Age. And at the same time providing new sounds and riffs to remember.

No More Time, is a wonderful progressive rock epic which should have been given more coverage when it was released on August 19, 2016. But as I always say, better now than never!

Sometimes solo albums are not given the same respect as group releases. This album would sit very well on the shelf next to any of the classics of progressive rock; while at the same time it re-imagines the sounds and visual landscapes inspired by generations in this genre.

The album includes other guest appearances by: 

Phil Brown: (Counterparts UK) Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar 
Steve Grocott (Ten) Electric Guitar 
Karen Fell: (Gary Hughes Band) Vocals 
Dan Mitchell: (Formerly of Ten) Electric Guitar 
John Power: (Counterparts UK) Bass and Fretless Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, & Violin 
Dann Rosingana: Electric Guitar 

Darrel Treece-Birch plays keyboards, sings vocals, plays bass guitars, mandolin, and drums. 

No More Time was recorded at the War Room, Fleetwood, UK, Taylormade Studio, Ansdell, UK, The Dog House Studio, Blackpool, UK Westmorland Studio, Burton-In-Lonsdale, UK RW Studio, Rossall, UK SJG Studio, Stafford, UK, and Sandyforth Studio, Thornton, UK. 

No More Time was engineered, produced and mixed by Darrel Treece-Birch. It was mastered by Dave Aston, Digital Audio, Skipton, UK, CD Production, Pure Music, Manchester, UK.

Track List

  1. Nexus Part 1 – 1:31
  2. Earthbound – 3:21
  3. Riding the Waves – 5:09
  4. Hold On – 4:07
  5. Requiem Pro Caris – 3:22
  6. Nexus Part 2 – 1:27
  7. Twilight- 3:47
  8. Mother (Olive’s Song) – 4:37
  9. Freedom Paradigm – 6:04
  10. Nexus Part 3 – 1:12
  11. The River Dream – 7:00
  12.  No More Time – 8:00
  13. Legacy – 4:02
  14. Music of Spheres – 7:34
  15. Return to the Nexus – 7:37

Darrel Treece-Birch Celestial

Darrel Treece-Birch Celestial

After completing the review of Nth Ascension’s new album, Stranger Than Fiction, I was invited to Darrel, to listen to keyboard player Darrel Treece-Birch’s two solo albums. He noticed in the review that I had mentioned I enjoyed his keyboard playing on Stranger Than Fiction. Of course, I told Darrel, I would not only listen to them, I’d write about them.

Once I first started to listen to Celestial, which wasreleased October 2, 2015, I found the music to be utterly brilliant. A great journey through the solar system and beyond.

Find an easy chair, put on your headphones, close your eyes and prepare to travel in your mind. Celestial is recorded at 432Hz tuning, and yes it does offer a rich warm flavor to the recording. Celestial tells the story of human perception of our universe.

If you are a fan of Vangelis, Larry Fast, ELP, Yes, Kitaro, and Pink Floyd, this is the ticket you were in search of for a trip to the stars, for the price of a CD or download, along with using your own imagination. You might even hear a little of Eddie Jobson’s Theme of Secrets here as well.

I was thoroughly impressed with Darrel’s keyboard and synth work on Nth Ascension’s “Sound to Light”, off Stranger Than Fiction. I point back to that review to read about my full discussion of that wonderful track.

Celestial is similar to that work, although it is one continuous journey over 16 tracks, filled with brilliant starlight synthesizers and keyboards. Each and every track on the album is its own short, 3 to almost 8-minute journey. All of the tracks are different, with none leaving you wanting.

All the music was composed, written and performed on keys and synthesizers by Darrel Treece-Birch.

I thank Darrel Treece-Birch for the opportunity to hear all of this amazing music, which now helps me dream and imagine worlds apart from the Earth each night before sleep. I pass this information on to you. Please give this relaxing album a Close your eyes and use your mind instead of watching TV or allowing a video game to show you its vision of the future. Put this CD on and dream your own future.

Track List

  1. Celestial – 7:45
  2. The Infinite – 4:18
  3. Light Echo of Monocerotis – 5:11
  4. Event Horizon – 3:24
  5. Voyager – 3:37
  6. The Space Between – 6:51
  7. Nebula – 5:45
  8. Oort Cloud – 4:10
  9. The Comet’s Wake – 6:04
  10.  Asteroid Belt – 4:55
  11.  Sol – 4:38
  12.  Luna – 4:41
  13.  Blue Planet – 4:09
  14.  Northern Lights – 3:42
  15.  Such Love is This – 5:07
  16.  All Things New (Cosmos) – 5:02

Time Symmetry – Ghosts

Time Symmetry – Ghosts

Time Symmetry is a progressive metal band from Madrid, Spain, that began back in 1999. They play music similar to Dream Theater only with a great female lead singer. Elena Aznar, is that female lead; David Rubio, is a founding member, who provides the male vocals and guitars; Jorge Velasco, a schoolmate friend of Rubio’s and founding member, plays guitars and sings backing vocals; Alejandro “Ando” Martínez, provides drums; and Carlos Hernandez, plays bass.

 Ghosts is the third release from Time Symmetry. They first released a mini LP, self – titled Time Symmetry, in 2003. In 2006, they released their first full-length LP, Fate in Gray, to critical acclaim. And in 2013, Time Symmetry released their second full-length album, Tetraktys. This year, 2019, they return with Ghosts, and the addition of Elena Aznar on vocals and Carlos Hernández on bass provide new lift, talent, and sound for the band.

Hope you’re buckled in, because this rocket is about to launch. There is a little narration surrounded by cool spacey keys and effects before things reach take – off speed on the opener, “Winding Road”. The grinding guitars, metal bass and smashing drums roar forward as we hear Elena Aznar’s first vocals, “Walk with me, walk with me forever!” She sounds almost as gutsy as many male singers in the genre. Yet, her higher pitch is not ear piercing, like many other females in the genre. The launching lead electric solo guitars rocket skyward as Aznar’s voice purrs, then belts out screams. The blood is flowing and if you were at a show, I bet you’d be moving with the beat.

“Blue Lights”, opens with deep bass and pounding drums, before a drum roll welcomes the firepower of many lead electric guitars to the feast. That persistent bass reminds me of Les Claypool. It sounds that good. Then Aznar returns with powerful vocals, “With the lights and background noise I cut off my dark thoughts”. That lead electric guitar is torching the stage with clarity and force. The drums keep perfect pace, rounding out the sound. Another track summoned from Baelo Claudia itself. Amazing.

“The Circle”, brings powerful keyboards to its opening. They are followed closely with drums, bass and more great lead grinding electric guitar. Aznar leads on vocals, and David Rubio supports well with his own vocals. The combination is a great double-punch.

“Reboot System Now”, opens with robotic sounding keys and cool synths. The growling lead guitar returns like a lion set free from a cage. The bouncing bass synchronizes well with the pogoing drum kit. Aznar delivers her softest vocals and helps drive the revving train of sound. Then her vocals lift, “To feel this moment and to rise!”

“Entropy”, opens with welcomed soft acoustic guitar. Like a Rush or Yes classic. Aznar’s vocals are simply beautiful and heartfelt. They absolutely needed a song like this. One of, if not the best on the album. Aznar’s “oohs” are warm and wonderful. A nice break from the revving fire they have been creating up until now. Later, the power grinder returns without the revving this time. Building to a complete ballad/theme song.

“Arendt’s Sorrow”, begins with cool synths and keyboards before the hammer falls and drums, bass and electric lead thunder on their way once again. This time, though, they bring a very cool space circular vibration synth with them. The bass work right after is some of the best on the album. Aznar and Rubio alternate vocals to help add variety to the music. Aznar compliments the track with some spoken word narration set to formidable bass and drums, along with soloing lead electric guitar.

“Fireworks”, opens like more of a Foreigner rock-oriented sound. Then, cool keys build as the drums, bass and electric lead guitar buzz the airspace. Aznar sings, “Don’t tell me that it’s gone. Don’t tell me it could be wrong!” Later, motor engines join in on the fun. Cool.

The keys that open “Hunt or Be Hunted”, are wonderful. Cool synths too. The drum loops are cool. Aznar sings, “open your eyes…now”. The synths, bass and electric guitars are excellent after her vocal.

“Better Days”, opens with cool piano, synths and sounds like another softer melody, until the drums, bass and lead electric bring forth their power. Rubio’s best vocals yet, “Here was a drop in an endless sea, a man of the many. A beast to unleash”. Backing chorus vocals add epic proportions to the mix. It gives the soundscape a more symphonic sound.

“Ghosts”, is a cool instrumental overture from space, with Apollo narration and wonderful keys mixed with slow guitar.

“Race to Nowhere”, is just what the title portends, blasting drums, heavy bass and grinding lead electric guitar. Aznar’s vocals are at some of their clearest on this track. Aznar sings, “Why cross the stars? This is our time?” This over 11-minute epic closer is worth the price of admission alone. Powerful grinding guitars, crushing bass, and racing pace drums.

This is a wonderful full – length album of heavier prog metal rock, veering ever closer to the metal side than progressive. But there are still progressive tones to the sound. The lead female singer does not burn your ears. It is a great album and I’m glad I have discovered them and would recommend this album to anyone with similar tastes in music.

The album was produced by Time Symmetry. Ghosts, was recorded at New Life Studios, in Madrid, Spain, and mastered by Ermin Hamidovic in Systematic Productions Studios, (Melbourne).

Track List

1.Winding Road – 4:40

2. Blue Lights – 4:44

3. The Circle – 3:32

4. Reboot System Now – 5:05

5. Entropy – 4:52

6. Arendt’s Sorrow – 5.53

7. Fireworks – 5:50

8. Hunt or Be Hunted – 5:25

9. Better Days – 5:12

10. Ghosts – 1:02

11. Race to Nowhere – 11:20

Farmhouse Odyssey – Fertile Ground

Farmhouse Odyssey – Fertile Ground

Farmhouse Odyssey is a progressive rock band from Arcata, California. I found them while searching artists playing this year at the Seattle Prog 2019 show, SeaProg:

I requested a demo immediately after listening to some samples at the store:

Farmhouse Odyssey was formed in 2012, and is made up of Alex Espe, on vocals, piano, Rhodes, Moog, organ, and mellotron; Aaron Laughlin, on vocals, guitars, mandolin, and mellotron; Alex Pepe, on guitars; Ian Taylor, on bass and synth bass; and Thatcher Norton, on drums. They are inspired by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and endeavor to craft music to match its magnitude.

 Fertile Ground is a perfect name for this album. The album was released May 31, 2019. It is full of wonderful reminders of progressive rock’s legacy, while at the same time sounding innovative and original. Farmhouse Odyssey has a modern, yet transcending sound that is somewhere between the sounds you might here on early IZZ, Phil Collins era Genesis, and Midlake’s The Courage of Others. Nice mix, huh?

“The Call”, opens with soft mandolin and acoustic guitars, surrounded by keyboards and wonderful background effects. Aaron Laughlin sings, “Stirring song filled the dreamer’s ears, carried on the wind, that sent ripples across the water’s surface, shimmering – becoming”. Yes, Aaron Laughlin, writes most of the lyrical content that fills this short but magnificent 5 track album. The band uses a quote from Dostoyevsky, which is both relevant and capsulizes their mission with this Fertile Ground; “Dreams are extraordinarily strange. One thing appears with terrifying clarity, with the details finely set like jewels, while you leap over another, as though you did not notice it at all — space and time, for instance. It seems that dreams are the work not of mind but of desire, not of the head but of the heart… In a dream, things quite incomprehensible come to pass.”

That is what “The Call”, and the rest of this album is about, dreams and fulfilling them through a musical journey. The IZZ – like beginning gives way to a much slower pace after the mid-point. Beautiful Hackett – like guitar catches you breathlessly as Laughlin sings, “In the water there shone a dream – a great chance. Come quickly and walk with me. Is it Destiny we meet? Along the elemental stream of dreams? All of this is but to be a memory; A spiraling infinity calling through an ever-deepening mystery”. Then, they almost let one of those wonderful guitar riffs from Genesis’ “Entangled” take over. They finish with the sounds of water and birdsong. Wow, what an opener.

“Out of the Fog”, opens with piano that almost takes you back to the wonder of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The electric guitar work supports well. Alex Espe, the bands’ lead singer sings, “I see a moonlit path before me. Filtered by fog creeping in. And out of my control. If only I could find some way to let go”. Later Espe sings, “Lost in tangled wood. All that I can see is the worn step I long to take in front of me”. Adventurous lyrics supported well with engaging music. The piano and keyboard playing truly sets a feast for the ears.

Aaron Laughlin, returns to sing most of “Betwixt and Between”. The almost eight and half minute epic opens with soft flute like keys and some of the most innovative acoustic guitar I’ve heard in a long time. Very early Genesis sounding, but original and different. I hear a great mix between the sound of early Phil Collins Genesis and Midlake’s The Courage of Others. Yeah imagine the blending of those two bands’ sounds. Laughlin sings, “Alone I stand, as I plant my feet in the cool morning sand, to softly bury my uncertainties and yesterdays. In the riddles of the green woods that linger within reach; and the tireless ocean breeze”. Yes, the image of the Pacific Northwest captured perfectly. Those verses capture why we all live here. Later, he captures the magic of Fertile Ground, with these lyrics, “The fertile state of unknowing; just letting it all be, lit by the light of dream”. Meanwhile the crashing waves of pulsing drums, grinding guitars, thick bass and keyboard wonders, shower your ears with amazing sounds. Perfect.

 “Ancient Yet Eternal”, opens with that beautiful piano, before soft percussion and bass join in. Espe sings, “Somewhere in the fire’s low, amber glow there are worlds upon worlds, shining soft, in far off unknowns”. The keyboards and piano take center stage and envelope you in a bliss rarely captured on record. Espe closes the track singing, “You don’t need ears to hear or eyes to see, when all life is like a dream. Lit by the light that brings the same flame that ignites dominance. Lights the way for love to find us. Calling from the other side”. They close with thunder and the sound of heavy rain. The kind of rain we have on the Pacific Coast in October. Thunder, which reverberates on the ancient, yet eternal forests which cover the Pacific Coastline; providing nourishing rain after the long summer dry spell.

 “Verve”, opens with excellent synthesizer and piano. Deep bass and electric guitar join in as rhythm forms and builds towards a melody. Espe sings, “Above the clouds I see no rainfall. Through the clouds I hear a faint call”. Bass, electric guitar, drums and amazing keyboards and synths fill the track. Espe closes the track with the heartfelt lyrics, “Live not in the past. Let resentment wither. Darkest hour of night, light still shines a sliver”.

Fertile Ground is an album full of both sincerity and intricate/innovative progressive rock. As Dostoyevsky said, “It happened as always in a dream when you leap over space and time and the laws of life and mind, and you stop only there where your heart delights.” Heed the call, and please get this album for yourself and sit back and dream of a new future.

Fertile Ground was recorded, mixed and mastered by Aaron Laughlin at Odyssey Studios.

Track List

The Call – 4:30

Out of the Fog – 12:33

Betwixt and Between – 8:48

Ancient Yet Eternal – 6:49

Verve – 6:25

Farmhouse Odyssey – “Daybreak”

Fine Soft Day – You Are Here

Fine Soft Day – You Are Here

Fine Soft Day was formed on the back steps of a house in Rusholme, Manchester, UK, in the summer of 1996. Three friends, Jeff Gascoyne, on bass, violin, guitar, and vocals; Martin Hanbury, on guitars and vocals; and Mark Sweeney, on keyboards and vocals; took their drinks into the warm evening air and begin a conversation, sitting on some old stone steps. The conversation was about music, about the bands they were in, and the band they would like to be in. From this casual conversation, we were fortunate to have the birth of Fine Soft Day.

Fine Soft Day is the kind of band Genesis began as; a folk, progressive band with soft melodies and deep emotional stories of reflections on life, in general. Fine Soft Day, is a wonderful drift back to the past, when we had more time to appreciate music, for the sake of music. Time to appreciate the rhythms, the melodies, the instrumental aspects and all of the lyrics., We were not in a hurry. We wanted to listen to the music and all of its intricacies. You Are Here, is all about enjoying what you have in the here and now. This is not an album to take in the car. It is an album, to sit and listen to and appreciate in the comfort of an easy chair.

Through You Are Here, Fine Soft Day create a concept album, “surrounding hope, humanity and the weaving of time and space”. You Are Here is the sophomore album for Fine Soft Day; with their debut album, Fine Soft Day released during 1998.

“River”, opens the album and is its best song. The opening is full of grand, deep piano, like a Bruce Hornsby welcome. Then lead singer, Martin Hanbury sings the first lines of the album, “Within time and space, the river flowing through this place. Joins the highlands to the sea. Weaves what was, but what will be. Before this place was ever made”. Hanbury’s lead vocals sound like a young Phil Collins, and you cannot help get lost in the quiet, relaxing melody and rhythm of the music supporting. A wonderful opening with deep electric guitar solos reminding you of the great Steve Hackett. It is very easy to get lost and absorbed into the world created by this song. Excellent!

“Reason”, brings to sound, another element of the band’s strength, Mark Sweeney, singing lead on this track. He has the ability of sounding like a young Roger Waters. This track is all about,,,well reason. Where the last song had been about relaxing and just the pleasure of enjoying all that is around you, this song is about reasoning and understanding why what is around you is important and how it affects you. A good example, “We are the stones on the cold river bed. Our edges made round by the dreams in our head”. The warm synthesizers and keyboards surround, while soft electric guitar sparkles like light on the swirling, cascading river described. Fine Soft Day really proves their ability to capture powerful visual impressions with these two tracks.

“Journey to Hear”, has a more rocking beat, with more instruments added to the mix. Drums, deep bass, and cymbals are added to the frolicking keys and lead electric guitar riffs. A fine instrumental interlude with some great organ keyboard work and a bouncy rhythm.

“Five Songs”, opens quietly with strings, then that elegant piano returns, just like a Hornsby classic. Mark Sweeney returns as lead singer on this album. Though there also seems to be some duel vocal harmony. This song would have found a rightful place on either Wind and Wuthering or just after “Ripples”, or “Entangled”, on Trick of the Tail. The keyboards play sounds of classic Tony Banks. More wonderful memories flow as the river of sound carries them along.

“Time Flows By”, has a harder, more powerful beat and rhythm to it. The guitars, both bass and lead, make their presence known throughout the track. There is still innovative keys and synthesizer moments, but this is a great guitar and drums rocker. Martin Hanbury returns to sing the emotive lyrics.

“Roll Up the World Part 1”, is part one of a two-part epic on this album. It is stunning in its clarity of voice and visually stunning guitarwork and keyboards; piano, synths and organ. Parts of the song take you to that familiar “Ripples”/”Entangled”, sound from Trick of the Tail, and these moments rise to the top. It is a wonderful time to just close your eyes and let the music take you back. A wonderful epic.

“Grandfather”, is a classic guitar piece of work that Steve Hackett would be proud to have authored. It is probably the second-best song on the album. Then, the singing begins with continued accompaniment from the acoustic guitar. The organ, drums and bass join in to create a wonderful picture made with music.

“Dance of the Little Lights from Nowhere”, opens with soft woodland pipe or flute. Then, cymbals, piano, pounding bass, and finally electric guitar. The gallop begins and a Deep Purple like run continues with the organ playing a lead role.

“Rhyme”, opens with quiet piano and soft acoustic guitar. Like something out of the early Phil Collins Genesis era.

“Time is Running Out”, is more of a rocker with deeper bass, drumming, and softer lead electric guitar. More of that mid – 70s Genesis sound to enjoy.

“Roll Up the World – Part 2”, is the closing refrain of the epic first part. This time with deep piano and more of that Roger Waters vocal. Then, back to that Ripples theme. Please just let the keys and piano go on forever.

With 11 tracks it seems that this band was determined to both make a statement and insure some of their favorite rhythms, beats, riffs and melodies made it to a record. Having been in other bands, how long these ideas had been waiting to be recorded, now that they were free to make the music they wanted to make. After years of building families and living life they came back for the music. The music which had inspired them and which they loved from the beginning. Take a trip back with them. Bring this album home and return to the past for a while. The journey will be well worth the price.

Only one way to close this review…

“After many days journey we came to a peak. Where the beast gazed abroad and cried out. We followed his gaze and we thought that maybe we saw. A spire of gold…Hello friend, welcome home”.

Track List

  1. River – 6:22
  2. Reason – 4:10
  3. Journey to Hear – 4:18
  4. Five Songs – 5:45
  5. Time Flows By – 4:19
  6. Roll Up the World Part 1 – 14:01
  7. Grandfather – 6:58
  8. Dance of the Little Lights from Nowhere – 3:27
  9. Rhyme – 4:44
  10. Time is Running Out – 4:41
  11. Roll Up the World – Part 2 – 14:00

Listen Now:









Fine Soft Day – “Roll Up the World, Part 1

The Forty Days – The Colour of Change

The Forty Days – The Colour of Change

Are all of the great new bands from Italy these days? It seems that way. The Forty days is one of my latest finds on The Forty Days are from Pisa, Italy, yeah, the city with the leaning tower; and although they can play excellent progressive rock, they can also play solid psychedelic rock as well.

The Forty Days got started in August 2014, as a 70’s rock cover band. Band members have also played in Pink Floyd tribute bands, and the influence can be heard throughout their debut album, The Colour of Change.

The band is made up ofGiancarlo Padula, on lead vocals and keyboards; Dario Vignale, on guitars and backing vocals; Massimo Valloni, on bass; and Giorgio Morreale, on drums.

The album opens with, “Looking for Change”, and the Pink Floyd similarities I mentioned before fill the soundscape. This one opens like a great mix of “Wishing You Were Here” and “Welcome to the Machine”, with some “Dogs of War”, added for good measure. Then screams from Giancarlo Padula, on lead vocals, adding to the wonderful keyboards he played from the start. The deep bass and lead guitar from Massimo Valloni and Dario Vignale fill the empty spaces well. Then those deep Floydian machine guitar grinds we remember from so many plays of Animals and others.

Giancarlo Padula, has a voice that reminds me a little of Simone Rossetti of Italy’s famous, The Watch. A little Gabrielesque, and that is wonderful to here with all this PF Animals sound, rocking around you. Peter Gabriel sitting in with Animals, WYWH, era Pink Floyd. Yes, that makes you want to hear more right? Me too.

“Uneasy Dream” is a wonderful Tony banks keyboard inspired instrumental. Again, those wonderful PF lead and bass guitar sounds makes this another classic mix of two great sounds you wish had mixed back in the 70s. Yes, Genesis meets Pink Floyd. That’s nice.

“The Garden”, opens with beautiful soft guitar, like LZ’s “Going to California”, before Giancarlo Padula softly describes his perfect version of the Garden of Eden. Wonderful guitar running through soft keys, with excellent rhythm from the drums. Not the epic storyline from “The Garden” of Unitopia fame, but rather a relaxing stroll through the same wild cultivated place that only really can be envisioned in dreams. The lead guitar solos from Dario Vignale would make David Gilmour smile, like I did.

“Homeless”, opens with soft acoustic guitars, befitting the subject matter. Powerful drums from Giorgio Morreale. Some of his best on the album. More great lead electric soloing from Dario Vignale. Padula’s singing and keyboards really make their mark felt on this track. The keys towards the middle take you right back to A Trick of Tail.

“John’s Pool”, opens with those wonderful keys you remember from Tony Banks’ past with Genesis, then a wonderful PF – like lead guitar from Dario Vignale. More Trick of the Tail like keys as Padula lays out the story, “I’m driving in my car, on my way to…” The power guitar playing takes you right back to some of the Led Zeppelin you remember so well.

“Restart”, opens with quiet singing from Padula, before he takes off on a Banks’ inspired Lamb – like keyboard assault. Listen closely and you might hear memories of side two of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, in Padula’s keyboards. The acoustic guitar work from Vignale is extraordinary. The band keeps everything so interesting and varied that you never hear too much of a good thing…even if, at times you want that guitar or keyboard solo to last all day.

“Four Years in a While”, is an excellent long closer track full of innovative keyboards and more creative guitar licks than we really ever expected. Padula’s vocals demonstrate his ability to reach out and force you to remember each song and make them a part of your memory.

This is an album I cannot urge you enough to try. This band is primed after years of working the trenches to sell out venues. The music is overwhelmingly ready for prime time. I cannot believe this band is not playing more festivals than they have already. Maybe if enough people hear this album they will. Must listening. Please get in on the ground floor before everyone else knows The Forty Days.

Track List

  1. Looking for Change – 5:45
  2. Uneasy Dream – 3:32
  3. The Garden – 6:52
  4. Homeless – 9:16
  5. John’s Pool – 5:49
  6. Restart – 7:27
  7. Four Years in a While – 8:21

The Forty Days – The Colour of Change, was released on Lizard Records, back in October 28, 2017, but better late, than never.

The Colour of Change – The Forty Days – Teaser #1

The Colour of Change – The Forty Days – Teaser #2

The Forty Days – “The Garden”

Even Flow – Mother

Even Flow – Mother

Wow! When I first heard that wonderful acoustic guitar and the elegant piano on, I knew I was hooked! Mother is now one of my favorite albums of 2019. It is spectacular.

Even Flow is a progressive metal band founded in the late nineties by brothers Pietro Paolo, on guitar and backing vocals; and Giorgio Lunesu, on drums. Marco Pastorino, sings lead vocals; and Luca Negro, plays bass, to round out the band membership.

Even Flow calls Sassari its home, it is the second largest Italian city on the island of Sardinia. The closeness to the ocean definitely influences the band’s desire to express their ideas and emotions.

Mother is an EP of five songs, but you definitely get your money’s worth on the five songs they have recorded. In the meantime, please go back and listen to and buy their back catalog because there is so much to enjoy.

“Fly”, opens the EP with cymbals and elegant piano well supported with soft drums. We soon hear Marco Pastorino’s vocals, “Hello, my sunrise… Unsealed, wall of sound. Am I leaving the ground? Fly over the sun…, I cross the waves”. Yes, emotions well delivered. Pastorino’s vocals are hard to place. A little like Diego Marchesi, from Kingcrow. But excellent. His voice fits the music perfectly. The acoustic guitar which enters the space is fantastic. A little like Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat. The kind of guitar playing that stays with you long after the song ends. The lead electric guitar solos from Pietro Paolo are also wonderful. The song is too short, and full of emotion and adventure, that makes you want to hear more. There is so much more to enjoy…

Even Flow at Rock the Castle Festival in Verona, Italy

“Ancient Memories”, is full of more of that wonderful acoustic guitar at its opening. Pastorino’s vocals stand above the music this time. The guitar and percussion are a perfect match. This album is a greatest hits album, full of perfect musicianship and great lyrics and vocals. The piano sooths so well. Pastorino sings, “Find what is lost…in beauty and time! Calling you!” yes, get out there and explore the wonders of this world.

“Strong”, opens with excellent keyboards and more of that wonderful guitar. The bass and drums are formidable. Pastorino sings, “Shine, to fly. Forever strong!” The ensuing guitar and keyboard solos are absolutely unforgettable. The percussion and drums do not miss a beat.

“Sun”, opens with soft guitars and interesting keyboards. This is another showcase for Pastorino’s vocals.

“Sunrise”, is an instrumental; opening with excellent fast-moving acoustic guitar, driven percussion and supporting beats. The guitar and keyboard closing will take you back to some of Rush’s adventures with “The Villa Strangiato”.

Even Flow has a long festival appearance history and have very good partnerships and relations with several well-known bands in the symphonic metal genre.

This year they played the second day of the Rock the Castle Festival in Verona, Italy, and were well received by the audience, despite the unusual heat, blistering Europe.

Please get out there and give this Mother a listen. Then, please do go back and check out the rest of the catalog. I am going to ask them to send the rest to me to review here. Ever Flow is an excellent band making quality symphonic progressive metal.

Track List

  1. Fly – 3:02
  2. Ancient Memories – 5:24
  3. Strong – 3:01
  4. Sun – 3:26
  5. Sunrise – 2:47

Nth Ascension – Stranger Than Fiction

Nth Ascension – Stranger Than Fiction

I reviewed Nth Ascension’s album In Fine Initium, back in 2016. Stranger Than Fiction, is the band’s third album, released in May of 2019; with, Ascension of Kings, being their debut, back in 2014. In Fine Initium was an excellent album and I was hoping to follow up on this band and hear and review their next work of art. Thankfully they obliged and sent me the demo.

This is magnificent music! The keyboards are some of the best I have heard all year. 2019, has become a great year for keyboard albums so far. Or maybe I am finding more of them. Not sure which is the best description. Anyway, this is a wonderful album of music that will enhance your album collection.

Nth Ascension is Michael Alan Taylor, on lead vocals; Darrel Treece-Birch, on keyboards; Craig Walker, on drums and percussion; Gavin Walker, on bass guitar; and Martin Walker, on electric and acoustic guitar. The band hails from the UK and produces the kind of Neo Prog that made the country proud back in the 1980s and 90s.

Rain and thunder welcome the listener to “The Opening”. One of the best tracks on the album. Flute, soft guitars, vocalizations, and wonderful keyboards fill the air. If only the whole album was like this…Later Marillion – like keyboards and guitars. Like a morning across the world, awakening anthem.

After a thunderous roar of guitar and drum, “True Identity” becomes a rocker full of Michael Alan Taylor’s lead vocals. At times he sounds and keeps the same kind of cadence as Euan Lowson; Pallas’ famous singer from the seminal album, The Sentinel. In fact, his voice is deeper and closer to Asia’s John Payne. But this song will really take you back to the feel of The Sentinel. The deep bass from Gavin Walker in the middle is a wonderful transition between keys and heavy guitars.

“Fire in the Sky” opens with beautiful piano and soft guitar. A real stunning opening for sure. The power of the grinding bass, steady drum, golden keyboards and guitars moving intricately to the beat, insure you that this band is firing on all cylinders. Taylor sings, “Let me see the fire in the sky. Let it show me the way”. With authority.

“Reconciled” is another heavy rocker full of charge. Pronounced drums, steady bass and interesting lead electric guitar themes. A powerful anthem, as Taylor lifts his voice amongst the skyward keyboards and brilliant guitars and drums. At times, this song reminds me of some of the powerful anthems Marillion used to write, when they had a Fish at the helm.

Next are the continuing story of the Clanaan Chronicles. Three songs that continue the story started with the debut, Ascension of Kings.

“The Gathering (Clanaan Pt 7)” opens with deep keys and soft drums. Then Taylor sings, “Welcome my people. We meet from afar. This is our story. We make our mark. The cause of freedom. We resurrect. Too long we’ve watched. Too long we’ve slept”. This one sounds very Marillion. Fish – Marillion, the best and only Marillion for me. “No need to fear!”. Derek Dick’s vocal themes mixed well with wonderful keys and guitars along with bass and drums. Like a return to Script, full of passionate and thoroughly pleasing music. They end it with a guitar solo even Steven Rothery would be proud to call his own.

“Journey’s End (Clanaan Pt 8)”, is full of darker images, lyrics and guitar with steady drums. Not the regal symphony that came before, but a deep, dreading, metal – like power driver. When the vocals and standard beat stop, the beautiful keyboards and guitar solo make this one of the best songs on the album. Like a wonderful Yes, “And You and I’ moment, well worth the price of admission.

“Lament (Clanaan Pt 9)”, is a short acoustic guitar interlude that you wish would have been 10 minutes long. Wonderful.

“Sound to Light”, is the powerful over 18 minute closer you were hoping for. It opens with acoustic guitar. Then Taylor singing, “I hear your voice. The universal truth. What we see and what we see through. So perfect and unique. So complex and so complete. I hear your voice”. Then the band sings chorus, “In the oceans roar, on the mountain tor”.

The instrumental section slowly kicks off full speed ahead with lead guitar deep keyboards, bass and rocking drums. Wonderful spacey effects and dream visions fill the near mid – section. Like Yes’ Topo Oceans. Just lay or sit back and look up into space and dream. The keyboards will take you away. You will never want this song to end…and sometimes it feels like it won’t. Not even Floyd or Yes let you relax and fill your head with this much spatial beauty. Let your mind fly to distant places. The piano and keyboards that return, along with the guitar solos are all here for you to enjoy. A band full of hope for you or anyone to recognize what they are offering. Amazing!

Then a powerful build-up as the song moves towards the end. More rocking, but I’d rather dream further right now. Yes, “I hear your voice!” But I’d rather hear those brilliant keys again. And so, as if they heard me, the piano and keyboards return as the song slowly ends. Ah, but wait…there’s more…They heard me, after all.

This is an excellent album. One of my favorites of the year, so far. The wonderful artwork of Oliver Pengilly captures the power and feel of the album well with the swell of the ocean. The album was engineered by Darrel Treece-Birch and Martin Walker. The album was mixed and mastered by Eric Gillette, (Neal Morse Band), at EKG Studios in the USA.

Please pick up Stranger Than Fiction, Nth Ascension’s return to recording. It is a powerful third album for this band who deserves so much more praise than they are receiving. Please pick up the rest of the catalog. It is that good…while you only have to buy three albums…

Track List

  1. The Opening – 5:59
  2. True Identity – 5:26
  3. Fire in the Sky – 7:51
  4. Reconciled – 10:27
  5. The Gathering (Clanaan Pt 7) – 7:17
  6. Journey’s End (Clanaan Pt 8) – 15:49
  7. Lament (Clanaan Pt 9) – 1:40
  8. Sound to Light – 18:14

Perfect Era – Beneath the Clouds We Dream

Perfect Era – Beneath the Clouds We Dream

Perfect Era is a progressive rock band from Milford, CT in the US. They have debuted July 1st, with a powerful progressive album full of excellent guitar, drums and keyboards, set to exploring lyrics and dark stories. This band is already fit for prime time, and Beneath the Clouds We Dream, is a foundational testament to what this band can do and the future looks bright, right now. By the way…what an excellent title for an album. Despite the clouds and sadness, we dream.

The band is made up of Arnab Sengupta, on vocals; Todd Paskin, on guitars; Roger Bush, on keyboards; Don Beatrice, on bass; and Brian Hopkins, on drums.

This album kicks off with a powerful instrumental welcome titled, “A Different Time”. Deep, dark moody keys and flashing guitars highlighted with impactful drumming.

After a squeaky door opens, keyboards and guitars burst through with solid drumming to open “No Absence of Memory’s Glow”. We hear Arnab Sengupta’s first vocals. He sounds a little like James LaBrie, only with a much higher pitch to his vocals. The music is a good mix of Styx and Dream Theater. Yes, Sengupta’s vocals have some close similarities to Dennis De Young at times. The keyboards, effects, solid bass, guitars and drums create a symphonic imagery that will make you smile.

The piano opening to “No Needs to Explain” is melodic and a warm welcome. Sengupta’s vocals help expand the lyrics and storyline of each song. But this song is a highlight for one of his best vocal performances on the album. The deep bass and expert keyboards which finish the track stand out as some of the best playing on the album.

“Clandestine Worlds” is one of my album favorites. A dynamic cannonball of effects, keyboards, bass, guitars and drums. Simply Boston-like musicianship, from a new generation. The video they made to accompany the music is wonderful to watch.

“The Skyline Dream” is another of the best tracks on this album. It launches like a rocket off the platform with solid keys and effortlessly reaching guitars. Great bass and drum support, with Sengupta’s vocals laying out the story.

“Lost Again” is another powerful track of excellent lead guitar work, supported by bass, keyboards and well-placed drums.

“Tides Rush In” is a dream creating, closer at over nine minutes. “Will it be enough this time? What I’ve given is sublime. My mind opens wide. I stand there with perception, empowered by the winds…when the tides rush in”, Sengupta sings. Yes, I know what he means from watching many tides rush in, during stormy weather in the fall. The tides are wonderful and awe inspiring. You can find a lot of creative inspiration from the imagery. On this track, you can also hear a little more influence from Freddy Mercury in Sengupta’s voice. The keyboards really stand out on this track. But the guitar work and drumming support the music very well.

This is a very solid debut that I think any band would be proud to produce. I really enjoyed the creativity and deep lyrics, along with the power of their sound. Give this band a try, with this solid debut. You will not be dismayed.


  1. A Different Time – 1:36
  2. No Absence of Memory’s Glow – 7:36
  3. No Needs to Explain – 4:27
  4. Clandestine Worlds – 6:32
  5. The Skyline Dream – 8:26
  6. Lost Again – 5:07
  7. Tides Rush In – 9:05

Perfect Era – “Clandestine Worlds”