One of Italy’s iconic progressive rock bands returns with Transiberiana, its first studio recording in over 20 years. The lineup includes numerous changes. The only original member left is keyboard maestro Vittorio Nocenzi. The venerable band’s style contains familiar classic Italian elements along with innovations and various new influences. The vocals have clearly changed. Banco’s longtime and highly recognizable vocalist Francesco di Giacomo died in 2014. The new vocalist has his own character, less operatic, and does a commendable job.
The keyboards are still the essence of Banco, ranging from mesmerizing orchestrations to superb synths solos. The guitars go way beyond the classic Banco sound. At times, the lead guitarist channels Alan Holdsworth, delivering impeccable, exquisite solos. Regressive prog metal and hard rock appear briefly (thankfully) in the form of some riffs, but most of the guitar work is truly excellent.
Throughout the album, symphonic progressive rock meets furious, cutting edge jazz-rock at times. Highlights incluce the superb fusion piece “L’assalto Dei Lupi,” the lovely “Campi di Fragole”; the mesmerizing “Eterna Transiberiana” that features the best vocals on the album; the delightful keyboard piece “Lasciando Alle Spalle”; and the masterful “Il Grande Bianco.”
The lineup includes Tony D’Alessio on lead vocals; Filippo Marcheggiani on lead guitar; Nicola Di Già on rhythm guitar; Vittorio Nocenzi on piano, keyboards, vocals; Marco Capozi on bass; and Fabio Moresco on drums.
Jordsjø showcases progressive rock at its best. This
remarkable Norwegian band led by multi-instrumentalist Håkon Oftung (former Tusmørke),
brings together the best of Scandinavian symphonic progressive rock with a dash
of folk, classical and space rock.
The sound is characterized by the use of lead flute, featuring delightful solos and exquisite interlay with the guitars and keyboards. The keyboards used include vintage organ, majestic mellotron and spacey synths. Some songs feature captivating vocals.
Although there are some connections to the music of Anglagard, Jordsjø’s style is not as dark and ominous.
The lineup on Nattfiolen includes Håkon Oftung on vocals, guitars, flute, keyboards; and Kristian Frøland on drums, percussion.
Overall, Nattfiolen is a masterfully-crafted with beautiful arrangements and first-rate musicianship. It is one of the finest releases of the year.
Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier continue their guitar collaboration with The Alluring Ascent, an album that presents an outstanding set of musical pieces. The two European guitarists mix jazz sensibilities with contemporary influences and Middle Eastern sounds. The sequencing of the album features upbeat tracks followed by laid back, melancholic works.
The interaction of the two guitarists is delightful and varied, showcasing virtuosity and melodic creativity. The two guitarists use a fascinating mix of guitars, ranging from acoustic 12-string and nylon guitars to electric 12-string guitars and the captivating sitar guitar, which is one of the highlights of the album.
The two guitarists are joined by a solid rhythm section that
takes the music to a higher level. The lineup includes Pete Oxley on
sitar-guitar, jazz guitar, nylon acoustic, steel, slide and electric guitars;
Nicolas Meier on acoustic 12-string guitar, nylon guitar, glissentar, steel
guitar; Raph Mizraki on acoustic and electric basses, darbuka; Paul Cavaciuti
on drums; and Keith Fairbairn on percussion.
Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig deliver a spellbinding performance
on Persistent Visions. The combination of bansuri flute, electronics and the
mesmerizing beat of frame drums create a fascinating, relaxing effect.
Persistent Visions is presented in two versions. There is single long piece that is 01:11:03 long and the same musical piece broken into six individual “Visions.”
Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig conceived Persistent Visions as
a constant, uninterrupted listening experience that gradually evolves and
builds with increasing rhythmic and energetic complexity.
Byron creates contemplative beats and patterns while Mark’s
bamboo flute (bansuri) is rooted in two classic Indian ragas.
I really enjoyed the Far Meadow’s Given the Impossible, especially “Seamless Shirt”, with Marguerita singing the lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel’s classic, “Scarborough Fair”. That album was a magnificent surprise for someone who had never even heard of the band. When I heard they were working on the follow up I knew I had to hear and review it.
I am pleasantly surprised again by Foreign Land, which stands on its own with innovative sounds thanks to Eliot Minn, filling every corner of this record with legendary keyboard play. The keyboard work absolutely, separates this band from many of their peers globally. The fine tune of the delivery and the inspired choices made, are simply stellar.
With the loss of Keith Emerson, fewer bands seem inspired to use the keyboard as a central instrument of their production. The Far Meadow, with Minn, stand out, holding the line. Place my early vote now for Eliot Minn, “keyboard performance of the year” in progressive rock.
You hear Minn’s work early and often on the opening track of Foreign Land. “Travelogue” opens with soft keys, but later powerful keyboard innovations will bring back memories of Keith Emerson’s highlights. Later, the organ work he has designed will take you back to early Gabriel – era Genesis. It simply must be heard to be believed. And then that piano…oh my. So, brief recap, synthesizers, organ, and piano. A song to make every keyboard prog fan happy. One of the best songs of the year, so far. But wait…there is more.
Foreign Land is an album for prog lovers who enjoy epic long track albums. Only five tracks with enough space to take in the world and its many flavors. The kind of album you have been waiting years to hear. Extended tracks that allow every band member to shine supreme.
The second major weapon this band has is the exquisitely wonderful voice of Marguerita Alexandrou. I loved her voice on Given the Impossible, but she is used more sparingly on Foreign Land, but in places where only the sophistication of her voice was vital to the sound. She drives the music to a higher level with each note she sings. Her elegant voice adds such magnificence to the overall sound the band delivers.
“Sulis Rise”, is a good example of the strength of these two key members of this band. Alexandrou’s voice highlights the story, bringing beams of the light she is describing. Then Minn delivers Genesis – level keys that take you right back to memories of the early ‘70s.
I have neglected the other members of the band far too long. Denis Warren’s lead and rhythm guitars have their excellent solo moments throughout the first two and final three tracks. Keith Buckman’s bass guitar is ever present adding background depth to the sound. Paul Bringloe’s drums are well placed and help keep a great beat.
Then, there is that classic opening of “Mud”! That pipe organ sound just absolutely caught me by surprise. It sounded so fantastic I wish it had continued throughout the entire song. The lyrics at times took me back to Peter Gabriel’s opening story for the live version of “Supper’s Ready”.
“The Fugitive”, is another great story set to those awesome keyboards and some of the best lead guitar work on the album. The buzzing lead guitar and bouncing bass help buoy the mid-section of the song.
“Foreign Land” is one hell of an album closer. Spellbinding lead guitar, followed by Alexandrou’s voice, then deep bass, and keyboards supporting. Alexandrou sounds very similar to Kate Bush in her early days, melded with Barbara Streisand on this and most of the album – excellent!
Then Minn gives us those deep keys and Warren the heavy guitars you may remember from early IQ and Genesis. Stunning.
Foreign Land is a perfect follow up album. The Far Meadow is definitely on my watch list now. Wish I could get over to see them at Summer’s End. Get this album and go back and complete the catalog. If you miss the music, we used to hear on the radio daily, back in the 1970’s, and that we used to take for granted, please don’t take the Far Meadow for granted. There are too few of these stellar bands left on this planet.
The Far Meadow are:
Marguerita Alexandrou – lead and backing vocals
Paul Bringloe – drums and percussion
Keith Buckman – bass guitar
Eliot Minn – keyboards
Denis Warren – lead and rhythm guitars
All titles written by The Far Meadow with Paul Mallatratt (1, 4 & 5), Nok (1, 4 & 5) and Lawrence Pollinski (4).
Mixed by Joe Gibb
Mastered by David Elliott
Art & design by Brian Mitchell
The Far Meadow will be making their debut appearance at Summer’s End in Chepstow in October 2019, with more dates to be announced throughout the year.
Manu Katché – The Scope (Anteprima Productions, 2019)
French drummer, singer, songwriter and composer explores various genres on his ninth album, The Scope. The biggest innovation on The Scope is the addition of various forms of electronica.
The highlights include the superb opening instrumental piece, “Keep Connexion,” where jazz fusion meets funk and West African kora; “Glow,” a track where soulful male and female vocals combine funk jazz with chamber strings; “Overlooking,” a piece where jazz fusion meets chilled electronica and Latin jazz; the exquisite and mesmerizing trip hop meets funk jazz song “Please Do”; the song “Don’t U Worry” where rock, edgy electronica and neosoul are intertwined; and the bluesy “Goodbye For Now.”
On the downside, the prerequisite, annoying hip hop song and a cheesy electropop bonus track.
The lineup includes Jerome Regard on bass; Manu Katché on
drums and vocals; Patrick Manouguian on guitar; and Jim Henderson on keyboards
Guests include Jim Grandcamp on guitar; Kandia Kouyaté on
kora; Faada Freddy on vocals; Jazzy Bazz on vocals; Jonatha Brooke on vocals; Frédéric
Kret on cello; Michael Nguyen on viola; Hugues Borsarello on violin; Kayla
Galland on vocals; and Alexandre Tassel on flugelhorn.
Flowers at the Scene is the exquisitely produced and arranged fifth solo album by British artist Tim Bowness. The album showcases Bowness talent as songwriter and exceptionally expressive vocalist.
Musically, Bowness crosses various boundaries: elegant art rock, masterfully-crafted progressive rock and electronic ambience.
Flowers at the Scene was coproduced by Bowness and his longtime collaborator Steven Wilson. The diverse lineup of collaborators includes well-known names in the progressive rock, prog metal, jazz and other genres: Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), Andy Partridge (XTC), Kevin Godley (10cc), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), David Longdon (Big Big Train), Brian Hulse (Plenty), Ian Dixon, Tom Atherton, Dylan Howe, David K Jones, Fran Broady and Charles Grimsdale.
Bowness said about the album: “It was an exciting project to put together and it was great working closely with old sparring partners, Brian Hulse and Steven Wilson. Steven was initially brought in to mix the album, but very quickly he was doing far more and developing production ideas alongside Brian and I. Listening to pieces such as Not Married Anymore, Borderline and The War On Me, we both felt that the project had more than a hint of the spirit of no-man and it became obvious that this was a no-man co-production rather than a Bowness/Wilson one.”
Flowers at the Scene is a deeply mesmerizing album with a charming set of dreamy songs.
I was intrigued by the formation of this band from its first announcements in 2015/16. I have been a fan of Primus and Les Claypool’s work for some time. I have also enjoyed Sean Lennon’s solo work. When I heard their first album would be from the progressive rock genre, all I could imagine; before hearing the music, was, that it could sound like John Lennon singing on a Pink Floyd album?
Well, Monolith of Phobos, their first album, from 2016, debuted and it did not disappoint. It sounded indeed, as if John Lennon was singing on a Pink Floyd album. Claypool’s bass intricacies and the warm sound of Sean Lennon singing over the top of the intricate keyboards, bass and lead guitar melodies was perfect. It became one of my favorite albums of 2016.
Then, I heard them play King Crimson’s classic In the Court of the Crimson King live, and I was a fan for life. They later made a studio version of this classic cover on their 2017, EP, Lime and Limpid Green…along with other classic covers like the Who’s “Boris the Spider”; “Astronomy Domine” from Pink Floyd, and “Satori (Enlightenment), Pt.1”, from the Flower Travellin’ Band.
Now they return with their sophomore effort South of
Reality, and they have crafted an even better album than Monolith. This album
picks up where Monolith left off. It is a bit more accessible than Monolith in
the amount of more lyrically driven melodies. At this moment it sits atop my
favorite albums of 2019.
On a Claypool/Lennon album, the lyrics to all of their music
are simultaneously relevant, memorable and satirical.
The album opens with “Little Fishes”, which starts with some
backmasking, quickly followed by a reminder of mercury in the assumed healthy
choice of consumable fish. All set to this rockin’ little, unthreatening melody
of picked bass thunder. It later discusses many of the changes that we as
Boomers and early Millennials have had to contend with daily. Including 3D
printers and the effects of an Internet that vastly controls our lives. When
they go off on a wild musical scamper, you can only wish you were watching it
Next up is my personal favorite song, “Blood and Rockets”. “The Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons”, is a wonderful story set to a fun beat. The story of Jack Parsons is worth a Google search. The fact that this band attempted to describe the story of this legend before the advent of the US Space Program, within a song, and found such a bouncy melody to tell it, is worth many replays. “Movement II, Too the Moon”, is a prominent and valuable instrumental movement section of the song.
“South of Reality”, the title track is another dynamic song
about space and all its multitude of adventures. This time, as seen looking up
from the Earth.
“Boriska” is an interesting Internet story set to spacey
rhythms and music. Google the name of this, at the time, 11-year-old boy, who
claimed to be from Mars. The story is fun to read and listen to, set to music.
“Easily Charmed by Fools” is a fun ironic turn of the
satirical pen from Lennon and Claypool.
“Amethyst Realm” is a unique story from England. About a woman who claimed to have fallen in love with ghosts. Cool, spacey music with ghostly noises and voices.
“Toady Man’s Hour” is another favorite. I like to think it
deals with the story of our current White House resident, President
“Orange”. Even if it isn’t it about him, it is wonderful satire.
“Cricket Chronicles Revisited” opens the track, “Ask Your
Doctor”, with wonderful sitar and Beatlesque wanderings. Sean sounds like John
and George off Magical Mystery Tour. “Psyde Effects” is a cool verbal feast of
ideas and sounds.
“Like Fleas”, immediately reminded me of Perry Farrell’s
wonderful satire and lyrical twist in the song “We’ll Make Great Pets”. Yes,
the Earth may be trying to shake humans off like fleas after all we have done
to the climate.
Wonderful satire set to interesting and complex music.
Bouncy rhythms filled with thick bass, weird and wonderful guitar and
keyboards. Just what the doctor ordered to keep your mind off the current state
on the tragic world political stage.
South of Reality was produced by Les Claypool and Sean Lennon. Claypool engineered and mixed the album at his own Rancho Relaxo studio in Sonoma County, California. South of Reality was released worldwide on Feb 22nd, 2019.
Little Fishes – 6:07
Blood and Rockets – Movement 1 – Saga of Jack Parsons – Movement 2 – Too the Moon – 6:31
South of Reality – 3:29
Boriska – 5:26
Easily Charmed by Fools – 5:12
Amethyst Realm – 7:49
Toadyman’s Hour – 3:14
Cricket Chronicles Revisited – Part 1, Ask Your Doctor – Part 2 – Psyde Effects – 6:24
Like Fleas – 3:33
Canadian guitar virtuoso Strat Andriotis collaborates with iconic musicians from the jazz and fusion world on Night Manager. The guests are legendary violinist Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra), famed Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and pianist Adrean Farrugia.
The album includes masterful and captivating electro-acoustic interactions between Andriotis’ guitars, Jerry Goodman’s violin and Rubalcaba’s piano. The music easily crosses boundaries between contemporary jazz, classical, progressive jazz-rock and Gypsy violin.
This 3CD boxed includes remastered versions of all three of
Peter Banks’s solo studio albums from the 1990s in a single package.
Disc one features Instinct, a great instrumental album that
showcases Peter Bank’s talent as a guitarist. Banks played practically all instruments,
bringing together progressive rock, blues, funk and world music influences.
The second CD includes Self-Contained. Again, Banks played all instruments except keyboards on one track. Self-Contained is a little more exploratory, with numerous short vignettes that range from beautiful solo guitar pieces to excursions into rock, electronica, sound experimentation and ambience.
The third disc is Reduction. Banks continued his sound experimentation,
combining guitars with electronic beats and sound effects, incorporating rock, funk
and electronica along with exquisite acoustic guitar melodies.
Peter Banks was a remarkable guitarist and one of the original members of progressive rock band Yes. He passed away in 2013.