Category Archives: Classic Rock

Classic rock bands

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

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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

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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: http://seaprogfest.org/.

I requested a demo immediately after listening to some samples at the CDBaby.com store:  https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/farmhouseoydssey

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

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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:
Smarturl.it/fsd-river

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“River”

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