All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero has been writing about progressive music and world music for many years. Publications include Eurock (USA), Marquee (Japan), and Nuevas Músicas (Spain). He founded the websites and Angel also produced Musica NA, a music show for TVE (Spain) featuring fusion, avant-garde, world music, new age and electronic artists.

Purveyors of Fine Space Music

Broekhuis Keller & Schonwalder – Red
Broekhuis Keller & Schonwalder

Red (Manikin, 2012)

If you fell in love with the Berlin-style electronic music of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Ash Ra Temple, you are in for a treat here. Broekhuis, Keller and Schönwälder is a trio that brings together three of the finest musicians in today’s progressive electronic music scene, drawing from the masters of the past and updating the music for the 21st century.

Bas Broekhuis is a Dutch drummer and sound technician, Detlef Keller is a German keyboardist and sequencer programmer and Mario Schönwälder is a German synthesist and sound designer from Berlin. Red is the latest of the trio’s albums. It is divided into three lengthy space music suites, Red One, Red Two and From Red to Green.

The perfectly synchronized pieces developed by Broekhuis, Keller and Schönwälder build up slowly and gradually. What makes up Red attractive is the brilliant combination of mesmerizing electronic ambiance, pulsating sequences, evocative melodies and rich palette of percussion.

The trio is a live band. They have performed throughout Europe and visited the United States recently. In addition, Schönwälder runs the business side of the group, managing the record label and tour planning.

Schönwälder is the organizational mind and is taking care of CD releases, concert planning and the so beloved bookkeeping.

Red is a spellbinding album of vital space music by three of the finest electronic music makers of our time.

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Shape Shifting Santana

Santana – Shape Shifter

Shape Shifter (Starfaith Records, 2012)

Shape Shifter is a collection of instrumental pieces that legendary guitarist Carlos Santana saved for this all-instrumental project. Santana’s career spans decades and various musical genres. Shape Shifter showcases these various musical styles and influences.

Carlos Santana dedicates this album to the indigenous peoples of North America, the American Indians. The title track begins with native chants, acoustic guitars and rattles although Santana quickly shows his chops with one of his spectacular electric guitar solos.

In addition to ‘Shape Shifter’, album highlights include the reggae and world music-infused ‘Dom’ and ‘Nomad’, where Santana and keyboardist Chester Thompson carry out a sizzling duel.

Santana has always been a master craftsman of slow tempo instrumental pieces, with a romantic feel. He treats the listener to a few of these downtempo cuts, the best of which are ‘Angelica Faith’ and ‘Canela.’

Band members featured in the album are virtuoso players Chester Thompson on keyboards; Dennis Chambers on drums; Benny Rietveld on bass; Raul Rekow on congas; Karl Perazzo on percussion; Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay on vocals; and special guest Salvador Santana (Carlos’ son) on keyboards.

Shape Shifter presents the eclectic instrumental side of influential guitarist Carlos Santana who showcases a scorching mix of fiery rock, Afro-Latin beats, global sounds and smooth jazz.

Psychedelic Woodlands

Barrett Elmore – Woodlands (
Barrett Elmore

Woodlands (Trail Records 012, 2012)

The beautifully packaged Woodlands CD gives you a good idea of what Barrett Elmore’s music is going to sound like. Barrett Elmore is a superb Swedish group that has absorbed the best essence of early space rock and psychedelia.

The vocals, musical instruments and even the arrangements sound like they came out of the late 1960s or early 1970s. However, the recording is modern and it’s refreshing to listen to this type of music recorded with today’s technology.

Although Barrett Elmore have been compared to early Pink Floyd, I see them more as the hybrid grandchild of Pink Floyd and The Doors. The band creates Pink Floyd-style dreamy and hypnotic early progressive space rock pieces combined with Jim Morrison-type male vocals, bluesy jams and hippy era folk-rock female vocals, inspired by the mysterious Nordic woods.

Barrett Elmore was formed in 2008 in Sweden. The band originally started out as a trio that performed instrumental blues. Soon they progressed on to psychedelic and psychedelic-inspired music. When vocalist Mikaela Eriksson joined the band, Barrett Elmore originated the sound and style revealed in their music today.

The line-up includes Claes Mikael Svensson on drums, percussion, vocals; Max Karlstrom on bass, vocals, organ, harmonica, synthesizers; Mikaela Eriksson on vocals; and William Friman on guitar, piano, and organ.

Woodlands is a significant album of trance-like exploratory psychedelic rock by one of the new masters in the genre.

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Spectacular Show Indeed

ELP – Come and see the Show – Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer

Come and see the Show – Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer (Razor & Tie, 2012)

This Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer compilation is a taste of what’s to come later this year from the Razor & Tie label. Come and see the Show was originally released in 2008 and it’s re-released now as part of a campaign to reissue remastered expanded versions of the Emerson Lake & Palmer back catalog.

Emerson Lake & Palmer was one of the legendary bands of the 1970s. They were progressive rock pioneers and one of the first acts to use synthesizers outside of experimental academic circles.

Loved by hundreds of thousands of music fans and and despised by fad-obsessed pop music critics, Emerson Lake & Palmer brought together three top British instrumentalists. Keyboardist Keith Emerson was the leader of an early classically-influenced progressive rock band called The Nice. Vocalist and bassist Greg Lake was the familiar voice of the seminal progressive rock band King Crimson. And Carl Palmer had performed with another early progressive band called atomic rooster.

Come and see the Show – Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer is an excellent introduction to the first progressive rock supergroup. I have to admit that I have a special fondness for Emerson Lake & Palmer. When I was very young, before I was interested in buying albums, I heard the song ‘Lucky Man’. I was totally captivated by the minimoog solo. Since then, I’ve been hooked to progressive rock and electronic music. That was a time when commercial radio was still a place for exploration and discovery, before corporate radio turned the commercial airwaves into a wasteland.

There is not a bad song in Come and see the Show – Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer which is a great achievement. The compilation features Emerson Lake & Palmer’s radio hits: ‘From The Beginning,’ ‘Lucky Man,’ ‘Jerusalem,’ ‘Still… You Turn Me On,’ ‘Karn Evil 9,’ and Greg Lake’s beautiful ‘I Believe In Father Christmas.’

But Emerson Lake & Palmer was also well known for its spectacular instrumental virtuosity. Come and see the Show includes some of its most popular instrumental pieces such as ‘Hoedown’, ‘Tank,’ ‘Fanfare for the Common Man,’ ‘Toccata,’ ‘Peter Gunn’ and ‘Nutrocker’.

The material used in the compilation comes from Emerson Lake & Palmer’s progressive rock era albums, including Emerson Lake & Palmer (1970), Pictures at an Exhibition (1971), Trilogy (1972), Brain Salad Surgery (1973), Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen (1974), and Works Volume 1 (1977). Material from the masterful classic album Tarkus (1971) and Works Volume 2 (1977) was left out.

Come and see the Show – Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer shows the masterful craft of three of the finest and most influential progressive rock musicians of the early 1970s.

Keyboard Legend Live in 2003

Rick Wakeman – In The Nick Of Time
Rick Wakeman

In The Nick Of Time – Live in 2003 (Gonzo Multimedia MFVP128CD, 2012)

British keyboardist reached legendary status in the 1970s for his work in British progressive rock band Yes and also for his early thematic solo albums. In The Nick Of Time – Live in 2003 is the latest release in his long career. It is a series of live performances recorded in 2003.

In The Nick Of Time shows that in 2003 Rick Wakeman was still one the finest rock keyboardists. The album begins with a spectacular medley of two of his pieces, Catherine Parr and Beware Your Enemies. It is an outstanding keyboard fest, with Wakeman showing his masterful ability on synthesizers and organ.

The next piece is ‘Out There’ from his Out There album released in 2003. Instead of a progressive rock piece, it sounds like Rick Wakeman jamming with Deep Purple.

Next, he plays material from No Earthly Connection. The best part of this piece is Art Glynne’s guitar solo and a brief keyboard solo by Wakeman. Honestly, Rick Wakeman is at its best in instrumental parts. He hasn’t had much luck with solo vocalists.

Another highlight is the beautiful symphonic composition ‘Dance of a Thousand Lights’ featuring Wakeman on a variety of keyboards. It’s a track from “Return to the Centre of the Earth” that was released in 2009.

Rick Wakeman was well known for his use of cathedral style organ in various Yes albums. He shows his admirable technique in ‘The Cathedral on the Sky’. The solo vocals once more seem more appropriate for a hard rock band than for one of the legendary figures of progressive rock.

‘White Rock’ is a series of keyboard and guitar jams set to a basic rock rhythm.

The album ends with ‘Wurm’ which is a Steve Howe piece from Yes’ classic song ‘Starship Trooper’ (part of the Yes album). This is the piece where bassist Lee Pomeroy shows his commendable skill with excellent bass lines.

In The Nick Of Time – Live in 2003 is a fantastic live sampler of Rick Wakeman’s musical career. The progressive rock legend clearly demonstrates that he is at his best when he sticks to progressive rock material.

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Battle Scars

Galahad – Battle Scars

Battle Scars (Avalon Records, 2012)

British progressive rock band Galahad is one of the survivors of the second wave of British progressive rock bands of the 1980s. This was the era that some call neoprog. Galahad is known for taking risks and going in new directions in every new album.

I have mixed feelings about this release. The vocals and keyboards are outstanding throughout the album. However, the band seems to have been infected with the prog metal bug and has added hard rock and heavy metal guitar riffs, making the music less attractive for a progressive rock audience.

Battle Scars opens with beautiful symphonic keyboards, whispered vocals and mellotron. At around minute 3:30, the band switches to hard rock guitars that are of little interest.

Track 2, ‘Reach for the Sun,’ brings more of the hard rocking guitars, although you can also find superb keyboard and electronic music work.

‘Singularity’ uses captivating electronic beats and string synths as well as the same old hard rock riffs. However, at a certain point, guitarist Roy Keyworth breaks away from prog metal slavery and treats the listener to fine solo guitar work.

Track 4, ‘Bitter and Twisted’, sticks to you. It has a catchy hard rock feel with some interesting synth moments.

Some of the best vocal work appears on ‘Suspended Animation’, where you can also find notable organ passages and guitar melodies.

The highlight of the album is ‘Beyond the Barbed Wire,’ where once more we find outstanding keyboard dexterity and where the electric guitar breaks away from the hard rock mold.

Keyboards and guitars fight it out on track 7, ‘Seize the Day.’

The album concludes with the remake of one of the band’s classic tunes, titled ‘Sleepers 2012.’

I hope you like what we have come up with, and if you know us well you’ll realize that we try and make each album different from the previous one, but still include certain Galahad traits,” says vocalist Stuart Nicholson. “Plus, I’d like to thank all those who have shown patience and stuck with us – it is greatly appreciated by the band.”

The 2012 lineup of Galahad includes Stuart Nicholson on vocals; Roy Keyworth on guitars; Spenser Luckman on drums; Neil Pepper on bass, guitar & keyboards; Dean Baker on keyboards.

Knifeworld Tales

Knifeworld Buried Alone - Tales of Crushing Defeat

Buried Alone – Tales of Crushing Defeat (Believers Roast, 2009)

Of all the recent progressive rock acts I’ve heard lately, Knifeworld is surely one of the most original and quirky. The band is led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Kavus Torabi. He has one of the most charismatic voices of the new generation of progressive rock singers.

Knifeworld’s is hard to categorize. Kavus Torabi is always full of surprises, changing tempos abruptly and creating various moods that range from dreamy and exotic to high energy rock. Toravi uses familiar rock music instruments such as electric guitar, keyboards and bass as well as rarely used instruments in the genre such as Indian santoor.

The vocals play and essential role. Toravi masterfully combines male and female solo vocals, choruses, ethereal voices and overdubbed sections.

Highlights of Buried Alone – Tales Of Crushing Defeat include ‘Singled Out For Battery’ where Toravi shows his skillful guitar and vocal work plus the use of a recorder solo by Katherine Blake.

On ‘Corpses Feuding Underground’ you’ll find tasty saxophone work by Sarah Measures. The style has connections with the exciting Canterbury sound.

The dreamlike ‘Severed of Horsehoof’ mixes sound effects, skillful tempo changes and Toravi on a wide range of instruments, including the santoor; and more of the outstanding horn creations by Sarah Measures.

‘An Arrival’ has a surreal feel, mixing santoor, guitar and electronic ambiance with a wide range of ethereal female and male vocals.

The otherworldly ‘Unwreckaged’ features more of the brilliant piano, synth and santoor atmospheres.

‘The Money Shot’ has a familiar feel. It includes the always welcomed mellotron, guitar and horns.

Lastly, the short composition titled ‘Torch’ showcases Torabi’s capacity on various types of guitars.

The rest of the pieces feature the heavy metal or hard rock riffs that never bring any value to progressive rock.

Musicians who performed on Buried Alone – Tales Of Crushing Defeat include Kavus Torabi on guitars, bass, vocals, keyboards, violin, santoor; Khyam Allami on drums; Melanie Woods on vocals; Katherine Blake on recorder; Sarah Measures on saxophone, clarinet, and flute; Ben Jacobs on trumpet; James Larcombe on piano, vocals; Crawford Blair on/ bass; Shona Davidson on vocals; and Johnny Karma on vocals.

Buried Alone – Tales of Crushing Defeat is a fascinating and audacious recording that presents the multitalented Kavus Torabi joined by a fine cast of musicians.

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Great Night with Vital Information

Steve Smith & Vital Information - Live! One Great Night
Steve Smith & Vital Information

Live! One Great Night (BFM Jazz 302 062 415 2, 2012)

Four of the finest musicians in the jazz fusion scene are captured live in this superb double set that includes a music recording and a DVD. Live! One Great Night features talented drummer Steve Smith (Journey/Hiromi /Steps Ahead), keyboardist Tom Coster (Santana/Gabor Szabo), bassist Baron Browne (Jean-Luc Ponty/Billy Cobham), and guitarist Vinny Valentino (Bill Evans/Jimmy McGriff).

Live! One Great Night contains a tasty mix of funk, blues, jams and the outstanding konakol vocal percussion style of southern India performed by Vinny Valentino and Steve Smith.

Album highlights include the straight ahead fusion piece ‘Time tunnel’ , the delicious konakol-infused ‘Interwoven Rhythms synchronous’ and Interwoven Rhythms synchronous’ and the captivating swinging blues composition ‘Jimmy Jive.’

Our music allows for individual expression and re-invention,” says Steve Smith about Vital Information’s concept. “We thrive on swing, groove, and creativity. We want to surprise each other every night on the bandstand with new ideas and in the process keep our audience ‘in the moment’ with us.”

Steve Smith and Vital Information have been around since 1983 and have grown into one of the most important jazz fusion acts. The group’s founder and drummer, Steve Smith, has performed with well-known rock, jazz and world music acts, including Journey, Steps Ahead, The Buddy Rich Big Band, Ahmad Jamal, Zakir Hussain, and Hiromi. Steve was recently voted 2012’s #1 Fusion Drummer in Modern Drummer Magazine.
His Hudson Music DVDs Steve Smith – Drumset Technique/History of the U.S. Beat and Drum Legacy – Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants are best sellers in the music educational market.

Baron Browne brought a real serious groove element to the band,” says Smith of his rhythm section partner since 1998. “He’s my favorite bass player to play with because he can play all styles and he always makes the music feel so good.” Browne has worked in the past with jazz luminaries Gary Burton, Billy Cobham, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steps Ahead, and Tom Jones.

The adaptable Tom Coster plays a wide range of keyboards and accordion. He played with Gabor Szabo and Rahsaan Roland Kirk and later with the Santana band for nine years. Coster composed and co-composed some of Santana’s most popular tunes including “Europa”, “Dance Sister Dance”, and “Carnaval”. Tom has recorded many solo albums under his own name and has been a member of Vital Information since 1986.

Vinny Valentino is a recording artist and educator. He has been touring and recording with Vital Information since 2006 and. At age 16, influenced by the music of guitarist George Benson, Vinny began pursuing jazz as a career. “The turning point for me was hearing George Benson in concert; it was an eye-opening experience,” recalls Vinny.

Vinny and his mentor George have since developed a close friendship. George Benson refers to Vinny as a “young genius with brilliant tone and fresh ideas.”

Vinny earned his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies at Howard University and has shared the stage or recording studio with such jazz greats as Gary Bartz, Randy Brecker, Bill Evans, John Pattitucci, Richard Bona, Bob Moses, George Benson, Steve Gadd, Dennis Chambers, and Jimmy McGriff.

The band is currently on its 30th Anniversary Tour:

June 6 Center for the Arts Grass Valley CA
June 13 Sculler’s Boston MA
June 14 Ephrata Theatre Ephrata PA
June 15 & 16 Iridium NYC NY
June 17 Blues Alley DC
June 18 & 19 Night Town Cleveland OH
June 20 Jazz Kitchen, Indianapolis IN
June 21 Ottawa Tavern Grand Rapids MI
June 22 & 23 Jazz Café at the Music Hall, Detroit MI
June 24 Martyr’s (clinic @5pm) (concert @8pm) separate entry/ticket, Chicago IL
June 26 Radisson Hotel at the Historic Lackawanna Station, Scranton PA
June 27 Cape Cod Jazz Fest /Wequassett Resort & Golf Club 8:30pm, Chatham MA

Epic Blomljud

Moon Safari - Blomljud
Moon Safari

Blomljud (Blomljud Records, 2008)

Blomljud (meaning flower sound) is a double album by Swedish progressive symphonic rock band Moon Safari. What characterizes this fine band is the use of well-crafted vocal harmonies with state of the art instrumental symphonic rock.

The lyrics are in English and you will find very little solo vocal parts. Instead, all of Moon Safari’s instrumentalists are excellent vocalists as well, creating vocal harmonies with the participation of most of the band members. Their best vocal work is when the musicians go into a complex jazz harmony direction, with a strong American flavor, think of a cappella acts like The Hi-Lo’s, Manhattan Transfer or Take 6. Other times, they shift to classic prog harmonies in Yes or Starcastle mode; and even into a less interesting sweet pop direction reminiscent of the Beach Boys and 10CC.

On the instrumental Sadie, Blomljud is a real treat for progressive rock fans. Moon Safari uses a wide range of keyboards, such as grand piano, organ, synthesizers and mellotron plus special effects and various forms of guitar, including the fabulous wailing sound of the pedal steel guitar. Musical influences range from early Yes to progressive rock-era Genesis and IQ.

In great progressive rock tradition, Blomljud includes several epics, including the impressive Other Half Of The Sky, which is 31:42 minutes long. This ambitious piece and other cuts on the album include excellent arrangements with transitions that flow seamlessly. Moon Safari also combines beautiful acoustic pastoral moments with high energy instrumental passages.

The line-up on Blomljud includes Simon Åkesson on lead and backing vocals, piano, moog synthesizers, mellotrons, Hammond organ, piano accordion, special effects, and choir arrangements; Petter Sandström on lead and backing vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, special effects; Pontus Åkesson on electric guitars, 6 & 12-string guitars, mandolin, backing vocals; Johan Westerlund on bass, lead vocals; and Tobias Lundgren on drums, percussion, backing vocals.

The album also features several guests musicians, including former member and band founder Anthon Johansson on electric guitar; Anders Pettersson on pedal steel guitar; Andreas Persson on percussion; Måns Axelsson-Ljung on violin, fiddles; and Mona Falk on cello.

Moon Safari was formed in 2003. Their first album was A Doorway to Summer, released in 2005. The album reviewed here, Blomljud, came out in 2008. The third album, Lover’s End was released in 2010. Their latest recording is another double album, this time a live set titled The Gettysburg Address (2012), released just a few weeks ago.

Blomljud is an impressive progressive rock release with all the right ingredients, including a unique vocal style.

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In North America: Blomljud

In Europe: Blomljud

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Shades of Mantra

Mantra - Mantra

Mantra (Arabiandrock ARCD003, 2012)

The Andalusian progressive rock album that never came out is finally available thanks to the Arabiandrock label. Mantra was one of the most exciting Andalusian rock bands in southern Spain in the 1970s. They combined progressive rock with Flamenco and Arabic influences.

If you are familiar with the bands of the time, Mantra followed the Iman school, with extensive dual guitar and keyboard jams fused with flamenco and North African melodies.

The music on Mantra comes from an album demo recorded in 1979 that never came out. At the time of the recording, Mantra featured Tato Macias on drums, José Manuel Portela Ghessi on keyboards, Juan Ahumada Caputto on guitar; José Antonio Ramírez Harana on bass; and Tito Alcedo Gil on guitar.

Mantra is an essential album in any collection of Andalusian rock. It is a worthy testament to a group of young innovative musicians who took progressive rock in unexpected directions.

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