Category Archives: CD Reviews

It Was Only a Dream

Omni - Sólo fue un sueño
Omni

Sólo fue un sueño (self released, 2007)

If you like the music of British progressive rock band Camel, you’ll really enjoy this recording by Spanish band Omni. Based in southern Spain, in the Jerez and Puerto de Santa Maria area, Omni is heavily influenced by the Camel sound of the Mirage and Snow Goose era. Omni plays instrumental pieces, using guitars, keyboards and flute/saxophone that intertwine and create seductive melodies, combining fine symphonic rock with jazz excursions.

Sólo fue un sueño (it was only a dream) was released in 2007. Apparently, the band is still around, but this is the latest release so far. At the time, Omni was led by guitarist Michael Starry, who seems to have American background, but has been living in Spain for many years. The rest of the band includes bassist Jesús Cabral, keyboardist Alberto Márquez, Juan Rios on rhythm guitar, Pepe Torres on flute and sax and Ismael Colón on drums and percussion.

Although the Camel influence dominates the album, Omni also incorporates influences from Andalusian music. On the lengthy piece El tren de Rota, they add Andalusian melodies and beats and recall the sound of the legendary Iman, Califato Independiente.

Omni’s previous recordings include Tras el puente (1990) and El vals de los duendes (2001).

Sólo fue un sueño is a fine album of classic progressive rock by one of the finest bands in Spain.

A Saucerful Of Secrets Remastered

Pink Floyd - A Saucerful Of Secrets
Pink Floyd

A Saucerful Of Secrets (EMI, 1968)

A Saucerful Of Secrets was the second studio recording by Pink Floyd. It was remastered this year and is now available with improved sound quality. A Saucerful Of Secrets was recorded at a difficult time for Pink Floyd. The band’s main lyricist and guitarist, Syd Barrett, was having serious mental health problems and became increasingly unreliable.

If you look at the album credits, you’ll see that guitarist David Gilmour appears along with Barrett. Gilmour was brought in as replacement for Barrett during the recording and brought with him his innovative guitar style.

At this stage of the band, most of the material was composed by bassist Roger Waters and keyboardist Rick Wright. Pink Floyd was still in a musical transition. Pieces such as the hypnotic Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and the instrumental ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets,’ introduced the experimental music and space rock tendencies of the band. Wright’s keyboards and Gilmour’s guitars ventured into uncharted territory. However, some pop elements remained in songs like ‘Corporal Clegg’ and ‘Jugband Blues’ both of which had a very Beatles-like flavor.

The album includes a delightful dreamy piece by Wright titled’ See-Saw,’ where his memorable mellotron plays an essential role.

A Saucerful Of Secrets set the ground for Pink Floyd’s space music explorations, introduced a key new member (David Gilmour) and made wide use of the mellotron, one of the most beloved musical instruments in the world of progressive rock.

Instrumental Rock Chemistry

The Aristocrats - The Aristocrats
The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats
(Boing Music (2011)

The Aristocrats is a new instrumental high energy rock band formed by reputable virtuoso musicians based in various parts of the world. Members include guitarist Guthrie Govan (Asia/GPS, Dizzie Rascal), bassist Bryan Beller (Steve Vai, Dethklok, Mike Keneally), and drummer Marco Minnemann (Adrian Belew, UKZ, Necrophagist).

Their debut album is the self-titled The Aristocrats and features three compositions from each band member. The result of the meeting of these three minds is a mix of hard rock/metal and fusion. Naturally, I’m more interested in the fusion pieces, where the musicians combine musical virtuosity and Satriani and Vai-like electric guitar shredding with superb bass solos and elements of jazz and blues, recalling the sounds of King Crimson, Return to Forever and Frank Zappa.

The best cuts on the album are the laid back “Sweaty Knockers”, “Bad Asteroid”, and “Flatlands”, the exploratory “Furtive Jack” and the fusion piece “Get It Like that.’

Although the musicians are based in two different continents, they left their homes (outside London; Nashville, Tennessee; and southern California) to meet in a Chicago studio. “We ended up using our different influences to write for each other,” says bassist Beller. “I wrote “Sweaty Knockers” specifically for Guthrie to have fun with, while Guthrie wrote “I Want A Parrot” with bass leads in mind. As for Marco’s material, we’re just lucky to be able to keep up with it!

The Aristocrats was formed after an enthusiastic response to a single concert at The Anaheim Bass Bash during the Winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show in January 2011. With just one rehearsal the night before the gig, the trio had a successful experience. “The chemistry was so great,” recalls Govan, who was recently featured on the cover of Guitar Player, “that when we came offstage we all said to each other, ‘This is working. We should record this.’”

Historical Prog Band Returns with More Andalusian Essence

Cai - Metaforas de Luz
Cai

Metaforas de Luz (Bujio BJ201, 2010)

Cai was one of the legendary Andalusian progressive rock groups of the 1970s. In 2007 they came back with a double CD titled Mucho Mas Alla De Nuestras Mentes Diminutas, a reissue of their first CD with bonus material. Three years later, they released their latest studio recording, Metaforas de Luz (Metaphors of Light). The album brings back the captivating elements that made Cai such an essential band in Spanish progressive rock history. With Metaforas de Luz, Cai once more delivers a passionate mix of Flamenco, symphonic rock and jazz forms.

Cai is down to a trio on the album. Missing from the line-up is renowned keyboardist Chano Dominguez. He lives in another part of Spain now and is currently a worldwide famous jazz pianist. Without Chano, the lead instrumentalist is masterful guitarist José Antonio Fernandez Mariscal “El Niño”, who plays acoustic and electric guitars as well as bass.

Founding member Diego Fopiani continues to provide drums and the Flamenco-influenced vocals that characterize Andalusian rock bands. Blas Lago, a younger musician, plays keyboards. Bassist Salvador Otero plays with the live version of the band.

Metaforas de Luz is a fine example of symphonic progressive rock with a Spanish flavor by a legendary band that still sounds fresh and creative.

CD:

Digital download:

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn Remastered

Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Pink Floyd

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Capitol/EMI, 2011)

The first album by legendary progressive rock band Pink Floyd
, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, is now available digitally remastered. The album can be purchased individually or as part of a box set.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was originally released in 1967 and shows Pink Floyd in its pre-progressive rock period. Pink Floyd’s members at the time were Syd Barrett, who was the main songwriter, on guitar and vocals; Roger Waters on bass; Rick Wright on keyboards; and Nick Mason on drums.

In 1967, Pink Floyd was fully immersed in psychedelia. Barrett’s unconventional lyrics sent the listener to a world of fantasy, childlike rhymes and surreal creations. Barrett’s songs were the product of a musician experimenting with music and mind altering drugs.

Barrett also experimented with his electric guitar, using a series of effects that made Pink Floyd’s sound much more exploratory than other British bands of the time.

The album’s title, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, came from the seventh chapter of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn was recorded in Abbey Road’s Studio 3 and produced by EMI resident producer, Norman Smith, while the Beatles were in the studio next door working on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Piper at The Gates Of Dawn is an album by a novice Pink Floyd with dreamlike lyrics and music experimentation by one of the leading songwriters in the rock underground of the late 1960s.

Circa Goes AOR

Circa - And So On
Circa

And So On (2011)

Rock band Circa was expected to be one of the great new progressive rock bands in recent years. With two former Yes members, Tony Kaye on keyboards and Billy Sherwood on guitars and vocals, there is definitely a strong Yes connection. The band has a formidable rhythm section formed by Ronnie Ciago on drums and an excellent bassist that does not appear in the credits. Guitarist Johnny Bruhns is the fourth member of the band.

I used the term rock band because there is little progressive rock in And So On. The album begins with a strong piece, with rich instrumentation that will remind the listener of early Yes. However, the vocals are weak (literally) and the songs are better described as 1980s-style AOR and hard rock. The best instrumental work on the album is provided by the lead guitar and bass.

‘And So On’ is the 4th release by Circa. “Although the album was not written as a concept record, the songs are somehow tied together and are all symbiotic,” Billy Sherwood explains, “it’s really just an evolution of Circa: music. This is our 3rd Studio release.”

The album is available for circahq.com/CircaStore/index.php

Space Music for Apollo

Synth.nl - Apollo
Synth.nl

Apollo (2011)

The new album by Dutch artist Synth.nl is an electronic music tribute to the Apollo Moon project. The musician behind Synth.nl is Michel van Osenbruggen. His music has the melodic sensibility of Vangelis and the spacey atmospheric environments of Tangerine Dream.

Synth.nl illustrates the Apollo Moon missions with a rich palette of dramatic, melodic and ambient synthesizers and electronic beats. He also uses NASA audio archives with voices from mission control, the astronauts and the people behind the project.

Michel van Osenbruggen provides information about each piece and details about the various Apollo missions. “For this album, I was inspired by the Apollo Moon missions, undertaken by NASA during the 60’s and 70’s of the previous century,” says van Osenbruggen. “Since I was born in 1969, the same year that Neil Amstrong set foot on the Moon, I have always felt a very strong connection to this event. Listening to this album will take you on a voyage from the Earth to the Moon and back again.”

Michel van Osenbruggen was born in The Netherlands on the 23th of April 1969. He started collecting synthesizers in 1990 because of his fascination with electronics. “Even though I produced a lot of sounds back then, I first started producing my own music in 2005 when I was at home with a burn-out from work.”

Synth.nl has released four solo albums so far: ‘AeroDynamics’ in 2007, ‘AtmoSphere’ in 2008, ‘OceanoGraphy’ in 2009 and ‘Apollo’ in 2011. In 2010, he released a collaboration album called ‘Refuge en Verre’, together with his good friend Ron Boots. Ron also runs the Groove Unlimited label that releases all of Synth.nl ‘s music.

Apollo is a skillful blend of space music and melodic electronic music by one of the finest acts in the current European electronic music scene.

Import CD (North America)

Digital download

Epic Cor Cordium

Glass Hammer - Cor Cordium
Glass Hammer

Cor Cordium (Arion Records, 2011)

The latest offering by progressive rock band Glass Hammer contains all the ingredients that make this musical genre so special: superb musicianship and captivating artwork. Cor Cordium begins with a suite loaded with state of the art keyboard work that includes glorious mellotron, organ and synthesizers.

Cor Cordium is Glass Hammer’s fourteenth studio album. It’s a follow-up to last year’s much-admired album titled If. It’s a delight to see a band that continues to develop long-form symphonic pieces of epic nature. Cor Cordium contains four suites, all of which are over ten minutes long, and two shorter pieces. If you like a mix of vocal parts with state of the art keyboard and guitar work, then you’ll really enjoy this latest offering by Glass Hammer.

Stylistically, the band is clearly influenced by the British masters of the early 1970s. Yes appears as a strong influence, especially in the vocals, guitars and some of the keyboard work. However, keyboardist Fred Schendel also displays influences from Keith Emerson and the band goes into Gentle Giant and fusion territory on track 3, ‘Salvation Station’ and folk rock in a section of ‘Dear Daddy’.

The line-up on this album includes Fred Schendel on keyboards, steel guitar, backing vocals; Steve Babb on bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals; Jon Davison on lead vocals, acoustic guitars; and Alan Shikoh on electric and acoustic guitars and sitar. They are joined by Randall Williams on drums, Jeffrey Sick on violin on ‘Dear Daddy’ and Ed Davis on viola on ‘Dear Daddy.’

We never set out to make If Volume 2,” says Babb. “But we are definitely heading in the same direction musically. Fans that loved IF are going to be equally excited about Cor Cordium.”

The CD version comes with captivating fantasy artwork and a 16 page full-color layout by artist Tom Kuhn and audiophile mastering by Bob Katz of Digital Domain.

Cor Cordium is a lovely and beautifully crafted progressive rock album by one of the finest bands in the genre.

Electric Infinity

My Brother The Wind - I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity
My Brother The Wind

I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity (Transsubstans TRANS090, 2011)

Swedish band My Brother The Wind continues the fine tradition of progressive psychedelic rock. Their new album is I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity and it is a mesmerizing series of dreamy instrumental pieces.

The band was formed by members from other well-known Swedish progressive rock acts: Nicklas Barker (Anekdoten) on guitar and mellotron; Mathias Danielsson (Makajodama, Gösta Berlings Saga) on guitar and tenor recorder; Ronny Eriksson (Magnolia) on bass; and Tomas Eriksson on drums.

The dual electric guitars are heavily processed, creating hypnotic effects. The mellotron adds an exciting vintage electronic sound to the mix. You can find influences from Echoes-era Pink Floyd and Ozric Tentacles.
I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity is a beautifully crafted atmospheric mix of rock, electronica, and psychedelia.

The album is available on CD, LP and digital download.

CD:

Digital

Europe:

Poetic Deep Space

Janet Robbins - Song of the Gypsy Tree
Janet Robbins

Song of the Gypsy Tree‘ (Star 7 Records, 2010)

I’ve always been interested in dark folk and deep space ambient music. Janet Robbins is an impressive discovery in this field. Her new album titled ‘Song of the Gypsy Tree’
introduces a magical and mesmerizing collection of poetry combined with remarkable overdubbed vocals, ambient music, whispering voices, electronic beats, beautiful distant vocals and choruses, global music samples and acoustic instruments such as the piano and frame drums.

I’m singing on this album – there’s more compositional structure for the lyric, although there are formless passages of lyric as well,” explains Janet. “Sonically I still draw from a source of tone and musicality, that seems to reside in middle earth and deep space. I do feel the quality of journey and travel still exists within the music.”

Janet Robbins introspective lyrics are richly poetic with themes of love, the environment, nature, science fiction, dreams and mystery. She composed, wrote and performed most of the music. Robbins is an accomplished piano player and also uses a wide variety of electronic keyboard sounds. Two percussionists, Chris Armstrong and River Guerguerian participated in the album.

For me, the album is about relationship of all kinds,” says Janet, “the struggles we create when we ignore our relatedness to one another, the animal kingdom, and to the environment, and the offerings of the natural and spirit world and the surrender that’s needed.”

I think we have the gift of almost unlimited creation and a responsibility for what/the world we create,” adds Janet. “So cook a great meal and share it with friends! Sing a little tune to someone on the street, turn a moment into a radical departure from social dictates, use your voice and break the numbing acquiescence of a collective sleep. But enjoy life.”

Song of the Gypsy Tree‘ conjures a futuristic, mysterious world with an impressive range of layered vocal talent and hypnotic deep space ambient sounds. An extraordinary album by new dark ambience talent Janet Robbins.