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La Fee Verte
La Fee Verte 2000
From E.A. Poe on their first album duo of Cheryl Wanner and Frank Gerace moved now to William Yeats themes which means that the band’s music became less gloomy. Yeats verses sung in a short intro “The Stolen Child” perfectly set the mood for “La Fee Verte”, very exquisite in its sparse easiness, Cheryl’s voice sounds higher than before and in places reminds Michael Dunford’s RENAISSANCE, the Haslam-less one. Ethereal effect comes more clear with ghostly guitar lines. Wordless vocalization surrounded by crystal sonic dew of “Capacocha” prefaces bodhran-adorned “Nimue” – here’s melody elusive yet at this point the line “absinthe tinted dreams” off “La Fee Verte” springs to mind because both the song and the album taste exactly like this.

Incidental ballet music is “Nijinsky’s Descent” – just a few freaks remember now the great dancer initially put in rock context by Marc Bolan. Both are long gone – isn’t “Procession” a funeral? – but not forgotten. “The Blade” cuts slowly yet deep taking you away – “In The Night”. Curtain’s down.

“Lenan-Sidhe” bears Cheryl’s double vocals, voice in low octave weaves some mantra behind high tones and that hypnotizes before “Pandora’s Music Box” gets opened – through soaring paean “Your Eyes” – to release a child’s nightmare of Lennon’s “Cry Baby Cry”. What a trick having a go not at the song as such but at that bit “Can You Take Me Back” in the beginning! DREAMCHILD shapes it somewhat surreal to match their lyrics that tend towards a real poetry and succeed, intertwining with classic allusions in short sketches like “Do Bats Eat Cats?” Carroll-esque quirky humour is a clue to many little doors on this progressive-gothic suite. So who’s next – Blake, Keats or?..


HAMADRYAD – Conservation Of Mass
Unicorn Records 2000
Music and sincerity can buy everyone so having read the band’s foreword in the booklet, one’s eager to see what’s inside. A short intro of “Eternal Loop” and “Amora Demonis” swoops on a listener with sharp riffage, punctuated bass and – a surprise! – relaxed vocal delivery. Jocelyn Beaulieu’s voice reminds of Jon Anderson‘s while instrumental passages are rooted in RUSH. Together, they could make for another DREAM THEATER clone, if not for oriental guitar solo and easiness rather than just wit and precision in playing. It’s hard to notice the piece’s long because it’s fluent and once you found classical music figures towards the end, there’s a choral ditto of “Carved In Rust”. Vocal polyphony of highest order sets the scene for hypnotic “Still They Laugh”. The theme re-appearing after staccatos filling “The Second Round”. Organ/guitar interplay resembles URIAH HEEP but harmonies are original, soft and tragic simultaneously. It should be like that with lyrics concerning this world’s fate – well, Hamadryad is a nymph living on a tree and dying with it. The band slide above it all with flying colours. “Shades Of Blue” involve Frippian strumming combined with Anthony Phillips’ pastoral tones to a great effect. Those into good old machinery will recognize Hammond C3, Mellotron and Mini-Moog manipulated by Francis Doucet.

“…Action!” comes full of energy but loses in melody at the start – a mistake of many a young band going for technique, not feeling. HAMADRYAD aren’t one of those though and prove it with axes parts, funky rhythm guitar makes room for a top-notch bluesy solo, there’s a hint of UK driven by Holdsworth and Wetton jive. They think big, these Canadian guys, dancing on the verge of progresive rock, fusion and metal! Thunderous is “Nameless” that unfurls into Bach’s fugue before let the voice in. Serene section in the middle, underpinned by loaf or organ, may seem too YES-esque yet you’re already in its swerve to complain. Poignant acoustic guitar bounces along delightful march drumming into “The Second Coming”, a light country feel penetrates this little gem, enshrouded in sunny piano drops. No surprise then that it’s ambient sounds and folk ringing that create “Watercourse Hymn”, an anthem praising nature before urban life. Maybe too gloomy for finale but aftertaste’s good.

A stunning debut. Mass conservated got released effectively – the next one must explode.


Days May Come And Days May Go
1420 Beachwood Drive
Purple Records 2000

This double disc set containing DP’s rehearsals is strictly for collectors because there’s working process on display, no polished stuff the band used to put out. So only those deep into PURPLE who knows the music through and through can value and relish the recordings made in Pirate Sound studio, California, in June 1975. Then the ensemble just recovered from losing Blackmore and were delighted by newly acquired guitarist Tommy Bolin. The preparations for the Mark IV first – and last – album “Come Taste The Band” were comitted to tape by sound engineer Robert Simon and fortunately survived partly to see now the light of day.

Some of “Come Taste” material was already written when the reels caught the sound. Tommy Bolin’s “Owed To “G” has more of a raw edge than album’s version and this ferocious approach, still to be softened by “This Time Around” portion from Lord and Hughes, is highly enjoyable bearing a melodic line that will disappear later and not to pop up even live where Tommy was commanded to play as much in his predecessor’s manner. But at the time DP weren’t about the dramatics oozing from Bolin’s piece – Lord didn’t take it so serious starting classic ragtime the minute guitar stops. Reggae jam “If You Love Me Woman” sounds rather flat since Tommy plays repeatedly the same lick and it’s only David Coverdale ale who seems to get his kicks out of the drift but then Jon tries something tricky and eventually Tommy goes soloing and the improvisation gets more focused. An amazing accord between the band members is highlighted with mighty bass breaks from Hughes when Paice’s drums immediately pick up to supply some imaginative bits.

The “Soldier Of Fortune” harmony can be spotted in “The Orange Juice Song”, the majestic hymn based on Rodrigo’s “Concerto de Aranjuez”. Arguably the best moment of this collection, it will surely please both David’s admirers, as Coverdale comes up with brilliant performance, and fans of Lord’s “Sarabande”. A pity, that didn’t make a proper song but then PURPLE were only establishing themselves into a captain-less situation, that’s why there are many long jams, “I Got Nothing For You” being one of them. It’s funky with Glenn and Tommy having a ball so infectious the other three can’t help but groove too. Paice and Lord might be credited for co-writing one song each on the album, but their roles in its creation can’t be downplayed since without them there wouldn’t be neither swing nor heaviness.

Standard chops of Wille McTell’s “Statesboro’ Blues” delivered by blues freaks Tommy and David gives a rare opportunity to hear the band relax and enjoy their business with Jon’s solo very easy. Hughes’ turn comes with another funky jam, “Dance To The Rock & Roll”, where Glenn not only plucks his strings to drive the piece through but at last joins his voice to David’s, organ, guitar and drums jiving around madly. Rock’n’roll it isn’t yet who cares?

Nothing off those jams pushed its way to “Come Taste The Band” while “Drifter” was already there. Present are a rehearsal sequence with Coverdale and Hughes working out the harmonies for chorus – lyrics had changed later on and the line “Days may come and days may go” was left out – and two versions (one on the “Beachwood Drive”), more bluesy and loose than the final product. The energy’s the same and David’s articulation more clear here: something was lost on the way to Munich that’s in “The Last Of The Long Jams”, the tightest one.

Some chats and the funny bit of Coverdale (if it’s him) singing “I Got You Babe” reflect the atmosphere perfectly. Before bursting into this Sonny &amp’ Cher’s tune David and Glenn harmonized on the former’s “Say You Love Me”, which would turn up only on Coverdale’s “Northwinds” album yet it was rehearsed by PURPLE and the version could be found on “Beachwood Drive”. The second disc includes tracks of less interest so the target is hardcore fans. Only they should savour a snippet called “Sail Away Riff” – yes, Bolin was shown one of the catchiest Blackmore’s hooks but that’s not the issue since David’s singing a line off “Stairway To Heaven”!

The first take of “You Keep On Moving” is mesmerizing with Hughes and Coverdale honing their harmony on the solid base of swaying bass and Tommy’s riffage – a treat! In the same mood band continues drifting into the “Pirate Blues” jam, a simple one keeping PURPLE at ease and David at bay as an improvisation leans towards guitarist’s jazzy soloing, which complements singer’s raw yet smooth “Say You Love Me”, a magnificient end. So, if you hold this album, you had your say.

***** – for real fans

Pilgrim’s Journey
Kinesis 1995

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Undoubtedly, one of the best albums last decade produced but, sadly, overlooked. A glance at the brilliant artwork – and you’re there, in a fairy tale world Jeremy Morris created as a contrast to his hard rock output. The music of this progressive masterpiece may be not rock – ambient keybourd touches in the beginning of “Always Will Return” suggest, it’s not yet guitar splashes interspersing synthesizers’ layers immediately remind of early works by Steve Hackett. Fluent melodies and a combination of rhythmic strumming and harmony guitar decoration proves winning – more so in “Rivers Of Life”, when solid bass line comes in.

There’s new age dominating and the use of grand piano enlivens the picture sometimes pastoral, sometimes dramatic as in Bach influenced “Final Warning”. Yet it’s whole, the track dividing notwithstanding – there are short and long ones: the title piece spanning over 25 minutes. Themes change several times in their flow, thus managing to retain focus.

Some pieces are based on folk motifs and sound very exquisite – “Timeless” involves 12-string while a part of “Deep Sleep” have synthesizer dance reaching its peak in “Aliens”. Jeremy uses classic gizmos like Mini-Moog and ARP so a bit of Wakeman sounds just piquant. Title track accumulates all the power and grace of the album’s first half and in its beauty reaches the sky. Child’s cry – a pilgrimage through life, that’s what “Journey” is about. Life’s a long song, as TULL put it. And wonderful, adds Jeremy.


Gates To The Sea
La Fee Verte 1998
While DEAD CAN DANCE and Diamanda Galas seem to be the obvious reference points for the music of this duo, it takes a glance at the CD itself, not the inlay, to notice a quote from Edgar A. Poe to see there’s more to the sparse canvas DREAMCHILD paint on. Cheryl Wanner’s low voice and odd intonations framed by her wire strung harp and Frank Gerace’s guitar lace sound as a cross between RENAISSANCE and Zappa doing Boulez. Annie Haslam‘s influence feels in the most melodic piece, “Through The Gate”, where guitar takes over the harp to complement the voice and add some warmth to the overall freezing environment.

From the dew-dropping crystal atmosphere of “Outside The Window” there are master’s strokes throughout, harking back to the early Seventies art rock – spot the Frippian strumming in “Silver Brow” or Howe’s touches on “Dream Within A Dream”. Vocal performance little by little gets you hooked, especially when the voice gains rich textures – as in “Sea Horses” – revealing singer’s passion for opera and ability to place it into pop context just like QUEEN did. Cheryl’s bass remindful of ZEP’s “No Quarter” paves the road for almost orchestral manouevres, nearly reaching the “Carmina Burana” dramatics. But this seriousness is decisive: one listening can’t reveal all the humour put into moaning of “Speaking With The Dead” and mad laughter heard in “Sirens’ Song”, mesmerizing as the title suggests. The puzzle pieces fall into their places no earlier than the second spin when the whole picture appears. And it deserves to be seen.


Acoustically Driven
Uriah Heep 2001
For many years we, fans, asked URIAH HEEP to perform an acoustic show – as many of the band’s songs have grown from acoustic form. Now, it was done. And a mixed emotions flood on listening to this brilliant set. Yes, it’s great in his own right yet it takes some spins to realize what’s wrong. With all kudos to the mastership, it has to be said that HEEP somehow lost its identity in the decorations. While it’s great to have female singers and they turn the finale of “Come Back To Me” into powerful gospel chant, any hardcore Heepster will definitely miss unique vocal harmony the group’s known for. The second point is that HEEP apparently needed more time to work on arrangements, Bernie’s approach being a primary example – when others had to adjust their parts to acoustic sound, Mr. Shaw faced much complicate challenge: he was to live old songs – and sometimes he hardly keeps up. Everything Bernie sang before – say, “The Wizard” or “Lady In Black”, not to mention songs he recorded with HEEP – sounds natural, but on part of the material his voice feels very strained: all down to the guys’ nervousness, which is so clear compared to Ian Anderson‘s flute playing. Ian really made the music his own.

Anyway, it must have taken a lot of prowess to dig out the songs from the band’s past – with no less than three pieces off the obscure “Wonderworld” album. HEEP start with one from “Return To Fantasy” (a hint?) though, namely “Why Did You Go”. You just shiver on the dramatics Bernie put into “When I remember how good it was” line, Melvin Duffy’s slide and Steafan Hannigan’s bodhran adding to the picture. Girls’ “ooh’s” aren’t bad either but it’s Phil Lanzon on Hammond who shines throughout – you can’t take organ off HEEP context, can you? The only electric instrument changes for piano on “The Easy Road” where one of the singers sneaks in her flute – with strings arrangement restored and gentle drumming from Lee, it would be unjust saying the version’s worse than original.

Tragic string quartet taking over Phil’s piano in the beginning of “Echoes In The Dark” remind of “White Room” – a pity that Melvin, not Mick played the lap slide guitar part. Completely different appears “Come Back To Me”, the first song from the Lawton era to be played by this line-up. Bernie’s lost here yet it’s now that Trevor Bolder‘s mighty bass comes to the fore and keeps driving “Cross That Line” through. A little baroque to this song after uplifting coda of the previous one feels very refreshing. Mick’s passages are great but, sadly, overdubbed to complement the folky solos by violin and Uileann pipe. What’s funny is that strings play something close to “Love Me Do” hook.

Flute returns for another “Sonic Origami” track, “The Golden Palace” – and here’s Bernie does exactly what he was short of in “Come Back To Me” – heart-wrecking tone. “The Shadows And The Wind” seemes the most unlike choice of the song to make the show – bodhran spices up not so bright song although the band members’ voices would be much greater than the girls’ at the outro. Guitar riffage was left out for gloomy cello to fill the air in the start of “Wonderworld” while Byron’s vulnerability gone forever – voices’ likeness notwithstanding. As if to compensate, there’s one more “world”, “Different World”, a little jazzy one. Box entwines his acoustic guitar with violin and piano to create a light feeling and set the mood for “Circus”, the fans’ favourite. Anderson, Mick and Phil’s touches turned the gentle piece into something it never was – a magic moment! Ian delivers his trademark flute singing only near the end to expose the band yet it’s his fantastic part leading into “Blind Eye”. Players – especially Lee Kerslake – make for Bernie’s rather flat singing.

The vocalist shines in “Traveller In Time” – did anyone think it might be acoustic? The tune comes naturally in this form and seamlessly flows into swaggering “More Fool You”. (Ain’t it time to re-listen the first works of this line up?) Mick does a scorching job, spot the last notes: was he trying to play another classic? Bernie’s nerves show on “Lady In Black” since he changes the lyrics and melody a bit. How he underlines the rhyme on “She, the mother of all MEN, had counselled me so wisely, THEN I feared to walk alone AGAIN”! A violin cuts in for riff and shivers come down the spine. Strings and pipes play a hoedown as if FAIRPORTS joined in. And to quench the thirst, all HEEP eventually sing harmony on “The Wizard”, a bit thin but linked with “Paradise” and “Circle Of Hands” – all medley Celtic-tinged. An interesting turn and the audience went for it. Bravo

Thanks to all the fellow Heepsters that help this project happen. It’s great – not only to keep this beautiful booklet graced by the Roger Dean’s artwork but also have your name printed in. To be a part of it all really warms up.


Way Back To The Bone
Receiver Records 1998
When you think about such a thing as power trio, three bands immediately spring to mind: JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE, CREAM and TASTE. For the list to be complete you should add TRAPEZE, an ensemble many seem to forget as the band’s members’ consequent careers just overshadowed their brilliant past. This concert was recorded at the peak of the group’s rise to fame, in 1972, after their third album, “You Are The Music… We Just The Band”, got released. That’s why the set comprises three new tracks with the rest off the previous LP “Medusa” – in fact, the show was longer but two songs had to be omitted.

TRAPEZE were hot live, Dallas audience went for it and that atmosphere oozes out of the recording. The trio kicks off with pulsating “Way Back To The Bone”. What irks is mix – Glenn Hughes‘ voice covers almost everything, even his own mighty bass but the vibe compensates. Having spot the drift, it’s easy to value what was Glenn’s input in DEEP PURPLE – especially with the notion that Mel Galley’s licks sound all close to those of pre-DP Tommy Bolin. Top-notch funk it is yet at the same time the band appear very raw and bluesy, rockin in the vein of Rory Gallagher. More jive applied to “You Are The Music” where Hughes puts on his Stevie Wonder shoes although his voice still lacked the clear edge he acquired one year later. But what a wall he creates with his bass underpinned by Dave Holland’s blistering drumming, Galley’s guitar entwines with them just like an ivy sprout. Bluesy and viscous is heart-rending “Seafull” sung low – was Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” a blueprint for this gem? Sparse instrumentation and a wailing guitar solo work for a greater effect.

The playing feels modest throughout with no excesses while overall feeling is hard to underestimate. “Your Love Is Alright”, a pure funk, slowly unfurls into a sonic feast and represents how David Coverdale ale-esque Glenn may sound at times. Blame it on Otis and Paul Rodgers – FREE’s “All Right Now” even lent its riff to “Black Cloud”, maybe this live rendition blurs this likeness while makes clear Mel’s passion for Kossoff. Intensive loose improvisation becomes solid with dramatic “Medusa”, focused in all its time changes and almost psychodelic sound effects on the coda. With “Keepin’ Time” TRAPEZE do exactly that but new material seems weaker on the melodic side – and at this point Galley’s and Holland’s soloing save the day. And how polite are Glenn’s remarks towards the audience! Starstruck, in PURPLE he just sweared. “Touch My Life” in this context looks like real confession to the fans, where music speaks more than words.

It was a pity they stopped yet the three graced no less than three other bands. Not bad, really.


Future Echoes Of The Past
Uriah Heep Productions/
Phantom 2001

In order to celebrate the band’s 30th Anniversary URIAH HEEP came up with arguably their best live album to the date. “Future Echoes” comes as powerful as classic “Live 1973” and, while their first concert LP was a prove that the combo was a bunch of top-notch soloists, now HEEP are a tight unit. It was quite difficult approaching this double set, as to spoil the impression of seeing the quintet onstage seemed so easy – but not, appropriate volume just helped to restore the memory.

HEEP always liked to start the show with something off their latest product and “Echoes” no exclusion, being kicked in by two “Sonic Origami” tracks, “Between Two Worlds” and “I Hear Voices”, delivered with no fear of an audience not responding. Such is the band’s following, all up for anything commanded from the stage. Altogether new songs make eight, plus three more tracks off 1995’s “Sea Of Light”, with classic URIAH HEEP’s material all the rest, the lesser part. No matter there were Eighties in-between, it’s all so coherent given the same treatment of inherent vocal harmonies and scorching musicianship that work for overall picture rather than to showcase one’s technique. There’s a bonus track serving as an illustration, “Come Away Melinda”, recorded at the Munich soundcheck, the band’s inside thing, with the members giving it their all before an empty hall.

Needless to say what it turns out like when the seats are filled. HEEP attack: Phil Lanzon and Trevor Bolder leave no crack in the sound and not only allow Mick Box and Lee Kerslake run the drive but solo in equal proportions – like in “Love In Silence”, – Bernie Shaw’s voice may seem too frontal in places yet the mix is perfect. All favourites are here, “July Morning”, “Gypsy” sporting completely new organ solo, and, sure, “Lady In Black”, while HEEP managed to take off the shelves such gems of yore as majestic “Sunrise”, “Sweet Freedom” and “Rain”, a duet of Lanzon and Shaw making a mistake in lyrics. But everything gets put into the show context and as “Stealin'” feels in the right place between new stuff, acoustic lace of “Question” is right where it’s ought to be between smashes which “Easy Livin'” and “Look At Yourself” are.

But they mostly rock here, URIAH HEEP, and while “Heartless Land” with “Love In Silence” taste piquant, “Time Of Revelation” and killer “Feels Like” with almost “N.I.B.” riff and a short drum solo challenge the group’s past regalia in favour of the present and, no doubt, the future – exactly what the album’s title suggests.

As the real treat appears the album’s special edition not only augmented by stylish cardbox and a 20 page booklet but numbered and signed by all five HEEP. A must.


White Trash Guitar
Retrowreck 2000

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Electric Gypsy is back and his album’s title says it all – where Jimi and Rory stopped Bernie picked up the pieces and storms into raw yet driving rock’n’roll “Catching Rainbows”. The band swagger throughout on the edge of punk but somehow manage to keep the line to slightly step it over in Iggy-ish “My Obsession”. Even Torme’s voice supported by backing vocals stretches over its restrictions. The pace slows down to the perky blues of “Credibility Joe”, deeply rooted in the Irish sole that gave birth to the guitarist. (The track’s remix on the bonus disc is almost undistinguishable though.) Easy to see the similarities between this combo and mid-Seventies THIN LIZZY – even acoustic “Pearls” owes a lot to “Cowboy Song”. OK, let it turn out this way rather than feeding the GILLAN fans with the stuff left behind long ago – although “Shoot The DJ” is pure hard rock… with a folky coda. Now, Torme serves as keeper of the Eirie hard rock flame – after Lynott and Gallagher turned the page.

Bernie delivers magnificent “Lonely Wolf Blues” as intense as only a few can these days – at the same time representing the drift that CRANBERRIES et al pledge allegiance to – “Boy Who Run Away” takes its drone from the same source. Torme absorbes many styles and overtly shows he played with Ozzy – and here’s tabla-adorned “Dark Horizon”, with ATOMIC ROOSTER – taste “Healer”, DESPERADO – and Dee Snider warbles in “Easy Action”. Master’s guitar – that’s the common denominator. So while white trash guitar runs “Purple Haze”, the nomadic tribe of rock lives on.


Welcome To The Real World –
Live 1992
Purple Records 1998
What a shame! Did these guys ever play together before the gig? Did the guitarist handle his instrument more than three days? What a disregard towards the fans – and the band, too – is this recording. After brilliant live album registered two decades before and released the same year as this set, listening to “Real World” comes as a torture for ears with out-of-tune playing every here and there. What they were on during the show? OK, Hughes was getting rid of his addiction at the time but what about Holland and Galley? Glenn appears more confident of the three here. Those who witnessed the 1992’s reunion shows report they weren’t bad at all so one has to blame it on the people behind this CD – or on ASIA’s Geoff Downes who joined TRAPEZE only for the Borderline’s gig.

Sure, it’d be preferrable to hear the band doing their job properly rather than have that special guest – invited thanks to his works with Hughesy on some demos that didn’t become an album. The trio starts, though, without him. They do rock with superb “You Are The Music” yet it seems only Glenn’s impassioned singing and Dave’s firework drags the song through as almost any input from Galley, be it solo or harmony singing, feels inappropriate. On the contrary “Way Back To The Bone” comes more strong on the guitar side while Holland plays punk rather than funk and Hughes goes for mannerism rather than clear singing and couples words “funk” and “fuck” all too often.

Downes comes onstage with brilliant soul song “Welcome To The Real World” originally designed for Hughes’ 1991’s album which still has to see the light of day. Glenn’s voice sounds a bit restrained yet this Wonder-esque composition appears the best of all the set – if only Mel would find his way through the strings on the solo! Who’s that screaming on “Coast To Coast” trying to add another dimension that the ballad doesn’t need at all, killed by another guitar’s part courtesy of Galley. “Midnight Flyer” with its Jeff Beck-like riff starts good but sounds very sparse as if this was just a rehearsal, too “plastic” keyboards help ruin the impression – here TRAPEZE’s funk lacks that raw edge the band posessed in Seventies.

Mel supplied the new song “Homeland” with strong rhythm track akin to the SNAKE’s “Guilty Of Love” although got lost on the solo once again. The quality of fresh material, written by Hughes and Galley, is stunning and really on par with some of the classic stuff – more so when oldies like “Touch My Life” are played real bad. A bit of “Georgia On My Mind” and an intro of “Your Love Is Alright” gives a hope it will turn out well yet the first verse is just out to gain focus on the chorus and the band screws it anyway. Glenn may call it “a sexual beat” where Downes goes soloing but that’s not the case – there’s no orgastic culmination Hughes’ vocal and bass antics notwithstanding.

And what could be a real treat, “Black Cloud”, proves more confident, indeed. But again, overall feeling is that we deal with ersatz of TRAPEZE. Maybe, it’s a real world in their eyes yet it tastes like McDonald’s junk food.


PATRICK BROGUIERE – Chateaux de la Loire
Gimmick Productions 2000

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Big expectations were cast on Patrick Broguiere after monster "Mont Saint-Michel" album. French master succeed if not exceeded them. Now the focus shifted from Dark Ages to the early Renaissance period and the story’s about another edifices, castles and palaces. Those into Jon Lord’s “Sarabande” will find all the similarities developed to a great effect. Hammers sounds and a solemn “The Builder’s Pavane” comes in. Hard to believe, it’s only Broguiere plays here as orchestration is unbelievably rich. “Saltarello”, swift rural dance, makes the central part of Pavane, starting with woodwinds that later give way to rock guitar solo, strangely fitting despite its rock edge. Violin coloures the textures so vibrant that almost Gregorian chant and organ of “The Amboise Conspirasy” have not much to add to the whole picture as it’s perfect and folky-tinged second part with shade of “Greensleeves” in just makes you cry.

No less poignant appears “The Ballad Of Scarface”, introducing the vocals by Pierre Yves Theurillat. Down-to-earth voice brilliantly suits the serenade of arresting melody. On the contrary, “Chambord” melody comes elusive and this atmospheric piece is the closest Patrick gets to symphonic music. Short acoustic snippet “Galliard” reminds of another court dance (remember JETHRO TULL mentioned it?) while frivolous “A Celebration In Chenonceau” has an ambient feel due to ticking percussion that becomes more solemn near the end. Well, such were the feasts by Catherine de Medicis… that even Blackmore-ish guitar has its place here.

The theme’s re-introduced anew in exquisite acoustic strumming of “Azay-le-Rideau”, similar to Blackmore’s new works, which later gets beefed up with orchestra colours. Bouree tempo brings in the main theme for “Lady of Montsoreau”, the story popularized by Alexandre Dumas, but its simplicity goes off before “The Gardens Of Villandry”, a complex composition interspersed with violin counterpoints on rather new age background. Hammers knock in again while guitar dance and woodwinds complete the circle.

A masterpiece beyond any genre, an essential listening!


Private Power
Ancient Records 2000
Amazing! These days world music reign yet only a few are able to swallow it for their own material. PARANOISE are, and pursue this in revolutionary way. Even folks familiar with Arabian music will be swept away by PARANOISE intergrating it into rock context. MASTER MUSICIANS OF JAJOUKA were welcomed to the rock realm by Brian Jones and abandoned after the Stone untimely death. Now they got sampled for “Evil Vs. Evil”, a magnificient dervish swirl combined with sheer riffage and cajun dance. Sampling is an important part of the band’s method and applied almost to all of the tracks, be it Noam Chomsky’s spoken word in the title track or Ali Akbar Khan’s drone in “Tarana” – violins, bass, guitars etc notwithstanding. Which by no means says the result is far from live, there’s almost an “I’m The Walrus” psychodelic effect built up in “Instability, Containment, Rollback” with the solo of CURVED AIR kind. “Tetrahedral Metaphor” uses MUSICIANS OF NILE idiom but turns it into English folk – a mighty bass work present. KULA SHAKER fans must go for stuff like this or “Structural Adjustment” so it’s strange why PARANOISE still keep such a low profile, especially with violinist Rohan Gregory having played with Page and Plant.

ZEPPELIN-esque style is on the surface in “Mechanical World” and, with all the musicians’ background, they feel at home playing heavy material – fortunately, Thorne Palmer’s voice doesn’t resemle Plant’s so here’s no direct comparisons, although Jim Matus’ guitar skills are on par with those of Page. “International Monetary Fun” is exactly what its title suggests, a humorous reading of world music. The most arresting, however, prove short pieces like “Centerless Grinding” where all the band’s trademarks on display for less than three minutes – just like Chuck Berry’s rockers.

Rock’n’roll was born as the cross between black and white culture – and later spoiled and corrupted. Now, if the music’s future lies here, there’s no reason to worry. The twain shall meet again.


The Ruins Of A Glass Fortress
Musea 2000
Nowadays only Japanese bands seem to still retain the spirit of the Seventies’ art rock – sometimes taking it very seriously while other times the genre is approached with more imagination. What you may think of the band consisting of keyboard player, bassist and drummer. ELP, yes? Not at all. Well, “Labyrinth” pours over a sonic tsunami and synthesizers swing like Emerson’s organ while melody appears hard to catch so it’s rather technique on display than a piece to entertain. But it’s listenable and ambitions are worthy their British teachers. Look at the second track, ten and a half minutes long “The Edge Of Darkness”, hardly an epic in content but orchestration’s great. Pulsating rhythm – and suddenly violin (seems to be a real one) breaks in with a short quote from Bach to place all the bits into their places. The audiochaos shows strong structure similar to that of UK. Eddie Jobson finally has his apprentices. Hurray! Yet once you’re content having stuck the label on it, time changes and CRIMSON textures appear repleted with strong bass hooks. But relax – and feel how all the influences mix into something huge.

“Time Paradox”, good example of space rock, bass jumps on you and a little restrained voice pops in to back off before massive organ solo. The song’s too short but gets somewhat continued in “Awake”, very modern and extremely melodic piece. As a contrast “Fall Into A Doze” seems raw for a moment but this rawness is well planned – they’re Japanese in the end of the day! – and adorned with bass solo of top quality. Baroque harpsichord leads into “The Ruins Of A Glass Fortress”, a magic-weaven romantic epic in vein of early Hackett. A drift gets heavier and more anxious delivered by vocal and a poignant piano line – the theme’s development is that powerful so you become hungry to hear the album one more time. And who could expect that in the beginning? It’s just scary to think how the fortress might sound if that was the ruins of it.


Siege Perilous
Noise Records 1998
With appearance of a new singer, Roy Khan, the puzzle bits seem to create a whole picture. Now all music is credited to KAMELOT, not only to guitarist Thom Youngblood. Khan’s solid vocal approach determines the overall picture with early power metal excesses withdrawn to a greater effect. Now the band’s output comes clever as never before – where others would kick off with attack, KAMELOT prefer quiet pace of “Providence” using folk melodies. Chainsaw drumming held for “Millenium” sounds annoying unnatural while equally unnatural for metal is the beguiling piano line.

All the elements magnificiently unite in “King’s Eyes” – a smash presented as it deserves. Additional plaudits to acoustic guitar fragment. Dickinson-like ballad “Where I Reign” and a little poppy “Parting Visions” convincingly prove KAMELOT’s capability of a strong melody. Instrumental interplay is of highest standards. Keyboards drive extremely arresting “Once A Dream” firmly based on late Seventies’ hard rock – a gift for aged fans to enjoy. And what a treat is solemn “Rhydin” with baroque bits and an exquisite acoustic guitar solo. Surely a stage favourite – as well as instrumental showcase of medieval-coloured “Siege”. The band reached the point where fans feel besieged. A feeling perilous yet, in this case, pleasant.


Best Wishes
Wishlist 2000
What an apt title David Shipka gave to this compilation of the creams from his project’s four albums that spans four years. No chronological order, the songs sequence is ordered by their mood, and the album opens with “Crayon Life” from 1997. Blistering guitar work with jazzy edge and folky motifs entwined. Attacks and soft spots changes may resemble Steve Howe’s coloured sound – even more so in “Diamond Surprise” which is such indeed – mainly due to the guilded acoustic thread in the sonic tapestry. Melancholy landscape of “Empty Field/Passing Days”, boasting a good slice of organ appeared, two years later on "Erased" yet by no means earlier work is weaker as “You’re Living Again” shows. Solo’s great here but somehow unresolved. Scottish melodies fill “Coin In The Water”, the first track with beat which cuts like a knife and rings like a morning dew. Mountain stream pictured perfectly.

“Look High”, catchy and frightening, smells of Steve Hackett and more GENESIS is in theatrical “Not Be The Same” – a gap in melody flow to lean towards prog Hammill-ish textures and back to pastoral simplicity of “Erased” and then two complex songs off "Granted" at the end of the compilation. No wonder in placing, as “Statues” is an epic bearing all the WISHLIST trademarks. Now balance’s stricken well. Time for the next wish.


The Passenger
RGS Records 1998

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The band here is Ricky himself and his partner since BEGGARS OPERA days Virginia Scott plus some more hands to help. And the album’s audience is those who remember Gardiner as a guitarist for both freak guys, Bowie and Pop. “The Passenger” riff to the date remains the most familiar Ricky’s opus and now it receives a new reading. The song’s sung by Virginia and sounds not unlike Siouxie though gentlier with riff changed for acoustic strumming underpinned by occasional organ and piano run-ups so raw edge went flat. More cutting is “River Over Me”, a little “plastic” example of early new wave. Scorching guitar work engaging but solos are too short to let the voice to the fore. The main problem is vocal melodies rather weak to compliment Gardiner’s playing and sax that somehow enlivens the overall feeling – as in “Frozen On An Eye” or “Attraction Gaze”. Music’s too cold and urbanistic to fully enjoy it. OK, tastes differ.

Warmer it gets with “Dreamtime”, a song too long and again abruptedly ended, although there are signs of European chanson. Some parallels between Scott’s and Yoko Ono’s manner could be drawn in “Alizarin Illusion Space”. At this point the drift becomes tiresome a bit, so monotonous you can hardly tell one piece from another. As if to distract from this feeling there’s another familiar tune off “Lust For Life” album, “Neighbourhood Threat” co-penned by Ricky, David and Iggy. Guitar breaks in – thumbs up. “Fantasy Gathering” appears more catchy and make a listener ready for another, bluesy re-make of “The Passenger”. Piano-driven “Shiny Comet” is somewhat out-of-this-world with its jazziness so fitting to end the album and eventually imbue a lot of air into this choking world we’re the passengers of. A hope given and that’s good.


DIO – Magica
Spitfire Records 2000
After such boring experiments with doom metal of “Strange Highways” and “Angry Machines” Ronnie Dio got back on his tracks, to classic hard’n’heavy he’d helped create. Now that the singer came up with fantasy storyline and invited two old friends – guitarist Craig Goldy and bassist Jimmy Bain – back to the fold, the band, rounded with Simon Wright on drums, experiences a kind of revival.

And the main magic of it is the return to melodic side of things. Except for some Aliens’ “robot” voice snippets, the material is filled with good tunes beginning from “Magica Theme”, an instrumental guitar/keyboards bluesy piece that leads to the SABBATH-viscouse “Lord Of The Last Days”. No usual DIO “first track” attack, Ronnie rhythmically cuts his slice shrouding a listener with the murky atmosphere. Funnily, riffage doesn’t make the song heavy, feeling’s light. “Fever Dreams”, a strong guitar hook and Ronnie bounces in “Rising” style, no struggling, easiness throughout. Lyrics don’t tell the story – there’s a “Magica Story” tucked to the end of the album where Ronnie reads his opus – so every song’s a story in itself. The first uptempo one, “Turn To Stone”, a little strange in terms of harmonies and irksome riff yet more imaginative comes “Feed My Head” with chorus schemed for singalong and a soft spot Ronnie seems to have abandoned long ago. Craig provides a solemn solo while Dio himself plays keyboards. Those keyboards and guitar plus female voice and a string arrangement make for a majestic effect in “Eriel”, a piece which could fit “Last In Line” with its resemblance to “Naked In The Rain” although the intro’s stronger than the track’s development.

For how long DIO haven’t played pure rock’n’roll? Now it’s here, in “Challis”, from Berry-ish hook to the trademark line “I am a rock and you are glass”. Guitar dances and howls, rhythms section grooves, Dio gets his kicks out of it. A treat – is this man really turned 60? Ronnie claimed he’d never sing a ballad again but what if not great ballad is “As Long As It’s Not About Love”? Gentle and sweet, poignant and tear-jerking. Is the story an excuse? Let it be so – as long as gives us an opportunity to enjoy the song.

Acoustic guitar/flute intro of “Losing My Insanity” might once again suggest Ritchie and Ronnie aren’t far from each other, even if this intro gets heavier and becomes a riff to go all the way back near the end. Beefy bass pumps into “Otherworld”, remindful of “Lonely Is The Word” but not as resolved. And there are two reprises to end the story: “Magica” – the theme now has words and “Lord Of The Last Days” leaving more questions than answers as it’s not the Grand Finale one would expect.

Happy end – and a chance for the story to be continued. Hopefully be…


On To Evermore
Arion Records 1998
The magic story of "Perelandra" continued. This time the band came up with an account they tell not only with music and lyrics but with remarks on the margins as well. Music became more exquisite than before – now it’s the music of GLASS HAMMER, with all the influences absorbed. The opening title track shows quantum leap in vocal approach and guitar finally found a right place between keyboards. Thanks to new singer there’s a major emphasis on vocal melody, a blind spot on the previous albums. Now you can easily hum along. Balance between voices and instruments is good throughout, playful “The Mayor Of Evermore” being a great example of classic art rock. Great slice of Hammond cuts in to introduce “The Conflict” many may find close to the prog canon of the Eighties – engaging to the end from very angle, synthesizers parts, singing, soaring guitar solo, swinging bass. Arguably, the best piece HAMMER ever done!

Simple touching piano combines with synthesizers in the best Wakeman way to create the image of beautiful devil woman, a sculpture turned human, a new turn of Pygmalion and Galathea. “Arianna” appears too ambitious to be fulfilled properly and in places melody lost to a sparse intricate composition that should work well onstage. Folky and pure acoustic seemed to be “Only Red” – but only in the beginning, a touch of pop and soul make it an AOR piece rather than progressive. But folk and acoustic mode returns with flute for gentle “This Fading Age” reminiscent of TRAFFIC – bass work on this one comes just perfect. More loose and less interesting proves “Junkyard Angel”, so do the band need those epics when their cup of tea is shorter songs? Oh, the guitar solo saves the impression. Sitar drone leads into “Twilight On Longview”, quiet spacy tune a la CAMEL adorned with female vocalizing. Is it the end? Not happy end? Will there be part three? That would be great as be the music.


KUMARA – Confluence
Kumara Records 1994

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A majestic atmposphere music, wide landscapes drawn by Ricky Gardiner’s guitar. Hardly for those who knows the guitarist by his work with Iggy and Bowie, but those into FLOYD or Ennio Morricone may find this album enjoyable. Thought-provoking it is. Other musicians are Virginia Scott – she played with Gardiner in one of the best early prog bands BEGGARS OPERA – on violin and cello and Trevor Stainsby operating electronics and percussion. One way or another, the primary instrument is the fluid guitar capable of filling the space with divine sound.

There are four pieces, one hour in all, based on the works of Alice Bailey, and they’re enough to turn off you mind and float downstream from the off, “White Spring”. The guitar sound gets as close to cello that the instruments interchange appears seemless, the method Gardiner and Scott later applied to their "Auschwitz" mini-album. And yes, it’s a violin the main inhabitant of the delicate world of “Red Spring”. Once you spot the John Cage concrete drift Virginia lets her crystal voice soar to the sky. Synthesizer paint the ambience picture of the icicles melting, drops and drops around shining in the sun…

If it were an LP, two “Springs” would make Side One lending Side Two to “Influence” and “Confluence”, two sides of another coin. “Influence” is more sparse, anxious and complex with vocals as a guitar stretch continuation and a violin coming from the voice – that’s an influence illustrated the best. Analysis comes naturally followed by synthesis which is “Confluence”. Think of elements here or, better, of people – as we, people, are elements united in the end of the day.


Ramshackle Music 1999
It’s the fourth Paul’s solo album and the most serious one, all the singer’s talent’s facets united. So “Deep Blue” kicks in not unlike “Louisiana Blues” yet is typical BAD CO cutting track, uptempo and driving with melody immediately set in your mind. The band of drummer Jim Copley, guitarist Geoff Whitehorn and bassist Jaz Lochrie have been accompanying Rodgers since 1995 and it’s hardly a surprise they feel each other’s drift to play tight and hot as hell – besides that, they’re all seasoned musicians that know rock’n’roll to the core. “Walking Tall” harks back to the Fifties’ doo-wop and Elvis – a rare occasion while Rodgers always leaned to the rocky side of blues rather than swing and jive pumping here. By the way, who’s that Kazaam Kazungle, the King of the jungle? A reason is rhyme? “Find A Way” comes as easy acoustic song in the vein of “Seagull”, Whitehorn doing Koss at his best. The tune may seem underdeveloped a bit yet pleasant as every ballad Paul ever done – and female singers on the chorus (no Sam Brown this time) make it majestic especially when Rodgers gets higher.

“China Blue” bears just a little of Chinese harmonies being seemingly a new version of “Come Together In The Morning” sung in traditional FREE style. Fortunately, there’s no third slow tune in a row and “Love Rains” signals a return to the “Desolation Angels” Georgia times with Paul bashing on piano. “Over You”, in its turn, tends to remind that there were THE FIRM and Page imposing on Rodgers – to the benefit of all – his love for folk vibe, which is released now and the result’s great, flute adding some more touches to the overall serene picture. “Drifters”, a song one expects from the singer, lacks a certain catchiness, as a contrast “Freedom”, another one off THE FIRM canon combining acoustic and electric guitars, proves mighty with no shade of smile or tear. Sentimental and flat is “Jasmine Flower” setting the base for majestic “Conquistadora”. Paul has managed to accumulate all his energy to let it out in this solemn ballad remindful of “Nights In White Satin”. Stripped off all the decoration appears acoustic wonder of “Other Side Of Midnight”, a bonus track worthy chasing the Japanese version of the album. Why? Because the “Electric” feel is – yes – electric, and would suit everyone, not only a fan.

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