(17 July 2004) The third "solo" album by Tomas Bodin is entitled I Am (InsideOut Music (USA) IOMCD 209, 2005). Bodin is known for his two prior solo albums Pinup Guru (2002) and Sonic Boulevard (2003) and for his keyboard work with the Flower Kings. The lineup for I Am is completed by Anders Jansson (lead vocals), Helene Schönning (vocals), Pernilla Bodin (vocals), Jonas Reingold (bass) and Marcus Liliequist (drums). Enthusiasts will recognize Reingold and Liliequist as stablemates of TFK and Reingold's role in The Tangent as well.
The I Am album is comprised of three epic length tracks, "I," "A" and "M." The first two clock in at well over 20 minutes each with only the third running 18+ minutes. Lead vocals throughout the set are by Anders Jansson. A powerful singer best suited to hard rocking material, he has diverse voice that simply can not be overtaken by instrumentals. The opening number is a tremendously diverse collection of progressive rock arrangements with passages encompassing eleven movements of hard, melodic and symphonic rock. The return of memorable musical themes throughout "I" adds to its accessibility. Bodin's keyboard virtuousity is evident in the vast Keith Emerson-style excursions that encompass the piece. Reingold's signature bass adds a dynamic edge to the upbeat arrangement. The majority of vocal work is delivered by Anders Jansson but a brief vocal solo in a ballad-like movement by Helene Schönning provides a great contrast within the number. Instrumentals are superb!
"A" is a hard rocker, especially in comparison to "I." Comprised of eight movements, Jansson's vocals soar above the thick rocking electric guitar parts. Further vocal harmonies support the lead singer in the choruses. Instrumental excursions eventual settle down into more melodic keyboard-driven passages certain to please Wakeman fans. Tempo and textures shift exposing a lighter vocal texture, jazzier keyboard moments and Reingold's melodic bass lines. Vocal harmonies add richness to the arrangements and emphasize the emotional content of the material. Superb guitar solos by Jocke JJ Marsh (Glenn Hughes) echo the track's musical themes. We especially enjoyed the female singers' soaring vocalise alongside the guitar solos. Cinematic textures in the midsection are derived especially from the thicker keyboard-emphasized passages. The segment that finishes the piece with backwards vocals is draws too much on an old cliche.
The final track on the album, entitled "M," opens with a ballad movement featuring a emotionally wrenched vocal delivery from Anders Jansson. A thicker keyboard-based arrangement develops but never drifts far from the lead vocal until the guitar-driven rocking arrangement develops in the song's mid-section. The duel between guitar and keyboard that underscores the powerful vocal delivery works extremely well. A brief but melodic guitar solo begins the final two movements of the track sweeping up musical themes developed on the album thus far. A quiet ballad sung above gentle piano provides the penultimate movement of the album. The album comes to a startling conclusion with a ripping instrumental and vocal harmoney that showcases the band's tremendous talent.
As a sonically tasty alternative to The Flower Kings and The Tangent, our visitors should be drawn to the keyboard-driven album work of Tomas Bodin. His use of great female vocalists to add texture to these numbers is similar to Kaipa but sadly somewhat more austere.
As a continued development from Bodin's earlier albums, I Am is an excellent album, certain to draw more progressive listeners into his music.