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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Nightwish
Projeto Caleidoscopio
Paul Schwartz Project
Lisbeth Scott
Mostly Autumn
Mostly Autumn
Flamborough Head
Quidam
Arion
Fula
Fula
Rain Fell Within

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Instrumental Digest
 
Everdream CD Single Cover
Image © 2002 Spinefarm Records


Tarja Turunen
Image © 2002 Spinefarm Records
 

(18 May 2002) The first single from the 2002 Nightwish album Century Child (Spinefarm (Finland) SPI148, 2002) is entitled "Ever Dream" (Spinefarm (Finland) SPI149CD, 2002). The three tracks are "Ever Dream," the band's unique cover of "The Phantom Of The Opera" and "The Wayfarer" and from the single's first notes, one will immediately recognise the increase in symphonic textures that have been added to Nightwish's sound. Tarja's vocals steal the show once again. The single has done a great job enticing us for the release of the band's new album.

Writer and keyboard player Tuomas Holopainen remarks, "it is the most typically Nightwish song" on the album when speaking of "Ever Dream." Symphonically at the rich end of the band's arrangements with typically thick metal-edge guitar riffs and vast keyboard excursions, the thunderous tympani and keyboard effects also contribute to the improvement in the depth of the music's presentation. Tarja's vocals remain crystalline and incredibly powerful soaring through her complete range within this first opening track.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's title composition from the west end show Phantom Of The Opera is miraculously performed by Nightwish primarily sticking to the original arrangement but with guitar and keyboard solos filling in the bridge gaps with their own bits. Tarja's range, power and crystalline vocal lead adds flavour to the original Sarah Brightman performance. The male part of the duet is harder than the west end original but effective against the metal-edged guitars. Tuomas' keyboard arrangements have been programmed to match the original composition very effectively. The instrumental bridge is true Nightwish, perfectly complimenting Webber's intentions for the piece. Fans will be delighted to hear this track on Century Child when released.

The single's final track "The Wayfarer," included on the Spinefarm single, is to be a bonus track on the Japanese release of Century Child. Musically similar to earlier Nightwish work, enthusiasts will hear similarities to tracks from Wishmaster ("Wanderlust") and Oceanborn in vocal construction, rhythm and overall sound. A tremendous track especially when played loud, its inclusion here is a special treat for those that will find obtaining the Japanese edition of the new album difficult.

Interested visitors will want to check out our review of Century Child and the latest update to our Nightwish feature.

 
Carrossel CD Cover
Image © 2002 Rock Symphony (Brazil)



























Image © 2002 Rock Symphony (Brazil)
 

(18 May 2002) The second album from Projeto Caleidoscopio is a fourteen-track collection of gentler progressive rock material entitled Carrossel (Rock Symphony (Brazil) RSLN 069, 2002). Fronted by Analu Paredes and Arthur Nogueira, the band's debut album O Sete (review) drew critical acclaim from printed and network media. Performers are listed on the band's website. Click on the album cover to point your browser there.

Analu wrote, "Although the distance keeps us apart, the music brings us together." We are delighted to present a review of the group's second album here. Arrangements throughout are very Renaissance and Analu has a stunning voice, similar to Annie Haslam, especially in her vocalise passages, which she uses extensively.

Projeto Caleidoscopios material is best characterised as orchestral and light progressive; an occasional guitar riff or keyboard excursion reminds the listener where the writers' roots are. The music is strong vocally with harmony layers often underscoring Analu's stunning lead. The compact disc is accompanied by a well produced booklet with lovely photographs of the various artists involved. An insert for the group's English speaking audience is also provided.

The album opens with Analu's soaring and sensually sung vocal in the richly arranged ballad "Pescador de Ilusões." One will immediately gravitate to the stunning heartfelt layered vocalise and rich guitar- and keyboard-laced accompaniment. "Nuvens" is a mid-tempo and gentle rocker with acoustic guitar and keyboard perfectly accompanying Analu's lead vocal. Arthur's guitar solos and vocals add a lovely contrast to the number.

"Now Is The Time" is a mid-tempo piece, performed very much in the Renaissance style with gentle guitar and keyboard providing a lovely accompaniment. A Jon Camp-style bass line and the lustre of Analu's vocalise contribute to the texture. Accompanied by acoustic guitar, the tender lead vocal in "The Sea" contributes to the lovely ballad texture. Richer synth and piano passages with additional vocalise and mixed backing harmonies add to the progressive feel of the track.

"A Cigana e o Mar" is an enjoyably lush jazz-oriented number with keyboards and flute dominating the instrumental arrangements behind Analu's crystalline vocal. "De Volta Ao Céu" is similarly jazzy with keyboard effects driving the sound as is "Sete Véus" with tenor sax producing the effect. These tunes are contrasted by the gently sweeping new age textures of the brief "O Mar" where Arthur's vocalise joins Analu's to produce a lovely effect. The title track "Carrossel" that follows is a gentle ballad driven by Analu's stunning voice with lots of vocalise and instrumentals dominated by piano and well-arranged strings.

Another light ballad, "Sonhador" is dominated by classically oriented string arrangements complimented by acoustic guitar. Chiquuinho Chagas' accordion parts add a Latin American--if not French--texture to the number. The sharing of vocals between Analu and Arthur works quite well. "Ladybug" is a more upbeat, dramatic and gently rocking number with lush vocal layers punctuated by crisp percussion and underscored by lush keyboard arrangements.

Lush keyboards in the progressive ballad "Fonte" compliment Arthur's (lead) and Analu's (backing) vocal. Very memorable, instantly hooking--almost Eurovision in style--the melody is certain to have wide appeal. Arthur's guitar solo and the vocal conclusion to the song are certain standouts. The album concludes with the epic track "Origami" which begins in a ballad style with Analu's crystalline vocal soaring above a lovely piano melody. The middle section of the track makes the massive mood swings of progressive rock musicians and features incredible vocalise and instrumental solos--guitar, keyboard and bass primarily--and serves to illustrate the versatility and virtuousity of the individual artists.

While Carrossel may be a little more difficult to obtain than other albums reviewed here, online progressive rock distributors (e.g., Rock Symphony) should be able to secure a copy for you. The band's website (click on album cover) and label's (click on label's name) provide pointer for the interested listener. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Carrossel is a must listen!

 
Earthbound CD Cover
Image © BMG 2002 
 

(18 May 2002) The fifth album from composer/producer Paul Schwartz is entitled Earthbound (BMG (USA) 01934-11605-2, 2002). The album continues to building on his signature sound and style with a sensuous blend of ambient dance grooves and sweeping orchestral grandeur. His earlier albums have all had critical acclaim and charted well. These include two operatic crossovers entitled Aria and Aria 2 (review), the instrumental Revolution (review) covering eleven Beatles classics and State Of Grace (review) which combined religious texts with modern arrangements and a collaboration with singer Lisbeth Scott.

Earthbound stylistically picks up where Schwartz' earlier releases concluded but includes ten original compositions. Again recorded and mixed at Abbey Road Studios, "a stylistic smorgasbord," the composer remarks, "all of the ideas revolve around things that happen at night." He continues, "That's a big element running through many of these songs, along with themes of loss." The title track is a poem about meeting one's Savior, but also can be interpreted as a sexy love poem, a hymn to a lover. Sweeping arrangements, the result of a 30-plus-piece orchestra led by violin virtuoso Gavyn Wright, harpist Helen Tunstall, violinist Rolf Wilson and bassist Jim Hanson, are joined with more accessible beats creating a moving musical texture.

After the success of State Of Grace, Schwartz once again turned to Los Angeles-based singer Lisbeth Scott and collaborated with her on five of the album's ten tracks. Tara MacLean performs as a guest vocalist seductively singing lead and providing sensitive harmony vocal layers (Passenger review, Silence review) the moody and ambient title track. Schwartz is currently producing a project for an Irish act led by Emily Aylmer and Ruth Cahill, and the tandem performs lead vocals on the sweeping, ethereal film score-flavoured (Enya-like) "Nevermore." Mystical in its construction, the tune offers beautiful natural imagery in an elegy to a departed friend.

Lisbeth Scott's numbers include "Il Giaoco," "River Of Stars," "How Many Fools," and "The Dark Of The Night." The darkness-to-light Aria-style musical drama "Il Giaoco" is fashioned from a 17th century Italian opera. Her dramatic Italian vocal affirms that the game of love is worth playing, even when we lose. An album standout, "River Of Stars" blends sweeping thematic overtones with trip-hop textures and Lisbeth's seductively soaring vocals.

Schwartz describes "How Many Fools," "The dramatic shifts in the song reflect the idea of trying to distinguish shadows from real people." Lisbeth's shimmering vocals compliment synth washes and orchestral grandeur. "Ravens" is a sensuous tribute to a friend who passed away, a narrative about three dreams told from the departed perspectives through Lisbeth Scott's vocal lines.

"The Dark Of The Night" is intensely percussive and exotic with Lisbeth's sensual vocal line describing finding of love in the moonlight. Interested readers should read the review of Lisbeth's latest solo album Dove.

Earthbound's thematic and moody instrumentals blend classical structures with accessible arrangements. "Vol de Nuit," which opens the album contrasts the mournful elegance of "Thalaster" which conveys more of the dark night of the soul idea. The solo piece "Nocturne" brings Schwartz back eloquently to his roots as a classical pianist.

"The projects I compose and produce allow me to follow my many musical impulses, from pop music with cool grooves, to full-blown orchestral works," says Schwartz. "My task is to find a way to marry those things and find new ways to tell stories in music." Clearly he has done so on Earthbound. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this lovely collection of classical-contemporary crossover material is certain to delight a broad audience and is a must listen!

 
Dove CD Cover
Image © Zone Records 2002 
 

(18 May 2002) The latest solo release from Los Angeles-based Lisbeth Scott is an eleven-track singer / songwriter collection entitled Dove (Zone Records (USA) 4488, 2002). Scott's earlier "solo" releases include Climb (1997), Sirens (1993), Illuminations (1989) and music to Yoga Sanctuary (1999). She is the featured vocalist on Paul Schwartz' State Of Grace (review, 2001) as well as Schwartz' latest project Earthbound (review, 2002).

About the album Lisbeth says, "It's been a three year project that has most definitely been a labor of love ... and sweat and money too! I wrote all the songs and produced nearly the entire collection. Five of the songs feature members of the Seattle Symphony." She told us, "Many other incredible musicians play on the collection. The album was mixed at Abbey Road Studios in London by head engineer Peter Cobbin." Lisbeth continued, "he contacted me after hearing Paul Schwartz' State Of Grace"

The compact disc is accompanied by an extremely well designed and produced booklet; accompanying artwork contains full lyrics and plenty of lovely photographs of the artist. Lisbeth told us, "The CD feels truly blessed. There are so many stories of mystical messages and people coming into the project that really kept me going when I couldn't see the end. When the boxes of Dove arrived at my house I was in tears realising that I'd finally done it!"

Dove opens with a lightly spoken vocal over strings, played by the Seattle Symphony Ochestra and arranged by Lisbeth herself, in the short opening piece entitled "Flame." Gentle and lightly singer songwriter ballad-like tunes dominate the album with vocals varying between whispy and crystalline. "Beg" has lush harmony layers and string arrangements that add substantial texture to the track. Gentle harmony vocal layers and light arrangements perfectly compliment the lead in the gentle "Forever Return." Lisbeth's full range is clear in the evocatively sung and richlyl accompanied "Train."

An air of the exotic in "Push The River" results from percussion and string arrangements while emotionally drenched--almost Alanis Morissette-style--vocals introduce the melody. "Clear" is a rocky singer songwriter tune with vast vocal excursions and instrumental solos, certain to please a broad range of enthusiasts. The primarily acoustic track "Straight Into The Heart" perfectly blends Lisbeth's lead and backing vocal layers with light instrumental arrangements.

The moody tune "Smokehouse" with solo vocals soaring above additional harmony layers and rich instrumental arrangements are contrasted with gentle piano at times in this album standout. Lisbeth's crystalline lead vocal in the bluesy "Crucial" is supported by lovely harmonies and a crisp acoustic guitar while the balance of the arrangement provides an excellent foundation for the tune.

"You" is an upbeat and catchy track with the sensual--and extremely well produced--soaring lead vocal accompanied by acoustic guitar building to thicker instrumentation. Another radio-friendly track with single potential, additional vocal layers and lush textures draw the listener into the choruses. A gentle piano accompanied ballad, the title track closes the album with whispy sensual vocals delivering the sensitive message.

Dove is an album of tremendous vocal enthusiasm, clearly a positive result from years of committed effort. Stunning production quality is evident across the entire range of material presented. Dove from amazon.com . Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order Dove from amazon.com here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Lisbeth's latest solo album is a must listen!

 
Unexpected Album Cover
Image © Classic Rock Legends 2002

Heather Findlay
Heather Findlay
photo © Stephen Lambe 2002

 

(18 May 2002) Since Musical Discoveries reviewed their DVD The Story So Far towards the end of last year, things have not stood still for Mostly Autumn. The band took everyone by surprise in December by releasing Music Inspired by the Lord of the Rings (Classic Rock Legends (UK) CRL084, 2002) It is also known as the Unexpected Album. This is a shameless, though worthy, attempt to cash in on the media profile surrounding the film of the same name. The album was hastily assembled--it was written, recorded, mixed and mastered in two weeks--and as you would expect, it has a slightly rough, unfinished quality to it, with many of the songs tending to peter out. Nonetheless, considering the time constraints, the band and particularly bandleader and lead guitarist, Bryan Josh, have done a remarkable job, and there is some marvellous music here.

"Overture - Forge of Sauron" is a dramatic, aggressive rock instrumental, bristling with menace, while "Greenwood the Great" is one of the album's better developed pieces, an ethereal ballad sung by Heather Findlay, followed by flute carrying the theme introduced in the Overture, and finally another aggressive guitar-lead work out.

"Goodbye Alone" is a pleasant song; while "Out of the Inn" reprises this favourite instrumental from their first album, showcasing its excellent, more recent, live arrangement. "On the Wings of Gwaihir" seems underdeveloped to me, and instrumental in search of a vocal, and is very reminiscent of "Bullet the Blue Sky" by U2, though "At Last to Rivendell" is a brief but delightful instrumental vignette. "Journey's Thought" broods interestingly, with lead vocal from Bryan Josh, while "Caradhras the Cruel" is far more menacing.

"Riders of Rohan" is a great idea, though again underdeveloped, built around a piano riff, with a vocal from Heather, who is also featured on the gentle ballad "Lothlorien". "Return of the King" again kicks up the pace, with another blistering piece of rock, although, once again it seems to me to be a series of verses missing another complimentary idea. Finally, "The Grey Havens" is a gentle instrumental, reminiscent of Camel. The CD also has an enhanced PC section, a video (recut to include artwork by the Brothers Hildebrandt) of the live version of the excellent instrumental "Helms Deep."

So how would I place this in the cannon? The band themselves state that this is not their 4th album, but an "interim statement", and as that it holds up very well. However, I hope that the band do not suffer from the fact that so many ideas that might have been put to better use later are now in the public domain. None the less, this recording has captured the "spirit" of Tolkien's book very well, and if that alone draws more people to the band, then the exercise will have been worth it--Stephen Lambe

Read further Mostly Autumn reviews here.

 
Heroes Never Die Cover
Image © Classic Rock Legends 2002

Heather Findlay
Heather Findlay
photo © Stephen Lambe 2002

 

(18 May 2002) In the early part of 2002, the band played a number of concerts with Karnataka, and developed a shorter (90-minute), punchier set. This was something of a greatest hits package, and the band unveiled it, triumphantly, at The Mean Fiddler, London, in January. Cleverly, this set goes for the jugular immediately, with the Celtic rock anthems "Winter Mountain" and "Dark before the dawn", with either "Nowhere to Hide" or "Spirit of Autumn Past" keeping the tempo high, before one of the centrepieces of the set, the ever-popular ballad "Evergreen". The set also features two instrumentals, with flutes prominent, the aforementioned "Out of the Inn" and the jig "Shindig." The climax of the set is high on emotion, with Heather Findlay's wonderful "Shrinking Violet" giving way to "Shindig", followed by the hard rocker "Never the Rainbow" and, finally, the shattering "Heroes Never Die". Encore, in this set, and pretty much every set these days, is the Progressive epic "Mother Nature."

This was, largely, the set played with Karnataka at the Limelight Club, Crewe, in February, and at Rotherham in April (where I felt the band were slightly rusty after a two month layoff from live performance). At the end of April and through May, the band took on a much more comprehensive tour of venues throughout Britain, playing a longer, two-part set, which, though based around the "greatest hits" package, had plenty of scope for other songs both old and new. Included in the set were "Overture" and "Greenwood the Great" from "Lord of the Rings", and piece by flautist Angela Goldthorpe, "Which wood?" When I saw them, at Bilston, they were magnificent, with new song "Noise from my Head" slotting easily into the end of set rockers, and revivals for "Please" from their second album and "Half the Mountain" from their third. Other reporters told of further revivals for Floydesque songs "The Night Sky" and "The Last Climb" from their first album "For All We Shared".

Reviews from this tour have been ecstatic, and it is true that the band are now tighter, more cohesive and more confident than they have ever been, while the older songs still sound so fresh it is as if the band are playing them for the first time. Heather Findlay is now taking centre stage, changing costumes mid set, and even the shy and retiring Angela Goldthorpe is developing her own brand of stagecraft. We should be grateful that a band with such a modest following, in terms of numbers, is still able to play such an extensive tour, albeit in some unlikely venues. I only hope they can gain sufficient exposure to allow them to play to the audiences they deserve.

The band clearly realise this, and, as a result have released Heroes Never Die - The Anthology an interesting collection of songs from their four studio albums, re-recorded and often rearranged to attract a new audience. Significantly, the band seems to have repressed their Celtic leanings on this release, leaning rather towards mainstream rock. The main benefit to the seasoned Mostly Autumn fan, will be the presentation here of a number of live arrangements of favourite songs, alongside slightly more polished versions of more obscure album tracks.

The album kicks off with a slight rearrangement of "Never the Rainbow", the first track to be enhanced by near-choral backing vocals. "We come and we go" is the most startling rearrangement on the album, with Bryan's lead vocal now replaced by Heather, giving the song a lighter, poppier feel. "Please", "Half the Mountain" and "Great Blue Pearl", three slightly more obscure choices, seems to have gained little, though "The Spirit of Autumn Past" with it's flute-dominated end section, and "Evergreen", enhanced with some lovely piano from Iain Jennings, both uplifting songs, here benefit from many months of live performance. Interestingly, there are two pieces from the very recent Lord of the Rings album, and both "Riders of Rohan" and "Goodbye Alone" benefit from the extra polish a little more recording time has enabled. "Noise from my Head", the only new song is loud, short and excellent, with another Stevie Nicks-like lead vocal from Heather. "Shrinking Violet", again, benefits from a little extra recorder and the massed backing vocals. Finally, "Heroes Never Die" gets its fourth outing on CD, and this is possibly the definitive version, but please guys, no need to record it again!

So is this an essential purchase? To a listener coming new to Mostly Autumn, then possibly, though the live CD "The Story So Far" would do an equally good job. Fans of the band will certainly enjoy it, and completists will need "Noise from my head", though I can imagine some fans will prefer the original versions, or prefer them within the context of the albums from which they originally came. None the less, this is an excellent summary of the band as they move into the next stage of their development. Roll on the next album--Stephen Lambe

Read further Mostly Autumn reviews here.

 
One For The Crow CD Cover
Image © Cyclops Records 2002 
 

(02 June 2002) The long-awaited third album from Holland's Flamborough Head is entitled One For The Crow (Cyclops (UK) CYCL 108, 2002). The departure of the band's previous vocalist has made room for Margriet Boomsma to come to the fore, adding a different perspective, and, along her great flute, whistle and recorder playing, gives some of the tracks a Mostly Autumn (review) feel.

The album has a lush keyboard orchestral-style opening before the title track introduces itself. A bass solo precedes a break where excellent guitar and keyboard work abound before slowly evolving back into the main theme. Vocal harmonies add texture to the material. This studio album is somewhat less dynamic than the band's live performance and the recording's production lacks some of the flair and rich progressive texture--sounding a bit shallow in spots--especially when considering the band's earlier releases.

Epic-length tracks are introduced with short codas of tin whistle, guitar and keyboards before twists and turns including lush keyboards Memorable melodies are strung together by virtuous instrumental solos. Margriet's emotive, theatrical-style vocals are reminscent at times of Tracy Hitchings (review).

Stunning guitar and keyboard-laced instrumentals introduce one of the album's standout tracks, "Nightlife." The lyrics give Margriet to tell the story of a seductress while the band's soaring guitars and crisp percussion perfectly compliment the vocals. "Old Forest" is a lovely acoustic-style instrumental appropriately seeded with the Celtic overtones of flute and recorder.

The classic rock track "Limestone Rock," is a certain to be a runaway success for Flamborough Head. The highly accessible main melody will attract broad appeal while a vast instrumental solo in the song's bridge reminds the listener of the band's progressive roots. We especially enjoyed the lead vocal and supporting harmony layers and the recorder solo buried within the song's bridge.

Flamborough Head's third album One For The Crow is a highly enjoyable work and one that will appeal to new and old fans alike. The one criticism we have with the recording is the that the production quality is not as good as the band's earlier releases. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album at amazon.co.uk here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, the album is a must listen!

 
The Time Beneath The Sky CD Cover
Image © Musea Records 2002
Rock-Serwis Publishing 2002


More Quidam Reviews
Sny Aniolow
Baja Prog-Live In Mexico '99
 

(02 June 2002) The third studio album and fourth album overall by the Polish progressive rock band Quidam is entitled The Time Beneath The Sky (Musea (France) FGBG 4441.AR, 2002). The 10-track album is also available on the band's Polish label, Rock-Serwis (RSCD 062); the artwork is the only difference between the two versions. The Musea version is primarily in English whilst the Rock-Serwis version is in Polish. The music on both versions is identical although plans include a version with lyrics sung in English. A lovely cardboard slipcase surrounds the jewelbox in both versions. Our reviews of two of Quidam's earlier recordings Sny Aniolow and Quidam Baja Prog Live In Mexico '99 can be viewed here and here.

Considerable progress has been made since Quidam's last studio album. It is not only strong instrumentally but the stunning quality of the compositions, arrangements and performances is further endorsed by a lush and warm production quality that will strike the listener from the first play. The band have continued to develop along the progressive axis without reference to metal or other influences. It is stronger instrumentally with lush vocal arrangements adding richness to the sound of the band's former work.

The Quidam lineup is fronted by--Musical Discoveries featured artist--lead vocalist Emila Derkowska and is also comprised of Zbyszek Florek (piano, keyboards), Rafal Jermakow (drums, percussion), Maciek Meller (guitars), Radek Scholl (bass) and Jacek Zasada (flutes). Clearly the flute playing continues to set the band's music apart but an increased use of electric guitar has taken the band firmly into mainstream progressive rock.

The album's worldly "Letter From The Desert I" opens with searching vocals and flute before a the richly arranged and percussive Delerium-style instrumental takes over. A stunning vocalise part echoed by a powerful guitar solo and another by keyboard adds texture to the number. Jazz rhythms and spacey keyboards in "Still Waiting (Letter From The Desert 2)" on piano perfectly support Emila's solo vocal becoming more accessible as the track develops. The progressive epic "No Quarter" is the album's longest track. The arrangements span spacey, worldly and rich progressive rock and permit each of the members to demonstrate their musical talent individually and as an integrated entity.

A most accessible tune, similar in theme to Quidam's earlier material is "New Name," although instrumental arrangements--primarily led by guitar riffs, keyboard and flute excursions--are much stronger. Emila's lead and rich backing harmony vocal layers are mixed way up, right out in front where our readers like them.

"Kozolec (for AgaPe)" is an upbeat progressive Celtic number with Emila's sensitively sung vocal and harmony layers supported by acoustic guitar, flute initially. Arrangements build to include electronic instrumentation with guitars and keyboards at times even sounding reminiscent of Capercaillie (Best Of review).

The last five tracks of the album comprise the title track "The Time Beneath The Sky" suite. "Credo I" instrumentally moves more into the progressive domain with guitar excursions fronting lush arrangements. Emila's dramatic vocal segments explore her range blending rock, ballad and jazz with additional tribal-style vocal layers (á la Miriam Stockley and Adiemus) flute, and electric guitars in the bridge adding accessible textures. "Credo II" is a progressive rocker dominated by driving guitar and moody keyboard passages and Emila's powerful vocals are sung in English.

The sensually sung progressive ballad "You Are (In The Labyrinth Of Thoughts)" also exhibits a jazzy feel with flute and spacey keyboard parts blending with Emila's voice in the mix. The track "Quimpromptu" in an extended and dynamic instrumental incorporating keyboard, flute and guitar with crisp percussion to illustrate the band's virtuousity performing as a group. The final and most highly accessible track of the album "(Everything Has Its Own) Time Beneath The Sky" is an upbeat softly rocking number. Emila's lead vocal is perfectly supported by harmony layers and lush keyboard-laced orchestral arrangements.

Quidam's The Time Beneath The Sky is a lush progressive rock album with rich arrangements and lovely vocal textures. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order Quidam's albums at amazon.com here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this third studio album from the Polish superstars is a must listen!

 
Arion CD Cover
Image © 2002 Arion
Progressive Rock Worldwide



Arion are (left to right):
Sérgio Paolucci-keyboards
Luciano Soares-electric guitar
Tânia Braz-vocals, acoustic guitar
Nelson Simões-drums
Carlos Linhares-bass, acoustic guitar
Image © 2002 Arion
Progressive Rock Worldwide
 

(02 June 2002) The debut self-titled album (Progressive Rock Worldwide (Brazil) PRW 047, 2001) from Brazilian band Arion is comprised of seven primarily epic-length progressive rock tracks. Classical allusions are spread throughout and references to ELP and Yes will strike even the most unseasoned listener.

The band (pictured left) are musicians with the most varied professional formations combining an academic background specialised in erudite orchestral music with self-taught skills. They are creative, beyond being skillful instrumentalists and are recognized and respected interpreters in the squares where they act. The common interest for Progressive Rock united these artists into a solid musical design, characterized by elaborated arrays and instrumental wealth, that resulted in their debut album.

Initially named Magma, the group was founded in 1993 at the university of Viçosa, Minas Gerais, where they carried through diverse shows. They performed shows for television and started to have a bigger together endorsement to the public, having also performed in Belo Horizonte. Already with fine instrumentals, they acquired their current identity with the addition of the singer Tânia Braz, a musician who studied composition at the School of Music of the UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais).

Tânia is sonically a cross between Annie Haslam (Renaissance) and Xyra (from Xyra and Verborgen -- review), the band's sound can be characterised as a strong blend of ELP, Yes, Nexus (review) and Renaissance! Lovely keyboard excursions meet exciting guitar riffs and layer upon layer of stunning vocalise.

The objective of the group has been to keep the commitment to consolidate a work of nice Progressive Rock and thus integrate into the Brazilian progressive rock scene. The natural entry in the record market began with interest by the Progressive Rock Worldwide label (from São Paulo)-- specialising in Progressive Rock and with distribution mainly in Europe and Japan--which released their self-titled album in various countries.

The 14+ minute two-passage epic "Eyes Of Time" opens the album. A series of distinct themes are introduced through the movements with alternating keyboard- and then guitar-led arrangements being interlaced with tender vocals. Themes recur as the piece develops and reaches its final climax. Crisp military-style percussion introduces the Renaissance sounding "Daybreak Child," a somewhat more accessible piece with a memorable melody and lovely John Tout-style keyboard scales and guitars playing under the tenderly sung Annie Haslam-style lead vocal. Tânia's sensual vocalise fills the bridge before the main themes--on keyboards and guitar--of the song returns .

"True Love" is a sensitively sung progressive style ballad, led by Tânia's sweet vocals and Sérgio Paolucci's light keyboard arrangements although a more robust jazz-rock influence emerges as the song develops; it is a certain standout. "Land Of Dreams" is a striking contrast with ELP-style keyboards, a soaring vocal lead and crisp percussion marking out the territory of a dramatic multi-theme progressive epic. Luciano Soares' guitar solos are incredible.

"Cosmic Touch" begins similarly to "True Love" with Tânia's supported by light guitar chords. Extremely lush and high speed keyboards and vast echoing guitar excursions are introduced as the track develops. The tightness of the players and the Nexus-style richness of the arrangements reveals the virtuousity of the individual members and their cohesiveness as a group. We especially enjoyed Sérgio Paolucci's keyboard solos.

Perhaps the song that must summarises the album is "Everyway" which includes a ballad introduction as well as vocalise joining Nexus-style instrumental movements that illustrate the power of Arion's progressive arrangements. The main melody introduced at 3:00 blends vocalise, lush keyboards and crisp percussion to alternate with the 'hope' theme that begins only 0:50 later. These two themes alternate and build as the song comes to its striking break. A gentle ballad and supporting arrangement echoing some of the initial themes brings this certain standout to its final conclusion.

Led by a male voice the light progressive rock tune "Natureza Mística" is sung in Portuguese. Lush keyboards and crisp percussion perfectly suit the voices of the choir. Layers of Tânia's vocals introduce tribal-sounding drums and varying vocal elements in the song's bridge along with Luciano Soares' soaring guitar excursions, Carlos Linhares' powerful bass solos and Sérgio Paolucci's Yes-style keyboard musings. The song ends much as it began with sensitively sung layers of vocals and only the lightest of arrangement echoing the solos from the bridge.

Arion's debut album is a progressive rock masterwork and an album certain to delight those that enjoy the music of ELP, Nexus, Renaissance and Yes. Follow the links to the band's and the label's website to obtain your copy. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Arion is a must listen!

Check out the official website of Arion singer Tânia Braz!

 
Songs From Beyond The Merrygolight CD Cover
Image © Fulamusic 1995

Nadeen Plant Nadeen Plant
Lightwood Reseroir, Buxton
Photo © Carole Tuff 1997

 

(02 June 2002) The first reissue of Fula's earlier recordings is entitled Songs From Beyond The Merrygolight (Fulamusic (UK) FCD2, 1995-2002). While the album features seven numbered tracks, movements within the epic-length tracks reveals a more complex work. With vocal work by Fula's co-founder and lead singer 1994-1997, Nadeen Plant, the album spans alternative, soundtrack and progressive rock genres. The lineup is completed by Rob Gould (keyboard), Nigel Moss (guitars) and Janson Gilman (guitars). James Lampard (sax) and Kimberley Kitchen (trumpet) guest on "Anything" and "Gingerbread" respectively.

The band's latest album The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True (Fulamusic (UK) FCD3, 2002) with vocal work by Josie Bostin has also just been released (review). A second album of rarities from the 1996-1997 timeframe with vocals by Nadeen Plant is planned. Fula's album Dark Matter (Fulamusic (UK) FCD1 1999) (review) is the only one with female singer Zoe Stafford; the album remains available yet the singer has moved on to another project called One Window.

The absolutely stunning 15+ minute epic "Living In Pieces" written by Rob Gould and Nadeen Plant opens the album. The nine atmospheric movements within the piece are reminscent of Clive Nolan and Tracy Hitchings' work with Strangers on a Train. Musically quite moody with soundtrack-oriented arrangements, the material is vocally intense with individual themes developed primarily by Nadeen's sweet and melodic voice and keyboard with only the lightest of guitar sounds in the background. One will immediately be drawn to Nadeen's powerfully soaring vocal work--she sustains the notes playing her voice like an instrument.

The album's powerfully rocking second track "Cynthia Left at the Station" offers a clear similarity to, and perhaps forms the heritage behind, Dark Matter's "Vanity." Rich keyboard and percussive bass arrangements join guitar solos to provide the backdrop for Nadeen's soaring vocal excursions. Rob Gould's spacey synths perfectly suit Nadeen's sensual vocal work of gentle track "Bliss."

A clear standout track is "Anything," an emotively sung number with jazzy sax and percussive bass adding a sultry texture to the arrangement. Nadeen clearly explores the vast extents of her theatrical vocal range with power spanning the quietest moments in the verses to the most powerfully sustained sonics in the choruses. A tremendous guitar solo by Jason Gilman concludes the track.

Time signature differences break the progressive epic "Promises" into three parts. Although Nadeen's vocals begin the track, the 13/12 "Part 1" is dominated by an extensive keyboard solo with guitar and crisp percussion adding texture to the sound. "Part 2" in 4/4 is soundtrack-oriented number with keyboards, guitar and other effects providing a confusing background to almost-spoken vocals before a more rhythmic melody emerges. The 7/8 "Part 3" brings the piece to a melodic and dramatic conclusion.

Two shorter and memorable tracks conclude the project. The first one is the album's only pure instrumental and is entitled "The Fall Of Icarus." Keyboard and guitar excursions blend perfectly to paint a lush and delightful soundscape, perfectly illustrating Fula's instrumental power and on-stage energy.

The highly accessible and maybe even radio-friendly gentle rocker "Gingerbread World" is the album's closing number. While different to much of the material on the album, similarities to some of the movements of "Living In Pieces" can actually be heard. Obviously an early demo that could be further enhanced with modern production and re-recording, we adored Nadeen's lead vocal work, the trumpet solo and the harmony vocals in the chorus.

Clearly one of the surprise releases of 2002, Fula's Songs From The Merrygolight is certain to delight Musical Discoveries' readers. A pleasure from first listen, Nadeen Plant's lovely voice is perfectly suited to Fula's instrumental arrangements. Our only criticism is the production quality which could be improved upon. The album is available directly from the band. Click on the album cover to point your browser there now. Worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is a must listen!

 
CD Cover
Image © Fulamusic 2002

Fula
Image © Fulamusic 2002
 

(02 June 2002) The third album from Fula is and eight-track collection entitled The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True (Fulamusic (UK) FCD3, 2002). This album is the first with vocalist Josie Bostin who joined the band in 2002 following the departure of Zoe Stafford and Nadeen Plant earlier. The album was recently remixed to bring the vocals further up.

Dark Matter (review) released in 1999 featured the vocal work of Zoe Stafford. Stafford has gone on to other projects and is presently with One Window. Songs From The Merrygolight (review) features the vocal work of Nadeen Plant. Nadeen is presently not working in music but will be featured in a followup reissue of Fula's earlier work later in 2002.

The powerful progressive instrumental "Brazil" opens the album and is followed immediately by the lushly arranged "Ballerina Junkies" featuring layers of Josie's tender and sweetly sugn vocals backed by a thick and mid-tempo guitar arrangement. While her style is somewhat similar to the band's earlier singers, Josie lacks the power and range to completely compliment Fula's arrangements. Multiple guitar solos within the number continue to show Jason Gilman's virtuousity. Gilman left Fula just after the album was mixed.

The vocals in the standout upbeat rocking tune "Siren" are stunning with layers working quite well with the band's lush wall-of-sound guitar- and keyboard-based arrangement. A contrast is clearly heard in the progressive ballad "White Lillies," sung as a single layer on the lightest keyboard and guitar arrangement with crisp percussion holding the rhythm section together. "Buried" is an upbeat rocker dominated again by thick instrumental arrangements, crisp percussion and Bostin's vocal layers.

The album's second instrumental, "Save Our Souls," is dominated by moody soundtrack-style keyboards. A powerful and well-played Arjen Lucassen-style guitar solo compliments the sound. "Code Red" is a percussively and highly rhythmic rocker. Josie's vocal layers are supported by keyboard, guitar and crisp percussion musically similar to the style found on Dark Matter. We especially enjoyed the keyboard solos within the track.

The album closes with "Living In Pieces Part 10" obviously the concluding instrumental of the epic with the same title from Songs From The Merrygolight that was not included there. One can clearly hear the original theme but the instrumental arrangement here is thicker and far more lush with vast keyboard excursions adding to the power of the tune.

While their music has developed further since Dark Matter and the band members' individual talents have become stronger, we found the band's two earlier vocalists--Nadeen Plant and Zoe Stafford--each somewhat stronger than the former with more individual virtuousity than Josie Bostin, who thankfully remains at the beginning of her singing career. The band have catered for this in the final mix of The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True by mixing the layers up a bit. Two tracks from the pre-production demo were dropped from the final version. It is a shame that the lovely ballad and pre-production demo standout entitled "Serpentine" got the chop.

It will be exciting to see Fula perform the material live in the coming months. The album is available at the band's website; click on the album cover to learn more. Clearly worth a journey, this album is a very nice listen!.

 
Refuge CD Cover
Image © Dark Symphonies 2002 
 

(02 June 2002) The second album from Rain Fell Within a 10-track collection entitled Refuge (Dark Symphonies (USA) Dark 16, 2002). Rain Fell Within's music mayappeal to those that enjoy Nightwish and After Forever, although the band's music is somewhat less melodic and symphonic than either of those referred to here. The singers' operatic style voice and metal allusions represent the source of the similarity. Rain Fell Within's music is caegorised as gothic metal combining the power and beauty with angelic female vocals.

The birth of Rain Fell Within came in October 1996. Three of the five original members (including Dawn, Kevin, and Charles) formed a band with a unique blent of metal and New Age. After two demos, Rain Fell Within entered Sterling Productions in March 1998 and recorded the "Solemn Days" demo.

With the release of their demo, the band gained worldwide attention. With the addition of new members Tim on drums and Owen on guitar, Rain Fell Within entered Night Sky Studio in June 1999 to record their first full length album, Believe (review). Later that month, Rain Fell Within signed a record contract with Dark Symphonies.

Believe was released in January 2000. While supporting the album's promotion, Rain Fell Within began writing their second release. Soon after, the band brought in two new members: Laurie as backing vocalist and Jason to complete their guitar duo. The new Rain Fell Within members performed live at the 2001 Milwaukee Metalfest.

The new lineup of Rain Fell Within recorded and mixed their new album, Refuge in IQ Studios from late September to October 2001. Once again they worked with Ron Vento as their engineer and co-producer. The album was mastered by Ken Cmar and WonderDrugs Records.

While on Believe Dawn's solo vocals dominate the mix, Refuge is features layers of vocals provided by both Dawn and Laurie. Instrumentals are thickly arranged with episodes of symphonic orchestration but is generally more gothic, monotinically rhythmic and metal-edged than the former release.

Clearly this is an album for those that enjoy the wall-of-sound instrumental arrangements. While the vocals are clear and brilliant, the instrumentals outweigh them in the final mix and the album requires many spins for those not accustomed to the genre to warm up to the sound.

Dawn and Laurie are stunning vocalists whose energy seems appropriate to the style. The album lacks variation stylistically and a few more song-based numbers would improve its accessibility. Perhaps a step away from their debut Refuge will appeal to the band's die-hards. Those just investigating the band should probably start with Believe. Worth further exploration, the album is a nice listen.

 
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