Review – Kaipa – Urskog – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Urskog’ is the latest, and fourteenth album of the folk/fusion progressive rock group, Kaipa. The band was, in earlier times, home to Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings and it’s easy to see just how he was able to be a part of this band’s heritage and sound.

This album is Stolt free but, nonetheless, it is a very accomplished and epic sounding release and takes you on an aural journey through the forests of the Swedish wilderness and its changing seasons. It is all remarkable considering the album only has six tracks, two epics of fifteen plus minutes, one ten minute track, a nine minute instrumental and one, shorter, six minute song. Yet, within its grooves, you will discover a fabulous world of invention and wonder, at least I did.

I could find touches of Yes in the bass work of Jonas Reingold and the fine, fluid guitar of Per Nilsson, not to mention the epic, and often orchestral, keyboards of Hans Lundin, and that’s before we mention the excellent vocals from Patrick Lundstrom and Aleena Gibson. Along with the powerhouse of drummer Darby Todd, they really create a lush and rich, symphonic sound.

Opener The Frozen Dead Of The Night sets the scene for much of what follows, initially gentle before a stirring synth line from Hans is introduced to favorable effect and the music takes a more rhythmic approach. The drums are then brought into play, this opener is quite keyboard heavy in parts but this works well for the song. The next part of the song leads us towards spring and to the excellent fretwork of Per, who really let’s fly on this section. He has a lovely tone and fleet fingers that fly across the fretboard wonderfully, and highly melodically too.

In A World of Pines takes us deep into the forest and into a sensory experience of mindfulness, even as we learn to appreciate the pine forests and the peace that they offer us. There’s lots happening musically in this song too, lots of lovely keyboard sounds and textures. Next is title track Urskog which has a broody tone to its, almost menacing really. Being sung in Swedish reinforces this and without any translation of the lyrics, it doesn’t help, although there are lots of soaring synths on offer herein. There is also a good bass / drum interaction going on throughout which is highly effective in nature, if only I knew what they were on about!

Far Better for me is Wilderness Excursion which features lots of energetic soloing from keyboard player Hans, guitarist Per and bassist Jonas, who channels his inner Chris Squire to pronounced effect. All of this is surrounded by the busy, yet effective, drum work of Darby. With the song being fully instrumental, everyone gets their moment to shine but it is collectively that they really make a point. This is not mere showing off per se, instead it is collectively highlighting their skills together as an ensemble within the track that works so well. This blistering track really shows how well they get together as a unit and can show that on record too.

The Wastelands of My Mind is hinged on a gloriously uplifting violin melody by Elina Rubensztein which, when coupled with a fabulous vocal from Aleena Gibson, really shines and evokes memories of Kansas’ Robbie Steinhardt. Yes, it really is that good and it makes this definitely one of the album’s finest tracks. Final track The Bitter Setting Sun is also a great with another epic setting and keyboard sounds to match and with lot going on in its fifteen plus minutes running time. The song moves between sections excellently with each part being marked by the different sounds that make it run smoothly.

This album is full of life, you can sense how the seasons change and how life develops as a result. The whole record is very life affirming and an absolute joy to listen to. I heartily recommend it to all prog fans, it’s not that folk oriented but does have a fair element of fusion type embellishments. However it’s all excellently overseen and thoroughly enjoyable as a result.

Released 29th April, 2022.

Order here:

Urskog (burningshed.com)

Review – The Tangent – Songs From The Hard Shoulder

It’s always a highlight of the year when a new album is announced by seminal British proggers The Tangent. ‘Songs From The Hard Shoulder’ sees the venerable and much loved outfit, led by esteemed musician, and fellow Yorkshireman, Andy Tillison, releasing their 12th studio album and sees the band focusing almost entirely on their long format songs or “epics” with only one song being less than 16 minutes long. 

I have been a long time fan of The Tangent and Andy’s topical, witty and often acerbic lyrics which are weaved into their unique, funky, flowing musical style and this latest release sees Andy on absolute top form, both as an exceedingly clever lyricist and an amazing musician. Andy is joined, once again, by a distinguished cast of fellow musicians with Jonas Reingold (bass), Luke Machin (guitar/vocals), Steve Roberts (drums) and Theo Travis (sax & flute) reprising their roles from the previous two The Tangent albums.

The Changes uses a mini story about The Tangekanic band in Germany trying to find a hotel after a gig they didn’t get paid for – after a week of rehearsal and a journey of about 900 miles as a focus. It’s almost a metaphor for all the lockdowns that the world had to suffer and all the isolation and uncertainty that everyone was feeling. The thing about this fantastic song is that it uses that background as a positive metaphor. Trust me, this upbeat and quite wondrous song will leave you smiling as it uses a huge dose of The Tangent’s positive mental attitude to deliver seventeen minutes of buoyant optimism that’s all wrapped up with Andy’s astute lyrics and a band on top form. The music is an utter delight and fits the theme and mood perfectly, there’s a wistful and contemplative note to the middle section of the song as Andy tells the story of the German gig perfectly. This epic track ebbs and flows superlatively and the closing section is one of the best bits of music that The Tangent have ever delivered, if it doesn’t leave you in a really good mood and with a huge grin on your face then I swear you can’t have a soul. It’s quite possibly the best long track that Andy has ever written, I love it!

Highly influenced by Swedish artists from the 70s like Bo Hansson, Flasket Brinner – and also by Andy’s go-to influences in Canterbury Style fusion like National Health, Supersister and Egg, Prog/Fusion romp GPS Vultures is another in the series of outstanding The Tangent instrumentals personified by tracks like Doctor Livingstone, Andalusian Skies and Music Inspired by Music Inspired by The Snow Goose. A long (again, seventeen minutes plus) instrumental piece has to be really good and pretty ingenious to hold the listener’s attention throughout the track and it comes as no surprise to find that this particular track is clever and inventive enough to keep you entertained from start to finish. It’s almost like a musical story, each individual section telling its own tale to perfection as it snakes its way through Canterbury style fusion to an almost Crimson and VDGG influenced improvisation, all with the band’s thoroughly modern interpretation. What’s evident from these first two tracks is how the musicians seamlessly work together and how Luke Machin is utterly on fire on the album, his style is simply perfect for this music.

The Lady Ties To A Lamp Post is a very sobering piece that returns to the theme of homelessness that Andy explored from a very short personal experience of that on the ‘Down & Out’ album. The “Lady” in question was a person that he encountered in Leeds on my way home from a Christmas party in 2012. Dressed in rescued council worker hi viz orange waterproofs repaired with Gaffa she was tying herself to the lamp post so that she could sleep upright without falling over. The temperature was in the low minus figures and the wind was biting like a Doberman. Andy had the briefest of conversations with her and only had cigarettes to give her. Andy treats the subject in a very sympathetic manner and, once again, the lyrics and fantastic music impress. I don’t know how they manage to do it but every note in this twenty minute song has its place, there is nothing superfluous and Andy’s vocal delivery, along with the intricate musicianship, is just right for this sobering tale. The skill of Theo Travis is well known and his sax playing adds a real sophisticated jazz influence throughout and Steve Roberts’ precision drum skills should be lauded in equal measure. This absorbing and impassioned epic shows Andy’s songwriting skills at their consummate best and is yet more proof that he is one of the best at this long form style of music, his keyboard skills, as evident here, aren’t too bad either!

The one short track on the album is the utterly sublime, soul infused and totally funky Wasted Soul and shows that, while The Tangent do the long form epic to perfection, the band can still rock with the best when it comes to catchy shorter songs too. Harmonised vocals, hammond organs galore and a brass section to die for, this song is like a total beacon of light and will have you rocking in the aisles (metaphorically speaking of course!), it’s uplifting and just, well, bloody good! Jonas’ bass playing is top notch throughout the album but, on this stellar track, he just shines.

Early editions of the album and the Vinyl Edition will include the bonus track In The Dead Of Night which is, of course, a cover version of the classic song by UK and the band give it a little dose of The Tangent magic to deliver a track that sounds as if it could have been written by them in the first place. A particular highlight is Luke’s ever impressive guitar playing and here he just seems to have been given free rein to deliver a lengthy solo that has you nodding furiously in appreciation.

I had a discussion with Andy about the new album and the one quote I will take from it is this; “There was a lot of hope in my heart when writing it (the album) and I think it forced its way through”.

‘Songs From The Hard Shoulder’ is just a wonderful piece of work, The Tangent at their brilliant best. People need some cheer in the world and music has the power to lift people, after just one listen to this amazing album I was smiling again. Andy and the band could just have released their most important record yet…

Released 10th June, 2022.

Pre-order from the band’s website here:

The Tangent : Official Website – Home

Also pre-order here:

Songs From The Hard Shoulder (lnk.to)

The Tangent announce new album ‘Songs from The Hard Shoulder’, Hear the first single “The Changes”

The Tangent, the progressive/jazz-rock collective led by Andy Tillison, are pleased to announce the release of their 12th studio album ‘Songs From the Hard Shoulder’ on the 10th June 2022. This album sees The Tangent focusing almost entirely on their long format songs or “epics” with only one song being less than 16 minutes long. 

Today, you can check out an edit of the album’s opening track and first single “The Changes (single edit)”:

Andy Tillison comments: 

“The Changes was written in the depths of the first and strictest of the Covid Lockdowns. During this strangest of times there was an emptiness in all of our lives and this song explores my own such feelings in that time. I began to wonder whether the band would ever meet again, and more importantly, how long it would be before I could see my family again.  Some of the song is focused on the minutiae of being on tour with a band… not so much missing the gigs, the stages and the playing, but missing he crazy little things like not being able to find a hotel, being lost and the general camaraderie that is all around when a band is out on the road. It’s important to say that this single edit is just 5 minutes of what is a 17-minute song – and this only gives a hint at what is there in the full version… which includes a standout Luke Machin guitar solo of unbelievable quality which isn’t represented in this at all…”

Tracklisting:

1.     The Changes (17:06)

2.     The GPS Vultures (17:01)

3.     The Lady Tied To The Lamp Post (20:52)

4.     Wasted Soul (4:40)

5.     In The Dead Of Night (Bonus) (16:11)

The album is available now for pre-order as:

https://thetangent.lnk.to/SongsFromTheHardShoulder

With ‘Songs From the Hard Shoulder’, the band (who are celebrating their 20th year in the business) have audibly focused on the compositional structure of this album which in the case of the three long pieces is also highly complex and “thought out” – from a luscious and uplifting song about loneliness in Covid lockdown, to a full on 17-minute long jazz/prog/canterbury fusion instrumental, to a darkly electronic story of a homeless woman with shades of Nine Inch Nails, Po90, Japan and Van Der Graaf lurking within. The album’s final track is the 4 minute bouncy Motown-style track “Wasted Soul”, where the band anticipate a wonderful day in the future when the pandemic is over forever. Early editions and the Vinyl Edition will include the bonus track “In The Dead Of Night” which is of course a cover version of the classic song by UK. The band lineup remains from the previous 2 albums as Andy Tillison (Vocal/Keyboards), Jonas Reingold (Bass), Luke Machin (Guitar/Vocals), Steve Roberts (Drums) and Theo Travis (Sax & Flute).

The Flower Kings launch new single “Revolution” 

Third track from upcoming album ‘By Royal Decree’

Prog icons The Flower Kings are set to release their 15th studio album ‘By Royal Decree’ on the 4th March 2022.  Now, the band are pleased to share the third single from the album, “Revolution”. Watch the video here:

Roine comments:

“The songs on the new double album come from a whole lot of different places in time and space, often a combination of themes gathered from older ideas born before The Flower Kings emerged in 1994, mixed with brand new ideas. 

’Revolution’ is that kind of a song; a mini epic that is reflecting a number of themes spanning this album, cinematic and sometimes bombastic. A celebration of creation and the evolution, making the world what it is, through the million years of  fire, brimstone, ice ages, floods, devastation, pain and finally….. beauty, colors, flowers, the vast oceans of life and new life out of the darkness & raging volcanos. The miracle!

The song is yet another piece of the larger scale composition that is ‘By Royal Decree’ – a sort of modern 2022 Rock Opera if you will. A landmark album from this band that we’re all incredibly proud of!”

‘Revolution’ also features a guest appearance from Jonas Lindberg, who plays bass on this track.

Listen to the album’s first single “The Great Pretender” here: https://youtu.be/03NFABil4yo

Watch the video for the second single “A Million Stars” here: https://youtu.be/k0RiSF1Lwac

‘By Royal Decree’ Tracklisting

1.The Great Pretender (6:55) 

2.World Gone Crazy (5:04) 

3.Blinded (7:45) 

4.A Million Stars (7:11) 

5.The Soldier (5:23) 

6.The Darkness In You (5:13) 

7.We Can Make It Work (2:48) 

8.Peacock On Parade (5:15) 

9.Revolution (5:59) 

10.Time The Great Healer (6:12) 

11.Letter (2:25) 

12.Evolution (4:47) 

13.Silent Ways (5:01) 

14.Moth (4:31) 

15.The Big Funk (4:39) 

16.Open Your Heart (5:17) 

17.Shrine (1:08) 

18.Funeral Pyres (7:14) 

‘By Royal Decree’ will be available as Ltd. 2CD Digipak, 

as Ltd. 180g 3LP+2CD Box Set as well as Digital Album. 

You can pre-order the album now here:

https://theflowerkings.lnk.to/ByRoyalDecree

The band are back at their most creative, flowery and playful – mirroring the 70’s melting pot of folk, symphonic, electronic, jazz, blues, funk & prog. On the new album they have looked for more organic and vintage sounds, still centered around the foundation of drums, bass, guitars and the iconic Hammond, grand piano, mellotron & Moog synthesizers.

The album also sees the return of founding member Michael Stolt, who takes up bass guitar and vocals, alongside the line-up of Mirko DeMaio on drums, Zach Kamins on keyboards, Hasse Fröberg on vocal & guitar and Roine Stolt on vocal & guitars and Jonas Reingold on bass. The band convened in the middle of 2021 at Fenix Studios in Sweden to record through the fully analogue Rupert Neve mixing desk. The album also features beautiful cover art, once again created by Denver-based artist Kevin Sloan.

This year’s tour will also see the band revisiting their early years, performing tracks from ‘Retropolis’, ‘Stardust We Are’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Space Revolver’ and ‘Back In The World Of Adventures’. This will coincide with the release of newly remastered editions of The Flower Kings albums on CD & Vinyl later in 2022. The first confirmed live dates are as follows: 

30th March 2022 – Katalin, Uppsala, Sweden

31st March 2022 – Musikens Hus, Gothenburg, Sweden

1st April 2022 – Södra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden

1-7th May 2022 – Cruise To The Edge, USA

11th May 2022  – Imperial Bell, Quebec City, Canada

12th May 2022  – Club Soda, Montreal, Canada

14th July 2022  – Rootsfestival, Notodden, Norway

4th Sept 2022  –  HRH Festival , UK

The Flower Kings share new single “The Great Pretender” from upcoming album ‘By Royal Decree’

Prog icons The Flower Kings recently announced the release of their 15th studio album ‘By Royal Decree’, set for 4th March 2022.  Now, the band are pleased to share the first single from the album “The Great Pretender.” The album is now available for pre-order.

Check out the new track here: 

Roine Stolt on the new single: “In the 25 year history and 16 studio albums of ’The Flower Kings’ – being in the middle of it all means it is not always easy to try and take a look from the outside, but this track represent well both what is new and what is old – the melodic side and the sonic adventure.” 

‘By Royal Decree’ Tracklisting

1.The Great Pretender (6:55) 

2.World Gone Crazy (5:04) 

3.Blinded (7:45) 

4.A Million Stars (7:11) 

5.The Soldier (5:23) 

6.The Darkness In You (5:13) 

7.We Can Make It Work (2:48) 

8.Peacock On Parade (5:15) 

9.Revolution (5:59) 

10.Time The Great Healer (6:12) 

11.Letter (2:25) 

12.Evolution (4:47) 

13.Silent Ways (5:01) 

14.Moth (4:31) 

15.The Big Funk (4:39) 

16.Open Your Heart (5:17) 

17.Shrine (1:08) 

18.Funeral Pyres (7:14) 

‘By Royal Decree’ will be available as Ltd. 2CD Digipak, 

as Ltd. 180g 3LP+2CD Box Set as well as Digital Album. 

You can pre-order the album now here:

https://theflowerkings.lnk.to/ByRoyalDecree

The band are back at their most creative, flowery and playful – mirroring the 70’s melting pot of folk, symphonic, electronic, jazz, blues, funk & prog. On the new album they have looked for more organic and vintage sounds, still centered around the foundation of drums, bass, guitars and the iconic Hammond, grand piano, mellotron & Moog synthesizers. 

The album also sees the return of founding member Michael Stolt, who takes up bass guitar and vocals, alongside the line-up of Mirko DeMaio on drums, Zach Kamins on keyboards, Hasse Fröberg on vocal & guitar and Roine Stolt on vocal & guitars and Jonas Reingold on bass. The band convened in the middle of 2021 at Fenix Studios in Sweden to record through the fully analogue Rupert Neve mixing desk. The album also features beautiful cover art, once again created by Denver-based artist Kevin Sloan. 

Next year’s tour will also see the band revisiting their early years, performing tracks from ‘Retropolis’, ‘Stardust We Are’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Space Revolver’ and ‘Back In The World Of Adventures’. This will coincide with the release of newly remastered editions of The Flower Kings albums on CD & Vinyl later in 2022. The first confirmed live dates are as follows: 

30th March 2022 – Katalin, Uppsala, Sweden

31st March 2022 – Musikens Hus, Gothenburg, Sweden

1st April 2022 – Södra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden

1-7th May 2022 – Cruise To The Edge, USA

11th May 2022  – TBA, Quebec City, Canada

12th May 2022  – TBA, Montreal, Canada

14th July 2022  – Rootsfestival, Notodden, Norway

4th Sept 2022  –  HRH Festival , UK

The Flower Kings announce 15th studio album ‘By Royal Decree’ & Swedish live dates for 2022

Prog icons The Flower Kings are pleased to announce the release of their 15th studio album ‘By Royal Decree’, set for 4th March 2022. The band have also announced the first live dates in support of the album, taking place in Sweden beginning end of March 2022.

The band are back at their most creative, flowery and playful – mirroring the 70’s melting pot of folk, symphonic, electronic, jazz, blues, funk & prog. On the new album they have looked for more organic and vintage sounds, still centered around the foundation of drums, bass, guitars and the iconic Hammond, grand piano, mellotron & Moog synthesizers. 

The album also sees the return of founding member Michael Stolt, who takes up bass guitar and vocals, alongside the line-up of Mirko DeMaio on drums, Zach Kamins on keyboards, Hasse Fröberg on vocal & guitar and Roine Stolt on vocal & guitars. The band convened in the middle of 2021 at Fenix Studios in Sweden to record through the fully analogue Rupert Neve mixing desk. The album also features beautiful cover art, once again created by Denver-based artist Kevin Sloan.

Speaking about being reunited with his brother in the recording room, Roine adds, “It is great to reconnect with my brother as a bass player – yes we’re brothers in a familial sense – but we’re also ’brothers’ in our teenage years’ journey of exploring bands like Yes, Genesis, Zappa, King Crimson, Weather Report, etc., so the reference points are evident.  We both know each other’s musical path so well, which means we also know where we’re going.”

Next years tour will also see the band revisiting their early years, performing tracks from ‘Retropolis’, ‘Stardust We Are’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Space Revolver’ and ‘Back In The World Of Adventures’. This will coincide with the release of newly remastered editions of The Flower Kings albums on CD & Vinyl later in 2022. The first confirmed live dates are as follows:

30th March 2022 – Katalin, Uppsala, Sweden

31st March 2022 – Musikens Hus, Gothenburg, Sweden

1st April 2022 – Södra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden

Look out for more information on the new album, pre-orders and the first single on the 10th December.

Band photo by Lilian Forsberg

Review – Tillison Reingold Tiranti – Allium: Una Storia – by Progradar

The Lineup of Andy Tillison (The Tangent/Po90), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings/Steve Hackett Band/Karmakanic) and Roberto Tiranti (New Trolls/Ken Hensley/Labyrinth) is a pan European Progressive Rock Band project and the album was recorded during lockdowns in Italy, Austria and the UK.

The album ‘Allium: Una Storia’ is a concept album which takes as its subject a real band, Allium, that Tillison saw play (and jammed with) in Italy when he was a teenager in the mid 1970s.

One afternoon spent with this band was enough to decide my career for the rest of my life” says Tillison, who subsequently spent a long time searching for any information about them.

It was the first time I saw and touched a synthesiser; it was the first time I ever saw an electric band play. It was a golden moment on a holiday camp in Italy that has been an influence on every recording I have ever made in the past 46 years.”

The new band –TRT-‘s album is an imagining of the record Allium might have made. Written in the style of the music that they played, the band were joined by Italian lyricist Antonio De Sarno (Moongarden, Barock Project, Mangala Vallis) who, in keeping with Tillison’s original music, wrote the kind of lyrics that might have been penned by Allium at that time.

All members of the band have contributed to the songwriting since inception. The album, whilst paying homage to this and many other forgotten Rock Progressivo Italiano bands, is all original material written in 2021.

Right, that’s the publicity blurb and the background out of the way, the main question is, is it any good?

The album consists of three tracks and is just over forty minutes long. I’ll give you my initial feelings first, the way I felt when I first listened all the way through and what I told Andy when I discussed it with him…

The feeling I get from the music is one of pure unfettered joy, it takes me back to when the world was a much more simple place. It literally does just take me away to a another place in my head and I just smile every time I listen to it.

Andy told me, “Like you, I find the modern world exhausting, I feel more and more like I’m in a dystopian story every day. So a bit of my own memory of more joyful times has helped!”

It certainly shows on this album, it just feels as if it was created naturally, with love and just a in a really relaxed way, it’s a feeling of freedom and no constraints, the album will be ready when it is done and not before.

“I have always found, at least since the Prog Glory Days that Italian Prog was almost the “real thing”. It’s not that Crimson and Yes and Emerson didn’t develop the style, they certainly did, but it was the Italians who really coalesced the style into the most diverse and free thinking forms. Even bands I love like Camel, Genesis, even ELP themselves were often left standing by The Italians. They hadn’t had much truck with Rock Music.. but when Prog arrived, we were on their turf.”, Andy went on to say.

So it’s that Rock Progressivo Italiano vibe brought right up to date for our modern times but music to give you some relief from the complexity of modern life. The swirling, sweeping keyboards that are are signature of Mr Tillison are present and correct and Jonas’ bass is as smooth and stylish as ever, his excellent electric guitar playing skills are also much evident on the album too but what makes this hugely different from what has gone before are Roberto Tiranti’s mesmerising vocals which, like all the best foreign language singers, make the lyrics less important than the actual way in which they are delivered, his voice is like an additional instrument. They add a bit of innocent naivety to the songs and take you back to the sepia tinged hue of a nostalgic 1970’s and, boy, have I longed to be somewhere like that quite a few times over the last eighteen months!

The three songs are the side long epic Mai Tornare and the two shorter tracks Ordine Nuovo and Nel Nome Di Dio and usually at this point, I would go into further detail about each one but, this time, I’m not. This album is a listening experience that should be consumed in one sitting, in the fashion of the 70’s and not dipping in to one track and going back later to listen to another.

Is ‘Allium: Una Storia’ an antidote to the lockdown and everything associated with it? Well I wouldn’t want to make a claim that huge and I don’t think Andy, Jonas or Roberto would thank me if I did! No, it is a joyous expression of music, as, deep down at its core, it should be. Simple but perfectly formed and harking back to the days when music just put a smile on your face, this is one album that deserves success just because of how it makes you feel and I love it for that.

The album is set for a SUMMER 2021 release and is available on Reingold Records. pre-orders are available at Jonas Reingold | Webshop

Review – Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi – by John Wenlock-Smith

When  I was growing up there was no internet, we used to have to use encyclopaedias and other forms of reference books to find out about things. Nowadays, of course, it is all there waiting to be delved into and discovered for yourself.

It is a whole different ball game now, although there was a time in the late 1980’s /early 1990’s that you could ring up the reference people at Birmingham City Library and they would find things out for you. This was especially useful, and was well before Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded what we now know as Google, this company that they founded as students at Stanford university is now one of the world’s premier search engines. Folk now often say ‘google it’ to find information.

I did that whilst listening to this album as it is largely music set to poems that were written by William Butler (W.B) Yeats (Born in 1885 Died January 1939). Yeats is widely acclaimed as one of Ireland’s most famous poets, dramatists, and prose writers, in fact, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

Spiritus Mundi’ sets those poems to gentle and orchestral sounding pieces with vocals from Nad Sylvan and guitars from Andrew Laitres, a US based composer and musician, who Nad had worked with previously on his last album, ‘The Regal Bastard’ – The final part of his Vampyrate trilogy.

Nad is joined by some famous guests on this album, namely Tony Levin and Jonas Reingold on bass and Marko DeMaio (The Flower Kings) on drums with Steve Hackett also featuring. The bulk of the lyrics are taken verbatim from Yeats’s poems, apart from the first bonus track, You Have Got To Find A Way, that has Sylvan’s own lyrics. This approach has left the music room to breath and allows the beauty of the words to shine through clearly with the music clearly supporting and enhancing the impact of the words. That intention has paid off excellently giving the album dignity and weight.

The tracks are mainly short and as they focus predominantly on the words the album will take several listens before it really begins to make sense. Having said that, the longer tracks, The Second Coming and Sailing To Byzantium, work the best for me as there are musical interludes within in them that work well. The instrumentation is supportive and sympathetic, you will not find long ego fuelled solos here, you fill find empathy and delicacy throughout. The whole album lasts about 52 minutes including the two bonus tracks.

I think this album is a great, intensive listening experience and will appeal to any who like Yeats’ poems or who are fans of Nad Sylvan’s earlier solo albums as he is certainly in fine voice on these songs. This project is certainly different and a brave, bold move by Nad, as an album this is certainly different and somehow the lyricism of Yeats’ poetry works well in this format and will hopefully bring it to a whole new audience of people. They may find much within the words of these pieces that speaks clearly to their hearts and minds and hopefully leads them discover more of Yeats’ works for themselves.    

The sound of the album is sparse and the space between the words and the music is wide and open allowing subtle nuances to be realised and appreciated with repeated listening. There is a fabulous slide guitar part contained on the last track on the album, The Fisherman, (performed by Neil Whitford) that really drives the piece along.

It is not an album that is immediately easy to access but I sincerely recommend that you persevere as it is truly worth it when you finally do click with it and its treasures and beauties are finally revealed to you. ‘Spiritus Mundi’ is a journey of discovery into a different world, but it is a journey that you need to decide to undertake. 

Released 9th April 2021

Order the album here:

Spiritus Mundi (lnk.to)

THE FLOWER KINGS – launch video for ‘Black Swan’ / track taken from latest album ‘Islands’ out now

In October 2020, progressive rockers THE FLOWER KINGS released their new double album “Islands” on InsideOutMusic, just a year after the group’s much celebrated “Waiting For Miracles”. Today the band have launched a brand new video for the track ‘Black Swan’, and you can watch it now here:

Roine Stolt comments: “’Black Swan’ was a little piano melody I wrote around spring 2019 – I thought of it as ‘Polish melancholic’ or a ballet piano piece. I did present a demo for the Transatlantic sessions but when it didn’t stick there I brought it along to the TFK ‘Islands’ session. Here it found its way in to the album and concept and with a slightly more dry guitar-driven sound and with nods to both The Beatles & Queen it became one of my favourite tracks. Hasse delivers some of his finest vocal on the album here.”
 
With an epic length of 92 minutes, “Islands” offers all trademark sounds and melodies, the band is renowned for including vintage keys, brilliant guitar solos, odd drum patterns and symphonic elements. Rounded off by artwork courtesy of the legendary Roger Dean (Yes, Asia, Gentle Giant, Greenslade, Uriah Heep), THE FLOWER KINGS present a dynamic and complex record that is bold, bombastic and beautiful.

 “Islands” is available as a massive Limited 3LP & 2CD box set with slipcase and 180 gram vinyl housed in one gatefold, one single sleeve; as Limited Edition 2CD Digipak and Digital Album.
 
Order here: https://theflowerkings.lnk.to/IslandsID

Disc One (49:40)
1 – Racing With Blinders On 4:24
2 – From The Ground 4.02
3 – Black Swan 5:53
4 – Morning News 4:01
5 – Broken 6:38
6 – Goodbye Outrage 2:19
7 – Journeyman 1:43
8 – Tangerine 3:51
9 – Solaris 9:10
10 – Heart Of The Valley 4:18
11- Man In A Two Peace Suit 3:21

Disc Two (43:01)
1 – All I Need Is Love 5:48
2 – A New Species 5:45
3 – Northern Lights 5:43
4 – Hidden Angles 0:50
5 – Serpentine 3:52
6 – Looking For Answers 4:30
7 –Telescope 4:41
8 – Fool’s Gold 3:11
9 – Between Hope & Fear 4:29
10 – Islands 4:12

Line-Up:
Roine Stolt – Vocal, Ukulele, Guitars, Additional Keyboards
Hasse Fröberg – Vocal & Acoustic Guitar
Jonas Reingold – Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Zach Kamins – Pianos, Organ, Synthesizers, Mellotron, Orchestrations
Mirko DeMaio – Drums, Percussion
Guest: Rob Townsend – Soprano Saxophone

Review – The Flower Kings – Islands – By John Wenlock-Smith

I have a very strange relationship with The Flower Kings, even though I have all their albums, a few live CDs, and a compilation (along with a few of Roine Stolt’s solo releases and the Anderson Stolt epic of a few years ago). Despite that body of recorded works somehow I’ve never really connected with them in the way I have with other bands. I have never really got them as a band, despite many attempts to do so on my part, I appreciate the music they make and odd tracks do resonate but, overall, it passes me by for some strange reason.

This new album, ‘Islands’, is an interesting one in that it has been put together in this strange year of lockdowns that the world struggles to come to terms with, aiming to beat and conquer and defeat this dreadful virus that has caused so much havoc, both to individuals yet also on the world’s economies. The band have used this odd time to craft a double album of predominantly shorter songs, 21 over 2 CDs with a common theme of isolation and separation. 

They had intended to follow up last years ‘Waiting For Miracles’ album in 2021 but world events made that difficult as all touring activities were curtailed so that left them free to crack on creating new music together, even if remotely. The group line-up remains predominantly the same but with Rob Townsend from Steve Hackett’s band appearing on two tracks adding sax and woodwind to the music. So, how does this one fare?

Well it has taken many listens over several weeks to get some understanding of it all, in all honesty I still have not been able to make up my mind about it all.

The album starts in typical prog style, Racing With Blinders On opening with swirls of keyboards before the ever energetic bass of Jonas Reingold kicks in, propelling the music alongside washes of synths and some very fluid guitar lines from Roine Stolt that run throughout the whole track. With many symphonic textures and soundscapes, it paints a very impressive opening track.

Second track From The Ground has a funky rhythm with a clarinet sounding keyboard and an ethereal vocal from Roine, the song is brief and very positive and uplifting with more great guitar lines flowing through the music. The musicianship on this album is off the scale, everyone is playing at the top of their game on these concise yet impressive pieces. There are no long drawn out pieces on this album and somehow this makes the music easier, almost more accessible somehow and that is a good thing.

This is a really good strong release made under difficult situations and yet it really works well as further shown by the impressive third piece, Black Swan, that has a very Brian May like guitar tone with some very tasty guitar fills from Roine.Possibly my favourite track so far, it is a really great song and, with great support from the rest of the band, it really is a statement of intent. In fact, the more I listen, the more I hear, there is a lot going on in these tracks.

Morning News is a more subdued track with a real spring in its step, a rather jolly little song that, while brief, does not overstay its welcome. It is an interesting song lyrically and the chorus is a strong one that suits the song well. Broken is another stunner with a tremendous drive to it and fabulous music and energy to match. There’s a great guitar solo from Roine and some great keyboard textures from Zach Kamins, who really flies on this song, simply glorious.

Then we are into a series of significantly shorter tracks; Goodbye Outrage, Journeyman (instrumental)and Tangerine before a real epic in the nine minutes plus of Solaris which opens with gentle keyboards setting an almost triumphant tone and Roine’s epic guitar coming into play briefly before a gentler percussive keyboard sets a base for Roine to ascend, which he does again briefly. The sound is a little denser on this song but ultimately it is another example of the undeniable talents that this band unquestionably possess, offering to the listener a fine example of modern day progressive rock. This is the best song so far and certainly shows that this album is one that you should look out for and listen to as it is a fine distillation of all the Flower Kings represent. Great song writing, superlative playing and tones, all combined to make an outstanding musical statement that is beguiling, accessible and very impressive indeed.

Heart Of the Valley follows, another gentler piece with great vocals and music working together to create something of worth and value. Man In A Two Piece Suit sounds like one of those instrumentals that Carlos Santana used to do so well, mixing both melody and taste in equal measures. This is a real tour de force of guitar tones and subtlety, all presented together to make a sublime, beautifully crafted piece of music and is a great ending to the first cd.

Disc two opens with the beauty of All I Need Is Love, its universal sentiments must appeal to many listeners who have found themselves adrift and at odds with the madness of this virus affected world. This song acts as a sort of centre of our thoughts and feeling and the realisation that all we actually do need is love in these strange discordant days in which we find ourselves. This calming track is a tonic for us all to aspire to and this is a most worthy song that reaches out to everyone. A New Species is a lengthy instrumental with highly charged moods and textures and some fine ensemble and solo passages from all, especially keyboard player Zach Kamins. His work is simply fabulous on this track as is the walking bass line of Jonas Reingold, offset against the fine guitar of Roine Stolt. Another great track, Northern Lights (not the Renaissance track!) follows with a good opening section showcasing the wordless vocals of Hasse Froberg before becoming vocalised another long song but it was a bitinconsequential song to these ears and sadly did not do anything for me really.

Hidden Angles is a brief instrumental interlude before the second song with Rob Townsend is revealed. Serpentine features Rob’s saxall over the track along with some highly effective bass lines that really add to the dynamics of this excellent little number that ends on some fine ad-libbed sax lines. Looking For Answers is a fine ensemble piece with some sterling guitar lines from Roine leading the piece. Once again I can hear Santana type guitar tones that punctuate the song, adding real emphasis and dynamics to an extraordinarily strong musical piece.

Telescope is an interesting song, very atmospheric with haunting tones used to great effect, along with more juicy guitar lines that set the music tone well. This song has a really fine fluid guitar break too, in fact, I must comment on the excellence of the guitar playing throughout this album as it really is very strong and really adds to the whole experience the album offers.

I would say for me this is one of the most accessible Flower Kings albums that it has been my experience to enjoy and this is one of the first that I have really ‘got’, as it were. There is a lot of music on the two discs but this is countered by it conciseness and its lack of sprawling tunes. For me at least this is one of their better albums and this new approach certainly seems to work as the results are remarkable. Satisfying and ultimately very enjoyable indeed, I really have no hesitation in Recommending this album to all.

Released 30th October 2020

Order from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/the-flower-kings_islands_2cd