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Flamborough Head

Tales of Imperfection

Review by Gary Hill

Fans of Renaissance should really like this CD. The truth of the matter is, though that fans of any classic progressive rock band should enjoy this. This is great new prog that is firmly entrenched in the prog stylings of the 1970's. I hear elements of bands like Genesis, Yes and ELP all over this. Of course the female vocals lend a Renaissance and Lana Lane air to it. Coming out in December, this one probably flew under the radar of a lot of folks. That's a shame because it's one of the best new prog albums I've heard in a while. Not only are there no weak tracks on show here, there are no weak sections. I don't think there is a single thing I'd change about this disc. If you are a fan of the first round of progressive rock, you really owe it to yourselves to check this one out. You'll be hooked.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
For Starters
Well, what better song to lead the album with, huh? This starts with dramatic keyboard tones, then guitar comes in over the top of this, along with the rest of the band in a progression that hints at the dramatic journey on which we are about to embark. This shifts downward to pretty ballad-like tones with a lot of majesty in the overlayers. This is gentle yet, powerful and has just a touch of a Celtic texture. It moves downward to the more purely atmospheric to end. This is (as one might expect) a fairly brief instrumental introduction to the whole CD and feels a bit like Marillion (Fish era).
Coming straight out of the atmosphere of the last piece, a pretty piano line brings in a beautiful, yet slightly melancholy melody. This plays through for a short time, then the other instruments enter and the power and drama are pumped up in a slow moving progressive rock segment. Then it shifts to a more song-oriented melody with similar musical textures. As this runs through for a while they shift it out again into a new jam which is similar in texture but based on different musical themes. They turn in an intriguing excursion from here with hints of Pink Floyd and other bands showing up in the mix. This modulates into a cool groove, and then cuts eventually back to the extremely sedate in a pretty ballad-like progression. Flute plays over the top here and there as they rework this one. It ramps up later into a progressive rock instrumental journey that seems to have a few hints of Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare album, but firmly encased in a structure that is 100% percent progressive rock. Some signs of Jethro Tull show up in the later parts of this instrumental movement. Then the group shift to a fast paced and pretty melody that serves as the backdrop for the vocals. This section feels a bit like a cross between Lana Lane and Renaissance - as you might guess the vocals are female. They work this whole thing through several changes during the verses, then drop it way back again to carry it forward. Hints of psychedelia show up from time to time. After the last vocals here, the cut pulls way back and a keyboard-dominated section that calls to mind Genesis take it. They eventually crank this back up to a new segment that has many of the same musical leanings as the rest of the track as the vocals continue. Some Yesish elements show up later as the guitar puts in some tasty soloing. They move through several more variants on the themes and even turn it a bit Pat Metheny-like at points. There are plenty of other sounds that show up in rapid succession on this powerful progression, including ELP. I even hear a bit of Procol Harum on the final verse. It eventually resolves into pretty piano to bring it into the classic prog outro at nearly 12 minutes. This is quite a dynamic and yet very "user friendly" number.
Higher Ground
More pretty keys start this one off, and the Yes-like elements show up early on the keyboard-dominated introduction. The band launch into a very Yesish jam from there. They drop it back towards the sedate and flute plays over top as they gradually build on these themes. Then a powerful new progression soars upwards and they turn in another killer instrumental performance that has elements of Yes and ELP along with numerous other sounds. This is pretty awesome. After a crescendo it cuts back to a very mellow, almost classical approach. Flute again comes in, this time weaving waves of the main melody line. It ramps up after this with an energizing of the main themes into soaring lush progressive rock musical textures, and the flute again makes its presence known after a short time. Then the cut shifts gears into something completely different with a rather funky sort of fusion jam with some great keyboard sounds over this backdrop. Then a reprise of the earlier section with some very Phil Collins like percussion takes it until it drops way down to a sparse keyboard only arrangement that carries some beautiful melodies. As acoustic guitar takes it into its new ballad structure, this again feels quite a bit like Genesis. The flute takes a trip around this backdrop, too. They continue to rework and rethink this for a time, then heavier keys hint at the powerful segment that is about to begin. The band launch out into another hard edged prog jam with tons of fusion elements. The guitar throws tasty lines of soloing over this and the band rework it through a couple of changes before resolving it back out into a more traditional prog journey. Then they drop back the balladic and the flute again comes over the top before they end this instrumental at around the seven-minute mark.
Silent Stranger
Mysterious, but pretty sounding keyboards begin this and there is a gradual building going on as the guitar enters to carry a slow paced and fairly quiet melody line. The band enter in a tentative sort of progressive rock journey. Then it drops back to atmospheric keys. The band play in the background with a rhythmic structure that again calls to mind Genesis and the flute weaves across as they build this upwards. They power it out after a time into a new triumphant sounding guitar driven jam. Then work and rework this in a couple varying incarnations. Keyboards take control to drop the cut back to a piano solo section that serves as the backdrop for the vocals. And they build this in a very dramatic style with a traditional powerful progressive rock motif. This bursts out into a fast paced prog jam that again has elements of Yes, but also plenty of those Lana Lane and Renaissance leanings as well. The guitar takes dominance in a style that feels a bit like Drama era Yes, and the group begin to infuse some darker musical theme here as they carry into the next vocal segment. This works through a number of changes, more variants on the theme than anything else, in a very organic manner. They drop it back later to just piano again, then a fusion like guitar line comes over the top of this to carry it forward. This builds gradually but very powerfully in a dramatic ballad-like movement. As the keys gain prominence it turns quite dark, but is also extremely potent. Then the keys serve to link this to a new section and at first only keys remain. Then a quick burst of guitar oriented sound takes it into a new hard edged prog journey that again has a bit of a Yes feel, but with a definite Genesis type rhythm. As this carries on the flute manages another solo over the top of this backdrop. This section wanders through several changes and some hints of ELP show up alongside the Genesis and Yes. Then once again only the keys remain and then guitar comes in to carry the ballad structure for the next vocals. This works its way out later into a powerful progressive rock jam that combines both new prog elements and classic progressive rock traditions. This gets extremely potent before ending at close to eleven minutes.
Captive of Fate
A very pretty acoustic guitar ballad starts this one off. With keyboards coming over the top this is established as an extremely powerful and beautiful ballad by the time the vocals enter. They work on this one by intensifying and exploring the melody. It crescendos, then reworks the opening modes to carry it forward in an instrumental manner. Flute wanders over top as the cut feels like a cross between early King Crimson and Genesis. This gets quite lush and pretty as it continues, then it shifts tentatively into a new sort of theme. Slightly distorted guitar comes over the top as keyboards hint at a feeling of something about to start. Instead, though, it drops back to the ballad mode to pull in the next vocals. This never really wanders far from its origins, instead content to remain a beautiful and evocative ballad.
Starting with keys that feel a lot like Emerson Lake and Palmer (in fact you'll probably expect to hear "come inside, come inside," the band launch into one of the hardest edged jams of the disc, somewhat like a more prog oriented Deep Purple. They then start on a series of changes and alterations to carry this all over an intriguing musical landscape. This is quite dynamic and very strong, even taking a couple turns toward metal at points. Don't think that means this is as metallic as Dream Theater and other such bands, it's not by a long shot, but there are some hints of metal here in this one. There are so many changes on this one to make it a little tough for a reviewer such as myself to keep up (they even throw a little Bob Marley into the mix). So, suffice it to say that this dynamic prog instrumental is bound to please.
Year After Year
This short cut starts with pretty forlorn keys and jazzy textures make up the mode of this ballad. It's different, but makes for quite a satisfying conclusion to the disc. Picture it as a slightly hard edged prog rock take on an old jazz lounge torch song. It ends much the same way it started, and so ends the disc. I like this one a lot more than that description really conveys. You have to hear it to understand.
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