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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tomas Bodin

Sonic Boulevard

Review by Josh Turner

This album features ten blissful songs from the masterful Tomas Bodin. As his third solo attempt, he has really hit a homerun. Here his skills have matured, and he shows us incredible growth. His talent is fine-tuned, pulling no punches, as he shows us his entire bag of tricks, delivered to us in a nice neat little package.

This album is not overwhelming or overblown, but quite a bit more than background music. It is a tapestry on the wall you put there to decorate the room, but soon find yourself taking a closer look, interested in all its qualities that are but a blur when looking at it from a distance. Do yourself a favor and treat this with the respect it deserves. It does feel like background music on the surface, but it has a lot more to offer. While it may be too involved and intellectual for dinner music, it is perfect for those relaxing moments when you want to be alone and clear your head. Maybe I will bring it along the next time I get a professional massage, but in the interim, it is the right kind of treatment for a weary head.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Prayer
This song has what appear to be wordless vocals as is all the vocals throughout the disc. In the liner notes he references it as rap or scat. You need to be the judge for how you would define this yodeling be-bop style humming. Instrumentally we are given a build up, which is a perfect start to the album.
The Hero from the Could City
We are introduced in this song to a guitarist by the name of Jocke JJ Marsh. He sounds quite a bit like Roine Stolt, though where Roine would throw a little wha wha at you, this guy wastes no time making it to the next note. He also has a stutter step or boingo technique where the sound springs about. While the bass and drums provided by Jonas Reingold and Zoltan Csorsz are purely part of the background texture, they are far from rudimentary. We get numerous different styles of keys here, in many cases several backing one another concurrently. This music sounds a bit like something you would expect at the happy end of a fantasy tale. You know what? The whole album could have easily been the soundtrack for Lord of the Rings. Hopefully, this guy gets discovered and becomes the next Danny Elfman or John Williams. He definitely has the goods.
Back to the African Garden
While still maintaining the symphonic sound, this track heads in a somewhat different direction. It starts with a simple piece on keyboards. Here Jocke knocks your pants of with a crazy, but quick solo, where the notes from his guitar become Mexican jumping beans. While short, it is a wonderful moment and really changes the tempo of the song. Following Jocke's cue, Zoltan picks up the rhythm and takes his drum set closer to the listener. Eventually you have interplay among all the players. Jocke sprinkles the mix with a morsel here and there.
Picture
This has a much more classical feel than the others with a heavy use of the piano. Tomas is by himself with the spotlight around him. We have a soft pulse of mellotron adding ripples to these calm waters. It seems we even have a flute, but there is no mention of one in the liner notes, so this must be a perfectly rendered sample.
Walkabout
Again we experience more wordless vocals. The beat is much akin to taking a walk with a little strut, feeling the gentle wind on your face, watching the rustling leaves, all alone with the blue sky overhead. Yeah, it is all that stuff and more. The mood of the music is relaxed and cool. This song shows us Jocke's hidden talent doing the scat rap with his guitar. There is what appears to be a slip up, but it works. In some ways, the slip up is the highlight of the song as it is unexpected and works quite well. As his finishes, Tomas drops a slinky sound that quickly climbs down the stairs. There are some interesting sound effects in this one and it is even ends with something sounding like a sitar. The vocals are harmonious.
The Horses From Mars
We are subtly nudged in a different direction. I cannot help but think the opening is the theme music to the X-Files at a higher pitch. We also get a little ding dong of the bells and some quasar effects. After the twinkling stars shine brightly in the sky, Jocke jumps in with his best Roine impersonation yet and a great solo moment of the album. We finish with a bluesy rock riff, which sounds quite familiar to Platypus, especially the keys of Derek Sherinian, before winding down to a halt.
A Beautiful Mind
We are taken back to a dream world where the weight of our everyday problems does not exist. This is a back rub by an expert masseuse, gripping at the tissue in your neck, and working the tension away. It gets a little dark for our hero midway, but at the end of the day we are welcomed back to a ticker-tape parade. Listen to the song and you will see what I mean, or not. My interpretation may be a little schizophrenic, but the piece itself searches for an identity and travels to galaxies near and far to find it.
The Happy Frog
I have never seen a sad frog, as a smile is permanently etched on their face. This is no exception. Here we follow a happy smiling frog from lilly pad to lilly pad snatching up little bugs and enjoying the sun on its skin. The food is right for our little friend as his tummy fills with all these scrumptious munchies. There are even quiet ribbits throughout as the frog is much content and safe in his surroundings. Ulf Wallander's sax adds some vegetation to the scene. He contributes willows wavering in the breeze. To describe the song, think forest green, bright sunny yellow, and a tad of reddish orange.
Morning Will Come
It is late at night and the world is quiet. We are awoken from a peaceful dream. The cobwebs are breaking up, and we realize the tragedies we experienced in the day before. Yet, we are happy for what we have, why complain, enjoy the rest we are getting, and move on. The sun will come out tomorrow as it always does. Jocke's playful guitar shows youth and strength to continue. The vocals are bittersweet, showing some pain, but at least there is a voice, clear, concise, and controlled. As with all the other tracks, Tomas gives us some unexpected sounds or places a timely note and it colors our cuisine with healthy ingredients. After this late night snack we find ourselves back in bed and drift off to sleep to encounter another peaceful dream.
The Night Will Fall
A long hard day, possibly a Friday, and we are looking for rest again. It is dark. Our eyes are groggy as we reflect we got through another week. We have already gotten together with friends to celebrate; we undress, get into more comfortable clothes, and get comfortably tucked into bed. Jonas Knuttson delivers an interlude with the sax. He has basically come to tell us a bedtime story. Jonas Reingold backs the story with a few details of his own. Tomas builds several layers of vibrating noise. He is consistent throughout the track with a rolling piano. The sax is really nice here. The mood ends real happy and you are left yawning with a content grin on your face. It touches down and you soon realize seconds after it is overĀ that it is over.
 
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