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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Court

Frost of Watermelon

Review by Gary Hill

I first heard about this Italian prog rock band because they are playing in Rockford, Illinois and they contacted me in my role working for the Rockford based Entertainment site Beet Cafe. I wasn't sure what to expect. A prog band coming to a club in Rockford? Would they be real prog or some band who calls themselves progressive rock but playing some other kind of music? I'm sure we've all come across our fair share of those. Well, have no fear, these guys are the real deal – and a very good band at that. While one track on the disc would probably qualify as neo-prog, most of the music here falls firmly into the melodic prog category. I'd have to say it comes closest to early Genesis, but there are plenty of other bands who you might think of while listening to this. A series of fairly short tracks and one multitrack epic, this is an excellent disc that holds up to the best of them. So, what is “Frost of Watermelon?” There is actually a recipe in the booklet for this and it sounds like a tasty dessert. For more information, including how to get your hands on this disc, check out the band's website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Limbo
Acoustic guitar leads this off with waves of sound waving across the surface after a time in a great sedate manner. This powers out quite nicely into a killer melodic progressive rock style. The twists and reinventions call to mind early King Crimson and Genesis to me. It bursts out into a harder edged jam after a time. This scorches out quite well and the overlayers as the move on are purely brilliant. They drop it back to a rather dissonant, almost classical segment. This takes on World music sounds as it is worked and reworked. This seems a bit more along the lines of Happy The Man. Suddenly it drops to just a Bruce Dickinson-like vocal line, unaccompanied. They burst out from there in fine fashion with reworked versions of the earlier musical themes. This is a powerful and dynamic track that does a great job of leading things off in style.
Men I met
This song has an older Deep Purple sound. It is really keyboard heavy and Gillan is a bit less restrained. He even lets off a few of his signature screams but nothing like “Child In Time.”
Wrong Man
More bouncy and fast, this is a frantic piece of vaguely psychedelic prog. It reminds me a lot of Peter Banks' post Yes band Flash, but with different vocals. This has a crunch to it, but is less metal than raw garage band in texture. As it moves out into a reworking of these themes the general musical concept is powered up by layers of additional musical segments. This is far less dynamic than the opener, but still quite a strong piece of music. A cacophonous crescendo ends it.
Walking and talking
In stark contrast to the mayhem of the last piece, gentle acoustic sounds rise in a ballad format. Instruments weave lines of beauty over the backdrop and this has a definite folk rock based progressive rock sound to it. There is a vaguely early Genesis texture to it in some ways. This twists into a harder rocking sound that at times reminds me of some of the more metallic of later era Beatles. This jam doesn't stay around long, though, dropping back to the stylings that preceded it to carry forward. They power this up a bit as they carry onward. The harder segment returns after a while. This time it remains longer, taking the track into a tasty instrumental movement. They finally pull it back to a pretty and intricate reprise of the balladic themes to take the track to its conclusion.
When I lose
More mellow stylings lead this one off, but it shifts out to slightly more rocking modes quite quickly. This builds as a melodic prog piece that is just a bit more energized than a ballad. It drops back to purely balladic for the verse, though. Again you might think of old Genesis a bit here. They take this general morif through a series of changes and reinventions with elements of such acts as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and others coming across from time to time. The vocals are dramatic and powerful and the multiple layered textures remind me a bit of the band H. P. Lovecraft. This is a very powerful piece of music that has a lot of dynamic range and alterations built within its length. They turn it out to a killer expansive jam later that again reminds me of Flash. Then it drops back to something that has a very old world texture. The links to Happy The Man return here. This is then married to the harder sounds as they move it upward in a classical sort of pattern. It turns to a very invigorating excursion with some great guitar work that ends and basically segues into the last piece.
Past days
As this rises with a rather gentle, but almost funky texture, there are elements of space rock keys over the top. The vocals soar in a non-lyrical pattern over this backdrop. The drums take a short solo and then they rework the themes with added layers of keys bringing a new dimension and sense of mystery and majesty. While this is billed as an instrumental we get those non-lyrical vocals thorughout most of the piece. It drops to a short techno-like segment before rising back up with more progressive rock celebration. This turns a little weird at times. There are all sorts of varying sounds coming over the top of the general motif, rising to work their magic and then dropping away. This is a highlight of the disc.
Wet of sky
Some of the most sedate acoustic tones serve as the backdrop for the first vocals of this composition. They shift it out in a while, but only slightly. Added layers bring a new intensity and evocative quality, but still the track is melodic and sedate and very much in a balladic structure. This reminds me a lot of very early King Crimson. It never moves far from its origins, but serves as a nice respite.
My world
More acoustic sounds lead this one off, again feeling a lot like old Genesis. As the vocals enter that notion is intensified. Although, some of the guitar textures seem closer to mellow Pink Floyd. When they power it up at around a minute and a half in it feels a bit like some 1970's folk rock. In fact, with different vocals I could see Gordon Lightfoot doing parts of this track. As it rises up further, though, the progressive rock elements are back in control. This has one of the best vocal arrangements on the disc. It's an exceptionally powerful prog rock ballad that is another highlight of the disc. When they move out into the soaring, more rocking section this thing is simply awe-inspiring. They keep the song going by repeating earlier sections. This might be my favorite cut on the disc. It's definitely close.
Bridge to Maya
Another instrumental, a very classically inspired guitar segment (acoustic) leads this off. As the other instruments enter they intensify this arrangement. They turn it into more rock based sounds, but still very mellow and melodic. At around a minute and forty seconds it drops back to just guitar for a very pretty passage. As it rises from there this is lush and powerful with a sound that definitely calls to mind both Genesis and mellow old King Crimson. They turn it more electrified as they carry onward, but the general motif remains the same. A crescendo gives way to a drop back to just the acoustic guitar just before the two minute mark. They turn this into a folky sort of jam with a harmonica solo. Then we get a rousing segment that feels a lot like 1960's rock. I hear just a touch of the Allman Brothers here. This turns into a more full on melodic prog excursion later on in the track. We also get some cool retro guitar textures, laced with soaring lead instrumentation (guitar and keyboards) over the top. Another crescendo gives way to one final segment of acoustic guitar to end the cut.
Synaptic Ghost
Somewhat funky in texture, this rocker is the only song on show here that has more of a neo-prog rather than clssic progressive rock texture. This is a cool track that serves as a great change of pace. It turns quite crunchy as they carry on, but there is an odd sort of mood to it that works exceptionally well. This never moves into metallic territory, but it definitely rocks out a lot harder than the other material here. There is a cool jam later that combines space rock elements with hard-edged, Hendrix like jamming to great effect. It ends abruptly.
Sun beyond time
Showing once more that these guys really understand the power of alternating between hard and soft musical passages, this starts off in a very pretty balladic fashion. They carry on with this, adding layers of instrumentation and passion before shifting out to the more hard-edged to carry on. The guitar solo that comes in here is extremely tasty. A short space segment takes it after a crescendo, then they move on with the more sedate approach. This gets quite intricate and evocative. They carry on by working and reworking these more melodic themes, adding more power as they create newer incarnations of the sound. This is another highlight of the disc and another contender for favorite track. At around seven and a half minutes it's also the second longest song on the CD.
Flat Stones
A folk-like acoustic guitar based ballad style starts off here. They move it on by adding instrumentation to fill out the arrangement. It's not until around the two and a half minute mark that this reaches a level that one could think of as really “rock”-like. This is another point of the album that calls to mind vintage Genesis a bit. This sound carries the track through to its outro.
Mad and child
You
Another that rises up with acoustic stylings, this is definitely another point of the set that makes one think of old Genesis. They create more passion and power by turning the arrangement more lush in its approach. This is another pretty piece of music. It turns to a cool bouncing pattern later. Then they work through an intriguing vocal segment, with the music swirling faster and faster. Rather than spinning out of control, though, this drops back to the more balladic structures to carry on. At around the three and a half minute mark, though, this screams out. It works through a period of weirdness, then starts a series of changes and hits some killer passages. The vocal arrangement here is also strong. This is just a powerhouse passage. It has melody, energy and presence. It's just plain killer. It drops back down to the sedate to link into the next movement of the epic.
Mother Nature
Coming up tentatively and with a nearly classical, playful sound, this is very mellow. Elements of world music creep in across the backdrop and they run this through a series of changes and alterations. A sense of dark mystery pervades much of this. At around a minute and a half in they drop it back to just acoustic guitar for the first vocal section of the movement. This grows in a gradual organic method and more of those world sounds make themselves heard at times. This is pretty and majestic, while still remaining mellow. The King Crimson tendencies might also be heard here a bit, but there's also some gypsy music on show. At around the three minute mark it rises to more melodic full rock band progressive music. This works through a number of intriguing changes and presents a great slice of musical exploration. I love the slightly odd timing to this. Just as it seems to be about to spin out into pure weirdness it move back out into another verse. The world music modes taking this in a rise like a whirling dervish at the end. They crescendo to lead into the next movement.
Father
As is so often the case on this CD, acoustic guitar begins this. A new ballad-like structure takes it and they work this upward in a steady and organic way. It turns just a bit more rock oriented around the minute and a half mark as they continue on this musical journey. The layers of sound swirl and rise in wonderful patterns creating a power and majesty that's simply awesome. They drop it back to the acoustic ballad approach, though, as they carry on. Then we're back onto the build up process once more. There are no real surprises here until the very end where a killer guitar solo driven section takes the track into new territory. This solo has such a killer classic rock sound it's priceless. It ends to make way for the final segment of the epic.
Myself
Percussion starts this in an almost tribal / world music pattern. Guitar comes in over the top for a time in a limited way, but then gives way to a full drum solo for a while. They jump straight out of this into a fast paced prog jam. Layers of vocals spin across a tapestry created by intricate instrumental patterns. The chorus here is another the reminds me a bit of '60's music. They drop back to acoustic driven sounds later, but then quickly scream back out into the faster section. This turns to an electric jam after a while. They turn this extremely powerful and you might hear a few moments of Rushish sounds before it drops back down to the more sedate again. The final segments before they drop back consist of a noisy dissonant, King Crimson like jam followed by a Rush-like riff that crescendos. The mellow stylings that create the next mode are very pretty and feel all the more sedate because of the fury that preceded them. Strings wander across this backdrop later in the journey. Still further down the road, wind instruments join in, singing their particular brand of joy. This movement, if considered to be a song, is my favorite on the CD. It serves as a very satisfying conclusion to a great epic and a killer disc.
 
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