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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Flower Kings

Stardust We Are

Review by G. W. Hill

This album is the latest by Swedish band The Flower Kings. Featuring a fresh approach on influences from many classic prog bands, this is a strong release. Among the leanings to be found are Yes, King Crimson, ELP, Genesis, Rush, ELO and Pink Floyd. The album is available directly from the label, among other sources. You may contact the label at Foxtrot Records, Ltd., PO Box 15070, 5-750 15 Uppsala, Sweden. Visit their homepage at http://www.users.wineasy.se/flowerkings. The Flower Kings are Hasse Froberg, Jaime Salazar, Roine Stolt, Tomas Bodin, Michael Stolt and Hasse Bruniusson. Although other sounds are present, the majority of the vocals are Greg Lake and John Wettonish

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

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
In The Eyes of the World
This composition starts like Outer Limits does Genesis before dropping to a full-on ELPish assault. A very strong track, it combines those ELP leanings with UK song styles into an exceptionally accessible song structure that still manages to maintain a flurry of progressive rock flair. The extended instrumental break is wonderfully quirky, and features an intricate arrangement and very strong instrumental work. Later moments of the number take on Genesisish theatric moments. In fact, towards the end, the whole track takes on a very regal and dramatic flair .
A Room With A View
This is a brief, pretty and fragile instrumental melody.
Just This Once
A very unique and cacophonic intro gives way to a bass driven groove. The arrangement for much of the track is bass, percussion, keys and voice, but the intensity and the complexity increases as the number progresses. The instrumental break features backwards guitar and some very beautiful piano work. After a time, the intensity drops down and a mode somewhat reminiscent of mellower old Yes comes to bear.
Church of Your Heart
A triumphant-sounding, guitar-dominated flourish serves as the introduction to this song. The piece then drops to a fairly straight forward anthem rock mode. Prog elements begin to pile on gradually, and the cut becomes more lushly arranged. Still, the central song structure remains the same, only the layerings evolve by this point. There is an interesting break in the form of a Phantom of the Operaish keyboard solo. When the break gives way, it is to a very passionate segment. These two breaks, as a whole, lead back into the central song structure. A later break has a baroque sort of feel to it, but again, we are heralded back to the main song format. The arrangement here has become more lush, though. In fact, it is a bit Yesish at times. The ending segments have a very regal approach.
Poor Mr. Rain`s Ordinary Guitar
Rain makes his appearance immediately as sound effects for this lively guitar solo that is pretty and somewhat Steve Howeish.
The Man Who Walked With Kings
Keys sounding rather like a calliope give way to a guitar and keyboard structure that is Genesisish with traces of King Crimson`s mellower work (circa In The Court of the Crimson King). When the piece really kicks into gear, those early Genesis influences are prominent. This instrumental is quite powerful.
Circus Brimstone
Twisted circus music leads to a very unsettling segment sounding somewhat like the quieter of Crimson`s Red era crashing into the music from the film The Omen. As the intensity increases, the Red strains are prominent. Soon, they are replaced, in rapid succession by ELP and Hemispheres era Rush. Eventually, the tone shifts, and, although still progish, the tone of the piece is much less menacing. The older solid Red tones followed by Rush make a return shortly, though, followed by Genesisisms. The song features a false ending, then rebuilds into a weird sort of groove (complete with backwards and offspeed vocals). This fun and odd instrumental features Yesish moments and some Eastern tones as well.
Crying Clown
Another instrumental, Crying Clown is very brief and features more calliope sounds in a menacing, almost Alice Cooperish tone.
Compassion
The central structure of this song is based on technorhythms. A moment of Gregorian chant gives way to building based on prog influences and emotional power. Compassion is a very evokative number that features primarily Genesis, but also King Crimson influences. In fact, even the sound of ELO (at their most powerful) is represented on this one. Following a false ending, keys in choir tones make the reprise. The keyboard work on this song pretty solidly takes over, featuring scifi influenced sounds and synthesized voices. This instrumental takes on Pink Floydish textures (ala Dark Side of the Moon) at times.
Disc 2
Pipes of Peace
A keyboard solo in a Phantom of the Opera sort of style leads to pretty and comforting tones, while a brief reprise of the earlier tone occurs in this instrumental .
The End of Innocence
The major influences on the early segments are ELO, Genesis and King Crimson (Red era). This piece is quite emotional. An instrumental break in older Crimson modes mixed with harpsichord sounds, brings the piece down for a time. Eventually, it comes back stronger than ever. Sound effects, paired with a beautiful piano segment, ends the piece.
The Merry Go Round
Classic Yes tones (Going for the One/Drama) in mostly the high energy variety make up this song. This nicely quirky piece also features the slower aspects of that musical style.
Don of the Universe
Percussion gives way to guitar work that calls to mind the intro to Yes` And You And I. The mood to this instrumental then seems to combine Yes with the Beatles and more Eastern tinged material.
A Day at the Mall
This exceptionally short instrumental is made up of a cross between lounge lizard music and old time movie sounds.
Different People
Sound effects from the previous song continue, then the music begins. This is prog with Lou Reedish vocals. Although not really a standout, this is a strong track with a nicely done false ending.
Kingdom of Lies
Almost arena rock, this high energy song, in the mode of Genesis, is very strong.
If 28
This is a pretty unaccompanied piano solo.
Ghost of the Red Cloud
Featuring a playfully jumpy intro, reggae influenced prog is the order of the day on this cut.
Hotel Nirvana
A very brief composition, Hotel Nirvana is a Pink Floyd styled keyboard piece. There is however guitar work, which makes the piece quite pretty and quite evokative.
Stardust We Are
This is a song of epic proportions at 25 minutes. The piece has a very Yesish intro, full of beauty and tension. Genesis elements make an entrance as well. Flowing into a very powerful instrumental section ala Yes` Close to the Edge era, the cut then drops back to a ballad section in which the style is perhaps a bit like Yes meets Marillion. Beginning another buildup, the intensity and complexity both move their way upward. In a pattern of being very dynamic, the song then drops back down. The introduction is briefly somewhat reprised. Next the number takes on vocals and acoustic guitar and a gradual buildup is begun again. This time it moves to new heights of progressive power that at times calls to mind Yes, at times Genesis and at times King Crimson. Some of the guitar work is very Steve Howe influenced. A beautiful piano break signifies a false ending from which the cut reemerges with acoustic and vocals. The progressive wonderment explodes from there. Another drop back and rebuilding. This pattern essentially repeats for the duration of the piece, build, drop back, then build again. The conclusion is one final Yesish buildup.
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