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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Flower Kings

Alive on Planet Earth

Review by G. W. Hill

This live album by The Flower Kings shows that they are not just a studio phenomenon. The disc should be evidence to the prog fan that this band is one to catch live as well. A double disc set, it includes some very strong live performances of some killer prog. The material was recorded in 1998 and 1999 in the USA and Japan. The lineup for the album is Roine Stolt, Hans Froberg, Robert Engstrand (disc one), Thomas Bodin (disc two), Michael Stolt and Jaime Salazar.

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Track by Track Review
There is More To This World
Weird ambient sounds precede the song proper. Then the cut kicks in in a guitar dominated classic prog hard rocking mode. After this intro, it drops to a classic balladic FK type of verse. The chorus on this cut is good fast paced prog. The cut alternates between those two styles and then jumps into a very Yesish instrumental break that features both great keyboards and guitar riffing. Then it moves into Genesis influenced segment. After this extended instrumental break, the piece drops to the verse segment, and then into a dramatic acoustic guitar and vocal section. Then comes a very triumphant sounding movement that keeps evolving on itself. "There is more to this world than we touch."
Church of Your Heart
Starting in a classic Flower Kings power mode, this one drops to a slow groove that is almost balladic. It evolves in dramatic and natural ways on that basis, getting very powerful as that section reaches its climax. The number then moves into a strong instrumental break, dropping from there to just keys in fairly sedate tones. These give way to powerful neo-classical modes, then the potent later segments of the earlier themes return. This one turns funky as it evolves. It then reinvents itself again to just keys in a playful childhood lullaby type mode before moving back to powerful prog tones.
The Judas Kiss
Organ tones that could fit into a horror film start this one. It changes gear to guitar driven prog with Howeish modes, then more sedate prog stylings take over. This cut goes through a lot of progressive rock alterations. It is a really powerful piece. The cut goes very Yesish in an instrumental segment that really rocks. It then moves to becoming a more sedate feedback oriented mode that is a bit dissonant. The cut then moves to a rather intriguing keyboard oriented sedate mode. The number then becomes quick paced and jazzy. This is a long and very diverse prog jam type of instrumental section. It then transforms to a bass solo that really kicks before moving back to a funky prog type of arrangement. This one is a killer cut thanks to the long and rocking instrumental break.
Nothing New Under the Sun
Set in a nice balladic mode, this instrumental feels quite Floydish. It gets harder edged and more powerful as it continues and has a Rushish sort of outro.
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Starting very true to the classic Genesis cut, this one is fairly faithful to the original, but with definite FK touches. It features a nice audience participation section and a great guitar solo following it. There's an extended audience applause section after the song ends that brings in keyboards for a short time in weird electronic patterns.
Big Puzzle
Beautiful intricate piano starts this epic. After a time it is joined by evocative guitar work. The cut dissolves into dissonance then comes back to piano dominated tones. This mode heralds in the next movement, a powerful and pensive sort of verse segment, a bit balladic. Going into an instrumental break, the pace picks up and modes resembling both Yes and Genesis emerge. This section really rocks. Then the number drops off almost completely for a time before jumping back in full gear into a strong prog jam. It then drops back to more sedate prog tones, a bit like Yes' "High vibration go on" segment of Awaken. This brief interlude leads to a new mode that has a wonderful texture. The next change is in to a triumphant sounding Yesish sort of mode. This one just keeps reinventing. It features a great guitar solo that is a bit Howeish at times, but also quite jazzy. Then more traditional prog modes with an uplifting sort of sound enter the fray.
Sounds of Violence
Mysterious neo-classical keyboard modes, a bit in the mode of ELP, start this one. As the rest of the instruments come in, there is a brief Genesisish instrumental section. This gives way to harder edged classically oriented modes that really work well. This instrumental really does feel a lot like ELP. "Wow!" is about all that can be said about the fast paced ending segment of the number.
Three Stories
Evocative intricate piano begins this cut. It is an extended piano segment that goes over two minutes into the piece before picking up any accompaniment. Once the other instruments join, the mode continues building in slow tempoed styles that basically reiterate themes from the piano solo segment. A dramatic guitar solo takes the cut, another instrumental, for a time.
In The Eyes of the World
A fast paced prog jam starts this cut, pulling it into a Genesis/ELP type of mode. It drops to a dramatic slower verse segment, then ups the tempo and begins to rock out. The instrumental break on this one gets very quirky and hard edged. The cut even features a section that is a bit James Bondish. It jumps straight back out of the break and into the verse, then another killer instrumental segment ensues, pulling us once again right back into the verse. The piece moves into another instrumental break that serves as the outro to the piece.
The Flower King
Playful and folky acoustic guitar begins this cut, almost in a Howeish mode. Indeed, this feels a bit like a more intense reworking of Yes' All Good People. The verse comes in as vocals with very minimal accompaniment. The lyrics on this one are quite positive and delivered in a very uplifting manner. This is quite a strong cut in a progish ballad sort of mode. "We believe in the light, We believe in love, We believe in every little thing." It turns rather metallic after a time, almost Rabin era Yes oriented. Then the number switches gear again to a strong keyboard solo segment. Once again the arrangement is on the move, this time changing themes to a more Genesis oriented sort of movement. The cut then switches gears again as the instrumental break cuts in. It kicks into high gear with Howeish guitar screaming out. This movement then drops to a sedate and textural keyboard break. This is a great inspirational piece that leads straight into "Star Dust We Are (Part 3)".
Star Dust We Are (Part 3)
Ambient tones start this cut. The song continues by building these tones into a verse structure. It continues increasing intensity and complexity as it builds on these themes. The result is a satisfyingly potent prog number that really delivers.
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