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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Swedish Family

Vintage Prog - The Best of SF

Review by Josh Turner

Being an avid fan of the latest progressive rock, I'm torn between the classic sounds from the seventies and releases just starting to surface. Back in the day when technology was young, progressive musicians had innovative ideas and clever new instruments. Unfortunately, they didn't have the production to back these ambitions. Music sounded tinny and tiny. Through the decades this gave way to bombastic and big music in the mainstream. Progressive rock was left in the lurch, but slowly worked its way back to the forefront of a niche market. Fans like me have gone back to the original lairs and pilfered them for anything of value. In the end, we're mostly waiting on pins and needles for new releases to satisfy our hunger. The latest offerings take more of a bend on pop or metal and few bands stay true to their roots. The Flower Kings, Kaipa, Karmakanic, and The Tangent are rare exceptions while supergroups like Transatlantic are already in the history books. Bands actually "from" the seventies like Yes and King Crimson come in limited quantities.

Returning to the present, Tomas Bodin has accomplished an uncommon feat. He has put together his very own progressive version of Spinal Tap, which he calls Swedish Family. Tomas uses authentic instruments and the sounds are purely magical. This will satisfy fans of both classic and modern progressive rock. It is the best of both eras and the instrumentals are out of this world. Tomas is the Indiana Jones of progressive rock. He uncovers artifacts from yesteryears and conjures up ghosts from the past. The music is adventurous in the way of The Flower Kings and Flying Food Circus. The production is so good nobody should really fall for the claim that this is anything vintage. Fans of progressive rock will surely be satisfied by this project. It may not be vintage. It may not be part of your family. Still, there is no question Swedish Family's debut is good old-fashioned Swedish prog. To order your copy, feel free to contact Tomas directly: tomas.bodin@telia.com.

Track by Track Review
Stoneheart
The heart of this song is far from stone. It is warm and fuzzy. This is a psychedelic romp in a tropical forest. There is life in every nook and cranny. Tomas has a real knack for compositions that allow each instrument to venture down their own path.
A Man Without Mind
Early on, Tomas brings us one of the highlights from the album - a jumpy beat that involves a unique combination of synthesizer sounds. This piece is like the opening to Last Minute on Earth. The theme is reprised in many wily ways. An accordion is also introduced here. It will be a recurring guest throughout the album.
The Gothenburg Heros
It feels like a homecoming for heroes. The hobbits have slain the dragon and head home with their treasures. Keyboards dominate this piece on their journey back. As they near the village, they are met by its inhabitants. The guitars and drums join in and kickoff a surprise celebration.
Waltz of Sadness
A sax wails in its sadness. The accordion and keyboards do what they can to raise its spirits. The music is moving and somewhat depressing. It is similar to some of Sting's slower jazz-oriented songs.
The Last Goodbye
This captures the bittersweet moment of a last goodbye. There are smiles and handshakes. There is laughter as friends reminisce. There are hopes to meet another time, but it is likely their paths won't cross again. Nonetheless, it is a joyous event. All ends on a good note with happy memories. The sax salutes and many hands wave goodbye. People become specks as the moment fades away at a distance.
From the Foot
This is blues from a backwoods bar. There are really no boundaries or format. The guitar is lost wandering in its own world. A scat singer is featured late in the song.
The Summerdress
The mood is laid back. The accordion and saxophone mingle for an afternoon of shopping. In a quant shop, the couple encounters clothes made of the finest linen. After trying on a few outfits, each decides upon their wardrobe. They bargain with the shop owner. The couple is striking in their new duds. The track is most similar to The Gothenburg Heroes encountered earlier on.
The Flu
Staying home from work or school due to illness is not altogether dreadful. A sofa, a pillow, and a blanket make it much more comfortable. A box of sweet popsicles helps to ease a sore throat. A box of soft tissue relieves a runny nose. A bell nearby gets the attention of a friend or spouse playing nursemaid for the day. A sandwich, a drink, anything the heart desires, is only a jingle away. The bell is rung many times in the song. Nagging complaints in the form of a scat are embellished upon in order to get some extra care. The patient is a whiner who is both troublesome and demanding. The feet are propped up, the remote's in hand, and the phone is disconnected. This song captures the essence of a day of hooky. While sick with the flu, all the comforts make it alright. The condition makes it easy to get away with some bad behavior. Once better, the flu and its benefits are greatly missed. This is the best song on the album.
Ostuna Anthem
There is a quiet cottage in the middle of nowhere. The breeze is still. No movement is seen for miles in each direction. Even the rattling of the trees has subsided. The organs are the resident of this deserted dwelling. They find themselves alone after a brief visit from the sax. This is quite a lonely place.

The Agent Dance
The drums alternate between a march and a jazzy beat. The guitars are an unpredictable and uncontrollable kid. The organs are its naughty siblings instigating him to do his worst. The bass is the older brother attempting to bring calmness to these wild children.

Always Grumpy (Bonus Track)
The song has a great beat. The grumpy old man is easily riled. He revels in his petulance. This grump makes Oscar the Grouch look like a mild-mannered Muppet.

Brunos Erotica (Bonus Track)
This is the most bizarre song on the album. It may be closest to the jams in Unfold the Future. It is more instrumental jazz than progressive rock. This is a strange way to finish the album. At this stage of the game, it goes by unnoticed. The melodies from earlier tracks continue to prevail over one's thoughts.

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