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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Moon Safari

A Doorway To Summer

Review by Josh Turner

If The Beatles were to go the progressive route, this is where they would have gone. This band shares great harmonies in the vein of those famous four tenors from Liverpool. It would be hard enough to mimic John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but they set their sights even higher. Adding to the roster of their role models, they follow in the footsteps of their Swedish ancestors and sole parental guardian. As a result, much of the instrumental aspects of their music capture the fiber and fortitude of Tomas, Jonas, and Roine from The Flower Kings. To draw from one of these bands is brilliant, but to take from both is beyond compare.

Over and above inducing the innovations of Tomas Bodin, they also make use of the man himself. He contributes to this band in many ways, but it could hardly be considered a monopoly. He's mixed, mastered, engineered, and produced the album as well as incorporated an incredibly stylish solo. It's so trendy; it's as sharp as a tack. However, he's drawn a line and set a limit, leaving a lot of room for the others to flourish. On top of Tomas manipulating the gears with divine intervention, Simon Akesson provokes the organs, piano, moogs, and mellotrons with instrumental instigation. Then there's the bass, which is intimately similar to Jonas Reingold, but alas it's not him. It's another fresh face that goes by the name of Johan Westerlund. As green as this guy is supposed to be, his talents are quite profitable and gainful. He adorns the instrument with the same commitment as the progressive prince and maybe even the almighty Chris Squire. Yet, he personalizes these tricky licks with his own new-fangled novelties and petulantly youthful fervor. The talent in these rookies is enough to blow the roof sky high, but it doesn't stop there. Anthon Johansson's guitars are so agile and spry they slice through the wind like a lissome Learjet. While he navigates well with an electric, his piloting is precise when plotting a course on the acoustic. Petter Sandstrom incorporates some essential elements on the harmonica, but his primary function deals with the deliverance of the singing. Simon also sings lead in a few places. Peripheral to these two voices, Johan and Anthon supply their own backing vocals, which cohesively coalesce within the colors of a prism. When they stand united and focus their signal, they create a spectrum of sound that rivals the resplendent rays of a rainbow. Tobias Lundgren is the only one whose lips are sealed, but that's quite okay. He's much too busy sanctioning all the necessary provisions on drums and percussion. While they already have enough executives in upper management, additional advisors are brought onboard. A person by the name of 'P' plays the Steel Guitar whereas Simon Lundin imparts his own percussive affirmations upon the delegation. Even though their meetings are strictly compulsory and altogether brief, these consultants provide creditable council, contributions, and subsidization.

Not only is the music universally accessible, nipping at the buds of many mainstream bands, it pinches at the nerves of numerous niche acts too. There is no doubt in my mind that it'll run the table with progressive rock fans, especially fans of The Flower Kings. In many places, their style is nearly indistinguishable from the longstanding legends as well as the current global elite. I've never seen a band capture the entrepreneurship of the Rockefeller's of prog rock and still have their own unique take on the music without going so far as stealing. As daunting or difficult as this might seem, they successfully accomplish this intimidating task and they do so much without even flinching. They may not be the tycoons of today or the Robber Barons of tomorrow, but they're wallowing in a wealth of ability. It's obvious this band is poking at the rocking residues of the past and the progressive prospects of the future. Once the embers are good and glowing, they daringly pass the rake over these red-hot coals and grill up the most exquisite music for the modern day. It's palpable they'll someday overthrow the House of Rothschild, but for now, they've at least become a part of the progressively promising nouveau riche. For more information, including ordering info, check out the band's official site.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Right away, we confront an ambiance you rarely encounter in the opening of a debut. From the get go, they are in complete command of the controls and you know you've discovered something special. These fine young chaps share many virtues with the founding forefathers of music. They base their compositions on a reputable constitution, but introduce their own artistically imaginative amendments. The harmonica passage, in particular, is an excellent addendum to an already inclusive script. It reminds me of the score I heard in a childhood movie called "Lion's for Breakfast." It's about as uncommon to find this kind of passage in rock as it is to find this extremely rare video. This alone should be enough of a reason to declare their independence. Then again, it's obvious they were bent and shaped by Tomas Bodin's skillful blacksmithing. It's apparent why he has chosen these artists to intern in his apprenticeship. Like Evander Holyfield, they come up through the ranks and go on to prove they are the real deal. Unlike other up-and-comers, nothing is rushed in their development or hastened in their training. They have only entered into this release when it was good and ready and this song happens to be the most predominant prize in the trophy case. It's long, but not the longest. It sufficiently accomplishes everything they've set out to do and right away, establishes their superior standing. What sets them aside in the realm of progressive rock is that they are not only adroit on their instruments, but they sing very well indeed. This is a science fair of harmonically-tuned functions and filters. Then again, it's far from formulaic and nowhere near paint-by-numbers. Aside from hearing The Flower Kings and The Beatles, I perceive the earthy undertones of Echolyn tip-toeing through the tread of this mix. They may very well be the next progressive phenom and as a fan, you'll be privileged to hear such uninhibited music. It's good to know our liberties and freedoms include the right to pursue these kinds of progressive masterpieces. This will catch on as the consensus will hopefully show, but give it time; you've got to let it grow.
Dance Across the Ocean
This song shares a kindred spirit with Karmakanic's second album. It's easy to imagine it snuggling between a warm and cozy blanket with Wheel of Life. It surfs the cosmic collective of "At the Speed of Light" and "Where the Earth Meets the Sky." In its travels, it encounters Gentle Giant and Spock's Beard vocals. Like that mirror imprisoning General Zod, Ursa, and Non, this floats through space and rotates on its axis. As long as we're talking DC Comics, the more balladic parts take you back to Seal's "Kiss of a Rose" from Batman Forever. IQ's "Born Brilliant" from Dark Matter is also buried somewhere below the sheets. It's fresh and airy, so there's little risk the bugs in this bed actually bite. Simon shows breadth and depth as he adjoins ELP to the sprawling district. When he's not Emerson, he's Wakeman in a roundabout way. To further support their cause, they endorse The Proclaimer's "I'm Gonna Be". Ironically, if this was a world without music, I would walk five hundred miles just to hear this song (though maybe not all at once).
A Sun of Your Own
What I find most intriguing is how quickly you can learn the lyrics to this one. It's insightful and expressive. This is how verses were meant to be written. The rabbit ears are accurately angled, making for a clear and cloudless connection. Consequently, it strikes all the right chords. We get wily wordplay and a benevolent melody. The two come together like milk and cookies or for those international types, tea and honey. Speaking of harmony, this is the textbook definition of how to bundle layers of voices together. The end effect is serene, sympathetic, and sincere. You may think they've forgotten the main theme, but they've snuck that in too in a very covert way. There is a thoughtful passage that reminds me of Terms of Endearment. Again, there are ingredients from Echolyn, this time it's "Mei." I also found parts of the song coincided with the conclusion to Neal Morse's "?.". As long as they're borrowing from the masters, Anthon tries his hand at a guitar solo, which embodies the orderly edifice of a Steve Hackett structure. This cut is immaculately conceived, creating an ideal bond with each of its devoted disciples. Immediately you'll hit it off with this track. The sun will not only come out tomorrow, but the skies are so blue, this astral dog has been out all day.
We Spin the World
While three's a charm, the fourth track is the keepsake. It takes fifties rock n' roll and couples it with seventies progressive rock. There's the tiniest trace of disco and it even has a little eighties pop. It drives down the drag like a hotrod and then rolls into the downtown quarters of American Graffiti. After parading its custom paint job, Grease Lightning pulls into the parking lot of Al's Diner. Aside from rock and pop, this takes us through many roads and channels that range from classical, symphonic, Broadway, and folk. It transitions in the most translucent way, never losing the listener. With fingers crossed, we can only pray the hooligans of Rydell High won't turn this majestic moon into a sordid sun. It encounters a chorus that represents the populace of "We are the World" and even tunes into WKRP in Cincinnati. I hear "Suite Charlotte Pike" as well as various parts of Transatlantic's other epic numbers. Overall, The Flower Kings rule the roost, but there are loads of instrumentals that I found to be new and exciting. This has athletic prowess and it's very ambitious, but it contains two paltry imperfections. First, there is a minor mispronunciation. They make "jokes" to the crowd and miss, but it's not like their routine leaves them with tomatoes in their pockets or egg on their face. Second, on the initial impression, it feels as if it's tad too long. Where it seems it should end, there is a passage that's meant to act as an intermission. These empty calories create a cavity, but it works to carve the incisor into two distinct halves. It aims for Kevin Gilbert's "There Was a Little Boy" and comes relatively close to the target. I misjudged this the first time as the finale truly requires a hush before the hailstorm. It's done quite well, but needs numerous treatments to fully take in. That's why this has the most potential as a grower. The most romantic parts remind me of Love American Style while the most prosaic moments are fiendishly familiar to Nightmare on Elm Street. It spins on its head like Linda Blair, but jumps like a gyroscope to each of its sections. With all these strange traits, it even manages to assimilate a goofy sector that's oddly similar to the Get Smart theme. Fortunate for the secret agent man, the technology is overhauled with many intelligent upgrades. While he no longer has his telephone hidden in his shoe, this silly installment shows the ingenuity of these gadget guys. In the end, the writers of this episode find their bearings and wind it down with the kind of musical that would make Drew Carey blush. On the whole, this song is stretched to its max. Then again, progressive patrons have to show some patience sometime. After the sappy segue, it finishes happy and strong. It's always dreamy and never mundane. After witnessing this intense and impassioned contest, it's apparent this crew can hang with The Flower Kings. It might be a friendly rivalry, but it undoubtedly demonstrates how much they deserve to play in the professional league. Not to mention, its harmonies easily contends with Gentle Giant, Spock's Beard, and even the "Elite" choir. Additionally, they use lucrative libretto with clever quips such as "Someone's Borrowed Something Blue, Heaven's Losing No for Two". That's just a sample as there are a lot of smart lines that will slowly seep into your brain. This son is far from motherless as early adopters stand in the queue while several foster parents sign on the dotted line. Furthermore, the conclusion of the cut is just the beginning to the album's glorious ending.
Beyond the Door
Maybe this was an afterthought whose sole purpose was to rashly reintroduce the earlier themes, but for some reason, it's this song that works best. It's trim and lean, prim and proper, and spares no time getting to its point. It's bittersweet, heart-rending, and even a little sad at times. In a nutshell, it packs an incredible amount of sentiment and sensitivity into a very small space. The last song will grab hold of your heart and take you home with tender, touching revelation. The intro on the piano is expressive. The keyboards to follow are inspirational. I find this song contains such a profusion of unbridled feeling; it's almost over the top. Before their voices enter into the equation, you may be experiencing watery eyes or your tear ducts may already be leaking. By the time you hear their receptive tones; it's tugging at the heartstrings with gusto. Ultimately, it will overwhelm your emotions. Because it's so moving, it's my favorite song on the album. While it's galvanized in glitter and ruminates with romantic devotion, it still finds the time for a skillfully enacted drum fill. Aspects of this song contain the clarity and zeal of a Hans Zimmer creation. There are moments that sway to the cadence of a Caribbean calypso. There are others that teeter on a pirate's plank, but skulk away to safety. The notes from the piano fall like a feather in much the same manner as the anecdotal opening to Forrest Gump. The ending, on the other hand, is complex in its creativity. It's embedded with intuition, which makes it easy to comprehend. This is a reprise that radiates with the infernal brightness of a supernova. It's par for the course and shares equal parity with some of Neal Morse's best songwriting attempts. The lyrics, the melody, everything is like "Doorway," but it's shifted in slight and subtle ways. It's so shrewdly different; I'd say the changes are not only eloquent, but also ingenious. The outline and organization reminds me of "The Light," however, instead of coming back in the closing stages of a song, it comes at the conclusion of this album. Even though this is merely the follow-up to their premiere single and reuses many of its ideas rather liberally, it's still them putting their best foot forward. The piano, the synths, the vocals, the harmonies, you name it; reach the top notch of the totem poll. These young musicians do it all. With the talent that's out there, you have to scratch your head and wonder why all the great music these days is coming from Sweden. There must be something in the drinking water. As the stream starts to melt, the river only flows faster. While the window to winter might still be open, it seems the doorway to summer is ajar. When looking at the weather charts, my forecast shows nothing but clear skies and sunshine ahead for this awfully endowed ensemble. I guess you could say their future's so bright; they've got to wear shades.
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