Lee Speaks About Music… #94

Midnight Mushrumps – Gryphon



Continuing with a bit of history it was in the autumn of 1973 Gryphon embarked on a European tour and at the end decided to write the music for “The Tempest” that Peter Hall had commissioned them to do, they also set to work on the music for their 2nd album. It was the bands publicist from Transatlantic Records Martin Lewis who had originally set up the commission for them to write the music for the Shakespeare play and he also set up the studio for them to record the music.

Because the band had intentions of slightly changing their style of music, they felt that they needed a bass player to provide a bit more of an anchor, and in January 1974 they recruited a new member to help out with recording the new material. They did not have too look very far for the man for the job either and he used to play in a band called the Juggernaut with Dave Oberlé. It was he who recommended bass guitarist Philip Nestor to the band.


This allowed the other musicians more scope to broaden their musical abilities. The music they wrote for “The Tempest” inspired them to write a lengthy separate piece of work which would not only be the title of their new album, but was to fill up the space of the entire first side of the vinyl album.

The band was also by now stocking up with more instruments which certainly helped the band to be a bit more diverse with their music. It also helped them to be a bit more creative and write more of their own original material. It was not long before the bands leader Richard Harvey had surrounded himself with an array of keyboards, though he still had no intention of ditching the crumhorns and recorders.

Even David Oberlé expanded his mini kit with more orchestral percussion and even added a drum kit and a timpani. Brian Gulland added more crumhorns and recorders and Graeme Taylor expanded his guitar collection. The band Gryphon were going all out BIG!. By now they was composing symphonies by implementing classical music, and fusing it with medieval folk renaissance music. Gryphon were now entering the realms of progressive rock.

I have to confess that whilst all this was going on back in 1974. This is an album that completely bypassed my radar, and did do so for a couple of decades as well. It was one of 3 Gryphon albums I never brought on vinyl and I never even knew this album even existed till around 1998 and I was stunned when I brought it on CD then as well.

I was only 14 by the time Midnight Mushrumps came out and a lot of things were happening around this time. The fact that I had missed the first 3 years of my senior school by playing truant meant the law was on my back and I had done enough running away from them. And by September 1974 I felt it was time to hand myself over to the authorities and was put into care until I left school in April 1976.

However I was aware that Gryphon had made quite a change to their music in 1977 when I stumbled upon another one of their albums and brought it. I even thought it was their 2nd album at that time, and it was not until 1998 that I discovered the band had made more than two albums, and all of a sudden 1998 became a very good year indeed.

Before we go deeper into my review of the album, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

The Packaging & Artwork…


The CD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case which no doubt protects the disc very well. However these days I think it’s about time that they got around to presenting the CD in either a DigiPak or DigiSleeve which I personally think looks a lot better and they may even entice people to re-buy an older album like this as well. These days Jewel cases are becoming a thing of the past and it’s about time more people realised that.

The Jewel Case is only really used these days to save on money on packaging a product like this. The fact that they are charging you between £10 – £12 for a new remaster is not really going to add much of an incentive to buy it, especially when in most cases you can still buy the older remaster or reissue in a Jewel Case for £5 or even less.

It also only comes with a 2 page booklet which contains the usual linear production notes and credits, but does not include the lyrics. It does however contain a short piece of information written by Graeme Taylor expressing his thanks to Taking Elephant for remastering and re-issuing the album again and a bit about its monumental epic 19 minute piece. Overall the package is adequate but could of been better.

I managed to get the 2016 Talking Elephant remaster from Amazon this time. It was overpriced and I paid £12.13p for it but I had less hassle waiting for it being a Prime Member. The recording however is quality and I am well pleased with it.

The Artwork.

The albums front cover is a picture of all 5 band members posing in some theatrical clothing that dates back a few hundred years which may have been inspired from the work they had done for Peter Hall’s Shakespeare play of “The Tempest”. However judging by the background setting in the woods and also the rather large mushrooms and their eyes. These mushrooms may have been a bit magical :)))))).

To be honest if you glance at this photograph from a distance, it’s looks as if they was standing in front of some dark brown curtains in a theatre. It even looks like the curtains are pleated. It’s only when you look closer you can see the woods through the tress so to speak. The photography was done by Clive Boursnell. The design by Richard Rockford and once again the art direction was by Ann Sullivan.

The Album In Review…

Midnight Mushrumps was released in April 1974. The album contains 6 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 11 seconds. The album features more instrumental pieces and only 1 of the tracks comes with vocals. The band decided to produce their own album and Martin Lewis sent them to record it at Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxfordshire, England. The studio was residential studio with living quarters with 15 bedrooms and on-site catering for visiting musicians. It operated as studio back in 1971 until it’s closure in October 1999.

The studio is now a Dentist, but over the 28 years it ran as a studio, many well known artists have recorded their albums and hit records there. Gerry Rafferty recorded his smash hit “Baker Street” and also Focus recorded their classic “Hocus Pocus” there as well along with many major rock and pop artists like Status Quo. Duran Duran. Dexys Midnight Runners. Radiohead and the Bay City Rollers even recorded their first number 1 record “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye)” there too.

Although the studio closed back in 1999 last year on the 15th June 2017. The BBC announced that day as a music day broadcast throughout the UK and awarded the studios with a Blue Plaque for its part in the musical heritage of England. Both the brothers Richard & Mike Vernon who co-founded the studios were also present to receive the honorary award and although this video clip does not show you inside the building, you do get to see them talk about its history.

Unfortunately Gryphon never made enough impact to get a mention, but they was not there to make pop records although they did churn out a few masterpieces whilst they was there. So their time there was not really wasted at all. These next couple of photo’s show a bit of the interior of the studios.



The bands debut album was the only time that Gryphon had gone into a studio with material they had written down and worked on before hand. Though no doubt on this particular album they did get some inspiration for their 19 minute epic masterpiece “Midnight Mushrumps” from the music they had been commissioned to do for Peter Hall’s Shakespeare’s play of “The Tempest”.

Though the band had nothing written down at this point and went into Chipping Norton Recording Studios in January 1974 to start work on it. Gryphon not only pre-recorded the music for Hall’s theatrical play, but in March 1974 they played it live at the National Theatre The Old Vic in London whilst the actors were playing their roles on the stage.


To be honest I have no idea if they played the whole of “Midnight Mushrumps” in one sitting during the theatrical performance whilst the actors were on the stage. My guess is that it would of been played in sections to allow the actors do their speaking parts. They may of also played some of the material from their debut album given the time period that Shakespeare’s play was set in was of the renaissance era.

Following the success of the premier of the play Martin Lewis arranged for Gryphon to give a Sunday evening concert a few months later back at the Old Vic in July 1974. They were not only the first band to play at Britain’s National Theatre, but they was the only ones to play that venue, and no other band has played it since. The band performed their epic “Midnight Mushrumps” that night and the concert was considered to be a major breakthrough for progressive rock.

Musicians & Credits…


Produced by Gryphon. Recorded at Chipping Norton Recording Studio in January 1974. Engineered by Dave Grimsted. Photography by Clive Boursnell. Design by Richard Rockwood. Art direction by Ann Sullivan.

Richard Harvery: Recorders (Soprannino,Descant,Treble & Tenor) – Crumhorns (Soprano, Alto & Tenor) – Harmonium – Pipe Organ – Grand Piano – Harpsichord – Elecric Pianos – Toy Piano – Keyboard Glockenspiel – Mandolin – Vocals.
Brian Gulland: Bassoon – Bass Crumhorn – Tenor Recorder – All Keyboards On “Gulland Rock” – Vocals – Laughter & Candlestick Rotation.
Graeme Taylor: Guitars (Acoustic, Semi Acoustic, Electric & 12 String) – Vocals & Raincoat.
Phillip Nestor: Bass – Vocals.
Dave Oberlé: Drums – Timpani – Percussion – Headache & Candlestick.

The Album Tracks In Review…

There is no doubt that the members of the band Gryphon were into the prog rock band Yes. They was even fans of the band. I also think the very thing they took notice of about Yes was that they not only had quite a unique style of their own and were very talented musicians, but they also created their own music known as Yes Music.

The band Yes were making waves in the field of progressive rock by doing something that had never been heard of before. They was as popular in the world of progressive rock as much as what Led Zeppelin were to rock music. You could not even mention the name prog rock without their name popping up.

Gryphon were already quite unique with what they did on their debut album with the use of their unusual instrumentation. I think they already knew that as well with the reaction from their audiences and all those who had took note of them. But the music they presented you with on that debut album was not entirely a new form of music like what Yes had somehow had managed to achieve.

They would also be tied and tagged to the world of folk music if they continued on in the same direction as well. By 1974 English traditional folk was also on its way out, whilst progressive rock was still very much alive and was making more of an impact.

The only way forward for Gryphon at this point, was to experiment and make a bit of change. The bands 2nd album Midnight Mushrumps is very much the starting point of a new musical journey that no doubt made this band far more unique than they already were. The very fact that the band also kept it’s unique unusual instrumentation made it more of an acceptable change to make as well. From this point onwards, the band were writing their own masterpieces, and more was about to come.

So let’s take a deeper look into just what changes Gryphon had made at this point as I go through the album tracks.

Track 1. Midnight Mushrumps.

I suppose the best way I can describe this 19 minute piece of work is that its very much like a classical symphony composed by one of the classical GREATS!. Only here it is the band Gryphon who are the GREATS! and they composed a MASTERPIECE!. Listening to a piece of music like “Midnight Mushrumps” is not really that much different to listening to a classical symphony at all. It’s a lengthy piece of music that even contains much of the instrumentation that is used in a classical orchestra. It also contains the same diversity and progression to go somewhere else too.

The piece is also skilfully arranged in the same way its arranged for an orchestra to play. The only real difference between this small orchestra who go by the name Gryphon and a 90 piece orchestra. Is that this 5 piece band are all soloists where as an orchestra only has one or two soloists, and this 5 piece orchestra have a lot more to say individually throughout the piece of music.

Unlike 15 violin players doing the same thing and waiting for the the part where it comes down for the solo violinist to say something more than the other 15 violin players are saying in a individual way. I find a lot of classical music the same with how a large orchestra presents the music to you. Don’t get me wrong I still say till this day listening to an orchestra live is quite an amazing experience that cannot really be beaten. But that simply cannot be captured on a recording.

Not even with today’s technology of 5.1 surround sound can do any more justice to a 90 piece orchestra, it’s much better suited for a smaller group of musicians or something like a quartet. This is why a lot of classical music mostly bores me listening to it on a record. On any recording most of the time the orchestra is speaking the same language.

It lacks variety in it’s instrumentation and the only time you will hear something stick out more is when the soloist comes in on whatever instrument he’s playing, and when another section of instruments come into play like the woodwind section for example. My favourite instruments in a classical orchestra are the piano, bassoon, oboe, flutes and the cello. I have always preferred a violin in folk music or even country music where it is used as a fiddle. That’s where you will really hear a violin played by 1 guy that makes the notes come out and play, not 15 guys playing the same bloody thing on one.

No doubt the violin soloist will speak more as well on that instrument in classical music. I have always enjoyed something more around the lines of a quartet when it comes to classical music and quite often the music as been just as skilfully arranged for a quartet and perhaps even more so as well.

For me personally Gryphon’sMidnight Mushrumps” offers the listener more variety than any 90 piece classical orchestra is ever gonna give you on a recording. It’s quite a remarkable composition that contains real beauty for the ears, and even on a stereo recording it sounds a lot better than any 90 piece orchestra. Now I would love a 5.1 recording of this and it will simply blow your brains out as well, if they got a good 5.1 mixing engineer to do the job as well.

This piece was composed by Richard Harvey who plays a wide variety of instruments and this is a piece that actually starts off with the harmonium to which is used quite a lot throughout the piece mixed in with the organ he’s also playing on this intro, and is also accompanied by Brain Gulland on the bassoon. Then around the 1:15 mark Harvey jumps on the piano and Gulland brings in a beautiful theme on the bassoon.

These few notes that make up this theme Gulland plays have always stuck in my head just like a good song can do over the years and it’s the sort of thing one often can burst out singing without even thinking of it from time to time, and I am sure we have all done that on several occasions. His bassoon gives the impression of someone calling out to you and it beckons you into it’s path. Although at this stage this beautiful theme only lasts a short while, but it is in fact the main theme that reoccurs throughout the piece and the band play many counterparts around the piece as well, and bring it back at the end to end it all off.

The next section that runs from 2:06 – 3:00 starts with the organ and bassoon dropping out to leave the harmonium only and this allows Graeme Taylor at first to come in with his acoustic guitar quickly followed by Phil Nestor’s bass lending support. Then in comes Dave Oberlé on drums and percussion, whilst Gulland comes back with the bassoon. Both of which add further strength to the build. The harmonium, guitar and bass drops out around the 3 minute mark and the organ, bassoon and percussion with a trickle of harpsichord stomp in at first and changes it’s melody slightly over this short little section that runs for about 48 seconds.

At 3:48 we get translational change and we get to hear the first bit of flute which is accompanied by the harpsichord and acoustic guitar and later the bassoon comes back in with more flutes and percussion. Then at the 5:05 mark we get another change that starts of with vamping on the electric piano which gets accompanied by flute followed by guitar, harpsichord, bass, timpani, percussion and a bit of organ too. This section lifts it up more and plays over some of melody lines we have already heard with a different arrangement that gives it more of a jolly presence and feel over the next minute and 10 seconds.

The joyful section comes down at the 6:15 mark and the organ takes command on this next more subtle section, it even feels like there is an accordion in there as well though it’s not listed in the instruments the band play. This section runs up to the 8:33 mark and gradually gets accompanied by the bass guitar and the acoustic guitar. Then we get this lovely little solo acoustic guitar section from Graeme Taylor that runs along for around 28 seconds and at 8:58 the organ and bassoon and flute come back into play supported by the bass and percussion, and it builds up in march like fashion with a bit of power before falling back into a more sombre section on the guitar that comes into play at the 10:57 mark, which is accompanied by the pipe organ only.

25 seconds later the pipe organ takes over once again on its own and at 11:57 we get to hear the first crumhorn though it’s only used for a short intro to take us into the next section and you only get a few notes from it :))))). This next section contains quite a few melody changes with the use of the bassoon, heavy percussion, organ, harpsichord, bass, guitar and flute and is quite a powerful section and takes us up to the 14:22 mark. Where once again the harmonium comes back into play and starts to build its way back up and features a lovely section on the harpsichord, the rest of the guys back it up very well too.

It all simmers down with the organ and the organ brings in the backing section for the main theme to come back and features the flute at first around the 16:40 mark that plays so beautifully in this section. This is the section that brings tears of joy streaming down my face knowing that this most beautiful theme or melody is coming back and the flute  flourishes and flutters around it’s melody it’s sheer joy to listen too. The flourishes and flutters trickle their way out at the 18 minute mark allowing the flute to play its main theme in a more surreal and subtle manor, and it get accompanied by the pipe organ and glockenspiel to bring it all to a lovely end.

Midnight Mushrumps” is one of the two masterpieces that are on this album. This most beautiful symphony merits my top spot award of the album and is my personal favourite track. It’s quite different from anything that was on their debut album and I could even perhaps imagine those who brought their debut album first, would be wondering what’s going on when they first heard this piece. The piece only uses a crumhorn for all of a few seconds throughout its entire journey, though it still contains plenty of variety with the other instrumentation. No doubt the piece has mainly been constructed around the keyboard and that’s how Harvey would of initially composed the piece. But it’s a truly magnificent piece of work.

This video is what the band posted on their Youtube channel and here they are playing the 3rd and final movement of the piece at the Union Chapel in London on the 29th May 2015. It features the bands original line-up apart from Phil Nestor on bass. Though they do have Jon Davie on bass who played on Gryphon’s 5th album Treason and they also had Graham Preskett who was helping them out.

Track 2. The Ploughboy’s Dream.

Well the crumhorn may not of featured much on the opening masterpiece but they have certainly got them back out for this song.”The Ploughboy’s Dream” is the only song on the album that the band never wrote and is another arrangement of a traditional folk song that the band have arranged. it’s also the only song to feature on the album as the rest of the material are very much instrumental pieces.

The song dates back to around 1545 and like many of these songs the lyrics have changed over the years, and today there are many versions of how it’s put across. But basically they all tell the same story of a dreadful dream or nightmare a young boy had about driving a couple of horses near enough to their death with the land they had to plough being baked and hard in the hot sun sort of thing. It’s very much about cruelty.

It’s common for most artists in traditional folk to look back on the history of folk music and resurrect a song like this from the dead, even today. And this is a song that is mostly done by your regular folkies. I also think that Gryphon was right to include a song like this on the album too, simply because with the change they made with opening track may have been too much of a change for the fans of the band that brought their debut album and they just may of been expecting something more along the same lines.

So this is something to cushion the blow sort of thing, by giving perhaps those fans who was more into the traditional folk side of things something that related more to their debut album, and showing them that they had not entirely turned their back on folk music. Gryphon do quite a magical job of the song too and give it a lot more drama than most folkies I have heard play this song.

The introduction they give to the song is very much played on the keyboards and it’s got quite a feeling of rain and also reminds me a bit like the sound that can be heard on “Spring Song” on their 5th album Treason. Dave Oberlé takes on the lead vocals with his golden voice and throughout the song the others join in very well with the backing and harmonies. The interplay on the crumhorns with Gulland and Harvey on the 2nd verse is quite magical.

Each verse builds up more powerfully especially with the vocals, percussion and drums and it really raises the game with it’s tremendous power and ends off with a bit of more subtlety with the keyboards at the very end. The band do it superbly and the vocals even remind of Fairport Convention when they all come in on them.

Track 3. The Last Flash Of Gaberdine Tailor.

This next instrumental piece written by Graeme Taylor is another very well structured piece of music that features a plethora of wonderful instrumentation besides Taylor’s great work on the acoustic guitar. The masterful interplay and arrangement is gorgeous with the band and the instruments they so skilfully play. The title he gave the piece may reflect why he added a raincoat to the instrumentation list for a bit of fun.

To play a piece like this it has to be precise and even Dave Oberlé’s job on the timely percussion plays a major role in a piece like this. The piece also features flute and bassoon solos and features harpsichord, piano, organ and bass and is a contender for the top spot on the album even though it’s already been taken.

Track 4. Gulland Rock.

This next instrumental piece was composed by Brian Gulland and the title reflects that as well. This track is only 5 minutes and 19 seconds and is what I consider to be another MASTERPIECE! on this album. To be quite honest this particular piece may not be as well constructed as the previous track written by Taylor. But it’s got an element of beauty about it and is built up around some lovely melodies and counter melodies. This is the kind of piece that will take you somewhere else listening to how it all progresses along.

Gulland takes over Harvey’s duties on the keyboards on this track and plays all the keyboards. The piece starts off with with the piano and organ and even plays a few bars that are very familiar with the Christmas Carol “Away In Manger” I think it’s something he picked up from Graeme Taylor adding a few bars from the Fry’s Turkish Delight TV advert and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” to a couple of the tracks he wrote on their previous debut album :))))).

After its rather pleasant intro, we get quite a darker mood and sense of danger with the drama coming from the pipe organ which brightens up a bit when the harpsichord and percussion come into play. But only for a short spasm and falls back into the dark dungeon with the pipe organ and sustains its way out and Harvey comes in on the recorder which changes the mood to a more lighter and airy feel it really is beautiful.

The next section of the piece features both Taylor on acoustic guitar and Harvey on flute and this is another fabulous section that tags off with Taylor on his own who builds the piece up over this next little spasm. The other guys come in with the percussion, bass, and mandolin adding that bit more power to the build and comes to a short stop. Then Gulland comes back in to round it all off on the keyboards supported by Nestor’s bass and a bit of percussion from Oberlé.

Gulland Rock” is a dramatic piece of work that captures the spirit of the sea crashing it’s waves amongst a rock (or rocks) without needing to add the sound of the sea to it. It’s quite majestic in parts and is really excellent composition that is very well portrayed with the instrumentation that has been used throughout the whole piece. It’s very much quite a masterpiece and another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 5. Dubbel Dutch.

Another one of Graeme Taylor’s compositions and one where he would of had another bit of fun giving its title with how its spelt. The term “Double Dutch” is a language game primarily used in England where one could not understand what the other person was saying. I suppose it could also be referred to as “It’s all just Greek to me”. I also expect he gave it this title because the music does present itself with a European flavour as well.

It’s another very well structured piece that would of been composed primarily on the acoustic guitar and once again the arrangement is very clever in the way all the other instrumentation moulds, wraps and works its way around the piece. There is a bags of progression and transnational changes throughout the piece, and I love the way it falls back into its main melody or theme every now and then, and also how the other great melody lines take you somewhere else. It’s another stunning piece and contender for the top spot on the album and features at a lot of the bands live shows.

Track 6. Ethelion.

The album ends off with another masterful and majestic piece of work which is credited to the band. Its title most likely came from The Lord Of The Rings and from early drafts of the book by JRR. Tolkien from around the 1940’s. “Ethelion” was very much one of the many rejected names that Tolkien had in mind for the character that was eventually to be known as Aragorn. He was also nicknamed Strider hence the pace that Gryphon’s piece is travelling along at throughout its journey.

Brain Gulland’s hilarious laugh which is overacted by the way :)))))) that you hear at the  beginning was said to be captured and recorded behind the curtains of the Old Vic when they first premièred there in March 1974 a month before the release of the album. It’s the heaviest track on the album and besides all the marvellous instrumentation with all the crumhorns, bassoon, flutes, guitars, bass, keyboards, and vibes. Dave Oberlé’s excellent powerful drums and percussion drives the piece along.

Overall its perhaps not a piece that is going to go in many directions, but it has a very powerful build up and is superbly arranged with how it builds up over its main melody that runs along with Taylor’s strumming on the guitar after the powerful intro. No doubt the piece is heading in one direction as it strides along the fields and hills and does so in great medieval style. It rounds off the album superbly.


Gryphon’s 2nd album Midnight Mushrumps is very much an album that sees the band heading in a new direction and more things was about to happen for the band in 1974 to keep them very busy. At this stage of the bands career they focused their attention more on instrumental pieces and the changes they made were more along the lines of injecting a bit more of classical music into their repertoire so to speak. Though no doubt because of their unusual instrumentation the element of folk music was still also apparent but not quite as strong as it was on their debut album.

It’s perhaps an album one needs to delve deeper into to get the full benefit out of it, to really appreciate it and accept the change they made in relation to their debut album. There is no doubt that this album took me a lot more spins when I first heard it to really accept it, because on my first several listens from when I brought it back in the 90’s I honestly found it quite an hard album to get into.

But there is much more to this album than meets the eye, or the ears in this case, and once this album sank in, I honestly feel that it is in every way just as good as their debut album, and like that album its very much a solid album. The band at this point were still very much more an acoustic outfit, and Graeme Taylor in particular was not quite ready to make the change to adding an electric guitar to bands output of music. But that was to come very soon.


To conclude my review of Gryphon’s 2nd album Midnight Mushrumps. Personally I think that even if you are more into classical music this album would appeal to classical listeners as well. Especially with its 2 wonderful masterpieces “Midnight Mushrumps” and “Gulland Rock“. These could even be seen as symphonies and contain less medieval or traditional folk elements in them. The only bit of crumhorn you get is on the first of those couple of tracks, and that is only a few seconds.

The Ploughboy’s Dream” is the only traditional folk song in sight on this album, but the fact that the other 3 instrumental pieces do have more folk elements to them, will most likely appeal more to the folkies, and in some ways help to cushion the shock some may have had from the change the band had made in relation to their previous debut album. But these pieces are also very well constructed and lean towards progressive rock with the progression and diversity they contain.

My personal highlights from the album are “Midnight Mushrumps“. “Gulland Rock” and “The Last Flash Of Gaberdine Tailor” but to be honest I could quite easily throw in the whole album because it’s another GEM.

Gryphon were branching out and soon were going to other places, but did their change in direction bring in more fans and create more of a stir. There is no doubt they planned a strategic move with their next album, but was the game they was playing a winner?. It should also be noted that the band also had a bit of fun with the sleeve notes on some of their albums in particular with the additional musician credits. You can find out in my next review of the bands 3rd album as I go deeper into this bands great music and their history.

Be Not Heard; The Isle Is Full Of Noises…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Midnight Mushrumps. 18:58.
02. The Ploughboy’s Dream. 3:02.
03. The Last Flash Of Gaberdine Tailor. 3:58.
04. Gulland Rock. 5:21.
05. Dubbel Dutch. 5:36.
06. Ethelion. 5:15.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 07/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #93

Gryphon – Gryphon



Well I have just been updating my Gryphon collection with more up to date remasters, and this gives me the perfect opportunity to do a review of this fine bands masterful pieces of work. Over this next series of reviews I shall be shedding a bit more light on the band Gryphon and I shall be reviewing all 5 of the bands albums from 1973 – 1977. I will also be giving you a bit of brief history of the band, and discussing why I buy music like this all over again sometimes and how I first stumbled upon the band all those years ago.

I am sure for some people out there they will already know that Gryphon are a band who not only emerged in the 70’s but also disappeared in that decade too. Some will not be aware that the band even got back together around 2009 and played their first gig in 32 years in 2009. Since 2015 they have played further live concerts and are currently in the process of releasing a new album this year after some 41 years. But I dare say that the biggest majority will of never even heard of the band or any of their great music.

But for those like myself, who did get to hear Gryphon’s great music all those decades ago. I am pretty sure it stayed with them, even after all these years. But before I go any further and see what’s in this mythical creatures pot of gold. Let’s first take a look at that packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…


The CD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case which no doubt protects the disc very well. However these days I think it’s about time that they got around to presenting the CD in either a DigiPak or DigiSleeve which I personally think looks a lot better and they may even entice people to re-buy an older album like this as well. These days Jewel cases are becoming a thing of the past and it’s about time more people realised that.

The Jewel Case is only really used these days to save on money on packaging a product like this. The fact that they are charging you between £10 – £12 for a new remaster is not really going to add much of an incentive to buy it, especially when in most cases you can still buy the older remaster or reissue in a Jewel Case for £5 or even less.

It comes with a 2 page booklet which contains the usual linear production notes and credits, but does not include the lyrics or any informal information or an essay around the time the album was made. Overall the package is adequate but could of been better.

The Artwork.

The albums artwork cover and cartoon illustrations of the band members was done by Dan Pearce with art direction from Ann Sullivan. The photography was done by Roger Perry. Pearce done a great job on the album cover with the mythical Griffin creature and his pot of gold. The cartoon illustrations of band members he drew look well funny too:)))))).

Band Members

Gryphon (A Brief Bit Of History)

The band Gryphon came about when multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey bumped into the woodwind player Brian Gulland whilst they was both studying classical music at the Royal College of music in London. Both had strong interests in other musical spheres and Harvey was fascinated at an early age by medieval and pre-classical music and was  playing renaissance recorders and crumhorns with the early music ensemble, Musica Reservata. Gulland on the other hand was a talented bassoonist and had a passion for everything from Church music to contemporary folk and progressive rock.

It was the diversity and tastes they had in music that encouraged them both to get together to form a group. Harvey had an old school friend of his in mind to join them who played guitar, namely Graeme Taylor. Both Harvey and Taylor would play some of the music John Renbourn was coming out with back then and they was also influenced by the Incredible String Band. For a short while they played as a trio in medieval eating houses and in 1972 they came across a former rock drummer who had a drum kit larger than life. His name was David Oberlé and it was at this point the group started to take more shape.

The band set about creating and developing their own distinctive style and focused their attention on renaissance pieces and re-arranged traditional folk songs. In order to make it work, Oberlé had to dispense of around 70% of his drum kit and started to work at becoming more of a percussionist. It was quite a challenge for him but by doing so he was soon to become very much an integral part of the band. The one thing Oberlé also had was such a great voice, and he could also mould it around some of the more traditional folk music the band had intended to re-arrange. His voice was that good that the rest of the guys often referred to him as being the pop singer of the band :)))))).

The band started to play some local gigs in small colleges and folk clubs and it was not that long before they was soon spotted and signed to Transatlantic Records. It was no surprise they got signed up to a record label due to the use of the unusual instruments with the use of crumhorns and bassoon and the complex arrangements they had applied to a lot of the English traditional folk music. They was also playing some of their original material and arranged material in 1972 that would eventually appear on their debut album in the following year.

At the beginning of 1973 the band started recording the material for their self titled debut album. Upon its release it was received very well and all of a sudden a certain interest in the band soon became more apparent. Before long they was playing to a complete cross-section of audiences playing in folk clubs, rock concerts, formal recitals, Cathedrals (St. Paul’s and Southwark), prisons, universities and schools. In July they gave a very successful series of concert/lectures at the Victoria and Albert Museum, for young people, at which they played, and then explained the making of their music.

In the following month of August they appeared at the Edinburgh Festival which sparked off even further interest in a variety of newspapers and they also appeared on several television programs such as Magpie and Jim’ll Fix It. They appeared on BBC Radio 1,2,3 and 4 all in one week. About the only thing they never appeared on was Top Of The Pops but that was perhaps more understandable because their music was more suited to the listener who had more of an eclectic taste and not really aimed at the teenyboppers.

Though the band did cut a single back in 1973 entitled “Glastonbury Carol“. But it was only a single sided promo meant for radio stations to air. But unfortunately they never had any luck with that either because the hole was off centred to the left by quite a long margin and made it sound more like a wind up :)))))). The original recording was thought to be lost and was eventually recovered and included on a compiled album of the BBC Sessions from 1972 & 1974 that was released on CD only on Hux Records in 2003. It was even titled Glastonbury Carol and included linear notes from the bands woodwind player Brian Gulland.

It was during September of 1973 that the band were personally approached and commissioned by Peter Hall the director of the National Theatre to write and pre-record the music for his new production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. They had previously provided the theme music for the film “Glastonbury Fayre”, and individual members had contributed to the sound tracks of “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, “Mary Queen of Scots”, “Pope Joan” and various other television plays.

(To be continued).

Why Buy It All Again?…

There are quite a few reasons why I still buy something I already have over again. I suppose my number one choice as to why I would do such a thing is when they release the album with a 5.1 mix. That is without a doubt my personal biggest incentive to buy music these days. For me it’s always been about getting the best quality recording you can get of the albums I love so much.

Even today I am still finding better quality remasters of older albums, and to be honest most of the music I love the best does come from the older albums I have in my record collection that mostly came out of my personal golden decade of the 70’s. Especially for progressive rock. But of course that decade is only golden to me because it was down to the time I was approaching my teens and music had much more of an effect on me to want to go out and buy it. I do not think I have changed ever since either.

Music plays a major role in my life and I can still get a lot pleasure from some of the music that is being made these days too. I actually love the fact that there are tons of bands out there still creating the music I love the most. But as much as I can get pleasure from those bands still churning out great prog rock. Many of those albums that came out in the 70’s are real stayers, music that as never or will ever leave my heart, and for the life of me, even after all these years they are never that far away from my turntable so to speak. Only these days my turntable happens to be a CD Player :))))))).

When it comes to buying music I already have, the music Gryphon made back in the 70’s had one of the biggest influences on me, and to be honest I do not think I could ever stop even buying more up to date releases of their albums either, simply because I personally do not think the band Gryphon never once let me down with the 5 albums this band produced between 1973 – 1977.

However I do have to draw the line now and then regarding buying the bands albums over and over at times, so that’s not entirely true and to be honest I only ever had 2 of the albums of the band on vinyl back in the 70’s as well. Even when I went to see them play live in 2015 & 2016 I noticed the band were selling the first 4 of their albums and they was in cardboard wallets or sleeves.

Had they have been in DigiPaks or even a DigiSleeves I would of most certainly have brought them. But these were just like the cardboard wallets or sleeves you will find in most cheap box sets. Which are all fine in a nice presentation box and I would of brought one of those if they made one with all 5 albums in, and not just the 4 the band are selling even on their own website.

The bands 5th album Treason was the only album that was on a different record label which was Harvest EMI. The other 4 were released on Transatlantic Records. It’s a shame that even in this day and age there are still contractual circumstances that can prevent all this from happening in the way of presenting the whole package in a box set.

I would not say you will always get what you are after with every new remaster of an album. Especially if you are buying older recordings that came out many moons ago. A lot of it depends on how many times they have actually remastered an album over the many decades, and no doubt every time they pull out the original master tape to do such a thing with, it’s bound to eventually wear down and the recording at some point will start to deteriorate. So eventually you will end up with something that is nowhere near as good as the first pressing you got on the vinyl record all those years ago.

Regarding the overall sound quality of any recording really benefiting today from being remastered, is really down to how well and good the recording was in the first place. But even today’s newer technology can make an improvement in most circumstances and technology and sound quality as come on in leaps and bounds since the 60’s and 70’s.

Improvements have developed quite a lot over the years and just by listening to the sound quality of the VST Patches that I had for my keyboards back in 2001. Since 2010 upwards the sound quality has vastly improved. These days you can get even great quality sampled pianos for your keyboards which was not even possible a decade earlier. The very fact that even new mastering tools and studio plugins have improved over all these years can make that extra bit of a difference in improving even the sound quality of a vinyl album from all those years ago.

But in general remastering any recording will not make that much of difference in comparison to doing a new remix of an album. Many purists will be put off by new remixes and to be honest if the engineer who is doing the remixing is adding anything to a recording, that is something I am dead set against myself.

But if the engineer is using the same stems of the original master recordings and placing the instruments in other places of the stereo field and in the mix to achieve more depth and clarity from the original recording. These type of new remixes will make a big difference, and can even improve on the dynamics as well as the clarity. But in general a good engineer will only do this if he feels the original mix was not right in the first place, and he thinks it can be improved upon by his production skills.

In either case of a remaster or a new mix I always like to hold on to my old recordings for a good while before I sell them on. Just in case the newer edition is not an overall improvement and is even worse off from the engineer using too much compression to achieve what he thinks sounds better. And no doubt I have come across a few of those in past as well.

In general most albums only get re-issued or remastered and remixed for 3 reasons. 1. To let you know that the artists music is still available to buy. 2. To make more money especially in the case of an album getting this treatment every odd year. Bands like Led Zeppelin are a perfect example when you look at how many remasters and re-issues their albums have had over the years. Number 3 is perhaps the more of the rarity of the other 2, and that is when both the artist and the mixing engineer feel they have made a significant overall improvement.

Over the last few weeks I have even noticed that Esoteric Recordings will be releasing the bands first 4 albums of the Transatlantic years from 1973 – 1975 in a 2 CD Set entitled Raindances. No doubt this is a complete bargain and it will be released on Cherry Red Records at a price of £11.99. This is scheduled to be released next month on the 24th August and according to their website the albums have all been digitally remastered from the original master tapes.

Whoever is responsible for this release has not been too clever in how they have gone about presenting it. I mean just look at the album cover below and you can see why.


Considering you are getting the 4 albums Gryphon. Midnight Mushrumps. Red Queen To Gryphon Three and Raindance. Why on earth did they add an “S” to the bands 4th album Raindance and give it this title. Also why on earth did they use the exact cover that was on the bands 2nd album Midnight Mushrumps. Surely somebody could of came up with a better title and album cover. This is really idle and sloppy work with what they have done here with this presentation.

From my experience with Esoteric Recordings there is no doubt the recordings you get are genuine quality. However they appear to be a company who like to grab hold of those older records we loved all those years back, and not necessary do the right thing with how they go about presenting their releases. Honestly very little work if any at all as gone into this presentation and this could be seen like taking water from a ducks back for god’s sake.

Now what I would love to see is 5.1 releases of these albums. Surely that would be a damn site better thing to do these days and would give people more incentive to go out and buy these recordings all over again. No doubt the price point of this 2 CD Set may even entice me to buy it even though I have the albums, but I would like it to come in a DigiPak and not a standard Jewel Case. But my guessing is that they will not even do that, so I may not bother with this one.

The Album In Review…

Gryphon’s self titled debut album was released sometime in June 1973. The band had spent much of March & April recording and re-arranging a lot of the material they was playing live in the previous year along with a few other new pieces. The album consisted of 12 tracks in total and had an overall playing time of 37 minutes, 27 seconds.

A very reasonable time slot for an album back in those days, especially for vinyl which did have time restrictions of how much you could fit on it before the material would start to deteriorate at the end of both sides of an LP. So you was getting a great sound quality recording with this album.

This is actually 1 of the 2 albums of Gryphon I did have on vinyl back in the 70’s. I still have them too, but for the past decade and more I very much relegated my turntable and vinyl to the loft, where they have been since just before we hit the millennium.

I also brought it on CD back in 1992 to which it was a Japanese release on the Canyon International Label, and have just updated it with the 2016 remaster done by Talking Elephant. I had to order it from Badlands UK via Ebay due to Amazon only having the 2008 remaster to which was also done by Talking Elephant. It took a bit longer than Amazon to arrive and I ended up paying £11.99 for it.

To be honest the Japanese release I already had from 1992 sounds very good. But this new remaster I feel is better, not by a large margin by any means but I am happy with it. I do however feel that it’s overpriced by £2. Simply because it came in a jewel case and not a DigiPak. But of course the quality of the music is the most important thing, and I cannot complain about this release.

My Introduction to Gryphon…

My personal introduction to Gryphon came in the very same year that the album was released in 1973. Though it would of been around the autumn of that year and not in the summer when this album got released. At the time I was only 13 years old and it was about 18 months earlier that a good friend of the family first introduced me to folk music and the world of traditional folk rock with the band known as Fairport Convention.

By the time I was 13. I was quite into English traditional folk music and progressive rock. Especially the band Yes which was the very first band that got me into prog rock. This friend of the family I knew so well was around 4 years older than myself, and we would often speak about music when we was around each other. There where times when I would pop around his families house and listen to the albums he had in his record collection at the time too.

He had quite a record collection that ranged from all sorts of folk music, prog rock, pop and even classical music. Occasionally he would also pop around to my mother’s house and bring along a bag of vinyl albums he had just brought and we would listen to them on my oldest brother’s HiFi. On the odd occasion he would also be a bit hard up, and sometimes he would pop round and see if I was interested in buying a few albums off him.

Bear in mind I was only 13 and I never had a lot of pocket money. But I did save my money and make money from doing errands for my 2 older brothers who had left school and were in full time work. I also did the odd bob a job to make a few pennies as well by cutting peoples hedges. Back in those days I done a lot of things to make some extra money, including dressing up as the Guy on bonfire night and I always made a good few quid carol singing at Christmas time.

It was around the autumn of 1973 that this good friend of mine and the family was a bit hard up, and he popped around to see me and had 3 albums in a bag for sale all at £1 each. He was like myself regarding vinyl records and always took extra special care of them, and just like myself every time he brought a new album, he also would buy a PVC cover to protect the album cover.

I brought all 3 albums off him on that day. One of them was this very album by Gryphon and other 2 were Iain Matthews first debut album from 1971 If You Saw Thru My Eyes and Pentangle’s 1970 album Cruel Sister. All 3 albums I can honestly tell you are spectacular and still massive favourites in my record collection.

Musicians & Credits…


Produced by Lawrence Aston & Adam Skeaping. Recorded at Riverside Recordings and Livingston Studios between March & April 1973. Engineered by Adam Skeaping & Nick Glennie-Smith. Album Cover & Artwork Illustrations by Dan Pearce.

Richard Harvery: Recorders/Crumhorns/Organ/Harmonium/Harpsichord/Classical Guitar/Mandolin.
Brian Gulland: Bassoon/Crumhorns/Recorders/Harpsichord/Vocals.
Graeme Taylor: Guitars/Harpsichord/Organ/Recorder/Vocals.
Dave Oberlé: Drums/Percussion/Teapot/Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Most of the tracks on Gryphon’s debut album are very much arrangements rather than original written material. At this point of their earlier career they wrote very little of their own material and that was something they would of been working on improving on as they went along. The material we have on this album is also more associated with traditional and medieval folk, and an album like this would also be found in the folk section of a record shop rather than in a pile with the prog rock albums.

Though no doubt the music we have here is still very complex and sophisticated to play and this was a band that consisted of highly talented musicians just like the many other bands were in prog rock, and no doubt that even though both Gryphon and Fairport Convention may have been more of your traditional folkies, both bands had elements of prog rock within their music. The album is a mixture of instrumental and vocal tracks and contains half a dozen of each spread out over it’s duration.

Some of the material for Gryphon’s album was recorded at Adam Skeaping’s house at the Riverside in Barnes. It was recorded on a made up 8 track system that consisted of 4 Revox machines synchronised together with a Bill’s Box. The more larger scale pieces were recorded at Livingston Studios which was a converted chapel in Barnet, London. The studio is still very much an active one today and here is a picture of the outside of it.


No doubt the interior would of changed since those dark distant days of the 70’s as well, and I bet the guys never had quite the luxury of how it is looks today as you can see from the pictures below.

Studio Collage

So now let’s get down to taking a further insight to the bands great music as I go through all the 12 tracks that make up this truly magnificent album.

Track 1. Kemp’s Jig.

The album opens up with the first of the 6 instrumental pieces on the album to which they have entitled “Kemp’s Jig“. This particular piece is an arrangement of anonymous Galician musical piece from the renaissance era way back in the 16th century. It’s original title is “Pase el Agoa, ma Julieta” which roughly translates in English to “Come Across the Water to Me My Lady Juliet”.

The original piece was also a song with words, and the band have played around the structure of the vocal line that can be heard in this video clip I found on Youtube.

The band arrangement we have here is manly structured around the woodwind section, and the band have two very well accomplished woodwind players with the likes of Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland. Crumhorn’s, flutes, recorders and the bassoon plays a very integral part in Gryphon’s music, along with the percussion, especially on a piece like this. All its members are multi instrumentalists to some degree.

On this track Richard Harvey plays soprano recorder whilst Brian Gulland plays a bass crumhorn, and along with Dave Oberlé‘s percussion which is also playing in a pattern play around the main melody line, it forms the basis of songs main structure and is played along at quite a joyful pace on the intro & outro. Meanwhile Graeme Taylor’s acoustic guitar lightly embellishes the piece by strumming along in the background.

The piece also contains a come down section which kicks into play after the opening 50 seconds. During this section Harvey comes off the soprano recorder and steps on the organ and harpsichord adding a bit more variety and flavour to the piece. it gradually builds its way back up with more heavier drum like percussion from Oberlé lending to giving the piece a bit of extra power and strength, and eventually falls back into it’s main melody section we got at the beginning and ends it all off in fine style.

Kemp’s Jig” goes down very well at any Gryphon concert, it’s one of the few estampie’s on this album which are aimed at getting your feet to stomp along and dance too, just like people did do all those centuries ago to medieval music. The way Gryphon do it as well has certainly got more chance of doing just that to it as well, unlike the vocal version of it in the video I posted here.

Track 2. Sir Gavin Grimbold.

A traditional folk song about a gallant knight who rode out one day and never returned, although his horse did so it appears :))). I have to confess I am a bit confused as to where this song came from and over the years, the linear credit notes that were put on many of the re-issues, remsasters and complied albums add to all the confusion.

On the original 1973 LP  it was credited as Anonymous: Arranged by Gryphon. This 2016 Talking Elephant remaster states the same too. Whereas other releases have credited it as Anonymous: Arranged by Gulland and some have even credited the song to Gulland alone. Some articles even point out that it was he who wrote the lyrics.

I am pretty sure that this song was more of an arrangement and not composed by Brian Gulland. But my guess is that he had a lot to do with the arrangement and just may have even re-arranged the lyrics or even wrote them. I must make a point of asking him when I go and see them again later on this year. But I have heard them mention as to where the song came from when I seen them live before, but for the life of me I cannot no longer remember ;))))).

Gryphon have always put humour into a lot of the songs they have done over the years, and there is a good couple of hilarious songs on this album too. Though “Sir Gavin Grimbold” is perhaps more of a serious story line, rather than meant to be a comical one. Besides the bassoon Gulland takes on the vocals on this song and sings it in more of baritone range rather than his very deep bass vocal range to which he uses in other songs.

To be honest every time I heard this song I find it quite hard to believe that Gulland sang this song, because it’s certainly more around Oberlé’s vocal range. Both have great voices for traditional folk music and contribute more to the vocals than any of the other members of the band.

Sir Gavin Grimbold” is a great song and besides Gulland’s contribution on the vocals and bassoon, it features Harvey on soprano crumhorn & organ. Taylor on acoustic guitar and Oberlé on drums according to the booklet. But it’s much more like percussion.

Track 3. Touch And Go.

The first of a few acoustic little ditties that appear throughout the album and this one features the acoustic guitar talents of Graeme Taylor and Richard Harvey on tenor recorder, though no doubt these things do cost a lot more than a tenner :)))))). It’s another fine piece and beautiful well constructed piece of music that is credited to both Harvey & Taylor.

Track 4. Three Jolly Butchers.

When it comes to injecting a bit of comedy into a song this one is an absolute classic. The song was actually penned by the guitarist of the band Graeme Taylor and no doubt he came up with a piece of magic here. There is no doubt that over the few years Gryphon were together Harvey, Taylor and Gulland wrote some masterpieces and they all came with superb arrangements.

The song tells a story of 3 butchers who go by the name of Johnson, Jipson and Rhyde. Johnson was very much the valiant one who stops to rescue some damsel in distress as all 3 were riding to the market. Upon rescuing the damsel and attempting to take her home safely on his horse, he gets encountered by 10 highway men to which he stands up to and takes 9 of them down. He met his fate to a woman who was standing by and stabbed him from behind. Johnson was known afterwards as the finest butcher as ever the sun shone on.

Besides playing bassoon, drums and guitar on the song, all 3 Gulland, Oberlé and Taylor take on the vocal duties, whilst Harvey plays harpsichord, harmonium and glockenspiel. “Three Jolly Butchers” is one of my contenders for the top spot on the album it’s an excellent well written song that may have even borrowed a bar or two from the Fry’s Turkish Delight television advert that was being widely circulated back then in its middle section.

Track 5. Pastime With Good Company.

Another of the little musical ditties on the album and this one was allegedly a piece written by King Henry VIII at the beginning of the 16th century to which Gryphon have so very well arranged and with their instrumentation it perhaps more fitting than any of the other arrangements I have heard of this piece done by other artists such as Jethro Tull and Blackmore’s Night for example. Though I quite like them all.

It’s perhaps the most popular of Henry VIII’s compositions and is also known as “The King’s Ballad”. It was also believed to be have been written for his first wife Catherine of Aragon. It features Harvey on soprano recorders, tenor and soprano crumhorns. Gulland on bass crumhorn. Oberlé on drums and Taylor on the harpsichord.

Track 6. The Unquiet Grave.

When it comes to raising the dead, nobody and I repeat nobody! does it as well as what Gryphon have done with their own magical arrangement of this traditional folk song that is believed to go back as far as the year 1400. The song was later collected by Francis James Child around 1868. Child was an American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known today for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. This particular song was catalogued as Child Ballad number 78 and is more commonly played in countries like Ireland who are also well known for their traditional Irish folk music.

Over the years I have heard many people take on this song, and trust me they are all drab and lifeless in comparison to what Gryphon have done with it. On this album they have captured the true spirit of the song especially on the middle eerie section. Another strong feature on their version is Dave Oberlé’s voice which is purely golden on this song. The song also benefits for him alone singing it as well, and not like they do it live with Brian Gulland singing some of the verses with his deep voice like they do today.

Not that I have anything against Gulland’s vocal duties and no doubt when they play this song live they like do things a bit different sometimes to keep the songs fresh, and I have nothing against that either, but his magical attribute to this song is his bassoon. Not only does the bassoon work it’s splendours on the introduction and outroduction of the song, but the atmosphere they captured in the old chapel that was converted into Livingstone studios, done the business on the eerie section along with Oberlé’s percussion and the drone coming from the harmonium played by Harvey.

Harvey also plays both tenor and soprano crumhorns and harpsichord. Taylor’s job on the acoustic guitar on this song is pure magic. I’ve been trying to play it on the guitar for years, and still cannot play it :))))). “The Unquiet Grave” may not be the most powerful track on the album, but it has the power to bring tears of joy to my eyes when I hear it. It’s always been one of the best songs Gryphon ever played, it’s a pure classic and my personal favourite track on the album. It also the longest track on the album and merits my top spot of the album award.

Track 7. Estampie.

Another medieval dance that dates back centuries and an anonymous piece that back then would of most likely been done vocally with words or played in the form of an instrumental piece just like the opening track on the album “Kemp’s Jig“. According to form on album cover this was arranged by Gryphon and Taylor. This perhaps meant that Taylor had a bit more to do with the arrangement and considering he is only playing a drone on his acoustic guitar on the piece, I find it hard to believe that he had more to do with the arrangement.

But to be honest I was surprised that Taylor actually wrote “Three Jolly Butchers” and the funny thing about this particular piece is that once again we do get a bar or two of that Fry’s Turkish Delight Ad again, and even a bit of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and I wonder if they tagged Taylor’s name on the end of the writing credits just in case they got done for plagiarism LOL…

Estampie” (Pronounced “Estompee” is another magical track on the album and features Dave Oberlé on flying percussion, he’s playing the bongo’s with sticks like the clappers. Harvey’s job on the soprano recorder is also flying along like the clappers, he also plays harmonium and glockenspiel whilst Gulland is making great use of the bass crumhorn and bassoon. This is another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 8. Crossing The Stiles.

Crossing The Stiles” is another of Graeme Taylor’s compositions and it’s a very well structured little instrumental ditty and features Taylor on his own playing such a wonderful guitar solo. Pieces like this make me want to throw my guitar in the bin :))))) and I would not even attempt to try and play such a complex piece like this either.

However I did come across another very talented guitar player on Youtube some 3 years ago now, who played both “Crossing The Stiles” and “Touch And Go” and I am sure he will not mind me posting his video here.

I am not sure if he’s playing it the exact way how Graeme Taylor plays it, but no doubt it shows how complex the piece is to play, and just how well structured a piece of music like this is to be able to compose the piece in the first place. “Crossing The Stiles” is another piece of magic and another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 9. The Astrologer.

This is another pure classic traditional folk song once again features Dave Oberlé’s golden voice. The song dates back to around 1598 and later was collected in the form of a written manuscript by H.E.D. Hammond who got it from J. Penny of Poole, Dorset. England in 1906. This arrangement by Gryphon uses the same lyrics from that original manuscript and the band do the business on the arrangement.

The astrologer in this case is a fortune teller who uses his so called magic to try and get pretty young maids into his bed so to speak. It gives the cunning man a certain glamour, even while it humorously makes the point that he specialises in telling young women’s fortunes, with all that it implies. The song also reflects the fact that many young women were interested in divination, and out she pulls the crown piece at the end out of her purse and bids him good morning sir :))))).

This is yet another contender for the top spot on the album and Brian Gulland plays the harpsichord on this one, whilst Richard Harvey takes care of the woodwind with the use of descant, treble and tenor recorders. Graeme Taylor is on guitar duties as usual and Dave Oberlé uses minimal percussion with the gong cymbal.

Track 10. Tea Wrecks.

Another old anonymous tune and little instrumental ditty arranged by the band, and this has quite a Christmas feel about it. It’s the shortest track on the album and is just over a minute long and features Harvey on soprano recorder. Taylor on descant recorder. Gulland on tenor recorder and Oberlé on glockenspiel. They all sound wonderful and its very well arranged too.

Track 11. Juniper Suite.

Just like “Kemp’s Jig” and “Estampie” the “Juniper Suite” is another master class piece of work that shows how skilful the band can be by writing and arranging their own compositions. Unlike the other two pieces this one was penned by all 4 band members and is yet another classic instrumental piece that’s very much another contender for the top spot on the album.

This is perhaps the most powerful and heaviest track on the album and it crashes into action with the cymbals and the crumhorns, backed up by the organ. It then goes into  quite a short fast paced flute section which is accompanied some speedy percussion (like we got on “Estampie” earlier) and the harpsichord. By now we are only 50 seconds into the piece and the next section features both Taylor on stringed guitar and Harvey on classical guitar accompanied by Gulland on bassoon.

The section from 1:37 – 2:26 features a beautiful melody on the bassoon accompanied by the organ. Then from 2:28 – 3:20 Harvey gets out his mandolin and we get this lovely bit of interplay with him on the mandolin and Taylor on the guitar, with Gulland joining in on the bassoon. The next 25 seconds we get both Harvey and Gulland giving us a bit of crumhorn heaven as if you do not get enough of them from this band :))))) and then it crashes back into where we started for a final encore and ends off perfectly.

Juniper Suite” is without doubt a magical track on the album that features Richard Harvey on descant recorder, alto crumhorn, classical guitar, mandolin and organ. Brian Gulland on bass and tenor crumhorns and bassoon. Graeme Taylor on harpsichord, organ and steel stringed guitar. Dave Oberlé on drums and percussion. It even has Dave’s wife credited for playing the triangle on this track. Though knowing this funny bunch of capers they was having a bit of fun with the linear notes :))))))).

Track 12. The Devil And The Farmer’s Wife.

The album closes off with one of the most hilarious songs on the album. It’s another old traditional folk song that dates back somewhat and just like “The Unquiet Grave” it was collected by Francis James Child and was catalogued as Child Ballad 278. The original song was said to be titled ‘The Farmer’s Curst Wife” and over the years not only as it’s titles changed but also the words have done so on several occasions. Many artists have covered the song over the years and done in all styles too, such as country and bluegrass besides your normal folkies.

Gryphon’s version of the song has been arranged by Brian Gulland and no doubt he as also changed the words we have here I have to say they are superb. He also takes on all vocal duties in presenting this song as well and uses his voice in 4 different counterparts of mezzo soprano, counter tenor, baritone and bass. He also plays bassoon on this song as well. Richard Harvey plays harpsichord and organ. Graeme Taylor guitar and Dave Oberlé plays percussion and rounds it all off by banging on a teapot :)))).

The song itself tells a story about the devil running off with the farmer’s wife. Only to find out that she is more trouble than she is worth, and he cannot cope with her being in hell. So he decides to boot her back out again. Only it’s much funnier with how Brian portrays it and the band present it :))))). It ends the album off superbly.


To sum up Gryphon’s self titled debut album I would say that it’s perhaps one of the most prolific traditional folk albums that was ever made. It’s up there with the very best albums of the likes of Fairport Convention. Steeleye Span. Pentangle. Jethro Tull and any other folkies have graced our ears with. It’s just as complex and sophisticated as anything out there you will find in the world of progressive rock music. Gryphon are a band who have highly skilled masterclass musicians in their outfit and are one of the finest bands that I ever stumbled upon.

I have nothing less than 100% praise for this band and Gryphon are in my top 3 along with early Yes and Genesis when it comes to progressive rock. These 3 bands have brought me the most joy and made music to last forever. They touched my heart with their music back in the 70’s and they still do today.

Gryphon could never be an underrated band even though they was less known in relation to many other bands. They are far to skilful to be underrated. Their music later on just like Yes opened me up to another world of classical music. A form of classical music that appeals to me more than the so called Greats who composed classical music.

Simply because they made music that was more accessible to my ears. Music that had more variety in its instrumentation rather than hearing an orchestra all the time that sounded the same. even though they may have 90 musicians on the stage. Gryphon are an orchestra within themselves, and they can even arrange music just as skilfully as anybody can in the world of classical music. To put in a nutshell they are outstanding.

For many prog rockers Gryphon’s debut album may not appeal to them like the other albums they went onto make. Unless you was brought up with traditional folk music like myself. I can perhaps understand why as well. But for me personally traditional folk music especially English traditional folk rock music and progressive rock have always been my preferred choices of music. But of course I am open to any music that is played and composed as well, and my record collection contains quite a wide variety.


To conclude my review of this opening chapter into the world of Gryphon’s music that I shall be presenting over the end of this month and next month. I would say that it’s very hard for me to choose a personal favourite album of the band. Though I do have a lesser favourite album that the band made, to which you will discover later on in this series.

But even though the band did make a bit of a change and head more along the lines of prog rock as you will discover in my next review. This is an album that still very much contains all those great elements you will find in progressive rock, even though it would be filed under folk in a record shop. It’s also the most featured album that the band play live at their shows, and that can be even more incredible to see played live as well.

For a debut album this is quite a remarkable piece of work and a very solid album. There is not a track on it that can put a blemish on it. My personal highlights from the album areas follows: “The Unquiet Grave“. “Juniper Suite“. “The Astrologer“. “Kemp’s Jig“. “Three Jolly Butchers” and “Crossing The Stiles“. The band even went on to create a symphony with their next album Midnight Mushrumps to which I go into on my next review.

The Finest Flower That Ever I Saw Is Withered To A Stalk…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Kemp’s Jig. 3:10.
02. Sir Gavin Grimbold. 2:50.
03. Touch And Go. 1:35.
04. Three Jolly Butchers. 3:56.
05. Pastime With Good Company. 1:35.
06. The Unquiet Grave. 5:46.
07. Estampie. 4:55.
08. Crossing The Stiles. 2:29.
09. The Astrologer. 3:15.
10. Tea Wrecks. 1:12.
11. Juniper Suite. 4:46.
12. The Devil And The Farmer’s Wife. 1:58.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 07/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #92

The Sea Within – The Sea Within



The Sea Within is the brand new self titled debut album of a new band put together by Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings. Although I have to say by looking at the line up of the musicians and a couple of them being no real strangers to Stolt we have here, in all honesty it could even be The Flower Kings.

But what we have assembled here is said to be yet another Supergroup and along with the likes of bass player Jonas Reingold and vocalist and guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw who have been official members of  The Flower Kings.

Making up the rest of the line-up we also have the keyboard player Tom Brislin who has played with Yes and on the drums we have Marco Minnemann both of who are solo artists in their own rights. Marco as also played for many other artists including Steve Wilson, Joe Satriani and Trey Gunn.

The album also features 4 guest musicians with the likes of Jon Anderson, Jordan Rudess, Rob Townsend and Casey McPherson who make an appearance on some of the tracks amongst the album and for some time now its been looking like The Flower Kings have died since they last put out an album in 2013.

The very fact that Stolt has even decided to put the entire discography of that bands studio albums into 2 limited edition box sets more recently, may very well suggest that The Flower Kings could very well be finished. But just like Black Sabbath said in 1978 on should “Never Say Die”. So before we go any deeper, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…


The Special Edition comes in a very well made matt finish 3 panel Digipak with plastic trays to support the packaging and hold the CD’s nicely in place. Like many of these new Digipaks these days it also comes with a pocket to store the booklet. It also comes with a 22 page booklet that contains all the lyrics, pictures and production linear notes. Overall it a very good neat quality package and very nice presentation that’s not made on the cheap either.

The albums artwork cover was done by Marcela Bolivar who is a digital artist that specialises in photomontage techniques. This is a complex process of assembling pictures together and bringing them closer in great detail to give a pictorial expression. The layout was done by Thomas Ewerhard and the photographs were done by Will Ireland. Christophe Pauly. Lilian Forsberg and Miles Skarin.

The Album In Review…

The new self titled debut album The Sea Within was released on the 29th June 2018. As with many of these new releases I have pre-ordered recently they tend to get put back a week or two before they get released and this one originally supposed to be released a week before on the 22nd June. However my copy did come through the letterbox on the day of it’s release and arrived safely I was pleased to see.

The Special Edition comes with 2 CD’s the 1st of which comes with 8 tracks and has an overall playing time of 50 minutes, 41 seconds. The 2nd CD contains 4 bonus tracks and has an overall playing time of 26 minutes, 33 seconds. I pre-ordered it from Amazon and got it for £12.99. They have also released a double vinyl edition that comes with the 2 CD’s in transparent polythene slip cases which can be had for around £22.99.

Roine Stolt is no stranger when it comes to working on other projects and since he assembled The Flower Kings back in the early 90’s and he has been involved in no end of them. Perhaps the most notable one of them was Transatlantic that was put together just before the millennium.

He also reunited once again with the Swedish band Kaipa he was originally in back the 70’s and also got together with Andy Tillison and we got to see the birth of The Tangent besides making his own solo albums and doing one off albums with other artists including Jon Anderson of Yes.

There is no doubt that Roine Stolt is a complete workaholic and has written more than enough material that you would need more volumes than what the Encyclopaedia Britannica has to fit it all in, and The Sea Within is just another chapter :))))))))). My guess is that it will most likely be one chapter and a one off project as well, and the sea we have here will most likely make a small splash in the ocean so to speak.

Musicians & Credits…


Produced recorded and mixed by Roine Stolt between September 2017 – April 2018. Recorded at Livingstone Studios. London and various other locations. Engineered by Billy Halliday. Assistant Tom Archer. Artwork by Marcela Bolivar. Layout by Thomas Ewerhard. Photographs by Will Ireland. Christophe Pauly. Lilian Forsberg and Miles Skarin.

Roine Stolt: Lead Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Vocals/Orchestral FX.
Daniel Gildenlöw: Lead Vocal/Electric Guitar.
Tom Brislin: Piano/Organ/Synthesizers/Vocals.
Jonas Reingold: Bass (Additional Guitar On Ashes Of Dawn).
Marco Minnemann: Drums/Percussion/Vocal/Guitar.

Additional Musicians:
Jon Anderson: Vocals (Broken Cord).
Jordan Rudess: Piano (The Hiding Of The Truth).
Rob Townsend: Tenor Saxophone (The Ashes Of Dawn).
Casey McPherson: Vocals (Goodbye/Broken Cord/The Hiding Of The Truth).

The Album Tracks In Review…

I have to say The Sea Within is perhaps not a name one would associate with the name of a band at all, and is more fitting to the title of an album on that score. I certainly do not think with this name it’s got a lot of chance of catching many fish either. The name and it’s album cover is perhaps the sort of thing one would see for sale at a sea life centre rather than in a record shop :))))))).

Maybe the band are using a new marketing idea to get their music across or something. But it would of been pointless giving you a free packet of fish flakes to feed the fish with every album, simply because there is no fish in this sea to feed :))))).

Well that’s what it all looks and appears like on the outside, but let’s dive in a bit deeper and see if there anything here a bit more promising. As I go through my review of the albums tracks and it’s bonus disc of material.

Track 1. Ashes Of Dawn.

I must admit when I first seen the official video that Inside Out Records published on the 18th May on their TV Channel on Youtube I was not that impressed by this particular song at all. However that did not put me off putting in my pre-order of the album and as a rule I quite like what Roine Stolt does. Since having the album and giving it further listens this particular song started to speak to me a bit more and it’s my second favourite track on the album.

This particular song was written by Jonas Reingold & Roine Stolt so we very much have something along the same lines of The Flower Kings with the writers. But with the combination of other musicians it’s not quite like Stolt’s old band even though we also have Daniel Gildenlöw onboard here as well, who also featured on a couple of The Flower Kings albums. Gildenlöw takes on most of the lead vocals on this album and his harder edge approach works well on this song, though no doubt there is also some distortion applied to his and Stolt’s vocals in the mix.

The “Ashes Of Dawn” certainly as more of a rock approach to it, and musically its been more structured in that way where we get verse and chorus lines, a lead guitar solo and even Rob Townsend (more known for playing with Steve Hackett) gets a spot to play a solo on the sax on this opening song too. All the musicians do a grand job on this opener and I particularly like the drum pattern and fills that Marco Minnemann gives to it as well. It’s very much a strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. They Know My Name.

A fine rock ballad of a song penned by Tom Brislin and I quite like this one and it’s very much written around the piano. It’s a very well written song with great lyrics and once again Gildenlöw’s voice works very well and is perhaps better suited to this ballad mode as well. Both Stolt and Brislin join in on the backing vocals too, and the band do a very fine job it all and this is another of the better album tracks I feel too and more of a catchy little number.

Track 3. The Void.

Another song penned by Jonas Reingold & Roine Stolt and I quite like how this one opens up on the acoustic guitars and vibes, in some ways it reminds a bit like Simon & Garfunkel’sScarborough Fair“. All the guitars on this song are played by Stolt and Gildenlöw features on the lead vocals only. The song builds up and comes down with finesse and subtly with how it all transcends along.

It also features a couple of fine solos from Brislin on the keyboards in the 1st solo and Stolt on guitar in the 2nd solo. It also features some fine bass work by Reingold too. The band do a fine job here and it’s another fine song and piece of work.

Track 4. An Eye For An Eye For an Eye.

The band up the tempo and pace a bit more on this one, and it’s the 2nd longest track on the album to which most are generally short tracks and around the 5 minute mark. The extra couple of minutes we get here allows the band to be a bit more diverse and apply a bit more progression along its path.

The vocal sections in the verses of the song are quite racy and catchy. Sort of along the lines of what we got with the band the Flying Colors that featured Neal Morse & Co. In the middle section we get a bit of jazz thrown in for the band to strut their stuff a bit more in the instrumental break. Just like you would get with The Flower Kings and The Tangent.

I think the surprising thing here is that it was actually solely written by Marco Minnemann but then again I know nothing about his solo work to be honest.  “An Eye For An Eye For an Eye” is a fine enough song that allows the musicians to express themselves more with the extra space they have to work into it all, and the band do another good job of it all.

Track 5. Goodbye.

The 2nd official video release from the album that was uploaded to Inside Out Records TV Channel on the Tube. It’s the only song on the main album that was credited to all 5 band members. This song has quite a funky soul and pop vibe about it and features both Casey McPherson and Daniel Gildenlöw on lead vocals. It’s another very well written song with strong heartbreaking lyrics and features some really great bass work by Reingold on this one too.

Track 6. Sea Without.

The shortest track on the album is an instrumental piece penned solely by Roine Stolt. Oddly enough the title here is the opposite of the bands name but no doubt it does have the sea within it, and the only thing there is without is Daniel Gildenlöw because only 4 of the band members feature on this track. The piece itself is quite familiar with Stolt’s writing for The Flower Kings and the little bit of dramatics we get here would not of gone that far amiss with that bands 2nd album Retropolis from 1996.

Track 7. Broken Cord.

Following the shortest track on the album we have the longest track on the album “Broken Cord” and this one weighs in at some 14 minutes and 10 seconds. The song is quite like The Beatles especially with how it opens up and runs along for the first 5 minutes, and then it falls into something with more of a Frank Zappa vibe for a bit. There maybe even a bit of Mountain’s Nantucket Sleighride thrown in for good measure too :))))).

Once again both Casey McPherson and Daniel Gildenlöw take on the lead vocals and around the 6:57 mark we get to hear Jon Anderson’s small contribution with his chanting voice for about a minute or so, and it comes back towards the end. The song features some great progression and is the only bit of prog rock we get on the whole album. The song itself was penned by Stolt & Minnemann it’s also my favourite track on the album and merits my top spot award.

Track 8. The Hiding of Truth.

The final track on the album is another of Stolt’s compositions and once again it’s minus Daniel Gildenlöw and features Casey McPherson on lead vocals backed up by Stolt himself. It also features Jordan Rudess on grand piano. It’s another heartfelt ballad of a song and puts the album to sleep very well.

The Bonus CD.

Track 1. The Roaring Silence.

I must admit when I first seen the title of this song it had me thinking of an album by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band but I was not so much blinded by the light when I got to hear it :)))))). “The Roaring Silence” was written by Stolt/Brislin and is the longest track on the bonus disc. Daniel Gildenlöw is back and on lead vocals only and the guitar work is left to Stolt again.

The song starts and ends with a storm and has quite a nice enough melodic structure about it and runs along a steady enough pace. It’s perhaps only vocals that tend to raise it up a notch and overall it’s not a bad track and cooks on a moderate heat. But over this distance I would of expected a lot more.

Track 2. Where are you Going?.

There is more of an up-tempo and brighter feel about this song that was written by Tom Brislin & Daniel Gildenlöw and I quite like the vocal FX that get applied to Gildenlöw’s vocals too. It gives it that late 60’s and 70’s vibe. It features some fine keyboard work from Brislin and I quite like this one and it’s another well written song.

Track 3. Time.

Another song credited to all 5 band members and is the 2nd longest of the 4 tracks on the bonus disc. You get a bit of a King Crimson feel in the break in the middle with the mellotron and nice bit of guitar follows it. But just like the 1st track on the bonus disc is does not seem to go anywhere else over it’s 7 plus minutes.

Track 4. Denise.

The last of the bonus tracks is penned by Reingold/Gildenlöw/Stolt and is another well written heartbroken love song. The song has quite a powerful build up as it transcends along and is like a military folk song with the use of the harmonium and military roll on the drums. It also features a nice bit of acoustic guitar along the way too. According to form Gildenlöw is even playing a bit of banjo on it, but it’s all a bit drowned out by the rest of the instrumentation.


To sum up the self titled debut album of The Sea Within. I personally do not feel its an album that is gonna set the world on fire, and to be perfectly honest it’s one of those albums that before I actually purchased it, I was in two minds of whether to do so. The only reason why I did buy it in the end was because there was not a lot of new stuff out there due to be released. However it’s not all bad, and perhaps more of a case of not getting what one would of been expecting to get from a so called Supergroup.

Over the years I have seen many Supergroups assembled and to be honest this is a label or tag that many music journalists and writers give to bands to hype up the stories they write in magazines and so on. Half the time I find it quite funny and very laughable, and I am sure even the musicians themselves can have a laugh about it as well.

Supergroups are a bit like football teams where they change their players now and then to try and assemble a stronger side, and sometimes having all the best players does not necessarily work and make a winning side. At the end of the day it’s how well the players are composed on the pitch that wins games, and the art of making good music is all about the composition.

But having said all that. I would not exactly say that this is badly written material at all, and there is some very well written songs along the lines of this album. But it’s more down to how the material is presented to you with its more light weighted popular approach, even though some of the songs have more of a darker edge about them.

What we have here is something like the Flying Colors and even what Asia did back in the 80’s with its more popular approach to the music they are presenting. Only Asia did do it better on that score, and after I brought the Flying Colors album it did not speak well enough to me to buy their second album. It’s just not prog rock and neither are Asia or The Sea Within for that matter, they all say very little regarding that genre of music I am afraid with the written material they have done here.

Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against popular music, and I like quite a few pop artists and have a good few in my record collection. But an album like this does not say enough to me personally to make it one of my Go-To albums and the pleasure it will bring will wear out in no time at all. But at the end of the day it’s down to preferable taste. To put it in a nutshell, its perhaps not what I was expecting from Roine Stolt in particular, and this will never make the grade of The Flower Kings I am afraid.


To conclude my review of The Sea Within’s debut album it’s one of those albums that you are either gonna like or not, and it may be better if you can get to hear it first before jumping in and buying it. I am not saying it’s a bad album, I just thought it could of been better. At its price point of £12.99 for 2 CD’s and the quality of packaging it comes in, it is good value for the money without a doubt. But overall the quality of the packaging does score more than the album I am sorry to say.

I doubt very much if The Sea Within will make another album, and I think it was a stupid name for a band in the first place. Unless your some ambient electronic artist who intends to make albums with the sound of the sea in them of course :)))). My personal highlights from the album are “Broken Cord“. “Ashes of Dawn“. “Goodbye” and “They Know My Name“. And also “Where are you Going?” from the bonus disc.

Come Hell Or High Water…

The CD track listing is as follows:

Disc 1.
01. Ashes of Dawn. 5:59.
02. They Know My Name. 5:09.
03. The Void. 4:53.
04. An Eye For An Eye For an Eye. 7:01.
05. Goodbye. 5:31.
06. Sea Without. 2:23.
07. Broken Cord. 14:10.
08. The Hiding of Truth. 5:35.

Disc 2.
01. The Roaring Silence. 8:05.
02. Where are you Going?. 5:54.
03. Time. 7:18.
04. Denise. 5:16.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 09/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #91

Living In Reverse/CRACKOLOGY – Crack The Sky



Well this is a first for me in the way that I am actually reviewing a couple of albums that have not hit the shelf yet sort of thing. I was recently approached by one of the scouts of the American band Crack The Sky (who must of dropped by on my blog site at some point) asking me if I would do a pre-release review of a couple of albums they have scheduled to be released next month on the 24th August.

Both albums will be released on the same day, and one of them will be their very latest album to date entitled Living In Reverse. The other entitled CRACKOLOGY is an album of brand new recordings of some of the bands favourites from their 40 year career that runs from 1975 – 2015.

I have to confess I have never heard of them before, but America is a very big place and I dare say where I live here in the UK there are a zillion artists and bands that have never crossed my path before so to speak. So this is quite a new experience for me listening to their music right now, and before I get on with my review of the both albums let’s take a look at a brief bit of history about the band.

Crack The Sky (History In Brief)

The band Crack the Sky were formed in Weirton, West Virginia in the early 70’s. Coming from Virginia may give one the impression that they were rounded up :)))) and their music may be something more along the lines of country, but they actually came with a tag of progressive rock (more about that later). The first incarnation of the band featured John Palumbo vocals & guitar. Rick Witkowski & Jim Griffiths guitar. Joe Macre bass and Joey D’Amico drums.

They released their self titled debut album Crack The Sky in 1975. The band got what was supposedly a lucky break having played some demos to a nephew of Terry Cashman of Cash West Productions who went on to form the record label Lifesong Records, and Crack The Sky was the first major artist to be signed to the label. But unfortunately for the band the album never got the right promotion and distribution, and never made much of a dent in the American Billboard albums charts.

However Lifesong Records was far from finished with the band and must of thought they had something to let them release a further 4 studio albums, plus 3 live albums and a compilation album. Over the years like many bands Crack The Sky have had various line-up changes and the bands main songwriter John Palumbo left the band after their 2nd album Animal Notes which was released in 1976.

However he soon returned in 1980 with a new band line-up and their 4th album White Music was released in the same year. Since then he has pretty much kept the band going, and today the band still have 3 of its 5 original band members that started it all off back in 1975 and are still very much active and a working band.

Over the years Crack The Sky have released 16 studio albums. Their last studio album The Beauty Of Nothing was released in 2015. The Rolling Stone magazine said that the bands debut album was one of the 50 greatest prog rock albums of all time, and one of the 20 rock albums Rolling Stone loved in the 1970’s that you never heard. This next picture shows a review written by Stephen Holden of the magazine from back in January 1976.


You will have to zoom in on your browser to most likely read Stephen Holden’s review here, but the same article can found in Gavin Edwards short review which was published in the same magazine on the 11th June 2015. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/20-rock-albums-rolling-stone-loved-in-the-1970s-that-you-never-heard-164876/crack-the-sky-crack-the-sky-58391/

As with many reviews they always tend to get hyped up to the hilt a bit. To be honest I can quite easily take any review from the Rolling Stone Magazine with a pinch of salt, and it’s full of that much hype I could not even be arsed with such a magazine. It really sucks at the best of times I am afraid, and I am not just saying that in a way that I can write reviews any better.

But the one thing I genuinely stick too is honesty when it comes to speaking about music, but of course my own reviews are based on how the music speaks to me and how it appeals to my own personal taste. Many others will no doubt have different opinions.

The one thing I can tell you straight away is that Crack The Sky’s music is quite far removed away from progressive rock. Especially genuine prog rock that came from the late 60’s and early 70”s. The Americans might have a milder view on what progressive rock really is, and even the articles in these reviews by Rolling Stone are exaggerated and even criticise them self. One minute they mention the band being prog rock, then in the next they say they are rock and even play blues guitar. A magazine like this would even say the Partridge Family were prog rock for god’s sake :)))))).

Progressive rock is derived from mainly combining and fusing music from the genres of classical, jazz, folk, and rock music and can use many different time signatures to make it much more unique and sound something completely different to the norm. What we have with the band Crack The Sky is a basic form of rock and rock n roll music and nothing more I am afraid.

So for those out there that think Crack The Sky are a progressive rock band. You seriously need to get your head checked because this band are more like the likes of bands like Nazareth and early Rush when they started out as a rock band, and nothing like early Yes. Genesis and King Crimson for example. Or even the American prog rock band Happy The Man for that matter. If you want to hear what American prog rock sounds like these days, go out and buy a Neal Morse album.

But however you define Crack The Sky’s music, the one thing I will say is these guys can play and are a very good live band from what I have seen of them on Youtube. But the bands Logo is perhaps more progressive :))))) and I quite like that indeed. But to be fair to the guys there is also an element of prog rock in some of their songs, and there is more progression to it than just the Logo too.

The Band Today…


Today’s line-up of the band like I mentioned earlier consists of the 3 of the bands original members from all those decades ago. They are John Palumbo – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keys. Rick Witkowski – Guitars & Vocals and Joey D’Amico – Drums & Vocals. Making up the rest of the band we have Bobby Hird – Guitars & Vocals. Glenn Workman – Keyboards & Vocals and Dave DeMarco – Bass & Vocals.

The guys have weathered very well over the years I must say and judging by the bands website here: http://www.crackthesky.com/ they are also keeping themselves very busy with all the live shows they are booked up to play. I best try and keep in their good books as well with my review of the albums which is coming up next, because there is a couple of guys in this outfit I would not want to mess with, and they may just come over here and duff me up :))))))).

The Albums In Review…

Because I have a couple of albums to get through here, I am not going to be going into great detail by taking onboard every individual track from the albums, and merely present you with the highlights of both albums. The main album is the bands latest studio album Living In Reverse that is due to be released next month. This album will be released on CD and also in the form of a Digital Download. CRACKOLOGY on the other hand will be released in the form of a Digital Download only, and this is the album I will take on first in my review here.


Crack The Sky’s new compilation album CRACKOLOGY will be officially released on the 24th August 2018. The album is not just a compilation in the way that it contains tracks from the bands back catalogue of their discography and placed onto an album. All the songs have been newly re-recorded with the present line-up of the band.

The album itself consists of 12 tracks and has an overall playing time of 73 minutes and 53 seconds. That’s a double albums worth of material you are getting with this release, and there is also a way you can get the entire album free too. I will tell you more about that later on at the end of my review of both albums.

The material the band decided to re-record mainly focuses on the bands 1975 debut album. It also includes newly recorded versions from some of the tracks from the bands 3rd, 4th & 8th albums, plus a couple of tracks have also been re-recorded from their last album released in 2015.

My guessing is that the band have decided to redo their most popular songs, or personal favourites being that there is a lot of albums the band have decided not go nowhere near. I did also notice a lot of these tracks did appear on their live albums and compilation albums over the years with my research too.

Off The Cuff…

Like I said at the beginning I know nothing about the band Crack The Sky and I have to confess upon hearing this album for the first couple of times it was not speaking a lot to me at all, and to be perfectly honest I was at some stage thinking of emailing the person back and telling them I could not do the review, simply because I could not really do the band any justice by doing such a thing.

You must remember the reviews I do on my blog site here are basically of the albums I buy in the first place and are not what people send to me to review. I have had people in past email asking me if I would review their albums, to which I have turned down. This is basically because having heard their music first, I know I could not give it what the person was expecting to get from a review.

It all boils down to personal taste at the end of the day, and I am not for one minute suggesting that their music is rubbish in any way what so ever. I am sure it will appeal to many more people than myself on that score. We are all individuals at the end of the day and we simply cannot like everything, and I am not the type of person that is gonna tell you I like something when I don’t. So if you are looking for hype, try the Rolling Stone magazine LOL..

Honesty is my policy with my reviews and honesty is even in my Christian name Lee. Honest-Lee :))))))).

OK less of the wise cracks and I can tell you honestly that when I first received the email to do this review, I did not do a lot of research on the band before I got back to them and told them I would do it. The two things that made me want to take on the review in the first place was. 1. They was a mainstream band. 2. I was impressed with what little I had seen of them playing live on Youtube.

To be honest I would also jump at the chance if any of the artists in my own personal record collection was to send me their new album to review before it gets released, and I think most reviewers would as well.

Writing a review of any album takes up a lot of time, especially with some of the research I do, and for me it’s an hobby I enjoy doing, even down to listening to an album at least 7 times over before I even begin to write a review, and before I lose complete track of my review of CRACKOLOGY let’s get back to it. It was after giving the album more spins I can tell you that it did start to speak to me a lot more.

Back On Track…

The album kicks off with the first two tracks from their debut album “Hold On / Surf City” that they have put together as one track with their new version of it. I even located the original album on Youtube to make a bit of comparison to see what the band have done with this new version. The original two tracks on the album also ran into each other, only here you get at least a 2.5 minute extension of them.

To be honest considering the original tracks were done some 43 years ago I was quite surprised how well the band have still managed to handle the vocal side of things here. I find the lyrical side of things can be a bit quirky, funny and may even lean towards racism especially on “Surf City“. The bands 4th album was even called White Music and I get the impression that the bands main songwriter John Palumbo was one of those who voted for Donald Trump :)))))))).

Musically there is no doubt the band have beefed things up a bit in comparison to the original version, and they have even incorporated the bass line from “Spirit Of Radio” by Rush into the end of “Surf City“. Though even by doing that, it does not make the music we have here prog rock what so ever, and this is more of a funky approach to rock music and “Surf City” reminds me a lot of the band Nazareth.

Here is the band playing the both songs live back in 2008 and I noticed they even incorporated that Rush bass line into it back then too. No doubt the band do justice to their songs live and are a great live act.

The band then roll out a further 3 tracks from their 1975 debut album and next up we have “She’s A Dancer” and the funky side of things continues here. There is no doubt I get a Nazareth vibe from almost every song these guys do, and it’s most likely down to the nasally thing that both bands have with the vocal side of things.

This is a song that also has quite a catchy hook to it with how it first swings into action, and when they sing “When I look into her eyes” in the chorus section it sort of reminds of the melody line to “The Day I Met Marie” which Hank Marvin wrote for Cliff Richard way back in 1967. Of course it’s not that song, or even has the slower tempo with how Cliff sang it, but for some reason it has me singing the opening words from that song “Imagine a cold summers day”.

I also like how this particular song changes to end it all off with the horn section doing something more along the funky lines of The Average White Band. It’s still not prog rock by any means but has great progression and diversity and I quite like this one. Having gave the original version a blast to make a comparison with this version, I think the band did more less the same thing on this new version. However I do not think they quite captured the horn section as well like the original and I prefer the original.

There is no doubt that the bands debut album must mean a lot to them and their fans, and both “Ice” and “Robots for Ronnie” they decided to redo, are up next. The first of the 2 is some 5 minutes longer than the original track from the album. Although this was not that unusual for the band to do and they could stretch this one out to 12 minutes and more at their live shows from what I gathered from my research.

The band are also heading along the lines of prog rock with this newer stretched out version of the song, but Crack The Sky are no more prog rock than bands like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath or even Nazareth for that matter. But no matter if it’s prog rock, rock, pop or any other any genre for that matter, what matters most is the art of composition, and if something is genuinely well written it will speak to me. Even though the original version of “Ice” is pretty much OK. I do feel this version is much better and the band have done an excellent job of it here.

Robots for Ronnie” is another very well written song and I very much like the subject matter and the lyrical content within the song. There is also a funny whimsical side or even weird approach to them, though they also have a serious parenting side look of things. Especially in this day and age with bullying and all that. Musically and even lyrically its perhaps something along the lines of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Next up the band redo 3 songs from their 3rd album Safety in Numbers which was released back in 1978. Oddly enough the bands main songwriter John Palumbo had left the band at this stage and never appeared on the album. However the band did use 2 of his songs he wrote plus another track he co-wrote with some of the other members of the band back then.

The songs they chose to revitalise from the album are “Nuclear Apathy“. “Long Nights” and “Lighten Up McGraw“. The latter of the 3 is the only song on this whole album that was not written by John Palumbo and was credited to Rob StevensRick Witkowski and Joe Macre. The fact that Palumbo was not on the original recordings means that you are most likely to get a bit of a different vibe from these newer versions.

Nuclear Apathy” is the longest of the 3 and this is another fine song that contains some great diversity and progression along it’s path. There is also something quirky going on with the timing of the drums when they come into play during the acoustic opening of the song. Whoever is singing during this intro has a great voice and is quite different to the vocals on the original which is more of a double tracked harmony vocal. The band do not fall back into the acoustic intro on this newer version either and cut it short by half a minute, but it’s another really great song and I like both versions to be honest.

Having listened to the original version of “Lighten Up McGraw” I get more of a Status Quo vibe from it, particularly with how the band sing it. With this new version I certainly get more of a Nazareth vibe from it. “Long Nights” is another well written song where it’s lyrical content takes in the subject matter of a man losing his wife and being left on his own alone, and his son feeling his pain and wishing he could end it all for him, so he could be up there in heaven with his wife.

Both its vocal line and the structure of the music with its melody lines have quite a few familiarities about it with several other songs I have heard over the years. Both this and the original version are great, and this version uses the acoustic piano rather than an electric one.

John Palumbo made his return to the band in 1980 and both these next two songs the band have decided to re-record was originally on the bands 4th album White Music which was released in the same year. The first of them “Skin Deep” sees the band returning to the more funked up vibe they had with the first couple of tracks from their debut album. “Hot Razors in My Heart” is more of a rock ballad with weird lyrics :)))))). Both songs are OK but perhaps a bit more on the mediocre side of things. They do not really light my fire but I am sure others will see a lot more in them than myself on that score.

Next up we have the self titled album track which was originally from their 1989 album From The Greenhouse. I quite like this one and once again it’s more like a rock ballad but it flows very well and says a lot more to myself. There is some nice acoustic guitar and it has a very tasty electric guitar solo thrown in to boot too.

The final 2 songs they chose to redo here are from the bands 2015 album The Beauty Of Nothing. The band rock out “Rachel” well enough and the album gets put to bed with the self titled album track “The Beauty Of Nothing” which is accompanied with some fine strings too, and it ends off with a very long guitar section that is a bit reminiscent along the lines to Neil Young’sHurricane“.

Overall CRACKOLOGY is an album that does not represent quite an anthology of the bands output over the past 40 years, and there is quite a lot of albums they never considered redoing material from. I guess they wanted to showcase some of the bands best songs and those that appeal more to their audience. I think it’s certainly an album that will appeal to the bands fans and more besides I feel.

Having listened to the bands debut album as well I myself would of liked them to have done “A Sea Epic” and I certainly felt that was one of the strongest songs on that album. There is no doubt that even though the band Crack The Sky may very well be American. I personally feel that they latched on to some of the rock bands that we had here in UK back in the 70’s and they do remind me of the Scottish band Nazareth to some extent.

My personal highlights from the album are “Nuclear Apathy“. “Ice” “Robots for Ronnie“. “She’s A Dancer“. “Long Nights” and “From The Greenhouse“.

The album tracks are as follows: 1. Hold On / Surf City. 9:34. 2. She’s A Dancer. 4:29. 3. Ice. 9:40. 4. Robots For Ronnie. 5:16. 5. Nuclear Apathy. 8:01. 6. Lighten Up McGraw. 5:10. 7. Long Nights. 3:56. 8. Skin Deep. 4:23. 9. Hot Razors. 5:57. 10. From The Greenhouse. 6:05. 11. Rachel. 4:53. 12. The Beauty Of Nothing. 6:29.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.



The bands latest album Living In Reverse that is scheduled to be released next month on the 24th August is another album that contains 12 tracks to which are spanned over a playing time 50 minutes, 13 seconds. The album will be released on their new record label they have just signed up too Loud & Proud Records. Maybe there is a Nazareth connection after all :))))))))). R-2072343-1288529045.jpegI have to confess I quite like the artwork for Crack The Sky’s new album and it was painted by the bands main songwriter John Paulumbo and it looks a damn site better than the artwork that Nazareth got back in 1973. There is also no doubt that Crack The Sky are trying their hand at a completely new modern approach with the new material they have written for this new album, and have left whatever traces they may of had of Nazareth or any other band they sounded like, including themselves to some extent way behind.

From the moment the album kicks off with the opening song “Talk Talk” you are going to instantly notice quite a change from anything this band has ever done before in the past. The band say they are new genre defying crack tracks and they are not wrong either. There is no doubt this album is showcasing a new approach to the bands music and giving it a more modern and popular music twist. Yet it still has the energy and raw power to rock as well. I have no idea who done the production, but my guess is that whoever produced this album they had never worked with them before. If they did I am quite amazed.

Off The Cuff…

I have to confess over the many decades I have been listening to music I was never one really for change. Most artists and bands tend to change their style now and then to try and keep things more fresh and try something different. Some even change their style to try and stay in the limelight with what’s popular in the charts, and some completely change from one genre of music to another.

The band Genesis are a perfect example of doing just that. There is also no doubt that Genesis achieved far more success by doing such a thing as well. But I myself despised them for doing such a thing. For any artist or band to make changes to their music I quite often find that at least 90 percent of the time it will put me off them completely. Basically this is down to them not saying the same thing that I brought their music for in the first place, and their music no longer speaks to me like it used too.

Crack The Sky are not the first band to try and incorporate more modern elements of pop music into their own music. More recently I seen some of these modern elements appear on Magenta’s new album We Are Legend.  Also with Frost*’s album Falling Satellites that got released last year, and I have to say these type of modern elements do not impress me one bit. If they did I would be buying all the crap that I hear in today’s pop  charts, and that is something that will never happen I am afraid. Thankfully both of those neo prog rock bands never went completely over the top :))))))).

So just what have these new modern elements done for a band like Crack The Sky. Well coming from somebody who as only recently heard some of their older material from their back catalogue, there is no doubt they come across like many other great rock bands, and no doubt just like many rock bands they have their own approach and style to their music and they have written some pretty good songs along the way too.

But I can also see in some respect why this band never really got quite the recognition that most of their fans seem to think they should of got. And basically it boils down to the fact that they are not doing that much different in relation to the millions of rock bands there are out there, and even though they are without doubt a great live act and I would even pay money to see them if they were to come over here. I personally do not think the written material is not consistent and steady enough for them to break out and make a real impact, to be able to reach a much wider audience.

The fact there are literally millions of artists and bands making music today, makes it a lot more harder for any band to make any impact today on a wider audience, and to do so in many cases you may just have to go down this more modern popular road to create a bit more of a stir.

Back On Track…

There is no doubt that Crack The Sky are trying to reach out to more people with the new changes they have made to their music and the particular modern edge they have put to it with how they present it to to you on their new album Living In Reverse that is due for release next month. To be perfectly honest the way the band have gone with this more modern approach I personally feel works 100% and this certainly appeals more to me than what both the bands Magenta and Frost* tried to do on their last albums with all the modern synth and reverse sounds that are more commonly associated with today’s modern popular chart music.

Quite a few of the songs on the album Living In Reverse do have more of a popular music approach with how they have gone about things here, and to be perfectly honest this is not the sort of thing that normally would appeal to myself. But this new albums speaks more to me than what they have done over the past 40 odd years, and this is certainly more of a solid album in relation to CRACKOLOGY and that supposed to be more like there greatest hits sort of thing.

Not everything on the bands new album is perhaps what I would call new genre defying crack tracks, but the way the tracks have been placed throughout the album and the production makes even the more familiar rock tracks blend in very well with it all, and even some of those type of tracks on the album have more of a raunchy sound and feel about them especially “Raining Rain“. “Red Rosary” and “I’m On The Radio, Mom“. Even the albums self titled track “Living In Reverse” could be seen like more of a modern day approach to the Beatles in some respects.

Whilst tracks like “Talk Talk” .”Big Dipper“. “Jacket“. “Bang“. “I’m A Good Man” and “Hit” certainly have been given this more modern day treatment and the latter of those 6 songs even has “Hit” potential I feel. There is no doubt the band are using reverse effects and all sorts here, yet there is still some raw power in quite a few of these new genre crack tracks as well. Some of them may even present the band a bit of problem bringing them to stage at their live shows.

My personal highlights from the album are “Raining Rain“. “Red Rosary“. “Living In Reverse“. “I’m On The Radio, Mom“. “Bang“. “I’m A Good Man” and “Hit“.

The album tracks are as follows: 1. Talk Talk. 4:47. 2. Living In Reverse. 3:56. 3. Raining Rain. 4:16. 4. Red Rosary. 3:56. 5. Hit. 4:13. 6. Big Dipper. 4:35. 7. I’m On The Radio, Mom. 4:00. 8. Jacket. 3:40. 9. I’m Alright Now. 4:20. 10. Bang. 4:10. 11. I’m A Good Man. 4:03. 12. Home Tonight. 4:17.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.


Two For The Price Of One.

Both of Crack The Sky’s new albums Living In Reverse and CRACKOLOGY can be had for the price of one from PledgeMusic here: https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/crackthesky simply by pre-ordering the bands 17th album Living In Reverse that will be officially released on the 24th August 2018. You can pre-order the bands latest album in the form of a digital download for $15 or on CD for $18 equivalent to £11 & £14 in the UK respectively. Either way you get CRACKOLOGY for free which is in the form of a digital download only.

PledgeMusic is a site that was set up to help musicians, and let’s face it most artists and bands need all the support they can get these days with how little music sells. It’s also aimed at the artists fanbase too and you can buy lots of other trinkets from there like you could from the bands official website. No doubt the album Living In Reverse will be sold at other outlets too, but to get your free digital download of CRACKOLOGY you can only do so by using the PledgeMusic website.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my rather long pre-release review here of the both albums. I would very much say that the fact you can get them both for the price of one it’s well worth doing so. Both albums have something new for the bands fans and I would even think this offer was a must for their fans too, and they will get a real treat from taking advantage of this offer.

But even for those like myself who have only just came across Crack The Sky’s music or never even heard of anything by them before. I think both albums are great, especially the latest album Living In Reverse. I am quite hooked on the album and by this new approach the band have done here, and it really suits them as well I feel. I also feel that this particular album will appeal to many others too with its modern pop twist and overall edge the album presents you with. It really is a great piece of work and album.

I think the band are onto a winner with their latest album, and for those who purchase it, I also think they are very much onto a winner as well. As for myself you may think I am on a winner by getting the both albums via digital download free to make my review here. But I genuinely do support music, and when music is as good this, I will also buy it. I also love the physical product as well and have pre-ordered the CD. I shall also do a full review Living In Reverse when it arrives too.

Lee Speaks About Music… #90

A Kingdom Of Colours II (2004 – 2013 Box Set) – The Flower Kings



Well it’s time for another box set review and this is the follow up of The Flower Kings studio albums they have just recently released and it completes the discography of the bands studio albums. A Kingdom Of Colours II is very much a lavish box set that very much has style and is constructed in exactly the same way as the first box set that got released last year, only it comes in a different colour with a different collage of a picture.

For those who missed my review of A Kingdom Of Colours by The Flower Kings you can find it here: https://wordpress.com/post/leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/42753

It’s been almost 5 years since The Flower Kings released their last album Desolation Rose back in 2013 and since then even the bands official website has disappeared. The only activity regarding the band in the last 7 months as very much been the release of these 2 box sets consisting of the bands entire studio album discography. It makes you wonder if Roine Stolt as decided to put an end to the band he started back in 1994.

However this is not the first time it as taken 5 years for another of The Flower Kings studio albums to surface, and back in 2007 after the release of The Sum Of No Evil it was not until 2012 that we got to see the bands 11th album Back To Eden hit the shelves so to speak. So there still maybe some hope of a return, and one can never write off the possibility either.

A Kingdom Of Colours II (2004 – 2013) In Review…

A Kingdom Of Colours II by The Flower Kings was released on the 22nd June 2018. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon 3 months ago back on the 22nd March and it arrived on the same day of its release. This new box set contains 9 CD’s and once again comes at the same bargain price as the previous box set, and can be had for around £35.

The box set comes with The Flower Kings last 5 studio albums they released between 2004 – 2013 to which one of those albums is a double album. It also comes with 3 bonus discs and just like the previous box set it’s also a Limited Edition Box Set to which only 3,000 copies have been made. It really is great value for the money and makes a great collector’s edition too.

So before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and contents.

The Packaging & Contents…


The Box.

The CD’s come in a very lavish very well constructed cardboard box. This box is a lot better than any clamshell box and is much better quality with how it’s been constructed too. They have very nicely used a collage of the albums artwork covers to make the artwork picture on the front of the box. The lid fits on very nice and snug and as you can see by the indentation in the picture above its around 3 quarters of the length of the box.

The other thing I did pick up with this box is that unlike the last box set they made, this one comes with a white soft sponge (that can be removed) at the back of the lower part of the box has you can see in the picture below.

Inside Box

No doubt the sponge acts like a padding and prevents the contents in the box from rattling about. It also gives the contents more of a snug fit too. But in reality this box set comes with 1 disc less than the previous box set. But it also comes with less Gatefold Sleeves as well. So that’s why it’s most likely been used and it’s not been purposely designed like this to hold future releases.

The Contents.


As you can see from the picture above all the discs come in cardboard wallets and unlike the previous box set, we only get 1 double album here that comes in a gatefold sleeve. Each album comes with the original artwork too and they represent a mini version of a vinyl album quite well.

Because of the way everything as been done this way there is nowhere to store all of the individual booklets for the albums. But it does come with a very thick 138 page booklet that contains all the albums lyrics, credits and production linear notes for every album apart from the 3 bonus discs. It also comes with a bit of informative information and pictures.

It’s a very well made detailed booklet. However the fact that there is no information of when the bonus material was made and where it came from for the 3 bonus CD’s you get here. Does not really help a reviewer like myself and I shall have to spend a lot more time doing some research on the net to find out the source of the material.

As it’s a limited box set. It also comes with a certificate showing you which number box set you have out of the 3,000 that have been made. Mine is 180.

The Albums In Review…

Because this is a box set and there is a lot to get through, I am only going to focus on the highlights of the albums and not go into great depth of all the individual album tracks like I do on most reviews. I shall also review each album as they was originally released in chronological order. So now without any further adieu, let’s get down to the album reviews.


Adam & Eve

Adam & Eve is the 8th Studio album by The Flower Kings. It was released on the 3rd August 2004 and the album contains 10 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 78 minutes, 4 seconds. The bands main writer and guy behind the band Roine Stolt very much likes to get more or less the maximum use out of a blank disc and tends to fill them up with as much information he can cram on them.

I myself prefer the old 40 minute album time slot, especially when you have a large record collection. It helps you to devote more time to your collection as well. I cannot say I am a fan of this longer time slot and even down to the fact that this album is classed as a single album, it takes up the time slot of a double album back in 70’s, and an album this size would benefit more by sticking it on 2 discs in reality.

I am not saying I cannot sit here and listen to the whole album in one sitting. But I do feel making single albums this long will have some downfalls. The first being that it will certainly be a lot harder to make a solid album over this distance, and some could not even do that over 40 minutes never mind the 78 minutes we have here. So most albums this long do tend to come with gap fillers.

Secondly unless you can be completely on your own. The chances are that you have got more chance of being disturbed whilst listening to the album. And last of all. Albums this length may have also contributed as to why these days people would rather buy single tracks than albums.

Unless you are a serious music listener like myself, an album this long will be too much for some people. It’s not a case of the artist giving you extra value for the money at all, and I have never seen the longer album in that way. The art of making a good album is so that when the last track on the album finishes, it leaves the listener wanting more. By giving them more in the first place is never really gonna do the trick I am afraid.

But for those serious die hard music listeners when this album was released they also released a Japanese Edition that came with a bonus disc with 9 bonus tracks. Although 6 of them was originally released on the limited 2 disc edition of The Rainmaker. The other 3 tracks were bonus tracks that were left over from the Space Revolver album sessions.

The album Adam & Eve was recorded at the Cosmic Lodge from Jauuary – May 2004. Both the drums and bass were recorded at Reingold Studios. All music and lyrics written by Roine Stolt with the exception of “Babylon” & “Days Gone By” by Tomas Bodin and “Timelines” by Jonas Reinglod & Roine Stolt. The album was produced by Roine Stolt  and assisted by Tomas Bodin. The albums layout was by Hippified Art and the cover painting was by Ciruelo Cabral.

No real change in the band line-up that appeared on their previous album Unfold The Future apart from there was no guest musicians on this album. Daniel Gildenlöw was also no longer a guest and had now joined the band permanently. Although that did not last for long, and this was the only album he appeared on as an official member of the band.

The line-up of musicians are as follows: Roine Stolt: Vocals/Acoustic & Electric Guitars. Tomas Bodin: Keyboards. Jonas Reingold: Basses. Zoltán Csörsz: Drums. Hasse Fröberg: Vocals. Daniel Gildenlöw: Vocals. Hans Bruniusson: Percussion.

With myself going on about the length of albums being too long earlier, I would not exactly accuse Roine Stolt of making extra long albums and filling them up with gap fillers. Stolt is a workaholic when it comes to songwriting hence the amount of the material he does tend to put on his albums. He is also a very good songwriter too.

However I do feel that a lot of the melody lines he does use for his songs can sound very familiar, and a lot of his output of material can sometimes be like listening to same thing that came from other albums of The Flower Kings on that score. I would also say that this particular album Adam & Eve is not really one of my go to albums of the band for that reason as well. But that’s not to say it’s a bad album at all, and there is some very strong written material to be found on this album.

For example the 2nd track on the album “Cosmic Circus” will perhaps take you back to the album Stardust We Are. The same thing could be said of “A Vampire’s View” although this does have a bit more theatrics about it, but it also does contain that circus and carnival vibe too we got from that same album. But Stolt does tend to get off on that whole fun of the fair carnival ride into the land of theatrics.

Nothing wrong with that at all, and it’s something that can be very well portrayed in his music at times and shines for it at times too. I would even say the latter of those two tracks is the better of them. Even though Tomas Bodin wrote a couple of ditties for the album  with “Babylon” and “Days Gone By” they too can sometimes have that familiarity of older tracks too, but at the end of the day he’s keeping it all to that familiar sound that is associated with the band. The latter of these two I would also say was the better.

The album comes with a couple of lengthy epic tracks too, the first of which “Love Supreme” opens up the album and weighs in at some 19 minutes, 43 seconds. The 2nd of them “Driver’s Seat” comes towards the end of the album and is precisely 1 minute and 23 seconds shorter. No doubt you will hear some familiar lines on both of these couple of tracks and the albums self titled track “Adam & Eve” even regurgitates the main theme from the opening track on the album.

All 3 of these tracks plus “A Vampire’s View” I feel are the strength of the album. Though personally even though the both lengthier tracks of the 4 here are quite good, I do not really see them having quite the strength of both the “The Truth Will Set You Free” and “Devil’s Playground” from their previous album or many of the bands other long epics for that matter. Oddly enough the much shorter self titled album track “Adam & Eve” merits my top spot award on this album.

The remaining 3 tracks “Starlight Man“. “Timelines” and “The Blade of Cain” are a bit more on the mediocre side and my least favourite tracks on the album. “Starlight Man” does not really speak to me a lot and “Timelines” starts off very promising with its Frank Zappa esc vibe, but then it tends to fizzle its way out and the life sort of gets sucked out of it. “The Blade of Cain” for the most of it is an instrumental piece that contains a few words at the end to work as a sort of reprise of the opening track on the album. I think it’s a nice enough track but it tends to sound a bit disjointed and a bit out of place as the albums closing track.

Overall the bands 8th album Adam & Eve I do not see as one of the bands stronger albums and it’s not even a near enough solid album. Others no doubt may see this album differently to how I see it for that matter and rate it a lot more. Personally I felt a lot of the written material was embarking on older ground, and it was made at a time when Stolt was also busy with both Transatlantic and The Tangent. His mind may have been not totally focused on this particular album.

Despite all that, the album still does have some good moments though, and I would not say it was a bad album either. I cannot fault the albums lyrics and Roine Stolt as always done well on the lyrical side of things and he got his inspiration from Joni Mitchell’s Travelogue album whilst recording this album. My personal highlights from the album are “Adam & Eve“. “Driver’s Seat“. “A Vampire’s View” and “Love Supreme“.

Adam Was Handsome But Somewhat Bizarre, He Looked At Himself Like Some Kind Of Pornstar…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Love Supreme. 19:43. 2. Cosmic Circus. 3:12. 3. Babylon. 2:34. 4. A Vampire’s View. 8:48. 5. Days Gone By. 1:13. 6. Adam & Eve. 7:57. 7. Starlight Man. 3:31. 8. Timelines. 7:43. 9. Driver’s Seat. 18:20. 10. The Blade of Cain. 5:03.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.



Paradox Hotel

The bands 9th album Paradox Hotel was released on the 4th April 2006. Its another double album, and the 4th double studio album the band have made. Though in reality I find most of The Flower KIngs releases are like double albums with all the material that gets rammed onto a single disc, and ones like this are more like a 4 album box set :)))))).

You would need 4 vinyl albums to fit all the material comfortably that is on a 2 CD Set like this as well. So my bit of humour regarding the 4 album box set, is in fact the real reality of it all. Do you still think albums these days are not too long :))))).

The 1st CD contains 10 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 72 minutes, 52 seconds. The 2nd CD comes with 9 tracks and has an overall playing time of 63 minutes and 3 seconds. The album was produced by Roine Stolt and assisted by Tomas Bodin as ever and the album tracks were recorded at various locations between November 2005 – January 2006. The albums cover art  and booklet illustrations was done by Andres Pablo Valle.

The Flower Kings by now were always having a bit of a problem keeping a permanent drummer and Daniel Gildenlöw and Zoltán Csörsz had left the band. Gildenlöw left because of touring problems that would confront him and he refused to submit biometric data which was required to enter the USA. Csörsz had other plans of his own, though he did return for the bands next album.

The band recruited session player Marcus Liliequist to fill in for the spot on the drums. Although this is the only studio album of the band he was featured on, he also went on tour with the band afterwards to promote the album and also appears on the bands official DVD release of Instant Delivery which is an excellent live DVD I do also have.

The line-up of musicians are as follows: Roine Stolt: Lead Vocals/Guitars. Tomas Bodin: Keyboards. Jonas Reingold: Bass. Marcus Liliequist: Drums. Hasse Fröberg: Lead Vocals/Additional Guitar. Hans Bruniusson: The Odd Bit Of Percussion.

The double album Paradox Hotel is very much a nonstop concept album where each track runs into one another as it goes along. The double album is also split into 2 parts to represent two different rooms in the hotel. The 1st album is room 111 and the 2nd room 222. This album is more to my particular taste and has the power to excite and tone things down a bit very well.

It speaks a lot more to me than their previous album Adam & Eve and the material is more fresh, and even has a newer edge and approach to it all. I also feel it’s one of their stronger albums and certainly one of my more to go albums too. It’s also an album where Stolt allowed the other members of the band a bit more leeway with the writing credits, although most of the albums tracks are written by himself.

The album kicks off with a little bit of fun with “Check In” a title that one would presume relates to checking into an hotel, only here we are sort of at the Nasa control centre listening to the countdown of an Apollo mission only to find out they are about to play a bit of table tennis :))))). It sort of brings back the “Rhythm of Life” from the bands 2nd album Retropolis to which was also a Tomas Bodin idea.

Once the bit of fun is out the way we get down to the more serious stuff and get the longest track on the entire double album “Monsters & Men“. This one’s some 21:19 long and most of the other tracks on the album are relatively a lot shorter and the nearest to it appears at the start of the 2nd album with “Minor Giant Steps” which weighs in at 12 minutes. 13 seconds. Both tracks are very strong contenders for the top spot on the album but there is that much good stuff on this album, I personally could not pick a favourite and the album works very well as an whole.

The material on both CD’s is really excellent and very well written. I also like how all the tracks have been placed on the album too, and on the first disc for example you have a track like “Jealousy” which is perhaps more subtle and intimate and is immediately followed up by “Hit Me with A Hit“. Which at first might appear to be a pop song, but as it goes along you soon get to see that is far from the case with the bags of progression and transitional changes they have thrown in.

I personally do not feel that there is a bad track throughout the album and because there is so much here I am only really gonna highlight some of the tracks like I have been doing already here. Other great tracks on the 1st album are “Lucy Had a Dream“. “Mommy Leave the Light On” and “End on a High Note“.

Other highlights from the 2nd album are the “The Unorthodox Dancinglesson” which is an instrumental track and is quite like a cross between King Crimson & Frank Zappa. The Hasse Fröberg penned track “Life Will Kill You” is a smash and brilliant track. The albums self titled track “Paradox Hotel“is the Rocker of the album and “Blue Planet” has the right mood to put the album to bed perfectly.

Overall I quite like the slightly more modern approach you get from Paradox Hotel. Just like Unfold The Future this for me is one of The Flower Kings better double albums and is almost on par with that album. There is not a lot you can fault here and it’s more or less a solid album with the material that was written for it.

The Puppeteer Is Sending All His Boys To Kingdom Come…

The album track listing is as follows: Disc 1: 1. Check In. 1:38. 2. Monsters & Men (I. Seasons of War. II Prophets and Preachers. III. Silnet River). 21:19. 3. Jealousy. 3:20. 4. Hit Me with a Hit. 5:31. 5. Pioneers of Aviation. 7:42. 6. Lucy Had a Dream. 5:28. 7. Bavarian Skies. 6:38. 8. Selfconsuming Fire. 5:54. 9. Mommy Leave the Light On. 4:39. 10. End on a High Note. 10:43.

Disc 2: 1. Minor Giant Steps. 12:13. 2. Touch My Heaven. 6:08. 3. The Unorthodox Dancinglesson. 5:22. 4. Man of the World. 5:59. 5. Life Will Kill You. 7:02. 6. The Way the Waters Are Moving. 3:10. 7. What If God Is Alone. 6:59. 8. Paradox Hotel. 6:29. 9. Blue Planet. 9:43.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.



The Sum Of No Evil

The Flower Kings 10th studio album The Sum Of No Evil was recorded, mixed and mastered between March – July 2007. The album was produced by Roine Stolt and he also wrote all the material except for “Flight 999 Brimstone Air” to which was written by Tomas Bodin. The albums cover artwork was done by Ed Unitsky.

It was released on the 25th September 2007 and the album itself contains 6 tracks spanned over an overall playing time of 74 minutes, 55 minutes. The drummer Zoltán Csörsz had once again returned to the fold for the final time and the line-up of musicians are as follows:

Roine Stolt: Vocals/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Additional Keyboards. Tomas Bodin: Hammond/Mini Moog/Grand Piano/Rhodes & Wurlizer Pianos/Synth & Mellotron. Jonas Reingold: Fender Bass. Hasse Fröberg: Vocal & Guitar. Zoltán Csörsz: Drums. Hans Bruniusson: Marimba/Glockenspiel/Percussion. Ulf Wallander: Soprano Saxophone.

The Sum Of No Evil is quite a different album and the band have no doubt come out of their shell a bit on this album and the musicians are stretching themselves out to the limit and beyond. There is quite a massive Frank Zappa influence on this album in parts too, along with many influences from other bands this is quite a melting pot of excellent progression and diversity. There is certainly a lot of complexed material along the lines of the album too.

Most of the material is quite lengthy and 3 of its tracks range between the 12.5 – 13.5 minute mark. And if those are not long enough for you the 2nd track on the album “Love Is The Only Answer” weighs in at 24 minutes and 28 seconds. There is quite a bit of the Zappa influence on this particular track and it has bags of diversity and progression amongst its path and just likes Frank Zappa’s music it’s also very complexed and a very strong contender for the top spot on the album.

The albums opening track “One More Time” kicks the album off in the bands familiar great style and takes even more shape from the 6:28 mark and contains some really excellent and exciting keyboard work amongst other things. It’s all quite complexed with some excellent transitional changes. It another contender for the top spot on the album.

You also get some more Zappa vibes and complexity coming from the albums self titled track “The Sum Of No Evil” and this is another superb track and merits my top spot of the album award, though I have to confess it was certainly an hard decision to make especially with how a lot of the tracks on this album are very well worked out superb compositions and are very strong.

Trading My Soul” is the only track on the album that really simmers things down a bit and Zoltán Csörsz’s return to the band was not wasted either and he features heavily on the shortest track on the album “Flight 999 Brimstone Air“. The final track on the album “Life In Motion” also has some real great progression and is another very well written composition and ends the album off superbly.

To sum up The Sum Of No Evil by The Flower Kings. It’s almost like an album that’s come from a different mould with how they have gone about things and presented the album. It’s also perhaps in some way one of the most complexed albums that the band have ever produced as well. They have even pushed their own boundaries I feel and it’s a very well worked out album that even feels like the band have come up with a new approach even though their distinctive style is still very much dominant.

It’s also near enough a solid album with how well and strong the material has been written and my personal highlights are the “The Sum Of No Evil“. “Love Is The Only Answer“. “One More Time” and “Life In Motion“.

Heaven Is A Place Where Wealthy People Meet….

The album track listing is as follows: 1. One More Time. 13:04. 2. Love Is The Only Answer. 24:28. 3. Trading My Soul. 6:25. 4. The Sum Of No Reason. 13:25. 5. Flight 999 Brimstone Air. 5:00. 6. Life In Motion. 12:33.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.



Banks Of Eden

It was to be a good long 5 years before the next album the Banks Of Eden came to surface by The Flower Kings. Many of the band members including Stolt himself spent some time away from each other to allow time for them all to work on other projects. For awhile now it seemed that most of the band were happy to be part of The Flower Kings but keeping a permanent drummer was becoming a bit of a problem for them.

The young German born drummer Felix Lehrmann was the guy chosen to fill the vacant band spot. Lehrmann had started his professional career on the drums when he was 17 when he embarked on his first European tour with Della Miles. Since 2002 he had worked with the band Rivo Drei and played in many other band projects and also done a lot of session work. He even played drums on Jennifer Rush’s 2010 album Now Is The Hour. So no doubt he was getting around a bit and Roin Stolt soon picked up on the young man’s talent and skills.

The Flower Kings 11th studio album Banks Of Eden was recorded between January – March 2012 and was released later that same year on the 18th June. The album itself contains 5 tracks and amazingly comes with a more moderate time slot of 53 minutes, 57 seconds. It’s the shortest album of all the bands studio albums and personally I think it benefits the shorter time slot making it much more easier to digest and get into. Even more so if you never had the original albums and you have all the albums in this box set to digest and get into as well.

Most of the albums in this box set though, also came in the form of limited editions that came with bonus discs, and this one originally came with 4 bonus tracks on the bonus disc. These have been included among with many others on the 3 bonus discs you get with this box set. Oddly enough they even put out a vinyl release of the album out at the same time, and the because the main albums was near enough 54 minutes they had to release it as a double album and included the bonus tracks on the vinyl release too.

The album was produced, mixed and mastered by Roine Stolt and the albums artwork was done by Silas Toball. The musicians are: Roine Stolt: Vocals/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Additional Keyboards. Tomas Bodin: Keyboards. Jonas Reingold: Bass/Bass Pedal/Acoustic Guitar/Vocals. Hasse Fröberg: Vocals & Guitar. Felix Lehrmann: Drums. It also features vocals from Inger Ohlen-Reingold on “Rising The Imperial“.

Despite the 5 year break The Flower Kings had lost nothing regarding their sound and style and the title of this particular being the Banks Of Eden may suggest that it may of been a sequel to the 2004 album Adam & Eve though I am pretty sure it’s not and its just another collection of songs. Some reviewers have put this album down as a darker sounding album with the material that was written for it, but for me personally this album sounds much more lighter and airy and has quite a fresh feel about it.

The albums kicks off with a twenty five and half minute epic entitled “Numbers” and like many of the bands longer pieces that go over this long distance, they always tend to make them interesting by putting in many transitional changes and the right amount of chord progression to take the music in other directions and to other places. I feel the band have done it very well here too, though I personally do not think it’s in league with some of the bands earlier epics that go over this distance. Never the less “Numbers” is a great track and contender for the top spot on the album. It’s also one of the 3 of the tracks on this album that was written solely by Roine Stolt.

Next up we have a Stolt/Bodin composition entitled “For The Love Of Gold” and I get a bit of an Anderson/Bruford/Wakeman/Howe feel about this song in parts for some reason, that comes from that sort of calypso vibe they had on one of the tracks from that particular one off album they made. This one is also quite sprightly and airy with its approach and certainly does have that “Brother of Mine” feel mixed along with some other more familiar style melodies of their own.

Pandemonium” is the shortest track on the album with it’s 6:29 time slot and is another of the songs on the album that contains some fine progression and some rather odd vocals too. There is no doubt that the band are trying to go about things a bit differently here, but still manage to keep their distinctive style. This track maybe the shortest on the album but for me it merits my top spot of the album award. It gets followed up by “For Those About To Drown” and both of these tracks were penned by Stolt. This one has a bit of a Beatles feel to it and is another fine song.

The album finishes off with a Jonas Reingold written song that’s entitled “Rising The Imperial“. According to the credits in the booklet it also features Reinglod’s wife Inger on vocals on this song. No doubt she can be heard in some parts on the backing vocals but does not have a major part on the vocals. I quite like Stolt’s guitar on this one and it’s not a bad song, but nothing that will set the world on fire I feel. But ends the album off sweetly enough.

Overall the Banks Of Eden by The Flower Kings is an album that perhaps has more of a popular music feel to parts of the music mixed in with all the progression you get here. No doubt it’s an album that has a bit more of a light hearted approach in many ways. It also could be seen like a fresh start in some ways I suppose as well. It’s a pleasant enough album that flows very well from start to finish, though it’s perhaps not in contention with many of its predecessors on that score. But never the less a welcoming return after their 5 years break so to speak. My personal highlights from the album are “Numbers” and “Pandemonium“.

Cain Came Back Empty Handed…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Numbers. 25:26. 2. For The Love Of Gold. 7:25. 3. Pandemonium. 6:09. 4. For Those About To Drown. 7:06. 5. Rising The Imperial. 7:51.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.



Desolation Rose

The band managed to keep the same line-up of musicians and in following year and in between March – May they recorded the bands 12th album Desolation Rose. The album was eventually released on the 28th October 2013 and is the latest album of The Flower Kings to date. It could even be the final album of the band, but it’s perhaps too early at this stage to make any real presumptions and this is not the first time it’s took 5 years for an album to surface. As always the album was produced by Roine Stolt and once again the albums artwork was done by Silas Toball.

The album contains 10 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 59 minutes, 34 minutes. The limited edition release also came with an 8 track bonus disc, to which they also have included on one of the bonus discs in this box set. Most of the material on the album is written by Roine Stolt but the interesting thing here is that 3 of the tracks “Sleeping Bones“. “The Resurrected Judas” and “Dark Fascist Skies” were actually credited to the band. I am pretty sure that’s a first. “White Tuxedos” was credited to both Stolt & Reingold.

The album Desolation Rose is very much a concept album and even flows like one too with how all the tracks run along continuously and are joined to each other from start to finish. Though its not a story as such and the concept is more based around the lyrical content and subject matters of war, religion, politics, death and so on. The album also consists of shorter tracks too, and the longest track on the album is the opening track “Tower One” that weighs in at some 13 minutes, 37 seconds.

It’s perhaps not one of those albums that you could play a single track from with how it’s all been put together, but I have no problem with that because it does work very well from start to finish and I quite like what they have done here too.

Once again the band sound fresh yet still have that certain familiarity regarding the bands overall style and sound. I also think the material they have written here is a bit more stronger than their previous album Banks Of Eden. It’s not a solid album by any means and personally I feel it fizzles out a bit more from the half way point towards the end.

Overall Desolation Rose is quite a good album that does not really disappoint and makes quite and enjoyable album to listen to from start to finish. I certainly do not think its one of their albums you are going to pulling classics from to play now and then, like you could do with many of the bands earlier albums. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Tower One“. “White Tuxedos“. and “The Resurrected Judas“.

Dead Eyes Of A Raven Spell Global Disaster…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Tower One. 13:37. 2. Sleeping Bones. 4:16. 3. Desolation Road. 4:00. 4. White Tuxedos. 6:30. 5. The Resurrected Judas. 8:24. 6. The Silent Masses. 6:17. 7. Last Carnivore. 4:22. 8. Dark Fascist Skies. 6:05. 9. Blood of Eden. 3:12. 10. Silent Graveyards. 2:51.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.


Binus Discs 1 -3 - 2

A Kingdom Of Colours II (Bonus Discs 1 – 3)

The box set as I mentioned comes with 3 bonus discs. In total you get 31 tracks spread over the 3 discs most of which came from the bonus discs that came with the limited editions of the albums they released. You also get the odd few that may not have been released before that came from left over tracks they wrote for their albums, and never got included on them. And also the odd tracks that came from Fan Club releases from the bands website. They have also put the bonus material we have here in very much in a chronological order of the years they came out.

To be honest I am a bit disappointed that they have not included all the bonus tracks that came with the limited edition of the bands 2001 album The Rainmaker and have only included 1 of the 6 bonus tracks from that release. I think they have done that with all the earlier albums too that were made before the albums that came in this 2nd box set.

The fact that they never give you any bonus material in the first box set A Kingdom Of Colours does not really help either, and now I am hoping there will be a 3rd box set that will surface in the near future that will include them along with their live albums.


(Bonus Disc 1)

The first of the bonus discs contains material that written between 1996 – 2005. The disc contains 9 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 65 minutes, 31 seconds. Both the first 2 tracks “Kite” and “Buffalo Man” were a couple of tracks that never made the bands 2nd album Retropolis and came from those sessions for the album. However they did surface on a Limited Edition EP that was released in Québec in Canada only in 1998 along with a few other tracks. Both “The Flower King (re-recording 1998)” and also the “Stardust We Are (re-recording 1998)” were originally released on a compilation album the band released in 1998 which was called Scanning The Greenhouse.

Last Exit” was originally released in the year 2000 and came on the Japanese release of Space Revolver that came with a bonus CD containing 5 tracks. 1 of the other tracks from that bonus disc is also included on the 2nd bonus CD that comes with this box set. Both “Brazilian Woman” and “Dexter Frank Jr” came from the Harvest Fan Club release in 2005. This would of been only available from the bands website which is now distinct and no longer there. The track “Space Traveller” was also a fan club release that came out in 2004 and was written by Michael Stolt. And “Agent Supreme” was 1 of the 6 bonus tracks that came from the limited edition of The Rainmaker from 2001.

So as you can see there is quite a mixed bag here regarding the bonus material, and it looks as if they placed the tracks not particularly in the order they came out but near enough. They most likely shifted a couple of tracks around a bit to make it work a bit better and make it feel more like an album sort of the thing.

Overall the bonus material is quite good and they even included a 1998 re-recording of “The Flower King” that came from Roine Stolt’s solo debut album before the actual band The Flower Kings were born so to speak. I personally do not rate this new re-recording in comparison to the original though, and I would say the same thing for the re-recording of “Stardust We Are” as well, but they are not still pretty good and do have a different flavour about them. They are certainly amongst the better material and highlights on this 1st disc, and great to see they have been included here too.

I think it’s easy to see why both “Kite” and “Buffalo Man” never made the Retropolis album and they are both quite weak in comparison to the much stronger material that did wind up on the album. “Last Exit” is OK but perhaps does not make it that well over this distance and gets a tad weaker towards the end. The “Brazilian Woman” is a nice enough piece with nice nylon guitar though with the accordion is perhaps has more of European thing about it.

Dexter Frank Jr” is nice enough slow bit of jazz and I would also include this one amongst the highlights here too, along with the great up-tempo track “Agent Supreme” and the last track “Space Traveller” which is the longest track and instrumental piece on this 1st disc and merits my top spot on this disc. It’s contains some really gorgeous slide playing on the dobro guitar and reminds me of Mark Knopfler. The slide guitar indecently was played by Ola Gustavsson.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Kite. 7:31. 2. Buffalo Man. 5:35. 3. The Flower King (re-recording 1998). 11:44. 4. Stardust We Are (re-recording 1998). 8:57. 5. Last Exit. 9:18. 6. Brazilian Woman. 4:18. 7. Dexter Frank Jr. 2:24. 8. Agent Supreme. 2:34. 9. Space Traveller. 13:10.

Lee’s Bonus Disc 1 Rating Score. 6/10.


(Bonus Disc 2)

The 2nd bonus disc comes with 10 tracks and has an overall time of smack on 53 minutes. The material for this particular disc was written between 2004 – 2007. It opens up with another track from the 2004 Fan Club release album “Petit Heritage” and is followed by “A Good Heart” which is the 2nd track and last of the bonus tracks they have taken from the Japanese release of Space Revolver that came with a 5 track bonus disc. Both “The Crown and The Cross” and “King of Grief” came from the 2005 Harvest Fan Club album release.

She Carved Me a Wooden Heart“. “Space Revolver” and “Jupiter Backwards” came from the Japanese release of the 2004 album Adam & Eve which came with a 9 track bonus disc. The other 6 tracks that on that disc was the same bonus tracks that came with the limited edition of The Rainmaker. The last 3 tracks “The River“. “Turn The Stone” and “Regal Divers” on this 2nd disc come from the limited edition bonus disc of the 2007 album The Sum Of No Evil.

The most interesting thing about this 2nd bonus disc is that all the material they have chosen for it is almost entirely instrumental. I also like the way it’s so very well been compiled as well with the placement of the tracks. In some respects its a bit like a game of 2 halves the way the first 5 tracks are all joined to one another and its a bit like a medieval musical journey.

The remaining 5 tracks are not joined but you still get this feeling of a magical journey with how they flow together especially from tracks 6 & 7 which are still at this point instrumental tracks. I am not for one minute suggesting that the guys in the band cannot sing but this is really sounding like a great album with how things are running along. Tracks 8 & 9 are the only vocal tracks on the album and the final track is an instrumental track that reminds me of the band Focus and puts a great end to this 2nd disc.

Overall the 2nd bonus disc is the best of the 3 you get here. This is very good strong written material that even works like you have another really superb album of The Flower Kings in some respects. It just goes to show that not all bonus material in particular is weak and it may of been the case that it was only ever left off the original albums because it was perhaps not fitting with their plans for them.

There is no doubt that this works like an album and flows superbly with how its been compiled and there is nothing weak here at all. My personal highlights are “The Crown and The Cross“. “King of Grief“. “She Carved Me a Wooden Heart“. “Space Revolver” and “Regal Divers“.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Petit Heritage. 2:02. 2. A Good Heart. 5:21. 3. The Crown and The Cross. 4:57. 4. King of Grief. 3:51. 5. She Carved Me a Wooden Heart. 5:59. 6. Space Revolver. 7:29. 7. Jupiter Backwards. 6:26. 8. The River. 5:44. 9. Turn The Stone. 5:09. 10. Regal Divers. 6:02.

Lee’s Bonus Disc 2 Rating Score. 9/10.


(Bonus Disc 3)

The final bonus disc contains all the bonus material that came from the limited editions of their last 2 albums Banks Of Eden and Desolation Rose. In total you get 12 tracks over a playing time of 53 minutes, 53 seconds. They all run in the same order too and the first of the 4 bonus tracks came from the bonus disc of the Banks Of Eden the 1st being an instrumental piece entitled “Illuminati“. Once again this track has a nice Focus feel about it and I quite like this one.

The following 3 tracks “Fireghosts“. “Going Up” and “LoLines” are all vocal tracks and are all quite good too. My favourite of them perhaps being “Fireghosts“. 3 of the 4 bonus tracks were written by Roine Stolt and “Going Up” was penned by Jonas Reingold.

The remaining 8 tracks came from the Desolation Rose bonus disc which contains only 2 vocal tracks “Runaway Train” has a sort of Neal Morse vibe about it, especially with the use of the counter harmonies. But it’s perhaps one of the weaker tracks of the bunch here. The other vocal track “Lazy Monkey” is one of the shortest tracks on the album and is a very well written song. I like this one a lot and it’s my favourite track on this 3rd bonus disc.

The other 6 Instrumental tracks are all quite good “Interstellar Visitations” is the longest track on the album, and to be honest most of the tracks on this bonus disc are quite short. But that can also be a good thing at times. “Psalm” is the shortest track on the album and this has quite a lovely feel and flow to it and is quite subtle like the last track on the album “The Final Era“.

The other 3 instrumental pieces are quite more interesting and “The Wailing Wall” has a bit of a Ritchie Blackmore feel about it. Whilst “Badbeats” has a Santana feel in parts and “Burning Spears” has quite a Marillion feel about it, especially how it opens up, it’s almost like an intro to “Incommunicado“.

Overall the 3rd bonus disc is not as strong as the 2nd bonus disc but there is quite a few good tracks here to enjoy. My personal highlights are as follows: “Lazy Monkey“. “Illuminati“. “The Wailing Wall“. “Fireghosts” “Burning Spears” and “The Final Era“.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Illuminati. 5:56. 2. Fireghosts. 5:50. 3. Going Up. 5:10. 4. LoLines. 4:24. 5. Runaway Train. 4:41. 6. Interstellar Visitations. 8:24. 7. Lazy Monkey. 2:24. 8. Psalm. 2:10. 9. The Wailing Wall. 3:18. 10. Badbeats. 5:24. 11. Burning Spears. 3:15. 12. The Final Era. 2:57.

Lee’s Bonus Disc 3 Rating Score. 6/10.



To sum up my review of The Flower Kings box set A Kingdom Of Colours II (2004 – 2013). Once again they have done the business on the packaging and presented it very neatly in a very well constructed attractive looking quality box. The second half of The Flower Kings discography still sees the band churning out some really great output with the 5 albums they made from 2004 – 2013. Personally for me both the double album Paradox Hotel and the single album The Sum Of No Fear are amongst the strongest albums they made during this stage of their career. But there is some Gems to be found on the other 3 albums too.

The bonus material is also very good and well worthy of having. The 2nd bonus disc in particular is my personal favourite out of the 3 discs you get here. In many ways it’s like having another solid album of the band. No doubt not all of the bands bonus material is included here, but it does tend to cover the extra material they released during the making of the 5 albums that are in this box set. The bonus material is also something I was glad to see in this box set too, and it’s something they never included in their 1st box set A Kingdom Of Colours (1995 – 2002).

Speaking of the previous box set and my review of it awhile back. I know I did have a bit of a moan about how the CD’s come in cardboard wallets rather than DigiSleeves. I have sort of got used to that idea now, and it would of been nice if they could of done things that way as well. But no doubt it would add to the cost and I cannot really complain how things have been done here, and this is still saving you a lot of money over the individual releases and is amazing value for the money.


The conclude by review of A Kingdom Of Colours II (2004 – 2013) by The Flower Kings. It’s perhaps not a box set that is gonna give you anything extra, not even with the bonus material you get here for diehard fans of The Flower Kings who would most likely have everything that’s in here. But even for those diehard fans this could be seen as a very attractive collector’s edition that would look nice on their shelves with how well they have presented things here.

Not only is this package neat, stylish and attractive. It also comes at an attractive price point of £35. So it’s not entirely gonna break your bank account so to speak. The fact that it’s also a limited edition and only 3,000 have been made. Means that not only will this box set hold its price, but it may be worth even more in the future, so you cannot really lose out with a package like this.

For those who never had any of The Flower Kings albums, and are thinking of buying their albums having recently heard them. This box set certainly offers you the cheapest option and no doubt you are getting bang on quality for the buck by buying a box set like this. You are also getting several hours of really great quality music and it’s well worth the money. I would even recommend the 1st box set A Kingdom Of Colours (1995 – 2002) too, that contains the first half of the bands discography.

As to what the future holds for The Flower Kings it’s hard to say that this is the end. One can never speculate what the future holds, and I would think that even at this point Roine Stolt would find it very hard to say goodbye to this project he created. So it would not surprise me if we see a new album by The Flower Kings at some point.

It also would not surprise me if A Kingdom Of Colours III was to materialise in the near future either. A 3rd box set consisting of the bands live albums and DVD’s plus some bonus material perhaps. It’s something I would like to see and would also buy. Though I do have both Meet The Flower Kings and Instant Delivery already on DVD. Both of which I also highly recommend.

Coming up a bit later on this month for review we have more from Roine Stolt with his latest project The Sea Within which was released at the end of last month.

Lee’s overall Complete Box Set Value Rating…

The Box Set Presentation Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #89

L – 1VE – Haken



Well the long wait is finally over and after 11 years we finally get to see a live album release, well live video album release in this case which captures the band live from last year celebrating their 10th Anniversary since the London based progressive metal band got together back in 2007. The band Haken have come on a long way since they put out a CD-R demo album Enter the 5th Dimension back in 2008 and been through a few line up changes along the way too.

2010 saw the release of the bands official debut album Aquarius to which they followed it up a year later with their 2nd album Visions. A couple of years later in 2013 their 3rd album The Mountain sprang upon us and in the following year 2014 the band reworked a few tracks from their original demo album from 2008 and released the EP Restoration. The bands latest studio album to date Affinity surfaced in 2016 and the band are also believed to be working on their 5th studio album according to recent interviews, and its expected to released by the end of this year.

So with this release and a future release in the pipeline, it’s looking like a very good year for Haken fans, and the band have certainly gave them a super bargain here with this live release. But before we go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging & artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…


Well as you see by the picture above the band have spared no expense in giving their fans quite a lot extra for the money. This particular package comes in a very well constructed 5 panel cardboard Digipak with mounted sturdy plastic trays to hold all 4 discs in place, and add support to the packaging. It even has a pocket on the middle panel to store the 18 page booklet that comes with it.

The booklet is mainly filled with photographs of the band from the live concert they performed, and is perhaps to be a bit expected being that it’s a live album release. So it’s not so much of a booklet that will give you a great deal of informative information about the event. But you do get 3 pages of well detailed linear notes on the whole production side of things.


The album cover artwork was done by Blacklake Design and the band have been using their artwork for quite awhile now, and they also done the designs for their EP and last two studio albums. Though those may be a bit more impressive than the way they have gone about presenting this live album.

I have to confess that even though the Digipak came wrapped in cellophane and sealed when it arrived from Amazon. Upon removing the cellophane it appeared that somebody had, had their filthy mitts all over the cover, and it even looked like they had even spilt their coffee over it :))))))).


The picture above shows you the state of the cardboard Digipak and it was that convincing that some dirty bugger had their filthy hands on it first, that I was thinking about returning it. Till I checked out further images of it on the net LOL…

L – 1VE (Live 2 CD/2 DVD) In Review…

Haken’s first official live video album entitled L – 1VE was released on the 22nd June 2018. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon on the 19th April and it arrived on the day of it’s release. The 4 disc set is amazing value for it price point and is around £14.99 at most online stores. Considering you are getting 2 CD’s and 2 DVD’s at such a bargain price, they have not skimped on the quality either, and the recording of this live show sounds mind bogglingly staggering even on the CD’s.

So far all 5 of the reviews that have come in on Amazon UK so far are all 5 Star reviews. The titled headings of some of those reviews range from the words “Fantastic”. Buy” and “Absolutely Stunning”. I would agree whole heartedly with all those.

To be honest as a rule I very rarely play the CD’s that come in a set like this, and prefer to watch the live concert with my own eyes on the DVD. But as with most of the music I buy on DVD and Blu Ray. The only real chance I get to play them is when the Mrs has gone out. The fact that Haken are more of a metal prog rock band, you do need to play them that much louder, and I do not think the wife would put up with that somehow :)))))).

But I was itching to hear this one, so I played the both CD’s of the live show first and blasted it out on my headphones. I was blown away by the quality recording and this band does really kick ass too.

The 2 CD’s.

Both the CD’s that you get here contain the whole of the live concert they played in the Netherlands. The 1st CD contains 5 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 49 minutes and 2 seconds. The 2nd CD comes with 6 tracks and an overall playing time of 65 minutes, 27 seconds. The track listing I shall post at the end of the review.

DVD 1.

SS 1

The 1st DVD contains the whole of the live concert and when loading it into your DVD Player it presents you with a short moving animated view of an office. The picture pans over to the left and stops at the old computer monitor to give you the menu options. The 3 option choices it presents you with are simple enough to navigate and I quite the way they have presented the main menu. The green monitor also flashes and distorts the wording on the options menu. So I took at least 3 shots of each screen to make sure the wording was not blurred.

SS 3

By clicking on the “Track Select” it lodes to another screen to present you with all the tracks of the live concert. A good option to have if you want to show a friend a track or two and have not got the time to show them the whole concert. As you can see by the display above, this computer is a really old Amstrad Microcomputer and would of been running on DOS and was built before Microsoft had made Windows. I just hope it does not come with any Syntax Errors :))))).

SS 2

By clicking on the “Audio Options” from the main menu it loads and presents you with the screen to make your preferred audio choice. By default its set to PCM Stereo and the only multichannel surround sound choice we have here is your standard AC3 Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that comes in 16/48K. Not the best choice for 5.1 mixes by far and I would of liked to have seen a DTS 5.1 mix as well. But I shall give you my verdict of it in my review of the 5.1 mix.

DVD 2.

SS D2 1

The 2nd DVD is the bonus disc and once again we get some more animation from the Amstrad Microcomputer that you get to see before we get to the main menu as seen here in the picture above. Once again we are presented with the same main menu options of “Play Concert”. “Track Select” “Audio Options” and “Extras”. The “Audio Options” are the same as what we got on the 1st DVD.

SS D2 2

As you can see from the “Track List” menu this concert is more of a mini concert and contains 4 songs. But some of these are quite lengthy and you get 47 minutes and 49 seconds of the band playing live on the centre stage at the ProgPower festival they played a year before in Atlanta USA on the 10th September 2016.

This is a great extra to have and none of the 4 songs you get here are on the main concert on the 1st DVD either. They perform both “Falling Back to Earth” and “Pareidolia” from their 3rd album The Mountain. “Earthrise” from their latest album to date Affinity and the epic “Crystallised” from their EP Restoration to which ex Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy comes on at the end to bang a Gong :))))).  It really is another excellent show.

SS D2 3

The final bonus material we get here is in the “Extras” menu as shown above, and you can see that it contains 3 of the official videos all which came from their last album Affinity. All 3 of them are very good and with all the effects they thrown into them these would of really been suited for an HD release on Blu Ray. Overall the bonus material is really good with all you get here, it would of been nice if they had an interview with the band talking about the concert included on here. But at this price one cannot really complain, and you are still getting quite of a bit of really good bonus material too.

The Picture Quality.

Overall the picture quality of both the live concerts is very good. I do not think they was filmed with HD Cameras (but I could be wrong) especially as it was released on DVD only. If it was filmed in HD it would benefit even more so from both the picture and sound quality by putting it on a Blu Ray. But I cannot fault anything regarding the picture quality, and these days the fact that DVD and Blu Players come with upscalers in them. Makes DVD’s still very much worth buying and you are still getting really good quality too.

The 5.1 Mix.

Both the stereo and 5.1 audio mixes were mixed by Jerry Guidroz. He is known mostly for his work with Neal Morse and is not a bad sound engineer, although I can think of several a lot better on that score, and just who the hell uses Dolby Digital only for their 5.1 mixes these days. A good sound engineer would of had the sense to include a DTS 5.1 mix as well.

I also have a lot of Neal Morse’s DVD’s mixed by Jerry too but neither Neal Morse or his band mate in Transatlantic Roine Stolt know absolutely bugger all about real quality 5.1 mixes I am afraid. These guys are amateurs regarding 5.1 mixes and do nothing for Jerry’s recommendation I am afraid:))))))). But I cannot fault the stereo on their DVD’s at all for that matter.

To be honest Jerry Guidroz as done a pretty decent job on the 5.1 mix for both of the live concerts on this live release for Haken. No doubt the stereo mix is awesome and the overall sound quality of the stereo mix is better than the 5.1 mix. But that’s only really down to him using the lowest quality format for the 5.1 mix, and no doubt had he of also included a DTS soundtrack I think it would be up with the awesomeness of the stereo mix on that score apart from a few tweaks with the main vocals.

I like how he’s placed the instrumentation over the 6 channels and when dealing with heavy guitars like this it’s vitally important to get the placement right to get the best clarity out of the mix. I feel he has done that very well. I also like the way he’s effectively panned out some of the instruments for FX purposes to make it that bit more exciting. Especially on “Cockroach King” and a few other tracks too.

However I do feel he should of utilised the centre speaker more for the main vocals and kept the other speakers for the harmonies from the backing singers only and not shifted the main vocals too much. Sometimes there is a drop in the levels on the main vocals when they do come out the centre speaker, and it’s as if he’s shifted the main vocals to the other speakers so they could be heard properly.

Overall the 5.1 mix could of been better and it’s not a 5.1 mix that will bring out the dynamics that well at all like a very good 5.1 mix will do. But you can still enjoy the 5.1 mix and the panning of the instrumentation will make it that bit more exciting if your one for those effects. But I would say the overall sound quality of the 5.1 mix does lack a bit in comparison to the stereo mix. So this is not a 5.1 mix that is gonna blow your brains out I am afraid. But not bad and Jerry gets a 6 out of 10 for his effort.

Musicians & Credits…


All songs written and arranged by Haken. Recorded on the 13th April 2017 at Melkweg Oude Zaal, Amsterdam Netherlands. Additional film footage recorded on the 12th April 2017 at Rockhal, Esch Sur Allzette, Luxembourg. Art Design & Layout Blacklake. Live photography by Stephen Schmidt. Joel Barrios. Jose Sanchez. Pierre Mennard. Simen Sandnes. Nico Reinders. Stereo & 5.1 mix by Jerry Guidroz. Stereo & 5.1 mastering by Rob Burrell. Post Production & Animation by Miles Skarin/Crystal Spotlight.

Ross Jennings: Vocals.
Richard Henshall: Guitars/Keyboards/Backing Vocals.
Charlie Griffiths: Guitars/Backing Vocals.
Conner Green: Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals.
Diego Tejeida: Keyboards/Backing Vocals.
Raymond Hearne: Drums/Backing Vocals.

The Concert In Review…

The concert took place and was recorded at the Melkweg Oude Zaal. In Amsterdam in the Netherlands on the 13th April 2017. It was the final concert they played on the first leg of their European tour in celebration of the bands 10th Anniversary. The main concert on the 1st DVD contains 11 tracks and has a total playing time of 1 hour, 54 minutes and 26 seconds and Haken have certainly put on a great set list for this live show.

It also contains some additional film footage that was from Luxembourg on the night before when they played at the Rockhal, Esch Sur Allzette. It states in the booklet that they added the additional footage from that concert for your audio and visual experience. Though to be honest having watched it I cannot see where it’s been added, unless it was footage of them behind the stage and of them entering the stage that was used to make it look that bit better.

The Melkweg is a popular music venue and cultural center in Amsterdam and Melkweg means Milky Way in English. As you can see by the picture below it’s a building that has quite a few halls inside for different events. It even has a small Theater and Cinema house inside. There are two halls that are used for concerts and the hall they call the Max is the largest of them and holds a capacity of around 1,500 people. It’s hosted more popular international artists in the past such as Prince and the Arctic Monkeys and is even used for parties, meetings and film projections.


For lesser known artists such as Haken and the biggest majority of today’s prog rock and prog metal bands, they tend to use the oldest hall in the building known as the Oude Zaal which stands for Old Room in English. This has a lesser capacity and holds around 700 people. In the picture below you can see that the hall is long but does not have a lot of width to it. The fact that is does not have a lot of width does not really make it the most comfortable venue to film a live show.


But despite the fact that the room does not have a lot of width, I have to say the camera men have done an extremely good job in capturing the live performance, and this is a lot better than most concerts put on DVD that have been filmed in small venues like this such as Arena and Conqueror as an example, where all you see is a full frontal view of the stage and nothing of the audience. They have managed to utilise the space of the hall with how they have gone about it all. I cannot fault the editing either and the whole crew have done a tremendous job.

Most of the material they play live is from their last two albums Affinity and The Mountain. But for those who prefer the material from the bands first two albums, I certainly do not think they will be disappointed. Simply because even though you only get 1 track off each of them, they happen to be the most longest tracks throughout the concert and both are over 22 minutes long.

On With The Show.

The band open the show with the first couple of tracks “affinity.exe/Initiate” from their latest album Affinity. In total the band do 6 of the 9 tracks from the album spread out over the near enough 2 hour show. The first 3 of the albums tracks are rolled out in the order they came from the original album, only we get a slight break from that album and they break into “In Memoriam” from the bands 3rd album The Mountain. This is the official video taken from the DVD that their record label Inside Out Music posted on their TV Channel on Youtube of the live performance of the song.

As you can see by the video the cameras have captured the venue very well even with long shots from the back of the hall. You do tend to get the odd reviewer moaning about the editing side of things these days, especially with the amount of cuts that they have done to show the different angles and capture all the musicians on the stage doing their thing. No doubt there are tons in this one song alone. But I am sorry to say that I prefer how this has been done like it is. It makes the show far more exciting to watch.

To be honest I am not personally myself into metal and watching any guitarist play metal I can honestly say he’s not gonna work up much of a sweat, simply because most of the work is coming from the hand that plays the rhythm and the hand that plays the chords basically is going nowhere in relation to say watching Steve Howe’s chord hand flying up and down the neck on a guitar whilst playing “Close To The Edge” as an example.

If you are gonna put still cameras on these guitarists they are gonna look boring I can assure you. The bass player is working up more of sweat than the guitarists do, and visually it looks like he’s doing a lot more as well. I am not denying that there is a technique to playing metal and it’s far from easy to play as well. But the technique is in the rhythm hand and not the hand that plays the chords and the notes on the neck. So for me the guitarists tend to look less interesting in these types of bands.

That’s why I much prefer prog rock to metal but Haken have their own approach to metal and mix it with prog rock to make it more interesting. This is a band that have their own unique way and sound as well, and that’s what I like a lot about this band. But even watching a show like this I picked up on a few things that I never noticed before, and will discuss them a bit further on.

The band are well warmed up now and proceed by rolling out both “1985” and “Red Giant” from their Affinity album. The first of those being the more exciting out of the two. But no doubt the band have worked out their songs very well for the stage and are they have a difference in the presence and feel about them in relation to the studio album tracks.

Speaking of being different next up we have the “Aquamedley” and here the band have successfully managed to squeeze the 72 and a half minutes of their debut album Aquarius into 22 and half minutes and this for me is my personal favourite track on the live album. Even the guitarists do not look boring on this one that’s for sure :)))))). But no doubt these are all very skilful musicians and are doing a grand job of it all.

Another good thing about this live album and this particular track, is if you do not have enough time to play the original studio album, the 22 and half minute live version of it does an excellent job of presenting you with the best of it. The band have really gone to town here and this is purely Fantastic.

The band kick off the 2nd part of their live set by rolling out 3 songs from their 3rd album The Mountain starting off with “As Death Embraces” which is a fine ballad of a song that features Diego Tejeida on the piano and it gives Ross Jennings a chance to stretch out his vocal chords a bit at the end. The band really do get to bring their songs even more to life on the stage I feel and they do a superb job on the next track “Atlas Stone” that features some really great interplay with the guitars and keyboards.

The final track they play from this album happens to be my favourite from it, and is the classic “Cockroach King“. This is perhaps one of the best highlights of the show and is quite Gentle Giant like this song with it’s 4 part harmonies and it’s time signature changes. The band do a superb job playing this live and this is quite a complex piece to pull off live, but they do the business on it.

The band then roll out another epic piece of work as they play the longest track from the Affinity album “The Architect” and boy can this band play. This is another of my personal favourites and highlights from this live show and they do such a superb job of it all. The other thing I picked up on whilst watching Haken live is there keyboard player can work in the same way Jordan Rudess does for Dream Theater at times with how they use guitar patches on their keyboards which contributes to making the sound even thicker and heavier.

To be honest it’s one of the things I can despise Jordan Rudess for at times because he does tend to go overboard with guitar patches played on his keyboards, and half the time if you listen to Dream Theater you cannot make out if Rudess is playing the guitar parts or John Petrucci. I sometimes get the feeling that he wants to make up his mind and decide if he wants to be a keyboard player or a guitarist :))))))). Thankfully Haken’s keyboard player does not go quite go over the top like Rudess does. at times with heavy guitar patches. No doubt Jordan Rudess is a class keyboard player and up their with the best. But I prefer his solo work and am not that much into Dream Theater at all.

The band hit out hard the last of the songs from their Affinity album with “The Endless Knot” and they have covered most of this album very well and done a really super job of presenting all their material live on this release. The video below is taken from the DVD and only 2 official videos from the show were posted on Inside Out’s Music TV Channel on the Tube. To be honest I wish I had the “Cockroach King” I could post here and that is without doubt one of the better highlights of the show.

The band close the live show off with the only track from their 2nd album Visions and do the complete epic self titled track from the album which is some 23 and half minutes on this live version you get here. Another superb highlight from the show and a Fantastic way to put an end to a really Fantastic live concert.


To sum up my review of Haken’s first live Video/CD album release entitled L – 1VE (Live in Amsterdam). I personally think it’s a concert the band would most likely be highly proud of themselves with the fantastic performance they put on. The production of both the CD’s and DVD’s you get in this packages are quite stunning. The only real downside is perhaps the 5.1 mix, but even that is still quite good.

I would also say for those who have never heard Haken or even heard of them. This is the kind of live concert one could still get a lot out of and enjoy, and would even make a great introduction to the band as well I feel. My personal highlights from the live show are “Aquamedley“. “Cockroach King“. “Visions“. “The Architect” and “1985“.

There is no doubt that Haken are a great live act and I very much think that most of the material they play from all 4 of their studio albums, sounds even better live than on the actual studio albums. I very much think for all Haken fans this live release is a must to have in your collection. I even think for anyone watching a live show as good as this, they would have a lot more respect for the band, because they have truly pulled out all the stops and punches and put on quite a magical performance.


Overall Haken’s latest new live release entitled L – 1VE is a live show that will simply rock your socks off and it offers outstanding value for the buck. You get a lot here for your money too, and at it’s price point of £14.99 for 2 CD’s & 2 DVD’s you simply cannot go wrong and you are not only getting 1 live concert, but an excellent mini concert and a few extras thrown in to boot. You get a hell of a lot more for your money and it really is a quality package, even if it does look like that some filthy mother fucker got his hands on it first :))))))).

Haken’s music is quite fresh and exciting and is a combination of both metal and prog rock, but there is even some modern pop elements in their music as well which all adds up to making this band something of a touch different from the rest. However you define their music, they not only have the power, but they also have the subtly and precision to pull it all off and give their fans what they want. This may be just the thing that will rock your boat, and at this price you simply cannot sink.

The Cockroach Sits On His Thrown With He Midas Touch Of Heat And Stone…

The 2 CD listing is as follows:

Disc 1.
01. affinity.exe/Initiate. 6:00.
02. In Memoriam. 4:42.
03. 1985. 9:21.
04. Red Giant. 6:31.
05. Aquamedley. 22:28.

Disc 2.
01. As Death Embraces. 3:51.
02. Atlas Stone. 7:12.
03. Cockroach King. 8:17.
04. The Architect. 15:59.
05. The Endless Knot. 6:34.
06. Visions. 23:34.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee’s Live Concert Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Other Oddities… #2

Bored CD

Are Albums Too Long These Days?

Having just recently brought the recent box set of The Flower Kings A Kingdom Of Colours II which was released last month. Whilst I am still working on my review for the box set, the question of are albums too long with everything one tries to cram on a CD in particular did arise. I was also wondering if this also had an impact on why album sales were not that popular any more due to the fact of all the gap fillers they put on them just to make up the space, and the extra time it will take to listen and digest all the material.

There are many artists these days who tend to try and squeeze the life out of the space of a compact disc by filling them up to the brim with information. But could this also be too much food for thought?. Many artists tend to cram an whole double albums worth of material onto a single disc. But could this really be seen like giving their fans something more for the money?. It really begs the ?.

For example I myself prefer the old 40 minute album time slot, especially if you have a large record collection like myself. It helps you to devote more time to your collection as well. I cannot say I am a fan of this longer time slot and even down to the fact that shoving near enough 80 minutes onto a compact disc is classed as a single album. It takes up the time slot of a double album from back in 70’s, and an album this size would benefit more by sticking it on 2 discs in reality.

I am not saying I cannot sit here and listen to an whole album this size in one sitting. But I do feel making single albums this long could have some downfalls. The first being that it will certainly be a lot harder to make a solid album over this distance, and some could not even do that over 40 minutes never mind the 60 – 80 minutes they cram on the things these days. Also most albums this long do tend to come with gap fillers.

Secondly unless you can be completely on your own. The chances are that you have got twice as much chance of being disturbed whilst listening to the album. And last of all. Albums this length may have also contributed to why these days people would rather buy single tracks than albums.

Unless you are a serious music listener like myself, a 60 – 80 minute album will be too much for most people I would of thought. It’s a bit like an artist making a double albums worth of material with every release. The very fact that most artists only ever released their albums on CD over the past few decades, and are now these days finally getting around to putting them on vinyl now since it’s become a bit more popular again. Proves they was double albums in the first place. Simply because it’s going to take up 2 vinyl albums to put the material that came off 1 CD.

It’s not a case of the artist giving you extra value for the money at all by shoving more material onto a disc, and I have never seen the longer album in that way. The art of making a good album is so that when the last track on the album finishes, it leaves the listener wanting more. By giving them more in the first place is never really gonna do the trick I feel.

So what are your thoughts on the longer album time slot. Do you think there is any real benefit from artists making albums this long?. Do you see them as extra value?. Do you think it puts people off buying them because of all the gap fillers?. Do you think that the long album has contributed to why more people have turned to buying just certain tracks?. It makes you wonder, or am I just talking a load of Dingo’s Kidneys :)))))).