The number 11 is important as we all know on planet Earth. For example in chemistry, Group 11 includes the three coinage metals copper, silver and gold known from antiquity. In astronomy Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon. The approximate periodicity of a sunspot cycle is 11 years. In sports there are at a time 11 players of a soccer team on the field as well as in a cricket team. 11 is the first number which cannot be counted with a human's ten fingers. In the military 11 is the number of guns in a gun to salute to the U.S. Army, Air Force and to the Navy, amongst others. The stylized maple leaf on the flag of Canada has 11 points. In The Netherlands 11 is the number of the fool, but 11 is also the number of albums that the Swedish band Cross have recorded since they released Uncovered Heart in 1988.
This band is led by and called after Hansi Cross (guitars, keyboards, percussion, lead and harmony vocals), whom I once called a 'visionary fool' (see interview). This brings me once again to number 11, the number of the fool. Well, with Wake Up Call this 'fool' recorded one of the best albums ever with Cross. His partners in crime are once more Lollo Andersson (bass, Taurus bass pedals) and Tomas Hiort (drums, percussion). As usual with a Cross-album, a cast of other musicians assisted them to create amazing music. This time they invited Jock Millgaroh (lead and harmony vocals), Stefan Damicolas (Brother Ape, harmony vocals), Mats Bender (Introitus, keyboards), Hanna Sundkvist (electric violin), Sabina Cross (additional violin) and Lizette von Panajott (Lizette &, processed female vocals).
The band described their latest effort as their most symphonic sounding work to date and I fully agree! I welcomed this album enthusiastically, because the musical content has just been created the way I like my daily prog shot. Majestic layers of keyboards and marvellous solos on the guitars and the synthesizers; Wake Up Call has it all. These layers of keyboards predominantly deliver this album an orchestral sound that suits Cross very well. On the band's previous records the guitar was mostly leading and sometimes a bit too much according to my taste. That doesn't mean that I didn't liked them; each album of Cross is just a delight to listen to. In combination with the additional violins this orchestral style works perfectly, especially on the two epic pieces Falling Beyond (11:08) and Waking Up (17:28). The musical style of bands as Genesis and Yes is never far away on these tracks. The regular outstanding guitar and synthesizer solos − all performed very melodically and emotionally − make sure there's a lot to enjoy.
Mentioning these epic pieces doesn't mean that the other tracks are less worth listening to. This is certainly not the case since the high level of musicianship is present on all tracks. Take for instance the shortest track, the one-minute instrumental Remembrance that takes you back to the days when Genesis performed beautiful music on the acoustic guitars. This short piece could have been taken from Trespass or Nursery Cryme. This mellow song just fits perfectly in between the more up-tempo pieces. It slows down the pace and provides for variety.
When you think you've heard the entire album, the very nice bonus track Now comes out of your speakers. People who are familiar with the eponymous album that Hansi Cross made with Spektrum, will recognize it. Now was originally meant to be a song for Cross back in 2001. Because of Tomas Hiort living in America and due to the events of 9/11, the band had to cancel the recordings of their next Cross-album. Instead the song was donated to Spektrum for their debut album. Well, Mr. Cross always wanted to know how it would sound if Cross should record this fine progressive rock tune. Therefore he decided that the time was right to record a new version. Thanks goodness, he took the right decision because this track is the icing on this wonderful Cross-cake. By doing so he ended the album in style with a true progressive rock song that even sounds better than the original version.
I think Hansi Cross is one of the most underrated musicians in the progressive rock scene. Maybe that's why he called this album Wake Up Call, just to let people know that he can't be ignored any longer. Well, the 'visionary fool' never got the highest rating by one of our reviewers although sometimes he came close. Hansi and his band Cross deserve the highest rating with this release since it features all elements that make progressive rock so interesting. Finally five stars this time and so 11 appears to be a lucky number after all!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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