After his first solo album Hasse Fröberg and his Musical Companion return within two years with a brand new album called Powerplay. The band have been proven to be stable, so alongside the Swedish vocalist and guitarist, we find the familiar names of the young and excellent guitarist Anton Lindsjö, keyboard player Kjell Haraldson, bass player Thomsson and drummer Ola Strandberg. Musically the new album is even deeper rooted into the progressive and classic rock of the seventies than its predecessor Future Past (see review). The combination of prog rock with some elements of jazz rock makes Powerplay a great experience to listen to.
The album opens with My River To Cross that lasts over ten minutes. You'll immediately hear the resemblance with the other band Hasse Fröberg is part of, namely The Flower Kings. However, the guitar play is much heavier than TFK and also the voice is much rougher as it seems. The World Keeps Turning is an up-tempo rocker wherein the vocals take the lead over powerful keyboard lines and a soft guitar, which gains volume whenever it's needed. The short keyboard solo in the middle-section combined with the vocals and followed by fine guitar play, make this song work well. Fröberg's emotional vocals lead you into The Final Hour, the longest song of the album containing all the progressive elements one would like to hear. The layers of keyboards, fluent guitar play and smooth vocals give this song a kind of Yes touch, but more powerful and more in the vein of jazz-rock. Check out the brilliant piano play versus the Mellotron flute section here. Waves starts with a nice bass pattern in a soundscape style, while the singing is relaxed. This emotional side of Hasse Fröberg's singing combined with the fluent guitar sound leads to another relaxed highlight on the album.
I guess the band, at least Hasse Fröberg, have been to California and have experienced the good live in Venice CA. While listening to this song I got a strong middle-of-the-road feel since it tends to the music of The Eagles. That makes it the weakest song of the album, although the repeating melody lines stick in your head and make it an easy and radio-friendly song. Is It Ever Gonna Happen is nice and straight-forward with a bluesy touch, perfect keyboard passages and powerful guitars. After a reggae-like part, an impressive shredding guitar leads to a strong end.
As a kind of interlude Fröberg plays the acoustic piece White Butterfly with only an acoustic guitar and his voice. This song proves that Fröberg belongs to the premier league of the progressive rock scene. The Chosen Ones has a very familiar sound; it's the kind of music he's known for, staying close to The Flower Kings. It contains some heavier guitars and a stunning keyboard solo with fusion elements. An excellent guitar solo is the icing on the cake in this more than seven-minute piece. Godsong finishes the album with strong piano playing and guitar sounds that push it in the direction of Queen, which is not my all-time favourite band, but this is certainly well done.
Summarizing I could say that Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion recorded an impressive second album. With this album Fröberg has proven that he's a musician that must be taken into account. He's not only a member of a band that's highly regarded, but a mastermind who has the compositional skills to make his own band successful as well.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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