The most famous progressive rock band from Ukraine is without doubt Karfagen. You may call Karfagen the brainchild of the excellent musician, composer and producer Antony Kalugin. He also made a name as a solo artist and he recorded albums with Sunchild and Hoggwash. I had my first and pleasant encounter with this talented musician when I heard Karfagen’s debut album Continium (2006) and its successor The Space Between Us (2007). I enjoyed both albums a lot because of the fine blend of prog rock, fusion, jazz rock and elements of traditional folk music. Occasionally the music reminded me of Happy The Man, an American band that also recorded strong instrumental pieces with many tasteful guitar and synthesizer solos. Both Karfagen-albums were released by the Canadian label Unicorn Digital. The poor promotional activities made Karfagen probably decide to release these albums anew on the Caerllysi Music-label. This time as a double-CD, called The Key Of Perception, containing a lot of additional material. For many prog heads, this album is a nice one to get acquainted with Karfagen’s music. Perhaps, this will make listening to their brand-new album Solitary Sandpiper Journey easier.
With a total playing time of 75 minutes, the new album contains a lot of music. Therefore, it wasn’t easy for me to swallow so much music at once. At first, the music didn’t stick in my head, but while listening to it over and over again I realized that Antony Kalugin and his fellow-musicians had created a very special album. The musical style on this album shifts a bit more in the direction of his other projects, but also his admiration for Camel and Focus are clearer. The guitar parts by Alexandra Pavlov proved that they had listened to Jan Akkerman and Andy Latimer a great deal. You don’t hear the marvellous synth solos of Antony Kalugin that much in the beginning of Solitary Sandpiper Journey, but they soon occur if you take the time to listen to the entire album. Ode To A New Life is a good example of the way I like him to play the synthesizers. In this piece, the many Camel- and Focus-influences are prominent as we can also experience on the opening tune Spirit Of Revelation. However, the regular use of instruments as the saxophone, the flute and the bassoon, for example in Solitary Sandpiper King, made me think of Gryphon, a British band that came back together again lately. Gryphon also blended medieval music with progressive rock elements. Karfagen did it again, and I really love it.
The wonderful female vocals of Marina Zakharova are new on this album. The vocals on the previous albums were not bad actually, but were mostly the weakest part of the compositions. This is probably the reason why Antony Kalugin asked Marina to sing on three tracks. We can enjoy her singing on Magic Moment, Silent Anger and the epic piece Mystery. It certainly lifts the music to a higher quality level. Her voice sometimes gives the music a jazzy touch. For me, the 22-minute epic piece Mystery is the highlight on Solitary Sandpiper Journey. This piece is divided into five parts with many different moods starting as a kind of new version of The Snowgoose by Camel. The many classical influences on this track are just wonderful. The clever use of the cello, the viola and the violin creates an outstanding orchestral sound. Also in this epic, the Camel-influences are evident, but the fusion and jazz rock tricks on bass and electric guitar obviously give the music another twist. I must not forget to mention the superb drum parts by Vadik Samosyuk which give the music a certain ‘drive’.
Thank goodness, I gave this album enough room to listen to it. Because of that, it revealed its beauty showing how talented Mr. Kalugin is. Writing great progressive rock tunes and playing keyboards seems as easy for him as breathing is for me. Thanks to the wonderful musicians he worked together with on this concept album, he managed to translate his compositions into some outstanding progressive rock pieces. I can only end this review with a strong recommendation to our readers: if you’re a Camel-fan, please, take the chance to listen to Solitary Sandpiper Journey as much as I did. You won’t regret it.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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