What an interesting musical project: three musicians (an American, a half Italian/half Finnish and a Finnish) creating progressive rock with other musicians, from all over the world (Europe, USA, Latin-America), that is how it should be, “make prog, not war”!
The Samurai Of Prog exists since 2011 (debut CD Undercover, see review), the current line-up on this new album Archivarium (their sixth) still features the trio Steve Unruh (vocals, violin, flute, electric guitar and mandolin, Marco Bernard (Rickenbacker - and Dingwall bass guitars) and Kimmo Pörsti (drums and percussion). They are accompanied by a wide range of guest musicians (from known and lesser known prog bands) on keyboards, guitars, Grand piano, saxophone and lead - and backing vocals.
Info about the album. “Archivarium is a collection of special recordings which The Samurai Of Prog have made throughout the years. Four tracks are new, a few are previously unreleased, a few have appeared in other projects with which TSOP have been involved, and two are covers (none of the tracks have appeared in our albums before). All have been given a new treatment.”
Two of the ten compositions on this album are covers, I would like to start with these covers, because both have a special personal meaning for me.
First Ice from Camel, a tribute to the late Guy LeBlanc who played of course with Camel, but he was also involved in projects with The SamuariOf Prog. In 2015 Guy died due to kidney cancer. The band presents an adventurous and inspired new arrangement, with the emphasis on the saxophone, along with wonderful work on synthesizer and guitar (compelling wah wah drenched solo). But as a huge fan of Camel, and especially of Andy Latimer his moving guitar play, I miss the omnipresence of Latimer's guitar: the breathtaking, very emotional build-up, from fragile to howling runs, right from Latimer's heart, “an air guitar player's wet dream”!
The other cover is Heroes from David Bowie, this song (also covered by Peter Gabriel, Moterhead, Blondie, Nico and Oasis) has a personal meaning since I watched the compelling movie Wir Kinder Von Bahnhof Zoo (in 1977). I was not only blown away by the movie but also the soundtrack with music from David Bowie. Especially the song Heroes epitomizes the destructive influence of drugs on the life of the German adolescent Christiane Felscherinow. David Bowie with his distinctive voice succeeds to generate an atmosphere that matches perfectly with the sad subject. And that is not what singer Mark Trueack does, his voice is pretty smooth and the rendition of The Samurai Of Prog fails to make impression, it's a nice cover, no more or less.
It's a bit of a disappointing end from a very good album. Because the other 8 varied and elaborate compositions are worth listening to , and deliver excellent contributions by the wide range of guest musicians.
A kind of “Keith Emerson meets JL Ponty” with powerful Hammond organ (from Jinetes Negros member Octavia Stampalia) and swirling violin (along tasteful guitar and flute) in the Keep The Ball Rolling.
A beautiful contrast between melancholic violin and harder-edged guitar in Ahead Of Fortune.
An important and strong role by Nexus members Lalo Huber and Carlos Lucena in the dynamic La Oscuridad (featuring ex-Glass Hammer Michelle Young with delicate vocals in Spanish) and the alternating The Sleeping Lover (exciting keyboards and sensitive guitar).
Passionate Italian vocals by the legendary Museo Rosenbach singer Stefano ' Lupo' Galifi, embellished with howling guitar, swirling flute, subtle electric piano and tasteful keyboards (by Michelle Mutti from La Torre Dell'Alchimista) in Cristalli.
Outstanding 'classical meets prog' featuring awesome and adventurous keyboard play by Latte E Miele member Olivero Lacagnina, along with a powerful rhythm-section and pleasant work on the flute, in Elitropia.
The long and varied composition From This Window sounds like an 'Art-Rock mini-opera' with strong vocals, heavy guitar (Kerry Shacklett from Presto Ballet) and sumptuous Hammond organ.
And Predawn is the very mellow break featuring The Musical Box keyboard player David Myers with a tender solo piece on the Grand piano, between classical and mellow jazz.
The Samuari Of Prog has delivered another varied and very interesting album!
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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