Let me first give you some information about Progfest before reviewing this DVD-release. Progfest was a legendary progressive rock festival in America that started in 1993. Through the years, they contracted many great acts as Spock's Beard, Echolyn, Arena and The Flower Kings, just to name a few. The Musea record label closely collaborated with the Progfest organization and they released footage from the 1994, 1995 and 1997 editions on video. Later on footage from the 1997 and 2000 editions got a DVD-release as well.
The content of the DVD-release of Progfest '95 Day One is basically the same as the VHS-video tape from the same festival released in 1996. The only difference is that the DVD contains two additional songs by White Willow and one by Ars Nova. Unfortunately no additional tracks of Solaris were included. After writing a review of the Progfest '97 DVD (see review) it's a pleasure to inform you about the footage you can expect on Progfest '95 Day One. The disc starts with the Japanese ladies band Ars Nova. During 35 minutes you'll hear and watch very keyboard-orientated music that moves towards the music of bands as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Trace, Gerard or The Nice. Keiko Kumagai is mainly responsible for the sound of the band. Her keyboard work is outstanding and it's easy to hear that she must have been strongly influenced by Keith Emerson. The way drummer Akiko Takahashi gets attention by wearing a traditional Japanese kimono is a nice gimmick. The additional piece on this DVD, that wasn't included on the video, is Transi. This fine piece definitely shows that Ars Nova have been influenced by the above-mentioned names.
Next is a half an hour performance of the Norwegian band White Willow. By using vintage keyboards as a Mellotron and a MiniMoog you might expect something special, but regrettably that's not the case here. Their music has many influences taken from bands as King Crimson and Renaissance. Unfortunately the songs displayed during the Progfest-concert never reach the same level of these bands. Later on in their career White Willow wrote much better songs. The two bonus tracks Snowfall and John Dees Lament, don't give their performance something extra. Neither the bonus tracks nor the extra drum and bass solos that they included in their live set couldn't make me jump out of my chair.
The performance of Hungarian band Solaris is probably the most enjoyable part. The instrumental music of Solaris has a very high quality level and has mainly been influenced by bands as Camel and Jethro Tull. Especially the playing on the MiniMoog by Róbert Erdész is breathtaking and has certain links with Camel. The 23 minutes that we can enjoy from their Progfest-concert is way too short. People who can lay their hands on the double-CD Live In Los Angeles (1996) can enjoy the remainder of their amazing performance.
While watching the entire live footage several years after its first release, I can't deny that the standards of live DVD's have improved a lot. Also the coverage of festivals is done better nowadays, but that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy this release. For me the high quality of a DVD-release isn't always needed. It's more important that the music performed by a band sounds good and that you can enjoy fine close ups of the musicians. That's the case here on this release and therefore the official DVD-release of the Progfest '95 video is worthwhile!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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