This is a side-project from the interesting international trio The Samurai Of Prog featuring its members Marco Bernard (Rickenbacker - and Shuker basses) and Kimmo Pörsti (drums and percussion), accompanied by a wide range of guest musicians (playing from saxophone and French horn to piccolo and guitars), including third The Samurai Of Prog member Steve Unruh (vocals and violin), violin player Tsuboy Akihisa (from the excellent Japanese prog fusion band KBB), and six musicians on keyboards! “The album Gulliver is a concept, inspired by his famous travels, and which maintains the style and DNA of the original band” according to the band on its website.
1. Overture XI (7:42) : After a short intro featuring tender harpsichord the opener delivers a distinctive overture sound: lush, dynamic and bombastic, it contains Hammond organ and fiery guitar and a powerful rhythm-section. Halfway a mellow part with Fender electric piano, a sensitive electric guitar and soaring Hammond join, reminding me of Seventies Focus, wonderful! Then a compelling build-up of sound with a moving electric guitar solo, culminating in howling runs and a sumptuous atmosphere, an outstanding conclusion.
2. Lilliput Suite (Part I - Lilliput) (17:53) : This is the 'magnum opus' of the album, it is mainly built upon excellent interplay between lush orchestral keyboards (lots of brass), Hammond and rock guitar, an interesting combination, rooted in the strong classical tradition in symphonic rock. The music is topped with inspired vocals, in English, with a slight accent. In between lots of shifting moods: from mellow with flute, tender Grand piano and an array of classical instruments to moving electric guitar and Keith Emerson kind of playing on the Hammond. The contrast between the classical and rock instruments creates a lot of tension in the music.
3. The Giants (Part II - Brobdingnag) (8:42) : First a dreamy intro with keyboards and guitar, gradually the music turns more lush and bombastic featuring wonderful Grand piano, a sensitive electric guitar solo and a saxophone solo in a swinging rhythm. Then it culminates in a bombastic eruption with Mellotron choirs and violins, goose bumps, as a Tron-maniac! Halfway a Rick Wakeman inspired Mini Moog solo, then again a swinging rhythm with sparkling Grand piano, flashy synthesizer solo, and fiery saxophone, with strong bombastic overtones. And finally a short interlude with the unsurpassed Mellotron choir sound, awesome!
4. The Land of the Fools (Part III - Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg and Japan) (14:30) : Another 10+ minute epic composition, very dynamic and alternating. From fiery guitar work and a Mini Moog solo in a mid-tempo or dreamy with piano and tender vocals to a swinging rhythm with more exciting Mini Moog work. Finally a part featuring fiery guitar, I notice a fusion/jazzrock sound.
5. Gulliver's Fourth Travel (Part IV - The land of the Houyhnhnm) (10:17) : This final composition starts with swinging piano and swirling violin play, evoking the fascinating Balkan folk sound, a favourite of mine. Then more sensational Rick Wakeman inspired Minimoog flights, and for the first time the vocals are (partly) in Italian, I love it, a big hand for native vocals! The rest of this varied epic (from mellow to bombastic) delivers lots of great vintage keyboard work, from sparkling Grand piano (in combination with violin), and spectacular Mini Moog flights to powerful Hammond and majestic Mellotron choirs. This is topped with heavy guitar play and strong Italian vocals.
6. Finale (3:11) : The final track is a short but dynamic one. First a swinging mid-tempo with cheerful Mini Moog flights, powerful Hammond and electric guitar. The interplay is outstanding, with heavy guitar runs, and bombastic overtones. Halfway the music turns into dreamy with piano and military drums, then a strong build-up to bombastic, loaded with vintage keyboards, wow!
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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