For Absent Friends -
And The Curtain Calls

(CD 2018, 65.43, FAF Records nr. 5160)

The tracks:
  1- Giving Up(5:33)
  2- Nerd Illusion(5:19)
  3- Stick Around(4:42)
  4- Wonder(4:02)
  5- Into Love(5:41)
  6- Berlin Wall(5:15)
  7- The Big Room(6:49)
  8- Little Things(4:11)
  9- Hello World(4:34)
10- Boy(6:24)
11- Father(7:10)
12- Snow(6:00)


When I started as a progrock reviewer in the early Nineties my first job was for Dutch SI (Sym Info) Magazine, allied with the progrock mailorder service and progrock label SI Music. In that time the new wave of Nineties Neo-Prog was blossoming, after the Eighties Neo-Prog, speerheaded by Marillion, with IQ, Pallas, Pendragon and Twelfth Night in its slipstream. And very soon SI Music acknowledged that Nineties Neo-Prog, with releases from a series of bands, from Everon, Shadowland, Strangers On A Train, Landmarq and Citizen Cain to Dutch Egdon Heath, The Last Detail, Wings Of Steel and For Absent Friends, all with decent to very good sales, a kind of small goldmine for SI Music.

About For Absent Friends (founded in 1997) the legendary Dutch music paper Oor wrote in its popular annual Oor's Pop-encyclopedie (1977-2014): "Probably Holland's best progressive rock band of the nineties, with its well composed, cleverly produced and, above all, original music. After the mini-album Illusions (1990) and the underestimated record Both Worlds (1991) For Absent Friends finally breaks through with the third album Running In Circles (1994). Well, personally I considered For Absent Friends as one of the few interesting Neo-Prog bands on the SI Music label. I have seen the band several times on stage, in my opinion they sound more powerful and dynamic as a live band (FAF was support-act for Asia, Saga, Marillion and Dutch pride Kayak). In 2017 FAF existed 30 years but there was no reason to celebrate, because in 2016 the co-founder and longtime bass player of the band René Bacchus had passed away, after a long illness. This live CD entitled And The Curtain Calls was his last gig with the band (2009), in the'Dutch progrock temple' De Boerderij, and now released, “dedicated to the loving memory of René Bacchus” (written on the back cover).

On this live CD FAF presents its song-oriented, very melodic and harmonic Neo-Prog, with flowing shifting moods and a tasteful colouring by the five band members: Edwin Roes (ex-Genesis Project) delivers outstanding guitar work (from bluesy and moving to harder-edged soli, propulsive riffs and wah-wah drenched rhythm guitar), Ron Mozer is a typical 'functional' Neo-Prog keyboardist with fine work on piano and synthesizers, Edwin Wernke (ex-November) showcases his talents (from beats to inventive fills), Hans Van Lint puts a lot of emotion in his pleasant and inspired vocals and the late René Bacchus has a bit of a growling bass sound, a strong combination with drummer Edwin.

My highlights:
Tender classical piano runs, warm and emotional vocals and fragile electric guitar play in the wonderful ballad Wonder.
A lot of tension and dynamics with splendid guitar work and powerful drums in the compelling Berlin Wall (strong lyrics) and Boy (flashy synthesizer - and organ solo).
And a lot of emotion in the alternating and dynamic Father: from an intro with dreamy vocals and warm acoustic guitar (the distinctive Ovation) to howling electric guitar, powerful drums and bass, and in the end again dreamy with acoustic guitar and emotional vocals, a very intense atmosphere.

If you like Neo-Prog this is strong live album, because on stage FAF rises to the occasion, way more interesting, captivating and dynamic than many of their studio-albums!

***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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