The Samurai Of Prog (Feat. Marco Grieco) -
A Quiet Town


(CD 2024, 68:34, Seacrest Oy ‎- SCR-1041,)

The tracks:
  1- Smile Forever(7:45)
  2- The Crime(5:41)
  3- The Priest(6:56)
  4- The Businessman(7:47)
  5- The Mayor(6:08)
  6- The Doctor(7:17)
  7- Dance of Clues(3:04)
  8- The Solution (Part I)(11:56)
  9- The Solution (Part II)(7:12)
10- The Report(4:48)

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Here's another one from The Samurai Of Prog. This collective (by lack of a better way of describing them, because "project" does not entirely do justice to them, I think) comes with new albums in an amazing tempo. That in itself makes me a bit sceptical, because can musicians deliver on a high level of quality when they produce so much material? Having asked that question, I must also admit that they haven't let me down seriously so far. Sure, not everything I've listened to was brilliant, but at least listenable. Well, let's see how the new one, released in February of this year turned out.

The story, at least, is novel. So far, The Samurai has dealt with stories about samurai (duh), Western movie themes and fairy tales. The new concept of the album is summarized in the information letter as: "In a seemingly serene town with devoted Sundays and thriving soap factories, the sudden discovery of a young woman's lifeless body in the church confessional unravels hidden truths. A childhood friend, now a detective, unveils unsuspected realities. Within a TSOP progressive rock concept album, the mystery unfolds, revealing the culprit behind the tranquil fašade".

I cannot think of another "Whodunnit"-prog album (even though Genesis did have a track of that name), so let's find out about this murder mystery. But first a look at the musicians. Here we find some of the usual suspects (pun intended): Marco Bernard, on Shuker basses; Marco Grieco, on keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, and backing vocals; and Kimmo P÷rsti, on drums and percussion. As always, they are joined by a series of guest musicians. Among these, some familiar names, as several new ones: Michael Trew on lead and backing vocals; Ron Alonso on vocals; Peakfiddler, on fiddle; Luke Shingler on flute; Juhani Nisula on electric guitars; Steve Unruh on vocals, violin, and flute; Olli Jaakkola on flute; Ben Craven on vocals and lead electric guitar; Tony Riveryman (aka Toni Jokinen) on electric guitars; Ivan Santovito on lead and backing vocals; Marco Vincini on vocals; Andy Nixon on lead and backing vocals; and Linus Kňse on alto saxophone. The artwork was done by Ed Unitsky.

Opener Smile Forever provides a good entry to the album. Solid bass, flutes and a soaring keyboard solo. I like it! Then there is a clarinet that gives a Klezmer-like feel and later on a soaring guitar-solo in best David Gilmour tradition. Then we encounter The Crime which has a fun jazzy/Dixieland part to it, but also suffers from an overload of lyrics.
And while we are on the subject of lyrics, let's stay there for a little while, because the next track, The Priest, provides a good example of how storytelling through song lyrics can make for clumsy lyrics and awkward listening. Which is not helped by the nasal singing (some hints at Fish here). This truly is a shame because this track has much to offer, from the opening with violin and a propulsive rock section and later a delicious synth solo (reminding pleasantly of mid-1970s Genesis) and a fine guitar solo.
And so we are presented with the gallery of persons in this drama. The harmony vocals on The Mayor remind me of something else. Who's singing here? Sounds like Nick D'Virgillio, but it isn't him. Even so, I am pleasantly reminded of the brilliant Rewiring Genesis album, and I also like the threatening build-up. Less to my liking is The Doctor with a silly cabaret-like opening. Still, I like the Genesis-like keyboard solo and the fine guitars before we are back to the cabaret theme.
After we have reviewed the possible suspects, we start solving the crime. The Dance Of Clues has a fine piano solo opening (do I hear some references to the Tubular Bells theme here?) as well as a fun jazzy section. Then, The Solution is presented in two parts. Wrapped in traditional prog, it is rather heavy on the lyrics. On one hand not surprising, on the other a bit annoying. Finally, all has to be documented in The Report. A typewriter used as instrument is not entirely original (used brilliantly in Twelfth Night's We Are Sane) but it provides a good instrumental closer of an album that for the greater part is very enoyable.

*** Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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