The Samurai Of Prog -

(4CD 2024, 65:49/ 67:44/ 73:20/ 68:03, Seacrest Oy ‎- SCR-1045)

The tracks:
  1- Into The Woods(03:06)
  2- The Three Snake-Leaves(09:43)
  3- Iron John(05:57)
  4- White Skies Prologue(03:39)
  5- White Skies(10:43)
  6- The Lady And The Lion(03:56)
  7- The Blue Light(06:44)
Bonus tracks:
  8- From Midnight To Dawn(10:16)
  9- A Queen's Wish(11:39)
  1- The Tricky Fiddler(06:03)
  2- A Searching For The Fear(09:42)
  3- The Devil With The Three Golden Hairs(10:34)
  4- The Travelling Musicians(11:01)
  5- The White Snake(17:37)
  6- The Tricky Fiddler - Reprise(02:05)
Bonus tracks:
  7- The Three Feathers(10:38)
  1- Dead Or Alive(06:04)
  2- Mira al Cuore(23:39)
  3- La Resa Dei Conti(29:45)
  4- Snakebite(08:07)
  5- The Fabulous Felipe And His Dancing Squirrels(03:07)
  6- High Noon(06:32)
Bonus tracks:
  7- Secondo Millennio(05:36)
  1- Anthem To The Phoenix Star(07:17)
  2- Burning Silence(06:59)
  3- Killing Hopes(07:38)
  4- Bones(08:37)
  5- Don't Be Afraid(11:23)
  6- Wings(04:02)
  7- Behind the Curtain(13:36)
Bonus tracks:
  8- Rebirth(08:26)

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Along with the latest album from The Samurai Of Prog, I was also sent this boxset comprising four previously released albums, all enhanced with bonus tracks. Bonus for me: although I know a couple of TSOP albums (and have a few in my collection), I wasn't familiar with any of these four. Present on all four CDs is the core of TSOP, Marco Bernard (basses), Marco Grieco (keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals, ukulele, percussion) and drummer Kimmo Pörsti, along with Steve Unruh (vocals, guitars, flute, electric and acoustic violins). I am not even going to try to detail the mass of guest musicians on all four CDs, but we find among them several well-known names, such as Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards), Marek Arnold (alto and soprano saxes), Marcel Singor (of Kayak and Ayreon on electric guitar), Clive Nolan (vocals), Yogi Lang (RPWL, vocals) and Olivia Sparnenn Josh (Mostly Autumn, on vocals).

The first two CDs are based on Grimm's Tales, but not necessarily the known tales. On The Lady And The Lion, the music can be best described as a mixture of Italian symphonic prog fused with British symphonic prog from the 1970s and 1980s. White Skies, for example, has a seriously strong ELP-flair, while the title track brings a piano piece that seems to pay homage to Rick Wakeman. The bonus track From Midnight To Dawn brings Oldfield-like guitars at first and thereafter it drifts off into jazz-rock. I like it! The other (remixed) bonus track, A Queen's Wish (based on the well-known story of Snow White) suffers seriously from its lyrics. Stop the CD before that one.

The second CD, The White Snake, may be my favourite of the set, especially because it's partly instrumental. The first two pieces and bonus track The Three Feathers are rather jazzy. The Travelling Musicians is rather fun. The storytelling is here much more subtle than I have encountered on other TSOP-albums. Well done. However, it clearly helps if you know the stories before you listen to the music. The title track takes over 17 and a half minutes. It's a great piece of music with good female vocals (sounds like Christina Booth of Magenta, but isn't her), except for the operatic part at the end. Not a fan!

The third CD in this set is another instalment of TSOP goes Western. If you have heard others in this series, this one won't be a surprise. Two very long pieces dominate the album which draws strongly on symphonic prog in the Italian tradition. The singing is also in Italian (as it should for a Spaghetti Epic) and for all I care, they could be singing a shopping list: it still would sound great. As on previous Spaghetti-albums, the symphonic prog music is laced with Western themes (Morricone says hello!). Sometimes this is done in a clever way, but on a few moments, it also can be plainly annoying. Of the shorter pieces, Snakebite is a folky instrumental with some Western bits that work very well, and Fabulous Felipe is another piano solo theme of which there seems to be one on (almost) every TSOP-album.

The fourth CD of the set leaves me a bit puzzled. The Samurai of Prog goes Ayreon? I appreciate their willingness to do something, but this doesn't work for me. Let me just leave it at that. I may revisit this last CD in a few years' time, but for now it spoils the previous ones a bit. But that's my personal feeling! You can try it anyway!

***+ / ****- / ***+ / No Rating Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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