Kay And Gerda is the fourth full release from tRKProject, the side project of Ryszard Kramarski (Millenium) keyboard player, composer and founder of the record label. Like two of its predecessors it has a literary theme. Previously tRK have tackled The Little Prince and A Christmas Carol. In this outing the theme is taken from The Snow Queen. Members of both Loonypark and Moonrise feature, so this is an experienced lineup of Polish prog musicians who have been on fine form recently.
It is also pleasing to see that Karolina Leszko returns to furnish suitably haunting fragile vocals to disc 1, playing the role of the heroine, Gerda. The unique concept of this release though is that there are two identical discs - identical except that the lead character changes between the discs - Gerda on the first and the boy she rescues, Kai played with assurance by Dawid Lewandowski on the second. This is an intriguing idea and should counterpoint the difference between male and female viewpoint, good and evil, pure and corrupted, but enjoyable as both vocal performances are, it doesn't. It's just two different vocalists singing the same songs, which is disappointing as Gerda's Song , one of the highlights, for example could be a great dramatic duet, exploring the tension between Gerda with her rosebox and Kai who will destroy them. It's an opportunity lost especially given the ability of the musicians on display to produce moments of great lyrical power.
I enjoyed this treatment much more than the previous foray into story telling although unfortunately the tendency to drop into plodding rock-ballad territory is again evident, something which Marcin Kruczek's soaring tour de force on guitar does a lot to distract the listener away from. There are some fine instrumental passages, notably on The Crow And The Castle and Long Way North but just as Little Robber Girl opens the door to some driving hard rock a disappointingly anodyne verse slams it back shut again, which is very much the story of this collection. There's so much to admire, and then it somehow just steps away from delivering the killer punch, with the whole thing drawing to something of a limp conclusion.
Overall I found this frustrating on so many levels, great playing, great vocal performances, but the whole thing could have been so much more powerful if the two vocalists had been allowed to play their characters to each other. There's lots of imagination, and glimpses of something really special, but it just seems tantalisingly out of reach.
*** Andrew Cottrell
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