Frogg Café - Frogg Café

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:00:00

One warm summer night you are sitting along the shore of a pond; everything is still except suddenly you notice warm, jazzy tones coming from some where across the pond. It isn't until the skies darken more that you see this glow of light. It's a warm amber-yellow light; this is where these jazzy tones are coming from. Curious, you hop from lily pad to lily pad, getting closer to the light ? you see the biggest gathering of frogs you've ever seen, all sitting in rapt attention while a quintet of frogs sit atop mushrooms and play the tiniest of instruments with the biggest of sound. You carefully hop off the lily pad to the shore and get closer.

What characterizes the sound that you hear is a sweet and sour violin, played by a frog you later learn is named Bill Ayasse. Being a frognoscenti of music, you hear influences from other music you have heard played by those dangerous, yet fascinating, humans who frolic and dance on the shores of your pond, while cacophonous sounds burst out of a large, square object (a stereo you've heard it called). So you think of a band called Kansas, especially during the third song in the frog's set, "Candy Korn Part 1," and in the gurgling keyboards and violin duet in "Space Dust" (which recalls "Lighning's Hand"), though these frogs are bit mostly jazzier than that, with elements of bluegrass at times. And you find yourself drawn to the music, hopping over your fellow frogs to get a closer look and listen.

You find they can be angular in that jazz-rock kind of way, though not quite as eccentric as, say, French TV, Eyestrings, Bubblemath, and others that come to mind. But there is also a traditional jazz feel to the music. Frognocenti that you are, others that also come to mind at various times (and mostly during "Old Souls," the second song of the set) are Spock's Beard, Kevin Gilbert, Echolyn, and Pain Of Salvation. The first three are probably obvious, you think, there's some commonality that ties many American frog -- prog, you correct yourself -- bands together. But the latter reference is in mostly the vocals, as vocalist/keyboardist/trumpeter Nick Lieto sounds like Daniel Gildenlöw, you think. You feel you must make special note of Lieto as a trumpeter, because his is a warm, brassy sound that you just love. Yes, next to a mean sax and guitar, you love the sound of a trumpet. You leap-frog closer till you are in the front row, sucker-tonguing any who dare pull you back.

You thought you had joined the performance mid-song, but in fact, the first song of the set, "Deltitnu" begins that way, in media res. Not that that's a bad thing. It's a piece that is at first jazzy, then becomes quite country-bluegrass like? it's that violin, don't you know. And "Old Man" has an intense, dramatic sound with understated harmonized vocals, recalling not just Kansas, America or Crosby, Stills and Nash. Trumpet opens "Candy Korn Part 2" and both Miles Davis and Herb Alpert come to mind - but is it just because of the instrument, or something in the tone? Perhaps a little of both. The horn is joined first by guitar, playing in duet, then percussion and bass. It's a breezy and frenetic piece all at once, and you feel a collective tension settle over your froggy friends. Especially as that urgent violin begins to sing of the equally urgent guitar. "While You Were Sleeping" is a darker, sometimes churning, sometimes laidback piece, the ever present violin screeching and singing sadly; later leaving the acidic tone to a buzz-sawing guitar. Dozens of slick frog heads nod and bob to the rhythm? you included. Even the flies seem to pause to listen. Lieto's lyrical and light piano phrases add another layer of beauty to this piece...

You later learn the name of the band, Frogg Café, and the rest of the member's names: Andy Sussman on bass, guitar and vocals, Frank Camiola on guitars and bass, and James Guarnieri on drums. And none of those who handle lead and backing vocals croaks like your typical frog, which pleases your ear and comes as a nice change. But then, what typical frog sings and plays an instrument anyway?

When the show ends (with a track that pays tribute to Frank Zappa) you have a new mission - to spread Frogg-song all across the land and make everyone Froggnoscenti.

Ribbits: 5/5

The true final song is the bonus track added to the reissue from ProgRock Records, a live version of Candy Korn. And this an absolutely fantastic debut. Recommended to frogs and humans alike.

Reissued in 2004 by ProgRock Records

Deltitnu (5:47) / Old Souls (4:05) / Candy Korn Part 1 (3:50) / Candy Korn Part 2 (4:10) / While You Were Sleeping (7:42) / Old Man (7:36) / Space Dust (5:28) / Questions Without Answers (8:57) / Bonus Track: Candy Korn, Live, NY, NY (8:24)

Nick Lieto - trumpet, keyboards, vocals
Bill Ayasse - violin, vocals
Andy Sussman - bass, guitar, vocals
Frank Camiola - guitars, bass
James Guarnieri - drums

Frogg Café (2001/2004)
Creatures (2003)
Fortunate Observer Of Time (2005)
The Safenzee Diaries (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: November 21st 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1405
Language: english


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