Cross - Playgrounds


Year of Release: 2004
Label: Progress Records
Catalog Number: PRCD 013
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:19:00

Cross' latest release is 2004's Playgrounds (which is now out in North America through a deal with ProgRock Records). As with 2000's Secrets, the highlight is the musicianship, which is of a classic modern progressive rock mould, with beautifully expressive guitars (Hansi Cross), shimmering percussion (Tomas Hyort and Cross), throbbing bass lines (Lollo Andersson), and beds of keyboards (Olov Andersson (Spektrum, Grand Stand) and Cross). Quite a few quests show up on this release as well, playing on a track or two - Lizette Von Panajott (Spektrum) on harmony vocals; G?ran Johnsson (Spektrum) on toms and harmony vocals; Imus K?se on soprano sax; G?ran Fors (Galleon, Spektrum) on Taurus pedals and harmony vocals; Alex on toms and snare; Hannah on electric violin and Robert Iversen on thrashy cymbal.

So, great music, but... I still find that Hansi Cross isn't the strongest of vocalists... His voice does work with the music, as you'd expect it should, since Cross wrote all of it (Lollo Andersson co-wrote the music on two pieces, one of them with Olov as well). But... it's not the strongest aspect of this trio-plus. Cross does sometimes sound a bit like David Gilmour, I find... and on the first track, "Let The Play Begin..." it lends portions of the 7-plus minute a piece a Pink Floyd-like feel. In fact, most of "A New Beginning" (track 3) sounds like latter day Floyd as well, but it also has its share of parpy keys that moves it into "neo-prog" territory. K?se plays a lovely soprano sax solo here, warm and languid... in fact, the whole pace of the track is languid and slowly evolving. The piece ends, 10 minutes later, very atmospherically.

"D?j? Vu" is a heavier, pulsier instrumental track that puts Cross' guitar voice, which is exquisite, front and center. "D?j? Vu" does quote from "Let The Play Begin"... hence the title. Equally throbbing and dark is the second instrumental on the album "The Battle of Thal?ma," which includes trumpeting keyboard tones - guitar in there, too. It reminds me a bit of "Nude's Return" on Camel's Nude CD, yet not quite as strident or triumphant. Here they are just a tad melancholy and glide a bit more smoothly. A great track, one that's sure to be a classic... well, there is a bit of Genesis/Steve Hackett feel to it as well. The final instrumental is the quiet, acoustic-in-feel, brief interlude called "Fj?rilshonung." It bridges nicely into the exuberant closing track, "Mesmerizing Enterprize" (more in a moment).

"...And Enter The Game" has a funkier feel, owing to the deep throb of Andersson's bass; but it also has a dreamy, almost smooth jazzy, Alan Parsons-y feel to it as it moves along. Don't freak at the smooth jazz comment, by the way. It's that jazzy feel that we got sometimes from Camel, at least a certain period of Camel. Sax returns, though subtly, here as well, giving a small section a brassy-hued build up.

The longest track is the 15-minute plus "Mesmerizing Enterprize." At a length like that, with progressive rock like this, you know that this will be an epic. It is, with multiple movements and tones, from expansive, airy sections (the first five minutes), to tighter, more intimate passages (the next 2 minutes). And here in this section we get another emotive Cross guitar solo, one that is cut off quickly for the spritely next section, where a chorus of voices join Cross'... (where the majority of the "harmony vocals" credit comes in). And then we get keyboard atmospheres and throbbing bass and drums... And then just keys... Then even those become subtle to provide a gaseous, spacey atmosphere against which Cross briefly solos. Sounds eclectic, but it transitions smoothly and naturally from section to section, even the abrupt shift mentioned above.

On the whole, Playgrounds is very good release, with a great sound (especially, for me, Cross' guitar playing). It's stronger in the instrumental passages, which make it an album to not overlook.


Tracklisting:
Let The Play Begin... (7:37) / D?j? V? (4:36) / A New Beginning (10:10) / The Battle Of Thal?ma (5:31) / ...And Enter The Game (9:44) / Fj?rilshonung (0:51) / Mesmerizing Enterprize (15:20)

Musicians:
Hansi Cross - guitars, keyboards, percussion, lead vocals, harmony vocals
Lollo Andersson - bass
Tomas Hjort - drums, harmony vocals

With:

Olov Andersson - keyboards, harmony vocals

And:

Lizette Von Panajott - harmony vocals (1, 5, 7)
G?ran Johnsson - toms (4), harmony vocals (5, 7)
Imus K?se - soprano sax (3, 5)
G?ran Fors - Taurus pedals (3) and harmony vocals (7)
Alex - toms (3), snare (4)
Hannah - electric violin (4)
Robert Iversen - thrashy cymbal (5)

Discography:
Uncovered Heart (1987)
2nd Movement (1990)
Changing Poison Into Medicine (1993)
Gaze (1996)
Dream Reality (1997)
Visionary Fools (1998)
Gaze (remastered) (1999)
Secrets (2000)
Playgrounds (2005)
Secrets (remastered) (2008)
The Thrill Of Nothingness (2009)
Wake Up Call (2012)
De Capo (2014)
Gaze 2015 (2015)
Visionary Fools - mmxv (2016)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin SE

Added: July 2nd 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.progressrec.com/cross
Hits: 1933
Language: english

  

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