Year of Release: 2001
Label: InsideOut Music America
Catalog Number: IOMACD 2027
Total Time: 77:05:00
Yes, it's another review of an album already reviewed by some of my cohorts, but I had some thoughts about it and I thought I'd share them.
The Flower Kings' The Rainmaker was released before the tragic events of September 11, but the lyrics that begin "Last Minute On Earth" seem especially prescient. It is an observation that I'm sure many have and will make as they come to know this album. There, in the first lines, we hear: "Last minute on earth / what would you do, who would you call?" For some, we know the horrible answer. As this suggests, as the artwork suggests, this is a darker album. Soundwise, this track is a cross between King Crimson (Red period) and Spock's Beard...there is a heavy angularity (bass and drums) that I associate with the former, and the dynamics between hard and light passages is much like what Morse does with the latter. In 11-plus minutes, the track does go off in other directions - a keyboard / guitar workout at one point, almost jam like approaching near chaos; a Pink Floyd/Genesis hybrid passage two-thirds in; a moody bass led passage later, reminding me of Tony Levin. And, given the various textures throughout, I am even reminded of my review of Crimson's Red.
What can be said about this album is that it is full of contrasts, both within and between tracks. Though "Road To Sanctuary" begins as a jaunty tune with a playful, spritely keyboard passage, this soon becomes a harsh, angular track reminding one not of Crimson, but rather of Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- with a touch of Spock's Beard, which suggests to me the influence Morse has had on Stolt in terms of music composition. I'm sure the reverse is true as well, though we'll have to see with the next Spock's Beard album. Again, as this is a long track (13:50 is the timing), this explores other musical areas - a classical guitar passage at one point even.
"City Of Angels" harks back to Space Revolver (at least initially), as there is a similarity to "Chicken Farmer Song," but eventually becomes something that wouldn't have seemed out of place in the 70s -- not the psychedelic 70s, not the prog 70s, but the pop 70s. Except that, of course, there are passages that wouldn't have appeared in the pop of 70s. And, at more than 12 minutes long, wouldn't have really made it to mainstream radio but in a very abbreviated fashion. The instrumental section is what one might term, in the "style" definition of prog as proggy. Take the hallmarks of some the classic prog rock bands -- extensive instrumentation, powerful and moving guitar solos, driving keyboards, etc., etc., (that is Genesis and Yes) and this is what you find here, seemingly without quoting specific passages.
What I'd term the most typical Flower Kings like track is the closing "Serious Dreamers" - it's psychedelic, and yet like "City Of Angels" (which it sounds quite a bit like, to be honest) also like 70's pop. It has a more psych-prog sheen that "City..." Again, this provides the contrast to the track that precedes it, "Red Alert." This is the shortest of the epic length tracks at nearly 9 minutes (at 8:59 we might as well say it is 9 minutes). Listening the keyboard passages towards the end, one can't help but think of 70s R&B.
There are shorter tracks here. The most mellow, and perhaps haunting, track is the minimalist instrumental "The Rainmaker" - low, slow, funereal drum beats accent string-like keyboard passages. Perhaps this is the "Wagnerism" credited to keyboardist Tomas Bodin. Stolt's guitar seems almost too bright in contrast, and yet it does provide the contrast - his initial solo is stately and controlled, but returns a few seconds later a little less so. All this gives way to spacey, atmospheric keyboard effects that stutter and shimmer. "World Without A Heart" is equally a mellow, reflective piece that sounds like an amalgam of a number of songs, including Simon and Garfunkle's "America" (and others I recognize but cannot name). The final piano notes have quite a haunting effect. "Elaine" is a sad song, mining the same kind of sentiment as the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," Galahad's "Shine," and in very remote way, Rush's "Subdivisions." String effects aside, instrumentally this has nothing in common with any track. Ulf Wallander guests on soprano sax in a passage that features a gurgling bass and taut percussion, along with keys. "The Sword Of God" is a beefy, bluesy, heavy rock number ... if someone said Glenn Hughes, for example, I'd be hard pressed to argue, except that Fröberg doesn't really sound like Hughes.
"Blessing Of A Smile" has a Mannheim Steamroller feel to it, with Wallander's sax giving it the feeling that Kenny G was guesting, but leaving the saccharine behind. It's a nice track, and seems to fit right in to a holiday season, even if it's not a holiday song. "Red Alert" in the third instrumental track here which has a bit of early-Genesis feel to it. It lasts just over a minute.
There are a lot of folks saying that they don't like it as much as Space Revolver, but actually I do. It is different, darker, more serious, but it is a solid and interesting effort. In retrospect, it will probably be viewed as a very mature work, and regarded highly in their oeuvre. Interestingly, the track that will get the most attention post "nine-eleven" (to use the catchphrase of the day) -- that is, "Last Minute On Earth" -- isn't the strongest track here.
Last Minute On Earth (11:40) / World Without A Heart (4:29) / Road To Sanctuary (13:50) / The Rainmaker (6:02) / City Of Angels (12:04) / Elaine (4:55) / Thru The Walls (4:31) / Sword Of God (6:00) / Blessing Of A Smile (3:12) / Red Alert (1:10) / Serious Dreamers (8:59)
Roine Stolt - vocals, guitars
Tomas Bodin - keyboards
Jonas Reingold - bass
Jaime Salazar - drums
Hasse Fröberg - vocals, guitar
Ulf Wallander - soprano sax
Roine Stolt - The Flower King (1994/2001/2004)
Back In The World Of Adventures (1995)
Stardust We Are (1997/2000)
Scanning The Greenhouse (comp) (1998)
Edition Limitée Quebec (1998) (only 700 copies!)
Flower Power (1999)
TFK fanclub disc (2000) (free CD exclusive to fanclub members only)
Alive On Planet Earth (2000)
Space Revolver (2000)
Space Revolver Special Edition (2CD set) (2000)
The Rainmaker (2001)
The Rainmaker - Special Edition (2001)
Unfold The Future (2002)
Live In New York: Official Bootleg (2002)
Fan Club CD 2002 (2002)
Fan Club CD 2004 (2004)
Adam & Eve (2004)
Harvest (fan club CD) (2005)
Paradox Hotel (2006)
The Road Back Home (2007)
The Sum Of No Evil (2007)
The Sum Of No Evil (Special Edition) (2007)
Banks Of Eden (2012)
Meet The Flower Kings - Live Recording (DVD) (2003)
Instant Delivery (DVD) (2006)
Instant Delivery - Limited Edition (2CD/2DVD) (2006)
Genre: Symphonic Prog