Flower Kings, The - Space Revolver


Year of Release: 2000
Label: Inside Out Music America
Catalog Number: IOMACD 2014
Format: CD
Total Time: 75:04:00

Had I heard this at the time I was formulating my Top 10 for 2000, this would have certainly been in the running if not at the top of the list. I don't think the Flower Kings are a technically perfect band, but they sure sound like they're having a heck of a lot of fun making music that is rich and textured, beautifully orchestrated, and very layered. I say not technically perfect but there isn't anything here that sounds too loose or too tight, so from that perspective they are technically skilled. But there is so much warmth in their playing that they aren't dryly perfect...if I were more musician than writer I might be able to nit-pick some flaws, but I'm better with words and visual descriptions. If you were to assign a colour to a Flower King album, you couldn't assign just one - it would be a kaleidoscope of color, bright and flashy... well, look at any of their album covers, their website ... these are the colours in their music. It isn't muted grays, even something as somber as "Dream On Dreamer" is more pastel and beige.

Space Revolver displays the debut of new bassist Jonas Reingold and he is well displayed. I hear a Chris Squire influence here and there. Ulf Wallander's soprano sax is interspersed throughout the album, giving songs here and there a very jazzy feel. The rest of the Kings are the same: Hans Fröberg (vocals, acoustic guitar), Jaime Salazar (drums), Hasse Bruniusson (various percussion), Tómas Bodin (piano, organ, mellotron), and, of course, Roine Stolt (vocals, guitar).

The original draft of this review was well over two pages long ... so I've tried to contain my enthusiasm somewhat and will paint this album for you in broad strokes. Homage seems part and parcel of the Flower Kings sound, so it isn't surprising to find a snippet here and there of classic prog bands - a keyboard quote from Genesis for example ("Hogweed" I'm thinking with out checking) on "I Am The Sun (Part 1)". And while he isn't credited, given that this was recorded shortly after the Transatlantic project's debut SMPTe, I detect a moment where Neal Morse sings a little bit on a part of "Monster Within" that sounds, not unsurprisingly, Spock's Beard like. "Underdog" is one part Celtic, one part Americana (slide guitar) and several parts Yes, and that still doesn't quite describe it. It is epic, but not in the same sense that the 12-plus minute "Monster Within" or the 15-minute plus "I Am The Sun (Part 1)" are. But it's big, as is nearly everything on this album, which makes "Dream On Dreamer" and "You Don't Know What You've Got" seem small in comparison -- in fact, at a little over two minutes each, these are the shortest tracks on the album.

"Dream On Dreamer" wouldn't seem out of place on your smooth jazz station, but perhaps that's down to Wallander on his soprano sax again -- a tone and sound that has been (for good or ill) so identified with Kenny G that the curly-haired critics punching bag can't help but come to mind. This track is quite gentle, featuring also the acoustic guitar of Hans Fröberg. The track ends (or perhaps the next begins) with the tinkling sounds of a music box.

While it isn't the next track, it sure seems like it was intended to be at one time, as "Monster Within" seems to follow on from "Dream On Dreamer," being the conceptually opposite. Where "Dream On Dreamer" has a positive spin, "Monster Within" is very dark, where nightmares are the subject (perhaps waking nightmares) and well...the monster within. But it does have a rather upbeat arrangement, kind of funky, kinda slinky. Black tails, top hat, and a cane wouldn't seem out of place...and I think of Thomas Dolby a little bit but I think that's just me. A symphonic keyboard part that starts the second movement sounds as if it is singing "You are everything, and everything is you" (if you know the song to which I refer, hum it slowly and you'll have an idea of what I mean). Here too we have an example of Flower Kings as Yes, where Reingold's bass tone and playing sounds a lot like Chris Squire's. Here is where we get Morse (or a close sound-alike) plus someone who sounds uncannily like Wetton (perhaps Froöberg). This track is what I imagined from Transatlantic - a mixture that included both the Flower Kings and Spock's Beard. Even the ending to this track has a hint of familiarity, though I can't quite place a name to it (though...uh...Hootie and The Blowfish did come to mind ... "Hold My Hand" ... but I don't think that's it).

"I Am The Sun (Part I)" opens the album and has a very big sound, a bouncy rhythm, swirling keys, chugging along beneath Stolt's vocals. This gives way to a very orchestrated part, tinkling acoustic guitar, and very relaxed feel. Bell-chimes lead us into the next movement where parping keys take the lead, bass and percussion coming more to the fore, very poppy and up. But not for long as we get a very angular Spock's Beard cum King Crimson like rhythm with Wallander tootling like a drugged-out Kenny G. That above mentioned Genesis passage comes in next, though it isn't quite recognizable just yet, being put into a jamming jazz context for several measures. Before we are lead into an escalating section - like the ending to the Beatles' "A Day In The Life" ... atmospheric keys keep ensnare us, quite, soft, mysterious with gentle vocals from Stolt -- think Sinatra in a hushed moment in Vegas. All that, and barely described in a mere 15 minutes.

The whole first part of the instrumental rave-up "Rumble Fish Twist" does sound a bit like Spock's Beard, which may also be the Zappa-like sections to which Bobo refers. It's angular, to be sure, with parping keys over more percussive ones, frenetic percussion, booming bass, and slick guitar leads. Crowd sounds (whether real or not) speak to the fun the band must have had recording this. Jonas Reingold gets a small solo spot for his bass, and you realize that live this is going to be the "introduce the band and let 'em solo" track as there is plenty of room for this to branch out from it's 8-minute plus playing time. I imagine live, too, it will only touch upon the recorded version, as it is so varied --- more atmospheric keys here, too -- that to try and reproduce it exactly live defeats the purpose. Of course, I could be wrong about all that, too. Just have to wait until the band comes over to the US. The track includes some Floyd-esque guitar lead parts, but I use Floyd as comparison very loosely...this section is keys, guitar and martial percussion...extremely nice, ending in a Genesis like fashion, that second of hesitation and then sighing to a conclusion.

"Chicken Farmer Song" might seem lighter in comparison, being a song you could easily see as having coming from a post-Beatles Paul McCartney, though the sing-song beginning of the track is squarely in Beatles territory. This a summertime singalong kind of song, happy, cheerful. As regards to my McCartney comment, the bridge is very much like ending parts of the chorus to "Ebony and Ivory" the duet McCartney had with Stevie Wonder. Don't just love how specific I get? (Sorry to those who say they don't :- ) ).

"You Don't Know..." seems a bit out of place here...being a bit 70s like in its feel, acoustic based...well, I should say the more soft-rock aspect of the 70s, since a lot of Flower Kings music is 70s sounding. Mmmm ... I'd say think of Bread or America, but there is also something very 00s about it, too. "Slave To Money" made me think for a brief moment of "Nude" from Camel's album of the same name, having the martial beginning that it does. Like everything else here, it doesn't stay in one place, changing rhythms, tempos and what not. One of my favourites, which really includes all of them, -- my favourite of my favourites -- is the stunning "A King's Prayer" from Stolt's initially understated vocals and Bodin's rolling keys, to the harmonized vocals and big arrangement - Fröberg and Stolt's voices work well here together, as they do through out. Fröberg's is the more traditional (unaccented, I guess you'd say) where Stolt's is full of character (I find those sharp "rs" quite endearing). Stolt's guitar solo here is so full of feeling, making it speak with each note he picks out. There is a very brief moment that tips a hat to ELP, just a few beats.

The Flower Kings get a lot of flack from many who don't care for their brand of prog, but unlike so many "serious" bands these days, they make music that's fun to listen to. Stolt isn't a lightweight lyricist, but he has the ability to draw you into his deeper and darker themes by making engaging music. Credit has to go to the whole band of course, because if they could help execute Stolt's vision it just wouldn't work. These arrangements aren't simple, but complex (compared to the three chord version of punk, say), where parts intertwine with other parts...keyboards swirl and spiral... I'm just enjoying this album immensely. I'm not one for a catch phrase one can quote in an ad or anything, but I would have to call this the "feel good album of 2000."

Released in Europe by The Flower Kings' own Foxtrot label


Tracklisting:
I Am The Sun (Part One) (15:03) / Dream On Dreamer (2:43) / Rumble Fish Twist (8:06) / Monster Within (12:55) / Chicken Farmer Song (5:09) / Underdog (5:29) / You Don't Know What Yu've Got (2:39) / Slave Ot Money (7:30) / A King's Prayer (6:02) / I Am The Sun (Part Two) (10:48)

Musicians:
Roine Stolt - guitars, vocals, keyboards
Tomas Bodin - keyboards
Hasse Fröberg - voices
Jonas Reingold - bass
Jaime Salazar - drums, percussion
Hasse Bruniusson - percussion, voices

Discography:
Roine Stolt - The Flower King (1994/2001/2004)
Back In The World Of Adventures (1995)
Retropolis (1996)
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)
BetchaWannaDanceStoopid (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

Origin SE

Added: April 10th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.flowerkings.se
Hits: 713
Language: english

  

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