Cairo - Time Of Legends

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA 9044-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:19:00

CairoThe three year gap between 1998's Conflict And Dreams and last year's Time Of Legends was due in part to the Magna Carta label holding back on the release of the disc. While I don't know the reasons behind it, I know that it was something that frustrated the band. But in the summer of 2001, Time Of Legends was finally released. I can't figure out why Magna Carta would have wanted to sit on this -- it's not like Cairo have changed style drastically that the label would be releasing it into an uncertain market. That is, Cairo haven't become a boy band, a rap band, a bubblegum pop band. On the other hand, Cairo aren't as metallic as their label mates Shadow Gallery, whose album Legacy was also released last summer. You'd then argue, perhaps, that the label was looking for something a little harder from Cairo. And, yet, one that has to consider that label mates Tempest are a different breed again ... But since the album is out, some of this is moot now anyway.

The other part of the delay to be sure (but I'm supposing), is the departure of guitarist Alec Fuhrman and bassist Jamie Browne (who himself replaced Rob Fordyce from the first album). Leaving Cairo as a trio of Mark Robertson (keys), Jeff Brockman (drums) and Bret Douglas (vocals), the line up is supplemented by guests Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchinson on guitars and John Evans on bass.

So, while the line up has changed, for the most part the sound has not. Douglas still sounds like both Max Bacon and Jon Anderson alternately, the latter here more so than the former. And the music is the same mix of Yes and ELP. "Underground," for example, which opens the album, shows Robertson's best imitation of Emerson -- solid yet flowery and florid (though in a few spots elsewhere he reminded me of Wakeman). The whole Yes/ELP thing is best typified by "The Prophecy." The long intro is a little darker than the other material that surrounds it, this mainly to the booming bass. But once that gives way to the core of the song, we get something very much like late 80s Yes. That is, if Steve Howe had been the guitarist, as Maldonado has the same light and lyrical touch as Howe. So yes, as others here have mentioned, the classic Yes of the 70s sound is here, too. As a lyricist, Douglas is more direct than Anderson, as he's not taken to obscure imagery and phrases. And yet, he's not singing about doing his laundry, either. Topically, the subjects boil down to faith and love (not actually that far from Anderson). The crisis of Conflict And Dreams is nearer resolution, as this is the album where the road ahead is clearer. I don't think their albums should really be seen as any kind of trilogy, though. Time Of Legends does not follow on exactly from Conflict Of Dreams, or even from their first, self-titled release. But I gather that something in Douglas' personal life (he wrote all the lyrics) improved in those three years, or at least outlook has, which has resulted in a more upbeat sounding album.

For all their Yes/ELP influence, there are different directions taken by the band as well, exemplified by the entirely instrumental "Scottish Highland." I really like this track in every way; it's beautiful and very evocative of a cool, crisp winter morning. Robertson's flute and recorder-like keys that provide the right atmosphere for this kind of impression. It has been a very long time since I was in Scotland myself (and even then, we only stopped by for lunch on our way elsewhere), but I see from this song: snow-capped mountains and lots of green. Here's what's interesting -- there is nary a hint of either Yes or ELP here. Heard alone, one would be inclined to drop by the New Age section and look for it there. Being a fan of that kind of music as well, I'm quite pleased with this track. So, too, you might say the same of "Cosmic Approach." The percussive aspects of the band are hightened here in this very digital sounding piece. Brockman's drums beat and pound beneath a layer of synth washes and ethereal waves -- though for a few passages we get "cosmic" sonic effects. I thought specifically of James Reynolds, who composed the music for the first Mind's Eye release (the three volume series of computer-animation shorts set to music that also includes Thomas Dolby's The Gate To The Mind's Eye and Jan Hammer's Beyond The Mind's Eye). Or, if your tastes run more to rock, think of the intro to U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" sans the guitar of The Edge (a piece of music getting a lot airings of late, including Utah's tourist-enticing commericals). A nice track, but the above-mentioned effects take something away.

The third instrumental is the ecstatic "The Fuse." It is a piece also taken into classical passages. It is grand and epic, a sweeping track that encompasses, even with the gurgling, Emersonian keyboard passages, reminds me a great deal of Yes' instrumental "Cinema" (from 90125). It is an energetic workout that just about leaves you breathless. It slows only a bit for a respite, while Maldanado flits in with some keening guitar, but his appearance here (in that role) is brief, as were back to keyboards. Not surprisingly, this piece was composed by Robertson, who also composed "Scottish Highlands" (Brockman composed "Cosmic Approach").

In between we get some very nice, pleasant, mid-tempo AOR-styled rock in the Asia tradition. What makes Cairo unique I suppose, or at least distinctive, is in how they blend together all their influences. If they were to inject some the heavier tones of their instrumentals into their vocal tracks -- that is, add a little edge to their music -- it make their sound more rounded. It is this that I find missing here, though this is otherwise a pleasant release. They can't be faulted for having a lighter touch, of course. Perhaps I've just been jaded by the darker, edgier things I've been listening to of late. None of this should be construed as to mean that I don't think that Time Of Legends is a good album, I do. The performances and production (also by the band) on this release are terrific, too.

Underground (8:06) / The Prophecy (10:15) / Scottish Highland (2:39) / You Are The One (5:44) / Cosmic Approach (4:20) / Coming Home (7:08) / The Fuse (9:02)

Mark Robertson - keyboards
Jeff Brockman - drums
Bret Douglas - vocals
Luis Maldonado - guitar
Brian Hutchinson - guitar
John Evans - bass

Cairo (1994)
Conflict and Dreams (1998)
Time Of Legends (2001)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin US

Added: March 9th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 713
Language: english


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