Various - Progfest '95

Year of Release: 1996
Label: Musea Records
Catalog Number: FGBG 4180
Format: CD
Total Time: 117:48:00

Just like with the recorded relic Progfest '94, Musea have once again co-operated with Progfest brain Greg Walker in order to give those who were unable to go to Los Angeles a recorded testimony of those wonderful two nights in November 1995.

Recorded over two days on 16 tracks by the late Kevin Gilbert and mixed by Jean Pascal Boffo (except for Spock's Beard and Solaris), this double CD offers very good quality recordings by some of today's best bands in the world of progressive rock. Ars Nova, Landberk, Deus Ex-Machina, White Willow, Spock's Beard and Solaris are all featured here in all their glory and technical splendour. Above all, Progfest LA is probably one of the few festivals where bands can actually play on a real mellotron: the Holy Grail for all prog musicians!

The album kicks off with three tracks by Japanese instrumental wizards Ars Nova. With one piece each from every album they'd released up to that point ("Morgan" from their then latest epic The Goddess Of Darkness, "Jihad" from their debut Fear & Anxiety and "Danse Macabre" from Transi) you get a nice introduction to their world of complex ELP based music. Bombastic symphonic sounds, rhythm changes a go-go, crescendos full of intensity, and contrasted atmospheres are put into one unique package and believe me, what they do in the studio they can surely do live as well! To be honest I wouldn't want to be a drumskin once Akiko Takahashi gets herself behind the drumkit!

Sweden is playing a very important role in the current new wave of progressive rock. One of the many talented bands to come out of Sweden certainly is Landberk. The dark sinister keyboard patterns from Simon Nordberg together with the strange singing from Patrick Helje and the unique guitar sound from Reine Fiske form the nucleus of most of their compositions. What we get here are "Kontiki" and "Time," both from the One Man Tells Another album and at that time, a new song called "Dream Dance," which was later to be found on the album Indian Summer. Finding their way through King Crimson, Gentle Giant and VDGG with a touch of Zappa, the band has taken a unique place in the current prog scene. Listening to "Time" I can't help but feel like this is a true "classic" just like Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" and Deep Purple's "Child In Time" were in the seventies. If only more people could witness this wonderful music. Radio Caroline where are you?

The final four tracks on the first disc are from Italian band Deus Ex Machina who combine difficult music with Latin lyrics. Like so often with Italian bands, the band uses violin, which enhances the baroque elements in their music. Then again, the heavy guitar parts contrast perfectly within this complex music whilst keyboard player Luigi Ricciardiello uses some great Moog sounds throughout. In fact, in Deus Ex Machina's music, the solos aren't restricted to just one instrument. The music switches from one instrument to the other giving everyone the possibility to demonstrate his talents. Obviously the two main icons within the band are the operaticvocals of Alberto Piras and the splendid Jean-Luc Ponty-like violin from Alessandro Bonetti. PFM and Gentle Giant fans will be thrilled to witness this great music! The final track "Si Tu Bene Valeas Ego Bene Valeo" sports a nice drum solo by Claudio Trotta.

Disc two opens with the Norwegian pride of White Willow whose debut album Ignis Fatuus was amongst my favourites in '95. As opposed to the studio album, White Willow live only features one singer in the person of Sara Trondal whose voice gives the music an extra folky feel. Both songs, "Lord Of Night" (with superb mellotron and violin!) and "Cryptomenysis," come from the debut album. The attention from the audience is so enormous you can hear a pin drop. "Cryptomenysis" is an instrumental based on a story by HP Lovecraft. It's structure is very Crimsonish, developing into a hybrid of classical, folk and progressive elements in order to produce a dark, almost gothic music. Fans of Änglägard, Landberk and Anekdoten should check them out a.s.a.p!

Those who acquired The Official Live Bootleg by Spock's Beard will have little pleasure in hearing the band's live rendition of "The Light" on this set. Like other bands before them, Spock's Beard decided to release the entire concert on disc, which means that you'll find this particular track in identical form. Nevertheless it remains one of the better current bands offering the sound of the seventies with the intention of the nineties.

The band everyone was looking for at Progfest seemed to be the Hungarian boys from Solaris. Again the band has released the entire concert on a 2 CD set called Live In Los Angeles. However, as this disc isn't widely distributed, I guess the four tracks offered here are a treat for everyone. The music is absolutely WONDERFUL and contains all of the elements you have ever been looking for in progressive rock! This is the absolute highlight of this release with some outstanding instrumental music in the style of Camel. You'll hear some tremendous flute playing contrasting perfectly with out of this world keyboard solos as in the uptempo "Apocalypse." Floating and close to Camel's Nude era is "Oz" which also makes acquaintance with stunning bass playing and guitar and synthesizer fireworks. The speed of the flute in "Hungarian Dance" is sort of a mix between "Flight Of The Bumble Bee" and "Hungarian Rhapsody" before it slows down to a calmer rhythm and speeds up yet again. By now the audience is surely on top of the chairs going completely wild during "Solaris." Eleven years after they released their first album The Martian Chronicles this band came back together again to play what must be the best concert they ever did. Now all they have to do is sell truckloads of albums!

Surely a hell of a finish to what must have been two unforgettable nights. I sincerely hope Progfest will continue and I also hope I'll win the lottery soon as I simply have to be there myself on one of the forthcoming editions!

When Musea released the Progfest '94 2CD-set some time ago, they also released two videos called Day One and Day Two including performances by Halloween, Kalaban, Echolyn, Anglagard, Episode, Anekdoten, Minimum Vital and Sebastian Hardie. Each tape is two hours in length are available in both PAL and NTSC format. Also two videos have been released with some of the highlights of Progfest '95, again divided into Day One and Day Two. In most cases the videos contain different material than that on CD!

[See the Progfest 2000 website for info on this year's event. [Dec 2005: Alas, after 2000, Progfest expired; ProgWest filled the gap momentarily; now it's up to CalProg to carry on the torch, so to speak] -ed]

Disc One: Ars Nova: 'Morgan' (10:53) / 'Jihad' (5:56) / 'Danse Macabre' (9:19) / Landberk: 'Kontiki' (7:31) / 'Dream Dance' (4:39) / 'Time' (3:57) / Deus Ex Machina: 'Exordium' (9:35) / 'Respublica II' (6:11) / 'Ad Montem' (4:44) / 'Si Tu Bene ?' (9:03)

Disc Two: White Willow: 'Lord Of Night' (6:49) / 'Cryptomenysis' (10:16) / Spock's Beard: 'The Light' (16:30) / Solaris: 'Apocalypse' (4:22) / 'Oz' (8:11) / 'Hungarian Dance' (3:42) / 'Solaris' (5:30)



Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin VA

Added: April 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Hits: 1165
Language: english


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