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TRACK LIST: 1. All This Time 8:02 2. Creatures 7:41 3. The Celestial Metal Can 8:19 4. Gagutz 7:55 5. Waterfall Carnival 21:15 All music & lyrics: by Lieto, except 5: Camiola, & 3: Ayasse & Camiola. All arrangements: by Frogg Cafe. LINE-UP: Nick Lieto - vocals; keyboards; trumpet; percussion Frank Camiola - electric & acoustic guitars, banjo, string bass Bill Ayasse - electric & acoustic violins; mandolins James Sussman - drums & percussion Andrew Sussman - electric bass With: Marjorie Ayasse - backing vocals etc (1, 2, & 3) Sharon Ayasse - flute (3, 4, & 5) Steve Campanella - marimba (2, 4, & 5) Christopher Tunney - clarinet (3 & 4) Dee Harris - sarod (3) Tim Roache - woodwinds (3) Produced by B. Ayasse & Camiola. Engineered by B. Ayasse at "Captain Cabesa", NY.
Prolusion. "Creatures" is the second album by Frogg Cafe. Don't be put off by the band's name, though. Even >French TV 'broadcasts' from the USA. The band's eponymous debut album was released a few years ago.
Synopsis. This is my first acquaintance with Frogg Cafe. Hence, I am not able to draw any parallels between this and the other album that this outfit has in its discography. Judging by the contents of "Creatures", I think this is at least one of the bravest bands ever existed in the history of Rock music. In my view, they've made an attempt to come over the boundlessness, which, surprisingly, turned out well, at least in most cases. The album opens with All This Time, representing Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of Cathedral Metal. This is an excellent, very tasteful, by all means 'classic' song, which, however, contains quite a few repetitions, though I am almost doubtless that all of them have been done advisedly (for some uncertain reason). Starting with the second track, more and more guest musicians are in, and repetitions out. A brilliant, highly effective combination of classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion (though with resemblances to Gentle Giant in some vocal parts), presented on the album's title track (2), changes with completely unexpected and unpredictable musical events on the following two. The Celestial Metal Can (3) is the strangest of the creatures available on "Creatures" and is indeed like a can full of strange creatures, all of which, though are gathered in its second half (or section, if you will). The first half of this instrumental thing is almost empty, featuring only spacey-like effects and related sounds, and is followed by a 'concerto' for spontaneous sax solos and the more consistent solos of metallic percussion. Which is followed by oriental music influenced solos of acoustic guitar and, probably, sarod (see lineup). Which is followed by the random-like interplay between solos of acoustic stringed instruments and those of metallic percussion. Which is followed by a more or less structured Jazz-Fusion, which, in its turn, gets its happy ending in the form of Symphonic Art-Rock. Would anyone be able to squeeze all of that into the framework of 4 minutes? No matter, Chameleon (sorry, Frogg) Cafe has done it already. In other words, the band does not scorn abstractionism, too. The other of the two instrumental compositions: Gagutz (4) is a gem, pure magic. An eclectic synthesis of Symphonic Art-Rock, Jazz-Fusion, and RIO with some bits of heaviness and free jazz, raised to the power of high originality and innovation, give in total nothing else but my beloved Fifth Element. All of the band members, led by multi-instrumentalist Nick Lieto (here he plays both trombone and synthesizer), just shine here with inventiveness and virtuosity. From a progressive and creative standpoint, this piece is definitely the highlight of the album. The 21-minute Waterfall Carnival is another winner, which is regardless of the presence of some shadows of classic Genesis and Steve Hackett's "Voyage of the Acolyte" at the beginning of the song. Both compositionally and stylistically, this is a very changeful entity, and its further adventures occur under the signs of Symphonic Space Rock, Space Fusion, classically influenced Art-Rock, RIO, and Fifth Element as well.
Conclusion. Potentially, the album can please the classic Art-Rock mainstream-related audience, the more experienced listeners covering a few progressive genres, and the most profound connoisseurs of Neo-classical and Avant-garde Academic Music alike. In reality, however, the representatives of the first category will most likely be disappointed immediately after the first spin. They love their albums to be 'their' from the first note to the last, and not only in places, like here. Those exclusively into extremely complex non-standard forms of progressive music will be dissatisfied with the little number of their favorite 'numbers' here. Well, here we go: somewhere "in between". I don't know to which of the said categories of Prog-lovers I can refer myself, but I like the album almost in its entirety. Nevertheless, the band's real purpose in their desire to cover as many musical directions as possible and do some other things, which I've described above, is, that said, clearly obscure to me, even though I was trying to follow the paradoxical contexts of the album while writing all of this. Highly recommended to those who know to whom I appeal.
VM: March 18, 2004
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