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Humble Grumble - 2011 - "Flanders Fields"

(47:34, Altrock Records)



1.  Sirens Dance 3:52
2.  Aging Backwards 5:20
3.  Flanders Fields 5:05
4.  Sleepless Night 6:00
5.  Horny 2:56
6.  Little Bird 4:09
7.  Duck on a Walk 3:25
8.  The Greatest Kick of the Day 3:23
9.  Never Lose Your Mind 2:43
10. Love Song 5:27
11. Purple Frog 5:05


Gabor Voros – guitars; lead vocals
Jonathan Callens – drums
Jouni Isoherranen – bass
Pol Mareen – saxophone
Pedro Guridi – reeds
Peter Claus – vibes
Liza Jordens – vocals 
A few more players and singers

Prolusion. The Belgian ensemble HUMBLE GRUMBLE has existed since the end of the ‘90s. “Flanders Fields” is its third release to date.

Analysis. In mood, the 47-minute “Flanders Fields” comes across as a festival of jovial motifs, since the eleven tracks present are all emotionally up-lifting, I’d even say sunny, without even a smallest hint of drama. Ten of those contain vocals, of which the lead ones are either provided by Gabor Voros or, as it occurs most often, are shared between him and Liza Jordens, who is the most impressive singer here, I must add. Yes, there are also a few additional vocalists, and when those join the above duo, the resulted choir is sometimes reminiscent of Queen’s – on Sleepless Night, Love Song, Purple Frog and Never Lose Your Mind in particular, albeit the latter piece has the implied feeling almost throughout. The remembrance of some old-fashioned jazz-stylized songs by the English legend (Good Company, Seaside Rendezvous, etc) might also help to get an idea of the matter. Overall however, the album’s vocal palette includes rock, folk and jazz motifs along with what is obviously experimental singing, most of which suits my taste too. It’s only when Gabor starts on a vocal extravaganza or, rather, clownery – such as he does on Duck on a Walk, whether grunting or quacking, converting his voice into something indigestible – that I’m not fully on board, especially since the track itself (the music as such, to be more precise) is fine. Really, towards the end of the ‘song’ it gets patience-testing; thankfully, otherwise the man’s singing is good, at least most of the time. Perhaps not far from some of Weather Report’s mid-‘80s creations, the music as such is a blend of Brass Rock and Jazz-Fusion, with elements of Progressive, Folk and both improvisational and smooth Jazz all making entrance as well. Because of a variety of vocal and instrumental approaches, the majority of the songs at times reveal something that is peculiar exclusively to them, so it seems to be hardly possible to describe each of them separately. What is instantly striking is that they differ in terms of progressiveness. All of them alternate vocal and instrumental sections, but Sleepless Night, Never Lose Your Mind, Little Bird and The Greatest Kick of the Day each has pretty substantial arrangements, at times with a strong sense of groove, with all of the instruments – guitars, bass, clarinet, saxophone, vibes and drums – dancing circles around each other, though when we enter the pieces’ instrumental segments we’ll always meet with rather interesting music, to put it succinctly. When many instruments are all played in unison, etc, it will never give the impression of complex music, but when the musicians are allowed to start, say, on their solo flight, the picture is different almost altogether. Anyhow, all of the musicians are greatly in tune with each other, whether they play in the former or in the latter manner. The other six songs, Sirens Dance, Aging Backwards, Horny, Flanders Fields, Love Song, Purple Frog and the aforementioned Duck on a Walk, all find the band exploring more progressive territory. They’re all good-to-excellent on their instrumental level, and are good vocally – with the exception of the latter song, for sure. A great deal of highly elaborated melodies and thematic development is evident on each of these, though on the latter two the music is particularly remarkable, often belying the serious chord progressions, and so it comes across as a carnival of sounds. Disc opener Sirens Dance is another winner and is a standout. The only instrumental here, it is overall done in the same style as the best songs do. However, it additionally contains no less than three moves that feature some absolutely killing riffing, which you would hardly expect to work so well in this context, whilst they surely do.

Conclusion. At least to my mind, this album provides excellent listening not throughout, but nevertheless, I can appreciate it in its entirety, since it’s full of original ideas and is well arranged and played. I heartily recommend it to those who like Jazz Rock/Fusion with vocals.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: July 16, 2011
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Altrock Records
Humble Grumble


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