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Tracklist: 1. Silence 7:29 2. Castle On the Sand 8:27 3. Winter In Your Heart 8:19 4. Lost Souls Ballad 5:39 5. Carnival In Venice 7:49 6. A Beggar's Tale 4:15 7. Le Fond du Ciel 8:13 8. Wanderer 9:05 9. A Memory Picture 8:42 All tracks: by Hyde & Alix. Line-up: Hyde - bass Alix - keyboards Ima - vocals S Kontakis - guitars Nick Kassavetis - drums Produced by Hyde. Recorded & mixed by Kostas Savvides at "111 Argyriou" studios, Athens. Mastered by Thodoris Chrisanthopulos at "Fabelsound", Greece.
Prologue. I was quite surprised when I learned that under the French name La Tulipe Noire is lurking a band that hails from Greece. "Faded Leaves" is their second album, though I have never heard of them before.
The Album. I am always trying to express my true thoughts on any of the albums that I review, though, of course, my view of what constitutes Progressive can't be regarded as the truth in the last instance. However, I believe that there are not many deviations from sound judgement in my reviews. True, I am not into an accessible and even moderately accessible progressive music - although, I was never a Neo hater. I understand that any of the really inspired works of Neo Progressive can be a stage for thousands of novice connoisseurs of the best music in the world on their way to comprehending the more (and more) complex forms of it. "Faded Leaves" by La Tulipe Noire is undoubtedly one of those albums of Neo that, IMHO, can inculcate in novice Prog lovers, as well as many of the traditional Neo-heads, a taste for a truly original, sincere, and thoughtful Progressive Rock. It must be said that only the first three songs on this album: Silence, Castle On the Sand, and Winter In Your Heart, are about a pure, yet, distinctly original Neo Symphonic Art-Rock (i.e. of the highest quality). All three of them feature the alternation of vocal and instrumental parts, none of which, though, are boring. Although these songs are for the most part slow, both the instrumental and vocal arrangements that are featured on them are so well thought-out and tasteful that it would've been impossible for me not to appreciate them. Ima's English is hardly worse than that of Quidam's Emila. As for her vocal qualities, she has a real operatic voice, which easily covers three octaves. In other words, Ima is a unique vocalist-chameleon, whose soft, angelic soprano can suddenly transform into the alto of a dramatic character, as well as a rather low and aggressive contra-alto. Nevertheless, almost two thirds of both the vocal and instrumental parts on the album are clearly dramatic, which, in my view, fits well for Neo in general. The following three songs, Lost Souls Ballad, Carnival In Venice, and A Beggar's Tale (4, 5, & 6), are much more diverse in tempos (and not only) than the first three tracks on the album. The frequent changes of tone and mood are also typical for them, as well as the instrumental arrangements that remain intensive (and highly intensive, sometimes) from the first to the last note of each of these songs. In my opinion, the music that is present on the second third of "Faded Leaves" can't be defined differently than a blend of both Classic and Neo categories of Symphonic Progressive with elements of Prog-Metal. Oh, it must be mentioned that the heavy, Prog-Metal-like riffs of electric guitar appear from time to time on each of the first three songs on the album as well. (However, a tendency towards the 'weighting' of sound is currently quite typical for many kinds of Symphonic Progressive.) In fact, only the album's closing track, A Memory Picture, is almost free of heavy textures. But then, it features the largest number of the guitar solos, most of which are rather harsh here, whereas on all the other songs on the album they're for the most part fluid. By the way, various interplay between solos and passages of synthesizers, piano, and organ, solos of bass and acoustic guitar (yeah), and riffs of electric guitars play a more significant role in the arrangements on this album than, proper, the solos of electric guitar and passages of semi-acoustic guitar. The most complex and intriguing songs, Le Fond du Ciel, Wanderer, and A Memory Picture (7, 8, & 9), the band decided to place in the final part of the album. All three of them are about a real Classic Symphonic Progressive, though, the absolute winners are the first two of them. The unexpected changes of musical directions, as well as the frequent use of odd meters and complex stop-to-play movements, look here as effective as those on the albums of such established contemporary bands of the genre as Elegant Simplicity (UK), Versus X (Germany), Rocket Scientists (USA), etc.
Summary. If to count Aphrodite's Child, the Greek band that existed in France, this album by the Greek band that has a French name La Tulipe Noire, is my second meeting with Greece's Progressive. I won't say that "Faded Leaves" is better than the best Aphrodite's Child album, "666". However, in the light of today, I think that the second album by La Tulipe Noire is as praiseworthy as was "666" at the heyday of Progressive's glory. Generally speaking, "The Faded Leaves" can be regarded as a masterpiece of Neo. Though even from an average-statistical progressive standpoint of view this is a solid album.
VM. August 26, 2002
La Tulipe Noire:
"Musea Records" - web site & online store:
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