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Strawberry Fields - 2009 - "Rivers Gone Dry"

(49:46, Metal Mind Records)


****+
                 

TRACK LIST:   

1.  Your Story 5:51 
2.  Close 5:33 
3.  Rivers Gone Dry 6:54 
4.  Fool 5:55 
5.  Moon 3:51 
6.  Beautiful 3:56 
7.  Open Your Eyes 5:48 
8.  Maybe 4:26 
9.  Flow 7:31 

LINEUP:

Wojtek Szadkowski – drums; keyboards (+ac. guitar: on 4) 
Sarhan Kubeisi – electric guitar
Jarek Michalski – bass
Marta Kniewska – lead & backing vocals
With: 
Krzys Palczewski – additional keyboards  

Prolusion. Yet another project formed by prolific Polish songwriter and drummer Wojtek Szadkowski, STRAWBERRY FIELDS should probably be regarded as a branch outfit of Satellite (which, in turn, is a successor to Collage), since – except for the singer (here, Marta Kniewska instead of Robert Amirian) – it consists of the same musicians. “Rivers Gone Dry” is the first outing they release under that moniker, though of course it’s still Wojtek who is behind all the music on here as well.

Analysis. Save the fact that Strawberry Fields and Satellite both occupy a terrain that has been covered by many, there is not too much in common between the bands’ works themselves, and it would’ve been strange had it been otherwise, of course. The musical world has a lot of its own laws, one of which says: When choosing another vehicle be willing to leave the way you have paved before, unless you’re willing to bear the sneers of your passengers (dura lex sed lex, no matter that it’s unwritten). Strawberry Fields lay their route somewhere between mainstream music and, well, a more progressive direction. To be more precise, the style they play in I’ve used to call Pop Art which, though – in their particular case, so to speak – often serves as an axis for both neo prog- and space rock-like sonic constructions. Influences abound (but won’t be striking for everybody, and one should have a solid listening experience to determine those), the most notable being ‘80s Genesis, mid-‘90s Marillion and early-‘90s Eloy – the first of these for the drumming (which sets the fashion practically throughout the recording: sic), the second for the overall aura of the creation, the latter for the structural and vocal approach on quite a few of the nine tracks present. It must be mentioned first of all that Wojtek uses an electric drum kit here almost as frequently as an acoustic one, and since he plays it much in the style of Phil Collins, the corresponding lines bring to mind now Tonight-Tonight-Tonight from “Invisible Touch”, now Keep It Dark from “Abacab” and so on. Besides, Szadkowski delivers his beats in a pretty hypnotic manner, accentuating the melodies, which, in turn, while often representing variations on themselves, are in most cases tasty and memorable. As for the man’s keyboard playing, it seems to have to do with both neo prog and symphonic space rock genres, but – save some organ parts, courtesy of Krzystof Palczewski – evokes exclusively the smoother side of both. Although still appearing as a good apprentice-in-absentia of David Gilmour, Sarhan Kubeisi never ventures on doing fast, let alone rapid, leads here: I think it’s because otherwise he would have acted against the composer's intention, at least as I see it. In any event, his guitar soloing bears mainly either a spacey-fluid or openly bluesy character, and when he provides riffs (which he does from time to time on the first two and the last three tracks), those, while not necessarily heavy, are for the most part slow and somewhat drawn-out in nature. That being said, the rhythm section gets the job done, but if the battery as well as band commander does, okay, what he has prescribed for himself, bassist Jarek Michalski (are you ready?) leaves the best impression as a soloist. The vocals of the recruit Marta Kniewska aren’t powerful or extremely distinctive either, but they obviously suit this music. Please also bear in mind that this is her very first recording experience ever and that she wrote all lyrics for the album. Furthermore, Marta is arguably the most original voice in this show; her singing doesn’t remind of anyone else’s on about a half of the tracks, all of which contain only a lead vocal line. Contrariwise, such compositions as Close, Open Your Eyes, Flow and Rivers Gone Dry feature more than a handful of backing vocals, too, Marta trying her best while imitating Eloy’s women (who, as is well known to most of you readers, were at times singing without any assistance from Frank, meaning Herr Bornemann), on each of those. Marillion’s influence is probably less obvious, but since most of the disc’s tracks are both slow-paced and reflectively-thoughtful throughout, “Afraid of Sunrise” and “This Strange Engine” inevitably come to mind. Either way, if Your Story and Maybe might only suggest Genesis as a reference point, on each of the previously named four songs the connection between Strawberry Fields and all three of their benefactors is beyond question, no matter that the last of those has no metalloids in its structure, and of course, by saying so I hint above all at those that signify Eloy’s music in the implied period of the band’s work. Surprisingly, the most straightforward pieces, Fool, Beautiful and Moon, are all gathered together right in the core of the disc (tracks 4 to 6). The first two of these are both complete or, if you will, 100-percent ballads, whilst the latter is a rather pleasing ‘60s-stylized retro thing, vocally reminiscent of Mattia Bazar’s Roman Holidays. The guitar has a clear, very natural-like tone (it seems it has been played without deploying any sound processors), and even synthesizer strings don’t spoil the afore-hinted impression, as, although appearing for a short while, those are arranged in such a fine way that they add more piquancy to the song instead of marring it.

Conclusion. Strawberry Fields are not on a par with either of their benefactors, but they don’t sound openly derivative and have somehow managed to impart a sense of magic to most of what they offer their potential listeners. All in all, despite being predominantly into complicated music, I find this recording to be noticeably better than something average, far from being a complete mediocrity. The – slightly lowered – rating reflects my displeasure with the fact that the ballads follow one another, instead of being intermixed with more diverse compositions.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: Agst 21, 2009
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Mellow Records
Strawbery Fields


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