ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Tomas Bodin - 2005 - "I AM"

(63 min, InsideOut)

TRACK LIST:                             

1. I 23:12
I.      The Beginning
II.	Wheel Spinner
III.	Day by Day
IV.	Mother's Heart
V.	Speeder
VI.	They'll Fight for Me!
VII.	Fighters
VIII.	War is Over
IX.	Aftermath
X.	The Angel of Dreams
XI.	The Awakening
2. A 21:28
I.	Take Me Home
II.	The Tree of Knowledge
III.	The Path of Decision I
IV.	The Prayer
V.	The Path of Decision II
VI.	Close the Deal
VII.	The Path of Decision III
VIII.	The Tube of Reverse
3. M 18:43
I.	In the Land of Retrospect
II.	"Why/7 Days at Kingdom's Inn"
III.	Voice Macabre
IV.	Dance Macabre
V.	The Halls of Future
VI.	The Path of Light I
VII.	The Path of Light II

All tracks: by Bodin.
Produced by Bodin.


Tomas Bodin - keyboards
Marcus Liliequist - drums
Jonas Reingold, bass
Jocke Marsh - guitars
Anders Jansson - vocals
Helene Schonning - vocals
Pernilla Bodin - vocals

Prolusion. Tomas BODIN, best known for his work done behind the keyboards for the Swedish band, The Flower Kings, releases his fifth solo album with "I AM". His previous solo works are: "An Ordinary Night In My Ordinary Life", "Sonic Boulevard", "Swedish Family/Vintage Prog" and "Pinup Guru". Already, Bodin is at work on his next release, "You Are", which is a continuation of "I AM".

Analysis. "I AM" is a 3-part prog rock opera. To set the record straight, the title is not a reference to the statement of being uttered by God in Genesis or Jesus in his Gospels. It is more akin to Descarte's "I think, therefore I am," as this is a tale of self, as Bodin says in the promotional packet: " I had a rough childhood. It took many years to accept what I was and who I was and also get the distance to the problems you have to in order to discuss the problems clearly. I was pretty scared to write about myself this way since you can get hurt by people for what you write." The Beginning launches with vocal and instrumentation that sounds deceptively like The Flower Kings, but make no mistake, this is definitely no Flower Kings release. Yes, Anders Jansson could be mistaken for Haase Froberg over the first few measures, but that doesn't last long. Wheel Spinner, the highly energetic instrumental section that follows his vocal intro, includes some classic Symphonic Prog synthesizer work that has the tonality of classic Yes (Wakeman at the keys) interspersed with tasty guitar work by Mr. Marsh. This pretty much constitutes the overture of Bodin's opera. The stage for Day by Day is set by acoustic piano and Jansson as Bodin's primary storyteller. The story begins with a "hopeful, caring mother," watching over her son, whose life begins well, but soon begins to spiral downward. Despite the turn of events, the mother maintains a heart of hope and love in Mother's Heart, sung sweetly and soothingly, like a lullaby by either Helene Schonning or Pernilla Bodin (which one is unclear in the notes provided). Jansson's vocals become more and more impassioned through the course of the story as the son puts himself through more agony as the result of his own "stone heart inside." The vocals build to a first climax with the anguish brought on by "burning shame", followed by the brief and ironically cheerful instrumental interlude of Speeder, which again sounds like The Flower Kings, with guitar and various keys trading solos. They'll Fight for Me has a haunted sound, as Jansson sings in a dying whisper of his dying soul and then gains strength and cries out impassioned pleas for the guardian angels to save him. "I don't want to die," are his last words before the next instrumental frenzy, (Fighters) between keys and guitar, supported amply by the walking-bass line of Reingold and Liliequist, whose drumming and tempo continues to build frantically toward to the next segment, War is Over, which has a heavy rock sound reminiscent of Machine Head vintage Deep Purple, which reaches the second climax, the "outro" of which is pipe organ and synthesized wind and cackling sounds that could be birds or possibly demons. The organ and cackling fades, replaced by a swelling gentle piano line and a peaceful vocal by our male lead, Aftermath, telling of death & rebirth, the home of spirits. The Angel of Dreams sings to him, again like a lullaby, her gentle voice urging him to "leave the troubles of day" and to "take pride in the person you are," assuring him he is safe now. In The Awakening he echoes what the angel of dreams sang in the last stanza, all the while in the background a choir of two or three voices sings, "be the future Home of Spirits. See the future, Home of Spirits." Thus ends act one.
Take Me Home is the first track of the second act of this 3 act opera. Piano peacefully and deceptively lays out the first few measures. No longer Art Rock or Symphonic Prog, this plunges into the deep end of a throbbing Metal bass & guitar line beneath the vocal. The bridge between verses, though, returns to the acoustic piano playing solo with Liliequist's drums driving as forcefully along as they were with the guitars. It's not long before the mood changes again, sounding a bit like peaceful interludes from "Stardust We Are", then into jazz piano with vibraphone. When Jansson begins The Prayer, it is a quiet pleading, almost a whisper with piano accompaniment, building in strength as the prayer continues, joined by pipe organ and choir backing vocals. The Path of Decision II gives Marsh a chance to show his chops and also gives us a Pink Floyd (Great Gig in the Sky) passage with non-verbal vocal wailings (here and also again in The Path of Decision III), segueing into Close the Deal, very bluesy with walking bass and guitar solo. Close the Deal is full blown dramatic Symphonic Prog. Thick, rich instrumentation builds to another dramatic climax, full of majesty as the music retards and Jansson sings 'unchain your heart and the world will unclose and the light is here for you.' It is an absolutely beautiful passage, full of drama. Although this feels like it might be a moment of transformation, the story if not over; there are still five and a half minutes left. Just as the strains fade, the tempo picks up the music swells once again and becomes agitated, as do Jansson's vocals, which are difficult to understand, though the lyric sheet says: "Oh I need to see the light. Oh, reaching for the light, need to see the light!" It is just possible to just make out the word light; then the music becomes more tonal than melodic, piano and vibraphone. A female vocal is spoken and played in backward masking. Occasionally the words "go back" can be understood amid the textured sound.
The third movement begins with the Land of Retrospect, Part I with Jansson sounding quite distressed and it becomes difficult to know if this is the same character speaking or someone else speaking to him (through II, III & IV). The tempo is slow, the music brooding, focused on the vocal until "will you kill it all but why?" The tempo picks up with Part 2, I. At this point the band begins straight ahead hard rock, the vocals fairly growling with a heavy guitar riff repeating behind them. By Voice Macabre the tempo has quickened and the sound has darkened to something akin to early metal featuring heavy guitar riffing. A keyboard passage has a tonality much like the computer voicing from ELP's Karn Evil 9, followed by a disturbing, gravelly growling voice that screams: "I hate myself for what I've done, so ask me 'bout the pain. "Pity me" my middle-name, I'll never break your chain." The music at this point is frenzied, nearly chaotic, matching the disturbing vocal. Voice Macabre and Dance Macabre are aptly named, being the darkest and chaotic of the movement. However, at the end of Dance Macabre the music resolves and the mood lightens considerably. After a brief pause, the piano begins The Halls of Future. Jansson's voice is no longer maniacal; the nightmare seems to have passed. Jansson sings that years have passed waiting for the sunshine. The Halls of Futureis a pleading to be let in, though to whom or into where is unclear. "Let me be in your arms. Please take me home, comfort me. Help me through the night. I've been so scared and I've been alone for a long time. I need your light I need a way to go." The Path of Light I is a beautiful instrumental duet, played between flute (I assume sampled) and electric guitar, applied soulfully. The duet shifts as the flute disappears, replaced by organ, until the vocals of The Path of Light II begin. The key is minor and the sound melancholy. The closing line of The Path of Light II says, "the past is now and now will be the time ahead and I can see the light." With these words the chord resolves into a major chord, suggesting hope, but with this final movement being the darkest of the three, the hope is unclear lyrically, but in full bloom musically.

Conclusion. This is a top-notch solo work that Flower King enthusiasts (and prog fans in general, assuming they're not put off by dark metal passages) will likely enjoy, a concept album or Prog Rock Opera done mostly in monologue. (One small criticism, a thing I wish as a listener, is that long pieces such as these, were accessible by individual tracks for each of the smaller pieces, rather than just 3 large tracks. This CD would have 26 tracks, instead of 3.) "I AM" takes the listener on a musical journey in search of spiritual and emotional healing, which never seems to be found. Like the story Neal Morse tells in his CDs, "Testimony" or "One", the path can be filled with emotional struggle, but unlike Morse, Bodin's search is inconclusive. Where Morse leaves the listener no doubt about the resolution of his spiritual searching, Bodin is much more vague in his language of what he fears, what he is looking for or what he has found. This is a story of anguished searching for acceptance and being. That being said, there is nothing vague about his music, where he proves that he is a major player in Swedish prog and that he is a key part of the Flower Kings, as well as a dynamic solo artist. This is a Symphonic Prog feast, served up hot and with many flavors served in many courses. Bodin's compositions are wide-ranging in their moods and quite varied in their instrumentation. Emotionally, this runs the gamut. Besides his keyboards, I would say Jansson's talent is amongst Bodin's greatest assets, as he pulls great emotion into his vocals, which is not to detract from the other participants who all contributed to make this an excellent album.

KW: June 22, 2005

Related Links:

Inside Out Music
Steve Howe


ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages