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(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. LINEUP: Tomas Bodin - keyboards Marcus Liliequist - drums Jonas Reingold, bass Jocke Marsh - guitars With: 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".
"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.
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
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