It takes both confidence and talent to pull of a 60 minute long, 18 movement progressive rock composition. You must first have enough musical ideas in your head to fill up an hour, but then you must also have the backing musicians to perform it proficiently and enough eclecticism to keep listeners interested for this length of time – in musical terms 60 minutes might as well be 60 days – if you’re gonna take up that much time to present a musical statement, it better be a damn interesting statement. There is only one band in existence today that could pull this off, and fortunately The Flower Kings are the folks behind this composition and the release of the incredible album Flower Power. This double CD contains not only a 60 minute progressive tour de force named “Garden of Dreams” which could very well be the best progressive rock composition of all time (YES... better than “Close to the Edge”), but another hour and a half of wonderful and positive music that dabbles heavily in fusion and showcases some absolutely incredible musicianship from all personnel involved.
First, well deal with the album’s hour-long showcase, “Garden of Dreams”. Simply put, I’ve never heard a lengthy composition this complex and interesting in all the years I’ve been listening to progressive music. This 18-movement suite goes from beautiful acoustic guitars to “balls to the wall” rock and roll to techno to ambient to classical piano – all seamlessly (and amazingly) arranged by Roine Stolt and keyboardist Tomas Bodin. This isn’t simply 18 different pieces of music slapped together – “Garden of Dreams” does the impossible and actually makes 60 minutes seem too short. There are too many goosebump moments on this track to cover in one review, but if Stolt does not move you with his Bowie-esque half-screaming, half-singing vocals on the final movement of “Garden of Dreams,” you should have your pulse checked. It’s as if Stolt’s brain simply shut down and his singing is coming directly from his heart – his mouth and vocal chords are merely an instrument for the muse to take advantage of. Simply brilliant.
The second CD contains more traditional songs (well, if you consider 8 minutes in length to be traditional – I do!) featuring both Stolt’s incredible guitar work and his pop sensibilities – most evident in the made for radio “Stupid Girl” and the strangely Prince-like “Corruption”. However, the surprise of the CD lies in the Hasse Froberg penned track “Magic Pie,” which is nothing short of one of the most infectious tracks in the entire Flower King’s catalog. Froberg’s vocals beautifully convey the majesty and spacey feeling of the music, and some of the chord progressions and vocal harmonies on this track will make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up. This is one song that gets filed directly into the “I’ll be singing this under my breath all day during work” portion of your brain.
The rest of the CD is filled with top quality musicianship and songwriting – it’s nothing short of amazing that Stolt and Company can fill two and a half hours consistently with music of this quality – it’s as if these guys simply CAN’T write a bad song. To say that there’s not a clunker in the entire length of the CD is a testament to the incredible talent and passion of this band, and the fact that The Flower Kings aren’t more popular will continue to baffle me to no end. If you are a fan of progressive music... no scratch that... if you are a fan of ANY MUSIC, go buy Flower Power right now – it represents the best of positive and intelligent modern music available today.