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Your journey with The Flower Kings’ latest release, Space Revolver begins with traditional symphonic progressive rock – beautifully arranged keyboards, guitar and mellotron combine to start the trip in familiar prog territory. However, just when you start to settle into your headphones, you somehow realize that the boys in the band have taken an unexpected sharp turn at top speeds into the land of heavy metal (with an either conscious or subconscious nod to Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf”). After the din of distortion is complete, a gentle soprano sax kicks in to usher in a passage of airy and uplifting Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies, which leads into a few measures of fusion that grind to a halt with a bizarre bass and keyboard duel, complete with backwards vocals. What’s next? Well, lounge lizard music of course, as singer and songwriter Roine Stolt belts out (in campy fashion) “I left my heart in San Francisco” while the saxophonist “riffs nostalgic” alongside the eerie choral loops eminating from Bodin’s mellotron. Then, it’s back to fusion jam land for a few minutes until Flamenco-inspired acoustic guitar enters marking the beginning of one of most beautifully written passages of progressive music written in quite some time. And as if the band knows that the listener will need a moment to exhale, ethereal acoustic guitar and the sound of birds singing fades out into nothingness...
And that, my friends, is only the first song.
To say that “I Am the Sun (Part One)” is a progressive tour de force is a severe understatement. Mr. Stolt and the rest of the boys in The Flower Kings really kick off Space Revolver with one of the most impressive and ambitious tracks in the history of the band. As a matter of fact, I think it’s safe to say that Space Revolver as a whole is by far the most ambitious of The Flower King’s releases, and its quite a bit different (in a good way) than the band’s previous offerings. There’s a lot of music to take in here, and this release is DEFINITELY one that will need multiple plays before the whole of the album sinks in the sonic conscious. The Flower Kings go from the speedy fusion of “Rumble Fish Twist” (which has more than a passing resemblance to Yes’ “Sound Chaser”) to the Beatle-esque vocals of “Chicken Farmer Song” to the absolute goose-bump inducing beauty of “A King’s Prayer” without missing a single beat.
One of the more obvious differences with this release as opposed to previous FK releases is new bassist Jonas Reingold, who adds an immense amount of musicianship to the band. Now, that’s not to say that previous bassist Michael Stolt was a poor player – it’s just that Reingold knocks it up another level; just listen to the jaw-dropping bass solo in “Rumble Fish Twist” and you’ll see what I mean. Reingold also seems to have lit a fire under drummer Jaime Salazar, who simply plays brilliantly throughout the entire disc. Salazar and Reingold compose one of the finest rhythm sections in music today, and one that most bands would KILL to have.
As far as composing goes, it seems that Roine Stolt has grabbed even stronger control over the band’s direction as the contributions of keyboardist and usual co-writer Tomas Bodin is limited to a single two-minute track on Space Revolver. Second guitarist and vocalist Hans Froberg makes his song writing debut with the acoustic ballad “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got,” which could’ve been really annoying were it not for its brevity (2:39) and Stolt’s harmonies. As it is, it’s more harmless than anything else. Froberg also lends lead vocals to the Stolt penned “Slave to Money,” which wins the “Weakest Track on the Album” award by far. As a matter of fact, “Slave to Money” is probably the weakest Flower Kings track I’ve ever heard – but given the consistently phenomenal level of the FK’s output this is certainly excusable.
Those who make it through “Slave to Money,” will be treated to one of the most wonderfully emotional songs (both musically and lyrically) I have ever heard by ANY band called “A Kings Prayer.” Beautiful acoustic guitars during the verse combined with the “shudder down the spine” power of Hans Froberg’s vocals during the chorus make for a song that is sure to go down as one of Stolt’s finest compositions. Finishing up the release is the almost anti-climatic “I Am the Sun (Part Two)” which picks up right where Part One left off – birds singing and calming acoustic guitars leading into the 10 minute finale of Space Revolver.
Before I sign off, I must admit that I’m a complete Flower Kings “fanboy”. I think that Stolt and Company are among the finest rock and roll bands of all time, and CERTAINLY deserve to be mentioned along with the other greats of progressive music such as Genesis and Yes. It is a shame that the band doesn’t get the sales and accolades that they deserve, but I couldn’t be happier that I discovered their music myself. Roine Stolt and The Flower Kings have churned out another brilliant release in Space Revolver - one that no Flower Kings fan worth their salt should be without.
Track Listing: 1. I Am the Sun (Part One) (15:03), 2. Dream on Dreamer (2:43), 3. Rumble Fish Twist (8:06), 4. Monster Within (12:55), 5. Chicken Farmer Song (5:09), 6. Underdog (5:29), 7. You Don
Personnel: Roine Stolt: Lead & backing vox, guitars, bass guitar; Tomas Bodin: Piano, organ, synthesizers, mellotrons; Hans Froberg: Lead & backing vox, acoustic guitar; Jonas Reingold: Fender Precision & fretless bass; Hasse Bruniusson: Percussion, mallets, chains, voices; Ulf Wllander: Soprano saxophone; Jaime Salazar: Drum Kit