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Old 01-17-2014, 05:57 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Interesting that you choose something off Peter Hamill's Nadir's Big Chance album which influenced quite a few punk & post punk musicians including John Lydon who was a big Van Der Graff Generator fan.

More of this sort of interesting prog please & less of that overproduced dull stuff from the last 20 years with dungeons & dragons type covers.
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Old 01-18-2014, 02:51 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I'll do what I can Urban! Nice to see you at my Fortress! Have a seat...

So, no theme or band this time, just some random prog tracks I like. Sorry Urban, much of this may be over-produced stuff from the past twenty years, though with or without dungeons and dragons covers, I can't guarantee.

Since we had Peter Hammill yesterday it seems only fair to dig into his parent band, so here's a few from VDGG:


One of my favourites from them, this is a track called "Whatever would Robert have said?" If you don't get the joke, you're not Science Geek enough!
Spoiler for The "joke":
Robert Van der Graaff invented the Van Der Graaf generator Van de Graaff generator - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoiler for Whatever would Robert have said?:


"Killer", from "H to He who am the only one" (another science joke)
Spoiler for The other "joke":
No, I'm not explaining it! Work it out!

Spoiler for Killer:


Of course VDGG, as a seminal seventies prog band, wrote their fare share of epics, and this is one of their best, from the album "Pawn hearts". (Warning: over twenty-three minutes long!)
Spoiler for A plague of lighthouse keepers:


And one more before we move on...
Spoiler for Masks:

Now to come a little more up to date (sorry Urban!) with another of my favourite bands. No, it's not Marillion!

I think I love just about every album ever released from Mostly Autumn. This is a track entitled "Candle to the sky".
Spoiler for Candle to the sky:


Five years in production, this is the first album from IoEarth, who released only their second one last year.
Spoiler for Harmonix:


How about some Riverside?
Spoiler for Parasomnia:


And specially for Urban, here's Pendragon to close us out for today.
Spoiler for And we'll go hunting deer:
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Old 01-18-2014, 05:47 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post

Okay, here's the thing. Progachives have released their Top 100 Prog Albums of 2013 list, and my intention is to TRY to listen to them all, in the order they've ranked them, and tell you guyses what I thinks of them. Some I may not be able to get, some I may have heard, but either way it'll be interesting. Given the amount of albums and the other stuff I already have to do, this will probably run through the rest of the year. Maybe.

I'll be starting off soon with the last, as it were, in their list, which is this one:

(Assuming I can find it...)

Update: well this is weird!


Just went back to check on my list and it seems it's altered! I don't know if it's going to be some fluid, changeable thing they vote on periodically --- but with 2013 gone you would think the list would be set by now --- but in case, I've bookmarked and screencaptured the page. So even if it does change, I'll base my reviews on the list they have today. As it goes, I'm not sure where Vespero is on the list now, or even if it is on it, but the new number 100 is now this:

Which does make it easier for me, as I see I can get it on Spotify. So I'll be listening to that next. Vespero have piqued my interest though, so if they're not on the list I'll still review the album at some point.
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Old 01-21-2014, 03:31 PM   #24 (permalink)
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I know, I know! I'm going to be coming back with album reviews soon, I promise! Till then, continuing on with some various prog tracks I happen to like...

A collaboration between ex-Marillion frontman Fish and Steven Wilson? This was Fish's fourth solo album, and though it's far from perfect there are some great songs on it. This is the opener.
Spoiler for The perception of Johnny Punter:


Eloy are a band I've found it hard to get into, but this is from one of their later albums and I pretty much enjoy all of it. This is in fact the closing track.
Spoiler for A broken frame:


Probably more symphonic than progressive metal, I still feel that Leaves Eyes deserve a place in here..
Spoiler for The Thorn:


Another band who have never really clicked for me is Pallas, but I love almost all of their "Arrive alive" album. Apart from the title track. This is not the title track.
Spoiler for The Ripper:


As we began (sort of) with Steven Wilson, why not end with him too? Here he is with Tim Bowness in one of his many projects, No-Man.
Spoiler for Truenorth:
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Old 01-24-2014, 05:08 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Finally time to begin my trawl through ProgArchives’ Top 100 Prog Albums of 2013. As I mentioned, for some reason the list seems fluid, and changes from day to day, perhaps even hour to hour, I don’t know. But I can’t be doing with all that and so I’ve captured a “moment in time” and will be working off the list as it stood on that day. With that in mind, here’s number 100.

The man left in space --- Cosmograf --- 2013 (Self-released)

The first thing that surprised me about this was that the band were not German. Maybe it was the -graf in their name, but I just assumed they were from there. Turns out not only are they not German, they’re not even a they. Not really. Cosmograf is the brainchild and project of one Robin Armstrong, who hails from Portsmouth in the UK. Like his contemporaries, Willowglass and The Minstrel’s Ghost, both featured in my journals, he’s a multi-instrumentalist, composer and even producer. He does however haul in some stellar talent to help him out on this, his fourth album under the Cosmograf name, including half of Spock’s Beard and half of Big Big Train, as well as members of Also Eden and The Tangent, so he’s obviously well respected in prog circles: that’s virtually a who’s-who of prog musicians.

The album is a concept and seems to be built loosely around the idea of a mission to space, possibly colonisation, certainly mentions saving Mankind, but which goes terribly awry, hence the album title. Themes such as (unsurprisingly) loneliness, isolation, despair, the future, sacrifice and loss are all explored through the nine tracks on this opus, and while space travel/getting lost or stuck in space is nothing new --- Bowie was doing that in 1969 with “Space oddity” --- in the end the concept of the album does not matter so much because it’s so beautifully played and constructed musically.

Starting off with a man asking “How did I get here?” against spacey sound effects, the opening track of the same name is a short one, atmospherically dark and grindy, and seems to be a record of a man who went into space to “help millions” in the year 2053, but the mission went badly wrong. Against an unanswered request from ground control for a “com check”, we head into “Aspire, achieve”, the longest track on the album at just over ten minutes, the astronaut in question, who seems to go by the name of Sam, relating his tale against generally acoustic style guitar in a fairly mid-to-uptempo beat. Suddenly some pretty heavy guitar and organ cuts in, taking the thing in a more boogie/metal direction, with some fine drumming from Nick D’Virgilio, who has of course played with both Spock’s Beard and Big Big Train. Nice cutback about halfway through to single strummed guitar notes and tiny handclap drumbeats. Some great progressive rock guitar and keys then take the song, and above all rides the clear, commanding voice of Robin Armstrong himself, who in addition to being a talented composer and excellent musician is also a fine and worthy singer.

Rather oddly, two instrumentals follow then on the heels of each other. The first, “The good Earth behind me”, runs under some poetry I feel I should know, but don’t, with Gilmouresque guitar work and lush keyboards, which in about the third minute kick into a real Tony Banks style as the thing really “progs-up”, the tempo quite slow as it heads towards its end with unmistakable undertones of seventies Genesis. “The vacuum that I fly through” then is more introspective, with almost John Williams style guitar driving it in a slow path that certainly gives you the impression of drifting through space, soft synth underlying the melody until D’Virgilio’s percussion stamps its identity on the track and it becomes a little heavier, though still slow with now definite touches of twenty-first century Marillion in there.

Although at first I thought it a bad idea to have two instrumentals one after the other, I kind of see the idea now. It’s an attempt, perhaps, at conveying the loneliness and the vastness of space, and the impression of being just carried along unable to do very much as you head out of the solar system comes through quite strongly: the sense of isolation and lack of control over one’s destiny, the idea of being a tiny speck against the overwhelming expanse of space is demonstrated very well through these two tracks.

“This naked endeavour”, then, is carried on soft rippling yet lonely and almost melancholic piano while behind it plays recordings of Nixon’s phone call to the Apollo 11 mission on the Moon, as well as Kennedy’s speech at his inauguration. Guitars and drums crash in strongly then as Armstrong comes back in with the vocal, and there’s a strong sense of Floyd circa “The Wall” here, with powerful keyboards and dark guitar. We then hear the voice of the AI aboard Sam’s ship as he seems to be slipping away, lost, if you’ll pardon the term, in space, as “We disconnect” begins. He reminisces about his wife left behind, about taking on the mission and what he hoped to achieve, though it’s not really made clear what that mission is. Armstrong does his best Roger Waters here, angry bitter and a little manic. Great guitar solo joins a fine one on the keys, and the only reason I’m not giving credit to individual players is that, apart from D’Virgilio, I don’t know who is playing what part. There are several guitarists guesting, and then Armstrong plays most of the instruments himself too, so it makes it hard to keep up with who’s doing what.

This is a dark piece as Armstrong sings “The light behind me getting smaller all the time; my memories of you are too.” He realises he’s probably going to die out here in space, and while not quite resigned to that fate, he knows there’s nothing he can do to prevent it. Some super guitar here and then we’re into what is probably my least favourite track on the album, “My beautiful treadmill”. Something about it just doesn’t do anything for me. Armstrong uses the old Waters device where his vocal is metallised, sort of as if it’s recorded in mono, and the music is heavy and powerful with some really striking melodies, almost heavy metal (progressive metal I guess you’d have to say) at times. Interesting vocal harmonies, and it’s a good track but definitely for me the weakest on the album. At times the fretwork here reminds me of the very best of John Mitchell with Arena, and there’s a lot of power and energy in the track, but I just can’t make myself like it.

The final two tracks are just shy of ten minutes each, and the title cut is the penultimate one, wherein some Knopfleresque electric guitar complements soft acoustic as Sam reflects on the decisions and circumstances that conspired to bring him to this place. He does however point out that his problems are bigger than those of most, as he remarks “Spare a thought for the man they left in space: he lost the human race.” I'm not quite certain if that's meant to mean he lost the company of all his fellow human beings, or if it's making the human race a metaphor for a race that is run, you know? Nevertheless, it still puts in all in perspective. He does however reflect that if you don’t take risks you miss the big opportunities in your life, and even though he’s out here floating in space, waiting to die, he doesn’t seem too despondent. At least he has tried, he has made the effort even if he failed. There aren’t any ballads on the album, but this is probably the closest Cosmograf come here to one.

There will be no happy ending though, no last-minute rescue, and this will not prove to be a dream, as closing track “When the air runs out” amply shows. With a sense of descending further into despair, panic and then acceptance, Sam begins to contemplate his imminent death and the failure of the mission as his craft falls towards the sun. A stark piano line very reminiscent of Steven Wilson’s work with No-Man and Memories of Machines takes us in, then the Floydian comparisons come back as Armstrong channels Waters on “Empty spaces” and also Bowie rather obviously on “Space oddity”. There’s a sort of guitar or keyboard motif running through this, a phrase that sounds like “WOOP!WOOP!WOOP!” and may be meant to signify a warning, an alert as the ship’s orbit begins to decay.

Powerful and desperate the song allows us to look into Sam’s last moments before death, as he asks “What should we do when the air runs out? When this ship spins out? When this life runs out?” More voiceovers of names of people who died before their time, or were brought low by addictions, then a superbly proggy keyboard runaway solo that would make Mark Kelly green with envy as the song powers towards its conclusion. In the fifth minute it slides into a slow, Russian-folk-style melody as Sam begins to accept death is inevitable. Again the old Floyd trick of using a phased vocal that’s put through some sort of mono effect is used, then a rolling piano melody brings in more of those names, spoken off a list and then melancholy guitar joins in as the AI says “Please respond, Sam.” A final crashing bass piano note ends the song, then there is a further minute and a half as a radio announcer talks about a book written by Doctor Sam Harrison, a “self-confessed overachiever, alcoholic and manic depressive”, and says they will be talking to the doctor, presumably before his flight into space and his subsequent death there, then the sound of a needle getting stuck in the groove of a record (yay for us oldies! We recognise that sound!) and the last words “Be a curse” repeat until the sound of a stylus scratching indicates the needle was lifted, and the album comes to a final conclusion.

TRACKLISTING

1. How did I get here?
2. Aspire, achieve
3. The good Earth behind me
4. The vacuum that I fly through
5. This naked encounter
6. We disconnect
7. Beautiful treadmill
8. The man left in space
9. When the air runs out

I know I said at the beginning that the concept was not too important, and yet it is this which links all the tracks together into one cohesive whole, so I’ve tried to understand it. It seems to me that this is about a man, selected as the only one from his race, to go into space and do … something, I don’t know what … to save humanity. It’s set forty years in the future, so it could be colonisation, except we’re talking about one man. It could be to stop an asteroid hitting the earth, but again, a crew of one? I really don’t know, but whatever he’s supposed to do something goes terribly wrong and he’s left hanging in space, waiting for his orbit to decay and his ship to plunge into the sun. So maybe it was something to do with the sun?

Anyway he failed and now he’s left waiting to die. As he does, he thinks about the decisions that led him to this place and whether or not he would have done anything differently had he known? It’s a very dark album, with a somewhat bitter message and yet although the title character is not saved at the end, we’re left with some sort of vague impression of hope. Maybe he did save Earth, but just was unable to return home? Perhaps he made the ultimate sacrifice, ensuring the continuation of his species in the process? Again, I don’t know, and the end bit spoken on the final track confuses me even more. Here’s what it says, in the style of a radio announcement:

(Sound of the pips telling us the hour has struck, as used to happen on radio) “It’s ten o’clock. Good afternoon. This is “For the Arts”. In his controversial book, “The man left in space”, Doctor Samuel Harrison examines the psychology of achievement. Harrison presents a compelling theory that overachievement is a “quick-fix” for wounded self-esteem, and that chronically overachieving people don’t realise that unrecognised needs are driving them from the healing conditions necessary for fulfilled lives. Does achievement beyond expectation in any field lead to obsession, dysfunction and, ultimately, an inability to perform? The reward for success, it seems, is sometimes to be destroyed by failure. In the first of two programmes, we will be talking to Dr. Harrison, a self-confessed overachiever, alcoholic and manic depressive and asking him if success can really be a curse?”

I think -- and I’m just guessing here now --- that this interview was made before Harrison went into space, rather obviously, unless the whole idea is a mere allegory and never actually happened, except perhaps in his mind. It shows Harrison as the type of man he was then. Perhaps after that he got the chance to sign up for the mission, was accepted and finally achieved the ultimate overachievement, saving the Earth, albeit at the cost of his own life? Or, or, OR.... perhaps the Dr. Sam Harrison is his son, writing about his father's heroic but failed mission?

I guess you could argue the meaning behind the lyrics forever, but as I said they’re not as important as the album taken as a whole. I find once again that every multi-instrumentalist I have encountered --- particularly in the field of progressive rock, where they seem to really thrive and towards which they appear to gravitate --- has impressed me almost beyond words. Steve Thorne. The Minstrel’s Ghost. Willowglass. And now I need to add Cosmograf to that shortlist. If this could only get to number 100 on the list then I am excited to see what made the higher echelons! Of course, I don’t know how that list is or was compiled: was it from album ratings, reviews, personal likes, was it arbitrary? From sales? I guess it doesn’t matter, but the point is that if an album such as “The man left in space” can only scrape in at the bottom there must be some amazing stuff further on.

I had not intended to make this review so long, but I got so into this album I couldn’t help it: you know me. Don’t be surprised to see this or other reviews popping up in my journals: after all this work, I’d be a fool not to use the writeups there.

I don’t usually rate albums, but for this list I will, if only to see if my choices more or less tally with those of the folks at ProgArchives, or if we have wildly differing ideas as to what makes a really great prog album. As far as this album is concerned, I have to award it a very solid 8/10.
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Old 01-28-2014, 07:39 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Here's one I picked up recently Trollheart might want to check out for this thread, if he's already not familiar with this band.



EDIT: However, there's no 10-minute songs so maybe it doesn't really fit in here.
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Last edited by DriveYourCarDownToTheSea; 01-28-2014 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 02-02-2014, 05:10 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Told you this would take a while! Hey, I’m listening to about five albums at once here, gimme a break! This shows up at number 99 on the list, and why is beyond me, as it’s certainly good enough to be much, much higher.

From the small hours of weakness --- Verbal Delirium --- 2013 (Self-released)

Despite the rather obscure title and the unfortunate abbreviation of their name, not to mention its connotations with rambling on and on without any sense --- unlike, I hasten to add, the proprietor of this here castle! --- verbal diarrhea is the last thing you could accuse these guys of. Together since 1999, it nevertheless took these five lads ten years to put together their first official album --- though there was a demo back in 2007 which seems to have been deleted --- and this is their second effort. I was so impressed by this that I immediately bought their debut, and although I haven’t listened to it yet I’m expecting great things. The key factor about Verbal Delirium (no I will not call them VD!) is that they mesh many different styles of music together, as do many prog bands of course, but Verbal do it in a way that surprises and takes you unawares. Take the opener for instance. It’s built on a soft little drum pattern with a whispered vocal that reminds me of no-one as much as Matt Johnson, a quiet little piano passage and a gentle little flute sound that recalls seventies Floyd. I can’t place it but that keyboard/flute melody is very familiar. Could be classical. Could be Marillion, Zep, or something completely different. Speaking of something completely different, you’ve just about assigned this band the level of Big Big Train or maybe early Genesis when suddenly it blasts into a heavy guitar and organ riff that you just do not expect.

Mind you, it’s almost four minutes into the five-and-change that “10,000 roses” runs for before this about-face happens, and indeed it’s that long too before the vocals come in, and quickly thereafter it returns to the soft, pastoral piano and crying guitar on which it fades out. As the kids say, awesome. And a great opener that just reminds you not to judge from the first few minutes of a song, or album. “Desire”, then, also opens on a gentle passage of piano and guitar, again recalling early Genesis but with some folk rock added in. The vocal this time is soft, almost breathed rather than sung, and in ways reminds me of It Bites. It may be seen as a racist comment, but I’m constantly amazed how “foreign” singers can sound so English. There’s not a trace of a Greek accent here --- not that I’d recognise a Greek accent if I heard one --- but the vocalist, who goes by the name of Jargon, has perfect English and not a hint of any accent. Like the previous song, this one soon morphs into something more powerful, ditching for a while the Tony Banks style synthesisers for a heavier, perhaps more Spock’s Beard vibe, the percussion coming in hard and heavy and some fine neoclassical piano joining the melody before it too all winds right back down into a solo piano ending and into a very short instrumental called “Erebus.”

I’ve read other reviews of this album and the band has been compared to Van der Graaf Generator. I see this now in the instrumental, in the somewhat jazzy brass, but it doesn’t last long before we’re into a big bassy upbeat piano to open “Dance of the dead”, and it’s here indeed that Jargon on piano and Nikos Nikolopoulos on both sax and flute really shine. Again I see the VdGG comparisons, but I’m not the biggest authority on that band. I have all their albums but have listened to only one or two, so personally for me the sax brings more to my mind Supertramp than VdGG. Interestingly, like the first album we reviewed, this turns out to be again two instrumentals in a row. Speaking of Supertramp, some piano very much in their style introduces one of the standouts on the album, the almost nine-minute “The losing game”, where the title of the album is mentioned (there is no title track) and again Jargon’s voice is controlled but strong, soft yet insistent.

Some fine mellotron recalls the best of seventies prog, and some great sax from Nikolopoulos brings the Supertramp influence back in, along with some very Roger Hodgson guitar courtesy of Nikitas Kissonas; in fact, put Hodgson or Davies behind the mike and this could very well be the latest Supertramp song. If they hadn’t gone to total **** after the last album. It bops along with real purpose, and throw in some Steely Dan guitar while you’re at it, sure why not? Just makes a good thing sound even better. An almost three-minute instrumental outro that really allows our Nikos to give vent to his pipes on the saxophone delivers the icing on this very tasty cake, and we’ve still got four tracks to go. Well, three and a bit.

“Disintegration” opens on a rising bassline that reminds me of the beginning to Foreigner’s “Urgent” then pounds out into a real nice little rocker with hard guitar and a great hook. It’s almost metal until some high-pitched mellotron comes in, but then that drops out again and the guitar takes the melody. Sort of a semi-punk feel to it, the likes of Buzzcocks, The Knack or maybe Blondie. Then a sense of Threshold in the midsection with big droning synth and some nicely-placed piano before the bass and percussion brings it all back up to a head and the guitar powers back in. Some fairly manic piano before Kissonas takes off on a really smooth guitar solo and a big organlike finish then takes us into thirty-seven seconds of “Dance of the dead (reprise)”, which is of course the third instrumental, though really it’s just hammered chords and notes on the piano, sort of marking time before we hit the other standout, the beautiful ballad “Sudden winter”.

A rippling soft piano opening from Jargon which puts me in mind of … well, nothing really. This is Verbal Delirium’s own signature sound. Actually, here I can hear a slight inflection in the vocal, but that’s nothing to complain about. Makes me think of Riverside, can’t say why. Very emotional song, with again a hook to die for; would make a great single but it’s about five minutes too long at just over eight and a half minutes. Not too long, not at all: just too long for a single or radio airplay. And there’s the gorgeous sound of mandolin, which fits into this song like the slimmest glove fits on Vanilla’s dainty hand. God I love mandolin music! The track ends in the seventh minute but then comes back with a sumptuous piano reprise that just adds a final layer of delight to this beautiful song.

And being a prog album, you’d expect the obligatory epic, wouldn’t you? And you would not be disappointed, my friend. “Aeons (Part 1 and 2)” runs for almost thirteen minutes, and brings the album to a close. The first part is a soft atmospheric melody driven mostly on piano with a gentle, almost sotto voce vocal that mirrors the best of early seventies Gabriel, then it kicks up in about the second minute with a powerful, dramatic, almost ominous guitar and slowly pounding drums with the vocal getting sort of chanty is the only way I can describe it. Not quite a mutter, not quite a growl (a grutter?) before the tempo picks up and the guitar takes over, Kissonas driving the tune now.

I’m not totally familiar with either but I think there’s a sort of merging of ideas from Porcupine Tree and Riverside here as the track cannons along, only to slow right down then with a sort of eastern sound --- or maybe it’s from their native Greece --- on the piano accompanied by some nice thumping bass. From here it goes on a sort of spacey keyboard/guitar romp for a few minutes, with echo and reverb and god knows what else, and sort of moaning voices like spirits trapped in a netherworld of … ah you have to hear it. Bit like the end of “A day in the life”, though not really. I think at this point we’ve crossed over into part 2, though I do find that this section is a little overdone and stretched rather to breaking point. The vocal comes back in around the ninth minute, spoken only though in rhythm, while the effects go crazy in the background, and again I have to say this smacks of a song being extended beyond its natural run just for the sake of it, a thing which a lot of prog rock bands are accused of, often rightly.

It’s a pity really as it almost --- but not quite --- leaves a sour taste in the mouth when you realise how the album is going to end. It’s been consistently great up to that point but then it just fades out like a bad Hawkwind remix and you’re left with a feeling of being ever so slightly cheated that the epic consisted of about five to six minutes music and almost the same in effects, long-drawn out echoes and moans, and not a lot else. Sad.

TRACKLISTING

1. 10,000 roses
2. Desire
3. Erebus
4. Dance of the dead
5. The losing game
6. Disintegration
7. Sudden winter
8. Aeons (Part 1 and 2)

Even given the somewhat flat and disappointing ending, there’s still so much to recommend in this album that I would almost ignore the last six minutes or so of the closer and just concentrate on the previous seven-and-a-bit tracks. For a band from Greece whom nobody seems to have heard of, this album is nothing short of a stunner. And to think it only occupies position number ninety-nine in the top one hundred here either makes me think that whoever compiled the list needs to look at it again, or that there are some amazing albums yet to come.

Either way, this is two for two and I can’t wait to hear what comes next!

Rating: Would most likely be higher if not for the cop-out at the end, so still worth a good 8.5/10
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Old 02-04-2014, 03:11 PM   #28 (permalink)
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As this thread has proved to be less popular and engender a lot less debate than I had anticipated, and given the amount of work I have to do on my journals, it seems only sensible for me to absorb this into those journals.

So from the beginning of the Top 100 and thereafter, these reviews will be moving to the Playlist of Life, where they will continue as a dedicated section. If you want to find the rest of the reviews from now on that's where they'll be. I'll leave this open in case anyone wants to discuss anything but won't be posting any more reviews. I obviously bit off a lot more than I could chew here, but if I take this under the Playlist banner I can concentrate on it more without worrying that I'm neglecting my journals.

Yes I know: I have real problems, don't I?

I did think for about a microsecond about making this a new journal, but I think the mods would run me out of town on a rail if I started another! Also, I have enough trouble keeping up with five journals without starting a sixth!
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