Saga

10,000 Days

Inside Out

sagaMichael Sadler knows when to call it a day: After a couple of so-so studio albums and a pair of live releases (the first a fair performance of 1981’s “Worlds Apart” LP, the second an excellent harvesting of all the “Chapter” songs originally strung out across seven nonconsecutive albums), the master of the bombastic vibrato is leaving the Canadian prog-rock group.

But he’s going out on a high note, turning in as good a vocal performance as ever for an album of excellent new material that distills the high points of Saga’s 30-year career into one neat, nonconcept album. Perhaps showing his humble side, Sadler even steps back from the microphone to let the band rock out on the seven-minute instrumental “Corkentellis.”

All the cool keyboard styles are there (including the occasional just plain piano), and that crunchy staccato guitar still sounds great. When it gets into keys-guitar call and response and double lead, as in “Book of Lies,” the listener is transported to seventh auditory heaven.

The remaining band members intend to carry on, as they’ve put out an open casting call for a new lead singer, asking aspiring singers to download backing tracks and post their auditions on YouTube. Saga can go the Sadler-clone route or opt to pick someone original, but either way, the replacement will have some big shoes to fill.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Lifeline
2. Book Of Lies
3. Sideways
4. Can’t You See Me Now?
5. Corkentellis
6. More Than I Deserve
7. Sound Advice
8. 10,000 Days
9. It Never Ends

Total time: 50:56

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The Flower Kings

Paradox Hotel

Inside Out

Sweden’s Flower Kings have one hell of a work ethic: 11 years, nine studio albums, four of them double albums. Not to mention side-project and solo releases.

They sing in English. They make clear their influences (Yes and Genesis) without aping à la Starcastle and perhaps are the best contemporary progressive rock band.

With “Paradox Hotel,” they’re not resting on their laurels. The music, like fine wine, is intoxicating as ever. When two CDs’ worth of basic tracks are laid down in a week, it’s clear a band knows what it’s doing.

Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Roine Stolt is comfortable doing more co-writes with keyboardist Tomas Bodin and bass player Jonas Reingold; even second guitarist Hans Fröberg contributes a song (the hard-rocking “Life Will Kill You”). The emphasis is more on taking chances and less on precision, with no degradation to melody.

For those dying to know this year’s “concept,” it’s the curiosity of existence, with the “Paradox Hotel” being a reference to people’s life on Earth — complete with references to space travel, war, the devil, politics, greed, optimism, insecurity, progress, philosophy, pessimism and God.

Tracks
Room 111
1. Check In
2. Monsters And Men
3. Jealousy
4. Hit Me With A Hit
5. Pioneers Of Aviation
6. Lucy Had A Dream
7. Bavarian Skies
8. Self-Consuming Fire
9. Mommy Leave The Light On
10. End On A High Note 

Total time: 1:12:57

Room 222
1. Minor Giant Steps
2. Touch My Heaven
3. The Unorthodox Dancing Lesson
4. Man Of The World
5. Life Will Kill You
6. The Way The Waters Are Moving
7. What If God Is Alone
8. Paradox Hotel
9. Blue Planet 

Total time: 1:03:07

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artist’s link
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Planet P Project

1931

Baby Boomer Music

“Why me?”

That was the name of a big hit by Planet P Project back in 1983. It’s also what fans have been asking themselves for 20 years, since the group previously only released two albums.

Actually, Planet P Project is not so much a group as an alter ego of multi-instrumentalist Tony Carey, who used his two-year stint as keyboardist with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow as a springboard to a 20-album-and-counting solo career.

Carey created the alter ego as a way to get around contractual limitations and put out more music. What’s interesting is that those two ’80s albums were science-fiction-oriented. Nearly every song on the self-titled 1983 debut was about space travel, while 1984’s “Pink World” was a concept album about a boy who goes swimming in toxic waste and develops superpowers.

The ambitious “1931” also is a concept album, albeit a decidedly non-science-fiction one. It deals with fascism and racism — topics Carey developed more than a passing interest in while spending 1978-2003 living in Germany (he now lives in Spain). Subtitled “Go Out Dancing, Part 1,” it’s part of a planned trilogy that next will address events that bookend the Cold War, before concluding with a work about refugees and other people who get left “out in the rain.”

As with the first two PPP records, the intensity of the lyrics is matched only by that of the music, which is mostly written and performed by Carey, with lots of guitar help from Tom Leonhardt.

Tracks
1. My Radio Talks To Me
2. Join The Parade
3. Good Little Soldiers
4. Work (Will Make You Free)
5. The Judge And The Jury
6. The Other Side Of The Mountain
7. Waiting For The Winter
8. Believe It
9. The Things They Never Told Me
10. Where Does It Go

Total time: 50.9 minutes

External links
artist’s website

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Neal Morse

One

Metal Blade

Along with Sweden’s The Flower Kings, Los Angeles-based Spock’s Beard represented the cream of ’90s progressive rock. Neal Morse left the Beard to its own devices after fronting it for a decade, and “One” is his second solo album since then and fourth overall. 

Handling all the keyboards and most of the guitars himself, Morse is joined by Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, up-and-coming bassist Randy George and (on a few tracks) guitarist Phil Keaggy. The result is (pardon the pun, Neal) one hell of an album.

This time out, the artist is not as overtly religious but certainly more progressive than on his last solo effort, “Testify.” Lyrically, he addresses his/mankind’s separation from and return to God. Musically, the long songs and epic instrumentation — often enhanced by horn and string arrangements — are as good as and possibly better than anything by his former band or even his former side project, Transatlantic.

There’s a lot of questionable product out there under the “progressive” banner, but “One” unquestionably belongs to the genre.

Tracks
1. The Creation
    I. One Mind
    II. In A Perfect Light
    III. Where Are You?
    IV. Reaching From The Heart
2. The Man’s Gone
3. Author Of Confusion
4. The Separated Man
    I. I’m In A Cage
    II. I Am The Man
    III. The Man’s Gone (Reprise)
    IV. Something Within Me Remembers
5. Cradle To The Grave
6. Help Me / The Spirit And The Flesh
7. Father Of Forgiveness
8. Reunion
    I. No Separation
    II. Grand Finale
    III. Make Us One

Total time: 1.3 hours

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artist’s website
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D’arcana

D’arcana

Lemuria Music

Looking for something new and exciting in the world of progressive rock? Need a change from the old-school fare of the ’70s? Fretting over what to do now that Neal Morse has left Spock’s Beard? Wondering who the next Flower Kings might be?

This Northern California-based trio is the answer. Jay Tausig, Shelby Snow and James Camblin, who happened into each other in and around Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada foothills, know exactly what they’re doing.

Tausig writes and sings the songs, and plays guitars, drums and synths; he’s classically trained and was in the East Coast prog bands E-Motive, Solid Space and Lunar Sea before Rodger Hodgson asked him to relocate west six years ago to work a North American tour. Snow learned bass under the tutelage of Bob Stern (son of famed concert violinist Isaac Stern). Camblin has played guitar for numerous Northern California bands and has opened for Rush.

This is their debut, recorded at Tausig’s home studio, The Pyramid, in North San Juan. Tausig’s vocals bring to mind Tony CareyAdrian Belew and Roger Waters. The stellar musicianship is like the best of Genesis, Yes, Happy the Man and early Utopia, distilled into something completely different.

The sugar in the pot: Camblin’s slide Strat work on “Changes” and the 14-minute “Ancient Future,” accomplished using a steel bar and Bic lighter, respectively; Tausig’s mandolin accents on the latter; and the lone non-Tausig composition, “Pastozaporius,” in which Jaco Pastorius meets Frank Zappa.

Tracks
1. Miles Away
2. Picture This
3. Once In A Lifetime
4. Changes
5. Pastozaporius
6. Set In Stone
7. Nightshade
8. Let It Out
9. s.u.a.p.y.g.
10. Windows
11. Ancient Future

Total time: 57.5 minutes

External Links
artist’s website

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