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A �Heapin� Helpin�� of the Flower Kings
on July 30, 2001
Here I'd just got finished remarking how the typical Flower Kings album is over an hour in length-and in this one we get more than TWO hours. It's the first of three times the Kings do a double-disc release, and if they can consistently give us this level of quality, I hope they can do it again. On the first disc, "In the Eyes Of the World" has a Tarkus-style percussive Hammond beginning that gives way to a fast shuffle within a 12/4 beat. The feel is that of Uriah Heep, even down to the vocals sounding a lot like David Byron. "Room With a View" returns us to the mood music of Focus' later material. "Just This Once" has a lot of the last albums of ELP, even down to the more down-to-earth lyrical approach of that period-the story here is conflict between lovers. Telling your beloved to shut up in a song? Well hey, Peter Gabriel did it in "Digging In the Dirt". "The Church Of Your Heart" has a definite Yes flavor about it, right down to its stately mellotron, pipe organ and lyrics about exaltation of the human spirit. Try Yes's "Awake" as an antecedent. There's not much ordinary about "Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar", an instrumental that sounds a bit like Anthony Phillips' "PP&P" fare. That guitar is joined in "The Man Who Walked With Kings" by reed-based synth sounds that give it a renaissance flavor in the beginning. But both of those are just hors d'oeuvres to the twelve-minute instrumental "Circus Brimstone", where Stolt again proves that prog instrumentals don't necessarily have to be short showcases of one member's talents. There's a pause at about seven minutes that sounds like that number's over and a new one's started-nope, it's just a sharply-drawn thematic change. The side ends with "Compassion", which sounds a bit like a mix of Gabriel and Dead Can Dance with its world music beginning courtesy of a Linn drum machine and synth pads-then crosses from that to the Yes motif.
Disc Two opens with a pipe organ solo ("Pipes Of Peace"), which then segues into "End Of Innocence", a blunt commentary on violent entertainment in which life has bargain-basement value-are we really sure those values can be left behind when the viewer goes back out into the real world? "The Merry Go Round" is more contemporary-a more Echolyn-style sound. "Don Of the Universe" is a sitar-led instrumental which otherwise sounds quite a bit like David Gilmour's solo work between the two incarnations of Pink Floyd. The possibly college radio-friendly "Different People" strikes me as being influenced a bit by Adrian Belew's interpretations of the Beatles on King Crimson's "Thrak" album. I can see that one catching hold in alt-rock circles. "Kingdom Of Lies"-hmm. It strikes me that this makes three albums so far which have had a Kansas-sounding number, in this case even including one guitar solo that sounds like it has a fiddle in the Robby Steinhardt mode playing along with it. Most likely antecedent: "Portrait (He Knew)". From there we go to a bona fide new age short piano solo-"If 28"-which sounds a lot like Scott Cossu. If Stolt had sung "Ghost Of the Red Cloud" in a Jamaican accent, it would have been easy to mistake it for a Ziggy Marley tune. I tell you, the Kings' versatility just continues to blossom. The album rounds out with the title compostion, a three-part twenty-five minute work that was the band's magnum opus at this point. It appears that the Flower Kings emulate Yes the most in their really long tracks, and thus far in their catalog there's at least one song over ten minutes long on each album. The closest antecedent I can see is Yes' "Close To the Edge", even down to the quiet semi-ambient middle section, but the piano work is more like "Awake". The number of stylistic bases Roine Stolt covers shows more than just his talent-it shows an all-abiding love of music.