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Earth And Fire - Song Of The Marching Children

Click on the album cover to hear a sample

Earth and Fire's Song Of The Marching Children falls somewhere within the song-oriented prog category. The album consists of short tracks on side A, and a larger epic on side B(my CD also came with a bonus track, but there is another CD that features SOTMC, and Atlantis). All of the tracks on Side A feature some of the best qualities found in more adventurous progressive rock, and they end up sounding like miniature epics. The side-long track sounds like 5 songs pieced together. Overall, the music from this band has a strong European symphonic sound, meaning that Baroque, classical, and even circus influences are all over the place. The band likes to weave in and out of major/minor chords and scales, so the music alternates between happy and sad moods. I also hear a noticeable early King Crimson sound(heavy on the orchestral mellotron sound). Earth And Fire had a female lead-singer with one of the warmest, and charismatic, voice that I've heard in prog. She is usually mentioned first when people talk about the band. Some of her lyrics are silly in a surreal, counterculture, sort of way, but her beautiful voice quickly makes you forgive the naive lyrics. This is a majestic album that will please fans of early King Crimson, PFM's Per Un Amico, and Fantasy.

Compositions: 10/10
Vocals(in English): 9/10
Recording Quality: 9/10

Finch - Beyond Expression

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Finch released several instrumental prog albums back in the seventies before calling it a day. They were a 4-piece band consisting of bass, drums, keyboards, and guitar. Guitarist Joop Van Nimwegen leads the band through the dozens of themes in each track. Those themes tend to be melodic in a classical sort of way, yet have a theatrical hard rock influence(think Brian May in an instrumental prog rock band). The various sections range from mellow, guitar arpeggio-led, moods to heavy riffing and soloing. The keyboardist is also given plenty of room to play his various analog beasts. The closest band that I could compared Finch to is Modry Efekt. Both bands were led by skilled guitarists, yet everything sounds like a band effort and the music never becomes an excuse for endless guitar noodling. Many consider Beyond Expression to be Finch's best album, but there are two other albums on the market that are of equal interest.

Compositions: 9/10
Vocals(none): N/A
Recording Quality: 9/10

Supersister - Present From Nancy/To The Highest Bidder

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Present From Nancy/To The Highest Bidder consists of the first two albums by this Dutch quartet. The music here, heavily influenced by Soft Machine's second album, ranges from jaw-dropping to average. Present To Nancy is quite powerful for a debut album. The listener is quickly treated to music that is complex, fast, and catchy. In my opinion, the structure of the first side is almost like a summary of Soft Machine's second album. Unfortunately, the second side is a bit less focused, and it sounds like the band was also in a hurry to finish the album. We find the guys experimenting with early-Mothers Of Invention craziness, more repetition, and slow atmospheres. The second side is not a total waste, but consider 50% of it filler. To The Highest Bidder consists of 3 long epics, and a shorter track. The album starts off with one of the best prog compositions that I've ever heard. The focus on this track is on fast and complex keyboard-riffing. In fact, the first track is almost worth the price of the CD alone. The third track "Energy (Out Of Future)", which is about 15-minutes long, finds the band again playing top-notch progressive rock. The compositional style is slightly different and the energy level is lowered a bit, but the music bursts with invention. Overall, this 2-for-1 CD is quite a deal and the listener will be rewarded with over 50-minutes of high-quality progressive rock.

Compositions: 9.5/10
Vocals(in English): 9/10
Recording Quality: 8.5/10