When I reviewed the latest album from The Samurai Of Prog I wrote that it was hard to say whether the band had reached their artistic peak on The Imperial Hotel (2014, see review) or not. Furthermore I wrote that only time would tell! Finally I concluded that it was their best album to date, a superb CD that could only get the highest possible score of five stars. Now two years later the core of the project Marco Bernard (Rickenbacker basses, project coordinator), Steve Unruh (vocals, violin, flute) and Kimmo Pörsti (drums, audio engineer) succeeded to come up with a successor to this excellent double album. They gave it the title Lost And Found. The question of course arises whether they could surpass their previous album.
At first glance, the title of this new double album had no deeper meaning for me. But when you do know that they approached more or less well-known bands from the 70s and asked them if they had songs composed in the past which actually never were recorded for an album release. The next step was if they would donate this song, so that they could rework it and record it for their next release. In a way the same idea they used when they reworked England's rather unknown piece The Imperial Hotel for their album with the same title. So songs that were lost and found again!
The bands Odyssey, Quill, Cathedral, Lift and Pavlov's Dog agreed to donated songs which they could arrange and record for the first time very properly in a recording studio. Bernard, Unruh and Pörsti revisited those songs with the help of an impressive guest-list of musicians! But more on them later on and let me tell you what you can expect on Lost And Found.
The first disc opens with Preludin. A composition originally by Pavlov's Dog. Their guitarist Steve Scorfina guests on this great sounding piece of music. The use of a flute and violin moves the song towards a style which could be labelled as retro prog folk. The sound of the band that donated this track comes very clearly to the surface. But also from time to time the music made by Jethro Tull in the seventies shine through as well. However the keyboards of Stefan Renström (who unfortunately died shortly after completion) move the music into a musical direction which can be found on albums made by his own band Simon Says or for example Camel. Next is a piece written and performed by Musical Box keyboard player David Myers. On Along The Way he is offering the listener a beautiful classic interlude at the grand piano. Next is the first epic with over 20 minutes of neoclassical melodic and progressive rock. The music of Genesis, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer made in the seventies come to the surface many times on Inception. But also acts such as Kansas, Steve Hackett and Rick Wakeman must have been an inspiration when Chip Gremillion (he played additional keyboards) wrote this composition for his band Lift. The keyboards of Renström sound again very great. But he isn't the only one who shines on his instrument.
The flute and the violin parts done by Unruh are excellent as well. Also the rhythm section comes with the best parts possible. Finally thumbs up for guest Kamran Alan Shikoh of Glass Hammer for his melodic playing on the electric guitar on this awesome sounding composition. It is followed by the shorter epic She (Who Must Be Obeyed) from Odyssey. The song is very reminiscent of the sound of Yes in the 1970s. That is why they probably asked Jon Davison to sing it-the current voice of Yes. Special mention goes out to Tom Doncourt for his excellent keyboard parts and the fine playing of Johan Öijen (Brighteye Brison) on the guitars. After this awesome song the final track of the first disc makes its way to the speakers. Plight Of The Swan is another ten minute long highlight. This song by Cathedral was written after their magnificent Stained Glass Stories album but never recorded. Again the music of seventies Yes can be heard. But that's not so strange when you do know the albums made by Cathedral. But also the more complex music of Gentle Giant is notable.. Another band that inspired them. Again here you can hear Tom Doncourt shine on his keyboards and Johan Öijen on his guitars. After this excellent track it is time to get to the second disc.
This second disc has only one track on it. But don't think you have an easy job listening to The Demise. Because it is one long epic of more than 57 minutes! It comes originally from the band Quill, not to be mistaken with the British band with the same name. This American progressive rock band released Sursum Corda in 1977 which later on appeared to be their only released album ever. However they wrote an epic piece which got the title The Demise Of The Third King's Empire which never got recorded on any album. I guess a version of this composition is what you get to hear on this almost one-hour-long track-a track on which one of the original members performed some of the lead vocals. His name is Keith Christian and he was also the one who played the bass guitar in the original band. It is certainly a very long musical journey you have to take when you are going through the music of the entire second CD. But it is not a punishment to hear all the beautiful musical parts that are presented here by The Samurai Of Prog. Listening to the real follow up album to Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, released by Rick Wakeman in 1974, is the best way to describe the complete track music wise but this time recorded with some extra well known special guests like Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull on flute, Robbie Steinhardt of Kansas on violin, John Anthony Helliwell of Supertramp on saxophone and Chris Squire of Yes on bass. This way Rick's music got elements taken from all of the bands they performed with. Rick used on JTTCOTE narrative parts and just like on this album, The Demise starts with some narrative parts as well before the rest of the musicians join in. Richard Maddocks was responsible for the narration. The playing on the keyboards and most of all on the Minimoog by Stefan Renström, even more often made me think about this classic prog album. He very well copied Rick Wakeman. Or should I say he copied Ken DeLoria, the original keyboard player of Quill who had listened very well to this great keyboard wizard in the first place! I guess he must have because on Sursum Corda he sounds exactly like Wakeman. Furthermore he used Wakeman's two lead singers technique to perform the music of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. Well also on The Demise you can hear several lead singers. They sing the parts of the characters they present in this story. You can enjoy strong vocal performances from the already mentioned Keith Christian and Ex-Unitopia and current United Progressive Fraternity member Mark Trueack. Sure the song has next to the Wakeman, Yes, Jethro Tull, Kansas, Supertramp and Yes influences moments you can't compare it to those big names in the progressive rock scene! But the overall feeling is that it reminded me of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth in many ways. Finally I'll have to mention the excellent contributions of Linus Kåse (Brighteye Brison) on saxophones, Llorián García on electronic bagpipes and Johan Öijen on electric guitars on this great epic piece. Because they certainly shine next to the fabulous bass playing of Marco Bernard, the awesome flute and violin parts of Steve Unruh and the strong playing on the drums by Kimmo Pörsti.
Finally some words have to be said about the great artwork done by Ed Unitsky. His contributions to the cover and inside booklet are pretty amazing-just like on its predecessor The Imperial Hotel.
To answer the question whether Lost And Found could surpass their previous album wasn't, in my opinion too difficult. Even if you already have five stars album in the pocket it doesn't mean you can't release another one because The Samurai Of Prog didn't reach their artistic peak with The Imperial Hotel. In my book Lost And Found is an even better album. Even if they used songs written by others it didn't mean they were worse sounding. The opposite. All of the six tracks on this double album are of a very high level music wise.
Therefore the highest rating of five stars a second time around is very well in place. This release is a must have for everybody who is into retro progressive rock. Highly recommended to those who like the music made by Rick Wakeman, Yes, Jethro Tull, Kansas, Supertramp, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Steve Hackett and Yes back in the good old seventies. If that describes you, then you should have this double album in your CD collection without any doubt! For me personally, it's a high possiblility that it will end upin my year-end “best of” list for 2016!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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