This was a return to the past! I have all of Flamborough Head's early albums and seen them live several times in the early days, both in the original line-up and with Margriet Boomsma as their lead singer. However, due to circumstances unknown, after the 2008 live album, I lost touch with them...
Good thing our main editor thought of me for the review of this new CD, released in November 2022. A first glance on the album information shows that most members are still present: Margriet Boomsma on lead vocals and flute, Edo Spanninga playing keyboards, Koen Roozen on drums and Eddie Mulder on bass. Only guitar player Hans Spitzen is a new name for me. So, let's see what they bring.
The over ten minutes long The Garden Shed opens the album with flutes, acoustic guitars and dreamy keys in the background. Overall, there is a folky flair. When the singing starts, I feel that the piece gets way too heavy on the vocals. There's just too much of them. I must say that after repeated listening, this effect wears off. Even so, when the threatening keys come in around 4 minutes into the piece, they truly are a relief! A very nice, neo proggy instrumental interlude in which the flutes feature very nicely. Great guitar solo too. Actually, two of those because later in the instrumental middle part there is another guitar solo taking the piece to a climax. Then the piece returns to the theme from the start.
With its 7:42 Tomorrow Is Another Day is the album's shortest track (making prog albums obliges to indulge in long tracks!). I sense some echoes of Kayak here in the opening. What is that track of theirs again? Anne? The vocals seem to be better integrated into the music here.
Start Of A Nightmare is more up-tempo. There are hints of Saga in the pacing, which makes for a nice change. When the vocals set in, they are in a storytelling mode that takes the pace out of the piece and although the instruments do their best it is perhaps the piece that needs most time to warm to for me. The story seems to be quite serious, but then the music is quite light-hearted. How does this go together? While I do like bits and pieces here, it feels wrong. And sorry, I just think the vocal line is way too simple.
Fear Of Failure is next up. And no need to fear at all. The bombastic opening with organ sounds more than promising. This indeed is a promise that is fulfilled! The keys and organ interact in superb ways. This is probably my favourite track. There is a fantastic climax. They could have made this piece five minutes longer if you ask me!
On Walls Of Words / Signs Misread the storytelling style of singing works better. However, I think vocal-wise, this would fit better in some folk-rock group, or even country. Or in a musical where telling the story to the audience is essential. The piece has some great symphonic arrangement (the strings taken from a synth, I presume, but working very well). We are also treated to a fine dreamy middle part with gentle keys and flute. Very enjoyable.
The closer Jumping The Milestone is also the album's longest track. I must say that the lead vocals work better in this piece than on some others of the album. Perhaps because they are more alternated with instrumental bits? It is hard to describe the mood in this piece. It's dark-ish, yet with a positive tinge to it. Melancholic and longing. I really like it. In some ways I am reminded of Egdon Heath. The vocals really contribute to the mood here and there is a great interaction between guitars and keys to support them, along with a couple of nice solo spots. A very fine closer for the album!
Concluding: it was good to hear this band again after so many years. At first, I was not a fan of most of the vocal parts. Don't misunderstand me, they are not bad at all, I just thought they were sometimes too dominant and distracting for me. However, sitting down with the album a couple of times and becoming accustomed to them in the end the fabulous music wins over. Flamborough Head still is a great neo prog band. I definitely need to get those albums off the shelf and play them again!
***+ Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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