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 Dronne by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.43 | 9 ratings

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Dronne
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars It took 5 years for NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA to bring forth a follow up to their brilliant "I a Moon". They continue to explore a mix of sophisticated folk and highbrow Kraut influenced instrumentals. Here the scales are tipped more to the latter. In one track, "The British Road", they manage to combine the two rather elegantly. Of the acoustic oriented songs, "Alsace Lorraine" is the most charming. The title cut reminds me of the sort of music that would accompany guided meditations, with floating and mesmerizing synthesizers and little or none of the rhythms that accompanied prior exercises. "Dinosaurus Rex" closes the album in two parts, and, while it is all instrumental, it does blend the organic and electronic again, and offers some bewitching moments.

"Dronne" seems to lacks the trepidation of its predecessor in combining seemingly disparate influences, and the elation of succeeding beyond all expectations. I have the sense that the band has found its comfort level here, which makes for a pleasant but buzz free listen. Mildly recommended, but start with "I a Moon".

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 Nula Jedan by THORK album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.23 | 24 ratings

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Nula Jedan
Thork Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars While French prog has garnered a somewhat deserved reputation for theatricality via melodramatic vocals, the adjective that comes to mind when listening to this third release of THORK is brooding. The pieces are mostly over 7 minutes long and slow to mid paced, with an emphasis on the mood conjured by succinct, rarely soloing but frequently reverberated guitars, blended vocals, atmospheric or hypnotic keyboards, creative percussion and occasional strings and winds. Most of these diverse sounds are from the hand and mouth of leader Sébastien Fillion, but he has the audacity to pull it off without sounding like a solo project, perhaps due to the evolving history of the band.

While billed as and influenced by progressive folk, THORK proposes a plodding and heavily symphonic sound with robust folk roots that vacillate between Celtic and Middle Eastern in flavor. Given the track durations, I find the pace lumbers along a bit too much for the step dancing blood that apparently courses in my veins, but the sound itself is exemplary, and my personal favourites are the paradoxically folkier and harder edged "Ici" and the genre busting "Au Ciel" with its swirling dervish joie de vivre. Recommended particularly to those who revel in the alchemies of prog rock. 3.5 stars rounded up for originality.

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 Pacifisticuffs by DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.83 | 5 ratings

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Pacifisticuffs
Diablo Swing Orchestra Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

5 stars Very few bands in the overcrowded world of progressive rock / metal manage to develop a highly unique and utterly original sound right from the start and even fewer manage to keep the legions of copycats from jumping on the bandwagon, but fourteen years after their formation, the bizarre avant-swing-symphonic-metal-rock group DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA still manages to exist in a musical universe all their very own. After long speculation of whether or not the band would continue after the departures of vocalist Annlouice Loegdlund and percussionist Petter Karlsson, the band kept the rumors at bay by declaring that they were still an active musical group yet somehow the years slipped by with no new album. Finally after a mere half decade DOS returns with their fourth album PACIFISTICUFFS. While originally slated for a 2016 release, the countless delays and technical difficulties in the mixing resulted in a year long delay from the original target. But at long last towards the end of 2017, the album has finally emerged and sounds exactly like what one would expect as a followup to their 2012 album 'Pandora's Pi'ata.'

As with all the DOS album, PACIFISTICUFFS is quite the sophisticated project that may not be apparent upon a casual listening experience. The band once again take the disparate elements of swing revival and symphonic prog rock as their main canvasses to paint upon but include the usual metal guitar riffs to add the extra heft albeit the latter are much less pronounced as opposed to their earlier heavy guitar-laden riffing. This album still retains all the DOS characteristics that came before but there are a lot more genre diversions as well. The most prominent of these is a heavy emphasis on Balkan gypsy folk rhythms and musical scales that add that polka-esque oom-paa-paa feel to much of the album. Some of the brass sections also carry a klezmer type of flavor at times and there are even parts that dip into Elvis Presley country-esque territory ('The Age Of Vulture Culture') and tango ('Cul-de- sac Semantics') as well as occasional banjo outbursts. The symphonic tracks are quite grand with lush violin and viola passages that make you forget you're listening to a rock based album at times. This is quite the assembly of musicians and contains a huge army of personal on board to bring about this album. There are not only eight members credited to be official members but an additional eleven musicians that add the touches of violin, viola, double bass, clarinet, tube, additional percussion and backing vocals. The production department is no less impressive.

While DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA gets lumped into the avant-garde metal camp, i have to emphasize that this is not really a metal band at all but an avant-garde swing revival band that just happens to incorporate aspects of metal into their overall sound. For those who only rely on the metal bombast to keep their interest, then PACIFISTICUFFS will surely disappoint because of the fact that the metal parts seem to play much less of a role this time around. True that tracks like 'Superhero Jaggnath' have ample bursts of guitar riffing prowess but for the most part, this album is more of a silky smooth studio album that some may call overproduced and overweening in its pompous operatic outbursts that at their peak don't sound too far off from some of the zeuhl band Magma's most in-yer-face moments. Also as always, DOS focus their full force on over-the-top catchy melodies that become exaggerated by the pomp and awe of the many backing elements of swing, rock and symphony. Both newbies vocalist Kristin Eveg'rd and drummer Johan Norb'ck integrate perfectly into the band with Eveg'rd sounding exactly like her predecessor in every possible way. On a side note, the non-album track 'Jigsaw Hustle' which appeared in 2014 as a lone single has been rerecorded and shows the diverse palette expand even further into the disco revival world. The track reminds me a lot of ELO's 'Out Of The Blue' era.

After only a couple listens to PACIFISTICUFFS, i'm utterly amazed at how well it all flows together so seamlessly where every little touch is disciplined and the puzzle pieces placed in a precise order in order to achieve the desired effect. All the delays in the mixing room were worth the wait as the production is absolutely crystal clear and instead of all the disparate instruments sounding like a big muddy mess, each has found its niche in the greater sonic picture as if a great conductor is hiding behind the scenes as to ensure that nobody jumps the gun and gets all jiggy on us. PACIFISTICUFFS will not win over any non-believers for sure. If anything it will scare off all but the most serious music nerds who are fans of the many genres on display here. For me, this album ranks as one of the band's most ambitious and taking the logical path of progression past 2012's 'Pandora's Pi'ata.' It's hard to know what to call this anymore since the tracks vary so much and no element dominates the soundscape for long. Not every track contains metal, nor swing nor symphonic chamber rock. Some contain all three but no matter which of these holds the reins at any particular moment, they are always accompanied by unexpected elements guided by memorable and captivating melodic developments. I do believe that DOS have proven that they are no mere novelty and that they have the chops to pull off some of the most mind-bending genre juggling there is to be heard.

4.5 rounded up

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 Of Clans and Clones and Clowns by SOUL ENEMA album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.06 | 78 ratings

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Of Clans and Clones and Clowns
Soul Enema Eclectic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Wonderfully diverse folk-infused Prog Metal expanding a tradition from the Middle East that includes bands like ORPHANED LAND and MYRATH, Constantin Glantz's SOUL ENEMA is a huge surprise and revelation to me. This man can write great songs melding seemlessly the electronic sounds of metal music with the traditional folk instruments of his culture. Plus, he's not afraid to push the envelope with his lyrics. And my introduction to the vocal talents of Noa Gruman is quite welcome!

1. "Omon Ra" (7:02) a great opening song for the way in which it lays out on the table all of the amazing chops this band has: metal, electronic effects, traditional Middle Eastern instruments and melodies, powerful top notch female singer, refined and adventurous compositional skills, instrumental prowess top to bottom, and, not least, their acerbic-yet-insightful lyrics. Though it's a long song, it keeps one's attention start-to-finish. The cinematic "interlude" in the sixth minute followed by the re-amped djenty guitars and great guitar/keyboard solos over the top are wonderful--making the song end even better than it started. This could be called a "perfect" prog metal song. (10/10)

2. "Cannibalissimo Ltd." (5:59) What lyrics! Bold and hilarious--but meaningful in their metaphoric sense. Plus, supported by such quirky, unexpected music (starting out like JOE JACKSON's "Cancer" before adding the metal and, later, Middle Eastern folk sounds!) Again, the song showcases the marvelous talent of lead singer Noa Gruman. She is so versatile! And the growls are perfect--humorous while not going over the top. And leader/songwriter Constantin Glantz is quite a keyboard player! (9/10)

3. "Spymania" (6:44) Yet another style used here! Almost comic book cinematic, almost Prog Cabaret! Again, I love the lyrics and their metaphoric significance. Great melodic hooks. Awesome guitar soloing and vocal work in the fourth minute. What a songwriter! (9.5/10)

4. "Breaking the Waves" (5:37) If this song is about what I think it is about, this is a song that needs radio play-- needs to get out there to provoke conversations about the mistreatment of women (by men). Gorgeous and powerful! Man, can this woman sing! (9/10)

5. "The Age of Cosmic Baboon" (4:33) opening like a Middle Eastern belly dancing song, this one maintains its foundation of Middle Eastern instrumentation (with some interesting synth work woven into the mix) until the 1:50 mark when metal chords and drum hits in a syncopated time signature, take over. Crazed piano solo (know DON PULLEN) in the background, before settling into a kind of combined modern/traditional mix of the two styles. Congas and accordion and monkey squawks help fill out the final couple minutes. (8/10)

6. "In Bed With an Enemy" (5:59) piano-based metal with one of the weaker melodic and harmonic constructions on the album, it's hard for me to get into this one for the first couple minutes. Nice synth and guitar soloing in the third and final minutes. Love the flute in the third-fourth. The dynamic shift in the fourth minute is awesome (and very welcome). More of the talents of singer Noa Gruman on display in the vocals in the second half. (8/10)

7. "Last Days of Rome" (4:22) melodic metal opening with machine gun bass drum. Quickly everything cuts out and we're left cabaret piano and female vocal. When the chorus section begins at 1:23 the songs full sound comes into display. Again, the lyrics are brave and bold (and controversial?). Musically, this is not so special. Lyrically it's remarkable. (7.5/10)

8. "Dear Bollock (Was a Sensitive Man)" (3:10) opens with very Middle Eastern folk sound--instruments as well as time signatures and tempo. The tongue-in-cheek male vocal is brilliant--as are the reality-checking metal bars after each verse. I love all these Eastern instruments! And the lyrics are wonderful! Again, so bold and courageous! Kudos, Constantin, for being so brave! (9/10)

9. "Aral Sea I - Feeding Hand" (8:48) awesome bells foundation over and around which all other styles and sounds build for the first 1:50. When things quiet down to bare bones Noa enters with a serious tone to tell us the historic and legendary story of this part of the world (and its people?). The "demonic" presence in the sixth minute is a bit ambiguous, but then the amp up afterward is powerful. Plays out like a classic prog rock song. (8.5/10)

10. "Aral Sea II - Dustbin of History" (5:30) the presence of amazing guitarist/multi-stringed instrumentalist YOSSI SASSI on this one makes me tune in with extra attention (I love his work--both solo and with ORPHANED LAND). A cool foray through many instrumental paths, the music seems quite fitting for the story being told--especially in the way the old informs and haunts the present. As seems to be a trend with my hearing of this band, the final couple of minutes are my favorite. (8.5/10)

11. "Aral Sea III - Epilogue" (6:25) minor-keyed piano-based opening sets up an impassioned vocal from Noa Gruman--perhaps her finest performance on the album. (9/10)

12. "Octopus Song" (2:54) opens as if we're going to hear an upbeat, gentle pop song, but then the main structure kicks in and Noa sings in a middle range letting us know that she is singing seriously. Still, the song does sound a bit like something out of a Broadway stage musical. Fortunately, Noa has the voice to carry a song in the way a Broadway singer must. (9/10)

13. "Eternal Child" (5:35) piano-based, this song opens like we're about to hear a tear-jerking ballad. Noa's whispery, almost sultry voice confirms it. What a voice! Even the over-the-top NINA HAGEN-like strains at the high reaches sound and feel affected and part of the performance, while there are also moments of pure beauty. Nice guitar solo in the fourth minute. Gorgeous song though it never really goes anywhere special. (8.5/10)

14. "Of Clans and Clones and Clowns" (0:42) a spoken (whispered) poem over nature sounds which gives us insight into the reasons for choosing the themes and title of the album .

In the wonderful traditions of ORPHANED LAND and MYRATH, SOUL ENEMA gives us an amazing inside view into the Middle Eastern mind and soul. I am a fan!

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 Messages from Afar: First Contact by KARFAGEN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.38 | 31 ratings

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Messages from Afar: First Contact
Karfagen Symphonic Prog

Review by Han

4 stars The musicly masterbrain Anthony Kalugin has done it again! His child Karfagen grew and grew and reached the point of being adolescent. What a fine album this has become. Ive seen Anthony play live wirh Kargagen/Sunchild at the Progdreams V festival at culuurpodium Boerderij Zoetermeer, Netherlands. Line-up Focus, Mastery, Dave Kerzner, District97 and others. Mindblowing live performance, great musicianship by all members of the band. They deserve to be headliner someday! If you like instrumental prog this new album is a must have. Listen and close your eyes and drift away into a world of messages from afar and make first contact with Karfagen.

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 Origins by EXISTENCE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.18 | 10 ratings

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Origins
Existence Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars I have just taken from my shelves the second Existence album, 'Small People, Short Story, True Crime', which was released in 1999. The CD had made a huge impact on me at the time, as not only had I enjoyed playing it, but it came with a 56-page booklet/magazine! That was a hugely ambitious undertaking for anyone, let alone a band that wasn't known to many within the prog scene, let alone a wider music buying audience (and it tickles me that they advertise Mystery within it, they are both Canadian after all). So, a short eighteen years later, and the guys are back with the third album.

But, in a very many ways this is full circle, as what is represented here is in many ways the roots of the band, hence the album title. When Existence emerged in 1992, their gigs comprised a rock opera, broken into two acts. The first act was recorded and released as their debut album, 'Fragile Whisperings of Innocence' in 1994, but the second act was never recorded as the band moved on. By the time Alan Charles decided to record the second act it was 2010, and when comparing the recordings, he realised that the right thing to do was to rearrange and re-record everything to make it a consistent whole. Alan provides piano, keyboards, guitar and bass and returning from the last album is Gérard Lévèque (drums), François Beaugard (violin) and Gaston Gagnon (guitars) and they are joined by Valery Kim Gosselin (vocals) and Richard Ranger (bass).

The booklet may not be nearly as large as the last one, but it has been put together with care and contains all the lyrics with suitable photographs: the focus here is on the music contained on the two CDs. Unlike many progressive bands, the music here is led by the piano. Although turned into a full electric band performance, the piano is always at the heart and soul of Existence, with the lead instrument often being the poignant violin. The hidden instrument in this band is emotion, as the music is dripping with it, from the cracking of the vocals through the arrangements. This makes them very different from other bands within the prog scene, as the approach is towards feelings that are being conveyed, instead of just an aural assault. Complex and complicated, it must have been a compelling experience when the band were performing it live some 25 years ago.

With their two earlier albums released before the advent of the internet and prog sites and forums, back in the day when fanzines like Feedback were the only way to get the news out there as mainstream media ignored or denigrated prog, it is of little surprise that very few people are aware of the existence of Existence. Hopefully the release of this album will gain them many new fans, and we won't have to wait so long for the next one. Well worth investigation.

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 Foxtrot by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.60 | 3263 ratings

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Foxtrot
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by FalconBleck

5 stars #7 Review

This album came to me as a surprise, when i first heard Genesis, i jumped straight over this album for some reason, and when i was able to listen to it... i wasn't really fond of it, the intro was nice, but everything else i ignored for some reason, then lightning struck and a signal from heaven came to show me a Supper's Ready video live performance, and i was amazed...

1.- Watcher of the Skies 8/10 This score might be seen as low for this song, but my problem is that the bass and guitar repeat too much the same parts, it's still an impresive song, the lyrics are aweosome and well executed, the Mellotron is doing it's job, i want a Mellotron mostly because of this song. The song starts to change little by little and comes into an impactful conclusion, really nice song, i just wished that they went with the song mostly like the last part, more changes.

2.- Time Table 8/10 Good lyrics and a really pretty song, it's really peaceful, a song that i would listen in a restaurant while looking at the sea with a woman that has a head of a wolf? But i remove 2 points because i feel like the song lacks more moments to make a difference.

3.- Get 'em Out by Friday 8/10 Really impresive at the start and then it goes with a really nice rythm that feels really industrial but the instruments make it feel natural in its own right, then it goes passive, back to chorus and back to pasive, this song doesn't move me that much because at some parts the lyrics get to theatrical, like they're being read instead of singed, but that's a minor part, then the song gets a little repetitive. The flute solo near the end is good tho.

4.- Can-Utility and the Coastliners 10/10 This is the song that made me listen to this album in the first place, it's absolutely well done, every member of the band shows their capacities in some time, and the song sounds pretty sweet. Songs like these show the talent of Genesis, and this also shows that the band could've used more Steve Hacket's talent!

5.- Horizons 10/10 And in the topic of Steve Hacket, here it is, pure talent, a song completely made and played by him, his own space in this album and maybe in the entire career of the band, playing like a piano on guitar, it's pretty nice to play it on the piano too, but in guitar is a completely different story. And i said, when i die, i want this song to be played at my funeral.

6.- Supper's Ready (in general) 10/10 Where do i start? I remember hearing that the band was afraid of doing more suites because of this majestic song that left the bar really high... this song is that epic! Majestic play by Tony Banks on the 12-string guitar? Yes, he was all this time the one that made that incredible first section, and then he goes into the piano and plays 4/4 while the band is on 9/8? He does all of that and more, and the rest of the crew are here at their best. This love song than suddenly turns into a happy song about war (?) then gets absolutely depresive, then crazy, then infernal and finally pretty emotional, in an epic finale. There is not another song like this anywhere, this is Genesis.

The final score is... 90/100, so it is obviusly an essential 5 star ranking.

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 Ever After by SANHEDRIN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 134 ratings

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Ever After
Sanhedrin Eclectic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars According to Merriam-Webster, Sanhedrin is the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews during postexilic times headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction. That's the sort of all encompassing portfolio that can raise hackles, and indeed this instrumental band is all over the map, with CAMEL, FOCUS, and KING CRIMSON being among the classic acts they might cite as influences. They also appear to owe some debt to jazz and fusion. The primary instrumentation is organ, electric guitar, and flute, with bass also offering melodic counterpoint. The passages alternate from reflective to chaotic. While these attributes might shout CAMEL from the temple tops, that band's compositions tended to be rather tight and with an underlying theme on which the members would expound, while SANHENDRIN seems more interested in going with the flow and seeing where they end up. As such, "Ever After" appeals to me as a collection of sonic ventures that are offered up with precision and skill, but they don't appear to begin, end, or transition between beginning and end with any authority. The Levine tribunal council has passed judgement - 3 stars for the journey

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 Reflections Of A Floating World by ELDER album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.96 | 30 ratings

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Reflections Of A Floating World
Elder Heavy Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Hailing from Boston, these heavy proggers toe an almost-grungy LED ZEPPELIN line as they jam along--never less than eight minutes. The band has great ideas, great aspirations, and a great sound, however, I see room for growth: more sophistication, more diversity in singing styles (or voices), and maybe even some improvement in recording engineering (bringing things more forward in the mix.

1. "Sanctuary" (11:14) opens with a delightful chunky heaviness that is lost a little during guitar soloing--a midsection that sounds a LOT like a cross between 1970s LED ZEPPELIN and THIN LIZZY. The vocals could be a little stronger, more prominent. (8.5/10)

2. "The Falling Veil" (11:13) opens with some gentle "get to know me" front-porch guitar picking before the song leaps into full gear in a SEVEN IMPALE and LED ZEPPELIN way. The spacious, "far away" effect on the vocal is more appropriate for this heavy rocker. I LOVE the soft, down section in the eighth minute and the Mellotron-drenched section that follows. This song just keeps better the longer it plays! Reminds me a lot of the power and talent of GHOST MEDICINE's Jared Leach. (9/10)

3. "Staving Off Truth "(10:18) beautiful opening before bursting into a djenty tour de force at 1:15. By the time the vocals join in, the song has settled into a kind of ALICE IN CHAINS sound and feel. Awesome! Another awesome down tempo section begins at the end of the fifth minute and turns into a cool YES/ALLMAN BROTHERS section thanks to the pedal steel guitar. Around 6:30 things revert back to the AinC style/sound only with a less insistent vocal, but then at 7:03 things shift into a brief two-guitar picking distant drum section before amping back up into the heavier stuff (again reminding me of a heavier THIN LIZZY). Nice drumming on display on this one! (9/10)

4. "Blind" (13:24) opens with the sound so mucked up that I thought something was wrong with my headphones' connection the first time I heard it. But after about half a minute the "joke" is played out and the rockin' groove comes forth in full force and full focus. Unexpectedly, soon after all instruments save for an "distant" electric piano and organ/synth drop out while a distant voice sings in a newsy voice. Once he finishes stating his plaintive case, the grunge returns--and eventually the singer sings--in the same voice and mix using the same melody as before--over the heavy stuff. At 4:30 there is shift into a section based on an arpeggiated riff from the electric piano. The drums shift and the rest of the band gradually join in pumping out another great multi-guitar weave of heavy prog. Nice, interesting song full of unexpected shifts and turns. The final two minutes is the real highlight with a crashing meeting of passion coming from all the instrumentalists at the same time, yielding an awesome crescendo. (8.5/10)

5. "Sonntag" (8:40) I get the Krautrock references to this song but the instrumental contributions here are a little too sparse, unchanging, and the groove not as hypnotizing as many great German songs of the 1970s. Plus, there are a couple of times that the drummer seems to loose his concentration, connection, or enthusiasm for the kind of Jaki Liebezeit beat the song really requires. (8/10)

6. "Thousand Hands" (9:37) One of my favorite prog epics of the year--thanks in no small part to some great guitar weaves, great drumming, awesome Mellotron use, catchy chord progressions and melodies, and the most fitting vocals on the album! Another song in which the second half surpasses the (awesome) first half. (9.5/10)

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and certainly a band with tremendous potential. Though I liked their previous release, Lore, better, I am not displeased with this slight shift in direction--and I can't wait to see what they do next!

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 Starman / John, I'm Only Dancing by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1972
2.95 | 2 ratings

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Starman / John, I'm Only Dancing
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I feel this single deserves a favourable review, since the only rating so far is two (?!) stars. Why, 'Starman' is simply a lovely Bowie classic! It may be rather naiive, but in a charming way. I guess it's among his best known songs, so no need to get into details. A little minus comes for the "laa la-laa la-laa" part going on and on a bit too long in the end. The song appeared on Bowie's breakthrough album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

'John, I'm Only Dancing' (not on any album originally, if I'm not mistaken) was also made into a promotional video at the time, and it has been featured on several Bowie compilations. A nice average song, not among his best, but nor is it one of his least interesting hits either. 3½ stars, rounded down on a prog site.

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