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Frogg Cafe - Fortunate Observer Of Time CD (album) cover


Frogg Cafe


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.92 | 68 ratings

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4 stars Frogg Café embryo was born in 1998 as a Frank Zappa cover band called Lumpy Gravy performing Zappa's difficult music on Long Island and New York City. In 2000, the band was in transition and found a new beginning with the addition of percussionist James Guarnieri to the band. At this point, the band changed its name to Frogg Café and started to perform original music with a host of discernable influences in their sound such as Zappa, Yes, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Focus, Genesis, and even the more avant-garde styles. The members of this unique group are Nick Lieto (vocals, keyboards, trumpet), Steven Uh (guitars), Bill Ayasse (violin, mandolin), Andrew Sussman (bass), and James Guarnieri (drums). All of the members of Frogg Café are university trained in music. In this album, the band brings in seven additional musicians including ex Frank Zappa's percussionist Ed Mann on the 15-minute epic Abyss of Dissension.

Having enjoyed two albums of Frogg Café I can confirm that their music blends elements from many styles like progressive rock, classic rock, jazz & improvisation, driving melody lines, angular harmonies, modern chamber music and avant-garde into a cohesive listening experience. IN this album, you might hear influences from Zappa, Gentle Giant, Kansas, King Crimson, Phish even from jazz musicians like Chuck Mangione, Deodato, Miles Davis, etc.

Let's have a look in great details .

The album opener Eternal Optimist starts off wonderfully with powerful and catchy voice of Lieto combined with excellent melodies and music harmonies. This is for sure a song-oriented composition that blends the sounds of seventies classic rock (with bands like Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroad, or Cactus) with jazz rock, pop, and progressive rock. The meaty guitar licks of Steve Uh characterizes the style of this opening track. The music flow is floating steadily and moving from one style to another with relatively smooth transition.

Fortunate Observer of Time begins with a beautiful exploration of violin and cello works that remind me to David Cross work (as solo artist ond as member of King Crimson) combined with solid bass lines and stunning guitar. This instrumental track casts a jazzy nuance. The trombone solo in the middle of the track reminds me to the flugelhorn-based music of Chuck Mangione. Reluctant Observer is a great track with loads of intricate piano/guitar/violin/cello interplay augmented with excellent bass lines of Andy Sussman and the intricate drumming by James Guarnieri. Style-wise, this track provides us with tons of fusion groove. Lieto demonstrates how he has advanced himself as an excellent lead singer as his voice unifies melody and pop sensibilities. Ayasse's violin work gives the Kansas nuance as the violin sounds like Robby Steinhardt's. It's a wonderful track!

No Regrets starts with a moderately complex music that moves smoothly and brings us to a quieter passage where Lieto's voice enters the music augmented with piano touches. Tempo-wise, it's slower than the previous track. You might sense the similarity with Kansas music. The flugelhorn solo in the middle of the track played by Lieto is really good. Resign is a one-minute track that features powerful voice quality of Lieto backed with violin work. It continues almost seamlessly to You're Still Sleeping where I can sense the nuance of Echolyn music with great jazzy vocals. The piano touches that accompany the singing part is really stunning. This relatively long song (approx 10 minutes) is moderately complex in arrangement combining great work of violin, piano and guitar. Yes, there is some thin influence of Kansas but interestingly it is composed on top jazzy music textures. During transition piece, I can sense the influence of Chick Corea's Return To Forever. The combination of bass work and piano is really awesome. It's a great composition that favors those of you who like jazz-fusion style.

I think the album highlight is the approximately 15-minute epic Abyss of Dissension which starts off with long sustain notes of brass section followed with very nice funk / groove music with solid bass lines that flows wonderfully with brass section. This track is I think accessible (at least at the opening part) in addition to the album opener. Most of you would enjoy how great the harmonies created by brass work, vocal and accompanying music. The track also contains latin music elements with its specific percussion work. The electric guitar solo is really stunning - it has a flavor of Carlos Santana's style. This track is written by bassist Andy Sussman and also features former Frank Zappa vibes/marimba player Ed Mann. Of course I cannot forget the excellent combination of wah-wah guitars, thick horn section and vibes. It's really a rewarding epic to enjoy! The concluding instrumental Release is an atmospheric piece with flutes (played by Sharon Ayasse), Sussman's cello, and violin. It's explorative in nature.

Overall, Fortunate Observer of Time is a true gem as it has a very unique sound that blends many elements of various music styles. Musically, it is melodic, tasty - with memorable segments, composed in relatively complex structure and it's explorative in nature. It's a recommended album.

Gatot | 4/5 |


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