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Roine Stolt - The Flower King  CD (album) cover

THE FLOWER KING

Roine Stolt

 

Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 199 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

infandous
4 stars Well, I can't believe I haven't reviewed this album yet, so I better get to it :-)

Personally, I consider this to be the first Flower Kings album, even though it really is and was a Stolt solo album. It only features 3 other future Flower Kings members, Jaime Salazar would be the drummer of that band until 2001, Hasse Brunisson who will play percussion on every album so far (though he plays drums here and plays the kit on a couple songs on the early FK albums) and Hans Fröberg who wouldn't actually be an official member of TFK until Stardust We Are (he only sings backing vocals on two songs here). Also, we have Ulf Wallander guesting on sax on a few numbers, a roll he would take on most of the future Flower Kings albums but never actually be an official member of the band. My copy of the CD (from the original Foxtrot records, Roine's own personal label before going with Inside Out in 2000 or so), doesn't list Dexter Frank Jr. or Don Azzaro, but these are just pseudonyms for Roine anyway. He used these names on his early albums because he thought his real name showed up to much as it was and because he thought it was humorous.

Anyway, how is the music? Well, for the most part, quite good. The thing that struck me is how interesting the guitar playing is, coming across like Vai and Satriani, but not quite reaching their level of sophistication (which is not a bad thing, as Roine has far more "soul" and "feeling" than those two). It is some of Roine's most "guitar hero" style playing and I've never heard him really do anything similar since. It's not surprising though, as this was a solo album and the guitar is more prominent than on TFK albums for that reason. Roine's keyboard playing is good, though nothing outstanding, but I think he really only intended it to fill out the prog sound that this album was meant to have. His bass playing is very good, and it would come to light in later years that before Jonas Reingold joined the band, Roine actually did the majority of the bass playing on the FK albums, with brother Michael being primarily a live bass player for the band. Roine's singing is good as always, but here he sometimes goes into higher registers, something that he stopped doing around Retropolis. I think here it works pretty well, especially on the epic Humanizzimo.

I must admit, I'm not really a fan of the title song, which is odd because I love the Flower Kings music so much. But their namesake song, The Flower King, has a chorus that I just can't stand. It sounds like contemporary Christian pop music or something, sickenly sweet, annoyingly catchy (in a bad way), and with lyrics that make me cringe. Still, the instrumental middle section is quite good and serves as a statement of intent of what the rest of the album will hold.

Dissonata is probably my favorite song on here, with it's heavy prog style and almost King Crimson like guitar lines and time signatures. It features a very Vai-esque guitar solo, one of Roine's best. Great song.

Magic Circus and Pilgrims Inn are fantastic instrumentals, the former featuring Roine's great soloing, the second featuring sublime sax playing by Wallander. Close Your Eyes is a gentle, if a bit bland, ballad featuring only Roine playing everything. A pleasant enough song, though not particularly great. The Sounds Of Violence is a driving instrumental that would take on a much heavier sound in future live versions (see Alive On Planet Earth for evidence of this). Probably the least effective instrumental on here, but still quite good.

Humanizzimo is the albums epic. It is not my favorite of Roine's epics, but it is still a good one. It flows quite well, with interesting themes and sections, with only The Messenger seeming somewhat disjointed and out of place. But otherwise, a very effective piece with more great guitar playing and some very good and highly emotional singing by Roine. The album ends with Scanning The Greenhouse, a sort of coda to the album in the vein of Los Endos, that runs through several of the main themes of the album but unfortunately (for me, anyway) ends with the chorus from the title track.

All in all, a very good album and a solid 4 stars. It is pretty varied and interesting for a solo album, and certainly acts as a good taster for the FK releases to come. FK fans, this is a must have. Everyone else, this may be a good place to start with FK and Roine Stolt, and may even appeal to people who are not crazy about the FK's usual excesses.

infandous | 4/5 |

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