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Arena - Songs From The Lion's Cage CD (album) cover





3.86 | 392 ratings

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3 stars Another album that places its best material in the front song and final song. Coincidence? I think not. Either way, this album is a prog sandwich with fresh, delicious bread and on-the-verge-stale meat and veggies. Not to say that any material is bad--it's just that if it was a bit better, the whole could be something special to have and to hold forever. Hence, this is good music, but no masterpiece. Here are the highlights:

Out of the Wilderness. A very mysterious opening that morphs into a funky time led by a cool keyboard groove. This song will certainly keep your attention. It's kind of weird, but in a good way. Near the end, this song takes a nice turn into a major key with positive emotional finish. I had very high hopes for the album after the opener...unfortunately a bit too high.

Crying for Help (parts I, II, III, and IV). These "songs" may have been short brainchilds of various bandmembers or merely intended as filller. Either way, they are neither wilder entertaining nor unlistenable. We have the acoustic guitar, harpsichord/flute duet, keyboard ambience, and emotional vocal piece, respectively. The Rothery solo in the latter piece is nice, yet not spectacular.

Valley of the Kings. This is one of those prog epics where the band has the talent, motivation, and creativity to make it work, but it just doesn't quite add up. Not to say that this is a bad song by any means--it just doesn't quite hold together for me. It's probably that Carson is a bit off on the vocals (though I can't pinpoint why). Nice keyboard arrangements and fills by Nolan though.

Jericho. Evidence that Arena at this point were quite creative (dare I say progressive?), but can't quite pull it all together. Enjoyable yet not quite entirely memorable or captivating.

Solomon. This song is worth the price of admission alone. Great mellow intro, followed by a restrained guitar/keyboard instrumental that is quite well-done. Then the band FINALLY decides to kick up the tempo a bit, and boy do they ever! Where I felt restraint and hesitation earlier, I feel fun and energy here. Great interplay of bandmembers throughout, and after this section, the song moves into a delightful refrain and simple but beautiful riff to end the album. Also, this is the only song on the album where I "buy" the Carson's vocal contributions.

All in all, I'm glad I bought this for Solomon, and to a lesser extent, Out of the Wilderness, though there is no material on this album that I would consider to be grating or annoying. Certainly this album holds promise for the future!

Flucktrot | 3/5 |


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