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The Flower Kings - Stardust We Are CD (album) cover


The Flower Kings


Symphonic Prog

3.93 | 569 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Since the official Flower Kings debut in 1995 and up until 2002, Roine Stolt's band remained one of the most prolific with 7 releases during those eight years, and three of those albums were double discs. The first of these double albums came out in 1997, the band's third release entitled "Stardust We Are". The first two albums celebrated a return to making more adventurous music in the style of the classic days of progressive rock, namely what we now refer to as symphonic prog. The band exhibited a penchant for songs with a pop-like melody but with longer instrumental parts and frequent changes in the music. As well, there were occasionally some more experimental inclusions.

"Stardust We Are" continued this trend (as did ever album since then it seems) but as the first double disc, it seems the band were interested in experimenting more. Or rather, because they experimented more, they had enough additional material to merit a second disc. As such, many of the tracks here feature the Flower Kings' typical extended pop rock style with the extra instrumental parts and multi-part musical compositions and of course a 25- minute epic in the title track. There are also some of the more, shall we say exploratory tracks and in addition some instrumental tracks.

A lot of people have concluded that the amount of material offered here is a little too much and that a single great album could have been released had the less-impressive tracks been omitted. As for me, this album is one of five Flower Kings albums that I own and this one remained the least memorable for quite some time. I could easily think of finding enjoyable tracks on the other four albums, but this one always left me feeling like the band just threw everything in, including the studio sink. Recently though, my opinion has softened somewhat. After seeing an interview with Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt, I felt like listening to my Flower Kings album again and this one became the third of those to be cued up for play. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it more than previously, particularly the title track, which I considered rather cumbersome and tedious the first time. Now I have listened to it three more times recently and I have been able to identify the various parts and which I enjoy the most.

As for the rest of the album, there are some tracks like "Ghost of the Red Cloud", "Church of Your Heart" and "The Man Who Walked with Kings" combine the melodic and memorable side of the Flower Kings' music with their progressive side and are easily favourites, while "The End of Innocence", "The Merrygoround", and "Different People" also have their great moments. Some of the other songs like "In the Eyes of the World" and "Just This Once" tend to pass through my ears without having many moments to snag my attention and make me check what track is playing, except for that "Just This Once" has a rather alarming beginning that could be annoying if you're not ready to hear that way of playing music.

Then there are these short instrumentals which, I wouldn't want to say filler but, were for me initially a bit puzzling as to why they had to be included. "Pipes of Peace" is a short pipe organ solo; "Crying Clown" is a kind of bizarre flute-like organ piece; "A Day at the Mall" is just people's voices in a mall-like place with some random keyboard noodling; and "Hotel Nirvana" sounds like an acoustic guitar intro for some epic track, though it is rather pretty, along with "Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar". Until very recently I thought that these were unnecessary; however, a reviewer called these "transitional tracks" and somehow that made much more sense. Perhaps it is exactly because the album has so many longer and typical Flower Kings tracks that these shorter bits were added to break things up a bit. Thinking about it that way the album comes together better.

"Compassion" is, of all the tracks, perhaps the most disappointing. It's not because the music is actually so bad even though it sounds less like any of the other more typical Flower King songs. It's because halfway through the music just stops and there's about 30 seconds of nothing before some completely unrelated synthesizer atmospheric composition takes over. I guess there was a purpose but I'm not into these extended blank sections of tracks that sometimes appear on albums.

I think the challenging point about this album is that it is long without deviating so much from the standard Flower Kings approach while at the same time, the most different stuff comes in the form of these short instrumentals that at first may seem puzzling and some tracks which are less interesting than others. The best of the different tracks in my opinion is "Don of the Universe" which is a very pleasing and meditative piece in Indian style with Indian percussion and a sitar. The bass line is simple but memorable and I noticed that it cropped up again in part of the title track in which "Don of the Universe" without the Indian instruments makes a reprisal much to my delight.

Some people may understand and appreciate this album right away. For others (like me) it may take a few listens or even reading other reviews for this album to make sense. What at first seems like a dumping ground for everything the band recorded, even the outtakes, can actually begin to seem like more than that. Perhaps Roine and the gang decided to surprise us with this third album. Or challenge us. Or perhaps they were enjoying what they were doing so much that they wanted to share it all. I will say that a single disc of selected tracks would have made a five-star album easily, But now I think I like this album more for the double disc it is.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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