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


The Flower Kings


Symphonic Prog

3.93 | 549 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Subject to mood swings

Stardust we are is a sprawling 2 CD collection from the Flower Kings; you really can't complain about getting value for money in terms of output from them. Where there might be a question mark however is in terms of quality control.

The Flower Kings tend to suffer from the same malaise as their neo-prog colleagues Spock's Beard. While they make what is unquestionably prog rock in one of its purest forms, their music is often cold and lacking in emotion. They seems to believe that in order to make a long, progressive piece, all you have to do is take a number of unconnected themes and ideas, and join them together in a piecemeal fashion. While I am not suggesting that no thought is put into how well those themes fit together, it does seem to me at times as if the objective has been to make the time and mood changes as awkward sounding as possible.

From time to time, things will fall into place perfectly, and the result will be a track which flows seamlessly, while featuring strong melodies which sit easily together. All too often though, the results are frustrating.

So it is with the band's third album (not counting Roine Stolt's solo album bearing the band name) Stardust we are. The album features 20 tracks in total, ranging from a pair of less than one minute pieces (Crying clown, A day at the mall) to the sprawling 25 minute title track in three parts.

The opening In the eyes of the world is one of the more successful tracks. Running to some 10 minutes, the track on the one hand borders on jazz territory, while on the other explores full on symphonic prog. Just this once on the other hand is an example of decent, if unremarkable themes which simply do not (in my opinion) sit well together. The track jumps about between Yes like staccato, smooth jazz, and highly melodic lead guitar without ever finding a firm identity.

The man who walked with kings has all the feel of a Steve Hackett number, the haunting lead guitar and deep bass tones making for a decidedly tasteful, and thankfully relatively straight forward instrumental number. This is one of four consecutive instrumentals, the longest of which, Circus Brimstone runs to over 12 minutes. That track has a King Crimson feel to it, from around the time of that band's Red.

The second disc is by and large the inferior of the two, the songs being generally less distinguished. This is of course with the notable exception of the aforementioned title track which at 25 minutes dwarfs everything else here. The track certainly justifies its prominence, apparently having been written as a complete piece, rather than put together piecemeal.

Perhaps ironically (given my comments), the album as whole flows rather well, successive short and long track counter-pointing well together.

I am aware that my review perhaps dwells a little too much on the criticisms I have of the Flower Kings. I can only justify this through the frustration they cause me. They clearly have the potential to come up with something truly magical, and at times they come close to achieving that. Unfortunately, for me this album represents their career generally; a case of so near yet so far away.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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