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

FORTUNATE OBSERVER OF TIME

Frogg Cafe

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.85 | 57 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Fortunate Observer of Time" is the third studio effort by Frogg Café, one of the best exponents of contemporary USA's prog rock. This is the first album with guitarist Steve Uh (who also does some input on keyboards and violin), and in comparison with the preceding masterpiece "Creatures", this album is less challenging. By no means am I pointing out that this album is lighter or more simplistic, but the very fact that this refurbished line-up decided to work more meticulously on the consistency of the repertoire's melodic drive and nuances than on a complete exercise on the eclectic potential of the prog genre (that is how one can describe "Creatures" in a nutshell). This initial description is not supposed to mislead you - "Fortunate Observer of Time" is an excellent opus that continues to dignify enormously the lessons learned by the band during their Zappa-covering years. The opener 'Eternal Optimist' bears an accessible vibe, although the typically progressive complexity is there, particularly in the crafty rhythmic development that states some 7/8 tempos in the recurrent 4/4 pattern, as well as the use of somewhat weird chord progressions in the keyboards' basis. It sounds like Hands with a slightly augmented dose of American blues-hard-rock. The title track is an instrumental in which the musicians display more patently their jazz-rock leanings with touches of Gentle Giant and Happy the Man: the main motif bears a certain eeriness, but all in all, the ensemble's energy allows the melodic development fill the atmosphere properly and exquisitely. 'Reluctant Observer' provides an augmentation in the sonic energy, which is quite adequate for the sort of solemnity inherent to the track's compositional structure and arrangements. The experimental vibe of 'Reluctant Observer' is inspired by 69-73 Zappa and Happy the Man, with slight yet noticeable hints to a softened version of Univers Zero. This track is less explicitly pompous than it may seem through these words, but it definitely has a sonic majesty that makes it more magnificent than the two previous tracks. Magnificence remains a strong rule with the next track 'No Regrets', a track that perfectly combines the fully orchestrated feel of track 3 and the overtly jazzy dynamics of track 2. The successive horn and violin solos that emerge during one of the instrumental interludes have to be some of the most exciting moments in the album. 'You're Still Sleeping' is one of the album's two epics. Preceded by a beautiful brief song entitled 'Resign', 'You're Still Sleeping' states an effective linkage of well-written motifs that wander through assorted schemes: Mahavishnu-meets-RTF jazz-rock, Latin-jazz, even some form of chamber rock heavily infected with jazzy undertones. 'Abyss of Dissension' is designed to catch the listener's attention in a special way near the end. It is the loudest track in the album, it provides the arguably catchiest motif on a Zawinul-esque sort of way, it features evidently Zappa-esque treatment of the various climaxes that emerge along the way. this track represents a sort of culmination that the attentive listener has been expecting from track 1. Uh's leads are simply phenomenal, but again, the whole ensemble works phenomenally through the variety of fluid funky-jazz, flamboyant big band and pompous art-rock passages that go on through a carefully ordained sequence. The album ends with a piece of soft chamber rock featuring two violins, cello and perhaps some woodwind that might as well be an emulating keyboard. The piece is soft but the compositional drive isn't: the cadence is playful, consistently based on dissonant progressions that settle an ethereal disturbance. A weird yet delicate ending for a great album, one of the greatest from 2005 - Frogg Café rules!
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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