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The Samurai Of Prog - Toki No Kaze CD (album) cover

TOKI NO KAZE

The Samurai Of Prog

 

Crossover Prog

4.92 | 10 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
5 stars It's already the third time that I rate a new TSOP album with five stars. But especially this time there's no slightest hesitation, because, in a word, Toki No Kaze is their finest achievement this far. I got this thought even before I had finished my initial listening of the album, and now after several listenings I'm more and more convinced. I am sincerely happy to review this one, hoping also that further reviews will follow. A strong candidate for being THE best prog album of 2019. BTW, don't believe the subgenre: this IS symphonic prog, hands down.

The hard-working trio of bassist Marco Bernard, drummer Kimmo Pörsti and American Steve Unruh (flute, violin, vocals) have again chosen excellent collaborators, some of them familiar from the earlier albums and some of them brand new. I don't know the meaning of the Japanese title, but the booklet accompanying the gorgeous (as always) multi-fold covers makes it very clear what is the inspiration behind the album: the legendary Japanese manga/anime artist Hayao Miyazaki, the co-founder of the Ghibli studios and the director of many celebrated animation films. Whereas the booklets of the earlier TSOP albums have featured information mostly about the musicians involved, this time we'll miss all that and instead we read of Miyazaki's life and films*, or their plot synopses, to be more precise. So, my only criticism comes for the lack of the musicians' introductions; in order to know the bands they are coming from, I have to google.

The nearly 75-minute album has 12 tracks -- five of them are instrumentals dominating the album's first half --, and they all are either very good or fantastic. The 8-minute opener 'A Tear in the Sunset' is composed by Octavio Stampalia. I'm not deeply fond of the harder-edged, brassy sections, but the piece is impressive in its grand cinematic style, and the delicate sections are very beautiful. 'Fair Play' by David Myers is a lovely little piece for piano, flute and violin. 'Zero' by Alessandro di Benedetti is a symphonic prog instrumental full of dynamics and CAMEL-like mellow beauty. Some superb synth solos here! Benedetti has composed also the fourth, ballad-ish track 'The Never Ending Line' in which Federico Tetti's English lyrics are sung passionately by Daniel Fäldt.

The playing throughout the album is absolutely enjoyable, and since the guests vary from track to track, there's happy variety in the arrangements; for example saxophone is not overused, and the keyboards are suitably diverse, just as they ought to be in classically influenced symphonic prog. Unruh's flute and violin have never sounded better. 'Au Contraire' composed by Oliviero Lacagnina is another grandiose, dynamic instrumental with a vivid arrangement. 'Reality' (9:24) is the second vocal piece, written by vocalist-keyboardist Yuko Tomiyama. I'm glad she sings in Japanese; her innocently clear voice functions excellently alongside the orchestral arrangement. English translation of the lyrics are printed. 'The Bicycle Ride' is composed by Antony Kalugin. Those floating Moog solos are lovely!

A perfect prog album has a balance between grandiosity and more delicate and intimate nuances. And this is a perfect prog album, I daresay. 'Castle Blue Dream' composed by Sergio Chierici features the lyrics and vocals of Steve Unruh. I confess that on earlier TSOP albums I occasionally got slightly fed up of his voice, so the more gratifying it is now to hear him singing better than before, in addition of sharing the album's vocal credits with several talented vocalists. His contribution as a lyricist, vocalist and violinist is strongly present also on 'The Spirits Around Us' composed by Danilo Sesti.

Luca Scherani has composed 'Nausicaa e i Custodi della Vita' which adds Italian on the list of languages heard on this album. Vocalist-lyricist Elisa Montaldo is as pleasant new acquaintance as Yuko Tomiyama. A fantastic vocal prog piece on the mellower end of the R.P.I. spectrum. 'Think Green' is a rather ELP-sounding, organ-dominated instrumental, and the final track featuring Elisa Montaldo is another mellow highlight. I'm simply blown away by the beauty of this fantastic album.

*) The Miyazaki films and the tracks they have inspired are as follows: (1) Castle in the Sky; (3) The Wind Rises; (5) Porco Rosso; (7) Kiki's Delivery Service; (8) Howl's Moving Castle; (9) Princess Mononoke; (10) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind; (11) Ponyo; (12) Spirited Away. If you're keen on anime, that's a nice extra plus for this album.

Matti | 5/5 |

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