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The Flower Kings - Unfold The Future CD (album) cover

UNFOLD THE FUTURE

The Flower Kings

 

Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 539 ratings

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friso
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is an 'Unfold the Future' listening guide, for this album is a mixed bag that can ultimately be very rewarding! It took me so long to get my head around this one.

The Flower Kings showcase an unmistakable love for Genesis, Kansas, Gentle Giant, King Crimson and above all Yes. Whereas of these bands I hold little love for Yes (exceptions is the Yes Album) and Kansas, the different passages can have quite different impacts on me (as usually an idea is clearly rooted in one of these progband's traditions). The band switches between 'schools' within songs, sometimes 'citing' one band after another. Though this can be fun, it is distracting from the familiarization process, which was already under threat due to the album its immense length. Also the band looses itself often in just showing of its musical capabilities.

The album has a distinct sound. Clear as can be, detailed, but also quite bare and a bit airy and un-ankered. Some of that is also in the playing of The Flower Kings. I myself own the 3lp version which sounds good, but only at higher volumes due to the lack of (even some) modern mixing and compression. The tracklist on the 3lp is significantly different than on the 2cd. I can't help but thinking the band is using the six different twenty minute sides to help with 'sorting out' this almost 140 minute album of very diverse material.

The first LP opens with the 30 minute epic 'The Truth Will Set You Free'. This epic is very well described by my opening paragraph. It has some amazing moments of symphonic bliss and technical interplay, but other passages leave me quite cold. Moreover, I guess the core ideas behind this track could have come to fruition in twenty minutes as well. 'Monkey Business' is an awful Kansas inspired track. Flimsy, all over the place and tacky. 'Black and White' is significantly better and has some strong solo sections. The short imaginative ballad 'The Navigator' is a highlight for me, it has a simple yet gorgeous atmosphere.

Side three opens with 'Silent Inferno', which has one of most solid opening sections this album has to offer. The verses are a bit light-hearted, but the imaginative solo sections make up for it. Somehow the Kansas influences (keyboard use) are quite nice on this one. Some clear cut references to Voyage of the Acolyte and singing that reminds me a bit of UK-era John Wetton. The Al Di Miola / Return to Forever section is well performed, but totally out of place here. 'Vox Humana' is nice melodic balled with an original sound pallet, a bit like 'The Navigator'. 'Grand Old World' is a world jazz infused slow ballad.

The first three sides together form (in my experience) the first album. Because of its diversity, its many high-lights (and some lows as well) I would rate it a 3,5 star album. The fourth side then sounds like a collection of 'spare' songs, in my humble opinion. Though all of these tracks have some stronger passages, they add nothing to this body of work. Moreover, there are so many moments here that are either boring or plain annoying. I would recommend skipping this vinyl side all together, because the final LP (3) is the real hidden treasure here! The fusion piece 'The Devil's Danceschool' is quite nice though.

The third LP I would 'interpret' as the second album, in a quite different flavor. More based on King Crimson influence majestic prog and jazz- rock. The structure of its first side is based (and an extension) of King Crimson's 'Moonchild'; opening with a magical atmospheric balled and then evolving in a free imaginative improvisation on 'Solitary Shell'. The concept here really lifts of with 'Chistianopel', which reminds me of the better moments of Pat Matheny's 'The Way Up' album. Brilliant atmospheric, virtuoso fusion well suited for the progressive rock audience. It also evolves beautiful out of the free improvisation of the track before it. I wonder why the band didn't create an 'epic' out of these cuts that works so well together. Without a doubt this is the artistic high-point of this record. The second side of this 'album' is filled with 'Devil's Playground'. To me this sounds as the more artistic, more balanced and catchier brother of the opening track 'The Truth Will Set You Free'. On its own, I might have given this third LP a 4,5 stars as an album.

After months of returning to this body of work I find myself in the position of being a highly critical admirer of The Flower Kings. Surely there's enough material here to make for a four star album. By learning to know how to listen to it you can make this a very enjoyable purchase. Especially the third LP is quite an amazing ride and a brilliant reenactment of seventies prog. But boy, somebody should slap these guys faces for making it soo damn hard to enjoy their amazing music.

friso | 4/5 |

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