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Moon Safari - Blomljud CD (album) cover


Moon Safari


Symphonic Prog

4.11 | 458 ratings

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5 stars Moon Safari is no one- shot wonder, here today and gone tomorrow. In fact, reviewing the first album was no easy feat, falling prey to the camouflage of their arsenal, a heady brew of lush symphonics, Brit-prog elegance, some evident Yessisms and most unfathomably for prog, some of the densest lead vocal work, abetted with luxuriant massed harmonies that savage the sublime! Not content with a weak sophomore release, the Swedes return with a 2 CD colossus that could easily have challenged them too hard but they blaze through with a primo repertoire with fewer Yes-like references, carving out their own fresh and unique sound. After a momentary introduction of chirping birds, fueled by a willing recall of their breezy form of progressive rock, the momentous "Mathuselah's Children" sets the winds blowing , floppy sails flapping in the gale , a warm zephyr of lavender wisps and clapping salty whitecaps. The avian chatter reappears; an ornate Wakeman-esque piano announces the true colors of an epic, as the synth forages deep into the landscape, whistling like some shepherd irate at he tardy pace of the flock. When the sassy vocal lead enters the fray, the Moonsafari style is fully in display, an invigorating concoction of hard and soft, loaded with originality (nothing comes close to this kind of "positive" prog , very au contraire from the usual densely brooding Swedish school of "icy"prog). The almost Beachboy-ish vocal harmonies are simply breathtaking, I mean let's face it, prog is not really renowned for its vocalists, but rather for the blazing instrumental prowess and the, at times absurd creativity. Simon Akesson is a rare commodity, the man can sing in the truest sense of the term, a very specific voice that can resonate in so many ways (the African chanting is amazing!) and having a full time second vocalist is just added incentive to shine. Brother (?) Pontus is no slouch on the guitar, ripping some melodious strings on the way, while the bass and drums are, as usual with the Scandinavians, top notch. All three actively participate on backing vocals! (get the message?). But the killer revelation is that Simon plays all the keys as well, a supremely talented musician, to say the least as his ivory work is exemplary. The mellotron torrent finale, pushed along by a soaring lead guitar solo is one for the ages. An amazing track, simply beyond words. Time to whip out the Pomerol! "In the Countryside", still has birds shrilling, in a highly Anthony Phillips-like atmosphere but with way more focus on a profound melody , a waft of secure wholesomeness (yeah, the subject is love!) and a general "good" feeling. Hey, this isn't Gothic or Viking! Just when you thought that this wispy trend will continue, the lads (they are young!) decide to shove a little rage into the fire, a burning Hammond rampaging unmolested, a trucculent guitar blitz and the melancholic piano taking over the spell , relayed to a radiant synthesizer solo. The pace becomes suddenly classy, elegant, suave and refined. Bassist Johan Westerland and drummer Tobias Lundgren play like the defense tandem of the Swedish Hockey All-star team. Solid. The track has sufficient legs to enthrall with a mind blowing repeated guitar riff that keeps emerging ever more confident, a truly grandiose finale. Yes, the preceeding "Moonwalk" is a masterpiece of modern prog, the kids have learned well! "Bluebells" is again rewarded with an evolving arrangement that is spawned by some colorful pastels and morphs into a harmonic extravaganza, with intertwining vocal leads and some innocent folkish joy. Nice to see youngsters who are upbeat (too many are deadbeat, if you see what I mean!) and actually seeing life and art as a joyous experience, devoid of any suicidal tendencies (no, not the band!) in a modern country that always had way too many self-murders. The playing is remarkable, with multiple instrumental cameos (pedal steel guitar, mandolin, percussion) and the choir work is utterly world class, a shimmering lesson in harmony. CD 1 ends with the gorgeous "The Ghosts of Flowers Past", another shining prog nugget that has some initial guest violin and Simon's bubbly synth vying for top honors, with the electric axe taking its place as well. The vocal centerpiece is an actual song, like those classic tunes from the 40s and 50s, escorted by a whimsical piano and a whoosh mellotron chorus, very crafty indeed. Add some harmonic seasonings and you quickly realize the scope of their ability, the sheer conceptualization of their method is mesmerizing. The final chorus is just "Bravo". Need I reiterate my admiration? CD 2 heads out on the highway with a sense of unbridled adventure, headlights ablaze with a rollicking guitar/organ barrage, followed by playful piano, bubbly synth and a cool guitar solo. The vocals are so mid- West American; you would swear you are listening to Starcastle, Kansas, Styx and a proggier REO Speedwagon. Just to confuse the New Yorkers, there is even a slight Springsteen touch, I swear! All very tasty, very classy and totally convincing. The bold axe solo flutters wildly, bluesy to the hilt, at times swerving, slicing, carving and careening with overt audacity. There is a little 40s feel again, albeit briefly ("Messenger of Everlasting Love") and a cheeky Brit-Pop slant a la Squeeze or 10CC. Darn well done. "Lady of the Woodlands" sounds like a nice title for White Willow, Landberk or Anglagard but is a limpid prog travelogue firmly entrenched in the pastoral (more mandolins and fiddles), obviously closer to prog-folk than your classic symph band. "A Tale of Three and Tree" is a sweet segue, tumbling even deeper into the prog nursery lullaby, green like the fields of Albion and all so gently fragile, the voices once more flirting with paradise. The monster is next, the gigantic nearly 32 minute prog megalith that ultimately encompasses all the characteristics of this astonishing band, all the usual suspects weaving together in wide effortlessness, letting the arrangement slide majestically on its own, unperturbed and unhurried. On the "Other Half of the Sky" the chirping does a homecoming for a few seconds and entrenches itself in a gargantuan vocal exhibition, languorous and melancholia-drenched as the mighty mellotron ushers in the sweeping guitar that then pushes the effect pedal and instigates some of the fieriest playing from these dudes. Hey, they can kick too, when needed. But as you may have guessed, the unending contrasts are constantly evolving, never staying in an extended groove, challenging the listener ever more. The clever Mini-Moog bursts add sizzle to the spitting flames, enough for Simon's compassionate vocals to really express the benevolence of life and the endless quest for happiness ("Do just what you feel"). Pontus Akesson does some fabulous work here on a variety of guitar passages, sandwiched between the singer ripping off some dazzling organ fills. There a slight psychedelic touch ('ghost in the machine") that is completely charming, in a less dreamy, more realistic sense. And then they massively dive into the deepest symphonic maelstrom, replete with ruffling organ, phosphorescent guitar illuminations, bedecked with an array of sampled voice effects and some Jon Anderson inspiring lead singing that surpasses the master. If Yes would have been the author, we would be all be in gaga land. The opus ends with a gargantuan sortie that has epic scrawled all over it, insisting towards the road back home. "To Sail beyond the Sunset" is a fitting goodbye, an almost Genesisian piano intro that exudes the warmest charm, as expressed by the delicate vocals and the forlorn mood, as if the boys in the band had finally exhausted their strength and hit the sack. Truly magnificent. And deserving of massive applause. Again, there is nothing else out there quite like this. For that alone, they deserve inclusion in any collection. I found this is an amazing used store in Calgary, smack in cowboy country and western land, go figure! The debut was very good, this is amazing!

Yes, the kids have learned very well. 5 Prog songbooks

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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