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Flame Dream - Elements CD (album) cover

ELEMENTS

Flame Dream

 

Symphonic Prog

3.70 | 38 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tkarr1
5 stars Reviewed by: Tom Karr, July 2004

I really, really, really like bands that feature loads of great keyboard work. You probably didn't know that, did you? Well I do, and Flame Dream is just such a group. This disc, Elements, is a re-issue of the second release by the Swiss group, originally issued by Vertigo in 1979. One of the most interesting elements of Flame Dream is their somewhat unusual line up. They were made up of the typical bass, drums and keyboard players, but they also boasted a saxophone and woodwinds player, like early Soft Machine.

The music on this release is clearly heavily influenced by a number of English symphonic and even some Canterbury bands. You will hear similarities to Yes, UK, ELP and occasionally Hatfield And The North and even National Health. The first dozen measures of "A Poem Of Dancing" even sounds quite similar to Steve Hackett's "Hands Of The Priestess, Part II." Even though you might find yourself thinking, gee, that sounds kind of like Yes or UK, or whatever, it's all done well and I do find myself enjoying this band and their music quite a bit.

I guess this is a concept album of sorts. We have four longish songs, three of which mention earth, fire and water in their titles. Get it? Elements. The lyrics of the four cuts are in fact all poems by the 16th and 19th century English writers John Wolf, Edmund Spenser, Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Davies, so we have some very good prose to go along with some pretty nice music. And this music is definitely easy to listen to and enjoy. Keyboardist Roland Ruckstuhl is an accomplished player with a style that owes a nod to both Eddie Jobson and Patrick Moraz. He is constantly arpeggiating his chord progressions and whipping out a lot of very melodic and slick synth solos with dramatic pitch wheel bends and well chosen licks. He is also similar to Wakeman as well, in his ability to effectively orchestrate his work with a bevy of different keyboard textures and voices. The rest of the players are at the top of their game as well, drummer Peter Furrer especially, sounding like a slightly heavier Bill Bruford. Sax and woodwind player Peter Wolf chimes in with oboe and flute as well as the saxophone, his main axe. He does not have a huge presence, but his work is well integrated into the overall band sound and he does much to contribute to the shifting moods in some of these works.

From a nation with four officially recognized languages, Flame Dream's two vocalists, sax player Peter Wolf and bassist Urs Hochull harmonize in English with a bit of a German accent. Ok, this may sound odd, but think of a pair of elfin Phil Collinses with head colds. Go ahead and laugh, scoff at me now, but later on you'll hear that I'm right. At first they struck me as a bit off, but after a half dozen spins, I like these two. The vocals, like everything else on this disc are pretty good, though they will not take your attention from the musicianship displayed by Flame Dream. This is primarily an instrumental effort from the band with minimal lyrics, given the length of these tunes. Usually we get a few verses and then a lot of lengthy instrumental passages that showcase Ruckstuhl's keyboards, with shifting beats and changes of tempo just to keep things interesting. Things tend to take a jazzy turn whenever Peter Wolf steps in with his sax, and a decidedly classical tone when he pulls out the oboe or flute. Wolf's flute is the highlight of track four, "A Poem Of Dancing," which also boasts some incredible, Wakeman-esque piano work from Ruckstuhl. One little extra on this disc is a surprise fifth track not listed on the jacket. It's nothing much, just a little minute and a half blurb from the band featuring a somewhat funky little riff featuring one of Wolf's sax lines. Like I say, it's not really a song, but nevertheless .

All in all, this is a very good release from a long forgotten band that I had never even heard of until a month ago. I like this quite a bit and it's been getting a lot of play in my house. I'm not tired of it yet and I am sufficiently impressed to look into some of the band's other releases that are now available on the Vertigo licensed Japanese label Tachika, all with mini LP jacket packaging.

Last word . If you are a keyboard aficionado like I am, get this re-issue. Ruckstuhl was a real talent and this music is nothing to dismiss. You are going to like this.

[Jan 2005: It has come to our attention that the Tachika label may be a "pirate" label, they are not licenced reissues, which calls in to question this and other reissues' legitimacy -ed.]

Rating: 4.5/5

More about Elements:

Track Listing: Sun Fire / Sea Monsters / Earth Song / A Poem Of Dancing / Untitled Bonus Track

Musicians: Roland Ruckstuhl - Keyboards, Tapes Peter Furrer - Kit Drums, Percussion Urs Hochull - Bass, Bass Pedals, Vocals Peter Wolf - Vocals, Woodwinds, Saxophone

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