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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Kings' Boards CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)


Various Genres

3.50 | 4 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars As the title suggests, "King's Boards" is a keyboard oriented compilation. What it is not is a full on display of the virtuosity of the implicated players. It seems more contrived to provide exposure for several of Japan's prominent players around the end of the 1990s, a sort of prog lite introduction to their name and, by extension, that of their band. Even though Japan's scene was healthier than most during this low period, the producers must have felt that tapping into the new age zeitgeist of the time was the ticket. As a result, while this is a beautiful album with plenty of progressive aspects, it might not appeal to the more hard core fans of the symphonic sub genre.

A case in point is the sumptuous "Drama Composition", spotlighted by MOTOI SAKURABA's spirited tinkling style. I know this will turn away many, but the main theme reminds me of what YANNI was doing around the time, before he morphed into fodder for desperate midwestern housewives. That all changes irrevocably when he wields what sounds like ancient analog synths in a melodious assault, one of the disk's true highlights.

The remaining contributions are all good to excellent as well, with something for everyone who can live without guitars other than bass. Keyboard secessionists unite! Speaking of which, the players are amply supported by rhythm section in all aspects, with the bass often featuring prominently. Masahiko Ohta from SOCIAL TENSION deserves most of the credit, especially in "The Maze of May" by Shigetomo Hashimoto, which is not unlike some of the work of PATRICK O'HEARN, RUBAJA AND HERNANDEZ, and PETER BARDENS from that period, but more ambitious. "Corde Spirale" is the most accomplished piece, a cross between bubbling takes on the masters and eerie soundtrack that somehow gets its points across. The closing two pieces seem oddly related, and are the most mellow on the disk, tuneful and pleasant without being terribly challenging.

To fashion a cohesive themed collection of different artists tied together only by instrument and country of origin is a tall order. Normally one would have to average the ratings of individual offerings and allow for anticipated disconnects. Somehow, the tracks here all compliment each other better than on many releases by individual bands, which justifies putting "King's Boards" up on a pedestal if not quite a throne.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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