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FOUR DECADES

SBB

Eclectic Prog


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Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Should Be Bigger than they are

The title of this lavish DVD production reflects both the longevity of the band, and the wealth of material available to them from their extensive back catalogue. Featuring two full concerts recorded in Katowice, Poland in 2006 and 2007, the band play a fine selection of tracks from their early days through to the current album "The rock".

The highlight for many who have followed the band will be the 11 minute run through of the title track from "Memento z banalnym tryptykiem", but those less aware of their history cannot fail but to be impressed by the depth of the material. Although the band is but a trio, the lush keyboard layers of Jozef Skryzek create a symphonic basis for many of the extended pieces. Skyrzek usually provides the bass parts through his pedals too, but occasionally he will move to bass guitar. It is during such excursions that the band sounds more fragile. A support bassist on the tour might be a wise investment for such occasions.

That though is but a churlish criticism when the end product is of a quality such as this. The band is conveniently classified here as jazz/fusion, and there is no doubt that such influences are embedded in the live performances. It would though be short sighted to suggest that these gigs are simply lengthy improvisation sessions. The structure and rock orientation of the songs belie such notions, resulting in intricate progressive arrangements which will please prog fans of many persuasions.

The audiences are enthusiastic but respectful of the performances, which are musically based rather than intended as an audio/visual extravaganza (for want of a better way of putting it). Those in the UK could be forgiven for thinking that comedian Bill Baillie has joined the band, such is his similarity to Skryzek. There though, any suggestion of humour ends.

The DVD, which runs to over 3½ hours, includes interviews with the band members (in Polish with English subtitles) and biographies.

If you are new to SBB, this is a superb way to discover their music. At first sight you may wonder how three aging misfits can be so highly regarded in prog, but after just a few minutes, conversion to the cause is all but guaranteed.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#164763)
Posted Sunday, March 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Perhaps some neophytes don't know this band yet. But most of prog fans have heard and enjoyed the albums by this seminal outfit from Poland. Four decades of playing prog. Heard but never saw them alive because they live in Eastern Europe which means some miles away and in a country where rock was forbidden for a long time. This DVD is a welcome document then. More than this, after the pleasure of seeing them in concert, you realise how important this combo is in the prog international movement. Joseph Swecz, one of the founders of SBB (the 'S'), is a talented composer and musician since he can play keyboards, bass and sing as well. The style is keyboards prog without being demonstrative, blending rock with classical and some jazz & fusion hints. The DVD includes two concerts and SBB's main tracks are here such as 'Memento'. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Thierry (BETA) | Report this review (#266544)
Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The title may suggest a retrospective, a documentary of sorts. The reality is that these are more recent performances where early material along with new tunes are on offer.

The band - as always - plays in many different styles, ranging from Symphonic, Jazz-Rock, Lyrical and even the odd Boogie! This however doesn't indicate a lack of direction, but on the contrary. Showcasing their versatile abilities, one is often treated to a surprise just around the corner.

They rose into prominence in the early '70s as a mainly improvising trio. By now that youthful enthusiasm had subsided somewhat, giving way to more laid back and at some point more structured pieces.

Skrzek's vocals (I previously enjoyed in small doses only) have become stronger and more confident by now. After many years, he still sings from the heart - if only better. His more up-to-date keyboards permit a greater sonic range whilst his trusted, old bass is also put to good use - extending to the odd solo using the distortion pedal!

By now, Skrzek has become the leader of the band with Apostolis generally taking a back seat, providing color on the guitar and the odd solo in his unique and unimitable style. In recent years he also started to play the drums and keyboards, something is more of a novelty than a challenge to the rest. Still, nice to see that he is expanding his horizons and refusing to grow old and stale.

Since their original drummer, Jerzy Piotrowski left, SBB hasn't been able to find a replacement who could become an integral part of the band. Paul Wertico (of Pat Metheny Group) played with them for years, Brilliant drummer, but the reality is that he only lasted a few years with the band.

Enter Gabor Nemeth, a well-seasoned veteran of the Hungarian Rock scene. His drumming is tight, precise to the point of extreme skill and techniques. He could play practically anything and everything on the skins, but his presence is more of a session player, a hired hand, than a devotee of SBB's music.

Still, the performance is great and typical of the band, where even well known old tracks are completely reworked almost beyond recognition. Amazingly, this trio format can create a commendable wall of sound, even when only the keyboards and two(!) drums are in use. But that is SBB for you!

A gripe. The multiple camera work is pretty good, but the actual editing is rather irritating. The view nervously jumping from one musician to another and often focusing on the less prominent contributions in a piece. Even then, leaving little opportunity to observe before jumping on again. Still, it's not the band's fault and I won't hold it against them.

If you want to see vintage performances from the '70s, you may find some on YouTube. In the meantime, these two concerts (with different support musicians in 2006) will give you a good idea of the works of Skrzek and Apostolis.

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Send comments to BORA (BETA) | Report this review (#874402)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2012 | Review Permalink

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