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SBB - Iron Curtain CD (album) cover

IRON CURTAIN

SBB

Eclectic Prog


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Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The reunification of jazz and rock

34 years after the release of their debut album, and less than two years after "The Rock", SBB return with yet another fine album of diverse styles and sounds. The line up of the trio remains unchanged, their focus moving further away from jazz towards a more symphonic style of progressive rock. The album title is not a direct reference to the Communist East per se, but is intended to reflect divisions in society at all levels and in countless ways.

The title track, which kicks things of, demonstrates the band's commitment to this a orientation straight away, the piece building towards an anthemic repeated chant. "Defilada" also features some vocal chants, but here these are of a more spiritual orientation. The laid back "Camelele" slows things down affording Apostolis Anthymos space to slip in some fine lead guitar work against a background of piano and lush keyboards.

"Rozmowa z Mistrzem" features some fine prog synth sounds, the track containing jazz overtones while being driven by a solid rock rhythm. The quasi-instrumental "Opowieoć" features a variety of vocalising, with voice and guitar sharing the lead theme to good effect. "Błogosławione dni" is probably the most straightforward rock song on the album, but it does give Gabor Nemeth the opportunity to place his percussive skills well forward in the mix. Anthymos receives a rare compositional credit for "Sunrise", a piece which would sit well on his recent solo album (it makes for a fine interlude here too).

"Góry tańczące", which translates as "Dancing mountains", is a repetitive crowd pleaser for future gigs on the band's forthcoming tour. The album closes with "Dopóki żyje matka jesteo dzieckiem", a song which is quite different to the rest of the album. This smooth pop ballad has hints of Santana, the emotional vocals being supported by some fine lead guitar.

At a shade over 42 minutes, the album is somewhat brief, although the digipak version does offer two further tracks. This is though another excellent release by one of Poland's finest bands. The current trio clearly work well together, approaching their recordings with consummate professionalism while not forgetting to enjoy themselves along the way.

With thanks to Metal Mind Productions for the pre-release copy on which this review is based.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#199831)
Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars With my first SBB experience, I can honestly say I'm pleased. This album blends jazz and rock music with the symphonic aspects I love. The electric guitar and synthesizer form the mainstay of this record, kneaded over a solid rhythm section, and peppered with okay vocals from time to time. Strangely, however, the most phenomenal piece is relegated as one of two bonus tracks and distributed in the main body of the track listing, so with that in mind, I would entreat those who have their eyes on this album to obtain the limited edition if at all possible.

"Iron Curtain" The album begins with sounds indicative of oppression, but soon the band generates a more gentle tone with piano, easygoing drums and strange vocalizations that carry on throughout the track. A lead guitar fills in toward the end, while a delicate piano finishes it up.

"Defilada" Following the ominous sound of marching, an even more ominous organ enters. The way the vocals crying out beside the subtle lead guitar work, this could make for part of a soundtrack to a movie.

"Camelele" Soft waves of mellow jazz from velvety guitars, both clean and dirty make up this agreeable but somewhat unremarkable track. The second time around after the humble vocals, there's a lovely piano bit.

"Aleatoryka" An almost exotic blend of guitars, percussion, and synthesizer begins the first of two bonus tracks. This darkly, almost haunting piece doesn't back down, and might appeal to King Crimson fans (particularly those who enjoy Larks' Tongues in Aspic). An eerie harp creates a postlude at the end as the synthesizer lead returns to play the main theme once more.

"Rozmowa z Mistrzem" This song maintains an R&B feel throughout, with a laidback rhythm and a smoky lead vocal. A synthesizer lead fills out the sound.

"Opowieść" After a light introduction, some vocalizations begin, soon giving way to decent lead guitar. Otherwise, this piece is fairly unexceptional.

"Błogosławione dni" Gritty bass, crunchy guitar, pleasant drumming and subtle keyboards all work together to create a sound that isn't heavy at all. The instrumentation and percussion keep an otherwise dull composition fresh.

"Nieśmiertelność" A slightly heavy, straightforward rocker, this has a Blue Oyster Cult feel to it. This is a guitar-led track that might find favor with those who enjoy basic rock music.

"Sunrise" A synthesizer pad, lead guitar, and a bit of drumming give way to perhaps the second best piece on the album. Right from the outset, there's a memorable melodic theme to greet the listener several times.

"Góry tańczące" A pleasant song that floats somewhere in the realm of jazz, rock, and easy listening without being any of them, this one has a latter-day Van der Graaf Generator style to it (Trisector immediately comes to mind).

"Dopóki żyje matka jesteś dzieckiem" The twilight piece rides into the sunset with a flavorful Latin groove, with a sweet keyboard and guitar tangoing in the background.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#243639)
Posted Thursday, October 08, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Last to time legendary Polish band S.B.B. release is the first I purchased from them during few last decades. I really like their early works, but starting from some point I just lost interest - their music became too average and predictable.

This Limited Edition refreshed my interest, but after very first listening I was totally disappointed. Yes, I got what I was affraid to get : far from being modern pop-rock with few proggy elements. But I didn't give up, I still had my faith in band!

Possibly it sounds strange, but after fifth spin I started to like this music! The album, which sounds as not very original vintage pop-rock from the surface, has many layers under cover, and you need time and many listenings to catch it!What a surprise!

I am not sure that every listener will have same experince with it though. I am listening Polish pop-jazz-rock from my early teens ( the only listenable radio in late 70-s there), and possibly I have this special inside sensor, catching it's Slavian melodism, sensitivity and romantism.

You don't believe, I found it there, in this Polish prog veterans album from late 00'! Not too long compositions, but full of melodies, sensitivity, characteristic Polish soul, plenty of very intelligent arrangements, jazzy atmosphere. Melancholy and maturity. Absolutely Polish music!

To be correct, this album isn't a progressive rock in pure sense. There is all components band members collected during their long musical career. But such a rare soulful and maturely sensitive work!

P.S. Not the music for everyone's taste!

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#279098)
Posted Friday, April 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Iron Curtain by SBB is a decent album, but I don't really detect much in the way of progressive rock. Even so, this album is enjoyable for sounding pleasant, at least. The only album I had listened to by SBB before hearing this album was their debut, which apparently set a high standard in my mind. The same kind of "cool" psychedelic sound is here, but overall sounds more polished. The musicianship is tight from what I can tell, but nothing really stands out to me. I don't understand the Polish language, so I can't tell if the concept of this album is as ambitious as the name suggests, but even if it is, I'm not getting a big "Iron Curtain" vibe from the music. This is highly enjoyable music, but I don't hear much progressive rock here.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#431159)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It should have been a concept album in full!

The first few songs evoke memories, emotions that relate frighteningly well to the album title. Later however, that content drops away, leaving the listener with tunes - some of which are very good - but emotionally don't convey the subject anymore.

I don't speak Polish, but Skrzek's voice is just superb here and needs no translation. Fact is that if one hasn't experienced the bleakness, the despair and hopelessness, the quiet resignation people were subjected to living behind the Iron Curtain, one may have an idea, but not an understanding .The depth of suppression, humiliation and collective depression administered by the invaders and their local servants.

No, it wasn't quite as bad as in fanatic North Korea today, but a knee in your jaw, a rifle butt in your solar plexus, or in your back - for no good reason - was never far away. I was born into that and raised under such circumstances until I bolted, risking life and limb. In parts, this album tears up old wounds, memories that I've left behind a long time ago. Back then, quality music was hard to come by. SBB were a shining beacon in Eastern Europe in delivering a sense of relief.

A sound of a cattle wagon starts the album. A wagon that may have taken my grandfather - whom I never had the chance to know - to the Siberian Gulags, never to return. The tune, the voice conveys a feeling like coming up for air after near suffocation. Almost in disbelief that such move was ever possible. Musically, I feel that it would have suited a closing track, a nice outro instead.

On the second track, marching boots raise the hair on my back - yet again - giving way to bombastic church organs and heartfelt whining guitars, almost a requiem for the innocent victims. It touches me deeply almost beyond words. ..

The next piece comes across as a sense of relief. Can we really sleep now without a threat of further disturbance? Is this for real? Can we rely on it? Simple and nice.

Track four represents a weird, almost bizarre and yet very enjoyable groove, not far from electric Miles (Davis). At this point "Iron Curtain becomes an album without the heavy emotional content maintained. Still great music.

Then, we explore Pat Metheny territory with a pleasing grunt, the man himself has rarely afforded us. Most of the remaining tracks are more lively. As it often happens, the two bonus tracks are probably the best on this album, too.

I am sorry to say that freedom appears to have made the band somewhat complacent when their current works are compared with under the oppression. Nevertheless, it's still a great band, one that still delivers some pleasing tunes, but the flame and determination have faded somewhat. Perhaps it's time for a more contemplative healing process?

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Send comments to BORA (BETA) | Report this review (#984047)
Posted Saturday, June 22, 2013 | Review Permalink

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