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The Flower Kings - Stardust We Are CD (album) cover

STARDUST WE ARE

The Flower Kings

Symphonic Prog


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jmromeu@vodaf
2 stars People who don't like prog (poor them) keep on saying that this kind of music is pretentious, empty, aimless, self-indulgent, etc. and we know that's not true. Anyway, this album could reinforce their opinion. What's it all about?. Where does it go?. I think it's just a stupid showing off.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#2623)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
sstarless@hot
4 stars One of the best prog album sinse 70ies. Very strong symphonic prog with the compex structure, layered harmonies, clever lyrics and unique melodies. As everyone seems to agree a bit too long with some weak songs.

Every progger must have this album!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#2624)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars Some of my friends rated this along with the Lamb on Broadway when it came out and I told to listen better and most of them never play this anymore , of course this only applies to the crusty old timers that we are , as most other young people did make this their Holy Grail. I sometimes wonder if the FK was not setting the goal at making the lengthiest tracks possible . In the following years they will put out many other fully filled double Cds full of fillers , lenghty directionless "jams "( lack of more precise word as this were not jams per se) , making for an incredible output in quantity but not quality. This is only an opinion and is not aimed at hurting anybody, artist or fans.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#2625)
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Without a question these guys are just boiling over with song writing skills and musicianship. Severely underrated album from The FLOWER KINGS with some simply exquisite musical passages. "Stardust We Are"" is a 2 CD set which gets the opportunity to explore a wide range of musical possibilities ranging from short Church organ centric ditties to the 25 minute epic title track. This album showcases Tomas Bodin's talents behind the vast array of keyboards that he performs on with masterful strokes. In many ways this concept album digs deep into the spirtual side of life obviously injected with Stolt's musical positivism. Roine Stolt and his band of merrymen deliver some grand progressive rock moments far too many to try to detail here.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#2626)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Well the right rate is "3 stars and 1/2", as I prefer the single CD format of "Retropolis", which alone contains the whole variety of musical ideas by Roine Stolte. Nevertheless this "Sturdust We Are" is probably their most complete, even though in the double CD format. However talking about its defects, I have to remark the following considerations:

First of all "The Eyes of the World" is a jazzy ELP-oriented piece of "classic prog music", dominated by a "RETRO-EPOQUE" old organ, thanks also to the rotary effect of the Leslie speakers... and this arrangement doesn't contribute to make the sound modern!! Besides the voice of Stolte is much similar to that one of John WETTON, but in the most crepuscular vein (listen to "Starless" from "Red" by KING CRIMSON, and you understand the reason why...); generally they try to alternate the melancholic atmospheres and those ones typical of their hardest tunes, often skillfully, always thinking of the CAMEL-like melodic guitar instrumentals (listen to "Ice", in the album "I can see your house from here" by CAMEL, and you understand a lot of things !!). This happens in the track "The Man Who Walked With Kings", whose retro-style of a soft pipe-organ introduces the main section, characterized by a stunning melodic guitar-solo, despite of being much in the vein of Andy Latimer!! Anyway in my opinion the best track of the album is the mini-suite "Circus Brimstone", whose profuseness of mellotron, in the chorus section, reminds us of "Hybris" by ANGLAGARD; but these latter however stand on another planet, that F.K. can't reach, always according to my opinion ... anyway by prosecuting to listen to this 1st disc till the end, you find the track "Compassion", the last song of the 1st disc, which is almost TANGERINE DREAM-oriented, above all in the last part, where you hear a kind of electronic space rock, quite unusual for them.

The second disc is a bit discontinuous, as from the presence of a couple of commercial tracks, even though in the instrumental "Don of the Universe" F.K. try to use a different range of instrumentation such as the sax and the sitar, which make this track more original.

Finally -regardless of a couple of forgettable tracks ("Different People and "Ghost of the Red Clouds") and some normal songs. I like to talk about the last suite (honestly too much long) - the title track - which is their best effort so far... certainly the duration - 25 minutes - doesn't help to maintain our concentration high, but the suite grows in dynamics, thanks also to the support of the second vocalist ( Hans Froberg), whose higher voice contributes to make the repetition of their themes less boring . Moreover the religious and spiritual lyrics are quite interesting !!

Recommended, along with "FLOWER KINGS" (in some circumstances only) and "Retropolis", their best albums (even though - unfortunately - their last productions begin to fall into the common places of such psychedelic prog music and metal prog too!!)

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#2628)
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
robringas@ter
3 stars Many regard this TFK album as the best one. I dont, though it contains some great tracks. The first album is all very good. The second album is all kind of boring exept the meerygoroaund which is a happy and very original song, and Stardust we a re, a master piece that for me, took years to really get into. It all pays highly in the end. Disc One may appeal to any prog fan I think, and disc two needs more time. Disc One gets 4 stars and disc two 3 stars.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#2629)
Posted Saturday, June 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me, this is the best prog release for the last 10 years, or even 20 for that matter. TFK is to modern prog music what Yes and Genesis was 30 years ago. Often we can read that they have a lot of fillers on their double-album releases but I disagree, you have to have shorter songs of different kind contrasting the longer complex compositions or else you can't digest it the way TFK want you to. Circus Brimstone is the jewel in the Kings' crown delightfully surrounded by other priceless gems finally completed with the masterpiece Stardust We Are. We bow in admiration.....

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Send comments to JockeH (BETA) | Report this review (#2632)
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Edited 10/01/05!

This is the first of two double albums in a row and as the follow-up FLOWER POWER not quite on par with the excellent RETROPOLIS album. Many people are complaining about the fact that they released that many double albums but in my view they did this, because they've got an enormous reservoir of material and they are very versatile in the style of their songs, ranging from soulful mellow songs over symphonic epics to heavy rocking or jazz fusion / free jazz pieces. And since they don't want to withhold any of this good stuff to their fans, it simply does not fit on a single CD. And of course they cannot fulfill the wishes of everybody. But I think their hardcore fans appreciate everything they are offering and are happy about every extra song of them, no matter which style it is. For me they are probably the only band I know which are able to let the most emotional song not sound like sob stuff, because their compositions are all the time of highest quality and there are very few songs with a really simple structure. And last but not least as well due to Roine Stolt's cool vocals. So now let's come to the songs on this album more in detail.

CD 1

In the Eyes Of The World is a fantastic epic song and one of their best pieces. It's very rocking, prog-ish, atmospheric and grooving and even the vocodered vocals are fitting in some way. A song which is an essential on all their concerts. After a short interlude Just This Once is following, which is really not less interesting with plenty of joyful sounds and tunes. Next highlight is Church Of Your Heart, a very lush ballade and a very nice listen even for me (someone who usually doesn't like songs if they become too much bombastic). Then we have Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar, a pure acoustical one presented by Roine on guitar. As well the next track The Man Who Walked With Kings is a rather quiet instrumental piece, almost drifting towards a New-Age sound before fortunately guitars are setting in again. After all this relaxed (but not boring I would say) music the sound is shifting quite dramatically with the weird trip through the Circus Brimstone where we can listen once again to all musicians at their very best. Last track on this CD is Compassion, again a rather quiet one with dramatic vocals.

First CD is really brilliant!

CD 2

Second CD starts with church organ in Pipes of peace, very great opener. The End Of Innocence is starting with atmospheric keyboards, then continuing with quite CRIMSON-alike guitar lines. The whole song is in a very melancholic mood. A very beautiful elegiac and symphonic track, maybe a little bit too much derivative, but I don't care, I like it. With The Merrygoround tempo is lifting up considerably, it's actually more or less just a happy pop-rock song, but a nice contrast to the previous one and the way like such rather "weak" songs of them are composed and performed, it's really not disturbing and there is no need to press the skip button. Nevertheless great keyboard playing and rhythm section. Don Of The Universe is an oriental inspired song with nice sitar and tablas, nothing special, rather pop-ish but well done and a very nice listen. I love it! Then there is just a short jazzy interlude followed by a few rather pop-ish songs, of which I would call Kingdom Of Lies the weakest one. It's really a simple pop song miles below their level and almost a case for the skip button. But I'm still resisting. Hotel Nirvana has a rather dark sound and is leading to the only real highlight of the second CD, the title theme of the album. This one is showing once again that epic longtracks are the band's strongest field. Symphonic prog at its very best with many variations, great solos and grooving sections inbetween.

SUMMARY:

The first CD of this album is definitely the better one and would deserve a rating of 4. The second one contains to many rather leight weighted songs and just due to the fantastic title track it's still worth 3 stars. So finally the whole album is coming to 3 and a half star actually I would say! Not really an essential one in prog but still very good!

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#2633)
Posted Sunday, February 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
chessman
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars this album is the one that first demonstrates the immense talent this band has. The debut was solid, but unspectacular, whilst 'Retropolis' was, for me, disappointing, lacking in melody and sounding somewhat disjointed. (See my reviews for these albums.) I know other fans rate 'Retropolis' as one of their best, but for me, it is their least enjoyable. Now this album is a different matter! A two disc ride of enjoyable melodies and superb playing. Although the Kings have their own style, their biggest influence, Yes, still shows through at times. 'In The Eyes Of The World' is quite a heavy, upbeat type of song, the type that doesn't usually do anything for me, but it is a great opener here. Excellent vocals and guitar work. then comes a trademark short keyboard led instrumental, 'A Room With A View' which is very nice, almost reminds me of Tomita. (Remember him?) 'Just This Once' is one of the tracks with a Yes influence. The guitar work is both Howish, and, near the end, Peter Banksy in its tone. A nice change of pace for the ending of this track, slowing down after the medium paced main body of the song has finished. I like this one. Then comes the standout track on disc one, the amazing 'Church Of Your Heart'. This is classic Yes, both in melody, and in vocals, thanks to Hasse's Jon Anderson type harmonies. Even the keyboards about two thirds through sound like something off 'Going For The One'. A beautiful song, and one of their best, in my opinion. Then comes the short acoustic instrumental, 'Poor Mr Rain's Ordinary Guitar' which is very soothing. This leads into 'the Man Who Walked With Kings', which is another instrumental, with acoustic and electric guitar. It is nice, but not one of my favourites. 'Circus Brimstone', again, instrumental, is another monster, one which took a little time to grow on me, but eventually became a favourite. It certainly has a circus feel, mainly thanks to the keyboards, and it is very complex, with many changes in speed and instrumentation. Superb. 'Crying Clown' sounds almost like a continuation of 'Circus', and is a short instrumental. 'Compassion', as far as I can tell, is unique amongst Flower Kings tracks, as it doesn't really sound like one of their songs. You can still tell Roine's voice, but the music is laid back and monkish in nature, especially the backing vocals. It is effective though, and, just when you thought it had finished, it starts again with some disturbingly atmospheric synthesiser work, very good indeed. Disc 2 opens with another short instrumental, 'Pipes Of Peace', which introduces for the first time the melody of the title track. More excellent keyboard work here. 'The End Of Innocence' is quite moody, and not one of my faves, but is still a decent effort. 'The Merrygoround' is more in the style of Yes again, uptempo, with nice guitar work. 'Don Of The Universe' is a fine instrumental, well played and uplifting. 'A Day At The Mall' is, again, a keyboard instrumental, short and amusing. 'Different People' is another Yes type song, again, catchy and melodic. 'Kingdom Of Lies' is upbeat, and again has a Yes influence. 'If 28' is a very atmospheric instrumental. I like this one a lot. Likewise, 'Ghost Of The Red Cloud' with an almost reggae feel to it, is superb. 'Hotel Nirvana' is another short, atmospheric guitar piece,really lovely, and quite disturbing, although it hardly gets going before it has to make way for the album's final piece, the title track and 25 min plus epic 'Stardust We Are'. Very much influenced by Yes, this is in three parts, all wonderful. One of the classic Flower Kings tracks. Roine sings the first two parts, then Hasse does his Jon Anderson impression to bring the track to a fitting, soaring climax. Even the guitar work as the track ends is reminiscent of the guitar work ending 'Awaken' off 'Going For The One'. Tremendous stuff! Overall, this is probably my third favourite Flower Kings album, and, for me, has no filler. Highly recommended for any fan of technical, complex, Yes influenced prog. Stop reading this and buy it!

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Send comments to chessman (BETA) | Report this review (#2634)
Posted Friday, April 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I remember reading a review of this album somewhere comparing the band to YES. Since, at the time, I was flirting with going back to listening to prog, I bought the CD. I couldn't believe there was a band recording music as complex, melodic, and all over the map as The Flower Kings. Ronnie Stolt and his cronies ape many bands from the past, but their talent as musicians compensates. The album is just plain fun! Since then, I've purchased all the albums and can conclude that this is my favorite. It contains two of my absolute favorite songs by them, "Just This Once" and "Church Of Your Heart". When I heard "Church Of Your Heart" for the first time I had to do a double-take, 'Was that Jon Anderson singing behind the lead singer?'. Of course as we all know, it's the fantastic voice of Mr. Hans Froberg. And man o' man, that pipe organ is fabulous! Then I realized why they are compared to YES. It wasn't because of the music, (you can pick any 70's prog band and they compare), it wasn't the lyrics, (cosmic/trippy as they might be, but not on par with Anderson's), no...it's just so damn JOYOUS! I cannot think of one downright depressing moment out of any song. Be it lyrically based or not, there is a happiness to their music. Is it because they love what they do and are having a good time doing it? Listen for yourself. And for all you fine folks out there who haven't purchased a Flower Kings album and want to start out, this is the one. I would rank it as one of the best symphonic albums of the 90's. Maybe not THE best, but boys and girls you'll want to set aside some quality time, pick up the headphones or blast it thru your car speakers and collect that stardust! A solid 4.5 stars me chippies!

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Send comments to NJprogfan (BETA) | Report this review (#2635)
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Having never heard TFK before I believe this was the first release I got my hands on.

The first thing that stood out were the amazingly good vocals,something lacking in this genre amoung most of the working bands. These guys can really sing. The next thing that lept out at me was how tight the group was in terms of their playing. I have never been a fan of bands that seem incapable of holding a song together if it exceeds 6 minutes. To be good... really good at this music, there does have to be an air of pretention and arrogance. To be able to stretch a piece of music beyond 6 minutes with out being repetitive or having the whole thing come apart takes a certain amount of confidence and Roine Stolt and his band of very talented merry men are up to the task on this CD.

You will notice Stolt and the boys pay homage to the big boys (Genesis , Yes ,ELP and the like) by incorporating much of the tricks of the trade applied by the aforementioned, into their own unique style which can range from the most melodic and harmonic, to the most thundering of compositions and as found in the title track, can traverse the grounds of both with dexterity.

This is one of the very rare, true, classic progressive rock albums ever recorded and should be an addition to any collection, even if you are not particularly fond of THE FLOWER KINGS.

It is a rich tapestry of sounds that pulls you in and allows you to FEEL what's happening in the music. The lyrics, so thought provoking and socially (on a few songs) on cue are another rare thing in most music today. It all adds up to an almost celestial theme that, once again allows the listener to experience and be a part of what is coming through the speakers. An absolute masterpiece.

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Send comments to Trafficdogg (BETA) | Report this review (#2638)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4.4 stars

After hearing the Great Emerson Lake & Palmer oriented piece from Progarchives' free MP3, I decided to buy this album. I was already curious of this band since the guitar player from Transatlantic is the Flower Kings leader. What a nice purchase I made!

1. In The Eyes Of The World (A-) : Starts with ELP-influenced Hammond organ riffing which introduces the main theme which has an anthemic organ riff and processed vocals. It later turns into a carefully arranged instrumental section which eventually transitions itself back into the main theme.

2. A Room With A View : Transition.

3. Just This Once (C+) :the intro makes me cringe, but when the song starts, they contain memorable melodies. Nevertheless, this is one of the weakest songs in this album.

4. Church Of Your Heart (A/B) This is a song with Yes influences. It features great church organ playing and vocal harmonies. It is a very optimistic song.

5. Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar : Acoustic guitar transition

6. The Man Who Walked With Kings (A) : a Genesis-inspired instrumental piece showing the melodic side of the Flower Kings. This one does show the technical talents of the band as the next one does, but it still is among the best pieces in Stardust We Are.

7. Circus Brimstone (A-) : The playing is very difficult and overly complex, making it a challenging track but ultimately satisfying during the first 7-8 minutes of the song. I find the Backward vocals amusing, but what follows is a bit too playful to me. Overall, a very scary song for anyone afraid of clowns.

8. Crying Clown : a transition.

9. Compassion (A/B) : This Roger Waters influenced song gives a message of loving and accepting all people around you. The music is repetitive and slowly builds into a climax which features the electric guitar. The second half of the song is very electronic sounding and reminds listeners of Vangelis, but it is completely unnecessary and you can just skip it.

CD 2:

1. Pipes Of Peace : Great transition that uses Stardust we Are melodies.

2. The End Of Innocence (B+) : It is a mellow track that ends with a longish guitar solo.

3. The Merrygoround (B) : This is a happy track with good musicianship. Not the greatest song, but the last minutes feature very good guitar playing.

4. Don Of The Universe (B) : a very good instrumental with sitars and stands out from the other tracks in the disc. The Stardust we Are Melodies are heard here as well. It seems like filler, but it is still a good instrumental. 5. A Day At The Mall : short transition

6. Different People (C+) : A good pop song, but nothing groundbreaking.

7. Kingdom Of Lies (C-) : an average pop song about drugs (hints at the chorus). Good lyrics, and nice melodies, but nothing special. It screams filler. 8. If 28 : the best transition. Great piano melodies that are later heard in the title track.

9. Ghost Of The Red Cloud (B-) : raggae-rock/pop song. Original with good vocals/melodies. 10. Hotel Nirvana : transition piece but leads to ...

11. Stardust We Are (A+) : It is a phenomenal epic song filled with quality-melodies, substantial instrumental music, and unforgettable refrains near the end. This is their most coherent epic to date, and possible their most satisfying one.

All in all this is an outstanding album from the Flower Kings. This band seems to be the best of the modern prog rockers. I hope they still continue Making more music.

My Grade : A/B

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Send comments to Zitro (BETA) | Report this review (#39168)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an excellent album, but it's a little difficult to enjoy it. I mean, I don't recommend it to beginners in progressive rock. But if you have some experience listening prog, definitely this is an excellent addition. It starts with 'In the Eyes of the World', with a beginning that remembers 'Tarkus' from ELP. It continues with an amazing set, the body of the first disc, with great choruses and acoustic guitars, until 'Circus Brimstone'. Here, it's easy to find the sound of KING CRIMSON. The second disk is all centered in 'Stardust We Are' song, since its beginning. Though in the first disc there are some callings to 'Stardust We Are', this one it's full of motifs, since the first track 'Pipes of Peace', that finally gives life to the last song, and maybe, the best song of the album. Also it's possible to find a connection in 'Stardust We Are' with 'In the Eyes of the World', in some particular parts with the same sound, closing the circle. The whole album is a pleasure to hear it, and the last half an hour is the best way to finish. This third album is where FLOWER KINGS found the essential way of its sound.

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Send comments to Proglodita (BETA) | Report this review (#42368)
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album has the same problem that almost every double CD studio album I know: it has some songs that haven´t enough quality, and it appears to be artificially elonged...

The Flower Kings is a great band, no one can´t deny it. Roine Stolt is one of the best prog-minds from the 90´s. But he has this addiction to make too long albums, with some memorable songs, while other songs are just forgettable... I think that one album isn´t better if it´s longer. And "Stardust We Are" is a good example...

Songs that don´t allow this album being a masterpiece in my opinion: Just This Once (just a little boring and without soul song...), Compassion (very boring and with some extra final minutes really forgettable...), Pipes of Piece (songs like this make this album a little repetitive, because here we can hear the Stardust We Are main melody again, like in the whole album...), The End Of Innocence (like Just This Once, a song that make nothing for me...) and Hotel Nirvana (another silly trasition song...)

The rest of the record is pretty good, even excellent most of the time. But there are more things I miss in this album. First: Jonas Reingold, because Michael Stolt was a good bass player for the band, but Jonas Reingold is just an impressive player, one of the best I´ve heard! Second: more long songs, because I thing that it´s the best face of the Flowers. Third: more Hasse Froberg´s singing, because I prefer his voice than the Roine Stolt´s one.

The last thing I must comment of this album, is that it's an improvement im comparision with "Back in the World of Adventures" and "Retropolis", although this albums were excellent. Despite the forgettable moments, Stolt managed to improve the songwriting, offering his first long epic, Stardust We Are, the great highlight of the album!

Best songs: In the Eyes of the World (strong and dynamic opening... Powerful Salazar's drums here!) Church of Your Heart (a great keyboards work...), The Merrygoround (happy and very catchy song...), Don Of The Universe (beautiful guitar work...), Kingdom of Lies (commercial, but pretty enjoyable...) The Ghost of The Red Clowd (I just like it very much, I don´t know why. It´s very evocative and you can really imagine this Ghost in the Clouds hearing the song...) and Stardust We Are (the epic of the album, with a memorable ending...).

Conclusion: without some forgettable songs, wich spoil part of the beauty this album has, I would have given this album the highest rating... But sorry, I can't. It's too long, even boring sometimes, despite its outstanding moments. Nevertheless, this is an improvement from the two previous The Flower King's releases, a very important moment in this band's career, and a strongly recommended album for all the symphonic prog lovers of the planet!!!

My rating: ****

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Send comments to The Crow (BETA) | Report this review (#51559)
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 126 minutes full of fantastic atmospheres from this swedish band which reminds me music from Pink Floyd to Yes to Zappa. This album has many different styles of music played in a superb way. I could mention songs impress me more as The Man Who Walked With Kings or Church Of Your Heart or the Merrygoround, or The End Of Innocence but in a word I could say the Title song, Sturdust we are, is the song which anyone should listen to fill 20 minutes of really good feelings. HIghly Recommended..

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Send comments to luc4fun (BETA) | Report this review (#69229)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was definitely a great album for me to start on my FLOWER KINGS collection because their is so much music to offer in their first two CD set. I had a feeling that when i saw how long their songs and how many cd are two disc sets that i would be hearing a lot of different instrumentation in songs DANG I WAS RIGHT. THE FLOWER KINGS has really started to become one of my favorite new prog rock bands (my other favorite is of course Spock's Beard) as this album has so much diversity from all sorts of different styles. The band not only contains that new heaviness we hear in some new prog rock bands (spock's beard and some porcupine tree) but they also combine that with several styles in this album as well. They've been able to create wonderful YES inspired instrumentations in song length and have also that great YES inspried melody as well, some instrumental improvisation that is inspired by King Crimson, and also some weird Zappa inspried sound effects but also some Zappa like guitar solos from the Smooth jazzy style of Roine Stolt. At first when i listened to this album i was like HOW DOES EVERYONE LIKE THIS ALBUM ITS NOTHING BUT SOUNDS. boy was i wrong their is a great deal of musicianship in both disc in fact i don't think there is a one disc is better than the other ordeal sure both do have different styles but they both deliver a great deal of awesome music. If your a freshman in the Flower Kings start with this Cd and work your way on up but don't forget to get the first two cds of course. 4 stars

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Send comments to Progdrummer05 (BETA) | Report this review (#70706)
Posted Monday, February 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
infandous@exc
4 stars Ahh, the ever controversial Flower Kings. A band often maligned for creating music they themselves would want to hear. Maybe the critics just don't have a lot of free time to listen to all the massive releases by this band? :) For me, they embody everything I love about prog music. Which, I admit, doesn't always work as well as it should. When I first started listening to this band, this album was considered their "masterpiece". I would say that for me, they are all masterpieces of a sort. If a masterpiece has to have every track being brilliant and excellent, then I'm not sure if there is a prog band in existence that has created such a work (though some non-prog bands have done it I think). But I digress. Getting back to the album in question, I think it has quite a bit of excellent material. The first CD is almost flawless, with only Church Of Your Heart seeming a bit too derivative of Yes for comfort. Still, it is a very good song, and can't be faulted for showing such obvious Yes influence. Just This Once is one of my favorite Flower Kings tracks ever, though it seems most fans over look it. And Circus Brimstone is a brilliant instrumental workout that I think is one of their best.

Disc 2 is a bit less consistent for me. Two songs spoil it for me: Kingdom Of Lies and Different People. While I understand why they are on the album, and they serve a purpose (representing 80's style pop rock and more traditional pop respectively) I just don't like them very much. While the reggae song, Ghost Of The Red Cloud works pretty well and has a stunning guitar solo to make it worthwhile, these two songs are, dare I say it, "cheesy". Still, the song The Merrygoround is outstanding, and of course the epic title track is beautiful and almost worth the price of the album. The other songs on CD2 are decent enough, if a bit underwhelming (I do like Don Of The Universe.............I'm a fan of most Flower Kings instrumentals though).

So all in all, not a masterpiece by my reckoning. Still a solid 4 star album, and not a bad place for a newbie to start (though one of the single CD albums might be less risky).

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#74634)
Posted Tuesday, April 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the first double-CD release by TFK. They surely are very prolific and there's no thing that they write than can't be listened pleasantly, but this time I think that the album would have been better as a single CD with a strict selection of the tracks, keeping only the best ones, and perhaps re-writing some of the others with more time to polish them. The first disc contains more fine songs including the Hammond-organ driven "In The Eyes of The World" and "Just This One" both with the emotional singing of Stolt and tasty keyboards/guitar jamming. The Yes-like ballad "Church Of Your Heart" is another highlight. Stolt and Hasse Froberg make a vocal duo very similar sounding to Anderson/Squire. After that there are several tunes with plenty of mellotron being the most popular "Circus Brimstone" which features some parts remininding me of King Crimson, but not very interesting long jamming, and a song with distorted voice (Compassion) which is OK but not great. On disc two you can find several average songs, they are OK but not very exciting, being the best "The Merrygoround", with some Howe-influenced guitars and Yes feeling, and finally the highlight of the album, the title track, an epic track which is well structured and has very good moments, and only some few boring ones. Three stars for me. Not a bad album, but weakest than the previous ones.

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Send comments to eddietrooper (BETA) | Report this review (#76044)
Posted Sunday, April 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oh my God, this album stirs my emotions!!!

I believe there must be good thing beside bad thing we are experiencing. Bad thing? Oh yes, I've been waiting for my amazon's order of "Paradox Hotel" to arrive at my address but till now I haven't got it yet. Nothing wrong with amazon as actually the CD is already in town but I still cannot pick it up. So, I played this album altogether with "Flower Power" since last week to kill the waiting time of "Paradox Hotel". "Stardust We Are" has been with me since it was first released but I never paid enough attention to it - I just played it occasionally and did not really enjoy it seriously. What I find now is a terrific experience because I enjoy the album very much. It stirs my emotions deeply, especially if I listen to "The End of Innocence" (Disc 2, track 2). Oh my God ... the music is truly powerful! It combines great melody, stunning guitar work and harmonious vocals. Everything moves smoothly from start to end. Roine Stolt plays his guitar with his "heart" as he plays really soft and wonderful! Nggeblak man! (my mind is totally paralyzed enjoying the wonderful composition and memorable melody offered by this song.). Awesome.

Disc One

The opening track "In The Eyes of The World" kicks off the album wonderfully with great pulsating keyboard by Bodin combined with stunning guitar work by Stolt and harmonious vocals. Structure-wise this track is relatively straight forward but it has rich styles and tempo changes. There are bits of Genesis, Yes and ELP in terms of nuance but none of notes are the same or even similar with those of early bands. It's hard to deny that this is one of The Flower Kings best compositions which I'm sure would attract many prog lovers. "A Room With A View" is an ambient short bridge with soft keyboard which connects to dynamic and mind blowing keyboard work which opens "Just This Once". Oh, yes ... this is another great track with keyboard sounds at the back reminiscent of "The Fountain of Salmacis" of Genesis. It's not truly the same but the nuance is pretty similar. I do enjoy this track very much especially if I play it loud because the sonic quality of the CD is top notch, coming from excellent production by Don Azzaro. This is what I like with most of TFK albums: the sound recording is amazing, it has more bass sounds than most of any music recordings. What is interesting alsoi with this track is the jazz intermission in the middle of the track featuring Stolt guitar solo in jazzy style.Really cool, man! Again, I love this track very much!

"Church of Your Heart" brings the music down into slower tempo but still maintaining quite balanced combination of ballad and symphonic style. It's quite an enjoyable track especially the chorus which makes people to emulate. The silent break in the middle of the track with organ solo is really nice. Composition-wise this track is dominated with keyboard / organ sounds at the background with symphonic style. The music flows in a floating style that in a way it connects us to the music of Pink Floyd even though it's different in style. "Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar" is a relatively short break with nice acoustic guitar work. "The Man Who Walked With Kings" (instrumental) starts wonderfully with a great combination of acoustic guitar and keyboard in classical music style. The keyboard sound turns into mellotron-like sound mixed thinly at the background of the music. The music then flows by the entrance of bass and drum in relatively slow tempo. Oh my God the guitar solo really kills me! It sounds like a combination of Hackett and Fripp styles with catchy melody an it makes it memorable. Definitely, this is one of my favorite tracks! Wonderful!

"Circus Brimstone" is another great composition with opening part that reminds me to a blend of avant-garde and symphonic styles. You might smell the King Crimson nuance around the opening part. The music then flows naturally with excellent combination of guitar, keyboard, drums and bass in dynamic way. What's so interesting is that by now I have come to track no 7 and the magic about this album is that it seems from track 1 until 7 (even until at the end of Disc 2) they share the same theme. Yes, all tracks seem like to form one cohesive whole - just like a story. That's the beauty of this album. "The Crying Crown" is a very short bridge that connects to "Compassion". The concluding track reconfirms how excellent this album is. The opening part sounds like a different bit than the other previous tracks with distorted vocal line and programmed music. The soft keyboard work which firmly enters the scene makes a unique texture. The flow of music is a symphonic one with variation of church organ. Officially, this track ends at minute 4:45 as printed at the CD sleeve - but it has bonus keyboard exploration in spacey nuance. It does not attract me- but it's okay, I just skip it.

Disc Two

Disc Two starts off with a kind of overture "Pipes of Peace" which resembles songs to be featured including excerpts from the title track which will be fully performed at the end of Disc Two. The second track, as I told you at the beginning of this write-up, is a killer, "The End of Innocence" which I don't need to elaborate further. "The MerryGoRound" brings the music into much faster tempo with dazzling keyboard work combined with guitar rhythm. This track sounds to me like an energizer after hearing a mellow track with a bit of King Crimson style. This time the band brings us to another nuance with many tempo changes. The music turns into silent / mellow in the middle of the track with bluesy guitar work.

"Don The Universe" starts with guitar acoustic outfit followed with drums and bass in relatively slow tempo. Keyboard kicks in with eastern nuance, enriched with the percussion work which confirms the eastern style of music. The rhythm section of this track is repeated over and over so it makes me getting bored. "Different People" continues the music with eastern nuance and is accessible to many ears - especially the chorus part. "Kingdom of Lies" is a nice song performed in medium tempo in relatively straight forward structure, packed with multi-layered keyboard sounds intertwined with guitar work. "If 28" is a transition with classical piano touch. "Ghost of The Red Cloud" is humorous, I would say, as far as this album concern. The music is basically laid on rhythm section in reggae music. If you listen to this kind of song in regular pop music compilation you might not like it. But it becomes different now as other tracks of this album are relatively complex. The presence of this kind of music enriches the flavor of the album. But don't worry ...!!! This is not totally like Bob Marley's reggae but it has stunning guitar rhythm and solo during interlude.

The concluding track is an epic title track which comprises three parts. The first part opens with beautiful exploration of acoustic guitar combined with keyboards, bass, guitar and drums. There are some influences of King Crimson during first part. The guitar solo is stunning during the opening part. Judging only from the first three minutes of this long track, one might see the brilliant composition this track offers. The flow of this epic is also wonderful. There are some guitar shots in jazzy style. The song might sound too long during the first part as there is practically no peak at the opening part. But when it enters minute 9 it turns out to be an interesting track to enjoy. The epic track gives many surprises in terms of tempo and style changes even though it does not happen suddenly - most of them have excellent and smooth transition. It's definitely a masterpiece track.

Summary

It's an absolute excellent album from The Flower Kings. Most of you who keep an eye on the development of the band might have the same view with me about The Flower Kings. Disc One contains songs which have some similarities in style and nuance while Disc 2 is much diverse but it still maintains excellent theme of the overall album. The overall composition is really tight combined with powerful songwriting and excellent sonic quality of the album. For those of you who never bought any album of TFK, you can perfectly start with this album. It's highly recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

PS. By the time I finished up this write-up, my "Paradpox Hotel" CD has been with me for four days now but I still cannot digest the music rightaway. After 5 spins I could understand and access the music.

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#77894)
Posted Friday, May 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Stardust We Are is the first double disc effort from The Flower Kings. This one has more of an identity than it's predeccesors, but in it's duration loses some points due to inconsistency in quality. Here is the problem, they had enough five star material to fill up both discs really (keeping each at just under an hour). For some reason they felt they should fill up all of the time they could with that second disc, and they did so with mediocre material. It makes me wonder though, becasue the first disc is only 54 minutes long. The second disc could have been about the same length too, and it wouldn't have lost any value, if not gained.

The first disc is a masterpiece. Every song is fantastic, displaying their strongest material yet. From the powerhouse opener "In the Eyes of the World" to the excellent "Just This Once" to the Yes-like ballad "The Church of Your Heart" to the stunning and fabulous instrumental series of "Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar," "The Man Who Walked With Kings," and "Circus Brimstone" and finishing with "Compassion" (I didn't include the short transitional pieces), we have faultless material. It has plenty of variety, plenty of fun, plenty of emotion (The Man Who Walked With Kings, particularly, is one of the most stirring instrumentals I've ever heard), plenty of excellent performances, etc. All they would have had to do is throw the title track in at the end (I think it would just barely fit), and we would have a perfect album.

But...

We have a second disc. It starts out very promising. After a short intro, with a foreshadowing of the epic closer, "The End of Innocence" begins with one of my all-time favorite portions of a song. The first two minutes are so heart-wrenching. Beautiful vocal line and perfect accompanying guitar licks. I love when The Kings do stuff like this. Unfortunately the next 6 minutes of the song go elsewhere and never return to where it began. The rest of the song is still pretty good, but after such a marvelous start, I can't appreciate the rest as much, I guess. The next two pieces are pretty good too: "The Merry-Go-Round" is a happy piece, and "Don of the Universe" is a good instrumental with a sitar incorporrated into it. Not as stellar as the previous disc, but good nonetheless. Here is where the albums only problem lies. Tracks 6-9 (save "If 28," which is a good piano interlude) are a bunch of mediocre songs in contrast to the rest of the album. "Different People," namely, is a good pop song, but it and the other two following songs don't stand up to the power of it's co-habitants on the album. The last piece, at just over 25 minutes, "Stardust We Are" more than makes up for what was lost before, and is a fine ending to a fine album.

Aside from a few negligible interludes and the weak tracks on the second disc, this album is packed with excellent music. It's not totally a masterpiece for the stated faults on the second disc, but the good material is just so good. I'm trying hard to keep myself from giving this one the five stars, and I will suceed. I would say 4 1/2, but for it's excesses and keeping away my biased opinion of some of it, I'll leave it at 4.

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Send comments to Moatilliatta (BETA) | Report this review (#82868)
Posted Wednesday, July 05, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars "Stardust We Are" is the third release from THE FLOWER KINGS, and stands up well to the previous record "Retropolis".This album has an almost carnival like atmosphere to it. There is so much material on this double disc release, and for the most part it's all good.

"In the Eyes Of The World" is a perfect way to start, it's just a great tune featuring excellent guitar, keyboards and vocals. "Just This Once" is another highlight with terrific melodies and some sampled mellotron. "Church Of Your Heart" is such an amazing, uplifting song about believing in yourself. My favourite song on the first disc is "The Man Who Walked With Kings", it is one of the best instrumentals I have ever heard, very CAMEL-like with some fantastic soaring guitar. Another highlight is "Circus Brimstone" a very good darker sounding instrumental, especially the heavy parts. "Compassion" features emotional lyrics with some scorching guitar that fits the passionate vocals well.

Disc 2 starts off with a powerful pipe organ and "Stardust We Are" melodies. Some more mellotron sampling on "The End Of The Innocence" a slower, long track. The "Merrygoround" has a nice extended guitar solo in it, although it's a keyboard driven tune. "Don Of The Universe" features lots of sitar and again a "Stardust We Are " melody. More sitar in "Different People" with some atmospheric guitar, good song. "Ghost Of The Red Cloud" has a reggae sound to it. Finally the epic "Stardust We Are" is just an awesome song in every way, the highlight from this second disc and the whole album.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#95356)
Posted Saturday, October 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A flawed masterpiece, I'll say it now and make myself clear: this wonderful collection of songs, were it not so long, would have been one of my top 5 albums of all time, for it has some of the best songs you can get in TODAY's symphonic rock... but, yes, the traditional elephantism from which axe-genius Roine Stolt suffers heavily: a lot of songs, a couple TOO MANY.

That's why I won't do a track by track review here, I'll just mention the tracks I think make this album a piece of art and that, by themselves, would have made a perfect, flawless record worthy of 6/5 stars instead of the 4 I'm giving it. So, this means, this are the only songs I would've put in this album, all the others, which I won't even talk about, are of little worth and make a dent in this otherwise perfectly smooth sculpture:

My Ideal Stardust We Are:

In The Eyes of the world (11/10), sorry for the hyperbolization, I lose objectivity when it comes to this song, it's one of my 5 favorite of all time, it's just 10 minutes long (it's curious that for us prog-lovers 10 minutes is only an average song length), but the most driving, insane, adrenalin-pumping, desperating minutes you can get. For the initial notes played in a playful keyboard, the song actually perfectly conveys the idea of a person that feels like he's just a clown in the eyes of everybody else...you have the clown part (the funny, burlesque melody) and you have the inherent tragedy for every clown, you can feel that double-sided coin that is saying "I'm a clown: i appear to be happy, I'm completely miserable)...the wonderful verse gives way to the pre-chorus (I love, love when a band knows how to build tension by adding a pre-chorus before a song's chorus), a moment of ambiguity, and then the concise, definitive, cutting chorus where the lines I just quote appear makes his grandiose, if ultimataly soul-crashing entrance....this song has such a drive, a groove, it's so dynamically moving, not only soul-moving but also feet-moving!! (I just can't stop my feet from playing "fake bass drum and hi hat" when I listen to this)...there's a middle instrumental section, with some form of resignation by the sad character, but then reality comes and strikes back: after this trio-like section (trio as in classical third movements - scherzo-trio-scherzo), the impetuous comes back, the train breaks the barrier, truth falls on top of you: "work - your- way up like a bulldozer" as you may, you're stilla clown in the eyes of the world, and as the song ends, you realize you'll always be....Is this song actually that good? I don't care what anybody says, I just Know this is one of the best ever and maybe my absolute favorite... this "short" track alone is worth the price of admission....

Church of your heart, (10/10)... who said beauty is absent of today's prog???? have you listen to this song without "only classics prog"-prejudice out of your mind? This band, we all know, still believe in peace, love, hippism... this songs could well be the anthem for their Flower Nation.... it's so beautiful, at times beatific (yes, others before them discovered the possibilities of making a synth do church like sounds, but not everybody can use a good idea and make it work so flawlessy and even BETTER than the original).... the church that your heart is is best represented in the abnormally precious, wonderful chorus... if after listening to this song you don't feel like you love all mankind, man, let's bring Dr. Freud in here.... kidding....

Circus brimstone (9/10) great instrumental track, you feel like you're in a circus... after the man who felt like a clown in the first song, you are now in the actual circus, but without clowns.... very good descriptive-musicianship, as you clearly get the idea of being surrounded (like in a green-dream, you know what I'm talking about, hippism couldn't be true without some), being in the midst of a great Barnum Ringling, but deserted.... excellent

Compasion (9/10), an atmospheric, uttelry deppressing track, that stars so quiet, with just an echo of Stolt's voice asking for compassion for people against an eerie backdrop, like asking for compassion while being in the place less likely to allow for it... (isn't that the earth?) This song feels like that: you are asking for something nobody will ever give you... it has a Floydian, spacey atmosphere, inusual fot the Flower kings but again, STARdust we are... a crescendo arrives to the final climax when it seems that compassion is just not possible....

End of innocence (8/10), a good instrumental, with atmospheric keyboards, an unhappy mood to it...a track we need to include in our ideal album for it serves its purpose...

Different people (8/10), yes, is the most poppy song in the album, but, I know my swedes, they HAVE to have a poppy song in every record...and as always, their poppy songs are joyful, soul-lifting...we need a track like this in our ideal album before....

Stardust we Are (10/10), an epic of epic proportions (I know that sounded stupid... but I mean: epic size, epic IDEA for that's what the song deals about).... a gigantic song with amazing musicianship, a coherent strcuture, great vocals by underrated vocal master Hasse Froberg... this song builds in tension as the lyrics do until, near the end, the band finally proclaims, like the culmination of the inherent concept behind the whole disc: Stardust we are.... nothing more, nothing less....we are just dust, we are just a particle within this infinite universe...but we come from the STARS... we are cosmical...we are GREAT...or better, we SHOULD we great....

That would be my ideal album.... for you who just like brain-numbing, philosophical- challenging analisis in your prog-rock lyrics and concepts, I'll say...

STARDUST WE ARE. Nothing more, nothing less. In the whole picture, in the whole cosmic truth (whatever that may be), we are just dust.... so let's start loving each other a little more....

That sounded too "cheesy"? Well, sorry, I forgot in this day and age, you have to speak of terror, chaos and the utter claws of fate's beast to be considered rational....

I can only answer,

STARDUST WE (I, YOU, HIM, WE) ARE

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Send comments to The T (BETA) | Report this review (#95606)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The fact that the Flower Kings' rhythm section sounds just like Yes's (especially their bass player), while Roine Stolt tries to play guitar solos just like Zappa's and Tomas Bodin does what he can to replicate Tony Banks's keyboard solos - none these bother me, on the contrary, I'm glad some musicians have returned to the idiom of classic symphonic prog.

What really annoys me, though, is Stolt's pedestrian lyrics: the man is obviously unashamed of piling cliché upon cliché upon cliché (with a few awkward quotes from Beatles or Jimi Hendrix classics chucked in for good measure) and enunciates every single word as if it's heartfelt gospel truth.

On STARDUST WE ARE, however, virtually all the music is so catchy, and the twenty-five minute epic is so full of wonderful ideas that the band's defects really don't matter. The Flower Kings are notorious for delivering double albums with too much filler. STARDUST WE ARE, I feel, is a triumph. It contains relatively few weak moments, and the title track almost takes you to that same special place Yes found on 'Close to the Edge', and Genesis on 'Supper's Ready'. It's a spectacular achievement - truly ecstatic symphonic prog. Oh, you may need some 'suspension of disbelief'; after all it's hard to feel ecstatic about lyrics like: 'Driving down the Memory Lane / Dusty dreams from a fading sun / Remember how the horses run' (etc.) But the music may just about take you there.

The only thing I don't like about this album is its spectacularly hideous cover.

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#100758)
Posted Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After releasing a masterpiece like Retropolis nobody would expect the band to put out a double studio album in such a short time. Nevertheless, here it was, a massive collection of songs, over two hours long. Had the group chose a single CD format, this would rival Retropolis as their best ever release. Don´t get me wrong, Stardust We Are is not a bad album at all. But it seems that Roine Stolt and co had too many good (and sometimes, long) songs to fit even in a 80 minute standard album. So, in the process, they may have recorded everything they had written at the time. Certainly there was no fear of lacking inspiration from their main composerr. One thing that always amazes me after all these years is Stolt´s hability to write so complex, intricated music in such quantity. He must live and breath music all day and night.

Anyway, back to Stardust We Are: there are plenty of great songs in this album. Certainly Roine Stolt was at his prime around the time. Yet the CD is too long and too varied to hold your attention in just one listen, or even maybe two. The presence of some fillers also does not help either, but if you listen carefully you´ll be rewarded with a fantastic pallette of different prog styles and even some experimentation never seen before or even after this release (Compassion is a good exemple). There is something for everyone in this album. So it´s no wonder the group won much of their fame after putting out this CD.

There was some personel.changes too. After guesting on some tracks of The Flower King and Retropolis, singer Hans Frôberg enters the picture as a full time member. While Stolt still handles most of the lead vocals himself, Frôberg´s inclusion was a big plus, since his high pitch, emtional voice brought an excellent contrast to Stolt´s lower register. So, officially, , this is the the first album to feature the ´classic´ Flower King´s line up we all love. Including the apearance of Ulf Wallander on sax on some tracks, as he did on many TFK best works.

I still think this would be a killer CD if they picked up the best tunes and kept to a single album format. Instead this is `only`an excellent work. Essential? Yes! It may take a little time to fully appreciate such a massive amount of music (many spins). But most of what you´ll find here is very worth it. Maybe the group is too talented and flexible for their own (comercial) good. Yet Stardust We Are stands out as a worthy successor for such hard acts to follow as the 3 previous ones (specially Retropolis). Highly recommended to any prog lover. But if you´re new to the group, start with any of the previous, single CD ones.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#104140)
Posted Friday, December 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars On this extensive double-CD set, the key to sorting out the wheat from the chaff is song length. The longer the song, the better it is. And I will not beat about the bush: the title song is one of the best epics ever written. Not the most original, but certainly the most beautiful.

The attractive thing about this set is how THE FLOWER KINGS gradually introduce the themes that eventually come together in the final track. Such a presaging is very much in the symphonic tradition. I love listening to a record where themes are introduced, varied and reprised; it never fails to please. This is such a record, if you're patient.

Yes, the flaws others have noted are definitely there. With THE FLOWER KINGS one gets a surfeit of music, an overabundance that makes it very difficult to take in the beauty and invention in on first, second or even tenth listen. I agree that the removal of a number of the tracks would make this more accessible, but then it wouldn't be an album from THE FLOWER KINGS. I want to be clear on this: I'm prepared to rate an album a masterpiece even if it has flaws. I'm interested in the best of what this band delivers, and their best is apparent on this album.

Especially on the final track. If you want to hear what symphonic progressive rock sounds like, play this. It is laden with melody, confidently organised in structure and just adventurous enough to demand repeated listenings. From the opening series of notes (repeated with variations twice more in the song) the track makes a statement. The last nine minutes of this song will undoubtedly send a thrill running through you. One after another the album's themes pour at you, making sense of the hours of music you've worked through, bringing it all to a climatic conclusion, then a cathartic close.

What makes this song great is what makes THE FLOWER KINGS an essential listen: guitar mastery, the willingness to play with time signatures, the combination and separation of instruments, judicious vocals, and sheer symphonic beauty. This may not be where your FLOWER KINGS experience should start, but it is certainly where it should end.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#115419)
Posted Saturday, March 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is the first a long serie of TFK double albums. Not all of them will be brilliant. Roine might be a creative person, but there are human limits to this. On top of TFK he has so many side projects running that it is almost impossible to keep such a recording pace and reaching a high quality level throughout all these works.

The opener " In the Eyes of the World" is fully in TFK's style : complex composition, flamboyant keyboards and very strong guitar. Again, the Yes reference is obvious. But this is one of the reason why I love this band so much. ELP might also be associated to their inspiration in here. Still, the catchy rhythm and cristal clear voice from Roine adds this so special TFK mood to it. A great opener.

A very short and intimist instrumental break will lead to "Just This Once". Again, TFK delivers an interesting song : full of vocal melody and strong intrumental parts even jazzy at times. They will be mostly keyboard oriented. The jazzy mood though is a bit too invading to my taste. But globally this song is rather pleasant.

The third long composition "Church Of Your Heart" is one of my fave of this album. All harmony and beautiful music from the very start to the finish. I really love this band when they produce such wonderful and emotional numbers. Vocals are again very sweet. But this is the seal of TFK. Roine's voice is so identifiable...Which such a title, no wonder that the middle instrumental break features a church organ sound. A highlight of this album and one of the greatest TFK song ever.

"Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar" is a short and sweet acoustic track. Very relaxing but not really necessary. Anyway it provides such a feeling of tranquility that I can really not complain about it. "The Man Who Walked With Kings" is another instrumental. Not bad, but not memorable either. But honestly it is not a filler either. Some grandiose guitar part will avoid this.

"Circus Brimstone" is the longest track of this first CD. It starts on a scary mood, somewhat quiet. The intro is definitely KC oriented. It will evolve into a beautiful track, only interrupted at imes by some weird sounds (like when you are looking for a radio station and changing form the one to the other). But these moments are not so many, so I wouldn't blame TFK too much.

After another short break, we are heading the closing number of disc one. The religious mood is again very present here, and the addition of choirs will only confirm this. This song really finishes at 4'45", and then comes back again around 5'15" with some keyboards sounds remininscent of "OnThe Run" from "The Dark Side Of The Moon".

IMO, the track would have gained in interest if it would have been cut where it should have been, meaning after the first break. These last four minutes do not bring anything interesting at all. Anyway, if we except these four minutes, we have experienced a wonderful first CD. Let's hear what CD 2 is all about.

Again, with "Pipes Of Peace", we are transported into the church music; but it only lasts for just over one minute. There will be a total of eight of these short numbers. Not all being necessary. But I have to say that very few sounds boring as well.

The first true song of this second CD is again full of emotion at start. I am really charmed by Roine's voice. I guess either you like it or not. No compromise, I'm afraid. I belong to the former category. I am also found of these great guitar breaks provided here and there throughout their albums in general. I got this feeling the very first time I listened to TFK and this feeling has never left me.

"The Merrygoround" sounds a bit as "Parallels" ("GFTO", Yes) in its initial phase. Strong and rhythmy number for most of the song, it will hold a sweet and melancholic section during its second half. A jewel of peaceful music. The finale is just sublime.

With the Oriental "Don Of The Universe" we are entering into the least interesting part of the album. It is the first filler of this excellent album. Repetitive and dull, I'm afraid. Useless. Like the very short "A Day at the Mall" which is the poorest of these transition tracks.

"Different People" sounds as a world music track. Not really my cup of tea. I have never been really enthusiast with the sitar, so these background sounds do not really have my favour. This number might be part of their concept, but it is tasteless to my ears. I guess, that by this time TFK just got short of inspiration.

The album picks up again a bit with "Kingdom of Lies". The poppy inspiration is not too bad but it won't be a memorable either. Just average. But I guess that some average tracks on a double album is a normal thing. I cannot remember a double studio album being great from start to finish. Even from some originators of the prog music we all love so much.

"If 28" is another short piano-oriented linking track. Not better, nor worse than the majorit of them. These artifacts are often used in concept albums, so again I would not rail at TFK to have done so.

Fortunately, we'll get another good song with "Ghost Of The Red Cloud". This mellow track is a reggae number which is very pleasant to listen to. It is rather unexpected by TFK (but it has nothing to do with a song like "Corners" from IQ for instance which was absolutely dreadful). It is just a pleasant and different number leading to the last short and acoustic piece "Hotel Nirvana". It won't get you there but it stands to introduce the last and the longest number of this album.

The twenty-five minutes "Stardust We Are". TFK will produce several very long songs during their long career (still in progress in 2007). I guess that their inspiration for such long epics is only too obvious to deserve not to be mentioned. It will even include some Tommy oriented fragments ("See Me, Fel Me") ! Just another wink I guess to the mother of all concept albums (IMO). It is not my preferred epic from the band ("The Truth Will Set You Free" is the one I prefer). It holds very pleasant breaks but lacks in passion.

Even if I am an old timer (48 by now, unfortunately), I quite appreciate this album and TFK in general. I would have rated it with the masterpiece status if it would have been downsized to a single CD without any doubt (even a double CD but without the tracks four to eight, which would have shorten the second CD by twenty-two minutes). I think TFK's management should have addressed this point form the very begining of TFK's career. Why did they feel obliged to produce such long albums (single or double ones) ?

This effort holds a lot of interesting nsongs (especially on disc one which is a true jewel IMO). Disc II is just partially short of inspiration. I will rate this very good album with four stars.

It might sounds maybe too much as Yes, and therefore TFK is lacking of personality, but again as this wonderful band does not really create brilliant new stuff nowadays (but they are still touring which is always an enchantment for me to attend their concerts), I am quite satified that TFK is taking on the torch. They deserve your attention and this album might well be a very good introduction to their music. Give TFK a try. Most of you won't regret it, for sure.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#120780)
Posted Saturday, May 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the Album that got me into Prog.

The Flower Kings are, to this day, one of the bands that I think of when I think Progressive Rock (among others). (Spock's Beard is another one of those bands)

This album is absolutely crazy as is most of the stuff that they do. This is not the kind of music that you can listen to while doing something else. This requires all of your attention. It's a sad fact that most people simply don't like to listen to music that requires them to think. Stardust We Are will leave you behind :). Also Roine Stolt is one of the best guitar players that ever existed.

From the very beginning you are thrown into the chaos of In The Eyes of the World. This track alone makes the record worth buying. This song is incredibly well orchestrated, yet absolutely insane. It is somewhat dark, but at times silly.

The moods change dramatically as the record progresses (not to mention the timing of the songs). I don't imagine that many drummers out there practice to Flower Kings songs. As expected, the guitar solos blow you away. At times the music dwindles to almost nothing, and then explodes into craziness again.

If you've never heard this Record, take a couple of hours to sit and listen to it. It's not for the faint of heart, and it will definitely move you. It's a good way to weed out the hard core prog enthusiasts from the ... not so hard core ones... (and epileptics)

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Send comments to the_3d_man (BETA) | Report this review (#120935)
Posted Monday, May 07, 2007 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars There are a lot of songs on this release by TFK and I just counted there are 5 out of 20 really worthwhile, the other songs we can more or less forget about. I will do a short comment on the 5 great tracks:

1. In the eyes of the world. This is the stream song on progarchives I got to know first and it convinced me of having to buy this. This is one of the very best songs TFK have ever produced. It's Roine at his very best especially at the end of the song. 5 stars.

2. Church of your heart. This is a very original composition by TFK. As the title of the track already suggests there's a church organ being played on this one and it works really nice along with a great vocal performance. 4,5 stars.

3. The Merry Go Round. This was a track I did not immediately discover as a great one because the first few minutes are not too impressive, just average. Until Roine comes up with probably the best guitar solo on any TFK track ever. This is just about the best a guitar can offer to human ears. Great compliments if you can write melodic music like this. 4,75 stars thanks to the solo.

4. Kingdom of Lies. Another very fine performance thanks to Roine. It's not that I don't appreciate the other bandmembers and in interviews with mainly Roine Stolt I read several times that he tends to be a bit dominant, not as a dictator or something but more that his tremendous guitar playing gets too much attention. Personally I don't mind but of course it isn't too great for the relationship between the bandmembers especially if the others have some ego as well. But I think they deal with it just fine. 4,5 stars for KoL.

5. Stardust we are. It goes without saying that we are talking about one of the great TFK compositions in their history. The magnum opus for many of their fans. Personally I like Garden of dreams and Monsters and men a bit more but this one is magnificent as well. Everything you may expect from a song of this length. 5 stars.

As I said we can more or less forget about the rest though Just this once and Don of the Universe almost reach a 4 star rating. Thanks to the very first and the very last track it easily reaches a 4 star rating overall but I can give no more.

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#153194)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This was my first foray into double-CD land with the Flower Kings and it's pretty much what I expected. Over 126 minutes of high-quality symphonic progressive rock that runs the gamut from average to absolute brilliance. Could it have been edited down to a single disc and been a gem on par with their exquisite "Space Revolver" that would come a few years later? Perhaps, but why go there? This is prog and one of the most appealing traits of this genre is a total disregard for commercial shackles or limitations so I really don't have a beef with this band's prolific nature. The fact that I can put this on and not have to employ the skip button even once as I enjoy two hours of uplifting music is testimony enough to recommend this set. I can also assure you that the embarrassingly garish cover art in no way, shape or form represents the integrity of the contents. (Come on, fellas, did you owe a favor to the local mafia godfather or something? Gee whiz!)

Opening with "In the Eyes of the World," a rolling rocker containing a Deep Purple/ELO attitude, they draw you right into their unique realm. The big Hammond organ presence on this song is a definite plus, Roine Stolt's guitar is on fire throughout and the overall depth of sound is what I crave to hear. Lyrically I've started to realize that English most likely isn't their native language and I think much of what they're singing is getting lost in translation but overall they still make more sense than say, Jon Anderson of Yes. The tune makes for a smokin' beginning but it's not as auspicious as on some of their other CDs.

They intersperse various short instrumental pieces along the way and "A Room with a View" is a lovely keyboard air from the highly talented Tomas Bodin. "Just This Once" starts with some alarming noises but soon settles into a powerful groove and goes on to make the most of a very dynamic, aggressive progression where Stolt's jazz influences are showcased. The first sign of the extraordinary comes in the form of "Church of your Heart," a slower-paced but power-packed ballad that shows their ability to perform a well-written song with class. They never shy away from grandeur and when the cavernous cathedral pipe organ makes its entrance the hairs on the back of my neck bristle. The vocals are superb and the no-holds-barred ending defines symphonic prog. I love this kind of stuff!

The sounds of a storm serve as the intro for the beautiful acoustic guitar composition "Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar" as it marks the onset of four consecutive instrumentals. The blustery aura continues as they segue into "The Man Who Walked with Kings" where the rest of the group joins in. The group's uncanny ability to create memorable melodies is apparent here as they introduce a madrigal spirit to lift the mood. But the headliner here is the thrilling "Circus Brimstone" that starts out with a spooky calliope and evolves into a King Crimson-ish, Mellotron-led carnival of notes, slowly building in intensity while demonstrating their admirable skill at arranging intricate musical themes into a cohesive whole. Following a peaceful duet of guitar and Mellotron things get wicked with some odd backwards utterances, then they jump into a funky segment that reminds me (in a good way) of the cool riff from "The Munsters." Another towering melody line brings the track to a close as another short bit with accordion and synthesizer entitled "Crying Clown" serves as a bookend to this instrumental jag. The darker "Compassion" finishes the disc and it's a highlight not to be overlooked. A strained, distorted voice is joined by monk-like chants and Roine injects a passionate guitar solo that will tear your head off. This dude can flat-out play with the best of them. (If you linger about a minute after the end a synth freak-out happens but it has little significance.)

A heavenly, room-filling pipe organ track called "Pipes of Peace" initiates the second CD and Bodin previews things to come with variations on the "Stardust We Are" theme during this wonderfully indulgent piece. (Move over, Wakeman, Tomas is gettin' busy in the sanctuary!) "The End of Innocence" has a promising onset but it soon drops into a heavy blues-rock stride, losing some momentum but on an album of this length a lull was inevitable. The uninteresting vocal and structure of the song becomes laborious after a few minutes and, despite Bodin's gallant attempts to liven things up on the baby grand, it marks the nadir of the journey. But don't be discouraged because "The Merry- Go-Round" is next and its thrilling, Zappa-inspired start, furious three part harmonies and lively Irish jig-sounding airs get the show back on track in a hurry. Salazar grabs a few admirable moments in the spotlight before the band brings the tempo down for a dramatic change of pace that teeters briefly on the brink of schmaltz but ultimately leads to a fierce guitar ride and a gargantuan closing.

"Don of the Universe" is the best instrumental I've heard from this band. Curious percussion spasms leads the listener to lush, deep acoustic 12-string guitars that envelope your senses and whisk you blissfully away from the trials of the world. The uncomplicated design of the song allows it to float like a cloud over a land where sitars, tablas and soprano saxophones are not considered out of place. The short "A Day at the Mall" with its wild Rhodes piano noodlings and bustling shoppers rouses you from your serenity and transports you to "Different People," a folksy pop tune that has Beatle-ish overtones and then onward to "Kingdom of Lies" that pun-fully begins with the buzzing of flies before turning into an energetic, arena-rock zinger where everyone turns in a hearty effort but the song sorta leaves me mystified as to its intent. "If 28" follows and it's another pristine piano piece from Bodin to be savored. "Ghost of the Red Cloud" is a decent number but I have to admit that I'm one of those people who have no affinity or interest in the reggae beat that this tune is built upon. So sue me.

"Hotel Nirvana" is acoustic guitar played over a deep synthesizer drone, setting the table perfectly for the magnificence that is the album's namesake and marquee song. I rank this epic right up there with those from both Genesis and Yes and I don't say that lightly, being a dedicated fan of both groups. After a sumptuous curtain-raiser, Stolt's Steve Howe-ish licks launch you on a marvelous 25-minute trip through progdom that doesn't let go for a second. The singing from Roine and cohort Hans Froberg is spectacular, the middle instrumental section is staggeringly awe-inspiring and, once they arrive at the central "Stardust We Are" theme, they approach pure sublimity. At about the 15 minute mark Tomas' adroit multiple keyboard work provides a rapturous bridge to the opulent chorus and climactic finale. If you think I'm wandering into overstatement territory I'm here to tell you unequivocally that it just doesn't get much better than this. Wow!

In the final analysis this bountiful collection of 20 tunes is far above mediocre and, in several instances, scales the lofty heights of Mount Prog and plants the Flower Kings' flag at the very peak. I'm so pleased that I discovered this band and can only invite other fans of symphonic progressive rock to delve into their artistic endeavors without hesitation. These guys are the real deal and, when it comes to this album, the title song is well worth the purchase price alone. 4.2 stars.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#159457)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Subject to mood swings

Stardust we are is a sprawling 2 CD collection from the Flower Kings; you really can't complain about getting value for money in terms of output from them. Where there might be a question mark however is in terms of quality control.

The Flower Kings tend to suffer from the same malaise as their neo-prog colleagues Spock's Beard. While they make what is unquestionably prog rock in one of its purest forms, their music is often cold and lacking in emotion. They seems to believe that in order to make a long, progressive piece, all you have to do is take a number of unconnected themes and ideas, and join them together in a piecemeal fashion. While I am not suggesting that no thought is put into how well those themes fit together, it does seem to me at times as if the objective has been to make the time and mood changes as awkward sounding as possible.

From time to time, things will fall into place perfectly, and the result will be a track which flows seamlessly, while featuring strong melodies which sit easily together. All too often though, the results are frustrating.

So it is with the band's third album (not counting Roine Stolt's solo album bearing the band name) Stardust we are. The album features 20 tracks in total, ranging from a pair of less than one minute pieces (Crying clown, A day at the mall) to the sprawling 25 minute title track in three parts.

The opening In the eyes of the world is one of the more successful tracks. Running to some 10˝ minutes, the track on the one hand borders on jazz territory, while on the other explores full on symphonic prog. Just this once on the other hand is an example of decent, if unremarkable themes which simply do not (in my opinion) sit well together. The track jumps about between Yes like staccato, smooth jazz, and highly melodic lead guitar without ever finding a firm identity.

The man who walked with kings has all the feel of a Steve Hackett number, the haunting lead guitar and deep bass tones making for a decidedly tasteful, and thankfully relatively straight forward instrumental number. This is one of four consecutive instrumentals, the longest of which, Circus Brimstone runs to over 12 minutes. That track has a King Crimson feel to it, from around the time of that band's Red.

The second disc is by and large the inferior of the two, the songs being generally less distinguished. This is of course with the notable exception of the aforementioned title track which at 25 minutes dwarfs everything else here. The track certainly justifies its prominence, apparently having been written as a complete piece, rather than put together piecemeal.

Perhaps ironically (given my comments), the album as whole flows rather well, successive short and long track counter-pointing well together.

I am aware that my review perhaps dwells a little too much on the criticisms I have of the Flower Kings. I can only justify this through the frustration they cause me. They clearly have the potential to come up with something truly magical, and at times they come close to achieving that. Unfortunately, for me this album represents their career generally; a case of so near yet so far away.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#164251)
Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really. There is a lot to admire on this album, but there is also a fair bit of filler..and sometimes it is in the same song! The instruments are all played well and Stolt's voice is OK, but no individual song screams 'classic' to me. 'Circus Brimstone' and the title epic come the closest. There are a lot of similarities between TFK and Spock's Beard so I guess it is not surprising that members from both bands got together to form a supergroup (Transatlantic). This album is better than an average 3 star album, but there is too much music on it that doesn't do much for me to give it a 4.

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Send comments to digdug (BETA) | Report this review (#174870)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was my introduction to The Flower Kings, and what a fantastic way to start. This is a simply stunning album. It is as melodic an album as I have heard from the band, although that is not to say there is no complexity. I found the album very easy to get into, and loved it from the first spin.

Some people accuse the band of sounding like Yes, KC or Genesis. I just do not agree. Whilst they have their influences, TFK have their own sound that to me is instantly recognisable. For me, they are the finest modern progressive rock band.

As this is a lengthy double disc effort, I will simply pick out some highlights. Disc 1 is brilliant throughout, and opens with the barnstorming In The Eyes of The World, which is typical Flower Kings, melodic, dramatic and very symphonic. The instrumental section in Just This Once is outstanding. The orchestral splendour of Church of Your Heart always moves me, as does the dark and edgy Circus Brimstone; the musicianship throughout is top notch. Disc 1 closes with the haunting and beautiful Compassion.

Disc 2 is less consistent, but the best tracks are spellbinding. The short Pipes of Peace is a lovely intro. The Merrygoround is my favourite short track by the band. Stolt's guitar solo at the end is incredible. After 2 or 3 not so good songs, we have the piece de resistance, the title track. This is a s good as any epic I've heard by ANY band, and I include Close To The Edge, Dogs, Suppers Ready et al. This epic is simply magnificent, with the most beautiful melodies, gorgeous themes and dramatic instrumental and vocal passages. This piece provides all I could ever want from 25 minutes of music.

If you are a Flower Kings fan that does not own this album, you must get it. You will love it. I certainly do, it is probably their best album.

For me, this is easily a 5-star album. No symphonic prog collection is complete without it

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Send comments to Roj (BETA) | Report this review (#193883)
Posted Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars It's almost TOO easy for a progster to get into this. Think about it; what other band could mine the best qualities of prog rock and win over many hearts? We have Gilmour's voice, Latimer's solos, Emerson's tricky keyboard lines, Squire's bass sound, odd time signature, mellotrons, Hammond, twenty-minute epics, etc. So, how come I don't get it?

The Flower Kings are a technical listening band in the sense that you've really got to sit down and pay strict attention to all of the musical changes in order to get it. The compositions are complex, but are so clogged with theme after theme that it's really hard for me to follow along. I prefer the occasional laidback jam type of thing, but STARDUST WE ARE really doesn't give me that. Plus, there are just too many filler tracks that don't add anything to the album from the unusual under-two-minute ditties to the awful poppy songs like ''Kingdom of Lies''.

Restraint is not here at all. Many songs simply go far too long and seem to be extended merely to look very prog. The fiddling at the end of ''Compassion'' is unnecessary; ''In the Eyes of the World'', ''Just This Once'' and the title epic run out of ideas about two to six minutes before they're over and make me impatient when I listen to the tracks as a whole. And I was never moved by either ''End of Innocence'' or ''Church of Your Heart''.

The lyrics are so corny that they're laughable. It doesn't help that both vocalists overdramatise the words to the point of utter annoyance. Stolt's vocals aren't that great, but when a comfortable range he's okay. Froberg has more power but unfortunately can sound like Steve Perry (Journey) at times. Which is why I prefer parts of ''Circus Brimstone'' (slightly too long) and ''Don of the Universe''.

I enjoy the weirder, harder-to-understand stuff in the prog rock world, and I really think this album is too much of what to expect in prog rock. There aren't any surprise or challenges other than sitting through BOTH discs in one sitting. If you want to keep your prog experience fresh, head for the RIO and Cantebury bands. If you want the same prog rock over and over again, this is more than satisfactory.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#205984)
Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4 stars Ahh, the ever controversial Flower Kings. A band often maligned for creating music they themselves would want to hear. Maybe the critics just don't have a lot of free time to listen to all the massive releases by this band? :) For me, they embody everything I love about prog music. Which, I admit, doesn't always work as well as it should. When I first started listening to this band, this album was considered their masterpiece. I would say that for me, they are all masterpieces of a sort. If a masterpiece has to have every track being brilliant and excellent, then I'm not sure if there is a prog band in existence that has created such a work (though some non-prog bands have done it I think). But I digress. Getting back to the album in question, I think it has quite a bit of excellent material. The first CD is almost flawless, with only Church Of Your Heart seeming a bit too derivative of Yes for comfort. Still, it is a very good song, and can't be faulted for showing such obvious Yes influence. Just This Once is one of my favorite Flower Kings tracks ever, though it seems most fans over look it. And Circus Brimstone is a brilliant instrumental workout that I think is one of their best.

Disc 2 is a bit less consistent for me. Two songs spoil it for me: Kingdom Of Lies and Different People. While I understand why they are on the album, and they serve a purpose (representing 80's style pop rock and more traditional pop respectively) I just don't like them very much. While the reggae song, Ghost Of The Red Cloud works pretty well and has a stunning guitar solo to make it worthwhile, these two songs are, dare I say it, cheesy. Still, the song The Merrygoround is outstanding, and of course the epic title track is beautiful and almost worth the price of the album. The other songs on CD2 are decent enough, if a bit underwhelming (I do like Don Of The Universe.............I'm a fan of most Flower Kings instrumentals though).

So all in all, not a masterpiece by my reckoning. Still a solid 4 star album, and not a bad place for a newbie to start (though one of the single CD albums might be less risky).

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#206301)
Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Truth
COLLABORATOR
Post and Math Rock Team
4 stars Oh goody I'm about to review another Flower Kings album! Ah yes, Stardust We Are, one of my personal favorites! Okay first before I review anything listen to Church of Your Heart first it's a prog rock ballad from heaven! Roine Stolts guitar soars through this album like an eagle all through it eventually landing on the centerpiece, Stardust We Are. The title track a masterpiece of prog the rest of the album is almost as good. The Man Who Walked With Kings is a very nice piece along with Compassion. The End of Innocence contains in my opinion the best vocals on the album. Although it's just a little acoustic guitar piece Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar is very soothing to me. Roine gives us some very good music once again! However, some of the pieces of music almost mimic other albums they've done which I don't like bands doing. Remember Church of Your Heart and Stardust We Are are the ones to listen to.

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Send comments to The Truth (BETA) | Report this review (#212150)
Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Roland113
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars "Stardust We Are" is easily a four star album and worthy of consideration of a full five stars, but not quite. While containing some of The Flower King's, arguably, most memorable tracks the length of the total package actually detracts enough to knock it down to only four stars.

"Stardust We Are", the song, is kind of a mini version of the album itself in that it's at first great, then at some point you're thinking to yourself that "I'm going to keep listening to it just to get through it". It's an amazing song, wonderful in all aspects, by twenty minutes into the song, it's accomplished it's task, it's peaked it was an amazing experience. Then it keeps going . . . and going . . . the harpsichord Baroque thing and everything after that is really just trying to make sure there is no empty space on the CD.

In an analogous theme, the album peaks at about The Merrygoround, everything from there on to Stardust is more of a struggle to get through. Don't get me wrong, the songs themselves are all great, it's just more of the same. This album would have been a five star album if it had about 30 minutes less music on it.

With all of that being said, my personal highlights include "Stardust We Are", "In the Eyes of the World", and "Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar". In addition, "Just This Once" is probably my favorite song on the album, though only after removing the first thirty seconds or so, thus eliminating the grating siren bit that ruins an otherwise wonderful song.

Lowlights include the first thirty seconds of "Just This Once", the last five minutes of "Stardust We Are" and the last four minutes of "Compassion".

In summary, it's a great album though difficult to listen to in one sitting.

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Send comments to Roland113 (BETA) | Report this review (#220410)
Posted Tuesday, June 09, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT THIS CD HAS NOT GOT MORE 5 STAR RATINGS. This is as good as it gets for contemporary symphonic progressive rock. TWO CD's of outstanding quality, each bursting forth with lush keyboards, scintillating guitar, excellent bass lines and intricate drumming. Lets start with CD1 IN THE EYES OF THE WORLD - Marvellous organ work, and Hackettesque guitar work A++ A ROOM WITH A VIEW - Nice synth sound end ends like an Enid track A+ JUST THIS ONCE - Weird start - into some gorgeous organ work (like Genesis salmacis) - Really accomplished instrumental break then has dreamy mellotron & Guitar with a Topographic (Yes) feel to it A++ THE CHURCH OF YOUR HEART - Nice guitar to start, great use of church organ, synthesizerss and mellotron - Fantastic guitar solo A++ POOR MR RAINS ORDINARY GUITAR - Nice quiet peice for two classical guitars - A+ THE MAN WHO WALKED WITH KINGS - Mega Church organ, classical gutar, then a medieval feel (sor of Enid like) - Finish with Mellotron Hackettesque guitars and nice synthesizers - A+++ CIRCUS BRIMSTONE - Weird start and goes into Yes - Ritual (middle section) style then speeds up and we have a nice guitar motif, ace bass work and drumming - changes tempo a few times - EXCELLENT instrumental A++ CRYING CLOWN - Sort of old french music interlude - a bit pointless a filler C- COMPASSION - Slow electronic style beat and vocoded vocals with echo - Then the mellotron and a ripper of a Stolte solo - Church organ - Brilliant - then the track goes on longer than says on the listing - sort of electronica weirdness out to 9 minutes or so??? A+++ CD2 PIPES OF PEACE - Church organ - love it A++ THE END OF INNOSCENCE - Nice synth riff & piano arpeggio - then use of mellotron and harpsichord, good guitar solo A++ THE MERRYGOROUND - Janty starf with a nice bass line, ace drumming and nic organ chording more complex keyboards and use of mellotron and church organ - Ace guitar solo A+ DON OF THE UNIVERSE - Guitar riffs - nice drum pattern with a good bass line - sitar in and out for a moody sort of ambient folksy effort - B++ A DAY IN THE MALL - Very short piano filler B DIFFERENT PEOPLE - Jaunty track, saved by a good guitar solo B KINGDOM OF LIES - Good intro - Nice Mellotron and ACE guitar solo A IF 28 - Slow piano piece B GHOST OF THE RED CLOUD - Reggae beat, then ace synth riff - STOLTE SOLO ACE A+ HOTEL NIRVANA - Synths with classical guitar - ace mellotron chords and a bit like Cloudburst flight by tangerine dream - A++ STARDUST WE ARE - OOOOH SYMPHONIC PROGRESSIVE ROCK AT ITS BEST - This CD has to be bought just to hear this track. Three parts and twenty five minutes long - Ace use of Mellotron, synths with the guitar work of Stolte in and out like a fiddlers elbow - Styles of Yes - Foxtrot genesis and even a bit of Camel *Super twister". You can hear a bit of Circus of Heaven by YES, Hackettesque guitar. Twelve string passages like that off Foxtrot....The part two instrumental IS GENIUS - makes the hairs on your neck rise and fills your brain full of seratonin...Then Part three - I love the Chorus .... STARDUST WE ARE............. Then Mellotron with guitar in the background - then the synth picks out delicate riffs and a GUOTAR SOLO TO MAKE YOU wish you could play like STOLTE - The mellodies reprise and the ending is quite simply as beautiful as anything produced by debussy....FIVE STARS FOR THIS TRACK ON ITS OWN....

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Send comments to M27Barney (BETA) | Report this review (#231054)
Posted Tuesday, August 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Welcome to the circus...

"Stardust we are" is one of the most remarkable works of the modern era of symphonic rock. Like many other The Flower Kings albums also this one is highly underrated. There is no reason to give low rating to a double album only for some fillers on it and it's distinction of quality. Not by such extension. I didn't expect that "Stardust we are" will be full of perfect songs. On such an album there is also place for some fan material. I would say the album would get definitive better acclaim if the lower-quality tracks had found just on the bonus disc. But I understand the way of selection and I'm glad to enjoy such extended work of The Flower Kings. Maybe except of the horrible "Church of your Heart" and "Different People". Well no album is perfect...

The whole year there was no album which i heard so many times as "Stardust we are" So many ideas, such variety and this extension allow listening on a long period of time. Like many other works of the band this album is inconsistent, so we can almost play it on random mode, what i wouldn't recommend at all. Such structure of record is also part of their convention and i got used to it.

You will find here rocking and catchy moments as on the first track "In the eyes of the world" which brings listener into present on the whole album circus mood. After every powerful song you will be calmed with beautiful instrumental work, mostly a bit shorter as "A room with a view" or pleasing "If 28". Unexpected "power explosions" present on every album of the group make also here remarkable points of the composition. Intro of "Just this Once" or "Merrygoround" as examples, attract our attention. The most outstanding work is the title track with lush lyrics and amazing instrumental passages. The ultimate epic of The Flower Kings, the classic one. Highly recommended songs are: "Just this Once", "End of Innocence" and the tiltle epic. The classic album of The Flower Kings definitely deserves five stars.

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Send comments to ChrisDawid (BETA) | Report this review (#248318)
Posted Thursday, November 05, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I would say that this is the album where the Flower Kings came of age. It is a superb burst of creative energy. CD1 is consistently superb, and while momentum is slightly lost at times in CD2, it ends with the magnificent epic 'Stardust We Are', which must be one of their greatest works. I am reluctant to give it five stars, but I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is the sprawling nature of the double CD, and a lack of tight structure to some of the pieces, even though it contains some wonderful sounds, sometimes exhilirating, sometimes soothing. It is not itself a masterpiece, but contains several five star pieces.

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Send comments to dmwilkie (BETA) | Report this review (#261835)
Posted Thursday, January 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Some time ago, I saw a post on the forum by Epignosis asking us to compare the relative merits of two equally rated Flower Kings albums, Adam & Eve and Stardust We Are. I had had the former for some time, but this was my only TFK album, so I asked was it worth getting the other? The answer was a resounding YES, so I went ahead.

This, in turn, led me to buy the complete TFK back catalogue, so it's fair to say I was impressed.

This is a long and sometimes difficult album to sit through in one go, and I tend to agree with a lot of previous reviewers that maybe it might have been better to have had just one CD of exceptional quality songs, rather than padding out the work into two CDs. Having said that, there is plenty to enjoy here, and I ardently feel that newcomers to this band would be better listening to this album before venturing into other works.

The whole album has an unashamedly retro feel to it, most markedly in the ELP inspired opener, In The Eyes of The World, to the glorious Yes symphonic inspired Church of your Heart, which, to me, is the outstanding highlight of the album, a glorious track which soars, uplifts, and is absolutely and rightly unapologetic about its roots. Other nods to glories past include Circus Brimstone, a marathon 12 minutes homage to King Crimson from the classic Wetton, Fripp, and Bruford era. It's not as dark as that band though, there being some beautifully uplifting passages, thus avoiding falling into the trap that KC sometimes fell into, that of being overly complex and brooding at the same time (I state this as a massive fan of the band).

Even that track, though, is a mere stroll in the park as compared to the title track, the last on CD2, which weighs in at a massive 25 minutes. Having said that, it never feels overlong, and the band are genuinely awe inspiring when they reach the central theme of the song. This is a towering paeon to symphonic prog rock in all of its glory, and exemplifies to me just why TFK are regarded as being at the forefront of the 3rd wave of prog in the aftermath of the UK dominated neo (2nd wave) era of the early 80's.

At turns derivative, at others wholly original, never anything less than demanding, when it hits the high points, it makes for an extremely satisfying and rewarding listening experience.

It is difficult to rate this album, and I think, by and large, the average of 4 stars given to it by previous PA reviewers is about right. Excellent in its own right, but, in my opinion, essential as a way of getting into this most incredible set of musicians.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#282180)
Posted Sunday, May 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover and E&O Teams
4 stars I sometimes wonder, why no TFK album gets over 4 rating threshold. Maybe it's something in this music that I so much love, but a lot of people see as mediocre, or as "good" at best. Well, I think that it's the length of Flower's music. A lot of interesting moments and some killer tracks, but everything gets buried under sheer 126 minutes. The best tracks, catchy and bombastic (I like this kind of thrilling [sadly, it's cheesy for some] tracks, when done properly, it won't slide into embarrassing mode) are Church of Your Heart, instant hook-on, In the Eyes of the World and few others, but it's not what this album is about. Its length prevents easy remembering of each track (as with 40-minutes long releases), so this is intended for not so thorough listening perhaps ? Because it's not consistent album at all. TFK always loved big compositions and this time, they really "overclocked" it, as for many people, variability, filler passages and so on will be tough. As seen from ratings. Can we blame them ? Of course not, it's understandable. I myself feel tempted. You probably would get strong 50 minute long CD from material here, but as it is given, there are problems with finding it.

4(-) is fair rating I suppose. From people rating in left column, only russellk gave it 5 stars. Brave and bold move for sure, I would like to give more as well (and from my reviews, you can see that I gave 5-stars in past to albums where flaws were present), but the main problem I have with this is its size. Flatting it would make it not just accessible, but more importantly also more interesting to people looking to music, not music with long minutes of silence in it. I'm not offending TFK's music, as I'm enjoying most of their albums, but this is constant problem. And the reason why a lot of people here rate so low. Including me.

700th review, let's stop for a while, shall we ?

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#299180)
Posted Tuesday, September 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars After rating the first two albums from that highly-productive group, here is their first double- CD outing. The title is "Stardust We Are", and you'll find a track of that name as the last one of CD-2.

Well... When I try to convince people (not-prog people) that modern prog exists, while they know that Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis have existed, I turn to this production. And I insist that they listen to the title track ! An epic of 25 minutes... which I consider to be a classical event. One of the most extraordinary prog epic-song of all, I figure. It has eveything : multiple parts that join together, some musical lines that are repeated in another mood and rythm, an increase of intensity, odd-time signs, and... a climax near the end + the very known section where the theme is sung. Of course, this song deserves 5/5. How about the rest ?

The longest tracks the best, as usual with TFK : the first one "In the Eyes of the World" is fantastic, with a very heavy section and a more jazzy one, where you hear sounds related to circus for the first time (present in multiple moments later), beautiful; "Church of your Heart" is also very well constructed, complex, melodic all over; "Circus Brimstone" is a 12-min. instrumental one, with big circus sounds and atmosphere, in odd-time signs, energy and humor moments in the middle, it is one of my favorite instrumental of all-time (!!); "The Merrygoround" is another gem, with power but also smooth moments, melodic again, well twisted. The other ones are interesting, being very different, but with a circus mood. In addition, at the end of CD-1, if you let go after last song finishes (a secret track), you'll find electronic powerful moments, where you will shake if you augment the sound !

So... 4 or 5 stars ? Well, for 5, one has to consider : either every song being perfect, equalled in quality, the CD bringing something wonderful to prog-world; or a more unequal production, but with very unique moments (in that later case, it is dangerous that the CD goes 4-stars). Here, SWA belongs to the second category, and... I go for 5, because of the extraordinary contribution of the epics to prog modern music, mainly because of the title track... a perfect gem. I have better 5-ones in my collection (maybe around 15... ?); however, this one deserves it with no doubt !

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Send comments to Progdaybay (BETA) | Report this review (#324431)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is a masterpiece.No doubt it! The Flower Kings is one of the best and most popular progressive rock bands of today and if they had disappointed me with "Retropolis", could my forgiveness with "Stardust we are. "

With it is a double album, it is difficult to speak of track by track, but I'll list my favorites (which is somewhat difficult, because I (still) not heard the whole album first):

-In the eyes of world(great and powerful opener) -Church of your heart (and pretty nostalgic, reminds me of Yes instananeamente) -Don of universe (great instrumental that prepares us for the title track, as indeed do several songs on the album) -Stardust we are (the best band ever of The Flower Kings.Wonderful, perfect, absolute!)

There are several songs on "filler", and other transition (which contains parts of the epic finale), but nothing that takes well deserved a high rating of this great album.

4,5 stars!

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#395550)
Posted Sunday, February 06, 2011 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars I'm not really a fan of the modern-retro symphonic progressive rock movement, but bands utilizing that sounds appear to be popular debate on this site. I was originally pointed to the Flower Kings by my guitar instructor, who is a big fan of Yes and Genesis, and this sounds like a 21st century update to that sound. In my opinion, the sound doesn't really work that well. First of all, Stolt's voice is not unlike those modern electric blues guitarists like Joe Bonamassa. It's rough and startling, and I really don't enjoy it.

The music is here is exceptionally cheesy with synthetic symphonic glory that isn't quite earned. If Yes or Genesis decided to record an album now with all of the random effects available to them in the studio, this is what it would sound like, plus a few more rock-oriented touches. It's not very appealing to say the least, but a lot of people tend to enjoy this album, which is also unbearably long and jam packed with filler material. If that is your kind of thing, then I guess I suggest it. Enjoy.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#431191)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Who will enjoy this album?

Flower kings fans of course who have that album missing in their collections. This is definitely one of their best if not their best.

Even still I am not sure this is the easiest Flower Kings album to start with; any symphonic prog or prog fans in general will seriously enjoy this albums. The Flower Kings have a lot talent and their own personality and are not just copying their 70's ancestors such as Yes as some of their detractors would say.

What do we have here?

The first cd is almost perfect expect the last track 'Compassion' Why did they had to include this track? The 15 minutes of instrumentals music 'The Man Who Walked With Kings' and 'Circus Braimstone' is an amazing moments of music. On 'Circus Braimstome' the band proves they can go further that the borders of symph-prog. Two other great tracks: 'In The Eye Of The World' and the emotional and symphonic ' Church Of Your Heart'

The second cd is slightly weaker than the first but only slightly. The band appears tired on some tracks that drags on a bit ('Don Of The Universe') or looks out of context ('Different people' 'Kingdom of Lies 'Ghost Of The Red Cloud'). However the best track of the albums still remain on this one this is 'Stardust We Are' a classic prog suite and one of the best suite ever made in the 90's. Another highlights of cd2 would be 'The Merrygoround' and 'The End Of Innocence' which reminds me a lot of the first part of 'Starless' from King Crimson' as much as for the atmosphere than the voice of Roine Stolt very close to the one of John Wetton.

Over the all album, the short tracks played mostly by Tomas Bodin are to be mentioned as well for their great melodies and welcome interlude during the flood of music.

Why I rate it 4 stars:

There is definitely even great material here to justify a double albums, but some weaker tracks previously mentioned should have been left out. If so, this albums would easily be a 5 star albums and would easily compete with the classic opus of the 70's. Yes this opus would have gain being shorter but again those weaker tracks represent only around 20 minutes out of 2h15 of fantastic music and the album can pretend being a key album of rock progressif.

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Send comments to Theriver (BETA) | Report this review (#629508)
Posted Thursday, February 09, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Stardust We Are marks the beginning of a double-album craze Roine and company seem fond of. While this would seem like a good idea, double albums like these are usually chocked full with less than amazing material, or filler. This album is no exception. The high points of this album are some of the best of the band, but the lesser material really drags down the album as a whole with its inconsistency.

The album starts off with the excellent 'In the Eyes of the World,' (9/10) which has some crazy fun melodies with signature TFK keyboard followed by an interesting guitar breakdown in the middle.

'A Room With a View' is short but pleasant segue into another great track 'Just This Once,' (8/10) which has a nice upbeat instrumental section sandwiched between Roine's vocal work. 'Church of Your Heart' (6/10) is a very uplifting track backed by Hasse/Roine's warm and dramatic vocals. The song has some great ideas, but it probably should have been shortened.

'Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar' (6/10) is a short but very beautiful tune on acoustic guitar with the sound of thunder heard faintly in the background.

'The Man Who Walked With Kings' (9/10) has a nice symphonic sound of royalty similar to the debut album's Atomic Prince. This is another example of TFK's ability to evoke a mood. It is also very reminiscent of Roine Stolt's album, The Flower King as well.

The instrumental 'Circus Brimstone' (10/10) begins off slow and builds up into a very interesting and quirky circus-like progression in the middle. It's perhaps one of TFK's oddest, yet best songs.

'Compassion' (2/10) marks where we get into "filler" territory. The track really doesn't have any redeeming qualities at all. It is slow and aimless, and overlong.

'Pipes of Peace' is another segue song which introduces a theme that will later be used in the title track.

'The End of Innocence' (4/10) is another uninteresting song, but does have a few good ideas. It is also longer than it should be at almost nine minutes.

'The Merrygoround' (9/10) is a nice little change from the few previous tracks. It is mostly upbeat with some fantastic melodies and is very much a classic TFK tune.

'Don of the Universe' (8/10) is based on a repetitive melody that is built upon throughout the track. What the song lacks in variety it makes up in atmosphere.

'Different People,' (4/10) 'Kingdom of Lies,' (6/10) 'If 28' (4/10) 'Ghost of the Red Cloud,' (3/10) and Hotel Nirvana (3/10) are all filler tracks with hardly an interesting material.

The album ends with the 25-minute epic 'Stardust We Are.' (10/10) This is probably the best song the Flower Kings have ever created. It is filled with one melody after another and the arrangement and flow is superb. The main theme is one of the most uplifting and amazing things I've ever heard. The song also takes many themes from other songs as well. This song alone is almost enough to make me forget about the mess that happened before immediately before it.

Overall, this album is really hurt by inconsistency. If they had omitted most of the second half this album could have easily been of five-star quality. Nevertheless, Stardust We Are is a solid album with some very amazing material.

7/10

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Send comments to Mr. Mustard (BETA) | Report this review (#779526)
Posted Friday, June 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Flower King's first double album, Stardust We Are, is very difficult for me to review; while it contains what I consider to be some of the band's best material to date, it also contains a lot of wandering, subpar songs that drag things down and detract from the experience.

The strong melodies and upbeat feel you've come to expect from The Flower Kings are definitely present here, and the majority of the compositions on this record are actually quite strong, sometimes even touching on brilliant. The first disc in particular contains some great pieces, including "In The Eyes Of The World" and "The Man Who Walked With Kings". The second disc, on the other hand, isn't quite as strong and contains many forgettable tracks. This said, it redeems itself in the end with one of the Flower King's best tracks: "Stardust We Are". This twenty-five minute epic is extremely well composed and is consistently good, never getting boring or redundant. It is a perfect way to close the album.

In between many of the longer songs are shorter pieces which act as interludes and serve to connect the pieces and offer some continuity. For the most part, these are very relaxed and are dominated by atmospheric guitar and keys. Despite not being the focus of the album, I really enjoy these shorter songs.

The Flower Kings also partake in some wacky experimentation on tracks like "Circus Brimstone" and "Compassion", adding things like random sounds and backwards speech to the music. The results are sometimes interesting, but more often than not I found them challenging to listen to and made otherwise good tracks difficult to appreciate.

There's one thing you can't argue with, though: this band has talent. Roine Stolt in particular is striking on this album, and you really see his flexibility as a guitarist. His emotional solo in 7/4 on "The Man Who Walked With Kings" and his work on the title track are just stellar. Keyboardist Tomas Bodin provides an array of sounds (strings, choirs, and organs, just to name a few), and while he isn't usually at the forefront, his playing is integral to the atmosphere of the album. The vocals on this record are also generally pleasing; Stolt, who takes over most of the vocal duties on this release, is a competent and likable singer. It would have been nice to hear more from Hasse Froberg, however, who has an outstanding voice and really shines towards the end of "Stardust We Are".

Stardust We Are is plagued by the same problems as many other Flower Kings double albums: there is too much material, and too much of it is filler. As it is a good album I do recommend giving it a listen if you like The Flower Kings (even if just for the title track), but I wouldn't suggest it as an introduction to the band. If you're looking for a place to start, "The Flower King" (technically a Stolt solo album) and "Banks of Eden" are much more consistent.

I will add that you will get more from this album with repeated and attentive listening as many of the themes in the magnificent title track are hinted at and introduced in several of the previous songs and interludes.

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Send comments to RBlak054 (BETA) | Report this review (#916080)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars As it happened to me with Spock's Beard's Snow, I had great expectations on this work. I had listen to The Sum Of No Reason long time ago and I had decided to give this band a more deep opportunity. I must say I got some kind of disappoinment, it would seem to me that this band prefers to work in 20 or 30 mediocre songs than on 4 or 5 well made pieces (not the case of The Sum Of No Reason), but not everything is bad, this album has its wonderful moments, let me give a quick review of each song:

CD 1

-In The Eyes Of The World: Great start! A strong, enjoyable song, good work.

-A Room With a View: Transition, nothing special for me.

-Just This Once: This song didn't reached my atention completely.

-Church Of Your Heart: Half good, half not-that-good. Keyboards are great though.

-Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar: Transition, maybe a bit nicer than A Room With A View.

-The Man Who Walked With Kings: Brilliant instrumental! My favorite song from the first CD.

-Circus Brimstone: I didn't actually understand the meaning of this piece, although is really good made.

-Crying Clown: Meaningless transition.

-Compassion: Unnecesarily long.

CD 2

-Pipes Of Peace: Nice organ opening for the second CD.

-The End Of Innocence: Repetitive song and far long for what it is, nothing great.

-The Merrygoround: Pretty enjoyable, really nice song that reminds me of later works.

-Don Of The Universe: Another great instrumental! Some say it is a filler, but I enjoy it completely.

-A Day At The Mall: Another useless transition.

-Different People: Pop-junk, I didn't like it at all.

-Kingdom Of Lies: Another pop piece, but it kinda works better than Different People, still nothing amazing.

-If 28: Brilliant transition (this CAN be called a transition)!

-Ghost Of The Red Cloud: a great song, although I am not a fan of Reggae Rock or that kind of stuff.

-Hotel Nirvana: More and more nonsense transition.

-Stardust We Are: Really nice epic and one of the best songs from The Flower Kings in my opinion. With everything that makes a great prog song!

I think that an album that simply included the title track and the other nice efforts from this album, taking away the pop singings and the transition sounds, would have been also great.

The Flower Kings are a pretty good band without a doubt, but let me admit that this guys just don't convince me completely. I can conclude that I am not made for this kind of albums, but maybe I should listen to this album again, just in case. A good finding, but nothing truly essential.

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Send comments to MyDarling95 (BETA) | Report this review (#993151)
Posted Sunday, July 07, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Close to Divine but a little uneven and too long.

Classics unmistakable as Stardust We Are (one of the best of his career), Compassion, Church Of The Heart and In The Eyes Of The World are found in this double album released 16 years ago. Like several of the works of these Swedish musicians, the album is strenuous and loses interest in some sections.

Moreover, the lyrics may sound irritating or foolish if not understood in the Christian spiritual framework, such as the first track. And while the overall tone is positive, also conveys anguish and hardships faced by the protagonist in the first person.

Don Of The Universe, The Man Who Walked With Kings are two good instrumentals, and Circus Brimstone too, but should finish four minutes earlier. The Merrygoround has a good dynamic, intelligent variations and great instrumentation. Ghost Of The Red Cloud, with its reggae tinge is another good topic.

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Send comments to sinslice (BETA) | Report this review (#1007176)
Posted Saturday, July 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have a friend named Steve. He and I worked in college radio together, in the 1970s prog tidal wave days. In the 1980s, he was the best man at my wedding, and I was at his. Somehow Steve stayed in touch with the prog genre in the 80s and 90s when radio moved away from it, before the Internet made it so easy to stay informed. We both obtained home Internet service around 1999, and began chatting via email. Sometime in 2002 he recommended that I should buy Stardust We Are, saying it was a terrific achievement by The Flower Kings, a Swedish band that was unfamiliar to me.

So I ordered Stardust We Are on CD in late December 2002. It showed up just in time for our weekend road trip in January. The son of my wife's cousin was getting married in Richmond VA, about a hundred miles south, in early January. I was to be the wedding photographer, and our youngest daughter was to be the flower girl. So on an ice-cold Friday night we rolled down I-95 to Richmond in two cars, checked into a fine hotel just downhill from the state capitol building, and attended the wedding rehearsal at the University of Richmond Chapel. We used two cars because my daughter and I had to stick to the event schedule, and my wife and our other kids did not.

After the wedding ceremony, and the reception on Saturday night, we decided on the spur of the moment to visit my relatives in Hopewell, about 35 miles away. After that side trip, we headed home at about 11:30 at night, a drive of about 2.5 hours. The kids were sleeping in the van. I remembered that I had new music to audition, and no slumbering passengers to disturb. I pulled out Stardust and began listening.

Wow, what a recording. There are some fascinating tunes here, full of the energy, pomp and wonder that marks top quality prog. Lots of swings back and forth between major and minor modes, another strength of good prog. I listened to the title track, a 24 minute tour de force, three times on the way home. The central vocal segment absolutely shines, conveying that sense of wonder very brightly. Overall the composition is tight, a surprise for a long song, and very enjoyable. The Kings nailed it.

Other highlights:

Circus Brimstone, full of madness and humor.

Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar, an acoustic guitar instrumental duet, gentle and charming. The Man Who Walked with Kings, an instrumental featuring a simple, light-hearted acoustic melody transitioning to hot soaring electric guitar, almost precisely what Genesis would have done in the Gabriel era. A great companion for After the Ordeal.

Church of Your Heart, dominated by harmony vocals, grand to the max.

Another very welcome surprise: various melodic themes from the title tune worked their way into many of the other tunes on Disk 2. Pipes of Peace is a standout, Tomas Bodin on church organ revisiting the vocal highlight of Stardust. This was probably developed for possible inclusion in Stardust, but it stands very well on its own.

I also especially enjoy the smooth jazz of Don of the Universe.

There are weaker tunes included, yes, but few compared to the highlights. I give this album 4 stars, because I think 5 would be warranted only if there were no weak tunes.

On my iPhone: Pipes of Peace, Don of the Universe, Different People, In the Eyes of the World, Church of Your Heart, Poor Mr. Rain's Ordinary Guitar, The Man Who Walked with Kings, and Circus Brimstone. Stardust omitted only because the file is so darned big!

For the same reason I have not included Close to the Edge or In Held Twas In I or Supper's Ready or Tubular Bells or Awaken on the iPhone, all epic songs that I admire greatly. Stardust joined that list on that late-night drive in 2003.

Thanks Steve.

I have since picked up most of the Flower Kings releases. This CD remains their strongest work IMHO.

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Send comments to Dreamer of Pictures (BETA) | Report this review (#1069218)
Posted Wednesday, October 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have now listened some times to The Flower King's third studio record "Stardust we are" from 1997. It is a huge collection of music for us who love sweaping and positive symphonic rock. The music i truely dynamic and the instrument performances are very professional and great. It came sixteen years ago in the golden years of the CD and it lasts for over two hours. This is thus not a record to just listen to at one time and think you have got it. The cover picture is very psychedelic with the member's faces like flowers in the space. I like it. The members then were Roine Stolt on guitars, keyboards and lead vocals, Tomas Bodin on keyboards, Michael Stolt on bass, Jaime Salazar on drums, Hasse Bruniusson on percussion and Hans Fröberg on lead and backing vocals. Bruniusson was earlier a member of the prog veterans Samla Mammas Manna in the seventies.

I wasn't at all aware of prog rock back in 1997 when I was eight and I have just liked The Flower Kings for perhaps a year. In the beginning I though this band was too much. They did too long songs and records and sounded too catchy. Still I think they often do too much song. One CD with the best of these songs would have been even better than this. Though is this still very good.

The first song "In the eyes of the world" is amongst the album's best. It's long and varied with both weird and low profiled parts and heavy rock parts. The song is typical for The Flower Kings and absolutely worth listening to. "Just this once" is often quite calm and have a sense of a nice world. The comes "Church of you heart" which is one of the record's most catchy things. I like it and it has very different parts too. The instrumental "The Man who walked with kings" is amazing. I do enjoy the atmosphere and the wonderful melodies that really take you with them. Then comes "Circus Brimstone" which also is instrumental and a wonderous track with a great loveliness in it. You can hear bits of the circus such in many of these tracks. "Don of the universe" takes us in an Indian way to the later main theme of the record and it has a fine sound. "Kingdom of Lies" is also a lovely and very melodic track, just as "Ghost of the Red Cloud" which is dramatic and very fine. Best though on the album is the title track "Stardust we are". That one lasts for 25 minutes and has very great parts all the time. It is a true fantastic track regardless of what you think about it. The performance is adorned with many ingredients of glory. The keys and the guitars and a joyful refrain and a dramatic structure. "Stardust we are" is a huge reason to why I give this record such a high rating. The title track along with all earlier mentioned tracks and the beautiful short ones: (track)A2, 5, 8, B1, 5, 8 and 10 make this a fixed and pleasent part of a prog collection.

To be honest isn't everything just as interesting. On the second record are there three of more long songs that I don't have strong feelings for. I wouldn't say this record is a masterpiece; it's too long and do has some inferior fillers. But over all is it yet remarkable that the band could hold such a high standard. If some of you a new to The Flower Kings I think I would recommend "Circus Brimstone" from this record. It shows the bands variety and professionalism. I would say this record is worth four stars!

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Send comments to DrömmarenAdrian (BETA) | Report this review (#1101098)
Posted Saturday, December 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
apps79
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Neo Prog Team
4 stars ''Retropolis'' seemed to be a key album in The Flower Kings' discography, opening the gates of fame for the markets in Japan, South America, and North America.From this point on the band would be marked as a very prolific team, crowned as the king of double albums, starting from ''Stardust we are''.This work was recorded between December 96' and April 97' at the band's Foxtrot Mobile Recorders in Uppsala.They would again collaborate with ex-Nya Ljudbolaget Ulf Wallander on sax, while they also received help from Ensemble Nimbus' leader Hĺkan Almkvist on sitar and tabla.''Stardust we are'' was originally released on Foxtrot Records, but it was also distributed in Japan via Belle Antique.

''Stardust we are'' is a classic Flower Kings offering, stylistically grounded in the music of YES, GENESIS and KING CRIMSON with balanced use of vintage and modern keyboards and combining short, more accesible songs with longer, cinematic pieces full of demanding orchestrations, quirky executions and bombastic interplays.The album's length gives the chance to the band to explore some new music territories, especially during the second CD.As a result it contains some new-insterted ambiental soundscapes and Ethnic influences in a few pieces, not much suited to a work full of dense and grandiose musicianship, but again these cuts show The Flower Kings' extreme diversity and Roine Stolt's unique talent as a composer.Over 100 out of the 130 minutes of the contained music though will never escape from the principles and values of Classic 70's Prog.The music is absolutely great and often astonishing with jazzy and bluesy blips among an otherwise very symphonic-oriented material.Bodin's Mellotron and Hammond organ dominate the pieces with dark atmospheres and powerful passages, Stolt's guitar is flawless and flexible and the appropriate modern vibes will come through the massive synth soloing.The ability of the band to slip through so many different moods with comfort and consistency is absolutely scary, especially if considering the fact that their first few albums were released in a very short time.Classic Prog fans will love this work's epics.No less than 9 tracks are over 7 minutes long with symphonic and jazzy inspirations, highlighted by another monumental composition by the Swedish masters, the 25-min. title-track, a tour-de-force of melodic soundscapes, complex Progressive Rock and Classical-inspired preludes.

130 minutes of music are maybe too much to result an album with no dead holes.But at least half of ''Stardust we are'' is certainly incredible, well-crafted and elaborate Progressive Rock with apparent 70's hints.Highly recommended.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#1154770)
Posted Friday, March 28, 2014 | Review Permalink

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