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Flame Dream - Out in the Dark CD (album) cover


Flame Dream

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars I higlhy recommend this band from the seventies and mid eighties. They blend progressive with Symphonic rock with a Peter Gabriel, Genesis times, vocals. Excellent in everyway. All the albums are great but certainly, this one outstands as one of the most notorious ones among their discography.
Report this review (#25766)
Posted Monday, April 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Reviewed by: Tom Karr, April 2005 Switzerland's best symphonic prog band of any consequence, Flame Dream released its third album, Out In The Dark, in 1981. Recorded at Patrick Moraz's legendary "Aquarius" studio in Geneva and surpassing 1979's excellent Elements, it is a classic of European progressive rock. Amazingly, in continental Europe, brilliant, classic progressive rock music was still being produced with little regard for the prevailing winds of disco, new wave and punk. Flame Dream had hit it big in Europe with release of Elements, and were mounting huge, headlining tours of the continent every year for months at a time, hitting the road in five semi trucks and a crew of eighteen. The band had even commandeered the Eden Hotel in Weggis, just across the Statter See from Lucerne, and set up for rehearsals in the historic building. Before hitting the road to promote Elements, the band decided to add a guitarist to their line up, and, on the advice of Brand X keyboardist Robin Lumley, Flame Dream picked up young Los Angeles guitarist Dale Hauskins. After finishing high school in California, Dale decided to jump into the deep end of the pool and set off for London and its burgeoning prog/fusion scene. He haunted jam sessions at Rod Argent's keyboard shop for two years and had struck up friendships with Lumley, Peter Gabriel and Allan Holdsworth, among others. He had obviously paid attention to Holdsworth, as Hauskins also displays the same fluid, legato style as his mentor, with phrasing that owes a strong debt to Coltrane.

The music on Out In The Dark continues in the same vein as on their preceding albums, with rich, keyboard heavy compositions by vocalist/wind instrument player Peter Wolf (son of the noted Swiss classical pianist and brother of classical/avant-garde composer and pianist John Wolf-Brennan) and keyboardist Roland Rockstuhl. The album is divided into the first, the "Sun Side," and the second, the "Dark Side," and, although lyrically the "Sun Side" does deal with warmer, more upbeat sentiments, the music that accompanies the lighter side of the album is, with the exception of the opening tune, "Full Moon," overall the darker of the two sides. Side two, the "Dark Side" overflows with up tempo meter and bright themes.

The music begins with "Full Moon," a cross between UK and Supertramp, and the most poppy sounding track the band will give us this time. It is followed by one of my favorite cuts, "Nocturnal Flight," five and a half minutes of absolute symphonic joy. The tune favors the late 70's style of Genesis, with keyboard work reminiscent of Tony Banks, and features a wonderful guitar solo by Hauskins. Side one ends with the brilliant title track, "Out In The Dark." Beginning with a melancholy theme, we segue into a lovely melody on Peter Wolf's flute that sounds much like the intro to Hackett's guitar solo in "Firth Of Fifth." This turns onto some of the most nimble piano lines ever recorded and the piece develops an almost Italian flair before returning to it's opening motif.

Side two begins with "Wintertime Nights," which boasts some more great Tony Banks- like keyboard work. "Strange Meeting (Part One)" is another Genesis influenced tune, moving moodily across its stark landscape and exploding into brisk lines from Ruckstuhl's synthesizer. It is chased by "Caleidoscope," a herky-jerky instrumental that bursts with syncopated keyboard and sax lines, and at times comes across as Gentle Giant-lite. The album's final track, "Strange Meeting (Part Two)," is not a separate track at all, but a continuation of "Caleidoscope" with the imposition of the two main themes from "Strange Meeting (Part One)."

This is a great album, with high caliber musicianship constantly grabbing your attention, very well conceived and developed themes and wonderful production by John Acock, who handled most of Steve Hackett's solo albums. The similarities to Genesis are, with the exception of a couple of synth solos, entirely compositional, and no one is trying to emulate the "sound" of Genesis, as many other bands have certainly done. Coming late to the game as they did, Flame Dream were, perhaps, not the most innovative band that ever was, but they carried on with true symphonic progressive rock long after many of the genres innovators had turned to pure pop sounds.

For anyone curious about what the members of Flame Dream are up to now, I can tell you that bassist Urs Hochuli, who also produced all the album artwork for Flame Dream, is building sailboats in Switzerland, Roland Ruckstuhl is working in Europe for Roland Keyboards, drummer Peter Furrer runs his own drum shop and is the author of several instructional books for drummers, and guitarist Dale Hauskins is in LA, recording and performing with a number of artists. My special thanks go out to Dale for his help, and for lending me his LP copy of Out In The Dark for this review.

Report this review (#25771)
Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars A bit of a holding pattern for the Swiss group. Here they attempt adding a guitarist to the mix again, but Dale Hauskins doesn't leave terribly much of an impression, albeit a bit more than Urs Waldispühl. He gets a resonable solo on the end of "Nocturnal Flight", then seems to disappear off the map. I'm guessing he was more of a guest musician than a full-time band member. And I get the feeling Roland Ruckstuhl didn't much care for guitarists horning in on his territory, as this is yet another wall-to-wall keyboard extravaganza.

As with ELEMENTS, this one's certainly not groundbreakingly innovative music, but that seemed to possess a lot more spirit and panache than this. "Wintertime Nights" is a bit of a throwaway, and the songs on the A-side are all adequate if unremarkable (though the title song is rather good). The high point is definitely the three-part "Strange Meeting" cycle, the most ambitious piece the band yet attempted. It features a vibrancy and energy I find rather lacking in much of the rest of the album, and is very nearly the equal of the longer pieces from ELEMENTS.

In short, a pleasant enough diversion, but of chief interest to those who really, really, really liked ELEMENTS. Like me.

Report this review (#42768)
Posted Sunday, August 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Swiss symph-proggers Flame Dream would make worse albums than 'Out In The Dark', but they'd also make better ones. My introduction to this band in 2005 benefits from not having been anywhere near this sort of stuff when it was released in 1981. At that late stage in prog's initial phases, 'Out In The Dark' might've sounded like so much more of the same. You know: been there, done that...and done it better. But here and now, in the 2000s, many fans of symphonic prog should be able to find room in their collections for a band like this. Not many prog bands were sticking to the '70s ideals by 1981, and Flame Dream (like Germany's Anyone's Daughter) wear their love for prime Genesis and Yes on their sleeves. While it's clear keyboardist Roland Ruckstuhl worships the mighty Tony Banks, the entirety of 'Out In The Dark' sounds more like Kayak than the album Kayak might've come up with after their second album ('Kayak') had they not veered so quickly into 2nd rate easy-listening pop-prog so soon.

The weakest element on 'Out Of The Dark' are the vocals of Peter Wolf (nope, not the J. Geils Band dude, sorry). He's ridiculously nasal and not at all harmonically gifted. He can't quite carry the vocals on pure charisma the way Peter Gabriel's earliest efforts did (circa 'Trespass'). He may not be as inept as fellow Genesis-lovers Kyrie Eleison's Michael Schubert, but I can't help but feel the band album would've benefitted from having a vocalist with some sort of individualistic strength. Still, several laudable songs are put forth: "Full Moon", "Nocturnal Flight" and the two-part "Strange Meeting" (the latter possessing a kind of Jethro Tull character in terms of its excellent melodic/thematic development). The eventful instrumental "Caleidoscope" might even be their finest 5 minutes. Sometimes a bit of a neo-prog sound invades the proceedings (as in "Wintertime Nights"...incidentally, a genre I'm no fan of), but overall this can come recommended, and is probably their last truly worthwhile album.

Report this review (#62401)
Posted Friday, December 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars "Out in the Dark" is their most GENESIS sounding release with the Banks-like keyboard playing and the Gabriel sounding vocals. The first side of the Lp is called "Sun Side" while the second side is called "Dark Side".

"Full Moon" opens with a funky 1 minute instrumental (not a fan) as vocals come in.There is some tasteful guitar as well as a sax melody. "Nocturnal Flight" is a really good mellow song with mellotron, vocals and keys standing out. Then 2 1/2 minutes in the song gets powered up with drums and guitar. Nice. It ends with a soaring guitar solo. "Out In The Dark" is a laid back song with the focus on the vocals. The flute before the 4 minute mark is a nice touch and is followed with mellotron.There is a tempo shift 5 minutes in as it all speeds up to an almost jazzy sound with lots of flute, piano and light drums.

"Wintertime Nights" features more great Banks like keys and Gabriel-like vocals. "Strange Meeting (Part one)" has a lot of mood and time shifts. Opening quietly it picks up 2 minutes in with vocals and a beautiful piano melody. Again the keyboard playing really brings to mind GENESIS. Good song ! "Caleidoscope" is an instrumental with mellotron, sax and drums, although the drums dominate the sound. This song blends into another instrumental "Strange Meeting (Part two)" again the pulsating keys are mindful of you know who and the song ends with some majestic mellotron.

I like this album a lot despite the lack of originality and it is a little light. I guess i'm just drawn to the GENESIS sound.

Report this review (#116307)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars ''Flame Dream'' have never shown an exceptional personality but their very much ''Yes'' oriented music was pleasant. The addition of sax and flute adding another angle to their predicable sound.

This album is no different from their prior two. The opening track features Anderson type of vocals on a ''Genesis'' background music, while ''Nocturnal Flight'' (which is a fine and melodic track) heads more for Gabriel oriented vocals combined with ''Genesis'' music. Do you get the idea?

The whole album is made up of the same sort of ''inspiration''. Still, the band is much more cloning Gabriel & consorts than Anderson and his band mates on this album. To be honest, if the experience is not thrilling, it is not bad either.

Some ''Firth Of Fifth'' atmospheres during ''Out In The Dark'' and some Collins oriented vocals during ''Wintertime Nights'' (''Robbery, Assault etc.''). It is amazing how the singer switches from references. He used to be an Anderson clone on previous releases, but his palette has now grown apparently.

To make some diversion, ''Caleidoscope'' is an instrumental which relates very much to VDGG and the long ''Strange Meeting'' is nothing else than some gentle music of the band while they were four (''Genesis'' I mean). As you see, there are hardly any inventiveness on this album. A fine ''Genesis'' album which they haven't recorded. But don't imagine to get close to their great world of characters and musical passion. For this, only the genuine is recommended of course.

Three stars for this pleasant album.

Report this review (#190991)
Posted Saturday, November 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 really

Out in the dark is their third album from 1981 and to me at least their second best after Elements. They incorporated again a guitarist in the line up , the american Dale Hauskins , and the sound even has many similarities with previous two albums in places is quite diffrent. Already by the time they had Elements in 1979 , progressive rock music was still looked with little regard for the prevailing winds of disco, new wave and punk, and by the 1981 prog rock was almost dead in many parts of the world, but still lurking in the shadow ready to show the final battle witht the rest. This release gone unnoticed, even has some very good moments, again rich keyboards parts, but because of the guitar the sound is no more so bombastic as on Elements, in some parts it sounds to me like Anyone's Daughter same period or Stern Combo Meissen, not bad at all for sure in the end. The Tony Banks kind of aproach on keyboards are still present specially on opening track but aswell developed on the rest of the pieces where together with the guitar the result is a pretty good one for sure. For instance on Caleidoscope an instrumental pices where Ruckstuhl's synthesizer are top notch, what a great unsung keyboard hero is this musici, awesome and intrsting, I've never heared or see very much talking about this musicn among the very worthy keybordist from prog music, is a shme because is one hell of a great player and aswell composer. So, all in all another worthy Flame Dream album, that needs attention togeher with Elements, two of the unfairly unnoticed albums fro dark days of prog. 3.5 stars to this one.

Report this review (#842475)
Posted Monday, October 22, 2012 | Review Permalink

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