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The Samurai Of Prog - Secrets of Disguise CD (album) cover


The Samurai Of Prog

Crossover Prog

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4 stars Multinational ensemble THE SAMURAI OF PROG first appeared in 2009 as contributors to some of the Colossus series of concept albums, planned and organized by the Finnish prog organization Colossus and released by French label Musea Records. Initially a duo consisting of Finland based, Italian musician Marco Barnard and Finnish musician Kimmo Pörsti, later with US musician Steve Unruh added to the core band. But rather than restricting themselves to the talents of those three musicians, guest musicians have been involved too. Especially when the band decided to make an album of their own. This production, "Undercover", appeared in 2011 and consisted first and foremost of cover tunes with a few minutes of original music thrown in for good measure.

Come 2013 and The Samurai of Prog returns with their second album. A double feature this time around, but pretty much set up in a similar manner as their debut album: A lot of cover tunes and a few items of original material flavoring the proceedings.

The cover tunes are bye and large enjoyable excursions into rather varied parts of the symphonic progressive rock universe. Playful Italian prog and Gentle Giant oriented material with jazzy flavoring side by side with accessible, melodic varieties of the style closer to the likes of Camel as well as a ballad from Yes and a few items of darker sounding, brooding material pulled from the archives of bands such as King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator. The Samurai of Prog generally sticks to a faithful rendition of these compositions, they don't try to revolutionize these more or less classic songs but they don't try to replicate them either. Subtle alterations is a feature for all the songs covered, with arrangement and instrument choices as well as a somewhat larger emphasis on certain instrument features or expressions the main variations given to the different songs. Sometimes to good effect and at other times not quite as much, most likely depending on just how close a relationship you have to the song in question. For me personally, their take on Aspirations by Gentle Giant lacked the magic of the original as I'm probably to accustomed to and to fond of the sheer superficial simplicity of the original, the cover version here containing a few too many details for my taste. Other pieces came across as much more charming, and most charming of all for me their take on Utopia's "Singring and the Glass Guitar". A tongue in cheek epic composition on all levels, as a fantasy fiction fan and as someone who have spent a few hours of my life playing computer role playing games this songs brought frequent smiles to my face.

But the general tendency of these songs residing somewhere in the symphonic progressive rock universe is probably the most important bit of information for those curious about this double CD, and I might also add that all the songs covered has been given if not a modern then at least more of a timeless mix and production, which at least to younger listeners most likely will make these cover versions worthwhile checking out for this detail alone.

The most impressive tracks at hand are the original ones however. Like on their debut album David Myers is at hand again with a splendid piano introduction to one of the classic pieces of progressive rock, in this case it serves as an introduction to the band's take on Genesis Dancing with the Moonlit Knight. And while it does take a bit of time to get accustomed to some of the vocal parts in it, the Gothic-flavoured dark symphonic exploration of Lovecraft's spine chilling tale about Charles Dexter Ward is another clear highlight. Previously released on a conceptual tribute to Lovecraft, but on this double CD presented in an alternative arrangement - nice.

The clear highlight for me was the playful, diverse and rather jolly Sweet Iphigenia however. From medieval folk music through vintage oriented symphonic progressive rock to jazzrock and back again, this item is a celebration of the 70's progressive spirit given a contemporary coating, and a tune I suspect was challenging, frustrating but also sheer fun to create and record. An excellent piece of progressive rock in it's own right.

All in all, "Secrets of Disguise" is a solid album by this multinational project. A taste for symphonic progressive rock is needed, and an open mind as far as cover versions are concerned, but if you recognize yourself in such a description this is a double CD that should provide you with plenty of enjoyable listening. And, at least for me, the 20 or so minutes of original material presented the proverbial icing on the cake.

Report this review (#957800)
Posted Saturday, May 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars So,here we have the second album of THE SAMURAI OF PROG band,2 years only after their sensational debut album!To be honest I had great expectations about this album,because the impressive level of musicianship shown on the first album was so promissing and full of hopes to get from the guys a marvelous following !And,my expectations have seriously get their reward-THE SECRETS OF DISGUISE is a major step forward,under all aspects,for our beloved band!First of all it's the fact that we have a double album,and this means more additional music compared to the first album-then the impressive artwork-trully superbe!The choice of the songs was-once again-very cleverly made,and the original material-something around 20 minutes,that's even more impressive!You can see at the descriptio of the album what are the tracks choosed,classic and solid old school prog-from ENGLAND,passing thru GENESIS-PFM-KING CRIMSON-VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR-RUSH-YES-RUSH-among others!Really impressivesongs of this prog rock icons-and,definitelly-there'a serious challenge to try to bring a new dimension to the music of this maestros of prog in 2013!But TSOP are some amazing magicians and they managed ,in big style, to bring back to live,with new versions,this amazing classic prog rock compositions!I like the production-it's solid,not at all overproduced,with mindblowing crystal clear effects-it's sober and trully professional made!The impressive technical skills of our musicians are sensational-and the help get from other unbelieveble musicians involved in this project-is magical too! Just take a look at the list of the guests-it's almost scarry to see all of those great names on one album!All of them give a serious hand to the guys in TSOP to produse great versions of the songs choosed!It's very difficult and subjective to choose which track is the best one,I see al the material of the album in a very organic and monolythic way-all are very solid,diverse and strong!So,to sum up,this SECRETS OF DISGUISE is ,no doubt about that,a very strong prog rock album of cover songs and original compositions -a triumph for the amazing trio of the musicians which are the core of the band-and they have endless inspiration and a huge potential to offer in the future other amazing albums!For me 4.5stars rounded to 5 ,because albums like this are more and more rare nowadays,SECRETS OF DISGUISE is made with burning passion for prog music and shows what huge inspiration is this beautiful music forever!
Report this review (#1018613)
Posted Wednesday, August 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars The second set of prog covers by this Finnish-based group (bassist Marco Bernard, drummer Kimmo Pörsti and multi-instrumentalist Steve Unruh) and their huge cast of guests is more ambitious and notably bigger in size than their debut Undercover (2011). The first disc of 77 minutes has 10 amazing covers plus Samurai Of Prog's own beautiful track 'Sweet Iphigenia' from the Colossus project "Decameron 2", while the second CD includes only four tracks but is still 54 minutes long. The leaflet containing all the information track-by-track is also very beautifully illustrated.

So the first impression is like being taken for a luxorious ride into a prog heaven. The compositions of 70's classic prog are chosen with excellent taste and they are performed with great dedication and skill. It's only natural that in time the listener becomes less enthusiastic about this set: you begin to ask yourself why listen to these covers instead of the originals. But an album of prog covers hardly gets better than this anyway.

First we have the epic 'Three Piece Suite' from ENGLAND's classic album (1977); Robert Webb is featured on Mellotron, Hammond and other keyboards, and on vocals together with Steve Unruh & Mirja Lassila. The way some of the original performers are invited as guests continues throughout the set, e.g. 'Descendo en el Maelstrom' features Mento Hevia from the Spanish prog legends CRACK. Undercover had a little instrumental prefacing (and inspired by) 'Lamia', and a similar approach is taken here with another GENESIS masterpiece, 'Dancing With the Moonlit Knight': 'Before the Dance' is a piano solo by David Myers. And after Genesis, a wonderful interpretetation of the lovely GENTLE GIANT track 'Aspirations from The Power and the Glory (1974)'. Wow! Those extra vibraphones nicely increase the jazzy feel.

'Traveler' originates from the 1977 PFM album Jet Lag. Guest vocalist Mark Trueack comes from the Aussie prog group Unitopia (though this information is not mentioned in the leaflet). The next tracks is probably unfamiliar to non-Finnish, it's the best track 'Sameassa vedessä' from MATTI JÄRVINEN's sole album (1976), which is considered as a prog classic even though its progressivity isn't very notable - which is why one can't find it from the Archives. The Finnish lyrics are sung by female Mirja Lassila. The only choice in CD One that I'm not very happy with is the KING CRIMSON track 'One More Red Nightmare'. It is followed by 'To Take Him Away' from the eponymous 1972 album of the French SANDROSE. Respectably many countries are covered! YES's 'Time and a Word' features extended vocal arrangements by Jon Davison, who was shortly afterwards asked to join Yes.

In my opinion CD Two is not as pleasant. Easily the most annoying track on the whole set is UTOPIA's 'Singring and the Glass Guitar' (23:32) with all the naiive stroytelling and melodies that become earworms. The other long track is the alternative version of Samurai Of Prog's epic composition from "The Stories of H. P. Lovecraft". In between there are two more excellent prog covers, VDGG's 'Darkness' and RUSH's 'Jacob's Ladder'. No doubt this set deserves four stars.

Report this review (#1300445)
Posted Wednesday, November 5, 2014 | Review Permalink

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