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Frogg Cafe - Creatures CD (album) cover


Frogg Cafe

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars I'm pleased to report that Prog Rock is alive and well and living in New York! This is the second Frogg Cafe album and I think I'm going to have to go back and explore that debut release. The band have blended a variety of influences from hard rock to jazz and combined a high level of musicianship with a sensitivity towards the art of songwriting. The album opens with the anthemic 'All This Time", Certainly one of the album's heaviest moments as well as what I found to be the most playable song. Complex melodies and counter-melodies interplay with a solid wall of rhythm from bassist Andrew Sussman and drummer James Guarnieri. 'Creatures' and 'Gagutz' reveal much more of the band's jazz influences, whilst 'The Celestial Metal Can' is the obligatory experimental piece, which actually works very well in the context of the album as a whole, creating an interesting atmospheric without becoming esoteric to the point of alienation. Speaking of obligatory pieces the album closes with a twenty-one minute epic called 'Waterfall Carnival', despite it's prog-legend duration it is this piece which most reveals the songwriting skills of Frogg Cafe, kicking off with an acoustic ballad flavour before moving into surprisingly Genesis-like territory. Overall I found the album a joy to listen to and a refreshing change from the current rock scene. Proggers of the world unite and buy this album!
Report this review (#28883)
Posted Monday, January 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The debut album was good, really good, the second, "Creatures" really smokes. The band returns with a highly polished and stunning effort. The vocals are much better then the first release, the guitar is featured more prominently and the overall song writing is much stronger. More FROGG CAFE then FRANK ZAPPA cover band. More influences shine through with the higher intensity. I would imagine that live, this band would be an Earth shaker.

Lead off track, All This Time, is powerful, dazzling and such a heady mixture of styles as to leave you preplexed as to what you just heard. I got quite a headful of Chicago for some reason? Creatures is beautiful marimba driven tune, reminds me of a cross between 70's Zappa and Gong. The Celestial Metal Can is a tribute to composer Charles Ives, an avant garde collage of music and noise. I find this track very entertaining and unusual. An aural surreal painting. It provokes numerous bizarre images and thoughts. Following the progress of the song is a mind game. Gagutz is an instrumental, quirky and fun. The band cuts loose with powerhouse fusion solos featuring guitar and violin. A funky 70's throwback. It's one of my favorite FC tracks!

It all comes down to the epic, Waterfall Carnival. One must say that FC opens the bag of tricks wide and pulls out Genesis, the Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Yes and every other band you've heard and creates a nearly perfect progressive rock classic. This is the real deal, ya'll. Hammond organ strips the soul bare, scrapes the bone and drives home the beauty of the Frogg. It ain't easy being green, but this frog is one to aspire to.

I'd recommend this disc to everyone I know who knows a damn thing about prog.

Report this review (#28884)
Posted Tuesday, February 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Impossible to circumvent of 2003. A music splendid, very subtle, enchanter but never niaise a little with the image of the groups of Canterbury. "Waterfall Carnival" is a superb piece of music to old, very fresh, with very oneiric environments. Special mention with the singer Nick Lieto. A new very great group.
Report this review (#28886)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars WOW! What a great offering from the second album from New York based prog rock band Frogg Café! Honestly, at first listen of the CD I was so confused about the music of the band. But, when I gave it a try at second spin onwards, I was amazed with the craftsmanship of the musicians involved in this album. Awesome. The band started their career with a band name Lumpy Gravy in 1998 performed Frank Zappa repertoires. Well, that's typical early careers of prog band - play cover for well known artists. What good about it, in 2000 they changed the name to Frogg Café and stopped playing covers as the started making music and performing a music of their own. Great.

In this album you will find a combination of jazz, improvisation, and symphonic prog music plus a wide variety of influences from other great bands like Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, King Crimson, Phish and some adventurous exploration into an avant-garde music. The opening track "All This Time" is a true mind catcher as it combines the natural sounds of mellotron that bring you to the seventies and stunning guitar solo in jazzy style. Yes, this is a perfect blend between jazz and symphonic prog rock. The vocal is clear, transparent and powerful! You should not miss this one man! The next track "Creatures" has an ambient nuance with a floating music followed with jazzy keyboard work. You will also find the choirs that remind you to singer / guitarist in jazz music: George Benson. But the music is different. "The Celestial Metal" is the band's experimentation with avant-garde music that might not favor most of us, I think."Gagutz" starts with an exploration of woodwind instruments in solo, followed with a full-blown music in jazz / fusion style augmented with Crimsonisque guitar work and dynamic drum work.

"Water of Carnival" is the band's epic as it consumes twenty one plus minutes of music. It starts mellow with acoustic guitar, vocal and flute brings the music in a floating style. As the chords build up, the mellotron enters the music accentuated with acoustic guitar breaks. I really enjoy the acoustic guitar parts that remind me to Steve Howe, especially on passages where mellotron sounds serve the background music. The music turns to complex arrangements in the middle of the track with great violin solo. The other unique point of this track is the combination of heavy symphonic music with jazz / improvisation ones.

Overall, the music of Frogg Café was composed brilliantly and delivered flawlessly with a wide variety of influences. But there is no issue of ripp-off at all with this composition. An excellent addition to any prog music collection.

Progressively yours,


Report this review (#39582)
Posted Saturday, July 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Although the individual compositions (including the very odd third one) are ranging from good to excellent "Creatures" seen as an album overall appears a bit too incoherent, unaccomplished and immature in some way. Either this is signalling that the band is still searching their own style or it's a sign for some "post-modern" tendencies to mix all sorts of music styles relentlessly shown by some other bands as well nowadays. Anyway they're offering here a quite enjoyable mixture of funky jazz-rock, retro prog in the vein of ECHOLYN, mainstream prog aka KANSAS,humouristic odd Avant prog sounds and some reminiscence to ZAPPA (which is not that much surprising since they started as a Zappa-cover-band).

"All This Time" is opening with strange odd samples but then developing to a rather driving and catchy prog song dominated by guitar and bass. Although being a bit "pop- ish" (meant in a more positive way like accessible) it's really a very good song. The title track is a very versatile composition having multiple parts starting from grooving jazz- rock, one reminding to GENTLE GIANT and a more balladesque one. In its middle part we get Mellotron, Marimba and violin, sometimes a bit odd but played very fluently and wonderful. "The Celestial Metal Can" might seduce to press the skip button on first spin, really a strange piece and hard to be enjoyed. The first three to four minutes actually consist of some cacophonic electronic sound samples mixed with distorted guitar, before something like a melody is starting to develop slowly, some sort of odd and bumpy latin rhythm using dissonant sax solos, strange voice samples, bits of sitar and banjo on top of a repeated Marimba loop. The final part sounds like classical chamber music for strings. Overall I wouldn't call it necessarily bad, but even after a couple of listenings I'm still not able to really enjoy it. But the remaining two tracks are really compensating for this loss of enjoyment. "Gagutz" is an all instrumental jam-alike jazz- fusion piece with some amazing solos by guitar, violin and trumpet. Really an excellent track, but highlight of the whole album is IMO the last one "Waterfall Carnival" with more than 21 minutes full of awesome prog music. Consisting of several instrumental parts which are quite different from each other and despite it's in a more gentle vein it never becomes boring at any point. The beginning is rather unspectacular with soft flute sound but in the following they included every now and then some excellent odd ideas. At around 16:00 there is a wonderful part with acoustic guitar. Really an awesome closure for a very interesting and versatile album.


"Creatures" is not my favourite album by them but nevertheless it's an excellent one and certainly worth for 4 stars. Highly recommended for any prog fan who doesn't mind some more incoherent and highly versatile albums.

Report this review (#46002)
Posted Thursday, September 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With their sophomore album "Creatures", Frogg Café, one of the most prominent USA bands nowadays in the prog circles, realized their musical maturity in a most splendorous way. Their style conquered a major level of cohesiveness while giving room to diversification in a cleverly administered fashion. I anticipate that I regard this album as an authenric masterpiece of contemproary prog rock. 'All the Time' kicks off the album with uneasy keyboard layers that eventually give way to an excellent exercise on robust art-rock. The same layers serve as a intriguing epliogue for this track. A very good way to get started, preserving no mystery about the whole band's creativity or each individual musisican's skills. Then comes the namesake track, which is more obviously focused on the archetypical swing of jazz. The main motif follows a solidly sustained series of patterns, all of them elegantly adorned by Zappaesque ornaments that keep things refershingly surprising. The instrumental jams, while full of virtuosity, are sufficiently costrained as to keep the track right on track (ha!). In fact, there is an ethereal aura to the instrumental textures and phrases that come and go. This feeling only gest increased by the emergence of a dreamy marriage of guitar and keyboard layers all through the track's final minute: weird yet delicate this epilogue is, making you want to pinch yourself to check if your listening experience is not a beautiful delusion bue an amazing reality. These are moments when the family air shared by Frogg Café and Echolyn comes to mind (but of course, we are talking about two band with a distinct personality). 'The Celestial Metal Can' shows the band at their most bizarre. This is an inscrutable instrumental in which the casual and the formelss seem to jointly reign supreme in the kingdom of musical creativiy. The avant-garde post-modernist chamber thing that invades this track is not out of place since it is dedicated to the memory of musique concrete pioneer Charles Ives. Percussions based on iron pieces, random notes on guitar over-recycled through lots of tape effects, hermetic recitations, brass and violin sounds floating freely in a Dadaist structure created by machine-like sounds, and even some sonic lines emulating the topics of Middle East folklore, all of them create a powerfully challenging kaleidoscope where sound and image seem to converge into one source. This flow ends up landing solidly on a brief beautiful chamber section influenced by the likes of Varese. All this in a 8 1/2 minute span: a delicatessen for all true lovers of musical rebellion a-la Henry Cow. After this exhibition of cerebral trends, comes a catchier set of sounds, an exciting instrumental titled 'Gagutz'. This track sorts of combines the heritages of Pastorius-era Weather report and 70s Jean-Luc Ponty: a special mention has to go to violinist Ayasse, whose polished leads are really unbelievable... and they remain so with further listens. Not that guitarist Camiola should get ignored, a real Holdsworth thing he does in this one. All in all, it is the 21 minute suite 'Waterfall Carnival' which takes center stage in the album's repertoire (although not literalilly, since it is in the end). Starting with a melancholy mood led by the acoustic guitar, gradually things begin to get more explicitly intense while the synth and the violin gain a bigger relevance. The band behaves in a much relaxed way through the mood and tempo variations, which definitely helps the various motifs to join together in a complete whole. However, it would be fair to note down that below the variaion lies a recurrent evocative candor, only interrupted occasionally by the most abrupt shifts, but these ones are so well done that never get to break down the suite's fluidity. The final section finds the band turning things into their most patently Zappaesque side. "Creatures" is a real great recording. Although its follow-up "Fortunate Observer of Time" comprises a higher degree of sonic strength, "Creatures" surpasses it and its predecessor in terms of diversity, muscular vibe and compositional genius. So far, this is Frogg Café's finest hour (each and every hour of theirs is fine per se), and concerning the value of the album in itself, this is a genuine masterpiece. No good prog collection should skip this gem.
Report this review (#120671)
Posted Thursday, May 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars FROGG CAFE' started out as a ZAPPA cover band calling themselves LUMPY GRAVY.This is their second release called "Creatures". These guys really know how to play ! There is a lot of variety on this record and i'm more impressed with the liberal use of the mellotron.

"All This Time" opens with some strange sounds that bring to mind the albums title and the picture on the cover. Vocals come in almost 2 minutes in as we get some riffing and waves of mellotron. A tasteful guitar solo 5 minutes in followed a little later by some scorching guitar solos. Mellotron closes out this great opening track. "Creatures" is a very light and jazzy tune with fast paced vocals at times bringing to mind GENTLE GIANT.

"The Celestial Metal Can (In memory of Charles Ives)" is the weirdest song by far. Featuring many strange noises including a weedwacker hitting a metal can.There are voices, blocks of wood, sarod, strings and many more sounds. Not a much of a melody though. "Gagutz" is an instrumental. I love the Fripp-like guitar melodies in this one. Violin 3 minutes in as well as clarinet and trumpet. Great tune ! "Waterfall Carnival" is quite a ride at over 21 minutes in length. It opens quietly with acoustic guitar and vocals. We get some mandolin, flute, mellotron and classical guitar as the song builds. At 10 minutes in it sounds like the creatures are at it again. Organ comes in followed by mellotron 16 minute in as we then hear some beautiful guitar melodies.

I highly recommend this album. 4 solid stars.

Report this review (#123992)
Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars An all-around great offering of delicate, intricate, rocking, and experimental fusion. "Creatures" has a unique sound filled with eccentric effects, solid grooves, bizarre grooves, and great playing throughout. There is enough interesting musical ideas here to keep the listener occupied for many listens, each time finding some new hidden layer of sound to tickle the nerves.

"Creatures" is at its best when turning out it's often eccentric (but never silly) jams featuring the band's dynamic melodies and solo playing. All of the songs have a jazz feel which really makes them stand out and leave an impression; the use of alternate instruments-- like violin-- are put to good use. My only complaint is Lieto's bland vocals (which are otherwise great) during the final extended track.

Recommended to those seeking something jazzy and mellow yet engaging.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#130213)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
RPI / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars This was my introduction to Frogg Cafe, and what a meeting it was! I absolutely love Waterfall Carnival, the epic final track. All This Time, Creatures, and Gagutz are fabulous also. Celestial Metal Can is a bit harder for me to listen to. But one of the beauties of Frogg Cafe is that along with wonderful musicianship and engaging melodies/song structure, there is so much to discover on each subsequent listen. I highly recommend Frogg Cafe, and this is a great starting point. (The debut and Fortunate Observer of Time are wonderful also as an introduction.)

Four stars for this excellent example of Jazz Rock.

Report this review (#166404)
Posted Friday, April 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a solid effort from the erstwhile Zappa cover band Lumpy Gravy now known as Frogg Café. With the exception of The Celestial Metal Can which I understand is a tribute to Charles Ives the American experimental classical composer this album is a complete study in how to make good music. Not that this song is bad it is just too long. Some people may have the ability to listen to Firpp's soundscape over weed wackers all to the rhythm of spoons clacking but no thanks not for 8 minutes. However the good news is the other 44 minutes of this CD are brilliant.

Starting with the opening track All This Time and into the title track we hear that Zappa influence kick into some creative melodies and tight rhythms. Frank Camiola's guitar and Bill Ayasse's violin really shine here. Andrew Sussman and James Guarmieri keep the rest held to together. Nick Lieto's vocals are fitting here if nothing spectacular. Gagutz starts out with a great flute duet that moves into some more unusual musical harmonies. Still coming back to a reoccurring theme it all seem to work.

But the piece of résistance is the 21 minute Waterfall Carnival. In this number we find the real strength of the band in that you ccan play subtly for 21 minutres and make it interesting. No real bang you on the head moments but kind of airy flow through many changes and textures.

Lots of guest musicians to add color in the forms of clarinet, clarinet and marimba to add to the bands already large inventory of instruments gives the CD some welcome surprise sounds to the mix. Very light hand on the production as well. I really like this one and if you are a fan of Fusion, Zappa and Focus you will too. 4 Stars.

Report this review (#170922)
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars this band show us a mix of distinct influences (Frank Zappa, King Crinsom, Kansas, Gentle Giant etc...) In fact ,although slightly, we can feel this influence in the oppening of First Track with a guitar melody in the molds of F Z. , with a mellotron "``a la " King Crinsom in the background. The Second Track begins in a "happy hour" theme, which only breaks in the middle by a duet guitar/violin. The third track is experimental. The fourth track remember a Gentle Giant/Jazz Rock mix. The fifth track starts with a beautiful" tapestry" of acoustic instruments (6 and 12 acoustic guitars, mandolin & banjo) to conclude in a melody inspired in the best moments of the band Kansas, close this great disc in the perfect way !!! My rate is 4 stars
Report this review (#234598)
Posted Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Frogg Cafe from USA and their second offer Creatures released in 2003 is among my fav albums ever. Intricate, beautiful and smooth eclectic side of jazz with memorable arrangements. When I heared for the first time this album, I gues 5-6 years ago I was instantly hooked on their music, is so demanding, intellingent with passages that needs big attention with a wide fariety of influences from Gentle Giant, Happy the Man, Echolyn in places, even Zappa or Steely Dan, but the result is fantastic. The musicians plays with an amazing ease, for ex the first two pieces are absolutly killer and the best tunes Frog Cafe ever done, All this time and title track Creatures. Very complicated guitar parts, great voice, elegant and with smooth passages remind me a lot of Steely Dan albums from the'70s that sophisticated but yet accesible jazz. Even some symphonic prog moments to be found here specialy on the longest track . Waterfall Carnival but melted so well with jazz elements. So, one of the strongest albums ever coming from USA, to me is a pleasent ride that worth to be investigated for any serous prog listner. Great and 4 stars easy.
Report this review (#797334)
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Two years after their incredible debut, Frogg Cafe appear with a second privately-released album, entitled ''Creatures''.But this time they do receive some help, more specifically seven additional musicians help the American quinet on flutes, marimba, clarinet and vocals to complete a pallete that includes no less than 22 (!) instruments.The album was recorded at Captain Cabesa Studios in New York, taking advantage of Bill Ayasse's recording knowledge, as he was also the man behind the production and mix of the album.

The first impression is damn good.The style of Frogg Cafe seems somewhat expanded, delivering a charming Symphonic/Fusion Prog in the pair of opening tracks with long Mellotron introductions, dreamy keyboards and some lovely, intense interplays with a Canterbury edge.Smooth, but very technical bass lines and drumming accompany Ayasse's violin, Camiola's electric guitars and Nick Lieto's flexible, multi-influenced piano and keyboard themes, including inspirations from Jazz and Classical Music.The result is close to the likes of THE MUFFINS, FRENCH TV, HAPPY THE MAN and ECHOLYN from the more recent group.However the middle-placed ''The celestial metal can'' is a big questionmark.Rather pointless and deeply experimental, it relies heavily on sound effects produced by instruments, atonal material with an Ethnic edge and some sort of Chamber Music mood towards the end.I failed to get the point here.With ''Gagutz'' the group returns to a familiar Prog/Fusion with a light GENTLE GIANT influence and edgy violin parts akin to MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, while mid-70's PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI are definitely another decent comparison.Fiery electric guitars, scratching violins, grandiose trumpet solos and funky clavinets are set together in a very good instrumental piece.Fans of long, epic explorations won't be dissapointed either.The closing ''Waterfall carnival'' is over 20 minutes long and sounds like a nice tribute to US Prog of the 70's with echoes from MAELSTROM, HAPPY THE MAN and even KANSAS, offering pompous orchestrations, acoustic soundscapes and very dense Jazz/Fusion textures with strong interplays and outstanding solos.Very good flute, violin and keyboard work with vintage colors all around, highlighted by the comfort of the group to change tempos and moods.

I think that Frogg Cafe's debut was a bit more solid than this follow-up release, which I cannot do else than strongly recommend it.Fans of 70's-inspired complex Prog with a huge instrumental depth will love this from the first listening.Very good Progressive Rock with both jazzy and symphonic orientations...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1090132)
Posted Sunday, December 15, 2013 | Review Permalink

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