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The Flower Kings - Waiting for Miracles CD (album) cover


The Flower Kings

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars A measure of how much I enjoyed this album is that I over generously awarded it 5 stars after I first listened to it. Now I've had more of an opportunity to let it settle in my head I realize that 4 stars is a bit more appropriate. It reverts in musical style back to the period of the band I enjoyed the most, which was that period of the early 2000's when the band made albums like Space Revolver, that featured divided themes, orchestral songs, shorter duration songs and more melodic tunes.

Two things have changed with the band. Like Jeff Lynne whose name precedes the ELO name of his band, The Flower Kings is now more a personal vision of Roine Stolt, so a great individual keyboard artist in Tomas Bodin has been shut out of the band. In a way this is a good thing as hopefully now we get to enjoy Tomas Bodin more as a solo artist and Roine is free to pursue a different direction with other musicians. Secondly, long songs that run over 20 minutes, such as Numbers, off Banks Of Eden, or Love Is The Only Answer off Sum Of No Evil, have been relegated in favor of shorter songs of no more than about 10 minutes, a trend which began with Desolation Rose. You get the same amount of music on a Flower Kings album, but the music is more cleverly spread over two CD's (thus saving any need to provide bonus material on the second CD).

The main heart of the album are the 10 songs lasting about an hour on the first CD. The opening song, House Of Cards is a quiet piano instrumental passage beginning with synthesized bird sounds and finishing with mellotron and more synthesizer. In the House Of Cards reprise which opens the second CD the piano is swapped with guitars that play the main theme with more energy. Also on CD2, Spirals, which ends with banjo, is like a rhythmic subsection of the up tempo guitar piece, Miracles For America on CD1, which opens with the organ. Steampunk on CD2 is a cacophony of synthesizers, guitars and chorus voices that retrace the main theme from Miracles For America building into a grand finish with Roine Stolt's singing. We Were Always Here on CD2 is enjoyable on it's own as an encore piece with a Latin American drum beat and some nice Roine Stolt guitar soloing, while the last song on the album, Busking At Brobank, is what it is, a short street acoustic guitar.

Back to CD1, Black Flag is a short epic of around 7 minutes which begins with acoustic guitar then builds up tension through the chorus of voice and electric guitar, has a bridge of organ and electric piano before it transposes into the main guitar theme, then slows down into acoustic guitar and ascending electric guitar before slowing down again into synthesizers and spoken voice. Vertigo is possibly the best song on the album with catchy chorus and Hans Froberg on electric guitar and singing the main theme and Jonas Reingold prominent on bass throughout. It's the guitar work on Vertigo that I felt was missing on Banks Of Eden and Sum Of No Evil. Ascending To The Stars is an orchestral piece which I think the band last attempted on Space Revolver. The strings are complemented by guitars and synthesizers with a march theme in the middle and choruses and guitars at the finish. Wicked Old Symphony is a change in pace to a dance like beat on drums and some typical Roine Stolt singing and guitars which tail away at the end. That's followed by an instrumental guitar piece in Rebel Circus and another solid Stolt song in Sleep With The Enemy. More wonderful guitar playing on the last track on the first CD, The Crowning Of Greed.

I really thought I would miss Tomas Bodin on this album, but I don't. Zach Kamins does a more than adequate job of replacing Bodin, while Mirko DeMaio is less jazzy than previous drummers but really drives the music forward with his drum fills. This album continues the trend of Desolation Rose with shorter songs and is up there with some of the best Flower Kings albums such as Space Revolver and Stardust We Are.

Report this review (#2285436)
Posted Wednesday, December 4, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Back with the first Flower Kings album in six years, one immediately notes that long-time keyboard player Tomas Bodin is no longer with the band. He was an original member of the band, playing on the debut 'Back In The World of Adventures' back in 1995, and every release since, so I was very surprised to see him missing as he has been a key part of the sound since the beginning. This led me to do some quick checking of personnel and I was pleased to see other long-time members Hasse Fröberg (vocals) and Jonas Reingold (bass) still there alongside Roine Stolt (guitars, keyboards, ukulele, vocals). They have now been joined by Zach Kamins (keyboards, glockenspiel, guitar, Theremin, harmonium) and drummer Mirko DeMaio.

The Flower Kings will always have a special place in my affections, as I still remember being sent the solo album by the ex-Kaipa guitarist almost 30 years ago now, and the impact it had on me, never thinking it would lead to a full band. In addition, it was the first concert I ever took my youngest daughter to (and the photo of her at that gig, taken by the official tour photographer, appears at the end of Volume 3 of The Progressive Underground). I absolutely adore their music, and always look forward to each album, but always with just a hint of doubt. The reason for this is that Roine likes long songs and long albums (this one is well over 80 minutes in length), and it doesn't always work. There are times in the past where I have bemoaned the lack of an outside set of ears and the willingness to cull minutes of music from a song and make it more direct. However, the more recent albums have seen a much more focussed approach (even if no shorter), so what is this like?

Over recent years Roine has been working with other musicians and solo, and this is the first official new Flower Kings album since 2013's, 'Desolation Rose', with a new keyboard player to boot (I think there have been six or seven drummers over the years so they can obviously survive those changes). But, with Roine obviously very much in control, Hasse Fröberg still in fine voice and Reingold playing his normal set of different basses, adding the right sound where he needs to, I really shouldn't have worried. This is classic Flower Kings, as if they had never been away and as if Bodin was still there. Harmony vocals, lush sounds, layering of instruments, plenty of hooks and plenty of time for musicians to extend themselves without ever moving too far into the area of proving just how clever they are, this is an album any proghead will sit back with and smile.

The first time I listened to this I played it on headphones (always best with these guys I find) and just drifted along on a progressive wave, thoroughly enjoying the experience and never once wondering why they yet again weren't using an editor to cut back on their more over the top moments. Delicate when they need to be, rocky when the time is right, The Flower Kings are back with a wonderful release which is going to make them new friends with the old ones more than happy. Let's just hope we don't have to wait so long for the next one.

Report this review (#2352511)
Posted Saturday, April 18, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars 𝗔 𝗦𝗮𝗳𝗲 𝗙𝗹𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿 𝗞𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗔𝗹𝗯𝘂𝗺

The closest thing to a safe Flower Kings album for sure, I do really like this album but it is way more (I know I'm using this word a lot) safe than any other Flower Kings album. The vocals are very good, the production is great, but the songs are much shorter, there are no real complex instrumental passages, and there are no epics. Even the other safe album by the band (The Rainmaker) has an epic (Road To Sanctuary). There are a few songs that sound like some of their older material, such as "We Were Always Here" which reminds me of material off Stardust We Are, and "Sleep With The Enemy" sounds like a piece off "Desolation Rose". There are some songs that are quite unique, that I actually find are some of my favourites in their catalogue. Songs like "Spirals", "We Were Always Here", and "The Bridge" are their more unique, yet amazing, some of my favourite songs by the band. Anyways, this album is really good but it's not as experimental as any of their other albums, and it's much more safe. Still strong but just not up to par with some of their best material.

Report this review (#2418119)
Posted Wednesday, July 8, 2020 | Review Permalink
3 stars Honestly, I hate to be the one to say it but I find this album to be kind of boring. A few really great tracks and a bunch of filler. For the amount of times I have listened to this album I find nothing on this album to be top tier Flower Kings material, except one song, "We Were Always Here" which has a clear throwback to albums like Stardust We Are and give us that nostalgia. Unfortunately, the singles released for this album were the best tracks (besides one other) on the album "Black Flag", "Miracles For America", and "Wicked Old Symphony". I do enjoy "Sleep with the Enemy" because it provides a nice and refreshing side of Hasse Fröberg's voice we don't often get to hear. Unfortunately, the longest song on the album "Vertigo" is vocally fantastic but musically not something I'm too happy with.

I would love to go track by track on this album to give my final score, but I honestly don't have the motivation to provide one on this album. I still think this album is good, but many many many times far from a top tier Flower Kings record.

I will give a track by track analysis, but edited in later. For now, I say between 2.5 and 3 out of 5 stars. Best I can really do.

Report this review (#2474919)
Posted Wednesday, November 11, 2020 | Review Permalink
A Crimson Mellotron
3 stars The Flower Kings' 2019 return must be seen as quite a happy event in the [not so small] world of prog rock, some six years after their last release, one of the most celebrated and productive modern prog bands pleased their followers with a two-disc set of entirely new music, titled 'Waiting for Miracles'. The title itself hints that the band might be referencing the weird state of the world this album happens to be born in, with much tumult and stress gradually penetrating the lives of people - happily, these Swedish gods of symphonic prog offer a collection of uplifting songs that present a different perspective, a more hopeful and beautiful one. We should also note that this new album is strikingly different from the couple excellent releases that came before it in the period 2012-13, that were dominated by a much darker and introverted atmosphere (that is charming in a much different way, of course). Additionally, not only does the band present a sonic shift, but also a line-up one: longtime keyboard maestro Tomas Bodin had left the band, for reasons not necessarily disclosed (but most likely based on creative collisions with the rest of the crew), to be replaced by American player Zach Kamins, a dedicated and talented fan of the band; German drummer Felix Lehrmann had also parted ways with the Kings, leaving the stage to newcomer Mirko De Maio from Italy, another interesting addition to the five-piece band.

So, the big question is, and this has to be valid both for people who are well aware of TFK's catalogue and for music lovers that are eager to explore something new: Why is this album worth my attention? Well, from one side, it is incredibly eclectic - the band venture on to the realms of classical music, free improvisation, electronica & electronic rock, suspenseful prog, and even, joyous flowery pop, so what's not to like about an album that present so many different moods, sounds, and types of songs? As for the lengths of the composition, the listener might either get a 10-minute mini-epic or a 5-minnute instrumental, it is all in there. Another positive of 'Waiting for Miracles' is that it is so uplifting - as mentioned before, this album is a departure from the sound that The Flower Kings last presented with 'Desolation Rose' in 2013; Now it seems like their world is more carefree, more approachable, more easily enjoyable. And another interesting aspect of this 2019 release is that it is quite a memorable one, despite the variety of the songs, and the sometimes-complex instrumentation, the songs just stay in your head, whether you like them or not. However, I truly believe that this is an album of which every single listener can make up something - a meaning, a connection, an interpretation, a criticism, an association; It is an album that allows you to tune in to it and to analyze it, without putting pressure on you. It is an easy-going and welcoming album, and once again, this is on the premise that you might end up loving it, hating it, or just appreciating it for what it is.

Some highlights from 'Waiting for Miracles' would certainly include the epic 'Black Flag', with the gradual build-up of expectation, the catchy 'Miracles for America', the romantic ballad-type song 'The Bridge', the instrumental 'Ascending to the Stars', 'Sleep with the Enemy', another great song by the band, or even the more cosmic and dreamier 'Spirals' from side two. But please do not disregard the rest of the record as unworthy of mention or anything of this sort because there really are no band songs or compositions, you could really have any track as your favorite, and this has to be one of the strengths of The Flower Kings' 2019 offering. Still, it is a record on which the core of the band get familiar with the new kids on the block, and sometimes the results might not be as 'epic' as the listener familiar with the band's previous output might expect, indicating that there are stronger LPs in their discography.

Report this review (#2671070)
Posted Monday, January 10, 2022 | Review Permalink

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