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4 stars THEO is a group to be reckoned with. Jim Alfredson, its leader, has been working since the beginning of this millennium on a jazz and blues side by bringing the Hammond, his instrument of choice. He worked alongside greats like Janiva Magness and Thornetta Davis. He returns to his prog sources with which he began at the age of 16 to deliver a sound border between nostalgia on reminiscences of King Crimson, ELP, Yes, Gentle Giant and especially Genesis of which he says he is a fan of the first hour. The now with epic songs like Beggar's Opera, Flower King or Spock's Beard and the place given to the keyboard as a reminder that it is the underground instrument which gave the letters of nobility to the progressive movement. "Pathology" symphonic intro zen just to bring a hard-heavy-prog sound to King Crimson, then break jazzy with synths and other keyboards; title on trepanation, the brutality of the sound referring to it with the notes; long, playful instrumental sequence which passes very quickly, a sign that Jim is indeed a virtuoso; very nice guitar solo which gives back the starting place to the keyboard. "Man of Action" on a personal view of his life in his native country, a figurehead as the album title suggests? the Pink Floyd intro is astonishing as in the opening of "The Trial"; then a basic tune which you have to wait for the synth solos to feel the emotion as at the halfway point where the nod to Genesis is quite palpable; Monolithic variation on the piano then reassembled with a more nervous guitar solo la Gilmour coming to put a little madness to this title where breaks follow one another without stopping. "The Garden" a more cheerful, playful title on the end of the disease, love as a cure; title giving the place of front- man to the keyboard, either in piano, or with its various more or less vintage synths; a track to listen to one evening for a well-deserved rest, the notes flowing in a limpid manner like a musical waterfall. "Portents & Providence" starts off with a Banks tune on "Duke", keyboard filling all frequencies; in the 2nd part a solo on the basis of "Domino" where we see his admiration, energetic rhythm with acoustic guitar and jazzy percussion, country moment then the keyboard and hard guitar solos which leave in controlled and energetic improvisation. From prog to keyboards, verses-choruses embellished with numerous nervous guitar solos, symphonic and classical keyboards, Tom McLean from Haken boosting two of the four titles, this is what you can attend, mixing genius tunes with emphatic tunes.
Report this review (#2463255)
Posted Friday, November 6, 2020 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars I didn't come across Theo's 2015's debut album, 'The Game Of Ouroboros', until five years after it release, and while it had some strong points, there were others where it felt just too commercial and bland for me. Now they are back with the second, and band leader Jim Alfredson (keyboards, lead vocals) has pulled together pretty much the same line-up with Gary Davenport (Chapman Stick, fretless bass) and Kevin DePree (drums, percussion) while guitarist Jake Reichbart here only features on two songs with Tom MacLean on the other two. Yes, this is just a four-track album, but they are all at least 10 minutes in length, with two about 15.

Right from the off, this hits with way more punch, as the gentle birdsong soon gives way to keyboards which lead into sweet guitar, just in time for MacLean to throw in some djent, Alfredson throws some leads over the top, and then when the vocals start they are harsh and we are off. It soon switches into something more melodic, but this is a ride from the start with loads of dynamics and contrasts. Whereas the first album dealt with the imbalance of power, this one was hugely impacted by the rise of authoritarian regimes, including of course Trump, "Each song represents a facet of our personalities. I believe we all have the potential for good and evil and sometimes the line between holding things together and falling off the proverbial cliff is very thin," Alfredson says.

Each song is very different, and the use of multiple keyboard styles and layers often lead the way, while the impact of the fretless bass is significant. It is a varied album, which has a modern progressive feel, as Alfredson mixes clear vocals, strong melodies, and musicianship in a very pleasant crossover approach which to my ears is a clear step up from the debut. Worth investigating.

Report this review (#2596826)
Posted Saturday, September 25, 2021 | Review Permalink

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