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Frogg Cafe - Fortunate Observer Of Time CD (album) cover

FORTUNATE OBSERVER OF TIME

Frogg Cafe

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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cmanhes@comne
5 stars After the excellentissime "Creature", I come to get their new opus to me: "Fortunate To observe of Time" which should charm the in love ones with fusions successful between progressive, symphonism and jazz. Swaying and nonchalant this album is an authentic wonder, it has a large heart like that! and which will require many listenings of you to seize of them all the many ones and rich digressions. It is necessary to listen to "Abyss of Dissension" to go to the obviousness: there are still groups which are not caught with serious while making the things very very seriously! (Excuse my bad English)

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#37139)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The first obvious feature of Frogg Café's third album is that it's more easily accessible than "Creatures" and this fact seduced me after the first two listenings to rate it a bit lower than the previous one. But surprisingly after several repeated spins it raised more and more in my appreciation and now I'd even like to say I prefer it to its admittedly a bit directionless predecessor. Overall they continue here in the vein of their debut and songs like "Waterfall Carnival" on "Creatures". That means elegiac guitar parts combined with weeping violin, nice piano lines, soft keyboard dots and a solid rhythm section. Nevertheless the aspect of oddity, humour and slight ZAPPA- reminiscence is not neglected at all as they show in the songs "You're Still Sleeping" and "Abyss of Dissension" which is clearly the best one of this album. Not to forget to mention that new guitarist Steve Uh presents a very convincing performance and a couple of well-done solos.

The opener "Eternal Optimist" might have some deterrent effect on most hardcore prog fans since it's a rather "mainstream" sounding song with a catchy melody and chorus line. But on the other hand there is this awesome violin and the final instrumental part sounds really interesting. Alltogether maybe the weakest track, but still rather good. First three songs appear almost as a rounded whole and there is an obvious improvement from one to the other. Both the title track and "Reluctant Observer" are excellent symphonic jazz-fusion tracks. Apart of the former one, which is kept all instrumental, it's quite striking that the portion of vocal parts is higher on this album than on the previous one. But since I don't have any problem with Nick Lieto's voice I don't take it as a drawback. "No Regrets" is a more slow-ish but excellent one with a brilliant trumpet section followed by a violin one which is once again fascinating. Most of the songs have been composed by Nick Lieto and unlike on their previous albums the slight impro-alike character has been almost disappeared. "You're Still Sleeping" is a brilliant blend of this cool type of sound and elements we use to know from some of Zappa's songs. As well an excellent one with awesome trumpet and violin. With Andrew Sussman's excellent composition "Abyss Of Dissension" they're proving that it's really not straight ahead music they're playing. Here lots of odd and humorous ideas have been put into action by trombones, guitar and marimba provided by guest Ed Mann (ex-ZAPPA band). Highlight is the multi-layered a capella part reminding a lot to GENTLE GIANT. Every now and then there are bits of cool bar jazz music providing a relaxed and casual feeling despite all weirdness. "Release" is closing the album in a classical inspired vein with a chamber music like string piece played by cello and two violins.

Frogg Café managed with their third release to create a very interesting and coherent prog album sounding more like a "mainstream" one at the first glance but just due to the perfect "rounded" composition. Only after a couple of spins it's revealing its full qualities to the listener and therefore it's worth for 4 ½ stars.

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#46003)
Posted Thursday, September 08, 2005 | Review Permalink
infandous@exc
4 stars The first thing I should point out is that I know most of the band members of Frogg Cafe very well, so my review may be slightly biased in that regard. But this album is, without a doubt, one of the best I've heard in 2005. If you like thinking music that still rocks, then this is for you. The way this band incorporates jazz, rock, classic prog, and even a slightly jammy element (thanks to guitar player Stevie Uh) is nothing short of impressive. They are all first class musicians, and music teachers all to boot. The album has a wonderful flow from start to finish, the only odd ball being Abyss Of Dissention (which is attributable to the fact that is is the only track not written by Nick Lieto). That track, written by bass player Andy Sussman, is one of the best prog epics I've heard in a long time. Incorporating funky grooves, hard prog in the vein of King Crimson, and even a multi part vocal round that would do Gentle Giant proud, this song has it all (in fact, Gary Green of Gentle Giant complimented the band on that very vocal part at NearFest when the Froggs played there this past year). The only suggestion I can make to prog fans is that they should give this album a try. If you like this one, work backwords and get the other two. If you like extremely well written prog, that is complex not for the sake of being complex, that wonderfully blends elements of jazz, classical and classic as well as modern prog, you can't go wrong with this album. Oh yeah, the vocals are excellent throughout, helped along by well written and thought provoking lyrics. Just get it, you won't be dissapointed.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#58909)
Posted Friday, December 02, 2005 | Review Permalink
Garion81
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Very innovative mix of Jazz, Avant/Experimental and Rock to make a very enjoyable listen. The album gets better to me each time I listen. I see this band in the same light as Helmet of Gnats and Umphrey's McGee maybe Bubblemath also but these guys are more Jazz/Fusion/Zappa and less Avant/Experimental than BM.

The first track is the weakest and might have been better off without a vocal part in it. It does have a great violin/ piano part in it towards the end though. The title song is a great example of the band at its best. Building themes and melodies with trumpet and violin it just flows along. My two favorites are Your Still Sleeping and Abyss of Dissention. The former has the best jazz moments even under the vocals and probably the most Zappaesque of all the tracks although the band is not scarred to throw a trademark Zappa lick in anywhere. The later has a great Gentle Giant harmony moment , as well as great Zappa one too, in it as well as some stellar work on keyboards, vibes and horns. Though these guys are all play with virtuosity to their credit no one stands out above the others. It all blends nicely together. Very nice use of varied intruments such as Vibes, Horns and violins to provide different colors to each section.

I find Frogg Café to be growing on me every listen. I cannot wait to see them live in May 2007 at Calprog! For fans of Fusion and Zappa 4 stars!

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Send comments to Garion81 (BETA) | Report this review (#117417)
Posted Thursday, April 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Frogg Café embryo was born in 1998 as a Frank Zappa cover band called Lumpy Gravy performing Zappa's difficult music on Long Island and New York City. In 2000, the band was in transition and found a new beginning with the addition of percussionist James Guarnieri to the band. At this point, the band changed its name to Frogg Café and started to perform original music with a host of discernable influences in their sound such as Zappa, Yes, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Focus, Genesis, and even the more avant-garde styles. The members of this unique group are Nick Lieto (vocals, keyboards, trumpet), Steven Uh (guitars), Bill Ayasse (violin, mandolin), Andrew Sussman (bass), and James Guarnieri (drums). All of the members of Frogg Café are university trained in music. In this album, the band brings in seven additional musicians including ex Frank Zappa's percussionist Ed Mann on the 15-minute epic Abyss of Dissension.

Having enjoyed two albums of Frogg Café I can confirm that their music blends elements from many styles like progressive rock, classic rock, jazz & improvisation, driving melody lines, angular harmonies, modern chamber music and avant-garde into a cohesive listening experience. IN this album, you might hear influences from Zappa, Gentle Giant, Kansas, King Crimson, Phish even from jazz musicians like Chuck Mangione, Deodato, Miles Davis, etc.

Let's have a look in great details .

The album opener Eternal Optimist starts off wonderfully with powerful and catchy voice of Lieto combined with excellent melodies and music harmonies. This is for sure a song-oriented composition that blends the sounds of seventies classic rock (with bands like Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroad, or Cactus) with jazz rock, pop, and progressive rock. The meaty guitar licks of Steve Uh characterizes the style of this opening track. The music flow is floating steadily and moving from one style to another with relatively smooth transition.

Fortunate Observer of Time begins with a beautiful exploration of violin and cello works that remind me to David Cross work (as solo artist ond as member of King Crimson) combined with solid bass lines and stunning guitar. This instrumental track casts a jazzy nuance. The trombone solo in the middle of the track reminds me to the flugelhorn-based music of Chuck Mangione. Reluctant Observer is a great track with loads of intricate piano/guitar/violin/cello interplay augmented with excellent bass lines of Andy Sussman and the intricate drumming by James Guarnieri. Style-wise, this track provides us with tons of fusion groove. Lieto demonstrates how he has advanced himself as an excellent lead singer as his voice unifies melody and pop sensibilities. Ayasse's violin work gives the Kansas nuance as the violin sounds like Robby Steinhardt's. It's a wonderful track!

No Regrets starts with a moderately complex music that moves smoothly and brings us to a quieter passage where Lieto's voice enters the music augmented with piano touches. Tempo-wise, it's slower than the previous track. You might sense the similarity with Kansas music. The flugelhorn solo in the middle of the track played by Lieto is really good. Resign is a one-minute track that features powerful voice quality of Lieto backed with violin work. It continues almost seamlessly to You're Still Sleeping where I can sense the nuance of Echolyn music with great jazzy vocals. The piano touches that accompany the singing part is really stunning. This relatively long song (approx 10 minutes) is moderately complex in arrangement combining great work of violin, piano and guitar. Yes, there is some thin influence of Kansas but interestingly it is composed on top jazzy music textures. During transition piece, I can sense the influence of Chick Corea's Return To Forever. The combination of bass work and piano is really awesome. It's a great composition that favors those of you who like jazz-fusion style.

I think the album highlight is the approximately 15-minute epic Abyss of Dissension which starts off with long sustain notes of brass section followed with very nice funk / groove music with solid bass lines that flows wonderfully with brass section. This track is I think accessible (at least at the opening part) in addition to the album opener. Most of you would enjoy how great the harmonies created by brass work, vocal and accompanying music. The track also contains latin music elements with its specific percussion work. The electric guitar solo is really stunning - it has a flavor of Carlos Santana's style. This track is written by bassist Andy Sussman and also features former Frank Zappa vibes/marimba player Ed Mann. Of course I cannot forget the excellent combination of wah-wah guitars, thick horn section and vibes. It's really a rewarding epic to enjoy! The concluding instrumental Release is an atmospheric piece with flutes (played by Sharon Ayasse), Sussman's cello, and violin. It's explorative in nature.

Overall, Fortunate Observer of Time is a true gem as it has a very unique sound that blends many elements of various music styles. Musically, it is melodic, tasty - with memorable segments, composed in relatively complex structure and it's explorative in nature. It's a recommended album.

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#121005)
Posted Monday, May 07, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars There seems to be a theme to this record that deals with different people living their lives in different ways.This one is more accessible than "Creatures" and they have added a new lead guitarist in Steve Uh. In the liner notes the band thanks HAPPY THE MAN, MIRIODOR, Mike Kenneally, MAN ON FIRE and LITTLE ATLAS. I can tell you that the music that these guys create makes me feel so good. Again there are so many instruments that are used on this recording including many special guests.

"Eternal Optimist" reminds me of KANSAS and that's even before the violin comes in. The vocal / guitar melody that is the backbone of this song sounds beautful. I can't help but sing the chorus as well. The violin comes in around 4 1/2 minutes in followed by piano. A great track that is quite catchy. "Fortunate Observer Of Time" is an instrumental with some great violin / guitar interplay. The drums join in followed by a bass / trombone melody (bet you don't read that very often), as drums keep a jazzy beat. "Reluctant Observer" is a little darker than the first two songs. Vocals come in after 2 minutes and the chorus is great. We get some marimba in this one and again the guitar and violin melodies are excellent throughout.

"No Regrets" has the focus square on the vocals although we get a 3 minute instrumental interlude that includes a trumpet solo followed by a violin solo. "Resign" is a short mournful track. "Your'e Still Sleeping" opens with piano and vocals. We're grooving 3 minutes in to a fantastic melody. Even congas are featured on this one and another trumpet solo. The vocals return before 8 minutes. "Abyss Of Dissension" features the former percussionist for Frank Zappa, Ed Mann playing vibes and marimba. This song gets sort of theatrical on us 4 1/2 minutes in followed by a terrific extended guitar solo around 7 minutes in. The vocal arrangements recall GENTLE GIANT after 9 minutes. Scorching guitar and theatrical vocals follow. "Release" is an instrumental with violin and some flute melodies for the first time on the album.

I am really impressed with this band and this record is a very entertaining listen.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#133861)
Posted Sunday, August 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Fortunate Observer of Time" is the third studio effort by Frogg Café, one of the best exponents of contemporary USA's prog rock. This is the first album with guitarist Steve Uh (who also does some input on keyboards and violin), and in comparison with the preceding masterpiece "Creatures", this album is less challenging. By no means am I pointing out that this album is lighter or more simplistic, but the very fact that this refurbished line-up decided to work more meticulously on the consistency of the repertoire's melodic drive and nuances than on a complete exercise on the eclectic potential of the prog genre (that is how one can describe "Creatures" in a nutshell). This initial description is not supposed to mislead you - "Fortunate Observer of Time" is an excellent opus that continues to dignify enormously the lessons learned by the band during their Zappa-covering years. The opener 'Eternal Optimist' bears an accessible vibe, although the typically progressive complexity is there, particularly in the crafty rhythmic development that states some 7/8 tempos in the recurrent 4/4 pattern, as well as the use of somewhat weird chord progressions in the keyboards' basis. It sounds like Hands with a slightly augmented dose of American blues-hard-rock. The title track is an instrumental in which the musicians display more patently their jazz-rock leanings with touches of Gentle Giant and Happy the Man: the main motif bears a certain eeriness, but all in all, the ensemble's energy allows the melodic development fill the atmosphere properly and exquisitely. 'Reluctant Observer' provides an augmentation in the sonic energy, which is quite adequate for the sort of solemnity inherent to the track's compositional structure and arrangements. The experimental vibe of 'Reluctant Observer' is inspired by 69-73 Zappa and Happy the Man, with slight yet noticeable hints to a softened version of Univers Zero. This track is less explicitly pompous than it may seem through these words, but it definitely has a sonic majesty that makes it more magnificent than the two previous tracks. Magnificence remains a strong rule with the next track 'No Regrets', a track that perfectly combines the fully orchestrated feel of track 3 and the overtly jazzy dynamics of track 2. The successive horn and violin solos that emerge during one of the instrumental interludes have to be some of the most exciting moments in the album. 'You're Still Sleeping' is one of the album's two epics. Preceded by a beautiful brief song entitled 'Resign', 'You're Still Sleeping' states an effective linkage of well-written motifs that wander through assorted schemes: Mahavishnu-meets-RTF jazz-rock, Latin-jazz, even some form of chamber rock heavily infected with jazzy undertones. 'Abyss of Dissension' is designed to catch the listener's attention in a special way near the end. It is the loudest track in the album, it provides the arguably catchiest motif on a Zawinul-esque sort of way, it features evidently Zappa-esque treatment of the various climaxes that emerge along the way. this track represents a sort of culmination that the attentive listener has been expecting from track 1. Uh's leads are simply phenomenal, but again, the whole ensemble works phenomenally through the variety of fluid funky-jazz, flamboyant big band and pompous art-rock passages that go on through a carefully ordained sequence. The album ends with a piece of soft chamber rock featuring two violins, cello and perhaps some woodwind that might as well be an emulating keyboard. The piece is soft but the compositional drive isn't: the cadence is playful, consistently based on dissonant progressions that settle an ethereal disturbance. A weird yet delicate ending for a great album, one of the greatest from 2005 - Frogg Café rules!

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#182943)
Posted Saturday, September 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars FORTUNATE OBSERVER OF TIME is a very ambitious album,where some very,very skilled musicians are exposing their huge talent for something that will plenty satisfy even the most pretentious listeners!FROGG CAFE is a band without any musical boundaries and they are like the fish in the water in this album!The band started like a FRANK ZAPPA tribute band,so you can realise thet there are some influences of the BIG Z on this album,but especially the highh level of musicianship that the guys have!Yes and no about ZAPPA's influences,I think that are more prog rock a la ECHOLYN or LAND OF CHOCOLATE..maybee some FINNEOUS GAUGE too.Others may say that HAPPY THE MAN shadow is present too.It doesn't matter the influences of he band,what they offer here is a very pleasant and strongly musical album! NICK LIETO has a very expressive and natural voice and he is very well placed with the vocal parts in the middle of some long instrumental passages sometimes.ABYSS OF DISENSSION and YOU'RE STILL SLEEPING together with RELUCTANT OBSERVER are 3 fantastic songs of 10 minutes each aproximatelly and this says about the complexity of FROGG CAFE's music,which goes from spontaneous and almost live instrumental demonstrations to very complex arrangements,from prog rock to jazz end even world music.This album is offering an hour of pure delightement and it's an ear candy for both lovers of prog rock and fusion music! This is the perfect example how virtuosity can fit perfectly well with interesting ideas and a very gifted vocalist!I think that FROGG CAFE can express themselves better in the instrumental direction,because they have somany rich ideas and the compositions are so strong and well done,a vocalist is sometimes more than enough! Excellent album!4 STARS well deserved!

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Send comments to Ovidiu (BETA) | Report this review (#259420)
Posted Tuesday, January 05, 2010 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Fortunate observer of time the natural follow up of Creatures from 2005 is another worthy album of this excellent band, but this time the album is even more rooted in jazz realm with lots of woodwind sections and un traditional instruments. The violin from here remind me of some Dixie Dregs passages but without that country meets jazz rock arrangements. This is a good album, but somehow fail to impress me as did Creatures, maybe because is to long and at some point I begun to lose intrest. Never the less some excellent passages are present here like on Reluctant Observer , complex, quirky passages, jazzy , eclectic all is here. Even is considered by many better then previous one, to me Creatures is the absolutly best Frogg Cafe album ever and the most intresting one in every aspect. 3 stars is best I can give, good but nothing more.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#797339)
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 | Review Permalink

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