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The Flower Kings - Look at You Now CD (album) cover


The Flower Kings

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars I didn't even hesitate when giving this album a 5-star rating. This is one of the best albums from the Flower Kings out of a collection of many fine and great albums. The album presents the band at their finest. Excellent musicianship and high production values while offering up a very rejuvenated and refreshing sound make this album really stand out.

I thoroughly enjoyed every listening minute of the 13 tracks on the album that seem to flow quite seamlessly although they are, for the most part, individual songs. And though I love all the songs on the album, there are two songs I'd like to mention here. The first is the anthem "Day for Peace" which is too beautiful for words (you'll just have to listen for yourself) and the second song is, of course, the title track "Look at Your Now" which is a symphonic prog masterpiece in the vein of 1970's YES.

There are so many wonderful prog bands making really great music in the 21st Century. The Flower Kings are certainly one of them and I am so happy they continue to do so with great effect and honor to the genre.

Report this review (#2950411)
Posted Saturday, September 9, 2023 | Review Permalink
A Crimson Mellotron
3 stars The universe of The Flower Kings is limitless as it seems! I truly believe that at this point there could not ever be a bad album by this band, which for the record, has once again been reformed in a way. This time around the group is minus Zach Kamins, American keyboard player who contributed some very good sounds to the band's last couple of albums, whereas most keyboard duties are taken over by Roine Stolt himself, like in the good old days when he was basically responsible for almost everything happening on the albums (referring mostly to 'The Flower King', his solo album that spawned into the band). Jonas Reingold is now entirely replaced by no other man but Michael Stolt, the guy even provides some lead and backing vocals across the album! Then come, of course, Hasse Frobers and Mirko De Maio, the latest amazing drummer to join the ranks of the Kings, to put it plainly.

It seems incredible that the days when TFK are ardently releasing album after album every other year are back, but they have been incredibly active in the studio ever since they reunited in 2019, with this being their fourth album after the reformation of the band and sixteenth overall, a great achievement indicating the longevity and the legacy of the legendary Swedes. Truth be told, these latest albums have not been able to recapture the spark of the older releases, despite the fact that they sound extraordinarily well produced. The main reason for this could be the leaving of Tomas Bodin, their ex-keyboard maestro, or the fact that the band have been in fact trying to recapture this magical spark of the past, whereas none of their new ideas sound as revolutionary or vibrant as before.

'Look At You Now' clocks in at sixty-eight minutes in length and is comprised of ten new tracks, with the band continuing their exploration of the shorter song format, with most if not all of the songs clocking in at around five minutes. The album is packed with amazing sounds, beautiful melodies, fantastic instrumentation, all the aspects of a good TFK album. Some highlights have to be the opening track 'Beginner's Eyes', or the quite nocturnal and serene 'The Dream', quite glad they included this track on the album; 'Hollow Man' is no blunder, 'Mother Earth' sees Michael Stolt singing leads and delivering a new and interesting performance; 'Scars' and 'Stronghold' are quite enjoyable as well. The ending title track, also worth some eleven minutes of music, is a good attempt at the more epic song format the band is generally recognized for, although this one is far from the greatness of their epics of the near past. I could not really point out to any bad songs, the album as a whole is entirely enjoyable and celebratory, but the truth is that it does not bring anything new to the table. None of these last four albums now do, but this is not a problem. The band is going strong, their creative juices are flowing, and they continue to deliver great collections of songs full of flower power.

Report this review (#2952553)
Posted Sunday, September 17, 2023 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you have enjoyed the direction of the last three Flower Kings albums prior to this one, you will be quite pleased with this new offering as well. This is a natural extension of the recent previous offerings and is quite similar in style although perhaps a bit more consistent, which makes this one a bit of a step up. The songs remain for the most part fairly short with the title cut being the lone exception that exceeds 10 minutes in length. It is the last track and well worth the wait, a rather triumphant closer.

As I mentioned in my previous review of "By Royal Decree", TFK have an extremely diverse catalogue of music, often within each album which can tend to create a lot of hits and misses as to what the listeners will want to hear. While there continues to be considerable diversity in this new album as well - ballads to classic rock, some ambient spacey to psychedelic, a touch of jazz elements, and of course, progressive - there is a nice continuity that works well together. There are no misses in my opinion this time around. The success of the continuity may lie within the general theme of the album in that it takes a hard look at many of the problems facing mankind, but does so in a generally positive way, and holds out the olive branch of hope.

I also mentioned that I have had a love and hate relationship with TFK album art. I positively loved the last one. This one is quite unique. I am not sure that I actually like it, but it fascinates me, and I find it difficult to look away. Surely, if this is an indicator of what would lie ahead musically, we are in for an interesting ride! So then, some thoughts on the music.

Beginner's Eyes (4:37) This comes out of the gates featuring a rock style that has hints of a 60's style psychedelia feel with upbeat but irregular and unexpected notes and rhythms. The lyrics are catchy and singable, and the overall message is positive. A great start! BTW, the official video for this track features the cover art eyes, enjoy! (9/10)

The Dream (4:39) This track is an immediate contrast to the previous, and drops into ballad mode with effective synth base, gradually building and building, with emotive guitar work throughout the second half. These guitar leads are one of the great strengths of this band, and are so enjoyable. Again, uplifting lyrics, emotionally engaging. Well done. (9/10)

Hollow Man (5:02) This starts with a bit of a noir musical atmosphere that permeates throughout the track to greater and lesser degrees, and at some points even having a bit of a carnival like feel, yet it is only marginally whimsical, but rather is more serious in its overall atmosphere. Has a good lyrical build up towards the end. Enjoyable. (8/10)

Dr. Ribedeaux (3:04) The first instrumental track. A mid speed effort with guitar and keyboard exchanges that goes by very quickly. (8/10)

Mother Earth (4:18) Opening notes pull up the flavor of some of Queen's early guitar work, quickly followed by ascending keys, bass that pushes the song along. The lyrics are a solemn reminder of man's troubles, with a hope for a change in direction. At about 2:50 guitar solo takes control to a more emphatic vocal finish. Compelling. Lyrics refer to Father Sky, an upcoming track, hinting at how the songs are going to be intertwined, each being a piece of a bigger whole which elevates the unity of the album. (8/10)

The Queen (5:28) The second Instrumental. This one is a beauty! Starts with minstrel like acoustic guitar, builds into harpsichord like keys section, builds with soft electric guitar build up, very regal sounding, back to the harpsichord. Then the guitar soloing gains momentum and takes it to its conclusion. Very Symphonic. A high point of the album for sure. (10/10)

The Light in Your Eyes (5:48) A very powerful track with strong vocals, and memorable lyrics. Mid pace tempo but feels very driven like it can just take off at any moment into a full fledged rocker, but it stays just inside that boundary bordering just a bit with a psychedelic edge. Of note, Jannica Lund's backing vocals shine in this track nicely filling out the vocal range in this song. (9/10)

Seasons End (5:27) Another strong up tempo track opening with keys building into a hypnotic rhythm with effective drumming that all couches some of the best guitarwork on the album. The lyrics are memorable and the chorus sticks with you. This song too has a slight hint of the noir feel, but in a much more lively setting. (9/10)

Scars (5:29) This is a much darker, more cynical sounding piece. This track draws lyrics from the previous one, reconfirming that although many of the tracks are not that long that they are all part of a continuous experience. This will continue to occur in the songs to come. Some jazz flavor, but the rock stylings prevail, and the more intense vocals suggest the frustration that we all have with our inability to solve mankind's problems. (9/10)

Stronghold (6:46) Big powerful guitar opening, attention grabbing. Leaning toward the darker side again as demonstrated by the lyrics of 'following the rabbit down the rabbit hole?. Is there time to make the changes?' Medium paced with a tapestry of synths that catch the emotion of the subject. Another wonderful guitar solo starting around 4:30 to close it out. So good. (9/10)

Father Sky (3:08) This starts almost like a pop rock single, picking up the positive upbuilding vibe again in grand style. It grabs up themes and lyrics from the previous songs and nicely ties things all together. Given that it draws on the other songs it is best to hear this one in context, and yet, it could be a pretty good track for a single. (8/10)

Day of Peace (3:14) The second and last ballad. Again, picks up elements of previous tracks if you are listening for them. The lead vocal is shared with Marjana Semkina of Iamthemorning, what a lovely voice! This is just a beautiful song. More like this please! And it could be a bit longer too. (10/10)

Look at You Now (11:49) The closer, and a darn good one. Opening music and vocals have a definite Yes and Jon Andersen vibe which is okay with me. Within a couple minutes is moving into a more TFK wheelhouse kind of sound with strong guitar work over a power musical run. Gradually drops to an ambient section that begins the rebuild of the song. Tempo is more moderate, and the vocals become more prominent leading to a great positive uplifting finish. Beautiful guitar work lifts it all up and the final chorus is sing along memorable leaving the listener with new hope for the future. An extremely exciting and moving symphonic finish! (10/10)

In conclusion, this is a very good album, in my opinion the best of the last four. While there are a number of shorter songs, they are obviously tied together as something of a concept album which gives this album an overall theme and consistency that the others seemed to lack. The quality of the songs is very high. Kudos to TFKs for keeping the album shorter, at least by their standards, and not offering any filler tracks. This is a solid effort where every song has its place.

Is there anything incredibly new here? For those familiar with TFKs, probably not. But what is here is finely crafted, well produced, accessible, and yet has an impressive degree of complexity, and is obviously a labor of love. If you are not already a TFK fan, you may likely need to listen a few times for the music to fully unfold for you. But be assured, it will be a grower that you should really enjoy. Another solid 4+ effort by the Flower Kings that Is well worth adding to your prog collection.

Report this review (#2958269)
Posted Sunday, October 8, 2023 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars I still remember the impact Roine Stolt's fourth solo album had on me when it was released back in 1994, but I don't think even he ever imagined that nearly 30 years on he would still be with the band who were originally formed to play that music. Hasse Fröberg (vocals) sang on that, Michael Stolt (bass, vocals, keyboards, guitar) was in the original line-up and returned a few years ago, while drummer Mirko Demaio has now been in the role for five years and the line-up is completed by keyboard player Lalle Larsson (he only plays a few tracks here) who was with Roine in Karmakanic. As for Roine, he only provides vocals, guitar, keyboards and percussion on this one.

Does Roine understand how to produce a poor album? Probably not to be fair, no matter who he is working with, but there have undoubtedly been releases which have been overlong and needed serious editing to make them more palatable. However, either side of the six-year gap he appears to have that under control, and this sits happily as a follow-on to last year's 'By Royal Decree'. Last year's? Yes, The Flower Kings are back in the groove ? remember, their first 10 studio albums were released between 1995 and 2007, then they took five years off before another two, and this is their fourth in five. There is only one other act which I can think of which is that productive, so it is no surprise that in Neal Morse, Roine found a kindred spirit. Anyone looking for something dramatically different from The Flower Kings may be disappointed, but the rest of us will not as this is yet another incredibly enjoyable release which is instantly identifiable as Roine's work without even looking at the sleeve. Great songs, performances and vocals (both lead and backing), all with the swathes of keyboards and retro sounds and styles we have come to expect? Of course.

Roine may be 68 years old, but he is showing no sign whatsoever of slowing down, and in some ways appears to be speeding up! The album may be only slightly less than 70 minutes in length, but this never feels over-long as it allows to revel in the music on offer and again be firmly in the wonderful world The Flower Kings where they continue to deliver one essential album after another.

Report this review (#2961141)
Posted Friday, October 13, 2023 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I got off THE FLOWER KINGS bus after their 2007 album "The Sum Of No Evil" feeling at the time that they weren't getting better and all of their albums are inconsistent. I didn't know at the time that THE FLOWER KING bus actually pulled off the road when I got off. A five year break then releasing "Banks Of Eden" their highest rated studio album on here. Some months ago as I was going through my favourites from this band I noticed the praise for "Banks Of Eden" and found someone who had it, ordered it and well as a substitute I got the cd I'm reviewing now as they didn't have it in stock anymore.

This might be my favourite cover art of 2023, it's just so vivid, so striking. The music? Not so much. It is pretty cool that three of the four were on that Roine Stolt solo album "The Flower King" from way back in 1994. The drummer is new to me and I miss Salazar and there's no Reingold sadly but hey things change. My first impression was that this record was fairly pedestrian and maybe past date. That changed after some listens but this does not standup well to their 90' music and especially "Meet The Flower Kings" the live one from 2003 my favourite. This is adult contemporary Prog and so it's going to have it's fans but I just can't get into it. Vocals seem tired whether it's Roine or Hasse especially the first two tracks.

Twelve of the first thirteen tracks are surprisingly short in the 3 to 6 plus minute range with the closer hitting 12 minutes but I'm just underwhelmed by that title track that closes this record out. My apologies to all THE FLOWER KING fans out there, I really didn't intend to check out this band in 2023 after over 15 years of passing on them. This just isn't my kind of music.

Report this review (#2962556)
Posted Wednesday, October 18, 2023 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Flower Kings, it's fair to say, are a prog institution by this point. To put it in context, it's some 29 years since they formed as the touring group for Roine Stolt's The Flower King solo album; if you jump back to 29 years before that you reach 1965, still a few years before anyone recorded anything you could plausibly call prog.

In other words, the span of time when prog was a thing but the Flower Kings didn't exist yet is now smaller than the span of time when their music has been part of the prog landscape. Are there still Yes, Genesis, and Gentle Giant touchstones in their music? Yes, of course there is, but it feels like for a while now the group have primarily been working on the basis not of "Does this sound like our influences?" and more "Is this right for a The Flower Kings track?", and generally speaking that's led to good results. Is it really retro-prog any more when the primary thing the music reminds you of is the performers' own work?

That's certainly interesting to ponder here, an album recorded with a reduced lineup due to the band's personnel shifts since By Royal Decree. Zach Kamins, who's been on keyboards since Waiting For Miracles, and longstanding bassist Jonas Reingold are out, and in fact the full-time band is as narrowed-down and lean as it's ever been, consisting just of Roine, his brother Michael, Hasse Fröberg on vocals, and Mirko Demaio on drums.

As with Roine Stolt's Manifest of an Alchemist solo album (which was arguably a "Flower Kings by other means" project, coming out under the "Roine Stolt's The Flower King" name), I'm reminded of the solo work of his Transatlantic bandmate Neal Morse (albeit there's much less of a penchant for epics here), in part because of the influences from musical theatre and gospel, in part because this largely boils down to Roine being a multi-instrumentalist and the other core members and a plethora of guests providing key backing tracks.

This go around it works, but I don't know how long it can be sustained, especially if the gang want to do much in the way of touring. It's notable that whilst the brothers Stolt handle the bulk of the keyboards in Kamins' absence, Lalle Larsson does provide synths on two tracks (Dr. Ribedeaux and Scars), both of which benefit appreciably from Lalle's touch, and Larsson has now joined the group as their full-time keyboardist, so I will be interested to hear what comes of that particular adjustment. Larsson, of course, is the keyboardist from Karmakanic, part of the Flower Kings extended family, so it's perhaps no surprise that he's able to make useful, Flower Kings-y contributions fresh out of the gate.

For the most part, the album continues the tendency in the most recent run of Flower Kings material (from the end of the 2013-2018 hiatus onwards) to focus on shorter tracks, though the closing title track breaks the 11 minute mark - the first to do so since Tower One on Desolation Rose. Perhaps a return to the epic is in the offing? We'll just have to see then - but if I "look at you now", Flower Kings, I see a group which seems to be keeping up a healthy steam of momentum.

Report this review (#2978013)
Posted Friday, December 29, 2023 | Review Permalink
3 stars 'Look at You Now' is the sixteenth studio album by The Flower Kings. The album opens with the upbeat track "Beginner's Eyes." The following track, "The Dream," starts subdued and progressively crescendos, while maintaining serenity. The melody during the verse of "Hollow Man" reminds me of "Sympathy" by Rare Bird. The chorus is grandiose and contains magnificent vocal harmonies. The instrumental "Dr. Ribedeaux" features wonderful lead guitar playing from Roine Stolt and keyboard playing from Micheal Stolt. "Mother Earth" is essentially an apology from humanity to the Earth for our negligence towards the environment. Micheal Stolt sings lead vocals on "Mother Earth." He sings in an operatic style, and I quite like it. "The Queen" is another instrumental with an appropriate title, given the regal quality of the music. Mirko DeMaio's drumming on "The Light in Your Eyes" is excellent.

I like the trading vocals between Roine Stolt and Hasse Fröberg on "Seasons End." "Scars" and "Stronghold" are a bit forgettable, though both songs have climactic endings. I love the driving 7/8 rhythm of "Father Sky." My favorite song on 'Look At You Now' is "Day For Peace," which features Marjana Semkina of Iamthemorning. Both her and Stolt's vocals together are exquisite. DeMaio's marching snare drum is also a nice touch in the background. The eleven-minute title track closes the album. The music ebbs and flows from tranquil sections to more driving sections. The end of the closer references the opening track of the debut Flower Kings album, "World of Adventures." Which begs the question: Is this the Flower Kings' swan song? You would think, as it makes sense to end your career by bringing everything full circle, like they did here. If this is the final Flower Kings album, then they went out on a strong note.

Report this review (#2991492)
Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2024 | Review Permalink
4 stars After a long spell, I´m back to ProgArchives. I decided to start by the new Flower Kings album, Look at You Now, because I think this is really an important CD, at least for me. I must say I was not specially taken by the post Tomas Bodin FK albums . Islands (2020) for instance, is one I still find hard to relate. Its follow up did not move me much either, and I tended to think that the band lost something around the pandemic year. I wondered if the last great abum to bear the Flower King moniker was 2018´s The Flower King: Manifesto of An Alchemist, even if it is cited as a Roine Stolt solo album (but it is not, really).

It all changed with Look at You Now: although this record follows the group´s recent trend to keep on writing shorter songs, this CD has a freshness and energy I haven´t seen in any FK output for years. Superficially the new songs seem not as good as they really are, but upon listening to the album a few more times, I got the same feeling I used to when I heard their 90´s classics. The band is in great shape and it was a joy to hear those classic guitar lines, very much in the vein of Steve Howe, back into the tunes. Was it something to do with the chemistry of having brother Michael Stolt back in the group? did it help the songs turned out so much better and inspired?

Whatever the true reasons, the fact remains that this CD moved me like the Flower Kings used to. Of course it is not another Retropolis or Stardust We Are, but the spirit is back. It´s like they now don´t need to write an epic of sorts to make some point. In fact, the short songs sound just like they should. Look at You Now is like a mix of the "old" Flower Kings with the more concise stuff they´re writing lately. It seems they finally found the right balance and I hope they continue in this path. With no fillers and with an excellent flow, it´s a real nice surprise.

Final rating: something between 3,5 and 4 stars. It may not be essential, but it is more than just very good.

Report this review (#3053869)
Posted Wednesday, May 15, 2024 | Review Permalink

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