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Thieves' Kitchen

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Thieves' Kitchen The Water Road album cover
3.65 | 92 ratings | 20 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Long Fianchetto (21:01)
2. Returglas (4:12)
3. Chameleon (9:00)
4. Om Tare (7:44)
5. Tacenda for You (9:34)
6. When the Moon is in the River of Heaven (7:46)
7. Plaint (2:35)
8. The Water Road (11:13)

Total Time: 73:05

Line-up / Musicians

- Amy Darby / vocals, recorders (1,8), harp (7), clarinet & spoons (2), Theremin (2,3), percussion
- Phil Mercy / guitar, backing vocals, co-producer
- Thomas Johnson / keyboards, co-producer
- Andy Bonham / fretted & fretless (1,3,5,6,8) basses
- Mark Robotham / drums

- Anna Holmgren / flute (1-3,5,6,8)
- Paul Beecham / oboe (3,8), soprano saxophone (3)
- Stina Petterson / cello (1,7,8)
- Mattias Olsson / loops (3)

Releases information

Artwork: Amy Darby & Phil Mercy (photo)

CD self-released - TKCD004 (2008, UK)

Thanks to progmap for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THIEVES' KITCHEN The Water Road ratings distribution

(92 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(48%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

THIEVES' KITCHEN The Water Road reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by erik neuteboom
4 stars

I had never heard of this UK formation when I got Thieves' Kitchen their new album entitled The Water Road, the fourth studio album since their debut-CD Head from 2000 and their latest effort Shibboleth from 2003. Well, listening to The Water Road the music often reminds me of Anglagard because of the frequent powerful Hammond organ runs and the abundant violin-Mellotron eruptions. When I read the booklet I discovered the reason: two guest musicians Thomas Jonson (keyboards) and Anna Holmgren once they joined ... the legendary and highly acclaimed progrock band Anglagard, what a pleasant surprise! Along those King Crimson inspired bands like Anglagard and Anekdoten, we can also enjoy mellow parts with classical overtones (flute, hobo, cello) and dynamic jazzrock featuring a guitar sound in the vein of Daryl Stuermer and an omnipresent Fender Rhodes electric piano.

This great musical variety is very present in the epic first composition The Long Fianchetto (over 20 minutes) delivering a wonderful piano intro, strong interplay between electric guitar and Fender piano, bombastic Hammond and Mellotron work, fiery guitar runs, dreamy parts with beautiful female vocals, flute and acoustic guitar and a compelling final part with lush keyboards, fiery guitar and a propulsive rhythm-section. The frequent shifting moods sound very flowing and I am delighted about the tasteful keyboard arrangements, often in strong interplay with the guitar. Next the instrumental Returglas, an exciting blend of folk, rock and prog that contains lots of interesting musical ideas, a big hand for Thieves' Kitchen! Then the dreamy Chameleon with a lush instrumentation (from saxophone and hobo to Hammond organ) and a beautiful grand finale featuring majestic violin-Mellotron and howling guitar. The track Om Tare (lyrics in Sanskrit) sounds like swinging 'symphonic jazzrock (evoking Colosseum II) with excellent keyboardplay and sensational guitarwork. The long, violin-Mellotron drenched composition Tacenda For You (close to 10 minuts) alternates between mellow (with flute and cello), compelling and catchy with again great keyboard variety and strong guitarwork (from Fripperian to a powerful jazzrock sound). Next the the song When The Moon Is In The River Of Heaven: first a moving atmosphere with sensitive guitar, violin-Mellotron, warm vocals and Fender piano, then mighty Mellotron waves and a dreamy climate that gradually turns into more lush and compelling featuring delicate Fender piano, flute and the unsurpassed Mellotron. Then the short, to me a bit too fragmentic track Plaint. The final composition is the long The Water Road, mainly quite laidback (in the vein of the beautiful Italian 'pastoral' prog like Celeste and Apotheosi) with a dreamy sound of flute, cello, hobo, halfway followed by more powerful work on Hammond, Mellotron and Fender piano. Then the music slows down but in the final part the music turns into bombastic and compelling with fiery electric guitar, fluent drum work and lush violin-Mellotron, a splendid goodbey!

I am impressed by the alternating sound of Thieves' Kitchen on their new album The Water Road, this is very interesting new progrock!

P.s.: After writing this review I noticed that this album is categorized in Neo-Prog. Well, Neo-prog haters (I know many are around here on PA), don't look the other way because The Water Road obviously scouts the border between symphonic rock and jazzrock, there is not a single 'neo-prog note' on this new Thieves' Kitchen CD!

Review by avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A Beautiful Road

The Water Road, the 4th album by Thieves' Kitchen and the second one I get to listen to after Argot, is a beautiful album with fantastic crystal clear sound to it, making it clear the amount of work put into it. I'll quote a short text from the band's website to illustrate this point: "Meticulous attention to detail has been evident at all stages of the making of this album, and the mixing and mastering processes were no different. In particular, listeners will find that the album has been mastered to preserve the dynamics in the performances and compositions, something that we're seeing shamefully less and less of in these days of 'brickwall limiting'." All I can add to this is that the album sound lucid and clear, with all the instruments being heard well in the mix and that adds a lot to the listening experience which is already highly enjoyable due to the music itself. They also wisely incorporate other instruments such as flutes (one of them played by another former Anglagard member, Anna Holmgren), a saxophone and an oboe. Those serve to add to the already existing rich sound of this album.

The opener, 'The Long Fianchetto' is a fabulous dream-like sounding piece with some tougher sounding guitars and superb sounding keyboards performed by Anglagard's keyboardist Thomas Johnson (there are occasional appearances of his "Anglagardian" sounding days here). The tune is appeasing even when becoming more dynamic and loud (though never too much for me); the opening segment lasts for about 7 minutes until the blissful voice of Amy Darby starts singing. Her voice is perfectly suited for this magnificent music, perfectly blending with all the instruments creating heavenly harmonies that are pure joy. The keyboards create an ethereal soundscape, a mesmerizing and delicate accompaniment for the melody to roam quietly with. However, not everything is going so peacefully; there is some energy injected into this water road, as the guitar and keyboards collaborate to create a loud and faster part, augmented by the efficient bass playing. This balances out very well the preceding part and all in all you get an equilibrated piece that goes back and forth between these pieces of the road. This song alone makes it worth getting the album; but it's by no means the only song to give this impression.

The album has a distinct sound to it, with variations here and there in the form of, for example, Returglas which has a distinctly folk/eastern-Eurpoean rhythmic vibe to it. However it still sounds very much like a Thieves' Kitchen piece, with their very good musicianship, and the incorporation of "classic" sounding prog-rock (which will be evident to the listener from the keyboards part). Om Tare, which is apparently sung in Sanskrit, is a great rocky tune with effective riffing, sometimes countered and sometimes joined by Amy's singing. This is a great dynamic track which breaks the general slower and ponderous characteristic of the album. Aside from these, and returning to the distinct sound of the album, the other songs such as Chameleon and Tacenda For You are fine and well accomplished examples of their pensive progressive-rock sound which while being influenced from 70's prog rock spirit, does not sound outdated at all; rather it's fresh and exciting.

The Water Road is a highly enjoyable album, with a lineup of beautiful songs and talented musicians and composers.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With its 75- minute time span, "The Water Road" is Thieves' Kitchen's most remarkable achievement so far, reinvigorating the standard of retro-prog that has been prevailing in the most nostalgic areas of the prog revival that had started in the early 90s. Actually, one of the main men from than momentum is now a member of TK: I'm referring to Swedish keyboardist Thomas Johnson, Anglagard alumnus, who replaces German Wolfgang Kindl. The thing with these two keyboardists is that they successively helped very much in the elaboration of the band's maturity during their transition toward a classic prog sound filled with eclectic elements coming from jazz-rock, folk and Canterbury. This advancement (which had already started in their sophomore album and met an excellent manifestation in their third one "Shibboleth") now has become a major statement in the current prog rock scene with "The Water Road", and in no small degree has Johnson's input been crucial for this specific evolutionary trend. A specific mention has to go to the various autumnal moods provided by his piano, mellotron or synth in many passages of the album's repertoire: autumnal in a Scandinavian fashion, so to speak. Another noticeable factor is that vocalist Amy Darby (who had debuted in the aforementioned "Shibboleth" album) has also become a very active asset in the band's creative process and performative scheme: she has managed to instill a vitalizing dose of folkish nuances in some tracks, and she plays some woodwind, Theremin, percussion and Celtic harp. The compositional deliveries are really ambitious: 4 out of 8 tracks surpass the 9 minute mark, and 2 of the remaining 4 surpass the 7 minute mark. With the proper occasional assistance from guest musicians on flute (by Anna Holgrem, another Anglagard alumna), oboe or cello, the repertoire's sonic pallet has a reassured colorfulness. Let's not forget one third Anglagard man, Mattias Olsson, who provides some drum loop somewhere. For this album, everything is quite flashy for Mercy, Robotham & co. The opener starts with soft, melancholic piano phrases, with the whole ensemble joining in through a well-ordained alternation of symphonic and jazzy motifs. It is at the 7 minute mark that we get to listen to Darby's voice for the first time. This sounds to me like a mixture of 92-95 Echolyn and pre-"Flower Power" FK. The climax expanding through the track's last 2 minutes is somewhat related to the gloomy lyricism of old White Willow. Things get equally autumnal in the starting section of 'Returglass', but soon we get to a more festive motif a-la Anglagard-meets-Wobbler. The inclusion of sophisticated variations along the road allows the installment of a slightly weird twist to the song's development. 'Chameleon' kind of reminds me of Emila-era Quidam, with the proper addition of effective jazzy undertones and magical, pastoral-like nuances on mellotron and soprano sax. 'Om Tare' is the album's first frontally energetic song, including hard riffing guitar and psychedelic synth environment, with a vigorous rhythm section that states a jazzy-symphonic dynamics (40% RTF, 40% Kenso, 20% "Heretik"-era Nathan Mahl). 'Tacenda for You' brings back the intimate vibe and pastoral moods that had been present earlier during its 2 minute prologue, only to reinstate the symphonic-meets-jazz prog scheme that had been so successful in the previous piece and is also successful here. The agile instrumental section delivered between 7'40" and 8'50" is particularly awesome. Having said all this, it would be adequate to pint out that this song's overall mood is more related to that of 'Chameleon'. 'When the Moon is in the River of Heaven' bears a languid atmosphere, similar to Robert Wyatt's ballads, with the guitar interventions providing an eerie density: the piano and mellotron deliveries are pertinently dreamy. For the interlude, the band increases the stamina and in this way, the sense of mystery becomes more imperative. The brief pastoral ballad 'Plaint' reiterates the preceding track's candor, featuring the Celtic harp. The album is closed down by the namesake track, a track that very much reminds me of "Sacrament"-era White Willow. Through the melancholic moods and majestic ornaments, we are given 11 minutes of spiritual warmth and optimistic serenity. This song is really endearing, serving as a proper closure for this magnificent album. "The Water Road" is, IMHO, the best retro-prog album of 2008 and one of the best classic sounding prog albums in the whole world for the last 10 years.
Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Lush, sometimes languid, mostly pleasurable

"The Water Road" is the latest from Britain-based Thieves' Kitchen who have been on the scene with various line-ups for about a decade now. According to their website the band made the decision to change from the current recording trend of relying on ProTools track design opting instead for a live studio recording experience utilizing real and classic instrumentation over samples. It's a welcome signal that perhaps bands are going to be more thoughtful in weighing the advantages of various processes as opposed to simply following the pack and I think the approach worked to their advantage-more on that later. The individual band members list some favorite albums in their bios and a sampling of each turns up the following artists: Joni Mitchell, Opeth, Jewel, King Crimson, Fleetwood Mac, XTC, Dylan, and Stravinsky. It is an interesting mix to be sure and makes perfect sense to me. Thieves' Kitchen is a band of music lovers and their passion above anything else is what comes through. Furthermore, unlike some peers, they do not shy away or show disdain for the term "progressive." Rather they embrace it and define it on their own terms, not simply for retro-references but for the true spirit of the definition held by many music lovers.

"The emphasis is on feel, melody, intricacy, and atmosphere." This was the quote from the band site that caught my eye as it seems to be a mission statement. Do they pull it off? Largely, yes. With regard to the first and fourth goals, feel and atmosphere, TK do nail it completely. This is sublime music that at times is as relaxing and peaceful as Conqueror or Karda Estra, at other times quite rocking like Lost World or Anekdoten. But always a marvelous floating atmosphere is present buoyed by the vocal, flute, or mellotron. Sometimes you can feel the conjured fog in the air. The middle two goals they mention, melody and intricacy, lead to the potential trap I often see bands contend with. The Water Road is full of good melodies and intricate passages. This is where technically good bands sometimes lose me: the balance of melody and complexity, and more importantly, are the "complex" parts written and existing as part of the natural flow of the music or are they considered somehow an obligation? I have heard many modern albums where potentially good melodies and songs have been derailed by this obsession with technical complexity where it wasn't necessarily called for. TK dance around this trap in a few places but never quite fall in like other bands I've heard.

The performances are often quite stunning: Mark Robotham's nimble drumming that can also be powerful when needed. Electric leads that both sensitive and soaring. Andy Bonham's jamming fretless bass and the ever present imaginative keyboards parts adding depth throughout. They begin with the epic length 21 minute "the long fianchetto" which features the most beautiful and mournful piano introduction by Tom Johnson before Phil Mercy comes in with some sharp, dancing lead lines. While I'm not totally sold that the length was warranted the piece is nonetheless one of the album's highlights with much flavor added courtesy of Amy Darby's magical recorder and the beautiful guest spots of cello and flute by Stina Petterson and Anna Holmgren respectively. This is followed by a short, feisty instrumental in "returglas" spiked with some occasional vocals chants. "Chameleon" reminds me of "Court and Spark/Hissing of Summer Lawns" era Joni Mitchell with Darby's ethereal vocals over a mellow, jazzy backdrop with introspective lyrics. "Om tare" is a Sanskrit prayer over some pretty ripping fusion. "Tacenda for you" is probably a track that could have been dropped to tighten up the excessive length, not being up to the level of the others. "When the moon is in the river of heaven" recovers nicely with pure mellotron waves and e-piano building with flute into a meditation. "Plainte" is a gorgeous Chinese poem with cello. The title track closes the album in the established meandering way nicely painted with recorder, flute, cello, oboe, and acoustic guitar. The Water Road is a good album that borders on great in places but not quite consistently enough for me to go 4 stars. Close though and still something I enjoyed very much. 7/10

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars An Odyssey by Narrowboat Through England's Waterways, by Paul Gogarty

Well, I Googled the title, and that's what came up...

And certainly, there seem to be many parallels to draw here - narrow, winding, often meandering and occasionally messy; And operating a narrow boat requires very little skill or expertise, anyone could do it, - you don't do it for scintillating, exciting and new experiences, but for that gentle, familiar, golden glow feeling.

That is exactly what this album is like - it takes what seems like forever to get from A to B, doesn't do anything interesting in the passing moments, but the production and arrangement is generally lush, so that you can simply wallow in the sound and ignore the actual music if that's how you like to experience it.

But the challenges I like from music are those presented by interesting compositions that present themes and develop the musical ideas, that tell a story as much through the music as through the lyrics, and that is not what I'm getting here - so if this is what you relish in Prog, then this album is well worth skipping over.

What's to like?

What's not to like?

At the beginning of The Long Fiasco, er, I mean Fianchetto, we get this kind of tinkly piano, that starts out a bit Debussy in style - which is nice, but quickly descends towards Satie - by which I mean it gets simpler and simpler, and seems to run out of steam - I don't feel any continuity in it, then there's nothing but background pad until the bass and drums kick in with an entirely new and unrelated idea.

The fretless bass simply annoys me - I can't put my finger on why (well, I could, but I get the impression that this is not complex music worthy of analysis, as some reviews I've read would have me believe, but instead, very simple music just trying to be a bit different. And let's get this straight - different is not the same as Prog) - it seems the bassist is relishing the ability of the instrument to make the sound and that's it.

This goes into a cello-led section with a somewhat la-la-la melody in a low register, which creates an overall muddy sound (a bit like the bottom of a canal, perhaps), and the guitar joins in for what could possibly be interpreted as a duet - but the harmonisation is weak and laboured, the bass not contributing a solid feel either.

Then into a herky-jerky Prog-styled rhythm and more messy harmony - don't try to tell me it's jazz- inspired - it's a mess. This is really quite painful and sounds incredibly amateurish.

An inexplicable piano ostinato takes us into a broken up heavy section with loads of changes - if you like loads of changes, then you may well like this, but to me, it's more meandering mess, with that ostinato becoming ever more annoying as the piece continues.

Oho - then the strains of a Mellotron - well, you can't really go wrong with a Mellotron, can you? Yes. You can, if everything around it sounds awful.

Well, tell a lie - the actual sounds are really good - the production has been extremely kind to the guitar, organ, bass and drums, although the music is savaging them in a terrible, mindless jam based on simple, repeated ideas that aren't that good to start with.

Then the guitarist rolls out something he might have nicked from Andy Latimer, and a new song appears. No, it's not the same song at all - these are new ideas, unrelated to the previous material, except that, at the first opportunity, the band go off into another mindless jam.

Complex is not the same as complicated, progressive is not the same as a bit different, and this is neither complex nor progressive.

On a completely different subject, because people often confuse what I said above for meaning what I'm about to say, I really, really don't like this - so won't insult the band or their fans by analysing any further - this is not music for analysis, as it simply is not at that level.

That is not to say that it isn't music that you won't enjoy - it depends entirely on your tastes.

It's definitely not music I enjoy, it's not Prog, and, in my humble opinion, is the same as a few hundred miles of canal water. Long, dull, messy and not somewhere I'd care to invest too much of my time.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Fourth album from this UK group, after an interminable wait (almost 5 years) to their previous opus, but it seems worth it. TK seems to have grown from the eternal UK neo-prog clichés to the much more enviable Scandinavian-sounding retro prog clichés, this by adding real drums (Mark Robotham) and also adding Anglagard's Thomas Johnson on keyboards, but flautist Anna Holmgren and even Matthias Olsson on loops for one track as guests.

Right from the opening piano notes of the 21-mins Fianchetto opening epic track, you can feel the different feel of this album, with a full-blown AnglaBerkDotian sound that includes trons of melo, some cello (played by yet another Swedish guest Stina Pettersen), flutes, crimsonoīd songwriting and the whole shebang. Expertly done, credible personification of drooling Vikings ready to abandon drakkars and conquer for Thor and Odin's glory and such. Am I getting a little carried away here??? Possibly! I don't even know what a Fianchetto is, and frankly don't care to find out, really! Anyway, it's nit that this track is bad, far from it, but like most of the album, it's really nothing new under the sun, using the typical 70's atmospheres and sounds, and it's not refreshing, even if it pleases the ears of most progheads, yours truly included.

The following Returglas starts out folky, nearly turns into a jig, steels a starless guitar solo, and would be an instrumental if it wasn't for some scats, while the 9-mins aptly-titled Chameleon has few things for itself outside being nearly audibly indiscernible in the mass of the album - unnecessarily filled to the brim. A couple of tracks seem to slightly alter the "formula with Om Tare and Tacenda, both laced with some jazz and jazz-rock roots. Probably my fave track on this album, the ultra-quiet When The Moon has some real hidden powers as it slowly builds up emotionally and dies down serenely. The short interlude Plaint is a cool change of pace, but the title track brings us back to some of the earlier tracks that didn't move this reviewer.

Well after the first generation (Anglagard) that was truly groundbreaking, and its followers (Sinkadus) and third wave (Wobbler & Beardfish) that were both retreading the barren lands, we've had some out- of-Scandic pole group like Discipline and now the hybrid SwUK Thieves' Kitchen to flog the dead horse to a pulp. Again, this is hardly a bad album if you consider all of the efforts involved, the love to carry it through, etc.. but it is hardly anything you've not heard at least a couple of dozen times before.

Review by Menswear
3 stars Impressive, but strangely not essential.

Impressive is the word: 75 minutes of old school Crimsonesque folk prog done with expertise and application. Good news for the newbie!

The person who listens to this record and never EVERn heard any folk scandinavian stuff before will probably think he discovered the album of the year. And who am I to disagree? Lushious keyboards with King Crimson feeling bonus, flutes and sax (which gives extra fairy atmosphere), theremin and, the whole 9 yards! Even with the best intentions in the world, this album stays in my collection in the bin of: dispensable.

In the term of 'been there, done that', The Water Road is certainly a good example. I'm not saying in any way this is a bad record but sorry, it's just soooo 1994. If I had money to start over my collection, I'd prefer giving a chance to Anglagard (even if some ex-members of the band plays here!), Sinkadus, King Crimson or Gentle Giant as a principle that they done it first, they created the movement, they innovated; not Thieve's Kitchen.

It seems such a sad attitude to take time and effort to come up with a (too often) dull and predictable album that just repeats the same musical effects that made the fame and reputation of the genre.

Thieve's Kitchen suffers from the 'Boy who cried Wolf' syndrome, too bad.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I became a fan of this band after their first album called "Head" which is still my favourite album from them. They really have brought something new to the table with each record that has followed the debut. This one is no exception. Of course replacing your long standing keyboard player can change the dynamics somewhat, especially when the replacement is Thomas Johnson the former keyboardist for ANGLAGARD. And he plays a real mellotron ! No samples needed for this album. Anna Holmgren guests on 6 of the 8 tracks with flute, she also was part of ANGLAGARD. Another ANGLAGARD connection is the involvment of Mattias Olsson who helped engineer this record. For me this album doesn't really bring to mind any other bands, these guys have always had a unique style.There is a Jazz flavour here, but really this is about creating a mood, there is a lot of atmosphere on this one. And while the more dynamic sections just thrill me, the slower mellow passages with vocals frustrate me. Amy is a talented singer but her vocals do little for me here. So yes this is very much a hit and miss album for me.

"The Long Fianchetto" is the 21 minute opener. It's my favourite track as well. Piano tinkles away for 1 1/2 minutes then drums, mellotron then guitar come in. I like the guitar here. The organ comes in powerfully before the guitar takes over again. Vocals don't arrive until before 7 1/2 minutes as it settles down. A Celtic vibe after 9 1/2 minutes but it's brief. The mellotron, guitar and organ take turns impressing me the rest of the way. "Returglas" features a relaxing beat as piano and flute play on. Mellotron comes in. An outburst of sounds follows, in fact it's stop and go much like ANGLAGARD used to do. Some therimin from Amy before 2 1/2 minutes followed by some excellent drumming, organ and guitar. Great section. I love the guitar and mellotron as the bass throbs. These first two tracks and the self titled final song are easily my top three. "Chameleon" brings to mind the previous album "Shibboleth". Not a fan really. Mostly vocal led as it plods along. "Om Tare" is uptempo with some killer guitar. The style here reminds me of SPOCK'S BEARD. Well that is until the vocals come in. Lots of mellotron though.

"Tacenda For You" is mellow and vocal led for the first half then it gets much better. Check out the dirty organ before 5 minutes. Nice guitar after 6 minutes followed by mellotron. "When The Moon Is In The River In Heaven" is my least favourite. Especially when a calm with paino and vocals arrive 1 1/2 minutes in. "Plaint" is painfully slow. Some cello 1 1/2 minutes in. "The Water Road" ends the album on a high. We get some aboe, flute, mellotron and cello. This is simply a beautiful mellow track. Nice guitar before 10 minutes. Gorgeous song.

3.5 stars. This is too long as well at 73 minutes.

Review by progrules
3 stars I don't know what it is lately with me but my to be reviewed albums are full of doubt cases between 3 and 4 star ratings. And here's another one. Thieves Kitchen was unknown to me before not too long but thanks to a high rating at the time I bought it and the fact it was still in the neo (???) category by then made me decide to buy it. If it would have been in eclectic at that point I probably wouldn't have so there we are with the significance of subgenres: it can guide you in the right direction if the band is rightly placed. But this one wasn't so in the end it was a mistake but here we are and we'll review it anyway.

I remember first time I played it, it was a combination of being disappointed and slightly overwhelmed too because there was also some sheer beauty detectable. As so often I will review the songs one by one with short description to make up my mind for the rating.

1. As I so often said in other reviews, I usually like the longest songs on an album best but not this time. There are too many dissonants in this one, no fluent melodies here and therefore this one fall short for me, 3*

2. One of the shorter songs, some strange singing in the beginning, later turns in more beautiful vocals. Not a great song either, 2,75*

3. Chameleon is much better, this is one of those songs that grow on you more and more and so it works on me, Amy Darby sings beautiful here. 3,75*

4. Om Tare is the heaviest and fastest track on the album, Thieves Kitchen proves here they are very capable with these. 3,5*

5. Tacenda for you is a longish track with just as in the epical opener there are lots of dissonants in this one. Good guitar at the end saves the song a bit. 3*

6. This is my personal highlight, what a beautiful laid back song this is ! Amy's performance is truly incredible here, very enchanting track. 4*

7. Plaint is a very short lovely track but doesn't get the chance to blossom, 3,25*

8. The title track is another highlight but not as brilliant as the 6th track. Very worthy closer of a very interesting album. 3,75*

I noticed with the other reviews that it's a like or hate album although there are also quite some 3 star ratings. And that's what I have in mind as well all things considered. The dissonants are too much for my ears, constantly longing for straightforward melodies. But there are some very nice songs as well, so I still recommend it for most proggers.

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars From fully neo-prog (''Head'', ''Argot''), the band evolved towards a more complex song writing with their last album ''Shibboleth'' that sounded seriously jazz-oriented.

When you listen to the well named ''The Long Fianchetto'' one gets the immediate impression that the band is stepping finally more into the eclectic direction than ever. Some fine mellotron combined with piano and a jazzy groove (ā la TFK) is a good start for this epic.

Some nice and pastoral flute passages lovely brighten up this track as well. But the major part is quite dark and definitely reminds the Crimsonesque atmosphere. It is a kaleidoscope of what the listener will be able to listen to during these 75 minutes: complex music, symphonically jazz-oriented and tinted with remarkable mellotron and flute breaks (not to forget some cello as well).

Even the short ''Returnglas'' holds all of these elements: complexity, virtuosity, melody (thanks again to the sweet mellotron), symphonic jazz and simple beauty. I like this piece very much.

The atmosphere on this album is wholly melancholic (maybe a bit too much) and at times, Amy's voice of is too monochord. This is compensated for example while ''Chameleon'' is being played thanks to its excellent instrumental parts (sax, mellotron and guitar in closing section).

During ''Om Tare'', the band is again demonstrating its proclivity for complex material (at times for the sake of it). This one in particular is too hectic and jazzy to be attractive: heavy, loose and chaotic. Quite a mix! My favourite song from this offering is the cold but beautiful ''Tacenda''. Fully in line with the great Nordic school. A dark vocal timber, some fine mellotron, sweet fluting, a vaguely symphonic and jazzy mood during the long instrumental part. Very much TFK.

And what to say about the sublime intro of ''When The Moon Is In The River Of Heaver'', the crystal clear vocal part, the sad mellotron lines and such a peaceful atmosphere that emanates from this piece of music. A moving one for sure.

The melancholic mood also prevails during the long title track and closing number. It is true to say that a bit more variety, some more delectation would have been welcome. But this is reached during the wonderful finale.

This album is a very good surprise for me, I really didn't expect the band to reach this sort of level. What a drastic change in direction since their debut! Maybe that this effort could have been shorter?

Four stars. Let's hope that they won't wait for five years to release another album and that they will keep this good evolution.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Back when Amy Darby and Phil Mercy were growing their vision for musical expression, they must have known that they had very high standards they were seeking, otherwise how and why would they attract the likes of not one, not two, but three ex-Änglagård members? Obviously Thomas Johnson, Anna Holmgren, and Mattias Olsson liked Phil and Amy's vision enough to invest so much of themselves in this band--for over 12 years! (and they may still be linked to one another though it's been since 2019 since we saw any new material from them!)

In my opinion, The Water Road announces the arrival of a real force of complex, skilled prog rock--one that is fronted by the operatic voice of one Amy Darby--one of the most unique and uncompromising singers in modern prog. Successive releases have shown, however, that the band was still fleshing out its collective vision, still a bit unsure of how to realize the tremendous potential laying within the band.

1. "The Long Fianchetto" (21:01) gentle and rolling music (especially for its sub-genre) with quite a lot of 'tron, gentle vocals and keys, folk-pastoral instrumentation and motifs, as well as a number of sudden exposures and turns into heavier areas. When I first heard this in 2008 I was mesmerized but somehow left cold and empty. Now I quite enjoy the precision mathematical construct and execution. Amy's penchant (and talent) for pioneering her own melodies within the chordal presentations of her band mates is at first frustrating (because it is so unpredictable) and yet, once familiar, marvellous--a sheer delight. (36/40)

2. "Returglas" (4:12) piano and woodwinds open this before the rest of the band joins in setting up a very slow, gentle pastoral soundscape. I love that the flute and oboe are allowed to play, to soar--before the Middle Eastern themed dance theme takes over. Back and forth we are taken between gentle pastoral and frenzied, almost roiling drunken shanty song--with choral vocalise but no lead vocals! Interesting! Definitely ecclectic! (8.75/10)

3. "Chameleon" (9:00) Mellotron, drums, jazzy bass, and plugged-in acoustic guitar strumming gentle open this JONI MITCHELL-sounding opening. Even the chorus and its instrumental codas between verses have a jazzy-Joni sound and feel. Even Amy's melody is following some Joni-like patterns, singing through key changes as if she's the lead creator of the music. Fender Rhodes and horns continue to add to the illusion. (P.S. I LOVED Joni's jazz phase in the 1970s--Don Juan's Reckless Daughter being one of my Top 10 Albums of All-Time.) I wish the speed and direction would shift a bit more--and that the guitar solo in the eighth minute were better. (17.5/20)

4. "Om Tare" (7:44) contrary to what the title might lead one to expect, this is a fast-paced showy piece similar to something Steve Howe might love from the YES lexicon. Amy tries to sing over the high speed chase in the third minute in another language (I'm assuming Hindi or Sanskrit). It's like sining over "Sound Chaser". There are some similarities to CYNIC's Focus before the guitar slows himself down (man the bass player is cruising--a little Jeff Berlin inspiration, perhaps?) Interesting but at times incongruously layered. (13/15)

5. "Tacenda for You" (9:34)Amy, flutes, and Fender Rhodes from the opening, joined by bass and drums at 0:40, sustained guitar notes and Hammond arpeggi moving us into something old from the KING CRIMSON cataloque--perhaps "Book of Saturdays". The following return to flute, Fender Rhodes, cymbals and voice is lacking lyrics and vocal melodies to chomp into. The next guitar solo is nice--over the "Book of Saturdays" motif. This then moves into some heavy Mellotron sections over odd time signature drumming, the guitar noodling away his plaintive plea. The next sparsely supported vocal section is quite lovely, Amy's voice stretching out to the bottoms of her range, the lyrics hitting home. Rock guitar takes the lead back over Hammond and 'tron, singing quite emotionally. This is good prog! At 7:46 we're suddenly taken away by a jazzy hammond while the lead guitar tries to maintain his own pace and melody lines. Quite unusual--almost conflicting! Brought to resolution at 8:48 as melody and harmony are restored nicely. Finishes with some Fender play and a line from Amy. Okay! (17.5/20)

6. "When the Moon is in the River of Heaven" (7:46) 'tron supported blues guitar soloing over slow, plodding rhtyhm section. Amy enters over only spacious piano using the same melody line estblished by the guitar. She's quite an effective torch singer! Piano goes classical. Amy tries to match it. Enter Fender Rhodes as Amy continues. Rest of the band slowly, almost clandestinely join in. Beautiful instrumental passage at the end of the fourth minute. This builds and continues, as brushed drums, chunky bass, and multiple keyboards weave in and around each other. Lovely! A top three for me. (13.75/15)

7. "Plaint" (2:35) Amy's solo harp with thunderstorm sounds in the background open this. At the 1:00 mark Amy's voice enters over xylophone and cello. Nice. (4.5/5)

8."The Water Road" (11:13) a portentous classically-infused prog opening with slow paced rhythm section and Mellotron supporting oboe, flute, and cello. At 2:30 the foundational instruments become gently picked acoustic guitars, fretless bass, gently tickling Fender Rhodes, and 'tron while Amy sings once again in her lower registers, almost whispering. Organ joins in during the chorus, then disappears for the second verse. Though this song isn't really exciting or dynamic, it feels very well composed, as if everyone is on the same page, as everyone's hearts are fully into it. A nearly perfect vehicle for conveying Amy's talents. (18.5/20)

Total Time: 73:05

A collection of wonderfully mature compositions by some stellar veterans of progressive rock music. A solid album through and through that I think the band builds upon with their next releases, 2013's One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, and 2015's Clockwork Universe.

B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

Review by Warthur
4 stars With a few members of Anglagard filling out their lineup, Thieves' Kitchen's latest album sees them moving away from the neo-symphonic blend of their previous albums to an intriguing new sound which seems to me to be a blend of symphonic prog, prog folk, and proto-prog.

To my ears, The Water Road is a piece distinct from most of the material out there which goes for a "retro-prog" sound - whereas many of those retro-prog artists mimic the surface motifs of a variety of different acts hailing from a fairly wide space in time, and Thieves' Kitchen don't do that here. Instead, they work on mastering and reproducing the compositional approach, tone and atmosphere associated with a very particular point in time - that strange period from 1969 to 1971 when the prog scene was coalescing, classics of the genre such as The Yes Album, Tarkus, Foxtrot and Aqualung hadn't come out yet and people hadn't yet firmly pinned down what "prog" really sounded like.

It's the sort of atmosphere I personally associate with such pieces as the first two albums by Rare Bird, or Renaissance, or Family, or the output of audience; there's a sense of the radical counter-cultural roots of prog coming back on this album, which is particularly refreshing given the rather safe and tame (or even quite conservative, in the case of musicians like Neal Morse) cultural outlooks of so many latter-day acts on the scene. Sadly, the line-up fluctuations which delayed this album so much have returned with a vengeance since its release, so it may still be a little while before we hear more from Thieves' Kitchen - but I sincerely hope we do, because they're onto a good thing here.

Review by kev rowland
5 stars An interesting thing about the album when checking out the reviews on PA, is that among the Collaborators alone, this has been ranked at everything from 1* to all 5. This was their fourth album, released in 2008, but I have only just come across it. Having enjoyed their most recent album so much, I knew that this one had to be worth investigating and since receiving it have played it a great deal. I fully understand why there has been such a variance in the marks awarded to this album as musically it is incredibly diverse, with the music sometimes in perfect harmony with Amy, and at others she is almost at odds, while for many passages she is absent as both Phil (guitars) and Thomas (keys) are more than happy being right at the forefront of proceedings, driving the music onwards.

Ah, the music. Both Thomas and guest Anna Holmgren are from Anglagard, and there is plenty of angular Swedish sounding prog on this album, with solid keyboards and lifting flute. But, there are also times when these guys remind you that they are very much a rock band with driving guitars and pacy runs. This was Mark Robotham's final album with the band, and when I think back to the time when he played me a pre-release tape of GLD's debut album, his drumming has changed beyond all recognition as he is fully aware of the need for space and what he doesn't play is as important within the overall sound and context as what he does play.

Opening song "The Long Fiachetto" clocks in at more than 21 minutes and is a real statement of intent, but for me the highlight is the fourth song, "Om Tare". It commences with a multi-tracked chant, but after the initial six seconds the guys burst forth with a complex burst of jazz rock that took me back to my teenage years. Somehow, towards the end of the Seventies I ended up with a copy of Colosseum II's 1977 album 'War Dance' in my collection. It was an album that I often listened to, wondering in the interplay between rhythm section of Jon Hiseman and John Mole, with keyboard player Don Airey and guitarist Gary Moore blasting over the top. There was no need for a singer, as there was definitely no room for one, and if I had just heard the passage from TK with no knowledge of who it was I would have bet my life that it was from CII.

But, that is the only song like it on the album, and therein lies what for me is a strength but others may find confusing, in that this is an album where the band quite definitely refuse to sit within one musical style and instead want to expand their wings, developing and progressing as they go.

I awarded 'Shibboleth', the album immediately prior to this one, 4*'s and 'One For Sorrow', the one after it, 5 *'s and this is yet another fine example of an album worthy of top marks. It is definitely worth seeking out.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was actually quite surprise that finally Thieve's Kitchen has transformed their music into something truly a progressive rock music after I was quite disappointed with their previous album "argot" and I did not give high rating on it. This one is really different as the music, composition-wise, is quite mature even though it moves quite slow in tempo. But it does not matter at all as prog music not necessary a dynamic one or energetic. You might not be patient listening to for example the opening track The Long Fianchetto (21:01) as it has a slow movement at the start> But in my case I really love the piano solo at the beginning of the track which sends a strong message about the classical nuances of the music. But actually I was wrong thinking like this as when the guitar enters the scene it indicates me another style of music that is different with what I previously expected. I enjoy the guitar work, really. The female vocal by Amy Darby makes the song fulfills its role nicely throughout the long duration.

On thing unique about this album is that the fact that I am not aware how changes have happened from one track to another as the second and third track happen naturally as they are part of the already very long opening track. So basically in a total of 34 minutes I enjoy the flow of the music in its entirety without any intention to stop it at all.

I finally only realized that I reach track four Om Tare (7:44) as musically and energy-wise it's totally different from the previous three tracks. This one is really a killer as it moves in relatively fast tempo in the vein of Finneus Gauge music. You might put this fourth track as your best track as it has very strong in composition and it's dynamic and energetic and it has many tempo changes. You won't believe this one is featured in this album by Thieve's Kitchen. It then moves beautifully to the fifth track Tacenda for You (9:34) through nice female vocal and wonderful combined work of keyboard / mellotron and guitar with some flutework as well. Oh this is beautiful really!

As for lineup, I knew the man behind this band: Mark Robotham from his tenure in neo prog band called as Grey Lady Down, as well as Anglagard's Thomas Johnson who plays keyboards with mellotron-like sounds throughout the album.

To me this is an excellent prog music that blends nicely many elements like folks, symphonic prog as well as jazz-rock fusion. It's basically a blend of many kinds of music and overall it's really an excellent result. I highly recommend this prog album. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Progfan97402
2 stars This is one of those classic cases, along with Echolyn's As the World and Discipline's Unfolded like Staircase in that it really left me cold and I can't understand the fuss behind it. This was a British band but the first to bring in Thomas Johnson of Änglagård, which means I should be totally blown away but instead it just seems stiff and over-long. A lot of the Mellotron passages are unsurprisingly Änglagård- like, but unfortunately the music overall is without the inspiration. I noticed Anna Holmgren and Mattias Olsson are on this as guests but really doesn't help here. I know many will enjoy this but the sterile production and stiff performance doesn't help. Luckily Thomas Johnson redeemed himself big time with the Änglagård reunion that gave us Viljans Öga, and the truly wonderful All Traps on Earth with A Drop of Light (featuring himself, Johan Brand, his daughter Miranda Brand and current Änglagård drummer Erik Hammarström). That stuff totally leaves The Water Road in the dust. As for The Water Road it just isn't for me.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Honestly, Thieves' Kitchen's first album ("Head") was kind of ordinary - some great guitar and keyboard interplay (from Phil Mercy and Wolfgang Kindl respectively), but Simon Boys' vocals were never anything special, and there seemed to be a lack of variety in the songwriting. Things improved somewh ... (read more)

Report this review (#2439363) | Posted by Squire Jaco | Wednesday, August 19, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Mellotron for a listening room. Having learned that the keyboard player of Anglagard joined this band, I got this album, and I can say this will be one of my favorite prog album collections. As expected, the rich mellotron sound fits very well to the complicated ryhthm works and gentle guitar ... (read more)

Report this review (#444602) | Posted by Katsuhisa | Sunday, May 8, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Nice atmosphere on this album. When I listen to it, I immediately think of Hatfield and The North. It has a jazzy feeling, very smooth. However, Hatfield and the North was more about experimenting and had a less serious approach. Thieves' Kitchen also features some crisp guitars and some nice ... (read more)

Report this review (#252466) | Posted by bluegecko | Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Excellent album no doubt. Great compositions,great musicians,great recording sound. You get here the best of Scandinavian prog rock. Make a salad with the best of Anekdoten,the best of White Willow,the best of Anglagard ,Sinkadus..etc... but add the inspired moments of Yes and Genesis. A very s ... (read more)

Report this review (#173597) | Posted by robbob | Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Absolutely stunning! Easily the band's best album to date and one that conjures up the very best of vintage Britsh prog of the seventies, whilst still sounding fresh and innovative. There are echoes of King Crimson particularly in the use of melltron alonside flute and recorders and in some o ... (read more)

Report this review (#168690) | Posted by barp | Friday, April 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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