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OPEN SKY

Iona

Prog Folk


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Iona Open Sky  album cover
4.06 | 70 ratings | 9 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2000

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Woven Cord (9:28)
2. Wave After Wave (6:15)
3. Open Sky (5:39)
4. Castlerigg (9:25)
5. A Million Stars (3:19)
6. Light Reflected (5:11)
7. Hinba (4:57)
8. Songs of Ascent part 1 (7:58)
9. Songs of Ascent part 2 (9:06)
10. Songs of Ascent part 3 (4:52)
11. Friendship's Door (7:14)

Total Time: 73:37

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Joanne Hogg / vocals, piano, keyboard
- Dave Bainbridge / electric, acoustic, e-bow & 'Indian' guitars, keyboards, programming, piano, bouzouki, autoharp, vocal
- Troy Donockley / uillean pipes, low whistles, tin whistle, vocal, acoustic & e-bow guitars, bouzouki, portugese mandola, harmonium
- Phil Barker / bass guitars
- Frank Van Essen / drums, percussion, acoustic & electric violins, vocal

GUEST:
- Billy Jackson / celtic harp, clarsach

Releases information

CD Alliance Music 1901772 (2000)
CD Open Sky Records OPENVP8CD

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Open SkyOpen Sky
Forefront 2001
Audio CD$15.99
$0.35 (used)
Open Sky by Iona [Music CD]Open Sky by Iona [Music CD]
Open Sky UK
Audio CD$36.39
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IONA Open Sky ratings distribution


4.06
(70 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
27%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
47%
Good, but non-essential (16%)
16%
Collectors/fans only (10%)
10%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

IONA Open Sky reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
5 stars "Open Sky" is another glimmering prog island (the mystical Iona ,off the coast of Scotland, became a holy island where several kings of Scotland, Ireland & Norway came to be buried) that deserves intense praise, mostly due to the beguiling top-notch musicianship displayed by all members. Guitarist Dave Bainbridge is a personal favorite (his 2004 solo album Veil of Gossamer is an outright masterpiece), displaying a sense of Holdsworthian tone and atmosphere that has become so rare, bassist Phil Barker is remarkably fluid and inventive, in synch with drummer Frank Van Essen who clearly masters the percussive thumps and whacks that propel these dreamy tracks ever so forward. But the Irish/Celtic strain that defines Iona's music since their early years is entrusted to the genius of Troy Donockley (perhaps a future Chieftain?), breathing life and spirit into his Uilleann pipes, his arsenal of low & tin whistles, adding bouzouki and Portuguese mandola (the Celts traveled extensively through the Mediterranean before settling in Eire and Scotland ). Vocalist Joanna Hogg has a voice that would make any Celtic fan blush with envy (on par with Maire Brennan, Enya or Loreena McKennitt). The tantalizing instrumental opener "Woven Cord" sets the tone for the musical journey, a heartfelt piece of passionate beauty that gives each band member the opportunity to shine, with Van Essen in a particularly creative zone. The tunes tumble serenely one after another , "Wave After Wave" being another pearl of exquisite sheen with Joanna in fine form , the title cut gently caressing the soul much like a New Hebridian breeze and the monumental "Castlerigg", an outright tour de force that captures one's attention immediately, hypnotized by its sinuous Gallic charm. Both Bainbridge and Donockley shine oh so brightly. "A Million Stars" is another instrumental winner. A massive 3 part 21 minute suite entitled "Songs of Ascent" is the terrific epic that elevates this release to the highest levels, bewilderingly beautiful, pristine and subtly soulful. The finale "Friendship's Door" is a playful exaltation of joy and hope that would please even Beethoven (unfortunately, he was deaf after all and is now long deceased). While many seem to stress the "Christian" philosophy behind this group, (I for one have separated Music and Religion- the Audio Magna Carta or Dub- Edit de Nantes- a long time ago) the truth is that any attempt at conversion is quite low key and has not even the slightest hint of obtuse preaching. In fact, Iona is more spiritual than religious and does not stop the proceedings to be heavenly!!!! Iona has the pedigree of the finest progressive groups, ,easily the leading light in terms of prog-folk ,with a solid back catalogue, recent live DVDs, an excellent 2006 release "The Circling Hour" and an obviously very bright "Open Sky" future. This is an unabashed masterpiece: 5 island jewels.

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#146632) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Iona is not my favourite prog folk band. But I have to admit that they have a strong influence on several bands of the genre and that their music is more and more pleasant (which is not the usual thing since most of the time the first albums of a career are the best ones).

The opener "Woven Cord" is simply my favourite "Iona" song ever and a great instrumental track. Unusual instruments, great beat, very strong melody. If ever you would have any doubt about this genre (which is more varied that you might imagine) you need to listen to this song. A wonderful anthem full of passion.

"Wave After Wave" features fantastic vocals. Of course, Joanne Hogg has always been a good vocalist. Since the band's music leaves a great deal to pure instrumental music, it is always very pleasant to listen to her sculptural voice. The second highlight so far.

Not every song will be of that calibre, but the title track is still a good musical moment. Somewhat harder during the major part, it is a pity that the closing section is not longer since it features an interesting acoustic work.

The excellent mood keeps on during the next long song "Castlerigg". The Celtic roots are put forward in a very enjoyable way. While playing such good numbers, this band truly offers a very good musical experience. It took time for me to get attracted with the band (just look at my reviews for their first two albums) but I'm so glad that they finally coped with far much better music (at least to my ears).

When it is good, it is only justice to mention it. And so far, this album is damned good.

The album weakens during the instrumental "A Million Stars" and "Light Reflected" although sounding a bit flat is saved by its great guitar part. "Hinba" being the end of this weaker trilogy.

So now, is the time for the epic. : "Song Of Ascent". Almost twenty two minutes and three movements.

This song is introduced by a long instrumental part for some four minutes and develops on a strong and beautiful vocals section. Strong melody, calm backing band. The strongest element being Joanne's role, by no doubt.

The problem I see with this song is that there aren't really a guiding line for it. Sounds as three different tracks. The second part is fully ambient and instrumental, at times it reminds me of "Close To The Edge" ("I Get Up, I Get Down" part). Spacey and symphonic, more than folk IMHHO. Still the closing part is so optimistic, so warm, so beautiful, so poignant. It lasts for a short time. But so brilliant seconds.

The third section is pure happiness : a conjunction of a bunch of instrumentation with sweet backing vocals. This is for the first half. The second one is just pure magic. A marvellous guitar solo combined with a great beat should just fill ANY prog heart. A grandiose finale.

It is of course difficult to come up with a stronger song after such a brio. Probably a casting mistake. This album should have closed on this great and wonderful "Song Of Ascent". Just imagine "Foxtrot" ending on "Horizons".

Four stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#154791) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, December 08, 2007

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Forgive me. This could be a long one. I have so many thoughts going around in my head when I think about this album, these songs, that island. IONA. I've never before sat down and read lyrics that had such an affect on me as those written for this album. I have said before that lyrics really aren't that important to me. Give me great music and i'll be happy. Not surprisingly the best quote I read about this band was from our own tszirmay who said IONA is more spiritual than religious. And if you read their lyrics and feel their music you would know exactly what Thomas means. I've talked about growing up in a religious home before, and how your led to believe that religion(church) and God are almost the same thing. Oh they would never admit that, but if you leave the church they will say your turning your back on God. Bullsh..! I don't want this to be a religious discussion, i'm anti-religious, but the words written by this band reveal how God is all around us, and they talk about experiencing him through nature in particular. I would imagine that to be on that island called Iona off the coast of Scotland without cars, TV ,work, stress and the endless running around that most of us do, that it would be the perfect place to enjoy God. Smell him in the sea air, hear him in the crashing waves, see him in the sun that sets. Yeah I know we can experience him anywhere, it's just not that easy sometimes. What did God say ? "Be still and know that I am God". It's hard to be still, to think, to focus, to imagine. Listening to this music does the trick though. When listening to "Songs Of Ascent (Part 2)" (an instrumental) while driving in my truck I felt transported to his very precence. Or was it just having my eyes opened to him being right beside me ? IONA are a band who don't preach but are clearly in love with God. I dig that a lot.

"Woven Cord" is an over 9 minute instrumental. They open with that spacey atmosphere they are famous for until heavy drums arrive before 2 minutes. Uilleann pipes and drums dominate the sound until it calms down after 5 minutes. The guitar a minute later is so beautifully played by Bainbridge. "Wave After Wave" opens with violin and harp? before we hear Joanne sing for the first time as drums beat away. She has the voice of an angel. Flute after 2 1/2 minutes. This is so incredibly powerful in an emotional way.

"I witness the power, great mystery telling In every moment, with every swelling wave I feel the depth of your love and devotion My heart like the bird that dives into this ocean blue"

"Open Sky" features Indain guitar and vocals with background synth-like sounds. A great full sound 4 minutes in. Spacey synths and acoustic guitar to end it. This one seemed to get better as it played out. "Castlerigg" is very Irish sounding with the tin whistles, uilleann pipes and later the celtic harp. Fragile vocals come in before 5 minutes with violin. Lots of vocal melodies a minute later. The tempo picks up for the last couple of minutes. "A Million Stars" is an instrumental of mournful violin throughout. The title reminded me of how as a kid I would lay on the grass and gaze in wonder at the millions of stars. "Light Reflected" is mellow for the first 3 1/2 minutes with the focus on the vocals. When she sings "Around the sun" 3 times, her vocals soar. Check out the guitar solo 4 minutes in.

"Hinba" features such a great vocal performance, and I love the atmosphere. "Songs Of Ascent(Part 1)" opens with what sounds like synths that wash over and over again like endless waves on the beach. It's not until 4 minutes in that drums and vocals arrive. You can feel the love in her voice as she sings "An emptiness for you to fill. My soul a cavern for your sea". After 7 minutes it becomes spacey like the intro with waves after waves calmly falling again and again. "Songs Of Ascent(Part 2)" is an instrumental over 9 minutes long. It opens with I believe the Portugese mandola that is eventually joined by violin and then a full sound. It quickly calms back down to almost a silence. Be still and know. He's here before 5 minutes. No words. Gentle piano comes in slowly 6 1/2 minutes in. Time to reflect for the next 2 minutes until this most beautiful sound rises like a sea of pure love to envelope us. "Songs Of Ascent(Part 3)" is a meditative piece where she sings these vocal melodies for 2 1/2 minutes, then uilleann pipes and drums kick in. It ends with this wondrous spacey soundscape. "Friendship's Door" is very atmospheric with slow paced, reserved vocals. She sings about the things that take her breath away like trees that sing in the wind, and clouds that chase but never catch. Seeing the invisible through the visible. Uillean pipes before 5 minutes.

This is their masterpiece. It's more than just music.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#158687) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Review by Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Transcendent: 1. Lying beyond the ordinary range of perception. 2. Being above and independent of the material universe. Used of the Deity. 3. Iona's "Open Sky" album. Okay, so I added that third definition on my own. I couldn't help myself. It's the most descriptive word I can use for this glorious CD. As I have written in other reviews of their works, this group creates music that is different in many, many ways from other forms of progressive music and requires the listener to slow his/her pace down a notch or two as to allow one's spirit to escape the fetters of gravity for a while. It may be just the antidote needed when the troubles of the world press in on your soul and rob you of hope.

I find that a fair review of this album necessitates delving into the realm of creative imagery, so bear with me, if you will (and be prepared for a plethora of adjectives). As the powerful "Woven Cord" begins imagine that your soul is in the cockpit of a space shuttle, looking upward from the launching pad. An early-morning fog slowly dissipates and you are cleared for liftoff. Roiling drums and piercing Uilleann Pipes erupt as the engines ignite and you jet upwards into open sky. The torrid velocity is exhilarating as you climb away from the earth, then a leveling off period ensues and you finally get a chance to take in the vista of being miles above the planet, accentuated here by Dave Bainbridge's blazing electric guitar ride. But then the second-stage booster kicks in and you ascend once again to the sound of Troy Donockley's pipes until you've achieved a lofty orbit. It took a lot of thrust to get there but it's been a fabulous ride so far. However, you soon realize that there's no shuttle at all. You are free to explore space without hindrance.

A violin and a combination of acoustics and various guitar-like instruments (They employ e-bows, bouzoukis, Indian guitars, autoharps and Portuguese mandolas at one time or another so take your pick) usher in the gorgeous "Wave After Wave" as Joanne Hogg's angelic voice dances deftly over deep keyboard-generated strings. "Wave after wave rolls in/and the line is gone/where my feet have been" she sings. Drummer Frank Van Essen and bassist Phil Barber provide a powerful rhythm track underneath and the song has a stirring, "traveling" bridge. The tune reaches a peak and they wisely allow the momentum to resonate in its sheer power for a few bars before dropping down to let Joanne sing the last stanza alone. While floating in the sublime aftermath of that song "Open Sky" begins and this lovely ballad gently pulls you even farther away from the world. Hogg's soft vocal is surrounded by pristine instrumentation as she reminds you that your unique personality is "the gift of life/the essence that can never die." These two songs are so exquisite that, for a moment or two, you may think you've landed on a sublime plateau of pure love. I can only pray my words do them justice.

"Castlerigg" opens with a lone Irish whistle whispering out from a cavern of sound, then a wall of Uilleann Pipes scorch the air and I can visualize an army of kilt-clad soldiers marching boldly across a wide meadow on their way to battle some terrible injustice. It's a wonderful assault on the senses that eventually descends to just violin, acoustic guitar and Joanne delivering a short verse before the whole thing launches back into the furious procession, this time riding a strong rock beat that drives the number hard to the end. The instrumental "A Million Stars" follows and here Van Essen's sweet violin sets a hypnotic and serene mood atop Bainbridge's lush keyboards. It's 3 minutes, 19 seconds of bliss. A slow, mesmerizing groove travels beneath Hogg's voice on "Light Reflected" wherein she sings "Light of light eternal/light my way for me." It's one of the most comforting tunes I've ever heard. The aura the band develops on this cut wraps around the listener like a warm coat on a cold winter's day, then drifts away peacefully.

Next is a pretty song written by Joanne called "Hinba" in which the pipes and violin intertwine and compliment her crystal-clear tones, setting you up for the three parts of "Songs of Ascent" that are truly out of this world. Beginning with what I can only describe as celestial cascades of distant orchestral strains swirling in the ether, this must be what heaven sounds like. Fluid whistle melodies arrive, preceding Hogg's delivery of poetic lines like "here in the purest light of the heavens/mysteries revealing/in songs that surround me/an emptiness for You to fill/my soul a cavern for Your sea" as the music gradually intensifies around her. The second movement features guest Billy Jackson on Celtic harp as he joins into a symphony that is constantly changing/evolving into a fantastically dense atmosphere, then comes to dissolve into mere whispers. Soon a wall of music emerges to overtake you and eventually a supernal melody descends on your spirit, soothing like a mother's caress before building to a satisfying crescendo. In part three Joanne's voice bounces wordlessly in and out of a scattering of notes, then becomes part of a kaleidoscope of colors as a beat pattern gathers momentum below it all before eventually bursting out with Troy's pipes warbling spectacularly. All I can say about these 21 minutes of paradise is "Hallelujah."

How they can follow up such an achievement is beyond my comprehension but they do just that on "Friendship's Door." Hogg's disembodied vocal hovers over droning keyboards like a magical apparition. Never a group to get in a hurry, they allow their splendid creation to breathe and exist on its own plane without needless embellishment. When Donockley's pipes come in playing the melody it's so elegant and resplendent that it nearly breaks my heart. The track ends with an intriguing collage of disjointed musical excerpts that are quite dream-like as they fade into space. It's almost as if your soul is walking the bridge across forever and it's looking back for one last glimpse of earth. As Joanne states in the chorus, "these are some of the things/that take my breath away." Amen.

I didn't believe Iona could ever top their immaculate "Book of Kells" album but I was wrong. This is as good, if not better. But that's like comparing diamonds. I sincerely hope there are other proggers out there who can and will enjoy indulging their spiritual senses and bathing their minds in the superb goodness of "Open Sky" as much as I do.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#165366) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, March 30, 2008

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album has been a big surprise for me. A Spiritual Celtic folk/ambient album with some electric guitars thrown in the mix. While I do find that the album's generally soft vibe, somewhat minimalist arrangement and structures may not be for everyone, it is some of the best music of this kind I have come across (However, I do not own many albums like these). Open Sky is moving and positive-sounding; the kind of music someone needswhen having difficult times in his/her life. The instrumental arrangements are masterfully and carefully done in a way that keeps the music both complex, accessible, and plain gorgeous and emotional. Quite a feat! Another positive remark I could add is that the female vocalist has a gorgeous voice. The warning: listen to the first of the samples here Trilogy, if you do not enjoy that, you probably will not enjoy this style.

Woven Cord starts ambient but quickly brings a very energetic drum theme which plays for a few minutes while Iona display great Celtic arrangements. A short ambient interlude leads way into an electric guitar solo under a slow tempo. The song finishes with the percussion dominated fast-tempo theme from earlier.

Wave After Wave might be poppy at first glance and you might think you picked the wrong album, but it has enough depth to make it also a progressive tune. The time signatures don't always stay in 4/4, the instrumentation is full of layers, and the harmonies achieved are a result of masterful songwriting. The main melody is extremely memorable and the 7/4 rhythm is very natural and enjoyable.

Open Sky is very heavenly and even more sweet/sugary than Wave After Wave with an unforgettable chorus melody that borders on genius. A distorted electric guitar pops up later in the song, but has no resemblance to hard rock or metal.

"Castlerigg" might be my favorite piece in here though it is one that is less immediate and one that you need several listens. It has a beautiful ambient flute intro until a gentle percussion theme starts spinning around your speakers with a Celtic theme on the spotlight. Later, acoustic guitar and violin introduce the singer who is almost whispering here. This moment is so beautiful that it could make a sensible listener to shed a tear; it might be the most beautiful moment in the album. Afterwards, the acoustic guitar takes the spotlight while Joanne (singer) sings some great wordless vocals. This sounds very upbeat and up to this point it tends to relieve my worries and stresses. The song ends with the Celtic theme sped up.

"A Million Star" is one I thought was underwhelming at first, but this atmospheric tune is plain gorgeous. Violin is the main expression of this somber interlude.

"Light Reflected" does not carry as much emotional power to me nor has as much instrumental depth as the previous songs, but there are two moments that elevate it from a solid song to a great one: the "around the sun" soaring vocal line, and the fantastic guitar solo at the end.

"Hinba" is better. It is a simple song, but some of the best vocals are here and the end has probably the best Uillean Pipe melodies of the album and some great bass guitar work as well.

"Song of Ascent pt.1" has an extended intro that is soothing, ambient and relaxing. Joanne has a spotlight later and as always, she shines. The instrumentation is very lively around minute 5-6. "Song of Ascent pt.2" is instrumental and has great melodies sandwiching a successful ambient exercise in the middle. "Song of Ascent pt.3" starts ambient and explodes in a Celtic fashion.

"Friedship's Door" is a mellow. Easily the least progressive song in the album, but it is very emotional. The vocals are great and the finishing Celtic melody is a great touch. Unfortunately, the end of the album is just ambient with sound clips of various parts of the album flying in your headphones. Not the kind of ending I'd like.

I wanted to give this album five stars due to the quality of the first 5 tracks, but I feel like the second half has no masterpieces and sometimes makes me feel like I've heard enough when I'm around Song of Ascent (my least favorite song here). Nevertheless, this is one of the better albums I have heard this year and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who can enjoy a mellow style.

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Send comments to Zitro (BETA) | Report this review (#170154) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Iona's Open Sky is, if anything, a lovely excursion from typical progressive rock, so much so that I would hesitate applying the label. This is, for the most part, breathy Celtic music with minimalistic instrumentation serving as a backdrop, and four lead instruments- bagpipes, violin, electric guitar, and gorgeous feminine vocals. Mainly, the album suffers from a sameness that makes actively listening to it something of a bore; instead, this makes excellent background music.

"Woven Cord" Airy music opens the first piece. When things pick up, there's heavy drumming and blasts of a wailing bagpipe. It is followed by electric guitar over a spacious backdrop.

"Wave After Wave" Retaining the pervasive Celtic flavor, the second piece features a bittersweet fiddle. Joanne Hogg's beautiful vocals are heard for the first time.

"Open Sky" Over sparse instrumentation, Hogg sings. This is largely a vocal track that features some vast electric guitar playing.

"Castlerigg" This expansive piece consists of light synthetic padding and eventual bagpipes. Gentle vocals dance gracefully on the calm and quiet music. It doesn't pick up until the final two minutes, where the piper really lets go alongside a peppy rhythm section.

"A Million Stars" Melancholic violin makes up the shortest piece.

"Light Reflected" This song features delicate vocals and a more forceful guitar solo.

"Hinba" Here is yet another soft song highlighting Hogg's copious talent as a singer and Troy Donockley's abilities as a bagpiper.

"Songs of Ascent (Part 1)" The first section of this tripartite piece consists of more New Age music, eventually led by a calming flute. Suddenly heavy drumming sets upon things, abruptly introducing the vocals.

"Songs of Ascent (Part 2)" Inviting and delightful, the second part brings in an electric guitar and a soothing harp. It opens into what is perhaps the airiest portion of the album.

"Songs of Ascent (Part 3)" Lovely vocalizations and buoyant percussion makes for a charming listening experience. It is followed by a full-bodied guitar solo.

"Friendship's Door" The final track is a sleepy one- more of the same, or, I should say, less of the same.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#251503) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Latest members reviews

5 stars Iona's Open Sky is one of my favorite albums of the 21st Century. It is one of those collections of songs that I enjoy playing start to finish, though I do have my favorites ("Woven Chord," "Wave After Wave," "Castlerigg," and "Hinba"). Others have eluded to the fiery guitar soli, the driving drummi ... (read more)

Report this review (#277688) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Monday, April 12, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars There are few, if any, Christian bands in the UK with the musical heritage, diversity and artistry of Iona. their albums over the last ten or twelve years have always thrilled me and this latest release is to my mind their finest moment since 1992's 'The Book Of Kells'. Their sound has always be ... (read more)

Report this review (#16105) | Posted by Andy Long | Monday, January 31, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Open Sky" is a prime line musical work. It content is a great melodic sinphonic progressive rock, caracterized by the celtic folk sounds, and with an espiritual theme, where romantic atmospheres are reflected, in a solid way, with a natural scene and a healthy essences. Not an essential album ... (read more)

Report this review (#16103) | Posted by manticornio | Wednesday, September 08, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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