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Mastermind Excelsior! album cover
3.87 | 43 ratings | 7 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. On The Road By Noon (6:15)
2. The Approaching Storm (7:15)
3. Tokyo Rain (6:36)
4. The Red Hour (1:36)
5. Decide For Yourself (5:23)
6. Sudden Impulse (4:59)
7. Sky Dancer (5:53)
8. When The Walls Fell (13:28)

Total Time: 51:18

Line-up / Musicians

- Bill Berends / guitars, midi-guitar, bass
- Rich Berends / drums, timpani, percussion
- Jens Johansson / keyboard and synthesizer

Additional musicians:
- Bob Eckman / 5 string bass
- Mike Mironov / tabla & percussion

Releases information


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MASTERMIND Excelsior! ratings distribution

(43 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

MASTERMIND Excelsior! reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Greger
5 stars An all instrumental symphonic progressive metal album from MASTERMIND, a band that was founded in 1986. MASTERMIND's latest effort has the Swedish keyboard virtuoso Jens Johansson in the new lineup. Jens is known from a numerous of albums and bands, most notably Yngwie MALMSTEEN and STRATOVARIUS. Just listen to "Decide for yourself" and you'll hear that Jens is a great technician on his instrument. You'll also hear that the guitar player Bill Berends is a true virtuoso too as well as the drummer Rich Berends. MASTERMIND's music is a mix between Progressive and symphonic rock, Progressive Metal, Power Metal and Jazz-Fusion. There are a lot of tempo and mood changes, and it has got a lot of emotion, atmosphere and beauty. The highlight besides "Decide for yourself" is "Sky Dancer" and "When the Walls fell". If you don't mind all instrumental music, I suggest that you get yourself a copy of this CD, press "repeat" on your CD player and enjoy!
Review by Dick Heath
4 stars Best Jazz Rock Album of 1999.

There have been several attempts by bands to recreate the sound of the legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra. The Mahvishnu Project, with a line up of jazz musicians, recently pulled it off, impressing Johh McLaughlin to boot. The Japanese band Kennedy did a knock-about version of the "Birds Of Fire" tune, on their "Live" album (Musea Records). However, to me "Excelsior!" is the best recording with the feel of Mahavishnu, without the wholesale lifting of compositions and arrangements. The addition of Swedish keyboard master Jens Johansson to the brothers Berends, is inspired - Johansson is the modern day Jan Hammer. When not doing his night shift job with Stratavarious keeps reminding us elsewhere, that he is a major league keyboard player - check out the Jens Johansson section in the Archives. Apparently, Mastermind started out aiming for a tight, instrumental, heavy progressive album. Instead, they have managed to go much further and produce a latterday jazz rock gem. (It should be noted their European record label SPV insisted the term "jazz rock" be avoided in publicity - but what do record companies know?)

All tunes here are excellent. The opening track "On The Road By Noon" is an obvious reference to MO's "Noonward Race", but is no slavish copy. While there is the tight interplay (i.e. one of the hallmarks of Mahavishnu O, heard as call and response between two or three lead instruments), the arrangements and excellent playing skills on "Excelsior!" differ. Bill Berends has claimed he is an inferior guitarist to McLaughlin, but what he produces here is free of the obvious progressive rock cliches: it is fresh and grips you. And then there is a lot to be said about the synergism generated by between Berends and Johansson, it is phenomenal. (To hear the same musicians but in a completely different context playing music of equal excellence, check out Mastermind's follow-up album "The Angels of the Apocalypse" and especially the superior version of ELP's "Endless Enigma"). Add to this all sound effects rarely heard since the beginning of the 70's (e.g ring modulators), then you have a special album

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Cracking good stuff from the Berends Bros. and keyboard whiz Jens Johansson-- Bill (guitars,bass and synth), Rich (drums) and Johansson gleefully tear up a hot batch of jazz-rock with a mind toward Mahavishnu but a heart more for the gothic drama of Euro-metal. Structured but musical, disciplined but not stuffy, a successful entry for this trio and 'Excelsior' leaves little to complain about.

'On the Road' is heavy fusion, Bill Berends and Jens Johansson exchanging bristling runs kept aloft by Rich Berends' beats, as is 'The Approaching Storm' with its medieval doom and Yngwie gloom. A bit more sophisticated is 'Tokyo Rain' which builds nicely in this group's tuneful style, 'The Red Hour' is some sort of Emersonian freak-out, and the melodious 'Decide For Yourself' allows guitarist Bill to show his touch with nylon stings as well as blues. The rip- roaring 'Sudden Impulse', though, puts things on a more metallic track and evokes Liquid Tension Experiment's double-time feats of rhythm, unnaturally rapid movements and boisterous excitement. Thirteen minutes of 'When the Walls Fell' tops things off, a military epic though not the best track here. Overall a fine offering from this family unit, and though occasionally the grey haze of modern fusion casts its monotone cloud over things, the energy returns.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Fifth studio album by this overlooked band named Excelsior from 1998 . I have real doubts if this is their best effort as everybody mentioning here. To me is less intristing that the prior album ntil etenity , and I will explain why. Whil the previous album was the most acomplished Mastemind album in every sens, and was the most diverse in manner of interpretation, this one Exclsior doesn't bring anything new, realy, just good pieces and solid musicianship but I think this is not enought to be a very strong album. The ideas lack of straight direction, only ex Stratovarius, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc keyboard player - Jens Johansson save the album to be un usual one and nothing more, that doesn't mean is a bad album or the two brothers are weak here or borind, no they just do a good job, nothing excellent or groundbraking. All the pieces has same level, no one in front here. The music as we used to, eclctic driven key prog with jazzy interplays here and there. Anyway the musicianship is good as always on Mastermind. So a good album, no doubt, but nothing special either, 3 stars and I realy don't understand why the reviewers considered this one as their best album, and even better then Until eternity who for sure beats this one Excelsior for miles away.
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is the first Mastermind album I've heard since Volume I and Volume II. And surprisingly, the ELP influences are almost gone. Sure, you can still here it a bit in the fabulous The Red Hour. And to me that is the best song on the album. But that shouldn't be a put down of the rest of the album.

As a reference, most of the music compares well to the Jan Hammer years of the Jeff Beck Group. Primarily guitar driven rock fusion tunes are the style of the band now, with Bill Berends' synth tinged axe out in front, th band plays a mean mixture of proggin' rock, with a bit of jazz.

Another high point is When The Walls Fell, which starts out as a guitar rocker, but turns into nice symphonic prog by the end.

It's not a perfect album, but it is a joy.

Latest members reviews

2 stars I usually don't post comments like this one, but I believe that this album is just awful due to the "great drumming" by Rich Berends. He plays so poorly that when i listen to Excelsior! I feel like turning it off as soon as possible. His style is nothing but drums played monotonically! I am n ... (read more)

Report this review (#38200) | Posted by Dan Yaron | Friday, July 1, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars progfriends... are as good as it comes!! its sort of ELP meets Flower kings..only its instrumental!! And i might ad...extremely good instrumental prog music!!! Mind you, its only this outing from Mastermind thats instrumental... As their next outing: "Angels of the apocalypse" are inde ... (read more)

Report this review (#4780) | Posted by Tonny Larz | Monday, December 29, 2003 | Review Permanlink

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