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CAIRO

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Cairo biography
Founded in Milton Keynes, UK in 2016

Having named and founded UK prog rockers Touchstone in 2002 and after they split in November 2015, UK-based singer-songwriter, composer, producer and keys man Rob COTTINGHAM launched his brand new rock band, CAIRO, on 3rd August 2016. The band comprise Rob on vocals and keys; Lisa DRISCOLL on vocals; James HARDS on guitars; Paul STOCKER on bass and Graham BROWN on drums. The original female vocalist, Rachel Hill - who features on the album - left the band due to ill health in November 2016 and was replaced by Lisa DRISCOLL in January 2017.

The band released their debut album, as well as their title track video single, 'Say' on 3rd October 2016 to rave reviews from across the globe. The video single features the actress Charlotte PETERS whose career includes a film with Jean Claude VAN DAMME.

The album has thirteen tracks; is an hour long and includes a prog epic "Nothing To Prove" and a title track rocker, "Say". The album also includes a special voiceover from Nick YARRIS, an innocent man who spent twenty-two years on death row in Pennsylvania. The album was recorded at Outhouse Studios in the UK, and was co-produced with John MITCHELL (IT BITES, FROST*, LONELY ROBOT, ARENA). Album artwork, including band logo and scarab, is by VitP (BLACK STAR RIDERS, EUROPE, FROST*, GALAHAD, INGLORIOUS, IT BITES, KINO, LONELY ROBOT, TWELFTH NIGHT), and web development by Crystal Spotlight (STEVEN WILSON, JETHRO TULL, FROST*, HAKEN). Band studio photography is by multi-award winning photographer, HOSS.

On launch, Kurzweil endorsee and Nord Artist COTTINGHAM advised that he was after a new sound with the same sensibilities as in my previous writing but with heavier passages, as well as more ambient, electronic soundscapes - plus more time spent on crafting the blend of male and female vocals within the overall production of the music." John MITCHELL commented: "It has been a great pleasure working on this album. It really is a stellar debut and is jam-packed with epic moments, memorable hooks and heart-warming melodies." Before releasing the album, COTTINGHAM wanted an independent professional to feedback about the album. He sent a copy to STEVE HACKETT (GENESIS, THE STEVE HACKETT BAND) who had laid down a solo on COTTINGHAM's 2013 solo album 'Captain Blue'. Hackett commented: "I very much enjoyed listening to songs from the alb...
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CAIRO discography


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CAIRO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.96 | 80 ratings
Say
2016
4.08 | 27 ratings
Nemesis
2023

CAIRO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 2 ratings
Alive in Holland
2020

CAIRO Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CAIRO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CAIRO Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

CAIRO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Nemesis by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 2023
4.08 | 27 ratings

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Nemesis
Cairo Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars It has taken way too long for Cairo to return with their second studio album, in fact it has been 7 years since 'Say', although in between there was the excellent live album 'Alive In Holland' which introduced us to new lead singer Sarah Bayley, with the rest of the line-up the same as the debut with Rob Cottingham (lead and backing vocals, keyboards, programming) again joined by James Hards (acoustic and electric guitars), Paul Stocker (bass, acoustic guitar), and Graham Brown (drums, backing vocals) while it was produced by John Mitchell. As with the debut, what we have here again is a wonderfully melodic and thoroughly enjoyable album which is a step above so many others. It may only be their second album, but Rob has had a solo career as well as being in Touchstone, and I seem to recall John Mitchell guesting on 2007's 'Discordant Dreams' so he and Rob have been involved for some time.

This album combines the progressive sub genres of Neo and Crossover with melodic rock to create an album of songs which is an absolute delight. The keyboards are nice and powerful, with rich chords providing sumptuous symphonic drama while the guitars are also crunching when the time is right. It is incredibly polished throughout, with Mitchell using all his experience to bear to assist the guys in creating something which is just so much fun and easy to get inside. Some prog feels like hard work, but not this as there is a warmth inviting the listener in to just relax and have a good time, and it makes a really nice change for me to just sit and enjoy an album without having to get my head inside what the musicians are trying to achieve. Musically this feels like a close companion to the debut, and it is nice that the artwork also reminds us of what there was last time. We just need to hope it is not nearly as long to the next one as this is something to be played time and again, with gorgeous lead vocals and harmonies, all combined with hooks and finesse from a band who bring us melodies which makes the listener smile. Nice one guys.

 Nemesis by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 2023
4.08 | 27 ratings

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Nemesis
Cairo Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars A refreshing smorgasbord of musical styles delivered by TOUCHSTONE veteran Rob Cottingham and his loyal crew of guitarist James Hards, bass/guitarist Paul Stocker, and drummer extraordinaire Graham Brown. The band's second album (their previous effort, Say, was released in 2016) introduces the rock-solid voice of newcomer Sarah Bayley: truly a talent to be praised and watched for future contributions.

1. "Asleep at the Wheel" (7:46) one of the more refreshingly-creative songs I've heard this year: the instrumental and stylistic palettes used are brilliantly blended, the rhythmic flow highly unusual and intriguing, even the song construct is odd and surprising, but my favorite element of the song is the incredibly-nuanced doubling of the lead male vocal with a perfectly-mirrored female just behind him. It took the few moments where each vocalist sang in solo isolation for me to verify what my brain kept telling me: "There's a woman's voice singing just behind the lead male!" I can't remember when I've ever heard this feature accomplished with such effect. (Answer: THE REASONING.) Then there's the (quite unexpected) heaviness blended with a rather SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES-like sound and style (especially evident in Sarah Bayley's androgynously lower register croon). And then there's keyboardist Rob Cottingham's amazing synth solo in the sixth minute! And did I mention the totally unexpected finish? Don't get me wrong: there are weaknesses in this song--and some choices I don't quite understand or agree with--but I LOVE the creative innovativity coming through with this song. Definitely my favorite song on the album. (14.5/15)

2. "Trip Wire" (6:13) Now I get the "Crossover" designation. These artists are chameleons! A heavy prog guitar chord progression and rockin' rhythm track power this one from the start so that Sarah Bayley's lead power vocal has firm ground on which to fly. Some Pat Benatar similarities here. The instrumental fourth minute is my favorite because of the drum play, Sarah's instrumental vocalise, the playful 1980s synth play, and lead guitar work. But then it kind of goes BON JOVI on us until the rhythm section reminds us that this is Sarah's song: we stop, restart with some spacey layers of synth play before the percussion and angular guitar chords join in--but, surprise! We never get to hear Sarah sing again! (8.875/10)

3. "Glow" (3:25) a very sparsely populated song in which I hear quite some similarities to Heather Findlay's voice as well as the MOSTLY AUTUMN approach to song creation. Very pretty little pastoral 1:40 until the blues-rock power chords and screaming lead guitar and synths take over. I'm glad she comes back to sing at the finish of this one. (8.875/10)

4. "Rogue" (5:47) I hear quite a bit of the fragility and un-Western sense of melody of early Sugarcubes-era BJRK in Sarah's voice here over the fairly standard pop musical construct. This time it's vocalist Rob Cottingham mirror- backing Sarah. At we switch into a very DAVID GILMOUR-sounding section--complete with Rob's doppleganger vocal performance. Not a great song (despite great drumming and fun synth play in the instrumental section), but I sure love Bjrk! (8.75/10)

5. "The Love" (5:21) despite opening with a syrupy electric piano solo, this one turns into another synthed-up blues- rock sound palette in which Sarah Bayley's voice sings with the clear diction and style of Mostly Autumn's Heather Findlay. (8.66667/10)

6. "New Beauty" (7:36) opening with an intriguing palette of heavily-reverbed slowly-picked electric guitar the song creates quite an engaging Floydian spaciousness--something that is then augmented by an equally spacious electric piano, performing in a lower register, supporting the guitar. The song takes almost a full 90-seconds in this mode before it begins to reveal its true form and style (which reminds me a lot of shooting star band THE REASONING from 2005-2015. Even the vocal styling is Rachel (Jones) Cohen-like!) Though nothing too exciting or innovative, there's just something very likable and engaging about this one, start to finish--kind of like a MOSTLY AUTUUMN or MANTRA VEGA song. I like htis one for my final top three song. (13.5/15)

7. "Deja Vu" (3:20) Drum machine! Vangelis Blade Runner synth lead! Great melodic hooks--on two levels. NO-MAN-like Tim Bowness vocals (with that magical female voice mirroring as if just behind the lead male)! Not a big fan of the ALEX LIFESON power chords, but, heck! You can't have everything. The result: Another top three song. (9/10)

8. "Jumping on the Moon" (5:35) pure synth pop--something that could have come from a SIMPLE MINDS / PETE SHELLEY imitator. (8.5/10)

9. "Save the Earth" (4:14) sustained synth drone note with repeating radio-voice samples and industrial sounds and effects open this one. In the second minute synth strings begin tracing out a melodic path and then rhythm guitar begins to add its muted low-end duads and triads. The spacious dance continues just as this until its startling (and sad) end with its four implosive booms and gong. (9/10)

10. "Nemesis" (8:32) perhaps a little too sedate, saccharine, and 1980s conservative (as well as derivative), this song, fronted by solo Rob Cottingham, may, in fact, have been one of Rob's older songs created and recorded before/after/without Sarah Bayley's input (despite the fact that she still plays a significant part of this with her angelic background vocals behind and with Rob's leads) because Rob's vocal is very much the lead force here. A very pleasant, pretty song, but nothing like the album's incredibly courageous opener (despite the wonderful little keyboard ditty in the final 35 seconds that is used to close it). (17.4/20)

Total Time 57:49

Did I mention how much I enjoy Rob Cottingham's RICHARD WRIGHT-like keyboard sensibilities: his solos and overall sound choices are at the top of my list of favorites for 2023! Very impressive!

A near-masterpiece of wonderfully refreshing and rather diverse progressive rock music--something every prog lover should at least try. As Thomas said in his review above, the world should take notice of newcomer Sarah Bayley; she is a force to be reckoned with!

 Nemesis by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 2023
4.08 | 27 ratings

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Nemesis
Cairo Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars The Rob Cottingham-led sophomore Cairo album was excitedly expected by this reviewer, as I thoroughly enjoyed the opening salvo 'Say' back in 2016 and seven long years have passed, showing extreme patience but also tons of faith, as the wait was well worth it. The same line-up is back with a resounding, highly melodic, punchy, and diverse menu of compositions that had me drooling all over my non-waterproof keyboard. Sizzling guitarist James Hards, booming bassist Paul Stocker, skin pounder Graham Brown, stunning new lead vocalist Sarah Bayley all join in with Rob's voluptuous keys as well as his intricately dosed recipe for song writing, with a plethora of unforeseen shifts, with variety and charm, that had me on the edge (or as close to it as possible) of exaltation.

You want a forceful 'post-Covid-wakeup-slap in the face-enough already-lets get it on' opener? The aptly titled "Asleep at the Wheel" will undoubtedly trigger all sorts of inner ear bruising as the intro will require an after-the fact breathalyser test to determine the nefarious cause of such torpor in the first place. The Fool, the King, and the People each take a turn at expressing their feelings, a composite of divergent opinions, proving once again how confused the human condition always seems to be, regardless of time, space, and context. The razor-sharp guitars are hard (pun intended), the drums and bass pulverizing everything in its path, as Rob's bombastic keyboards inject a welcome majestic gloom to the piece. The doom-laden echoing voice sets the lugubrious tone with foolish conviction until a relative calm settles in, as the serene and reflective regal mood instills the entitled contrast, the extended keyboard structure a pure marvel. The popular retort re-ignites the volcanic eruption as we all find ourselves back to square one, whooshing synths not withstanding. POW! Good morning, Cairo!

Keeping the proverbial pedal slamming hard on the metal, Sarah forcefully squishes the microphone with a rocking performance on the blazing "Tripwire", with a voice that can easily reach Heart's Ann Wilson heights (yeah, THAT good!), interspersed with dynamic shifting sonic sands (they are called Cairo, after all), with evocative whoa, whoa, whoa harmonies , followed by slamming hard core instrumental chaos and veering off into a luxuriant oasis of gentle melody, only to finalize with a last hurrah climax. Total change of pace with the sweet innocence of "Glow", where Sarah Bayley shows off her stratospheric scale (hello Kate), a devilishly beautiful piece that has a whistling synthesizer passage and a celestial mood, proving that this quintet can create mellow nuggets to complement their electric side. Tea and sympathy with a touch of bonhomie, indeed.

With a title like "Rogue" fitting so nicely with my FB moniker (PROG ROGUE), any ode to rebellious non -conformism will sit very well, thank you. Some people lead, way too many follow, some people only do, some others only think but very few, think and do. The arrangement spans the gamut from choppy exaltation to surreal Floydian expanses that have that RPWL feel just long enough to beguile and applaud in admiration. They just out floyded Pink! This is the perfect set-up for one of the most devastatingly beautiful songs this seasoned reviewer as ever heard, the goose-bump inducing "The Love". I am reputedly a huge fan of romantic-tinged ballads, often loaded with deep emotion, pain, hope, and yes?love. This is on par with the celestial "Moments in Time" by Karnataka, the profound "Questioning Eyes" (Mostly Autumn) or the thunderous "Searching for my Shadow" (Breathing Space). When a tune starts off with a piano melody so perfect that you swear you have heard it before in your dreams, well, how great can the impact be? This song could/should be snatched by all the great female vocalists out there from Streisand, Brightman (whose version of the Beloved's "Deliver Me" still crushes my heartstrings), Lady Gaga to Adele, Stefani, and Swift. You need to hear this and I wager you will. Sarah Bayley, a name to remember.

The exhilaratingly clever "New Beauty" stamps this already with a proverbial golden buzzer, as the seemingly endless quality of the material proposed is off the charts, a delicately thrilling guitar web only serves to entrap Sarah's vocal athleticism as she pirouettes her voice into overdrive, navigating the intricate chorus with Formula 1 ease. This is an exquisite track that enthrals, hypnotizes, and sways the listener into a heavenly expanse where, thankfully, there is no requested escape. Mercurial atmospheric alterations only enhance the gratification, as the instrumental bombast keeps rising like an upward vortexed tornado. The appropriately titled "Dj Vu" is like a long-lost classic, a vocal duet between Rob and Sarah that defies the norm, a brief shining glimpse at melody done perfectly with a luxuriant electric guitar foray that showcases James Hards impeccable skills. It may be viewed as 'been there, done that' but isn't that the point? Another great track. Enthusiastically playful and evocative of unrestrained adventure, the free-spirited "Jumping on the Moon "has all the ingredients of a once puerile maturity, expressed in the course of a fast-paced piece that once again offers countless twists and turns to maintain the listener's attention. Darn it, this woman can sing with the best of them.

The initially forlorn and melancholic symphonics of "Save the Earth" serve as a sonic warning of doom and gloom, expertly keyboarded by Rob's meaningful stylings. A majestic instrumental interlude that will prepare one for the grandiose grand finale, the 8-minute title track that features Rob's rather impressive vocal abilities. From the towering piano-driven onset, the mood is set for a velvety ride that exudes oomph and a colossal chorus that will 'Float your dreams away' and be with you 'night and day'. "In hushed conversations, and quiet contemplations" this track will settle any doubts about the sheer overpowering quality of the menu proposed here, a gourmet banquet that will undoubtedly be among the very top contenders for album of the year. Another masterpiece that will feed me for a long time, perhaps even eternally.

5 Egyptian foes

 Alive in Holland by CAIRO album cover Live, 2020
4.05 | 2 ratings

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Alive in Holland
Cairo Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Cairo are back with their second album, a live CD which was recorded at the Parkvilla Theater, Alphen Aan De Rijn in October 2019. It has been quite a wait since the release of their superb debut, 'Say', back in 2016 but things have been happening in the band since then and this album features new singer Sarah Bayley who replaced Rachel Hill. The rest of the line-up is of course Rob Cottingham (vocals, keyboards), James Hards (guitar), Paul Stocker (bass) and Graham Brown (drums, percussion). It is somewhat unusual to release a live album so early in a band's career, but Rob has been around the scene for a while, releasing his debut solo album back in 2002, and then forming Touchstone who I first came across in 2005. This means the band aren't restricted to "just" songs from the debut plus a few new ones, as there is a lengthy back catalogue, so we are treated to some songs which aren't strictly Cairo but are here given the band treatment.

In a live environment the band are far more solidly neo-prog than some may realise from the album, with Cairo really rocking when the time is right. Having two very different singers is a real benefit to their overall sound as there are so few who really manage to capture it at this level, with both Rob and Sarah being very strong singers indeed. They can both take the lead role with ease, but also work well on harmonies such as the new number "Dj Vu". I am not sure if the band originally planned to release this live recording, or if it was a decision they came to later, but there is little in the way of audience sound which does gives it a rather strange feel, but it is still immensely enjoyable nonetheless. There is no doubt that Sarah has settled in really well, and her voice really shines on numbers such as "Back In The Wilderness", while Rob has always been a strong vocalist and their voices blend well together.

This is more than an hour long and is a great introduction to Cairo for those who have yet to come across them. I only hope they are soon back in the studio to record a new album, and I am so grateful they have made this available so I can hear just what they sound like in concert, as somehow I think it will be unlikely they will ever tour New Zealand. But if you get the opportunity when they are next out on the road then make sure you see them as their dynamic songs-driven neo-prog is simply superb.

 Say by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.96 | 80 ratings

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Say
Cairo Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars At the risk of repeating myself, one of the main attractions of prog is the proverbial hunt for the next elusive prey, diligently reconnoitering the vast global expanse for something that will shake the foundations and the pleasure nodes. With a little help from my friends (just like the Beatles /Joe Cocker classic), I get introduced to some new nugget, hidden and obscured by clouds of distance. Hints of potential comes with a recognizable name, here and there, to excite the senses and securing the decision to order. I was familiar with Rob Cottingham when he was steering Touchstone, a harder-edged prog band that got my attention, interestingly enough in the same manner, when I saw the name Henry Rogers on drums. This brilliant kitman has graced a slew of albums that blew me sideways (namely the recent Heather Findlay solo outing 'I Am Snow'). Touchstone released 4 studio albums, as well as a live one and disbanded a few years ago. I am happy to announce that his new project Cairo is a leap up and forward , particularly due to his proggier keyboard presence, though many of the other classic elements are present. A line-up that features a fabulous guitarist in James Hards, a stellar bassist in Paul Stocker, while the drums are powerfully manned by Graham Brown. Lead vocals are handled by Rachel Hill, another addition to a growing list of stunning female prog vocalists, who frankly really outdo the men in quality and talent.

But it is Cottingham who really owns the crown, composing tender and memorable melodies such as on the tremendous 'Say', the dizzying Random Acts of Kindness' and the breathtaking 'Searching'. His sweeping keyboard add orchestrated drama to all the compositions as well as letting his fingers linger on the piano, a most welcome initiative that some prog keyboardists tend to forget at times. He also sings at the appropriate times, an expressive tone that feeds the musical thrill, best illustrated on the penultimate track 'Dancing the Gossamer Thread'. The core of this exhilarating debut, introduced with such flair by seasoned colleague Kev Rowland, is found in the middle tracks with the 2 part 'Nothing to Prove', encompassing 12 and a half minutes of blistering prog rock of the finest vintage. Accessible perhaps but very creative with constant shifts in mood and atmosphere, from preciously chiseled to powerfully bombastic.

'Katrina' comes in two versions, a short and more direct one, as well as final curtain that is extended with assorted effects , including a moment of silence, into a 9 minute whirlwind of aching gorgeousness and unbelievable angst in describing the New Orleans disaster . 'Back from the Widerness' is another jewel of illuminated scintillation, simple and beautiful, a lullaby of unique majesty. Guitarist Hards sends a glittering electric missile into the night sky, igniting a furious second half that spotlights Graham Brown's frenetic Rogers-like drumming (Graham, I just gave you the loftiest compliment!), a sensational slab among other sensational tracks.

From the beginning to the end, this polished production (no other than the genius John Mitchell) makes this into the very rare 'PERFECT DEBUT' category, a fascinating musical journey with no weak moments and easily earns'

5 Pyramids of utterance

Bravo ROB !!!! Masterpiece.

 Say by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.96 | 80 ratings

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Say
Cairo Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars UK band CAIRO (not to be confused with the US band of the same name) was launched in 2016, and is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Rob Cottingham, formerly of Touchstone. Their debut album "Say" was released in the fall of 2016 through Cottingham's own label Heavy Right Foot Records.

Those who tend to enjoy bands described as neo-progressive rock just as much as artists placed in the same general context as Porcupine Tree should have a field day with Rob Cottingham's latest venture Cairo. Compelling and accessible progressive rock with a contemporary sheen, a strong focus on melodies and harmonies, with a superb mix and production ans the proverbial icing on the cake. A highly recommended album for those with a taste for the accessible side of modern progressive rock, in particular for those who find great pleasure in listening to a very well mixed and produced album in that context.

 Say by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.96 | 80 ratings

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Say
Cairo Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars One of my roles on ProgArchives is being a member of the Crossover sub-genre team. We are asked to listen to bands and gauge whether we believe that they should firstly be listen on PA, and secondly if they should be classified as 'Crossover Prog' or sent to another team for them to see what they think. It certainly leads to interesting discussions, and I get to hear a lot of music I wouldn't otherwise. But, I rarely read any information we are also provided with (which can be as much as full history or as a little as a name), as I just want to listen to the music. One of the bands we recently assessed was Cairo, who we quickly and duly passed, and I then contacted the band to see if they could provide me with a biography. So, I was quite surprised to get a response from Rob Cottingham, who I have known since Touchstone first started, as I thought he was still with that band and hadn't realised that he had formed a new one.

Listening to an album to determine style is quite different to listening to it for review purposes, and I was glad to have the opportunity and go back and play it a few more times with a different set of ears. What immediately strikes the listener right from the introductory beginnings, is that this is an incredibly mature piece of work, and the production from John Mitchell (It Bites, Frost*, Arena and others) is simply spot on. With Rob being joined on lead vocals by Rachel Hill, the use of both harmony and different lead vocals adds to what is a sumptuous and incredibly deep music soundscape. Some albums feel light, as if something is missing, while others are overtly complex and want to tie the listeners in knots while they try to follow one overly-intricate musical thread after another. Not so with Cairo, this is a band confident in their abilities, whether it is the few fretless bass notes to draw the music in with a warmth, or the delicate piano, or those simple guitar lines, percussion, or unaccompanied vocals.

Each time I play the album I get something more from it, and I fell in love with it the very first time, and the more I play it the more I realise just how special it is. This isn't something that is going to hit the listener in the face, but rather is an arm around the shoulders gently guiding the listener to the best seat in the house, by the fire, and enwrapping them with a blanket that is majestic yet never over the top. This is something very special indeed, and must be treated as such: if you enjoy melodic prog then you will love this.

Thanks to kev rowland for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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