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Club Merano biography
Finnish band CLUB MERANO was formed by veteran composer and musician Harpov around 2010, following years of tenures in bands exploring rather different subsets of rock music, progressive rock included. Along with his son Sebastian Bisso Mifflin (bass) and Jussi Jaakonaho (guitars), Sami Kuoppamäki (drums), Abdissa Assefa (percussion), Juuso Saarinen (organ, moog, piano) and Leevi Lydecken (trombone) a full album's worth of material is recorded on various locations around the globe, and in 2011 the final product is released as Club Merano's debut album High Road.

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3.88 | 10 ratings
High Road

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 High Road by CLUB MERANO album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.88 | 10 ratings

High Road
Club Merano Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Here's another little known Finnish prog act with only one album. The composer-frontman Harpov handles vocals, acoustic guitar, electric sitar and Moog, and there are six other members (plus some guest appearances), so the sound is very meaty. Each track is under 6 minutes long and there's a strong pop sensibility in songwriting, but still this sounds proggy, even with a retro feel. The instrumental opener is a good example: it has layers of keyboards, airy CAMEL-like melodies, some fiery electric guitar, perhaps a bit kitsch-y main theme and very uplifting atmosphere. 'Medley 1970' (am I supposed to recognize some references to the prog of that year because of such title?) is a sharp song that could be in between - or within - the more epic tracks by The Flower Kings. Good, solid track.

'Flame On' makes me think of Porcupine Tree's more tender songs (e.g. on the Lightbulb Sun album), though it doesn't quite reach the typical slow, deep ambience of PT. Anyway, enjoyable emotional grip in it! 'Lovers' has a hectic and variating tempo and a dramatic tension that turns into breath-taking instrumental section featuring a fantastic - but too short! - electric guitar solo. 'Days of Our Lives' continues the almost ever-present formula of slightly treated, metallic vocals combined with rich & full instrumentation. Maybe the album is too thickly produced all the time. A lot of salami and cheese in this piz- I mean album. The accordion on 'Comfort Zone' then is the inevitable champignon I rather leave on the plate.

By the time of the seventh track 'Sunny Day' I begin to feel very well-fed already. 'Awaiting' is all too full of notes at this critical moment. The three last tracks happily offer some more of the awaited delicate moments, especially the closer 'Someday' which approaches furthermore the aforementioned Porcupine Tree ambience. All in all I was gladly surprised and impressed by this finely crafted album, and I recommend it to all with a taste for pop accessibility and the emotional side over the more demanding side in progressive rock. Here and there I wished the sound wasn't so full, so cheesy. And of course it would also make it a lot better if there were more variety in song structures, in the symphonic prog sense. I hope this group makes another album to fulfill these expectations.

 High Road by CLUB MERANO album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.88 | 10 ratings

High Road
Club Merano Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'High Road' - Club Merano (8/10)

Although multi-instrumentalist Harpov is already a well-esbalished and experienced musician by this point, Club Merano is a relatively young project. Releasing their debut 'High Road' last year, the band is now taking wing, and I have no doubt that good things lie in their future. Although the 'prog pop' label may often conjure horrific imagery of Genesis or Yes finally 'selling out', Club Merano approaches the fusion of complexity and accessibility with the kind of degree that makes it really work as an artistic statement.

Club Merano were often cited in press releases as being a band that took many influences from 70's prog rock, and I was surprised to hear that these 'vintage' sensibilities did not overpower the rest of the band's style. Club Merano are tastefully modern in their approach, as well as eclectic. Throughout the album, there are hints of modern alternative, surf rock, film music, and- of course- the classic progressive rock sound. Complimenting this fairly varied style is a cast of talented musicians, including a trombonist, cellist, and player of the accordion. Despite all of these bells and whistles to flesh out the arrangement, the songwriting of Club Merano always revolves around melody; something that many bands of a progressive inclination tend to deprioritize.

Harpov's voice comes into major play from the second track onwards. Although he has a unique sound to his vocals, the closest comparison I might draw would be Peter Gabriel, particularly his later solo work. Harpov does not have a great range to his voice, but there is plenty of feeling to it, as well as a sense of charm that works best with the more cinematic- styled pieces. Arguably the greatest surprise here was the thick presence of surf rock, which is dabbled with frequently throughout the album, without ever becoming the main attraction. The psychedelic edge to the music works in much the same way; it is very present throughout the album, but never makes itself overt or indulgent. Club Merano's inherently melodic take on progressive rock is a big surprise for me. While many prog bands who cite 'melody' as their biggest aim turn out to be AOR acts in disguise, Club Merano has a fulfilled depth to their music, as well as melodies that feel truly relevant to the rest of the music. I can only hope that Club Merano puts out more music like this in the future.

Thanks to windhawk for the artist addition.

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