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SOCIAL TENSION

Symphonic Prog • Japan


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Social Tension biography
This Japanese progrock trio consisted of Nobuo 'Kodomo' Endoh (keyboards), Masahiko Ota (bass) and Suguru 'Yataro' Iwasaki (drums). They released two albums: "MacBethia" in '89 and "It Reminds Me of Those Days" from '90. In 2000 Made In Japans Records/Musea released the compilation CD "It Reminds Me of MacBethia" containing their best work from the two studio-albums. SOCIAL TENSION is the Japanese answer to early EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER.

Their first CD "MacBethia" is nothing less than "an ELP fan's wet dream", keyboard player Endoh sounds like the second coming of Keith EMERSON with his play on the Hammond and Minimoog. But he's not an ordinary clone and has more to offer: lots of fine orchestrations, many modern sounds from his Yamaha -, Korg - and Roland keyboards and the Mellotron (Keith EMERSON refuses to use this instrument). The compositions (mainly instrumental) have many exciting moments because of the spectacular Hammond runs and Minimoog flights and swirling pianoplay, supported by a powerful rhythm-section. The highlight is the epic titletrack, it sounds like "The best of early ELP"!. The second album "It Reminds Me of Those Days" has a compelling titletrack (some beautiful Mellotron eruptions) but most of the other tracks fail to generate the same excitement as on the debut-CD. In fact it's a rather disappointing second attempt (that's why most of the tracks are deleted on the compilation-CD).

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It Reminds Me of MacbethiaIt Reminds Me of Macbethia
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Musea Records France 2006
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SOCIAL TENSION discography


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

4.12 | 14 ratings
MacBethia
1989
4.04 | 9 ratings
It Reminds Me of Those Days
1990

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

SOCIAL TENSION Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

3.35 | 13 ratings
It Reminds Me OF MacBethia
2000

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SOCIAL TENSION Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 MacBethia by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.12 | 14 ratings

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MacBethia
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Undoubtfully the 80's was the most prolific period of Japanese Prog and one of the band's participating in the movement were Social Tension.Formed in the second half of the decade this power trio was led by keyboardist Nobuo Endoh and featured also bassist Masahiko Ota and drummer Suguru Iwasaki.Their debut LP ''Macbethia'' was released in 1989 on Made in Japan Records.

Drawing obvious influences from the ELP and RICK WAKEMAN style of playing, Social Tension delivered grandiose Symphonic Rock based on Classical interludes, keyboard solos and romantic themes.Being the strongest opponent against Italians NUOVA ERA, a band more or less playing in the same style around the time, Social Tension were at least equal talented.''Macbethia'' is an album full of driving organ sounds, dreamy minimoog passages but also plenty of technical sensibilities, all performed by the magic fingers of Endoh, who is strongly supported by the powerful performance of the rhythm section.The vocals are delivered both in Japanese and English and, at least to my ears, the lyrical arrangements sound rather decent compared to the hillarious voices met around the Japanese Prog scene.Next to the complicated themes and virtuosic parts Social Tension were clever enough to throw a few good melodies to soften things a bit.But the hottest point of the album is definitely the symphonic, bombastic and majestic passages full of Endoh's multiple keyboard work.

A very good album of Japanese Symphonic Rock in the vein of ARS NOVA and GERARD with tons of breaks and solos.Strongly recommended to fans of keyboard-based Progressive Rock...3.5 stars.

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 It Reminds Me of Those Days by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Studio Album, 1990
4.04 | 9 ratings

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It Reminds Me of Those Days
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Second album of Japanese power trio Social Tension called "It Reminds Me of Those Days"(spelled on artwork as "It Remainds Me of Those Days"!) isn't on the same level as groundbreaking debut one, but it's very entertaining release for symphonic prog fans. The main problem of this disk, is it's very short duration time. I suppose that less than 36 minutes wasn't enough even in 1990 (it was already era of cassettes and CDs!). But as I've heard the band call it a day during recording process so maybe they just weren't able to include all ideas into "It Reminds Me of Those Days" because of budget circumstances...who know? Anyway while "MacBethia" was a top notch gem from beginning to the end, this effort includes more uneven moments which can be a slight disappointment considering short length of this CD (especially dumb "Childish Concerto"). But don't worry, 80% of disk space is still filled with high quality Hammond/synthesizer/mellotron/pianos-drenched ambitious music in the vain of ELP, Trace or Triumvirat. I can add that Masahiko ’ta got bigger chance to prove his vocal abilities here too, but of course his incredible bass guitar skills are the most evident.

1. "Evil Intention" - album begins very unusual for this band because opening track doesn't have too much in common with Social Tension's style. It's harder & more straightforward than anything these guys recorded on the debut. "Evil Intention" is an up-tempo heavy prog song which would perfectly fit on Deep Purple, Birth Control or Frumpy's album. Extremely sharp-sounding, over-driven Hammond organ is the main attraction here, those mean riffs and two furious solos remind me Lucian BŁeler's work in Krautrock formation "Wind". Masahiko's vocals seem to be a bit goofy in this aggressive style, but they're good enough. By the way the most funny thing is that this track seems to be some kind of cover (plagiarism?) of song called "Copper Sunset" from repertoire of obscure British 70s act called "Aardvark". I don't know if the lyrics are the same (I don't know Japanese) but the main melody is absolutely the same. I love it anyway.

2. "It Reminds Me Those Days" - opus magnum of the album is this 18 minutes long super epic which can be a direct competitor for lengthy "Go on my Way" and "MacBethia" from their debut. It's a truly amazing composition loaded with memorable melodies played on a wide range of vintage keys. Musicians often switch between more aggressive Hammond/Moog-driven fragments and more romantic parts with sheer virtuosity. Synth-made orchestration which occasionally enters the space is also great, never too loud to not distact listeners from the main music themes. It's just excellent addition to classical-influenced atmosphere of this suite. While I love the whole epic, I have to admit that my favorite part is of course this extended organ solo between 11th and 12th minute. Melancholic vocal delivery in softer moments are also very beautiful, especially together with fantastic mellotron eruptions. While the most surprising is the madness between 6:30-8:40 minutes, when Nobuo Endoh tries to create as crazy noises from his organ as possible (like Keith Emerson during concerts or British Canterbury scene band Egg). In general I can describe this staff as a perfect mix of ELP/Trace-style of bombastic prog with melodic symphonic staff of Genesis and Yes.

3. "Childish Concerto" - I've heard people saying that Social Tension sounds cheesy but mostly this accusation are completely wrong. However on "Childish Concerto" these guys prove that they can sound horribly corny. Simplistic piano melody, artificial sounding orchestration and annoying children's singing "lalalala". Disgraceful! Thank God it's only 2 minute long.

4. "Waltz" - very pleasant progressive waltz with very melodic vocals and perfect combination of string-machine and baroque-like harpsichord. Maybe a little too mellow and slightly cheesy compared with standard Social Tension's keyboards extravaganza, but I still love it. This one is much more in Rick Wakeman or Michael Quatro style than usual.

5. "Out of March" - the last track is an instrumental which have two "faces": one "face" is a flashy organ-driven, ultra-symphonic face in clear ELP style, while the other "face" is shoddy tetris soundtrack-like melody played on sloppy-happy synthesizer. Thankfully 75% of "Out of March" is occupied by the first "face", so we can enjoy plenty of roaring Hammond organ solos here. So my general rating for this one is positive as hell.

Overall "It Reminds Me of Those Days" is another solid example of keyboards-driven symphonic prog-rock gem which was sadly forgotten by ambitious music audience. It's a pity that is has never been re-released, so most of people have to rely on compilation "It Reminds Me of Macbethia" which includes all songs from their first album & only two tracks from this one ("It Reminds Me Those Days" suite & "Out of March"). Of course I recommend this disk to fans of ELP, Trace, Triumvirat, Refugee, UK, Par Lindh Project, Nexus, Gerard, Ars Nova etc., but as usual I'd like to mention some more obscure formation with similar style. So let it be Mahoujin, very little-known Japanese prog-rock trio from 70s. Both bands have quite much in common.

Best track: "It Reminds Me Those Days"

4,5 stars from ozzy_tom

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 MacBethia by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.12 | 14 ratings

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MacBethia
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Social Tension is a fantastic Japanese symphonic prog power trio led be highly skilled keyboards virtuoso Nobuo Endoh. To be honest this band is one of my very favorite ones and Nobuo can be easily compared with such wizards like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Rick van der Linden or Jurgen Fritz. Unfortunately they were able to record only 2 albums in their short career and Social Tension disbanded just few years before arrival of new wave of Japanese prog-rock bands like Ars Nova and (re-formed) Gerard. It's a pity because these guys' music is very similar to aforementioned bands' style and I suppose that Nobuo had not so small influence on Keiko Kumagai's and Toshio Egawa's future development. Anyway "MacBethia" is definitely the best album of Social Tension, much longer and more focused than "It Reminds Me Of Those Days"(which is also very strong but seems to be recorded in too much of a hurry). As you probably already guessed after reading my introduction, Social Tension's music is a classical influenced, keyboards drenched progressive rock in the vain of ELP or Triumvirat. However you can be mislead by the year of releasing of this album (late 80s), 'cause you maybe expect plastic-sounding gear all over the place here. But don't worry, in fact Nobuo Endoh played some digital synths typical for that era, but I can assure you that his main "weapons of choice" are vintage, retro-keyboards so you can expect real domination of roaring Hammond organs, dazzling Moogs, majestic mellotrons and sparkling acoustic & electric pianos.

Let's proceed to description of the songs:

1. "Go on my way" - "MacBethia" starts off with my favorite track - "Go on my way". It's a truly amazing 13-minutes piece of art for me. Melodies are very catchy & symphonic-influenced, mix of digital, fanfare-like keyboards and Moog high-pitched patterns are splendid, but the most important are of course wild Hammond organ runs here! I can assure you that "Go on my way" is a real organ-fest for all ELP maniacs. Very often Endoh seems to emulate Emerson's style from "Tarkus" suite but it's OK for me, "Tarkus" is a real classic for me so I don't mind a little plagiarism here and there. Except extended organ & synths solos we can also witness few vocal parts. Masahiko ’ta's voice is surprisingly beautiful and suits the music perfectly. It's a pity that I don't understand Japanese language at all, but anyway his singing style is much better than many other J-prog vocalists I've listened to so far. All in all: one of very best songs in my prog-rock collection. Similarities to ELP "Tarkus"-era are obvious, but I can also hear Triumvirat, Trace or Refugee influences. I also think that Cairo's keyboard-man Mark Robertson, was influences by Endoh's organ playin' in "Go on my way". P.S. Was it an attempt on The Nice's "Rondo" between 8:22 - 8:31 minute?

2. "Bolero" - impressive Ravel's "Bolero" version with marvelous synth-made orchestration. Dazzling organ & flying Moog crescendo near the end is also really great. It's so much better than extremely dull, repetitive ELP's "Abbaddon's Bolero"! This kind of style reminds me Par Lindh Project's "Night on Bare Mountain", equally well, digital orchestra substitute there.

3. "Inner vision" - splendid and very dark/sinister sounding composition driven by heavy organ loads & rhythmic harpsichord. I just love combination of those two instruments! Reminds me a little obscure British band "Dr. Z". Very good, thrilling staff. Always have goosebumps while listening to it. And enigmatic spacey synths driven middle part is also worth mentioning.

4. "Wish for the Time" - another awesome track but this time a bit more laid-back. Compared with other compositions we can listen to more great vocals by Masahiko ’ta (very melancholic and passionate). "Wish for the Time" is a really catchy, jazzy song with memorable piano, harpsichord and non-obstructive synthesizers arrangements. Extended acoustic piano soloing in the middle is in my opinion the best piano fragment I've ever witnessed on prog-rock record. Extremely joyful and entertaining. Much better than Rick Wakeman's pompous staff in my opinion.

5. "MacBethia" - incredibly well-composed 20 minutes long suite loaded with analog keyboards. Nobuo Endoh's organ & synthesizers runs are sometimes furious and explosive, sometimes very soft & melodic, but always equally amazing and pleasant to listen. His majestic mellotron work evoking Genesis or Yes is also great, but my favorite part is the flashy, ultra-speedy Hammond organ solo section near the end of this epic. Very much in the vain of ELP "Karn Evil 9" suite. Mind-blowing! This composition can be described as keyboards-extravaganza bombastic symphonic prog at its best, clearly influenced by ELP, Trace, UK or Triumvirat's music, but it also includes more sophisticated fragments, like Eloy-ish "On the Lake Side" or melancholic vocal moments which I truly love (Masahiko ’ta has really good voice, and he even sings some verses in English here!). In general "MacBethia" is equally fantastic epic like ELP "Tarkus", Yes "Close to The Edge" or Genesis "Supper's Ready" for me.

To sum up: Social Tension's album is a must have for keyboards-driven prog maniacs who like long & loud organ solos, endless Moog synthesizer rides, pompous mellotron/string machines outbursts and virtuosic Grand piano runs. They will find all of this and so much more in here. So obviously I recommend it to people who also like such old-school acts like ELP, Trace, Triumvirat, UK, Ekseption, Collegium Musicum, Quill or Le Orme, as well as their more recent successors like Gerard, Ars Nova, Nexus, Little Tragedies, Cairo, Taproban, Covenant, Nuova Era and especially the most melodic formation in this style - Par Lindh Project.

Best tracks: "Go on my way" & "MacBethia".

BTW if you're interested how Social Tension sounded live, I can recommend to you concert compilation of various Japanese prog-rock bands called "Progressive's Battle 1988". You can find 8 minutes long "extract" from "MacBethia" suite there.

5 shining stars from ozzy_tom for Japanese wizards from Social Tension!

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 It Reminds Me OF MacBethia by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2000
3.35 | 13 ratings

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It Reminds Me OF MacBethia
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by Autoband

4 stars If you really really really hate cheesy music then you can skip this review and this band. If you don't really mind heavy influences of other artists then this might be interesting for you.

This is a compilation that contains the whole debut album of Social Tension and the two best tracks of their second (and last) album. It's a good thing they left out most of the second album as it was pretty weak.

Anyway, onto the music. This sounds quite a lot like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but with use of the mellotron and it feels like there are even more keyboards here. This isn't a blatant copy of ELP though, this band really has something to offer too. The music is keyboard driven and has a great atmosphere and many tempo changes. The keyboard solos as expected on any symphonic prog album are present and great too.

The vocals are in Japanese, but don't let those stop you from listening to this. Most of the music is instrumental and the Japanese vocals really don't bother at all, they're well sung and pretty enjoyable.

Really give this a shot if you can, especially if you're really into symphonic prog.

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 It Reminds Me of Those Days by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Studio Album, 1990
4.04 | 9 ratings

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It Reminds Me of Those Days
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by progaeopteryx
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Clearly, there are spelling issues with this group. I guess it's no fault of the group, but most likely the translator didn't quite get it. It Remainds [i.e. Reminds] Me of Those Days is the second and last album by keyboard power trio Social Tension, led by the highly-skilled keyboard virtuoso Nobuo "Kodomo" Endoh. I concluded that their debut Macbethia was a masterpiece. How does their sophomore release compare? Well, it's not quite as good, one of the biggest problems being that it is too short.

It starts off with "Evil Intention," a very odd song compared to their previous output. It's radio-friendly and sounds like Deep Purple without guitars. Imagine that. Still, I like it. The vocals are in Japanese and I don't find this a distraction in the very least. It has some great bass playing by bassist Masahiko Ota.

The second track is the most important piece of this album, the title track. Note that the title track is also spelled wrong using "Remains" instead of "Remainds" from the album title, of which both should be "Reminds." This track has a combination of ELP and Genesis influences. The ELP influences are much smaller than on their debut album. It contains an interesting section that sounds like a psychedelic wipe-out complete with weird keyboard noodlings. Other sections of the song contain some great keyboard and bass playing. The bass work on this album is an improvement over their debut.

The rest of the album contains three short songs. "Childish Concerto" is a short instrumental with some very exceptional keyboard work. Really nice stuff here. "Waltz" doesn't have the energy of the previous tracks, but has a more romantic feel to it from the flute-like keys and harpsichord. Social Tension ends the album with the energetic instrumental "Out of March," containing some great keyboard work and showing some ELP influences.

I would really like to give this something between four and five stars, although I am leaning closer to four stars. It's not quite as good as Macbethia and it's too short. On the flip side, the bass playing is better and they have shed some of the obvious ELP influences. If it had only contained one more 10-minute or so energetic keyboard-dominated instrumental, I would have easily given it five stars.

This was Social Tension's last album and that's too bad. They were really coming into their own with this album, shedding the ELP influences and developing a sound of their own. In 2000, a compilation called "It Reminds Me of Macbethia" was released that contained the entire Macbethia album and the two best tracks from this album. Their last studio release gets a well-deserved four stars.

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 MacBethia by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.12 | 14 ratings

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MacBethia
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by progaeopteryx
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Social Tension is a Japanese keyboard-dominated trio led by Nobuo "Kodomo" Endoh. If you're into ELP, this is a must have little-known masterpiece. Social Tension's music shows a strong ELP influence with a nice blend of old and new keyboards, including the Hammond organ, Moog, Mellotron, piano, harpsichord, and digital synths. Although the ELP influence is quite obvious, I noticed other styles such as Trespass-era Genesis, East European symph prog, and Italian symph prog.

Macbethia starts off with the almost 13-minute long "Go On My Way." Of all the songs off this album, this one shows the strongest ELP influences. The keyboard playing is fantastic (as good as anything Emerson ever did), the bass is far superior to Lake's playing, and the drummer, though not a Palmer clone, does a great job. The vocals are in Japanese, but the song is primarily an instrumental. This song is amazing with some strong Hammond playing. I note some influences from Trespass-era Genesis and the overall feel is more symphonic than ELP's material. I attribute that to the wonderful, lush soundscapes.

The next three songs are shorter pieces. "Bolero" sounds a lot like East European symph prog. "Inner Vision" has some ELP influences, but has some odd sections with eerie key solos and a sort of spacey feel. Great song. "Wish for the Time" is piano-based, slightly similar to a mix of ELP and Italian symph prog. The piano solo section reminds me of Supertramp.

The final piece is the three-part title track. I can only guess that this was inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth, but beyond that and my lack of knowledge of Macbeth, plus my inability to read Japanese, I can't suggest anything else. The first part, "Overture," has some amazing keyboard work, and is a good mixing of ELP and East European symph prog influences. The second part, "On the Lake Side," consists of nothing but strange, but beautiful keyboard soundscapes. It kind of has a slight Eloy feel to it. Finally, the third part, also called Macbethia, again is a beautiful work with strong ELP influences and a touch of East European symph prog.

I really enjoyed this. I thought it was better than anything ELP had ever done. It contains no filler, each song a wonderful experience. It is one the best symph prog keyboard performances I have ever heard. I would not call Social Tension a clone, but the influences are quite obvious. Easily five stars and highly recommended, especially to ELP fans and symph prog lovers.

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 MacBethia by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.12 | 14 ratings

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MacBethia
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by basoon_mail

4 stars Social tension it's a nice group, you start hearing the keyboards and inmediately you start to think..."japanese music itś not bad, not like thet j-pop, I like it", then you going to be transpored to a incredible mix of keyboards and voices (Itś like the japanese loves keyboards). Really its a group that you need time to starting to love, itś not inmediate , but hearing you going to think like me.

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 It Reminds Me OF MacBethia by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2000
3.35 | 13 ratings

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It Reminds Me OF MacBethia
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by Dan Yaron

4 stars Yes, the album by Social Tension is indeed a cheesy one, but hey I love cheesy stuff.The band is a japanese band that is highly influenced by ELP, Trace, Ars Nova, Refugee, UK and so on. Although they are little cheesier than the names mentioned above, they certainly don't play prog pop stuff or something awful like that, Social Tension is KEYBOARD DRIVEN SYMPHONIC PROGRESSIVE ROCK that we all like. In addition, the information written above isn't really accurate since the album offers enjoyable japanese vocals. I'll sum this review by saying that this is a fine prog album, and you can surely consider getting it.

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 MacBethia by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.12 | 14 ratings

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MacBethia
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by alpacagonzalez

3 stars When I first listened to this cd, became to my mind a militar march mixed with a strange sound of video games and the synth playing around in few parts. I thought "Why i don't putt away this cd? Is truly [&*!#]!!...But I decided to concentrate in the music, closing all doors and windows, and the magic get into my head...I began to love Social Tension.... This cd, except for the long spaces with a kind of wind behind, is really amazing. And if you really are passing to japanese floor, i recommend you Ars Nova and Isao Tomita too. Goodbye

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 It Reminds Me OF MacBethia by SOCIAL TENSION album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2000
3.35 | 13 ratings

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It Reminds Me OF MacBethia
Social Tension Symphonic Prog

Review by hdfisch
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Edited 10/4/2005!

I can only say one thing to this record: cheesy and sounding absolutely like sob stuff. It's nothing else than a very cheap emulation of Emerson keyboard sound IMHO. Really awful, I could not stand more than 3 songs of this CD. I would just like to advice everybody looking for good progressive keyboard music to keep hands off this one. Save your money for something reasonable. I'm giving one star extra just to be fair since it might just be not my taste.

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