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Frogg Cafe - The Safenzee Diaries CD (album) cover


Frogg Cafe


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.71 | 19 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!

This double live album is my first exposition the the band's musical universe and not even from that long ago. Despite being aware of these guy's existence, and fellow United- Statians French TV, both bands' name kept being pushed back down the shopping list, for there were always greater urgent matters to attend (or so it seemed) at the time. I finally plunged and decided to enter their world with this double live album, which often a safe bet as an introduction. Little did I know that only half of the tracks of this release are simply not on their four previous studio albums. Anyway, the group's line-up promised a strange and unusual sound (given a full-time trombonist and violinist, but both "doubled" by part-timers violin and wind-man, but it ends-up sonically somewhere between Zappa's silly universe (they were after all, a Zappa tribute before being FC), sometimes Kansas-y sound (Creatures) and a dynamic and uncharacteristically indefinable JR/F, which relies much on improvised soloing, although I wouldn't classify them as a jam band either. But if jam band comparison I'd have to shout, I'd say Phish or - as crazy as it may seem - Spin Doctor (the early albums anyway), but it's nothing definitive.

The fourteen tracks (all but two being above the 8-mins length and stretching as far as 14+) were selected from various live shows or recordings in the North-eastern US between late- 04 and mid-06. On the whole, it appears like the first disc is mostly pre-06 real concerts, featuring studio album tracks, while the second one mainly features '06 live-studio more- improvised tracks. There seems to be a certain kind of neutral objectivity in the selection of this double disc's track list, since there seem to be just two tracks from per previous studio albums. I won't judge on the pertinence of the individual selections in context of their respective albums, since I know next to nothing of them, except what's presented here. But it seems that their Zappa origins are more audible on their earlier albums (again based on what's presented to me here), but their sung material is more bent on Kansas (the vocals, but the violin as well) with some brassy jazz interruptions. As for the non-albums tacks present on the SD, I'd choose the second half of the second disc as my faves.

Clearly Ayasse's main influence is JL Ponty's violin, but Robby Steinhardt's as well, while Lieto's trombone is clearly one of the most impressive on the East-side of the Pecos River, especially when seconded by his brother's wind-instrument fondling (hear Candy Korn's amazing second part). You'll also catch some Gentle Giant moments in the Abyss track.The latter shares duties on keys with guitarist Uh, while the latter diddles the violin as well. Are you sure you're following me? Neither am I, so don't worry, because it's quite difficult to follow who's playing what, where and when. But in the end, it doesn't matter, because it's the amazing interplay of the sextet that makes the band click.

This good two hours+'s worth of music should give you good idea that the best place to grasp the band's essence would be on stage (how about playing on Froggland someday, guys?), because they're relatively lengthy improvisations is an excellent exhibit of their stage and live aptitudes. Indeed, these tracks' general enthusiasm is contagious (probably due to the lesser constraints compared to their studio-composed sisters), and if there are some lengths, it never gets boring or overstay their welcome. A fitting intro to the band's overall aural realm (especially on a stage), but maybe lacking enough material to judge on their studio capacities. If I can judge by the only other album of theirs I have (their newest BE release), either the band evolved tremendously, or the studio works are simply not very representative of their early career! I think the former solution is much more likely, though. To give a honest but fairly-uninitiated advice, from this double live album, Bateless Edge seems to be their best (from far) studio album.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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