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Bellaphon - Firefly CD (album) cover

FIREFLY

Bellaphon

Neo-Prog


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loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars BELLAPHON play a melodic instrumental prog combining elements of CAMEL with their own unique lush yet slightly daring atmospheres. BELLAPHON combine all the right elements for me with great atmospheric keyboards, excellent percussion, wicked guitar which although highly technical never gets too loud. BELLAPHON also features Masahiro Torigaki from AIN SOPH who plays some luscious bass guitar. Songs are exceptionally well crafted and played with superb musicianship. Without a question "Firefly" is one of the pinnacle albums from Japan's golden age of Progressive Rock and is an essential album for your collection. A wonderful listen...!

Report this review (#1284)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars Another of of these 80's Japan neo-prog group that I only discovered in the mid-90's and they share the same merits than Gerard but also the same flaws as them. Your typical 80's japanese prog, ultra symphonic and ultra high vocals. Both of these characteristics usually get so quickly on my nerves, I think I'd better end this reviwe here, before a rash starts. If you eally really really really want to find out more about this group , see my reviews on the two Gerard albums (85 & 98)
Report this review (#1285)
Posted Thursday, April 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Bellaphon made their stand on the softer side of the 80s Japanese prog scene, founding their sound on the thread of Camel's sheer melodic sensibility (circa 'Breathless'/'I Can See.') handled with magical exquisiteness (circa 'Moon Madness'). Bellaphon's career developed hand in hand with Ain Soph's (as a matter of fact, they shared the same bassist, and at times, the keyboardsman as well), but unlike them, Bellaphon's approach left the jazz factor pretty much subdued in favour of a more determined symphonic line of work. The highlights of 'Firefly' are tracks 3, 5, 6, and in a lesser degree, the closing title track. 'Mistral' is a very joyful number, indeed, includes some delicate troubadour-like lines on acoustic guitar in perfet coordination with flute-like synthesizer lines. 'Mistral' is the perfect example of how craftily Bellaphon shift from one motif to another and then reprise used ones through a most natural flow. On the other hand, 'Vent du Midi' and 'Evros' combine pomposity and clean exquisiteness, always keeping a delicate ordainment of the various motifs that come to the fore. The title track has a more remarkable pompous leaning, but unfortunately, the long final section proves anti-climatic due to its slow tempo (despite its well-crafted chord twists): it feels somehow as a poorer version of Ain Soph's 'A Story of Mysterious Forest' suite, but it isn't terrible, it's just that it doesn't have a proper end that finalizes the majesty that had been alluded all the way thrgouh. On the other hand, it's a good thing that the bonus track 'Labyrinth' (taken from a previous flexi-disc recording) exhibits the necessary doses of enthusiasm required from a proper closing. This track combines seamlessly the colorful joy of 'Mistral' and the symphonic splendor of 'Vent du Midi' and 'Evros'. I feel that the keyboardist and the drummer sustain the basis for the band's overal sound. The former' style is founded on a mixture of symphonic finesse and melodic jazzy leanings (attention to his piano solos on 'Mistral' and 'Labyrinth'), while the latter displays a rich dynamics that stands somewhere between Andy Ward's tradition and late 70s Alan White (from "Going for the One" to "Drama"). Although "Firefly" is not an outstanding masterpiece, nor breaks new ground, it sure deserves to be praised as what it precisely is: an attractive collection of well crafted pieces, masterfully performed in old fashioned Camelesque symphonic style.
Report this review (#1286)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Wow! What a marvelous instrumental record! I heard a lot about this band but I didn't have the opportunity to listen to Firefly until very recently. A friend told me they sound a lot like Camel, with some jazz and fusion thrown in for good mesure. As a big fan of Camel, I had to hear this. So I finally could get a hold of a copy of this classic exemple of the Japanese symphonic rock of the 80's. I was really curious.

I have to admit their music didn't strike me at first. The first tracks sounded too jazz rock for my taste. Ok, they do reminded me of some Camel's more jazzy moments like Lunar Sea and parts of Breathless. After repeated listenings however, I was able to grasp their intricated structures and great melodies. As only the finest prog records can do, the music grows on each listening until you became addicted to it. But the last three songs, Evros, Firefly and the bonus track Labyrinth proved to be masterpieces on the first listening: fantastic melodic journey with an incredible Latimer/Gilmour styled guitars, tasteful keyboards and a creative rhythm section. Man, those 3 tracks were worth the price of the CD! Those emotional guitar solos gave me shivers down the spine when I listened to them. It's pure joy!

Production is excellent too, with a very balanced and clear sound that enhances each instrument at the right time. And I must say those guys were very inspired by Camel, but really have developed their own style and sometimes even surpassed their masters (lsiten to the title track and see what I mean!). It is only a pity they didn't release a folow up until so many years after this one (and it seemes it was not as good, but since I didn't lsiten to it I can't really tell). But Firefly stands as one of the best prog produced in the 80's. It is a masterpiece of prog music, even if it is not that original. But, after all, who is? 5 stars with honors. Simply essential for any prog music lover.

Report this review (#202003)
Posted Saturday, February 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 80's...Harsh time for progressive rock,but not in Japan...Around 1981 another great band was formed in Kyoto,BELLAPHON.Centered around keyboardist's Mitsutaka Kaki work,the band developed through time a synth-based symphonic prog style,that ended up as an all instrumental project.BELLAPHON mainly worked as a guitar/keyboards/drums trio,although for their first release they were helped by AIN SOPH's bassist Masahiro Torikagi.''Firefly'' was released in 1987 and it's just another lost gem coming from Japan.Obviously influenced by the sound of CAMEL,BELLAPHON deliver an excellent symphonic rock album with fusion doses added here and there.Unlike energetic,powerful bands like Finch or Crucis,BELLAPHON had chosen to base their sound on grandiose keyboards,melodic ANDY LATIMER-like guitar solos,mid-tempos and carefully-arranged fusion interplays (in the vein of Japanese bands like AIN SOPH or KENSO),without being excessive.The keyboard/piano work of Kaki is the definition of a symph rock seminar!So,if you like emotional,keyboard-based melodic prog in the vein of CAMEL with a touch of fusion,then you have to go for it!A masterful underrated prog rock treasure!

Report this review (#207948)
Posted Saturday, March 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Bellaphon from Kyoto (japan) formed in 1981 - this totaly unnoticed neo prog band from late '80's did a great job here with this first album from their career. They play in vein of Camel, Deyss but with their own twist, all album is instrumental dominated by keboards of Mitsutaka Kaki. Very pleasent this album from 1987 named Firefly. Lots of great guitar chops, great key passages not far from Camel very well puted together by Toshihiro Tanaka who really knows how to interplay with the rest of the musicians and create something worthy investigate. The best piest is - Vent Du Midi - near 11 minutes of the highest class neo prog cobines with symphonic prog and even some jazzy elements addd here and there, the rest of the pieces are great aswell. I wonder why they are so unknown to prog circles this japanese, this is really a great album who desearve a wider recognition. So a good album who desearves fro me 3 stars easely, well not a masterpiece but a good and catchy album all the way. Is quite hard to find this album, but if you do, give it a try, you will not be deseppointed for sure.
Report this review (#244231)
Posted Sunday, October 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Truly symphonic and amazingly complex, this Japanese band is quite interesting. Of course, you have to appreciate instrumental music but this is not a problem since the tracks performed here are quite well structured and nicely played.

Some sort of "Camel" but more intricate even if "Le Petit Prince" is totally faithful to their model. Most of the songs have a French title which is quite surprising. "Mistral" is the name of a wind which blows in the Mediterranean (from inland towards the sea, which has the result of cooling the water substantially). I don't see any relation though with the musical theme offered here.

Technically up to date, the musicians are quite skilled. Guitar is particularly crafted but not only. One can discover the subtle piano during the short interlude called "Belle De Jour". It is full of tact and almost classical.

Again, the guitar is splendid and fully reminiscent of the great old Carlos (Santana of course) during the poetic and brilliant "Vent Du Midi" which is the highlight IMHHO. The whole of this album is a pleasant experience. At no moment did I feel weaknesses neither in the music played nor boredom to listen to it.

"Santana" fans should really listen to this works. The genuine sound of the master during his peaks is wonderfully rendered here. The closing number and title track is truly transporting you some forty years behind (I mean 1970) and the first album of this great band (Santana, I mean). Superb and powerful organ work. As if Greg was there to hold the role?

Now, comes the rating? As a global experience, I would rate this work with seven out of ten. It is maybe due to the fact that this fully instrumental work lacks in substance at times. Anyway: this is a good album and it deserves your attention.

Let's upgrade it to four stars. I really wonder why this band was switched from symph to neo though.

Report this review (#307428)
Posted Saturday, October 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Clearly inpired by the music of the British band CAMEL, "Firefly" from Japanese band BELLAPHON shows an unusual prog rock for the most of bands from that country, like TERU'S SYMPHONY (whit his heavy and more theatrical style) or KENSO ( and their fantastic and full of virtuosity Jazz-Prog) for mention some of most famous. The album is totally instrumental, and the melody is very mellow. In some moments they incorporated some jazz elements in Jean-Luc Ponty and moods or something like that and some Symphonic "atmospheres" ( a very good example from this affirmations as in track 5 " Vent Du Midi" ). The track 6 " Evros" show a few heavy moments. In spite this variations the music is very close to CAMEL and the album don't reserve so much surprises. Due this considerations my rate is only 3 stars !!!
Report this review (#1030460)
Posted Saturday, September 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars A great CAMEL album not played nor composed by CAMEL. Being derivative is often seen as a limit, but when things are well done it's not really bad. Just listen to "Jade", the opening track. It could be on any Camel album of the Bardens era.

I mention Bardens because the band is more keyboard than guitar oriented, and this is the principal difference. Years ago I rated their second album quite low because of the poor sound quality as some tracks were recorded live probably with non-professional equipment.

This one, instead, is good also from the engineering point of view. The bass playing is more in line with Ferguson than with Sinclair and Bass. Jade is in the "Moonmadness" side of the things.

"Le Petit Prince" is a short slow and melodic instrumental. It may be the track title in French, which reminds to "La Princess Perdue". This track could be one of the interludes in The Snow Goose. Immediately after it fades out, "Mistral" has some mixed influences: the Camel's middle period, from Raind Dances to The Single Factor. Effectively there's a bit of Alan Parsons influence but only in some parts of the track. The central part of the track features a jazzy piano which adds also a touch on newage.

Another French title for a one minute track: "Belle Du Jour". It's a piano solo with a classical flavor. Nice but quite outplaced.

"Vent Du Midi" Brings us back to the Moonmadness/Rain Dances times. I know that speaking of a band while reviewing another looks schizofrenic, but I can't avoid comparing them to their influencers. As it's a track longer than the album's average, there's something more. Not completely derivative I'd say. One thing to remark is the very complicate signatures that some parts of the track have. In the second part of the track there's an excellent guitar driven section. It's apity that they were used to fade the tracks out.

"Evros" is about 9 minutes long as the previous track. What to say? It's very good this too. After a keyboard lead intro repeated twice, the bass starts palying a samba-like base on which the gutar makes an axcellent job, then it goes back to more usual rhythms. Here the bassist seems (to me at least) inspired by the Sinclair's jazzy style.

Tte title track is just 1 minute shorter than "Lady Fantasy" but opens like "Lunar Sea". Effectively after the intro fades out there's an break of Keyboards and guitar thar reminds to the intro of Lady Fantasy, but after having repeated it a couple of times there's room for a very good jazzy gutar solo followed by a keyboards one, while the rhytmic section is in the "Liggin' At Louis" mood. The bad with this track is that it's very discontinuous. A theme stops and another starts. It's more a patchwork of short pieces tied together without using a good glue. All the single parts are very good, but they can't be considered as a single thing. The guitar work is excellent throughout the track, in any case.

Finally a "bonus track" closes the album. On "Labyrynth" the production is clearly not the same. The recording is less professional and it jeopardizes the quality of this last song which is strongly inspired by Camel like the others, with the exception of the central part that it's a very nice jazz piece.

I remember a thread in the PA forum, where somebody was asking for Camel like bands. Well, this is the best one that I've found up to now. I have listened to this album a huge number of times, more than how I've been used to listen to The Single Factor.

Derivative but extremely good, and if you are in abstinence of Camel, this is an excellent surrogate.

Report this review (#2234190)
Posted Monday, July 1, 2019 | Review Permalink

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