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The Far Meadow - Foreign Land CD (album) cover

FOREIGN LAND

The Far Meadow

Neo-Prog


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5 stars I enjoyed the last release from The Far Meadow and their latest, Foreign Land, is even more enjoyable. As before this is symphonic neo-prog. What makes this prog band stand out from the rest is the excellent female vocal which complements and enhances the excellent musicianship throughout the album. I've listened to the album on repeat since I came across it. All five tracks are notable with the opener and longest Travelogue my favourite. This is over 18 minutes that develops over several phases with fine keyboard work and guitar solos before returning for the close with the opening theme. The next two tracks, Sulis Rise and Mud, are probably my least favourite of the five but still enjoyable. The Fugitive and title track Foreign Land provide a strong close to the album with more opportunities for fine solos. I couldn't fault this album and given the amount of enjoyment it has provided I have to give it 5 stars.
Report this review (#2188493)
Posted Friday, April 26, 2019 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars You know, good things take time, in general. I already was impressed by the sophomore effort 'Given The Impossible' from this London based band. Which sees fabulous singer Marguerita Alexandrou taking part for the first time. That was three years ago. And now the follower album, again released on Bad Elephant Music, appears as another matured issue. Health food in terms of the artistical approach. I'm simply thankful for such inspired songs. Produced by a stable line up, which also includes a compelling staff of musicians taking care of guitar, bass, keys and drums. I can certify a well balanced rate of vocal presence and instrumental scope, which means room for some solo excursions will be scheduled too.

An entertaining composition - the extended Travelogue immediately requires full concentration. I would especially highlight Eliot Minn's widely varied keyboard presence due to hammond, piano, (church) organ, strings, synths aso. The tricky Mud is showing diverse tempo changes and multiple heavy guitar tracks offered by Denis Warren. Decorated with amazing piano lines The Fugitive also evolves to a real band showpiece. Produced by a homogenous unity 'Foreign Land' leaves nothing to be desired. With roundabout fifty minutes running time this album is highly entertaining, anything but overproduced music. This means I'm sure they are able to transfer their skills and spirit to the stage in the same way, well and truly. Definitely a must have for neo and symphonic prog connoisseurs.

Report this review (#2189632)
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2019 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The Far Meadow's Foreign Land offers a style of sunny, optimistic neo-prog which puts me in mind of the best work by the likes of Jadis or Magenta - but with the complexity level dialled up just a tad, taking the music to the periphery of symphonic territory. Marguerita Alexandrou's vocals are a major asset, offering a welcome combination of technical chops and a characterful approach, and the compositions are well judged such that vocals and instrumentals support one another rather than getting in each others' way. With a running time of 50 minutes, nobody should feel shortchanged but equally the band don't outlast their welcome either, with a running order which is largely all-killer, no-filler.
Report this review (#2203270)
Posted Friday, May 17, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Going to start by saying, "wow"! This album grabbed me at first listen. It's fresh and yet creates some real glimpses of deja vu in the best of ways. My prog roots started with the Yes album Close to the Edge, and while this collection of songs by The Far Meadow aren't arranged anything like CTTE, I caught the same sense of exhilaration in this music just like I did so many years ago with CTTE. My big love back then was the keys and still are today, so when this starts with a gentle synth wash to warm us up, and then on to big keys, I was hooked straight off. I think there is church organ in there for a bit - sure sounds like it. Think a guy named Rick (and probably a few others) did that way back when and made us all crazy. Yeah, brings back the memories! If you love keys and synths you won't be disappointed with this offering. But allow me to further persuade you...

The next thing to catch our attention are the vocals of Marguerita Alexandrou. Going to be honest here - at first impression I was taken back and a little unsure if I was going to enjoy the album as her vocals are indeed unique! While the first few verses came across to me a little shrill, as the first song progresses her vocals calm down and become more melodic, in a quite fascinating way. Her voice grows on you very quickly, albeit in the high range. As there are no shortage of male singers in prog that are up in the higher vocal range, it's certainly not a foreign concept to expect high pitch singing. In fact, looking for a frame reference as most of us are inclined to do, my thoughts pondered if her vocals weren't almost the feminine antitype of vocalists in the vein of Geddy Lee - a compliment from my perspective as I am pretty big Rush fan. That being said, it may be a vocal type you will love or hate, but as for me, after a few spins of the disc, I am in the love her camp. Indeed, I believe that her vocals are big part in creating and defining the individuality of their sound.

Another thing that I loved about CTTE was the guitar solos and big base, the soft and the loud. So, is this old love satisfied here? Yes, while Foreign Land is lyric-centric to feature their singer (and wisely so!) there is ample room made for all types of instrumental excursions that are enjoyable, of adequate length to satisfy, and executed brilliantly. The interplay back and forth between keys and guitars is well done, each getting their fair time to shine. While most of the guitar work is in the prog- rock vein, there is also some wonderful jazz flavored influence, especially in the title track that just blows me away me each time I hear it. The production of the album itself is clean and crisp, the instruments pop with clarity, and it is just a delight to listen to. By the way, not to forget the drumming, it is top caliber and rounds out the propulsion of this album.

As far as a track by track analysis, I will leave that to others that likely can do a far better job; however, I will say, in my opinion, there are no weak tracks. The opener is an 18 minute block buster full of big keyboard chops, and guitar responses, and they never look back from there. The three shorter tracks that follow - maybe not that short as two of them clock in at 8 minutes - each develop different themes and soundscapes that will keep you listening (no skip tracks here!) to the title track finale, which will surprise and delight specially if you like a little jazz influence in the mix.

While I have mentioned my CTTE correlations with Foreign Land, it's not as I said at the outset, so much about the two albums sounding like one another, as the impact they had on me. Really I don't think they sound much alike at all. While it is apparent that The Far Meadow have numerous musical influences that we all know and will likely recognize, they don't sound much like any of them, but have a quite individual sound - something that's not so easily accomplished these days! This has helped keep this disc in my personal heavy rotation for a few weeks now and I don't see it being bumped anytime soon.

And as a parting observation, I have to mention the album art - beautiful and powerful! It's what got me to investigate the album reviews, which got my interest aroused to take a listen, and I am sure glad I did. To me, the art used fits their music perfectly. I hope they use the same artist on their next effort. It's my impression that this album is moving The Far Meadow to get a fair amount of attention, and it is well deserved. I am eagerly anticipating their next offering already. Hopefully it won't be 3 years between like last time! But in the meanwhile, if you are looking for something fresh and invigorating to check out then this is the one.

So, I am giving this 4.5 stars (is any album really perfect?) + .5 stars for giving me that early CTTE sense of musical exhilaration, so make it 5 big stars!

Report this review (#2219346)
Posted Friday, June 7, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Far Meadow was founded as a five-piece rock combo in London by Eliot Minn (keyboards), Paul Bringloe (drums), Paul Mallatratt (bass), Jon Barry (guitars), and Nokk (voices). The band grew out of the remnants of 'Blind Panic,' which featured Paul Bringloe (drums) and Eliot Minn (keyboards), Jon Barry (guitar), who later played with Big Big Train, Paul Mallatratt (bass) plus Nokk on vocals. Under this name the band didn't release any music and, soon after, the name changed to The Far Meadow. They released their first album entitled Where Joys Abound in 2012, not too long afterwards, Nokk, Jon Barry and PauL Mallatratt all left the band, to be replaced by Keith Buckman (bass), Dennis Warren (guitar) and vocalis Marguerita Alexandrou. In this new line-up The Far Meadow released Given The Impossible in 2016 and Foreign Land in 2019. According to the band "they played under the influence ranging from the classic rock and prog of the innovators (Yes, Genesis, Rush, Focus, Soft Machine, Deep Purple, King Crimson, Gentle Giantl) to the contemporary torchbearers who keep the music alive (Spock's Beard, Flower Kings, RPWL, Rocket Scientists, Dream Theater and many more), together with an added dash of funk, soul, classical, jazz, a twist of blues, and an extreme splodge of general mayhem and insanity."

1. Travelogue (18.55) : An intro with soaring keyboards and spacey synthesizer flights, then bass pedals and an accellaration featuring bombastic Emersonian synthesizer runs, Banks-like organ, a strong rhythm section, moving guitar, and powerful female vocals. This is very pleasant fluent up-tempo prog, with hints from Magenta, but more dynamic and harder-edged. Now the music alternates between more mellow and bombastic parts, very flowing and melodic. From halfway lots of shifting moods, from instrumental with church organ and catchy riffs to a mid-tempo with strong female vocals and a swirling Hammond organ solo (Emerson inspired). In the final part it turns into more mellow with sensitive volume pedal guitar runs, sparkling piano, a bass solo and wonderful vocals. This is topped with a long and compelling guitar solo, from howling to fiery, with deep bass and tight drum beats, now I am in Prog Heaven! The conclusion is a short build-up from dreamy to bombastic featuring strong vocals, moving electric guitar and again Emersonian keyboards, this epic is a very good start!

2. Sulis Rise (8.22) : It starts with beautiful orchestral keyboards, then many flowing changing climates featuring strong work on guitar (evoking Saga) and keyboards, topped with the excellent voice of Marguerita, what an ace. We can enjoy a fluent pitchend bend driven synthesizer solo, a harder-edged guitar solo with fiery runs, a sparkling Banks-like synthesizer solo and a moving electric guitar solo. And every time in between that pleasant and strong female voice.

3. Mud (5.11) : After a short but sumptuous church organ sound the music turns into a dynamic and often bombastic piece with strong work on guitar and keyboards. The female voice does a very good job in every climate, and the band delivers lots of interesting musical ideas.

4. The Fugitive (8.38) : First a swinging rhythm with exciting work on keyboards and guitar, then a slow rhythm with dreamy vocals and beautiful piano runs (Dutch Flamborough Head comes to my mind). Halfway a break with strong interplay between guitar and piano, followed by a fiery guitar solo with slap bass, it sounds as swinging jazzrock, another good musical idea by the band. Finally again those dreamy vocals (with a melancholical undertone) and beautiful piano runs, culminating into a more lush sound, slowly fading away.

5. Foreign Land (11.08) : The intro delivers a mellow atmosphere with subtle dreamy guitar and keyboards, topped with the varied female voice, gracefully meandering through the multiple flowing shifting moods in this alternating final track. The interplay between the vocals and piano is wonderful. Halfway a captivating instrumental break with bombastic keyboards and fiery guitar, how exciting! Then a mellow part with a buzzing bass, dreamy keyboards, after an accellaration follows a long and flashy synthesizer solo. Now it has become the realm of jazzrock featuring a strong, distinctive scale-acrobatic driven guitar soli, supported by a dynamic and powerful rhythm-section. Finally bombastic keyboards and wonderful vocals, in a compelling symphonic rock grand finale with choir-like keyboards, fiery guitar runs and a powerful rhythm-section, wow!

To me this outstanding music, topped with superb female vocals, sounds as adventurous Neo Symhonic Rock, highly recommended!

This review was recently published on the Dutch progrock website Background Magazine, in a slightly different version.

Report this review (#2237525)
Posted Thursday, July 11, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars This is the first time I have come across London-based prog band The Far Meadow, who apparently are incredibly active on the gigging front, but somehow New Zealand has not been on their list so far, surely a minor omission. 'Foreign Land' is their third album, and the second for BEM, and even before putting it on the player I was intrigued as the opening song, 'Travelogue', is nearly 19 minutes long. That is a real statement of intent, so I put it on and waited to be impressed ' it didn't take long. A few layered gentle keyboards lulls in the listener as Elliot Minn warms up his finger. A drum break announces the change in tempo, and while guitar and bass keep it simple, Elliot starts to provide complex runs while Paul Bringloe provides jazz-style drum patterns. But when singer Marguerita Alexandrou joins the fray she then lifts it to a new level, and I found the production of her voice incredibly interesting as it has been kept relatively dry with little of the reverb which can often be found, and this combined with drums being more to the fore than one would expect (the snare is particularly prominent, at times possibly too much), gives the band a quite different sound even before getting into the style of music they are playing.

The result is for the most part solid neo-prog, more in keeping with the likes of Galahad and Credo, with definite nods to IQ, rather than Magenta or The Reasoning. Denis Warren's guitar interplay with the keyboards is incredibly deft, and it is actually possible to overlook all the work he is putting in, as he plays less chords than one might normally expect, but rather is weaving Chandler and Hackett style lines throughout, linking in strongly with the keyboards to provide additional layers while bassist Keith Buckman stays firmly in the background providing the balance.

The keyboard sounds used within the album are interesting, as they are often fairly dated, but as well as the more 'traditional' sounds a proghead is used to hearing there are also plenty from the Eighties, which again provides a different feel. When there are vocals the band tend to stay more in the background, yet when they are allowed to flex they are counterpunching in and off the beat, syncopated when the time is right, never prepared to stick within any particular style, always pushing forward. During the title cut the band move into pure lounge jazz, while at another Marguerita sings a capella. There is a real confidence within the band, something that only comes from many hours of playing and understanding each other.

I can hear I've missed out by not coming across these guys before this, ensure you don't do the same thing.

Report this review (#2249420)
Posted Sunday, September 8, 2019 | Review Permalink

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