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THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE

Neo-Prog • United States


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The Psychedelic Ensemble biography
Founded in New York, USA in 2009

With over 30 years experience in the music industry, the multi-instrumentalist known as THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE (Craig First ???) has garnered numerous awards including more than 20 ASCAP awards and many others. Having worked as a performer, composer, and arranger with many preeminent musicians worldwide, the artist has recently released five solo albums under the moniker of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE.

In 2009, Musea Records released the debut album, "The Art of Madness". Nominated Best Debut Album at ProgAwards, the album reached top rankings on polls and charts worldwide. 2010 saw the release of "The Myth of Dying". Nominated Best Foreign Record and Best Production at ProgAwards, the album also reached top rankings on charts and polls around the globe coming in at No. 29 on the 2010 Global Progressive Rock Poll Top 100. In 2011 "The Dream of the Magic Jongleur" was released. A progressive rock album that combines symphonic prog and fusion styles. "The Dream of the Magic Jongleur" fuses a complex collection of songs with a beautiful collection of original artworks produced for the album. Nominated for Best Keyboard Performance (Album) and Best Keyboard Solo (The Riddle) by "The Proggies" awards, the album reached many critics' 2011 Top 10 lists including No. 1 (Alex Torres, Dutch Progressive Rock Page), No. 2 (Jon Neudorf, Sea of Tranquility), No. 3 (Gert Hulshof, Dutch Progressive Rock Page), Top 10 Progressive News Germany, Editors' Choice (Wild Thing magazine, Greece), No. 9 (ProgLog Afterglow), the Top 100 Global Progressive Rock Poll, and additional polls worldwide. In 2013 the fourth release appeared from THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, "The Tale of the Golden King". A 72-minute concept, THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is joined on selected tracks by orchestra and vocalist Ann Caren. The album was included on over 20 Top and Best of 2013 polls and charts.

In 2015 comes the new release, "The Sunstone". The spellbinding 62-minute concept includes the return of vocalist Ann Caren and guest appearances from Michael Wilk of Steppenwolf and others.

The music of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE combines progressive rock, symphonic rock, fusion, and classical styles. All five albums present complex concepts in gapless fashion. Each album is a musical journey through inventive terrains. The drama of each album unfolds in complex performances and compositions. While creating the effect of a large ensemble, the music is, ...
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THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE discography


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THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.46 | 70 ratings
The Art Of Madness
2009
3.69 | 95 ratings
The Myth Of Dying
2010
4.00 | 143 ratings
The Dream Of The Magic Jongleur
2011
4.03 | 264 ratings
The Tale Of The Golden King
2013
3.88 | 170 ratings
The Sunstone
2015
3.90 | 79 ratings
Mother's Rhymes
2019

THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.88 | 8 ratings
The Secrets Of Your Mind
2011
4.50 | 4 ratings
Undone
2012
3.50 | 2 ratings
Silent Sam
2012
5.00 | 1 ratings
Blind Mice
2018
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Mill Grinder
2018

THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Mother's Rhymes by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 79 ratings

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Mother's Rhymes
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This project perfectly fits into the popular progressive rock tradition. It has song-writing and instrumental properties of seventies Genesis, notable portions of Jethro Tull (acoustics, use of organ, vocals, mixing) and quite a lot of Canterbury noodling ('Shaving is Boring' by Heatfield comes to mind). The musicality and virtuosity is all over the place and the compositions are full of ideas and variations on them. The sound pallets of the instruments are all clearly based on well-knows musicians like Hackett, Gilmour, Ian Anderson, Peter Gabriel and notably Phil Collins (his work as a drummer). Furthermore I would like to add that this album would have fitted nicely in the symphonic progressive genre, whereas clear cut neo-prog elements are hard to find.

As with most one-man projects, The Psychedelic Ensemble has some rather unbalanced traits, which is the main reason this album did not be become what clearly must be possible. The main problem is the mixing here with its 'everything all the time' mentality, reminding me of the most chaotic moments of Jethro Tull. Every instrument is front every-time. This especially true for the Phil Collins influenced drumming - which rather sounds like solo percussion than part of a rhythm section. During the second halve of the album, which is full of up-tempo Canterbury riffs this makes the music bordering unlistenable. Had this project been properly mixed and recorded in a way that a max of two musical elements would take center stage at a time, this same recording could have been significantly better. As it is, 'Mother's Rhymes' buries its notable musicianship and composition prowess in sludgy, chaotic musical landscapes that are indifferent as to what the listener is supposed to listen to. This is especially true for the important moments with vocals. Key moments of songwriting - in which vocals and lyrics should communicate where the listener is (emotionally and story-wise) - are just thrown under the bus of ever raging instrumental passages and poor mixing. A less chaotic instrumental piece with just guitar, piano and violin like 'Blind Mice' shows how much this group could even own up to Banco's most beautiful passages by just keeping things in check.

Please re-mix this album (and the ones preceding it!) and let some-one less 'into' this music take a fresh look at how it impacts on listeners. How to make key moments stand out. How a song itself sometimes needs to do its work. Make some hard choices, kill your darlings. This gathering of talent deserves much better.

 Mother's Rhymes by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 79 ratings

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Mother's Rhymes
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars The Psychedelic Ensemble is back! At times, his voice sounds a little worn and weak, but the sonic renderings of his compositions continue to be of the highest quality--so much so, in fact, that one might even recommend to other prog artists a sincere listen so that they might better observe the highest standards of sound production. I must say that the one big distinction of this new release from its recent category is TPE's restraint from layering his soundscapes as thickly as before; there is a much more liberal use of space and understatement to make his statements. The blistering multi-instrumental soli are present, but in more reserved usages; TPE gives his audience much more time and space within which to hear his story, to feel the general salve of his erudite musical expressions.

1. "Mother's Rhymes" (8:36) an unusually spacious and sedate song construct. I like it! (19/20)

2. "Farewell" (5:27) opens with an unusual plaintive musical and vocal section--more like Neo Crossover balladeer. I like the simplicity but I have to admit it was difficult for me to wait so long for some substantive excitement: 90 seconds till second gear, 2:20 till symphonic bliss.Wonderful orchestration, but, unfortunately, it falls into patterns of old familiar sounds and riffs during the instrumental exposition. (8.5/10)

3. "Little Boy Blue" (5:36) opens with seering electric lead guitar before the full instrumental palette joins in. In full swing, the song is heavy, thick, dramatic, definitely proggy. The presence of the wicked Hammond organ is powerful! As are the bass and impassioned vocal. Wow! This is different! At 3:25 things slow down and a kind of bluey PINK FLOYD guitar solo takes center stage before everything falls away save synths to support TPE's raspy voice (so far forward!) The song finishes with a nice synth strings and real strings motif before bleeding with the organ into the next song. (9/10)

4. "Little Bo Peep" (7:17) TPE's tribute to JEAN-LUC PONTY?! It opens like something from Jean-Luc's mid-to-late-70s production with an absolutely stellar bass line. Ann Caren's multiple-track vocals are a fresh and effective ploy. The bass, swirling keys, and rhythm guitar riff remain constant in their embedment with JLP while the vocals and lead guitar soli develop in more TPE stylings. A fresh and clever stylistic approach. Even the drums sound more human than ever! Ann's vocal in that last minute with its orchestral accompaniment is so crystalline! Beautiful! (13.35/15)

5. "Blind Mice" (4:11) opens as if a continuation from the last song with a spry trio of classical guitar, violin, and piano. Wonderful! One of those displays of virtuosity that is both performance and compositional. Wow! We are so lucky to have this man serving this fare to us in 2019! (10/10)

6. "Simple Simon" (5:33) opening with a heavy fullness as if coming from a late 1960s blues-rock band--the swirl of the dirty Hammond organ especially. Though the music quickly transitions into a more modern sound palette, the lead guitar sound and grungy Hammond remain throughout. The vocal and successive instrumental soli remain consistent and true to the opening compositional choice of sober portentousness. (9.25/10)

7. "Humpty Dumpty" (6:41) A TPE gift in the form of a folk rock song. Comparisons elude me though the sounds, styles, and riffs are so familiar to me! TPE's multi-instrumental machine-gun bursts confuse and distract one from divining the essence beneath. Fuzz guitar, bouncing and swirling Hammond, Claire Torey-like background voices, and deeply driving bass and rhythm lines. The song's only flaw is a sad return to the drumming style and sounds of TPE albums of old. (13.5/15)

8. "Rewrite the Rhymes" (7:54) some old sounds (chunky bass, Hammond) help drive this emotional and almost frenetic song. The song construct is masterful, the instrumental performances flawless, the sound palette at times awkward, the sound engineering inconsistent. (12.5/15)

Total Time 51:15

Five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music. Once again TPE comes through to show us how it's done- -to educate today's artists as to the standards of sophistication and force that the original prog artists of the 1970s aspired to.

 Mother's Rhymes by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 79 ratings

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Mother's Rhymes
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by omphaloskepsis

5 stars If Little Bo Peep wed Little Boy Blue would she be Little Bo Peep Blew?

The mysterious TPE weaves a rich tapestry of classical chamber, symphonic prog, and jazz into a varied, cohesive Mother Goose concept album. The cryptic melancholy of "Farewell" left Humpty Dumpty all broken up, so Simple Simon says. The blind mice saw nothing, said nothing, remaining mute, throughout a melodious gem of a piano laden instrumental.

Mother's Rhymes is my first and only contact with The Psychedelic Ensemble. If TPE's previous albums radiate Mother's Rhymes' majesty, than color me, overnight fan girl.

I'm extremely impressed with TPE's composition abilities. Every song memorable, unique, catchy, yet proggy. The sequencing and flow are superb. Mother's Rhymes showcases chamber music, several subgenre's of jazz, and prog. And he's got the chops, vision, and ability to make it shine. TPE's vocals remind me of Ian Anderson's. He incorporates female vocals for Little Bo Peep. Extraordinary use of violin and strings. Resplendent keys vary from classical to bebop, from Keith Emerson-ish, to folky. The acoustic and electric guitar work is focused, whimsical, and necessary. Mother's Rhymes feels more optimistic than most modern prog. Candidate for my album of the year. Bravo maestro, whoever you are. You virtuoso!

 Mother's Rhymes by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 79 ratings

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Mother's Rhymes
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by steelyhead

4 stars Who is behind this wonderful album? Is a shame We can no longer talk, as We did with others groups in the past of the wonderful xxx in the drums who is much better than yyy. The classical and lyrical notes of aaa in the keyboards much, much better than bbb, here everything is a mystery. This whole album is a masterful piece that someone wrote and played in it. It has hints of Yes, Kansas and classical music (nice violin) in It but in the whole is a magnificent The Psychedelic Ensemble album. Mother's Rhymes is for You. Grab It while You can!
 Mother's Rhymes by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 79 ratings

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Mother's Rhymes
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

5 stars Mother's Rhymes is the much-awaited sixth full-length studio album from the quasi-anonymous composer, The Psychedelic Ensemble (TPE). Like TPE's other albums, it a concept album whose theme, this time, recalls the often creepy nursery rhymes that plague one's thoughts since childhood, and how all can be rectified if we simply "rewrite the rhymes".

Fans of his previous album, "The Sunstone", will immediately appreciate this new release as it shares a great deal of compositional elements and vocal stylings. At the time of writing this review, the album was released only for streaming and downloading without liner notes, so the full list of credits is somewhat unknown. However, there is a great deal of violin presence throughout this album, and that can easily be attributed to a past collaborator, Davis Brooks. There are also female vocals, both as lead on "Little Bo Peep", and backing on many other tracks. To this reviewer's ear, it is once again the vocalist who goes by the nom de plume, Ann Caren. There are other parts, particularly at the end of track 8, "Rewrite the Rhymes", that don't sound like Ann, so there could be (as has been rumored) another female guest vocalist.

Like TPE's past couple of releases, this album is jam packed with layers of keys, guitar, violin, percussion, and synth. It must be listened to at fairly high volume to give room to the immense dynamic range, and to appreciate the full drama of TPE's compositions. Keys, as always, are blazingly fast -- so much so that Keith Emerson, were he alive, would stand up and applaud. And TPE's guitar work, both acoustic and electric, really stands out on this album. Attentive listeners will pick out, particularly on track 2, the one-string tremolo on guitar -- no doubt derived from his classical mandolin compositions.

The album is also chock full of various moods. "Mother's Rhymes" starts with a somewhat folksy, pastoral mood reminiscent of his first couple of albums, before it quickly moves into the mind-filling drama that we have come to know and love. Track 2, "Farewell", is somewhat somber and brings to mind Gentle Giant's "Think of Me With Kindness". Track 5, "Blind Mice", was previously released as a single. It is all instrumental and heavily classically influenced. Track 6, "Simple Simon", begins with a brooding delivery. Track 8, "Rewrite the Rhymes", is fast-paced, up-beat, and happy. It ends with the lyrics "When the bow breaks, the cradle won't fall, and safe will be baby, cradle and all." -- an obvious rewrite of the original nursery rhyme. All tracks run seamlessly together, with a continuous, uninterrupted flow.

TPE has done it again. He created another virtuosic masterpiece that will not age with time. One can't help but wonder whether some tracks, notably "Farewell" and "Humpty Dumpty" reflect on TPE's personal experiences, or whether it's just another example of his epic story telling like we've heard on "The Tale of the Golden King", and "The Sunstone". Only time, or maybe he himself, will tell. Five stars.

 The Mill Grinder by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2018
3.00 | 1 ratings

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The Mill Grinder
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

— First review of this album —
3 stars The somewhat anonymous composer who calls himself "The Psychedelic Ensemble" (TPE) is once again teasing us with another single entitled "The Mill Grinder", which follows closely on the heels of "Blind Mice" released seven months earlier. This single has all the hallmarks that we've come to love about TPE: layered compositions, masterful keyboard work, easily identifiable vocals, and demonstrated skill as a multi-instrumentalist. The style, unlike "Blind Mice" which was classically rooted, more closely resembles his work on the progressive rock album "The Sunstone". This piece opens with a harpsichord, and is soon backed by a rhythm from bass and percussion which I can only describe as purposefully clumsy -- perhaps to make the listener think of the arrhythmic grind of a machine or mill. But about two-thirds the way through, TPE reminds us of his mastery of composition with wonderful keyboard and guitar melodies built atop a solidly rhythmic foundation, as if it was a brief lunch break amid the daily grind of industry. There appears to be no one else contributing on this single... No Davis Brooks on violin, Kurt Fowler on cello, Ann Caren on vocals, or any of the other artists who have contributed to his work in the past. My only minor complaint about this track is that the mastering comes across as slightly harsh and noisy at times, but again, this might be an intentional feature to emphasize the harsh, daily grind of the mill. I'm glad TPE is still active, and look forward, hopefully, to release of another full-length album.
 Blind Mice by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2018
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Blind Mice
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

— First review of this album —
5 stars At one time, the artist know as The Psychedelic Ensemble (TPE) responded to an interviewer asking why he wanted to remain anonymous, and his reply was that he didn't want his works in the progressive rock and classical genres to reflect on one another -- he wanted each to be judged independently. But it's getting harder to do, as the last few releases have demonstrated TPE's genius at composition. His classical background is becoming more and more evident in his prog works. Blind Mice clearly shows his prowess as an elite composer and highly skilled multi-instrumentalist. It would comfortably be classified in either genre. In some ways, this piece is simpler than the more energetic, highly-orchestrated works on The Tale of the Golden King or The Sunstone -- having only keyboard, guitar and violin, but at the same time, the intricate interplay between them makes it sound more complex. Davis Brooks on violin adds a sublime backdrop throughout, but really stands out in the intro and the nearly minute-long solo for the outro. More cerebral and somewhat less energetic than any of his other recent works, it remains to be seen whether this sets the tone for an upcoming release, or is an exception to the rule. Five stars all day.
 The Art Of Madness by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.46 | 70 ratings

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The Art Of Madness
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars "Fascinating eclectic approach of progressive music!"

The Psychedelic Ensemble is the project of one person, he wants to remain anonymous but in the past he has played with known names according to the information his website. Here I also find the interesting idea behind the concept of the album The Art Of Madness. Mr. X. (from now on) read in the New York Times an article about a special exhibition: paintings by patients from the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in New York. Mr. X. was stunned by both the huge imagination of the patients as the words by the curator of the exhibition (also a psychiatrist): "I think that creativity and artistic production is almost a symptom of mental illness". This was the start of his project and eventually led to the release of the concept album The Art Of Madness, his fascinating debut from 2009, meanwhile Mr. X and his project The Psychedelic Ensemble have released four other studio-albums, the latest is The Sunstone from 2015. This review is about his debut CD.

It contains 11 tracks about different manifestations of 'madness', from a psychosis to a nervous breakdown and from despair to panic. The main character discovers that he doesn't consider this as a burden, it even culminates into unprecedented creativity and artistic output. In the end he embraces 'his madness' instead of going down. And it becomes a guide for his extraordinary and distorted vision of the world. Mr. X. explains that although the lion's share of this album is based upon improvisations, there is a concept with harmonic ideas, themes and repetitive motives. Then he selected the paintings of the exhibition very carefully with the 11 tracks. Because I am both a proghead (since the mid Seventies) and a psychiatric nurse (since the late Eighties), I was extra curious to the way Mr. X. has translated his ideas into music.

Well, he did very well like a nervous climate in Panic (fluent rhythm, brass and a biting guitar solo) and Breakdown (propulsive with fiery guitar, a sumptuous ELP atmosphere and a captivating duel between brass and guitar).

Warm and dreamy in Fantasy and Dream, this one is short but wonderful with a delicate acoustic guitar solo.

It's a bit scary and alienated in Delusion (like you are part of the desintegration of the mind)

Sad in Despair delivering a melancholy climate with tasteful colouring by accordion, organ and slide guitar.

And in Moon Mad (subtle reference to Syd Barrett?) the atmosphere alternates between hope and fear: from dreamy featuring twanging acoustic guitars to fiery with heavy electric guitar.

Although I notice elements of early Pink Floyd (just listen to the slide guitar sound and the dark vocals with rhythm guitar), the Psychedelic Ensemble enables to translate the subject 'madness' into a captivating and varied musical adventure. I needed a few listening sessions to get into the music but then I started to appreciate it more and more. Recommended!

 The Sunstone by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.88 | 170 ratings

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The Sunstone
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars US project THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE first appeared back in 2009, the creative vehicle of a composer and musician who stays anonymous from the very beginning of his activity in this field of art. He does, however, state on his website that he has more than 30 years of experience in music and has numerous awards to his name, including more than 20 Ascap awards! "The Sunstone" is the fifth studio album by the project, and was released through 'its' own label Glowing Sky Records.

High quality symphonic progressive rock with a quality inclusion of orchestral classical music is what The Psychedelic Ensemble provides us with on "The Sunstone". That this is a conceptual creation can perhaps be regarded as a bonus feature. Those who love and cherish this style of music, executed in high quality on all levels, can safely regard this album as one to place on the list of CDs that merit a check, to say the least.

 The Sunstone by PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.88 | 170 ratings

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The Sunstone
The Psychedelic Ensemble Neo-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team

5 stars What a appropriate name for this band, because they play music like a small ensemble that mixed things up with a rock attitude, a retro sound and classical embellishment. Also, a part from their symphonic approach, the band make some intrusion into the world of fusion, especially in the songs "The Storm" and "The Quake". We can hear female and male vocals throughout the album that is dominated by beautiful keyboards and piano textures that has some Wakeman and Emerson sound. The guitars still show some sparks with sharp accents. The vocals sometimes are reminiscent of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, but the music is more in the style of the band Yes. The music has a lot of classical structures and also the songs are developed with sometimes some beautiful soloing from the keyboards and the guitar, but those solos doesn't take the lead over the full orchestra ensemble. "Prologue" is a nice intro with his soundtrack movie feel. The next track "The Sunstone" put you right away in the heart of the music with some busy keyboards. "The Siren's Spell" has some unique guitar sound and the presence for the first time of the female vocals of Ann Caren. "The Storm" has some fast pace fusion music with violin not too far from a band like KBB. "Gaze" is my favorite track with some incredible musicianship with the Hammond and the bass. If the last albums of the band was a nice discovery for me, this one seems to be for now more satisfying. Highly recommended!
Thanks to debrewguy for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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