(All Album Reviews by Duncan Glenday)
Style : Neo Progressive Rock, AOR
Rating : 4 /5
Summary : Some prog, some pop, some AOR, all played remarkably well by four of Prog’s more respected performers
What do you want from your music? Challenging prog that is different, demanding, and scorned by your family and by the general public? Well – yes. But there are always occasions when you're looking for something more approachable – something that will play well while you’re entertaining, or fit into the background, or provide an easy-listening break from all the taxing task of serious prog appreciation. Kino’s debut album Picture is an intelligent, perfectly executed body of work that will provide that old-fashioned requisite of music – simple listening pleasure.
Kino comprises four seasoned practitioners of Brit-neo prog’s better bands:
The music ranges from progressive through rock to AOR, and even comes close to pop on one song. The 9-minute opener “Losers' Day Parade” is progressive in every sense of the word. It runs through a sequence of tempo and mood shifts and doesn't stay still for more than a minute at a time. It's standard neo-prog in places, then it’s hard rock, some passages turn it into a whisper-soft angst-ridden thing, there are Gabriel-esque off-the-wall vocals and there’s a Beatles-like passage including a the crackling of a scratched LP, and a simple piano line with straightforward but melodic and catchy vocals. John Mitchell describes it as the story of a musician who gets sick of his record company and sabotages the executive’s company-car.
- Pete Trewavas (Marillion, Transatlantic)
- John Beck (It Bites, Alan Parsons, John Wetton, Chris Norman, Unicorn Jones)
- Chris Maitland (ex-Porcupine Tree)
- John Mitchell (Arena, The Urbane, John Wetton)
Track 9, “Holding On”, is the second best number. It is a sentimental piece that starts softly and builds up to a wall of sound then retreats back into its acoustic intro, and is generally reminiscent of Hogarth-era Marillion. Track 2, “Letting Go”, also has that relaxed, rather pleasing Hogarth sound. Track 4 “Swimming In Women” (yes that’s really the title) starts with a soft piano introduction, the vocals begin, then a soft bass enters the mix, way in the background, and it builds up to a pleasing but light and uncomplicated chorus. Track 6 “All You See” has a very similar introduction and buildup to the full instrumental set – and substitute guitar for piano, and tracks 5 and 9 follow the same formulaic soft introduction and escalation to a full, textured sound.
The instrumentation, the compositions, the song structures, the execution and the production and mixing are exactly what you’d expect from artists of this stature – they are flawless. There are some nice 2- and 3-part vocal choruses, the keyboards are particularly good, and we don’t have access to the lyrics but from what you can make out, they sound intelligent and better than most in this genre. And Trewavas’s bass is possibly the most unnoticed yet important component of this CD.
There’s nothing new on Picture – you've heard all of this in a dozen Brit-neo bands. But it's very well done and deserves a listen. There’s no question that this album will reach several peoples’ top-20-of-2005 lists.
Yes, I know..these four chaps are from supergroups... Marillion/Porcupine tree/It bites/Arena. Nevertheless, their first album shines through as an all band feature!!! Forget the supergroup tag. I think the band are trying to be anonymous....and as such I believe their first album is a success. Sure you can hear traces of Porcupine ...and hints of Marillion...still they are quite their own. For me, the first track is a standout...clocking in at almost 10 minutes!! The sheer static rhythm of the basic track, with the superb guitars on top...then add John Mitchell´s fine vocal (and guitars)..great stuff.
I think this album will be a winner....when you choose to give it a second ( and then some)-listening. You WILL find it great stuff... superb musicianship and brave songs. Forget about....It Bites/ Marillion/ Arena/ Porcupine Tree...these guys are the real shit!! I’ve heard this one more than 10 times...and it grows on you!!
So...dear progfriend if you are the least into fine prog music...give these guys a chance !!! Me? I give them four fine stars in the prog league.
Another of those bands that only prog-geeks call a “supergroup”, Kino is Pete Trewavas (Marillion), John Beck (It Bites) Chris Maitland (Porcupine Tree) and John Mitchell (Arena). All second and third wave proggers already plying the trade for years who finally decided to strike out on their own as Kino with the album Picture. But does anyone have anything interesting to say in the already oversaturated neo-prog market?
Kino, thy name is pleasure. I haven’t really enjoyed a new band in this genre for several years now. Damn, have I already heard it all? Apparently not, cuz Picture blindsided this old cynic. It seems to jump into the player on it’s own every day, and has for weeks now.
What makes this rise above the pretenders?
Writing: It’s packed with Beatlesesque hooks in that Neal Morse-era Beard way. “People” has a deftly handled terraced instrumental bridge that packs the same sort of stately melodic punch as the best of any of the neo-bands. “Room for Two”, “Leave a Light On” and “Letting Go” have straight up rock choruses that will have you uncontrollably barking along in the car in no time. Just when you think they’re getting too obvious, along comes the almost harmonically wrong (yet weirdly, so very right) chorus to “Letting Go”. The brilliantly cascading payoff section of “Loser’s Day Parade” is a classic 70s art-rock epic arrangement. Bellowing “Dead nobodies in company caaaaaars!” is full bore, prog heaven. Roaring bass-pedals, Chris Maitland flailing out his weirdly syncopated rolls, grinding distorted minor guitar chords, it’s the works on this foot-long hoagie. The album closes epically as well with the organ ride on “Holding On” segueing into the elegant piano and vocal coda of the title track. A deft balance of tension and release, this disc is simply packed with songcraft.
Humor: This album has a blazing tongue in check wit about it. How many bands have ever done a story song from the perspective of sperm? The lyric to “Swimming in Women” is hilarious and the presentation has that Queen, Alice Cooper or even Jellyfish-like pomp-metal arrangement to hang the surreal and ridiculous premise on. Because of this, I kinda feel a sense of playful unpretentiousness about the entire album. Refreshing in what is normally, such a self- indulgent and serious genre.
Performance: Well, it’s pretty much bulletproof with a well-seasoned crew like this. These guys are all virtuosos and can play anything. Particularly drummer Maitland, who I always felt kinda got mixed out in Porcupine Tree recordings, but smoked live. Well, he really gets to shine here. You’re on my short list now, buddy. I really like the vocals too, lots of harmonies and range without strain. More effortless and smooth sounding than many more popular prog bands. What I find the most different though, is the rapport among these guys. They are tight like they’ve been playing together for 10 years already; right out of the box on the first album.
Production: Lush and impeccable. Balanced and open, yet filled with a million details- and you can hear them all. There’s a lot of dynamics in these creative arrangements and the engineering doesn’t over-compress it. It’s allowed to be very soft one moment and blaring the next. Many fledgling bands would do well to learn from this recording.
Yeah, the album lays down a little in the middle. “All You See” pushes the saccharine envelope, and in fact, would be like chewing a mouthful of Sweet-n-Low packets to a RIO fan. It has that soppy quality that most of us hoped had died of some wasting-away disease in Asia (schweet Mark Rothery style guitar solo from Mitchell tho). “Perfect Tense” has a curious, currently out of favor GTR lightness about it as well. Eww. These missteps aside, the disc is mostly at the top level in it’s genre. 9 out of 10 fans of bands like Spocks Beard, the poppy side of UK, IQ, 10+ year old Marillion etc. are gonna lap this up like a Samoan at an all you can eat lobster buffet. The best new album of its type I’ve heard in several years.
8 out of 10
(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
Modern prog rock supergroups, aren't they really just a bit of a contradiction in terms? These so-called 'supergroups' consist of musicians that no-one outside of the prog world has really heard of, getting together because the group they're currently in is in-between albums or isn't quite doing the kind of music they want to do any more.
A few years back Pete Trewavas, bass player with Marillion, teamed up with Neal Morse (then with Spock's Beard), Ronnie Stolt (The Flowerkings) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) to form Transatlantic. They released a couple of albums before Morse became a Born Again Christian and decided to abandon both Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. Everyone else went back to their respective bands and that was that. But then a couple of years ago talk started about the possibility of a new prog supergroup being formed, again with Pete Tewavas on bass but this time joined by (and feel free to say "WHOOOOO???" at any point) John Mitchell (Arena and The Urbane) on guitars and lead vocals, John Beck (It Bites) on keyboards, and ex-Porcupine Tree drummer Chris Maitland. So is this just a U. K. answer to Transatlantic, a sort of One Side of the Atlantic? Well no, if you're expecting lots of huge prog rock epics and several nods to the 1970s then you're going to be disappointed.
In a lot of senses this isn't a prog rock album at all. It could probably be more accurately described as AOR or melodic pop rock, albeit classily-written and frequently with an epic edge to it. There are many prog touches throughout of course, as you would well expect given the backgrounds of the band's members, and this is particularly obvious on the opening track, “Loser's Day Parade”, which is also the longest track on the album (nine minutes, three seconds), though I'll say more about this track later. In fact the album is much more in the style of bands like The Police, Duran Duran, a-ha, Asia, Mike and The Mechanics, and the poppier side of It Bites and Marillion. It's highly polished, well produced rock music with a very melodic side to it, but it's also a little on the unadventurous side and even a little bland in places.
But what has kept me listening to this album is the quality of much of the songwriting. Not every track is a classic but there are a number of songs that have really impressed me, songs that are catchy, engaging, uplifting, emotionally stirring, and that go in some interesting directions and/or offer up some delightful harmonies. Those tracks include the energetic and vaguely Police-like “Leave A Light On”, the wonderfully titled “Swimming In Women”, “People”, which sounds like an AOR song merged with apocalyptic 1970s-style-Genesis prog, the supremely uplifting “Perfect Tense”, and the album's title track, a delicate haunting ballad.
The other material on the album is a little more mixed: the aforementioned opener, “Loser's Day Parade”, is more than competent and is the most obviously progressive rock track on the album (there are lots of changes in mood and tempo throughout) but I can't really rate any track that appears to steal its main theme from the music to “Chock-A-Block” (an early 1980s U. K. TV show for kids, just in case you're bewildered by my comment). “Letting Go”, a larger than life AOR ballad, and “Room For Two”, a bouncy upbeat power-pop/rock track, came close to being picked for my best tracks of the album but are just a little bit too mainstream for my tastes. The remaining tracks, “All You See” and “Holding On”, are probably the weakest on the album, the former an overly sweet AOR ballad with a good but rather derivative guitar solo towards the end, and the latter a frankly dull song bolstered by an admittedly impressive proggy instrumental section.
John Mitchell's vocals are competent and pleasant enough but I can't say I'm his biggest fan (and even he admits that he's hardly the greatest singer in the world). Apparently the band wanted to get ex-Genesis man Ray Wilson in on vocals and that would have been a great move for both parties, but unfortunately Ray decided against it.
More impressive, however, are the two- and three-part vocal harmonies between Mitchell and other members of the band. And I also really enjoy the one song where John Beck takes on the lead vocals (“Swimming In Women”) and I hope that he will sing more tracks on future albums.
The musicianship is impressive, as you'd have every reason to expect, but it's not unnecessarily showy. To again contrast this album with the Transatlantic CDs, the quality of the playing here is purely about supplementing the songs, it's not all about showing off the musicianship of individuals or producing blistering solos (though there are some of the latter). So whereas Transatlantic could be technically brilliant but soulless, the performances on this album feel technically competent without being outstanding but are strangely much more cohesive and have a lot more heart.
I'm all for praising this album for its strengths: it's polished, well produced and entertaining, with some tight compositions and strong arrangements. What I perhaps shouldn't be saying is that it's too safe, too mainstream, and that there's nothing new or challenging about it. After all, it is what it is and the members of Kino have done a very good job of making the kind of album I think they all wanted to make. And yet, for these ears, at times it is too safe, it is too mainstream and it is too 'heard it all before'. Try as I might I can't help but reach that conclusion, though it doesn't stop me from enjoying most of what the album has to offer. One final note, Picture is released in both a single CD format as well as a limited edition digipack. The latter comes with an extended booklet and a bonus DVD featuring four songs filmed for the Rockpalast TV show last December. Although I have the digipack version I have only focused on reviewing the main album here.
Best tracks: “Leave A Light On”, “Swimming In Women”, “People”, “Perfect Tense”, “Picture”.
(All Album Reviews by YESHEAD777)
This is one CD that has been on my wish list since it came out two years ago, just now got around to ordering it. I didn't really know what to expect specifically as far as sound, but I knew enough about Pete Trewavas and Chris Maitland's pedigrees to know this would be a mature and well-produced effort. That just scratches the surface. I had owned one Arena album and sold it cause I never seemed to be able to get into it. I was not familiar with John Beck or It Bites at all. All four are credited with writing and production, and it would be interesting to know just how equitable those tasks were distributed, because much of the CD has a Marillion and Porcupine Tree (the poppier, more melodic side) feel to it, while being totally original in its sum.
The first song "Loser's Day Parade" is a perfect opener because it is the most ambitious musically (proggiest), and contains every style of music to follow: edgy rock, alternative, symphonic, Beatlesque vocals, and just plain hooky pop. John Mitchell's voice (while not spectacular) is amazingly effective here esp. at the end, and the "Dead nobodies in company cars" is just too catchy for its own good. "Letting Go" reminds me of a catchy Marillion tune-esp. the chorus. "Leave the Light on" starts off with a 70's Gabriel vibe, going into a hooky 80's pop sound. Just a great pop song all around. "Swimming in Women" again starts with a Hogarth-era Marillion sound but has many mood and tempo shifts-just a beautiful pop song, with the strangest lyrical viewpoint in history! I'll say no more.
"People" starts out slow also, but picks up quickly and has the most memorable lyrics on the CD. I'd call this a great POWER pop song. "All you See" is a little too syrupy as mentioned before, but still fits nicely here. "Perfect Tense" is a little more complex musically, and has another great memorable chorus. "Room For Two" is more up-tempo pop, but with a much less memorable chorus. "Holding On" starts out beautifully with acoustic guitars and is a mesmerizing love song with an effective searing lead from Mitchell, then about half way thru changes gears into something totally different-a Spock's Beard sounding organ vibe, and repeating the chorus much more up tempo, and with more searing lead from Mitchell-VERY intense stuff. The closing title track is a sparse haunting piece reminiscent of Blackfield. This is just a great CD that is even better than the sum of its incredibly talented parts! It doesn't matter if its pure PROG, its just pure GREAT music!!!! 9/10.