USA – The Symphonic Dream
While new material from Wakeman, Emerson, and Norlander is still on the slow burner, and where the new album from Yes might be a little light on the keyboard acrobatics for some tastes, Lars Boutrup’s dexterous skills make for an unexpected and welcome entry into the area of symphonic keyboard instrumentals. Boutrup even dubs his specialty “Music For Keyboards,” and that states bluntly what The Symphonic Dream is all about. Bassists Andreas Jensen and Niels Knudsen, along with drummer Fredrik Sunsesen, are Boutrup’s Pomeroy & Fernandez, keeping things civil in the rhythm zone and setting up a pulsing backdrop for the keyboardist’s ample supply of synth, organ and piano melodies and electronic textures.
The Dream’s title track and its soulful organ bliss-out won’t ward off any comparisons to the aforementioned prog keyboard titans (after all, Boutrup wrote a piece titled “Emersong” on the previous album), and there’s little to be concerned about there — when it’s done this well, there’s always room for one more. The album won’t just invite comparisons to the masters, but also less talked-about heroes like Grand Prix/Uriah Heep keyboardist Phil Lanzon and Planet P mastermind Tony Carey. Opening track “June” is eight solid minutes of diversified keyboard wizardry, with a gradual crescendo of synthetic frosting graduating to high multi-keyboards drama executed with a plethora of sounds. Likewise, “Secrets Behind The Curtain” is another card-brandishing servo that does the Godfathers proud.
Tracks like “Space Peace” and “A Song For John” are more piano-centric and showcase a subtler side to Boutrup’s compositional prowess. “Eddy Will Not Be Ready” is a classical-trance hybrid with pipe organ, synthbass and slick scalar colorations. The final eight-minute statement “The Black Event” bears an ominous title but unveils a Banksian homage of legato soloing on a robust synth patch that recalls what the great Genesis keyboardist used to do before embarking on a new poolside career.
It’s not just a fitting close to an album of sterling keyboard prog, it’s a beacon to let all know this much-maligned corner of the genre isn’t all just shadows and cracks, and is alive and well.
Highly recommended to enthusiasts of the genre and lovers of keyboard rock.
Reviewed by: Elias Granillo Jr.