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Flame Dream: Elements (reissue)

There's more to the Swiss than cheese and Patrick Moraz! Flame Dream existed on record from 1978 to 1986, three of their six albums sculpted by the nucleus of keyboardist Roland Ruckstuhl, bassist Urs Hochuli, drummer Peter Furrer, and vocalist & woodwind player Peter Wolf (no, not that Peter Wolf). 1978's Calatea and 1980's Out In The Dark had fifth members, both guitarists: Urs Waldispühl on the former, and Dale Hauskins (who lives in California, now) on the latter. 1986's abysmal 8 on 6 featured four guesting musicians. Elements (1979) is considered by many to be their best outing, and was reissued but months ago by Tachika Records as a Japanese miniature (mini-LP format CD).

The remastering process has breathed new life into this [loose] treatise on the four elements, a truly rewarding experience for keyboard lovers: with more room to work within, Roland Ruckstuhl stretches out into sonic corridors once occupied by Waldispühl. Ruckstuhl rolls in the usual suspects: Moog (and other) synths, Clavinet, Mellotron, Solina string synth, organ & acoustic piano. A fantastic soloist, Ruckstuhl's style is closer to that of Jobson or Moraz—no bluesy sendoffs like Emerson's, not many classical pastiches a la Wakeman. Loud 'Tron choirs, snappin' Clav grooves, thick analog pads, and dexterous piano effluxes are what Roland's about—a nod to that enticing organ ostinato on "Sea Monsters," also. Urs Hochuli's bass-playing is a tad more economical than expected—no lead lines, a complementary disposition, and a solid, clear tone that lends itself well to dualling Ruckstuhl's left-hand Clavinet parts. Listen for that kind of magic on the thirteen-minute "Sea Monsters," over which R.R. soars with a great, short, righthand synth part. Ruckstuhl quickly bursts into a solo piano interlude, then back into the tandem with Hochuli! Peter Furrer's drumming is above the realm of subtlety, but also less flashy than many of his contemporaries—fear not, he definitely keeps things interesting on his end. In fact, the rhythm section of he & Hochuli succeeds in this manner, versus dealing a bouillabaise of random, extra percussive notes here & there.

The make-or-break factor for many may be the lead vocals of Peter Wolf—who also performs on woodwinds and saxophone—which are of the nasal, noticeably-accented type (though not badly so). His moderately high pitch doesn't really vary, yet works quite well within the Flame Dream context. Imagine Jon Anderson, two octaves lower, or Kit Watkins—had he actually been able to sing, that is. The vocal verses of "A Poem Of Dancing" are decidedly Gentle Giant-like, sans a longshot. Lyrics reside in the cosmically ambiguous department, which will help draw comparisons to Yes. Come to think of it, Elements isn't too far from what may have resulted in a second Yes album with Moraz and without Howe, plus the addition of a woodwind player. This is easily Ruckstuhl's platform, though; the man can really go off, but knows when to drop in a surprise, as when manually tweaking LFO & filter parameters for some unearthly tones, or dropping in a 'reverse bell drone' (heard on certain Tangerine Dream albums) under Wolf's sax part on "Earth Song" (the brightest, most uptempo piece, and at seven minutes, the shortest).

Interestingly, no information is given for the fifth (bonus) instrumental track, but it's most likely a post-Elements number, and only 75 seconds in length! More of a curtain-dropping outro than anything more.

Note: Presently, this item is only available from Syn-Phonic for $20. It's well worth the pocket change. Link: http://www.synphonic.8m.com

Also, Flame Dream appears to have no dedicated official or fan-supported website. In the meantime, click the link below.

Added: September 1st 2003
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Score:
Related Link: Flame Dream – Unofficial Discography Page
Hits: 5134
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Flame Dream: Elements (reissue)
Posted by Sean McFee on 2007-10-01 17:03:44
My Score:

As someone whose artists have been bootlegged repeatedly by Tachika, I think it is important to mention in any review of their "reissues" that they are unauthorized pirate releases. People may still choose to purchase them and a review of the music is certainly fair (I myself enjoy Flame Dream) but people should be informed about what they are purchasing if they support these releases. Submitted respectfully.

Flame Dream: Elements (reissue)
Posted by Tom Karr on 2005-12-25 05:26:17
My Score:

Flame Dream - Out In The Dark

Released: 1981
Label: Phonagram/Vertigo
Cat. No.: LP 6367 016
Total Time: 41:17


Reviewed by: Tom Karr, April 2005
Switzerland's best symphonic prog band of any consequence, Flame Dream released its third album, Out In The Dark, in 1981. Recorded at Patrick Moraz's legendary "Aquarius" studio in Geneva and surpassing 1979's excellent Elements, it is a classic of European progressive rock. Amazingly, in continental Europe, brilliant, classic progressive rock music was still being produced with little regard for the prevailing winds of disco, new wave and punk. Flame Dream had hit it big in Europe with release of Elements, and were mounting huge, headlining tours of the continent every year for months at a time, hitting the road in five semi trucks and a crew of eighteen. The band had even commandeered the Eden Hotel in Weggis, just across the Statter See from Lucerne, and set up for rehearsals in the historic building. Before hitting the road to promote Elements, the band decided to add a guitarist to their line up, and, on the advice of Brand X keyboardist Robin Lumley, Flame Dream picked up young Los Angeles guitarist Dale Hauskins. After finishing high school in California, Dale decided to jump into the deep end of the pool and set off for London and its burgeoning prog/fusion scene. He haunted jam sessions at Rod Argent's keyboard shop for two years and had struck up friendships with Lumley, Peter Gabriel and Allan Holdsworth, among others. He had obviously paid attention to Holdsworth, as Hauskins also displays the same fluid, legato style as his mentor, with phrasing that owes a strong debt to Coltrane.

The music on Out In The Dark continues in the same vein as on their preceding albums, with rich, keyboard heavy compositions by vocalist/wind instrument player Peter Wolf (son of the noted Swiss classical pianist and brother of classical/avant-garde composer and pianist John Wolf-Brennan) and keyboardist Roland Rockstuhl. The album is divided into the first, the "Sun Side," and the second, the "Dark Side," and, although lyrically the "Sun Side" does deal with warmer, more upbeat sentiments, the music that accompanies the lighter side of the album is, with the exception of the opening tune, "Full Moon," overall the darker of the two sides. Side two, the "Dark Side" overflows with up tempo meter and bright themes.

The music begins with "Full Moon," a cross between UK and Supertramp, and the most poppy sounding track the band will give us this time. It is followed by one of my favorite cuts, "Nocturnal Flight," five and a half minutes of absolute symphonic joy. The tune favors the late 70's style of Genesis, with keyboard work reminiscent of Tony Banks, and features a wonderful guitar solo by Hauskins. Side one ends with the brilliant title track, "Out In The Dark." Beginning with a melancholy theme, we segue into a lovely melody on Peter Wolf's flute that sounds much like the intro to Hackett's guitar solo in "Firth Of Fifth." This turns onto some of the most nimble piano lines ever recorded and the piece develops an almost Italian flair before returning to it's opening motif.

Side two begins with "Wintertime Nights," which boasts some more great Tony Banks-like keyboard work. "Strange Meeting (Part One)" is another Genesis influenced tune, moving moodily across its stark landscape and exploding into brisk lines from Ruckstuhl's synthesizer. It is chased by "Caleidoscope," a herky-jerky instrumental that bursts with syncopated keyboard and sax lines, and at times comes across as Gentle Giant-lite. The album's final track, "Strange Meeting (Part Two)," is not a separate track at all, but a continuation of "Caleidoscope" with the imposition of the two main themes from "Strange Meeting (Part One)."

This is a great album, with high caliber musicianship constantly grabbing your attention, very well conceived and developed themes and wonderful production by John Acock, who handled most of Steve Hackett's solo albums. The similarities to Genesis are, with the exception of a couple of synth solos, entirely compositional, and no one is trying to emulate the "sound" of Genesis, as many other bands have certainly done. Coming late to the game as they did, Flame Dream were, perhaps, not the most innovative band that ever was, but they carried on with true symphonic progressive rock long after many of the genres innovators had turned to pure pop sounds.

For anyone curious about what the members of Flame Dream are up to now, I can tell you that bassist Urs Hochuli, who also produced all the album artwork for Flame Dream, is building sailboats in Switzerland, Roland Ruckstuhl is working in Europe for Roland Keyboards, drummer Peter Furrer runs his own drum shop and is the author of several instructional books for drummers, and guitarist Dale Hauskins is in LA, recording and performing with a number of artists. My special thanks go out to Dale for his help, and for lending me his LP copy of Out In The Dark for this review.

Rating: 5/5

More about Out In The Dark:

Track Listing: Full Moon / Nocturnal Flight / Out In The Dark / Wintertime Nights / Strange Meeting (Part One) / Caleidoscope / Strange Meeting (Part Two)

Musicians:
Peter Furrer - Drums, Percussion, Tapes
Urs Hochuli - Bass, Bass Pedals, Voice
Dale Hauskins - Guitars
Roland Ruckstuhl - Keyboards, Sequencer, Vocoder
Peter Wolf - Voice, Wind Instruments

Contact: Dale Hauskins http://www.myspace.com/dalehauskins

Discography

Calatea (1978)
Elements (1979/2003)
Out In The Dark (1981)
Supervision (1982)
Travaganza (1983)
8 On 6 (1986)




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