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Samurai Of Prog, The: Omnibus - The Early Years

The Samurai Of Prog is a multi-national project consisting of three core members: Marco Bernard (bass), Kimmo Pörsti (drums and percussion) and Steve Unruh (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic and electric guitar, kalimba, percussion). It has been a very good year for the band with the release of their latest album Toki No Kaze as well as a four disc box set titled Omnibus - The Early Years which includes their first three albums; Undercover, Secrets of Disguise and The Imperial Hotel. I started my foray into the band with The Imperial Hotel but have not heard their first two albums before so I was indeed very happy to receive this in the mail from the band -thanks guys!

Let us begin with the band’s first album titled Undercover. As you likely can surmise these are mostly covers of classic prog tunes, with a few originals added for good measure. One of these originals begins the CD titled “Before the Lamia”, an exquisite piano piece written and performed by David Myers (a Samurai of Prog veteran having played on every album). It’s a nice intro before Genesis’ “The Lamia” from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It’s gorgeously played including a superb lead guitar solo from Roine Stolt showcasing great feel and the excellent lead vocals from Unruh equally match the band’s performance. “Starship Trooper” is another highly entertaining performance featuring the lead vocals of Jon Davidson who sounds uncannily like Jon Anderson. While the band stay true to the original piece they do adlib with some wonderful synth and guitar solos. Stolt’s “World of Adventures” is another great choice with rocking lead guitar, tricky rhythmic change ups and melodic sax work. On “Assassing” Unruh does a pretty good Fish impersonation and the Moog and keyboard work is exceptional. Excellent guitar and Hammond from Srdjan Brankovic and Eduardo Garcia Salueña respectively highlight “Jerusalem” and on Pink Floyd’s “Dogs” the band add some really cool atmosphere and chord choices making it my favourite cover on the album. The sax solo from Risto Salmi is excellent. The disc ends with three originals including Pörsti’s “The Promise”, a lovely progressive folk offering with spellbinding guitar work. The original had four bonus tracks and while they are not included in this set the two new bonus tracks; “Journey to the Island” and “Indictment Ever After” are very good.

Their next album titled Secrets of Disguise was originally released in 2013 and begins with the epic “Three Piece Suite” from England’s classic Garden Shed album released in 1977. Robert Webb, an original England band member appears on the track adding keyboards and Mellotron. Just a great symphonic prog tune, beautifully elegant and quite complex. The guitar solo from Bogati-Bokor Ákos is an album highlight. The folk/symphonic prog of “Sweet Iphigenia” is an original tune and hints of what’s to come on future releases showcasing the band’s excellent musicianship and thoughtful attention to detail. Dancing violin and cello highlight the pretty “Descenso En El Maelstrom” while Genesis’ “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” is given the full on progressive treatment featuring a fantastic vocal performance from Unruh and stellar musicianship. The floating electric piano in Gentle Giant’s “Aspirations”, the fantastic lead guitar and tenor sax solo in Crimson’s “One More Red Nightmare”, the fabulous solo spots in Todd Rundgren’s “Singring and the Glass Guitar” and the faithfully executed “Jacob’s Ladder” are more great tracks. “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, another original, further reveals the band being very capable in the epic prog department. Intricate musicianship, complex rhythms, cool synths and varying textural layers will unfold before your ears. There are three bonus tracks not included on the original release that are all worth a listen including an excellent version of ELP’s “Karn Evil 9, 2nd Impression”.

The last disc is their Imperial Hotel CD this time with four bonus tracks. This is the first album the band used all original material so in one sense this was a big step forward for SOP and it is an excellent disc. “After The Echoes” reminds a little of ‘70s Yes, particularly the vocals of Unruh sounding a bit like Jon Anderson. The title track is high caliber symphonic prog with fantastic musicianship occupying twenty-eight minutes of space and not one note is wasted. The wonderful guitar work from K. Alan Shikoh is a highlight but each musician makes their presence felt. Faster tempos are offset by pastoral passages often led by exquisite keyboards from Robert Webb and you can well imagine the band takes many opportunities to change the soundscape through the varying sections. The first bonus track “Un Respiro-e Tutto Cambia”, sung by Stefano “Lupo” Galifi, is a delightful bit of symphonic prog rock, certainly Italian influenced and very uplifting. “Anatta” features wonderful keyboard work from Christian Bideau and a tasty sax solo by Marek Arnold. Intermingling keyboards and violin brushed with sweeping orchestrations highlight the pretty “La Magia è la Realtà”, another fine slice of thoughtful symphonic prog.

As usual, SOP have put great care in creating the entire package, including a wonderful thirty-two page booklet with artwork by Ed Unitsky. Even if you have the original releases the band have tweaked a few tunes and remixed both Undercover and Secrets of Disguise. And of course the added bonus tracks are a real treat. In a word…excellent.

Track Listing:
1. Before the Lamia
2. The Lamia
3. Starship Trooper
4. World of Adventures
5. Assassing
6. Gravità 9.81
7. Jerusalem
8. Dogs
9. The Promise
Bonus Tracks:
10. Journey to the Island
11. Indictment Ever After

Secrets of Disguise
1. Three Piece Suite
2. Sweet Iphigenia
3. Descenso En El Maelstrom
4. Before The Dance
5. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
6. Aspirations
7. Traveler
8. Sameassa Vedessä
9. One More Red Nightmare
10. To Take Him Away
11. Time And A Word
CD 2
1. Singring and the Glass Guitar
2. Darkness
3. Jacob’s Ladder
4. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
Bonus Tracks:
5. This Side
6. The Other Side (Of Me)
7. Karn Evil 9, 2nd Impression

The Imperial Hotel
1. After The Echoes
2. Limoncello
3. Victoria’s Summer Home
4. The Imperial Hotel
5. Into The Lake
Bonus Tracks:
6. Un Respiro-e Tutto Cambia
7. Anatta
8. La Magia è la Realtà
9. Rimani nella Mia Vita

Added: September 22nd 2019
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 877
Language: english

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