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Stolt, Roine: Wall Street Voodoo

If you are thinking of buying Wall Street Voodoo, the new solo album of Roine Stolt, you'd better forget about the countless prog monuments Stolt has created with his own band The Flower Kings or his side projects with Transatlantic, The Tangent, and even Kaipa. As clearly stated, this is a solo album and it's meant to differ from his progressive rock driven back catalog tremendously, as Stolt has stated many a time during the making of this album that Wall Street Voodoo was going to be a tribute to his earliest inspirations, mostly focusing on blues rock. It sure is interesting to discover Stolt's musical background and see him reaching back to his roots and finding every little element that made him pick up the guitar and make music. Although this is primarily a straight-up blues rock disc mostly emphasizing Stolt's guitar playing, some of the songs are also decorated with late-60's era political texts.

With two discs and over 115 minutes of music, Wall Street Voodoo features only two of Stolt's band mates in The Flower Kings: Hasse Bruniusson on percussion and new drummer Marcus Liliequist who also played on Tomas Bodin's amazing I Am album earlier this year. The other musicians, however, are unknown at this point, as they seem to be using fake names due to contractual obligations. On bass, there is a guy called Victor Woof; while someone named Slim Pothead handles the piano, Hammond and keyboard duties. No worries though, they both do a mighty job on the album, especially given this isn't one of those discs where excellent instrumental ability is required. Not to imply they couldn't pull off more challenging tasks, but it just seems they are a great fit for Stolt's material on hand. Also, there is another musician called Gonzo Geffen credited as the percussionist also responsible for 'loop treatments'. Finally, we have a great guest on the disc, Stolt's band mate in Transatlantic and the former Spock's Beard songwriter: Neal Morse. Morse not only contributes a good deal of vocal lines, but he also plays his unique Hammond solos on more than a few cuts.

Seeing as they are all heavily blues inspired, the songs are hard to tell apart in most parts. That said, some of them do stand out with interesting traits, be it melody, arrangement, vocals, or simply guitar and Hammond solos. The first disc decidedly has a more unified nature, as it isn't as experimental and quirky as the second one. It begins with the 11-minute "The Observer" which has a great wah guitar section with harmony vocals that lead into the relatively more upbeat and funky piece "Head Above Water". One of my favourites on the album, this song is more concise (and therefore more effective) and features an extended guitar and Hammond interplay where both Stolt and Morse create magic. Arguably, the longer songs can be a bit monotonous, given they stick to Stolt's love for 60's blues and cause the album to lose some of its momentum. Whereas the shorter, and by short I'm still referring to 6+ minute tracks, songs have a better flow and spontaneity. "Spirit of the Rebel" is one of these tracks, starting in a very dark and moody style with oddly tuned guitars, before it leads into a classic rock tune with jumping bass lines and 4/4 drum beats. On "Dirt", Stolt not only plays delicate acoustic guitars, but he also overdubs his vocals delivering a sociopolitcal message. I love the clean blues guitar tone he employs in the runout solo of this piece. The first disc is sealed with a nice Joni Mitchell cover (awesome bends by Stolt here) and the slow yet haunting blues piece "Outcast", a song that must have been inspired by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

As stated earlier, on the second disc, Stolt, while still retaining his bluesy leanings, also utilises more modern soundscapes and funk rhythms. "The Unwanted" has a very different vocal style as well as a drawn-out middle point where all you hear is silence and sparse Moog sounds. The song then segues into a pretty Hammond lead and combines with the more modern sounding "Remember". Electronics, synth effects and a funky bass drive are heard on "It's All About Money", one of those longer songs whose ending is a bit too repetitive for my tastes. Stolt's love for funk guitar is continued on "Everybody is Trying to Sell You Something" and mixed with quirky synth signatures. The shortest piece "Mercy" has one of the weirdest vocal recordings of Stolt where his voice is overtly processed and harmonised with what seems to be an equally processed voice of Neal Morse. The duo sing together over acoustic guitars, but their lyrics are hard to follow. Percussion and loops on "People That Have the Power to Shape the Future" bring the album to its end, with more odd vocals from Stolt. Personally, the first disc has more appeal to me, because it is more direct and honest in its delivery.

With all of these things taken into consideration, Wall Street Voodoo certainly serves its purpose as a solo album, and I am glad Stolt got these ideas out of his system in order not to be confused during the writing process for the next Flower Kings offering. Because they really wouldn't work in a progressive context, hence his choice for a solo album.

Track Listing

Disc One

  1. The Observer (11:05)
  2. Head Above Water (5:25)
  3. Dirt (8:15)
  4. Everyone Wants to Rule the World (4:05)
  5. Spirit of the Rebel (6:10)
  6. Unforgiven (3:00)
  7. Dog with a Million Bones (8:10)
  8. Sex Kills (7:20)
  9. Outcast (7:50)

Disc Two

  1. The Unwanted (9:00)
  2. Remember (6:55)
  3. It's All About Money (8:05)
  4. Everybody is Trying to Sell You Something (6:55)
  5. Hotrod ( The Atomic Wrestler) (9:10)
  6. Mercy (2:40)
  7. People That Have the Power to Shape the Future (11:05)

Added: November 26th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: The Flower Kings website
Hits: 7157
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Stolt, Roine: Wall Street Voodoo
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-11-26 08:36:15
My Score:

Leave it to Roine Stolt, the magnificent lead guitar/vocalist of the progressive-rock band The Flower Kings to release a solo album that is a double disc. It has become a common occurrence for him as a Flower King member so why not a double solo album? The key of course is does he offer solid music to his listeners with this bountiful material? The answer is of course a resounding yes, what else would you expect me to say after covering every one of the TFK studio albums, Stolt's solo albums, and their first DVD, while raving every step of the way. This brings me around full circle and into an entirely different realm than what I have become accustomed to hearing from this man.

Wall Street Voodoo brings Stolt back to his roots, the classic rock, and blues he grew up with and found so inspirational. The music is very solid while the lyrics have a particularly cynical slant expressing his political and personal viewpoints. He is not radical in his views by any means, just honest and straightforward and I cannot argue his stance on many fronts. Titles like "Everyone Wants To Rule The World," "Sex Kills," "It's All About Money," and "Everybody Is Trying To Sell You Something" tells the tale of this story. The voodoo that Wall Street and all its capitalism trappings bring to the table come painted on a musical canvas that offer enthusiastic and eye opening honesty by the artist. One must hear these messages and understand where he is coming from to understand the meaning or concept if you will of this recording. It is not difficult to see that Stolt thinks our Western capitalism is the root of all that is evil, yet everyone desires it. The paradox is that bands from overseas find their way to stardom on this soil. I guess you could call it selling your soul to the devil. No worries for Stolt and his band however, as they have not become superstars, they have their own little niche in this world and his name is now synonymous with progressive rock. The success he enjoys is on a worldwide level while marinating a tremendous amount of anonymity, the best of both worlds.

This solo album is not anything like TFK music, so do not set yourself up for a letdown right out of the gate. This is blues-rock, and while Stolt does not play blistering Johnny Winter like licks throughout this album, he certainly does the genre justice. This was a cleansing of the soul for him and I am sure something he has wanted to do for a very long time. It will be interesting to see if TFK take on a new direction since the moth has turned into a butterfly and flown off in a new direction.

» Reader Comments:

Stolt, Roine: Wall Street Voodoo
Posted by Anonymous on 2005-11-12 20:00:25
My Score:

I agree and disagree with the review in certain places. IMHO having Neal on this album was a terrible mistake. I'm sorry if that offends anyone, but that is what my blues soul feels. In the 2'ed or 3'ed song Neal tries to turn a wonderful blues song into a Beetles song. As I listened to it on Delicious agony, my blues soul sobbed when Neal Morse tried to interject Beetles influences into these beautiful Roine's songs. This was early in the album, that I have only heard once, but IMHO Neal was the wrong man for the job. Bottom line the Blues and the Beetles simply don't mix.

Roine gets a chance to bitch. It's so refreshing. For instance in the song Outcast, I do believe he was venting his feelings about Neal. I wonder if anyone else saw that in the song. Let us face it. In the Transatlantic CD's Roine's heart and soul were taken away from this project. That IMHO is a huge waste of talent. He was treated as a studio musician. I think he may have done it for the exposure and to get people into the FKs. It worked for me.

I'm sorry, but when one plays proper blues, one either has to bitch or be very very sad. Roine covered all these bases. He talked about what was getting to him personally and politically in these lyrics. I got to find out what bugged him about the world.

He covered the blues branch of music from Delta Mississippi blues to Funky blues (not too funky) to Stevie Ray Vaughen blues to Issac Hays to every aspect of the blues. I can no stand Joni Mitchell. Anyone that can turn one of her songs into a beautiful piece of blues work is a true musician, a true composer, and most importantly has the heart and soul of a blues man. He ended his album with a jazz with a very heavy blues core in it. This album showed us how the blues are related to jazz in a beautiful and unusual way.

This album was smart, beautifully produced and the most exciting part is on the end of the 9:00 minute flat song brought the blues to a place where I have never been before. At first the end of the song sounded like gibberish (not the song) to me, then it hit me. It went all the way down to my core of my blues soul and as I processed the notes at the end of this song, I understood. He took the blues to a new place! I didn't think that was possible.

My blues soul hopes very much that this album should not be lost, just because it was put out on a "prog" label.

Maybe you want to find out how Stolt feels about the world. That alone should attract FK's fanbase to buy it.

Oh, and how many chances do you get to hear a guitar God play the blues with tons and tons of guitar! Not very often, I assure you. Sure Stevie Ray Vaughen is an amazing blues guitarist. So is BB King, who's style is also represented on the album. But think about this: Most BB King albums sound the same. Roine covered every part of the blues. If there are any blues lovers out there, I urge you to pick up this album. I must say this again in closing, how often you get to hear a world class guitarist play the blues better than anyone in the world (IMHO) has played the blues before him. Not often I assure you.

Roine went against the grain and put out music he loved. It is all composed by Roine except for the Joni Mitchell song. If you are a progger, you must be open to change. I plead with all the blues fans on this forum to buy this album. It is gorgeous, and brilliant. I've never heard anything quite like it. I've loved the blues since I was 5. If you are a progger, I hope you can open your mind to this music. It is quite spectacular. He never does the style of blues twice in the same album much less album after album. for 50 years, such as BB King has done.

Roine can play anything including some damn fine blues guitar.

If you are worried about Roine singing the blues, fear not. He has the heart, soul and voice of a bluesman. This guitarist can play anything like you have never heard it before.

These are the points I felt were not covered in the original piece we are commenting about.

Stolt, Roine: Wall Street Voodoo
Posted by Jerry Wiseman on 2005-11-07 18:13:59
My Score:

Wall Street Voodoo-A Review

One has to asked themselves why there was a 7 year gap between Mr.Stolt's solo releases? Let's look at that 7 year period to see what he was doing during that period.
From 1998 until 2005 he wrote and produced almost every song on 9 Flower Kings cds.
Also was part of 3 other bands, TransAtlantic, Kaipa, and The Tangent. Plus was a guest
musician on several FK band mates cds, several Flower Kings Fan Club cds and The Circus Brimstone project. Yearly tours with the Flower Kings and 2 tours with TransAtlantic.
This was a project that Roine had wanted to do for quite a while. An album paying homage to the blues/rock artists of his childhood. The music that made him want to be a musician himself. This album does just that and more. It could have been released anytime between 1968-1973, but though nostalgic it is fresh and new. It reminds you of the music of that period without sounding old or like something you've already heard before. He breaks out wah-wah pedals and other early distortion devices.
I could very easily go song by song and give a detailed description of each song, but I won't. Throughout this 2 disc set he takes a very hard look at the world around him and though he sounds a bit discouraged or even angry by what he sees, in the song "Spirit Of The Rebel" comes a plaintive cry that "LOVE IS THE ANSWER". So as with most of his work love and human kindness always wins out over hate, war, greed, and political ineptness.
For me personally some of the standouts are, The Observer, Dirt, Spirit of the Rebel, Sex Kills(Roine first and only cover song, paying tribute to one of his idols Joni Mitchell), Outcast, The Unwanted, Everyone Wants To Rule The World, Everybody Is Trying To Sell You Something and People That Have The Power To Shape The Future. Those are just my most favorites. If you're looking for a weak song, look elsewhere.
Fans of the band TransAtlantic will be very pleased to hear Roine once again working with Neal Morse on lead and backing vocals as well as Hammond organ. Also joining him on drums are both FK drummers Marcus Liliequist and Hasse Brunisson. Some of the other musicians joining in are some past legends in the blues/rock genre the incomparable Slim Pothead, Gonzo Geffen and Victor Woof on Fender Bass.
I would have to strongly recommend this 2 disc set to not only Flower Kings or Roine Stolt fans, but to any serious lover of blue/ rock. Listening to Wall Street Voodoo will be 2+ hours of the best music you've heard in quite a while.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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