An initial sampling of New Century would suggest something of an identity crisis, being one of the Polish progressive trio's most accessible releases in three decades of recording. However, while the new album is a polished one (produced by Mack, who's worked with such luminaries as Queen and Led Zeppelin), it's not too drastic a departure from the SBB formula in terms of offering fusionoid instrumentals and both laidback and edgy vocal numbers. Nor has bassist-keyboardist-vocalist Józef Skrzek hung up his harmonica ("PAJO"), and while singing isn't his strong suit, his weathered vocals are anything but aggravating. The tandem of Skrzek and guitarist Apostolis Anthimos has always been SBB's draw, and with his chops and finesse, ex-Pat Metheny Group drummer Paul Wertico, still a relatively new member, is the best guy for the gig.
"Music Is My Life" is the requisite "heartfelt" soother that's well-arranged as is all the group's material, but not too memorable. "New Century" and "Wojownicy Itaki" incorporate vocals in the form of, respectively, a repeated two-word (title) phrase and a narration in both Polish and English, the latter boasting an eloquent guitar lead by Anthimos. Topped with a cherry of a monophonic solo on a very smooth Nord Lead patch, "When Was The Last Time?" is a splendid atmospheric electronic piece that echoes Vangelis. Aside from the four successive lyrical verses following the spectral organ–guitar intro, "Carry Me Away" is an epic that delivers what the old school SBB fan is looking for: a "structured" jam with extended bluesy improvs and lengthy solos on fuzztone bass and synth — essentially, SBB doing what SBB does best. "Rock For Mack" is a surprising two-minute postlude, a straight-up wordless rocker with Anthimos doing his Trower/Marriott impression, Skrzek limiting himself to groover, and Wertico laying down the power beats. A fun, jarring way to round things out! SBB fans are the ones who will get the most out of this release.
Note: two additional versions of New Century are concurrently available: a digipak edition with two bonus tracks in "Positive Polarity" and "Viator Blues," and a DVD-Audio version, also with the bonus tracks. Choose your poison!
1. Golden Harp (5:47)
2. Music Is My Life (4:56)
3. New Century (6:02)
4. Stary Czlowiek W Milczacym Ogrodzie (4:48)
5. Duch Poloken (5:32)
6. Wojownicy Itaki (5:25)
7. When Was The Last Time? (3:58)
8. Carry Me Away (15:38)
9. PAJO (3:19)
10. Rock For Mack (1:43)
Total time – 57:47