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SBB: Iron Curtain

Remarkably these Polish jazz proggers, legends in their native country, have been around in one form or another since 1971 when they began life as the Silesian Blues Band. They became SBB in 1974 and embarked on a more progressive journey, going on to share stages around Europe with the likes of Soft Machine, Thin Lizzy, Canned Heat and even Bob Marley at the Roskilde festival in '78 (a performance recently issued on CD and reviewed in these very pages). Aside from this lengthy history and despite their advancing years with Iron Curtain they succeed in sounding as fresh, inventive and contemporary as a band just approaching its prime.

Lyrics are only sparingly included throughout with those that are delivered in Polish which will naturally limit their appeal. The title references the former Eastern Bloc and thematically at least this would suggest some kind of loose concept although this will not be apparent for those unfamiliar with the language. That said, this is not an album that relies on words alone to convey its message and the dream-like instrumental passages, with spacious, laid back interludes that allow guitar, keyboards and percussion an equal share of the limelight are able to carry the listener on a diverse musical journey.

Whilst there is ample room for solos and delicate melodies nothing here is longer than six minutes which ensures the flow of the album is maintained at a steady pace. Vocal chants are used effectively on both the opening title track and 'Defilada', both of which boast symphonic overtones with Hammond and Moog very much at the forefront. Guitarist Apostolis Anthymos makes his presence more keenly felt on the more understated and reflective 'Camelele' with some deft fret-work, also very much a feature of 'Sunrise'. In view of the title you would hardly expect ' Dopóki żyje matka jesteś dzieckiem' to be the most commercial sounding number and yet it turns out to be precisely that; an emotive and polished ballad that provides a satisfying close.

An album that will be of considerable interest to prog fans old and new, Iron Curtainis available now across Europe and will be released in the US during April.

Track Listing
1. Iron Curtain (5:07)
2. Defilada (6:07)
3. Camelele (4:50)
4. Rozmowa z Mistrzem (5:13)
5. Opowieść (4:33)
6. Błogosławione dni (5:00)
7. Sunrise (3:01)
8. Góry tańczące (4:40)
9. Dopóki żyje matka jesteś dzieckiem (4:18)

Added: April 15th 2009
Reviewer: Dean Pedley
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3177
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

SBB: Iron Curtain
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-04-15 01:28:53
My Score:

It was just a few months ago I reviewed Roskilde 1978, a pretty good live album and my introduction to the band. Their brand new album, Iron Curtain, is the latest studio effort and a fine follow up indeed. With this album SBB combines symphonic, jazz rock and blues to create a varied and thoroughly enjoyable listen that should appeal to fans of progressive rock in general. The band lineup includes Jozef Skrzek (bass, piano, organ, mini moog, micro moog), Apostolis Anthymos (guitars) and Gabor Nemeth (drums, percussion).

The CD starts out strong with the poignant title track, , featuring emotive vocals and fine guitar playing from Anthymos and one of the nicer melodies SBB has put to music. This is a very nice slice of melodic rock and could appeal to a wider audience if ever given a chance. One of the album's best cuts, "Defilada", sees the band at its progressive best. Atmospheric keyboards, ominous organ and excellent drum work start things off , followed by some of the best vocals on the album. The highly melodic "Camelele" continues SBB's fine tradition of combining jazz and rock and features nice axe-work from Anthymos, displaying a feel for the instrument that many guitarists would love to have. As to be expected, his playing is a highlight throughout the album and probably as melodic as anything he has done with the band.

More highlights include the funky "Blogoslawione Dni" with its fine drumming and the progressive jazz instrumental "Sunrise" featuring more tasty guitar runs from Anthymos. The album ends with the Santana-like "Dopoki Zyje Matha Jestes Dzieckiem" again highlighting the fabulous guitar lines of Anthymos. SBB has put out another quality piece of music with melody and song structure taking precedent over extended musical jams and over the top playing. While not a commercial album to say the least, Iron Curtain shows the band capable of producing song based progressive rock with plenty of atmosphere and professionalism and is an album I can easily recommend.

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