The second release from New York's Frogg Café, Creatures, is a major step forward for the band, and a big move into classy progressive rock territory. While hints of the more fusion based sound that flowed throughout the bands debut album still pop up, this new recording is a complex and symphonic affair, filled with tons of offbeat melodies and instrumental brilliance. Members Nick Lieto (vocals, keyboards, trumpet), Frank Camiola (guitars), Bill Ayasse (violin, mandolin), Andrew Sussman (bass) and James Guarnieri (drums) show once again that prog rock can be challenging and fun at the same time.
"All This Time" kicks off the CD in grand fashion. Waves of Mellotron and heavy guitar riffs support the melodic vocals of Lieto on this one, which ultimately turns into a harder rocking piece than the band has ever done before. The gorgeous title track combines the deft beauty of vintage Kansas with the wacky complex time signatures of Frank Zappa. Weaving guitar and piano lines from Camiola and Lieto are littered all over this intricate piece, which also features some haunting violin work from Ayasse. The vocals of Lieto are once again very strong on this track, richly melodic during the atmospheric sections, and forceful when complementing the intense instrumental outbursts. It's great when a band uses vocals not just for the sake of using vocals, but utlilizes them effectively as the would another instrument. "The Celestial Metal Can" is the closest Frogg Café comes to RIO, as the band brought in a few guests for a avant-garde "chamber rock" experience along the lines of Henry Cow, Univers Zero, or Thinking Plague. Acoustic guitars, clarinet, flute, sarod, various percussion, and Toro electric weedwacker (yes, you read that right!) are all used resulting in an ethnic sounding yet jazzy cacophony of noises. This track segues into the violin tour-de-force of "Gagutz", where Ayasse gets to show off his prowess on the electric violin. Ayasse's lethal flights recall Goodman, Ponty, and Steinhardt , and he really cuts loose here on this funk-rock instrumental piece, as does guitarist Camiola with some distorted rock solos. Check out the band completely change gears after Camiola's hard-edged solo as Lieto interjects a jazzy trumpet solo over a more relaxed groove. Just brilliant!
The epic, 21-minute "Waterfall Carnival" finishes of the disc on a real high note. Throwing many styles at the listener, the band here has created a prog-rock masterpiece. Starting off with lush acoustic guitar and Mellotron that recalls vintage Genesis, the band then mixes symphonic rock and jazz-fusion for a huge wall of sound. The rhythm team of Sussman and Guarnieri are consistently locked in here, providing the support for intricate keyboard and violin lines from Lieto and Ayasse. Fans of Kansas or the Dixie Dregs will love how Frogg Café shifts into symphonic fusion on this one, resulting in a long track that lives up to its epic scope. Oh yeah, there's a cool Hammond solo from Lieto here as well, which just screams vintage 70's guys like Auger or Winwood.
This is a fabulous CD, and one that should propel this five-piece from Long Island to greater heights in the world of progressive rock. Anyone in the New York Metropolitan area who has a chance to see the band live really should, as they are as tight an ensemble as you will ever see.