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K2: Black Garden

K2 first came together when bassist Ken Jacques asked drummer Doug Sanborn to play on some of the progressive music he was writing. As the project grew, so did the contributors, with Allan Holdsworth, Shaun Guerin, Yvette Devereaux, John Miner and Spock's Beard keyboard player Ryo Okumoto all playing a part on what was to become the band's 2005 debut Book Of The Dead. The album received critical acclaim and to back this, K2 set about putting together a band to play some shows. Jacques, Sanborn and Okumoto remained, with Josh Gleason (vocals) and Karl Johnson (guitar) completing the line up. Now some five years later, that same quintet have finally released K2's second album Black Garden, which has a concept based around ancient Oceania and the journey the ancient Polynesians undertook sailing over a third of the world before they settled on the South Pacific islands (all this took place 2000 years before Christopher Columbus set sail).

What K2 have created with Black Garden is a marvellous collection of traditional prog songs, that retains the elements that made the genre the force it is, but still manages to sound fresh and relevant. Beautiful songs are packed with musicianship of the highest order and the two combine to make a spell binding collection of songs that are among the best prog rock that you will hear all year. Vocally Gleason is a dead ringer for latter day Gabriel, with his gravelly voice crammed full of warmth and character and his ability to drench his voice in emotion heightens both the songs and the story. Musically, imagine a mix of early Genesis, spots of Yes, flashes of Crimson and then add the slightly more modern approach of the likes of (not surprisingly) Spock's Beard or Transatlantic as well as some wonderful synth-string arrangements to the mix to have an idea of the scope and class of what is on offer here. Okumoto's keyboard work has a huge influence on the overall sound of this album, however he never dominates the disc, instead he creates huge swathes of atmosphere that uplift the songs. The guitar work of Johnson is also of the highest calibre and when he combines with the original duo of Sanborn and Jacques, the sounds created and signatures written are phenomenal.

Black Garden is one of those albums where choosing highlights becomes rather pointless, as the end result would be a list of the entire album. Each of the seven songs is a vital inclusion on this album and the quality never even comes to dropping off at any point. The more I hear songs like "Passage To The Deep", "Storm At Sunset" and "Path Of The Warrior", the more I want to just reach out and start the amazing journey all over again.

In a year that has seen some tremendous progressive releases, K2's Black Garden is the equal of any of them and for any prog head should be a mandatory purchase. Stunning!

Track Listing
1. Black Garden
2. Passages To The Deep
3. Widows Watch
4. Encounter Or Absence
5. Storm At Sunset
6. Summer's Fall
7. Path Of The Warrior

Added: November 12th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: K2 MySpace
Hits: 7497
Language: english

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