Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Flower Kings – Look At You Now

This is currently a good time to be a fan of Swedish prog band The Flower Kings. In 2022, their record label Inside Out reissued a whole series of their previous releases, both on CD and vinyl, with several albums being available on vinyl for the first time, and now in 2023, with a European tour in the autumn, which includes dates in the UK, comes the release of the band’s 16th studio album, Look At You Now. This is an album which, they say, “was inspired as much by the current turbulent times as by the ancient goals of mankind, like wanting to find peace and enlightenment and dwell in silence, in awe of the wonders surrounding us.”

Mainman Roine Stolt, along with Hasse Froberg, is an original member from back in 1994 and, of late, has become something of a prog superstar. As well as playing in the Kings, he’s a member of prog supergroup Transatlantic, a member of prog collective The Sea Within and has recorded albums with prog luminaries such as Jon Anderson and Steve Hackett, which has led some fans to comment Stolt now keeps his better tunes for his recordings with others, though there’s scant evidence of this here.

The music of the Kings is characterised by the occasional usage of Polyrhythms, vocal harmonising, excellent musicianship and extended song lengths, though on their recent albums, there’ve been fewer lengthy epics, as well as keeping one foot planted in the hippie ideals of the sixties. Look At You Now is their 4th studio release since 2019 and it’d be true to say the quality has rarely faltered. It’s also less symphonic in scope than several of their earlier albums, having more of a rock sound, particularly the 1970s organ sound noticeable on tracks like ‘Seasons End’ and ‘The Light In Your Eyes’. The Kings have been likened to bands like Yes and the Floyd, as well to artists like Zappa, and there’s evidence of both here. ‘Beginners Eyes’ has a classic 1970s sound eerily reminiscent of Yes, even down to the quality of the harmonies, and the jazz-influenced instrumental Dr Ribenaux has touches of Zappa. Marjana Semkina, from Iamthemorning, adds her voice to ‘Day For Peace,’ with its almost militaristic feel of drums and bugle, which greatly enhances the song.

Overall, this is an album full of all the things that enabled The Flower Kings to make their name, from vintage keyboards to epic guitar solos, and from oddly timed drum fills to symphonic elements, plus some intelligent thought-provoking lyrics, and despite Tomas Brodin no longer being in the band, and Jonas Reingold not appearing on the album, what this album offers is a collection of songs from a bunch of musicians in full creative flow. 

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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