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 Passion And Warfare by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.58 | 136 ratings

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Passion And Warfare
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars From rousing arena rocking, to jam-centric shredding, to down-tempo power-balladry, to more shredding mixed with manic guitar effects ... to probably more weird combinations I can't think of right now, Steve Vai kills it with this hard rocking instrumental release. Definitely a product inspired by the late '80's pop-metal scene, Passion and Warfare emphasizes short, punchy, accessible songs which form the framework for guitar virtuosity on display throughout.

Bottom-line: this is an incredibly entertaining and exciting album. Will it razzle-dazzle you? Yes! Will it blow you away? Probably not. Vai is playing for the masses here, with most of the songs being easy to consume (assuming you love guitar shredding). Maybe a little bit of David Lee Roth rubbed off on him during this recording ... actually, that sounds gross, forget that. Maybe Vai was inspired while playing to arenas filled with ten thousand people, and found a way to balance his quirky creativity with a more commercially Vaiable (see what I did there?) Vaibe (two puns in a row!!!). If the result is an easily enjoyable bit of hard-rockin' guitar fluff: I'll take it.

Recommended, but maybe not as your first Vai release. Enjoy!

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: NA - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

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 From The Witchwood by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.02 | 227 ratings

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From The Witchwood
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nš 193

"From The Witchwood" is the third studio album of Strawbs and was released in 1971. This is a landmark for the band. It represents a transitional phase on the sound of their music and a search for their definitive sound, from a bluegrass group to a progressive folk rock band. It represents a huge step forward from their two previous studio albums, too.

The line up on the album is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, dulcimer, banjo and recorder), Tony Hooper (vocals, acoustic guitar, autoharp and tambourine), Rick Wakeman (piano, organ, celeste, mellotron, moog synthesiser, clavinet and harpsichord), John Ford (vocals and bass guitar) and Richard Hudson (vocals, drums and sitar). It's also the only studio album to feature Wakeman in the band's line up, before he joined to Yes. However, Wakeman had featured on their previous and first live album "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious" too, and had also performed as a session musician on their second studio album "Dragonfly".

"From The Witchwood" has ten tracks. The first track "A Glimpse Of Heaven" written by Cousins is a brilliant song and an excellent open for the album. It's my second favourite song on the album and is a song where the band develops their musical atmosphere all over the album. This is a powerful song where the organ is played like a church organ and the vocals are performed like choruses. The song also contains an excellent example of Wakeman's keyboard talents. The second track "Witchwood" written by Cousins is a very calm and beautiful song in the style of the medieval and Celtic music. It has a wonderful pastoral melody that can catch the attention of everybody. This is a very different song from the previous one, because it presents more folk elements on it, and it's also more secret and mysterious. It's also one of the highlights of the album. The third track "Thirty Days" written by Ford is a song very close to The Beatles, and curiously, even the vocals are similar to them. It's a typical folk acoustic song, very simple and nice but, it has nothing special and is also, in my humble opinion, one of the weakest songs on the album. The fourth track "Flight" written by Hudson is a very calm and peaceful acoustic ballad without anything special to speak about, except the interesting Cousin's guitar work and Wakeman's piano, in the end. It's the second weakest point on the album. The fifth track "The Hangman And The Papist" written by Cousins is, on the contrary, the strongest point on the album. It's a very powerful song also with powerful and dramatic lyrics and is, for sure, the most progressive of all. On the song the music goes in crescendo in order to create the dramatic effects described on the lyrics and suddenly ends when the prisoner dies. Here we have a brilliant keyboard performance by Wakeman and the reason why he was invited to be part of Yes. I think we can consider this a perfect masterpiece. The sixth track "Sheep" written by Cousins is a less folk song compared with the other songs on the album and is more composed in a psychedelic style. It's a very good song and once more Wakeman continues inspired and to impresses. This song represents another good musical moment on the album. The seventh track "Canon Dale" written by Hudson is the return to the folk but it has also some psychedelic effects made by the sitar. It's a song with nice harmonies and very pleasant to listen to, but once more, I think that it no represents one of the best moments on the album. The eighth track "The Shepherd's Song" written by Cousins is another great song and represents also one of the best moments on the album. It's a song perfectly balanced with all musical instruments. The song has excellent keyboard performance. Especially the piano and mellotron are particularly enjoyable to listen to. I think we can consider that this song incorporates influences of the Hispanic music. The ninth track "In Amongst The Roses" written by Cousins is a beautiful and typical acoustic folk ballad of him. It has a very melancholic vocal duet between Cousins and Hooper and is a return to visit their almost pure folk first two studio albums. It has also a slight country feel and is very pleasant and calm to listen to. The tenth track "I'll Carry On Beside You" written by Cousins is another great folk tune where we can feel the power of the vocals and the instruments in general. It's a song that sounds more like a typical classic country folk song that we can listen to on the radio. But, this is a very nice song too.

Conclusion: "From The Witchwood" is a great album that combines perfectly well the folk with symphonic progressive rock music. It's also a very interesting and enjoyable album to listen to and represents a major step forward in their musical career. "From The Witchwood" is musically a very varied album with many different influences such as folk, country, rock and psychedelic music, although it isn't always progressive. Sincerely, I think that isn't a bad thing. We can't forget that this is a transitional album and the next studio album "Grave New World" is, in my humble opinion, a truly progressive album. "From The Witchwood" finds the band exploring new pallets of colours and starts their migration to a major prog folk band. It's also the album which allowed the migration of Wakeman to other higher flights.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Saturnia by SATURNIA album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.87 | 14 ratings

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Saturnia
Saturnia Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Anyone who thinks that the flower power hippie movement ended when the odometer hit 1970 couldn't be further from the truth. While nihilism and cynicism crept back in to rain on the peace and love parade, the overall vibe of the 60s never really left. It may have taken a snoozer now again but the alarm clock inevitably chimes and new generations are attracted to its lost promises. Such is the case of the Lisbon, Portugal based SATURNIA which was the brainchild of producer and multi-instrumentalist Luis Simōes who alone covers guitar, sitar, bass, theremin, gong as well as vocals.

Thirty years after the 60s ideology faded like Vietnamese villages smothered by agent orange, the hippie vibe was resurrected in Portugal as Simōes planned on creating a communal band however despite his achronistic tendencies, he nonetheless failed to attract kindred spirits to carry out his intended plans. Thus he became a one man band with a few guest musicians helping out.

Over the years Simōes has worked with many such guests including Gong's own Daevid Allen, Hawkwind's Nik Turner as well as Colour Haze's Stefan Koglek however on this eponymous debut that emerged at the turn of the millennium in 1999, the guest roster is a little more mysterious with no reliable credits cited over the internet (unfortunately i do not own this fine pleasantry so perhaps liner notes exist to shed light on this nebulousness).

If one was to judge from the album cover, this could've sat in the vaults since 1969 when artists like Quietessence, Oriental Sunshine, A=mh2 and Ananda Shankar were following the trend set forth by The Beatles to incorporate everything Indian into their rock music paradigm. However, this was the end of the 90s and much had changed in 30 years and the SATURNIA project utilized the similar in vibe electronic and indie aspects that graced the 90s with impunity.

This debut album embraces not only the feel good Rancho Relaxo vibes of the Summer of Love years but also takes advantage of the wealth of technological advances that had resulted in the ensuing decades. Since this falls into the Raga rock camp it goes without saying that the sitar is a predominant sound encountered in this album's run however what's unexpected is that this is equally a space rock album with techno drum and bass percussive drive with lots of ambient electronic effects as well.

Sounding like something between the 90s bigbeat Prodigy and more downtempo Portishead, this could easily have been played at a more chilled out gig in Ibiza with all the spring break college students smashed on E dancing their asses off like there's no tomorrow. Add to that a serene and chilled out church organ that slinks alongside the hyperactive beat adding a smoothed out chill zone. Also predominant are erratic fluttering electronic effects, another 90s trait. The production and mixing are masterful.

The vocals are quite subdued and even buried beneath the mix and the album comes across more as a DJ's tribute to an era passed as it certainly sounds more 90s than classic Indo-raga from the heyday of its popularity. This is definitely party music here. Not the the unhinged raves where the cops bust down the door and break out the firehoses but rather the nice house parties where friends come over to chill out and perhaps play Pictionary!

While the fusion of electronica and ethnic influences is certainly nothing new and especially in the 90s when whole compilations such as the outstanding Buddha Bar series exhibit similar sounds, SATURNIA is quite unique in how the drum and bass interacts with the organ, theremin, piano and sometimes off kilter no wave type guitar runs such as on my favorite track "Sculptress Sublime." While one can chill out and pay no attention to this music, the subtleties are quite attention getting. Really only the last track is bombastic. The rest is a cloud ride through the skies on that magic carpet ride. Nice!

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 From Genesis To Revelation by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1969
2.56 | 1059 ratings

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From Genesis To Revelation
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by martindavey87

1 stars I love Genesis! I grew up on the Phil Collins pop-era stuff, and as I later discovered progressive music, I came to appreciate the bands earlier material. But, I'd imagine like many others, the only reason I own this, the bands 1969 debut, is simply because it's Genesis.

Not because I like it.

But honestly, I really don't have the energy to bash 'From Genesis to Revelation'. Not much, anyway. It's just so 'not my thing' that I'm really not interested. None of the songs stand out to me, and this is literally music from a bygone era. The performances are fine and all, but the compositions themselves are just so flat and lifeless. They're mostly acoustic or orchestral pop songs, very simple structures and vocal patterns, and a huge lack of drums to give the tracks any energy.

It's kind of like a cross between the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, but nowhere near as good as either. Again, I love Genesis! But I just really don't care for this album.

Perhaps it's the lack of Phil Collins...? Yeah! That must be it! There's a bit of Phil Collins in everyone, and Genesis without Phil Collins... is just Genesis. And that's boring! Ah well... better things are just round the corner. Watch this space...

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 Jerusalem by EMERSON LAKE & PALMER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1973
4.50 | 35 ratings

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Jerusalem
Emerson Lake & Palmer Symphonic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

5 stars - The first review for this release -

I confess that Emerson, Lake & Palmer have never been among my biggest prog favourites. The trio's highly virtuotic music often tends to be "too much", over the top. I do enjoy a great deal of their [70's] output, but the album I find the most painful to listen to completely is Brain Salad Surgery. Yes, the one they promoted with this single. H. R. Giger's unique artwork for the album cover is circulated here.

You know how it was with ELP: the ballads of Greg Lake always tended to be chosen for a single's A side. His new song 'Still... You Turn Me On' (also on Brain Salad Surgery) had already impressed live audience before the album was released. But this time they wanted something more representative for the whole trio. There really could have been no better choice than the powerful and majestic version of the well-known church anthem 'Jerusalem', which Sir Hubert Parry composed in 1916 to the poem by William Blake. The composition is of course gorgeous in itself, and it's no wonder that the audiences in the BBC Proms Festivals sing it from the bottom of their heart (I would, too!). But ELP made a deeply impressive version that summarizes the essence of the band. Keith Emerson's mighty organ playing, impassioned vocals of Greg Lake, and the "drum for your life" approach of Carl Palmer work together extremely effectively in this song. Sometimes the hair of my skin may stand up for disgust when I listen to ELP, but when I listen to 'Jerusalem', it stands up for bliss.

The B side contains an instrumental with a long and pretentious name: 'When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine'. The music is interesting however. It has a strong sense of Jazz Rock / Fusion, and even though it's very keyboard oriented, it has a nice groove and it feels more democratic as a group effort than many of Emerson's compositions. The track was re-released in Works 2 (1977).

Much to my own surprise, I rate this single with five stars, like the majority have done here. 'Jerusalem' is an undisputed masterpiece of prog songs covering someone else's music, while 'Apple Blossoms' is another kind of musical delight.

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 In Blissful Company by QUINTESSENCE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.26 | 38 ratings

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In Blissful Company
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Many roads in rock and pop music since the 60s lead back to The Beatles and the fertile cross-pollination of Indian music with Western rock was one of the more popular ones following the Fab Four's brief stay at an ashram in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as their guru. Once George Harrison recorded his famous "Within You Without You" on the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album, the genie was out of the bottle and suddenly every musician was incorporating some sort of Indian reference in their music. While some rockers were content to simply find a spiritual guru, other's like the London based QUINTESSENCE went all the way and developed their own unique mix of jazz and psychedelic rock with progressive touches all completely infused with musical influences from India including full on chants, Indo-raga droning effects and of course the mandatory sitar and percussion. They were known for energetic and dynamic live performances.

The popularity of the whole East meets West thing grew so fast and so big that bands like QUINTESSENCE were literally snatched up after only performing a few gigs. The original line-up included Sambhu Babaji (bass guitar), Maha Dev (rhythm guitar), Shiva Shankar Jones (vocals, keyboards, percussion), Jake Milton (drums, percussion), Allan Mostert (lead guitar), and Raja Ram (flute, percussion), the last of which chose the name of the band implying a five unit quintet despite the band actually consisting of six members. Keeping with the trend, the band members were actually christened by Swami Ambikamanda who was the band's spiritual guru. Right from the bat the band had multiple record contract offers and chose the less lucrative route with Island Records because of the fact they could retain creative control.

The band's debut was released in 1969 at the height of the Indo-rock craze. The album contained eight tracks with most displaying the band more as rockers rather than Indian fusionists since the majority of the tracks are fairly typical and unfortunately rather dated sounding psychedelic rock songs from the era that implement a standard rock, bass and drum base with a passionate sort of Tom Jones vocal bravado. While firmly steeped in rock, the sitar, flute and occasional Indian percussion do add an exotic flare to their sound which for the time was fairly innovative (save The Beatles notwithstanding). Interspersed amongst the rock oriented grooves are segments that delve completely into the Indian spiritual practices such as the fifth track "Chant" which takes the listener on a psychedelic journey into the ashram for a musical meditation. Likewise the album's closer "Midnight Mode" ushers the album out in a mystical mode with more transcendental chanting and Indo-raga droning effects.

While other Indian inspired bands like John McLaughlin's Shakti were pioneers of stunning virtuosic fusion, QUINTESSENCE was a pure hippie band through and through with garage band musical talent, rather cheesy pan-continental fusion and an overwrought vocal style that seemed more fitting for the Las Vegas strip rather than a fitting tribute to Bollywood. The guitar delivers a rhythmic drive for the rock aspects and occasional bursts out some soloing as heard in "Manco Capac," but don't expect Jimi Hendrix or anything even close. One of the most pleasant aspects of the music is the sensual flute runs that sound to me like they could have inspired the flute aspects of Comus' masterpiece "First Utterance" as the style is actually quite similar although not nearly as accomplished. My buddy Ashratom (from Rate Your Music) nailed it when he pinpointed the band as a major influence on Marupilami as the vocal style, flute sounds and other aspects seemed to be primary influences in their more adventurous form of progressive rock a year later.

IN BLISSFUL COMPANY, as many others have stated, is well, rather dated! This is a period piece if there ever was one. This is not something i would choose to listen to on a regular basis. While some Indo-raga and Eastern influenced albums of the day were transcendental beyond the zeitgeist of the era and still retain an avant-garde aura, QUINTESSENCE sounds like they came out exactly when they did, namely the tail end of the 60s in the midst of the drug fueled psychedelic days of the hippie era. To be fair, the band had only just begun and immediately thrust into the studio to record this debut and they apparently were not ready for prime time. While they would improve their musical chops on subsequent albums, they would experience less than peace and love filled episodes that would cause them to slowly splinter off into irrelevance. Despite playing alongside bands like The Who and Mott The Hoople, QUINTESSENCE never quite caught on within the larger rock world. Perhaps things happened too soon for them to catch the right wave. Interesting as a relic from the era. Not a bad album but not great either.

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 Third Ear Band by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.38 | 41 ratings

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Third Ear Band
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars While initially forming out of the ashes of a band called Hydrogen Jukebox, percussionist Glen Sweeney switched gears to form THIRD EAR BAND, which was created to improvise Indo-raga type droning effects with freeform instruments that swirl like insects around the percussive drive. The band found success as they signed a three record album deal with Harvest Records. The debut release "Alchemy" displayed a totally unique form of musical experience that was part Indo-raga, part Medieval folk and part schizoid avant-garde bizarr-o-rama weirdness. Despite the completely freaked out nature of the album, this was the late 60s, a time when Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart were finding their day in the sun, and THIRD EAR BAND offered yet another mind altering musical experience to the impressive legacy of the era.

The second album, simply called THIRD EAR BAND continued the freeform improvisational setting of the debut album albeit in a slightly more accessible form, if accessible is the right word. By that i mean that this eponymous sophomore release is more structured and more tamped down by a steady percussive drive that sound to me like some sort of talking drums having conversations with one another. There are only four musicians. Percussionist Glen Sweeney, Paul Minns alternating between oboe and recorder, Richard Coff alternating between the violin and viola and Ursula Smith exemplifying her best cello torturing skills, however nothing on this second release is as far out and startling as the debut.

While eponymously titled, the album is affectionately called "Elements," that being due to the fact that it contains four tracks referencing the main elements of the Earth from antiquity. Those being of course: "Air," "Earth," "Fire" and "Water." Each track presents a musical motif that generates the overall vibe of the corresponding element. Therefore, "Air" is somewhat quickened like a vaporous gas with a heavy percussive drive and loose woodwind and string structures that are as formless as the clouds in the skies above. "Earth" is more grounded and sounds more like a Middle Eastern oasis stop with Arabian musical scales augmented by a rather Celtic sounding fiddling session that ratchets up ever slightly until it is fully caffeinated by the end of its near ten minute run.

"Fire," as expected is, well, fiery. This is the most avant-garde track on the album. While it utilizes the same steady percussive drive, it presents a cacophonous series of counterpoints like flickering flames in a campfire. The oboe provides an incessant drone while the recorder bounces around like a cauldron of popcorn at a movie theatre. Likewise the violin and cello are screechy and buzzing around each other like drunken bees on psychedelic honey. "Water" ends as the shortest track (just barely over seven minutes) and provides a nice relaxing counterpoint to the frenetic nature of "Fire." The drone enters and sustains uninterrupted for a long period. It is joined by ocean waves which i assume are field recordings. The percussion enters but is far gentler than any other track. Likewise the strings and wind instruments join in harmony as they gently unify to create a melody. This one offers a strange Celtic vibe with Medieval folk as the oriental influences have dissipated.

While far more adventurous than the average rock band of the 60s, "Elements" does tame down THIRD EAR BAND's bombastic display of their debut "Alchemy" quite a bit. Although staunchly avant-garde, this one has a smoother and more mature display of the musical flow. While some may deem this too repetitive or even dare i say, boring, i find this to be quite meditative. It has a passive beauty with the complexities shining through on the dissonant freeform counterpoints of the strings and woodwinds. It's also easy to hear how THIRD EAR BAND's improvisation style built on droning rhythmic flows of percussion were antecedents to the electronic pioneers of industrial as well as the more artistic angularities of post-punk especially in the no wave world. While not as adventurous as the debut, this one has a charm all its own in how it flows in a more controlled fashion. Another great album by THIRD EAR BAND.

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 Caldea Music II by BLAKE, TIM album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.45 | 7 ratings

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Caldea Music II
Tim Blake Progressive Electronic

Review by WFV

4 stars 4.5 stars. This is my kind of modern progressive electronic. Blake definitely celebrates his electronic mastery on this work commissioned for Caldea Thermo-Ludique Center in Andorra. Water and its healing properties in all forms is the inspiration here, and this work contains no filler. Blake and Berlin School fans will find a lot to like on the three extended pieces and new age fans will find more to like on the other shorter tracks that tie the lengthy tracks together. Tim Blake is an electronic artist that deserves more attention worldwide His later seventies albums are classics and his newer work is surprisingly easy to digest

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 Waves by JADE WARRIOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.59 | 85 ratings

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Waves
Jade Warrior Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by WFV

5 stars I'm guessing everyone on this site has had many of those aha musical moments where you discover something new and it results in that glowing enlightened feeling like you are holding the most precious gem in front of your own eyes. The discovery of Jade Warrior has put my musical fandom on a different, brand new plane - ambient music. Meditative, relaxing, soothing, some call it New Age. I feel a great deal of this kind of music started with Jade Warrior's previous masterpiece Floating World and the vision crystallizes with Waves. In my prog collection, this really only rivals Celeste in terms of sheer beauty. A five star masterwork from the most unsung of unsung prog acts from the golden age. Original Jade Warrior champion Steve Winwood contributes memorable organ and piano solos, adding to the layers of interest.

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 Do Romance ao Galope Nordestino by QUINTETO ARMORIAL album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.73 | 5 ratings

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Do Romance ao Galope Nordestino
Quinteto Armorial Prog Folk

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars. As impressive as their sound is this just isn't my kind of music. If I was a music teacher at Berkley I'd probably be giving this 5 stars. It's just so impressive the way these five guys play using traditional Brazilian instruments along with flute, guitar and violin. Just a unique sound at times and Chamber Folk might be the best description of whats going on here. But my way of rating is in large part how much I enjoy the album and I'm just not big on Chamber or Folk music, and especially all acoustic music like we have here.

Released in1974 with traditional Brazilian cover art this does impress me at times and there's some "wow" factors as well but there's no bass, drums or electricity. Okay there's a snare drum, a marimbau drum and a zambumba drum but all used like percussion really. The rhythm is created usually by the violin and strummed guitar. I do like the way they layer the music and the way themes are repeated. I did write my usual review describing what I was hearing but there's too many unique sounds with these traditional instruments to know what I'm hearing at times.

So apologies to the Brazilian fans out there but I find that I have a hard time with traditional music from any country out there to be honest. Well worth investigating of course and despite not being into their sound I do like quite a bit of this. These guys can play!

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NEW RELEASES

Going Home by Yard, Ryan album rcover
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Rephrased by Edain album rcover
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Perspectives by Projection album rcover
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Arms Open Wide by Kershaw, Mike album rcover
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