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Symphonic Prog • United States

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Cairo biography
In the early 90's the keyboardist Mark Robertson and Jeff Brockman joined in San Francisco with the purpose of releasing original Progressive Rock music in the vein of the pioneers of the 70's, soon after the guitarist Alec Fuhrman joined and together recruited the vocalist Bret Douglas and CAIRO was born

After presenting two song demo that caught the attention of Magna Carta, this label signed them, and in 1994 with Rob Fordyce in the bass, CAIRO releases their self titles debut album, which was well received by the critics due to their classic sound (clearly influenced by ELP) with modern approach.

The fans had to wait four years until 1998 when the band releases "Conflict and Dreams", with the same lineup except for Jamie Browne in the bass who replaced Rob Fordyce.

I have read several reviews about this album and very few agree about who influenced CAIRO during this stage, some say GENESIS, others YES and a few even mention ASIA or UK, but if there's something in which all the opinions are coincident (including myself) is in the clear ELP oriented keyboards, but I would say that this time with a Neo Prog edge.

Three years later in the dawn of a new century and without Alec Fuhrman who is replaced by Luis Maldonado, Cairo releases their third album called "Time of Legends", this time with a different sound more oriented towards Ambient music but still with ELP reminiscences.

CAIRO has also participated in several Magna Carta tributes like "Songs from Yesterdays" in which they play "South Side of the Sky" and "Encores. Legend & Paradox" where they perform "The Sheriff", but no sign of a new release that their fans still expect.

So, if you are a fan of the sound of the 70's with a touch of Neo Prog and diverse other genres, CAIRO is your band.

:::Iván Melgar Morey - Perú:::

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CAIRO discography

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CAIRO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.37 | 96 ratings
3.59 | 106 ratings
Conflict And Dreams
3.54 | 71 ratings
Time Of Legends

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CAIRO Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Cairo by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.37 | 96 ratings

Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

3 stars Formed back in the early 90's, San Francisco five man band Cairo delivered an easy to enjoy, well played and occasionally dynamic release on their self titled debut album from 1994. At first, a combination of `Union'-era Yes, `Falling Into Infinity'-era Dream Theater and a proggier take on Asia are obvious influences, but a surprising mid-album turn into supreme Emerson, Lake and Palmer-level technicality and showboating takes the album to another level altogether!

After a brief announcing wailing electric guitar introduction that wouldn't sound out of place on any Dream Theater album, lengthy AOR rocker `Season of the Heart' properly opens the album. Despite a ten minute running time, it's a fairly straight-forward track with a main focus on melodic vocal passages and a catchy chorus with numerous little instrumental fills. Clean cascading electric guitar runs, quick little synth dashes and a soaring confident lead vocal from Bret Douglas, it's a somewhat cold, but certainly punchy opener, but not nearly the strongest piece on the album. `Silent Winter' sounds like a gutsy cross between Asia and U.K, another strong chorus with a romantic lyric and a nicely contained instrumental soloing spot in the middle.

Those listening and not being too impressed at this point should persist, as the album all of a sudden bursts to life with an unexpected urgency and determination. `Between The Lines' blasts the listener right away, all Mark Robertson's delirious E.L.P keyboard bombast and Jeff Brockman's thrashing smashing drumming. A variety of synths, Moog and Hammond feature, with thick upfront bass and a bellowing unhinged vocal tear through this powerful piece. A softer 90's Dream Theater-styled number, `World Divided' is a quick return to a more AOR style, offering a `world gone wrong' lyric with a more restrained vocal and plentiful opportunity for lead guitarist Alec Fuhrman to offer emotional soloing.

If the earlier E.L.P flavoured piece `Between the Lines' offered just a glimpse of what the band could really do, the 22 minute epic `Ruins at Avalon's Gate' shows them firing on all possible levels. It's as if the band were thinking `Well, if we only get this one shot to make a great album, let's do everything!' With only a brief vocal passage a few minutes in and a quick reprise at the end, this extended piece is mostly a grand instrumental showcase for the band, a dazzling array of tempos seamlessly shifting back and forth, heavier passages, pompous fanfares and dizzying drama. Rob Fordyce's chunky galloping bass workout is a standout, as is the total dominating slaughtering (but in a good way!) complete keyboard overload from Robertson, his Triumvirat-like piano even reminds me of their `Illusions on a Double Dimple' album. Exhausting and thrilling in equal measures, but thankfully despite the band darting through so many ideas, the piece never sounds directionless. Album closers really don't come much more satisfying than this one, possibly one of the finest vintage/retro styled keyboard dominated epics since the Seventies, and fans of those above mentioned bands should adore it.

Occasionally the 90's sheen gives the album a slightly flat and lifeless sound (most noticeable on the first proper track `Season of the Heart'), but eventually the sheer melodic compositional skills of the band and their talented instrumental displays more than grab hold of the attention. Have a bit of patience and take the time to listen to the whole of the album instead of making a rash judgement on the opening few tracks, and chances are you'll end up very impressed and surprised! `Cairo' is an album well worth snapping up if you happen to come across it, and the band deserve a bit more attention and praise for their efforts here.

Three and a half stars.

 Conflict And Dreams by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.59 | 106 ratings

Conflict And Dreams
Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As a new-comer to the progressive rock world two years ago, the nineties intrigued me as it was a time when prog began to experience a rebirth, and somehow Cairo was presented to me, most likely on Amazon or iTunes. After a sampling of their three albums, I knew it was the first or second I should get because they were harder rocking and closer to my metal roots.

"Conflict and Dreams" is the second album by Cairo, said to be slightly more together than the first and showing the band's development of an individual sound. Based on hard rocking electric guitar, a wild organ, and a fast-paced rhythm section, Cairo's music is a bit like Uriah Heep with more speed and prog than what Heep was actually recording in the nineties. In some ways Cairo could sound a bit like Steve Morse when he rocks out but with a guitar playing style more like a generic metal band than Morse the Great.

By every account, this rock out melange of lengthy songs featuring a healthy dose of tempo shifts, time signature changes, flashing fingers across the keyboard, vocal harmonies (at times), and strong melodies played over hard and heavy guitar and punctuated by brief atmospheric intervals of synthesizer now and again should be an absolute delight to my ears. It's almost like Yes on speed!

However, my lingering impression of this album after two years is that it is lacking something. The first two tracks come off pretty strong. "Angels of Rage" show the band playing as well as any prog metal band, and "Corridors" has a strong melody and catchy intro, plus more synthesizer to offer a soft contrast to the metal guitar. "Western Desert" shows the band at full tilt, going like a metal version of Glass Hammer almost. Rhythm changes come continuously as the guitar solos dive and slice along with the steady drum beat.

But by the time the vocals come in, my first dissatisfaction with the album becomes clear to me: I don't really care for the vocals. Now it's not that he can't sing. Bret Douglas has a strong and powerful voice that well suits the music. It's perhaps the timbre of his voice that doesn't grab me. Realizing this makes it difficult for me to enjoy the sung parts of the songs. Others may not think so.

As "Western Desert" moves into a lengthy instrumental section, I also find my mind can't remain focused on the music. A shame really as there are some very nice moments and some great playing. But one thing that tires my patience is really long solo sections. I enjoy prog because epic tracks don't tend to rely on extended jams but instead feature complex and varied music. After the ten-minute mark, I'm looking forward to hearing something new but the theme melody returns and then for a minute or two it sounds like something is up. But then there's just some repetition until nearly the final minute when at last the awaited change occurs, interesting, refreshing, and over way too soon.

The only real contrast to show up on the album is the short acoustic instrumental, "Image". It's a pleasant break after 40 minutes of mostly driving hard rock, organ and guitar solos, and appreciable rhythm and melody changes that by now are starting to sound formulated.

The last two songs, "Then You Were Gone" and "Valley of the Shadow" continue on in the same vein as most of the album. There are plenty of highlights, like the guitar melody at around 2:30 on "Then You Were Gone" and the almost Deep Purple-esque organ solos or ELP-ish fiery keyboard solo of "Valley". This final song in particular seems intended to be a masochistic finger exercise on organ, piano, and synthesizer.

Certainly any one song added to a mixed playlist is likely to impress anyone with a taste for heavy prog or progressive metal. The album is chock full of searing instrumentation, prog rock at its most intense and frenetic at times. But overall the album feels too "samey" to me. Perhaps if I liked the vocals more I might regard the album more highly. I'm not surprised to see that some have awarded "Conflict and Dreams" with four stars. It's worthy of it. For me, however, three stars is the maximum as I still can't really warm up to it enough..

 Cairo by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.37 | 96 ratings

Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Cairo" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by US, San Francisco based progressive rock act Cairo. The album was released through Magna Carta Records in 1994.

The music on the 6 track, 53:39 minutes long album is progressive rock in the keyboard/synth heavy neo progressive vein. The neo element is mostly due to the choice of "artificial" synth sounds and the sometimes AOR influenced vocals/vocal lines. There´s also an obvious Yes influence in the way the band use harmony vocals and also a few nods toward Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the keyboard playing (a semi-classical element). The tracks are generally quite long (except for "Conception", which is an intro type track). The longest being "Ruins At Avalon's Gate", which clocks in at 22:35 minutes.

The band are really well playing and the vocals are convincing too. Unfortunately the songwriting and the sound production drag the quality of the album slightly down. The songwriting is decent enough, but the material on the album are for the most part not that memorable or original for that matter. Regarding the latter mentioned issue, the sound production is a bit weak sounding. The rhythm section is way too low in the mix and are at times almost drowned in synths, vocals and lead guitars. The lead guitars are as mentioned high enough in the mix but the rhythm guitar suffers the same unfortunate destiny as the drums and the bass, so it´s safe to say the sound production leaves me unsatisfied.

...still "Cairo" isn´t a bad release and for a debut album it does show some promise. To my ears it´s just a bit mediocre compared to the vast amount of releases in the same vein available on the market. A 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong.

 Cairo by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.37 | 96 ratings

Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Conception

Cairo's self-titled album was a slightly immature but very promising debut. In my opinion, the promise was not fully realized until their second album, the excellent Conflict And Dreams. But the present album is a very good debut album in its own right. Most of the ingredients of their sound were already here and the band clearly had talent. This makes for a wholly enjoyable album.

The first three tracks of this album are the best ones, but even these are not even close to the Conflict And Dreams material. The rest of this album is good too, but not quite up to par in my opinion. The 22 minute plus album closer Ruins At Avalon's Gate in particular is somewhat rambling and could have been shortened somewhat for greater effect. The main influence on this epic track is clearly Emerson Lake & Palmer, but the rest of the album is much less obviously inspired by that group. Yes and Kansas are closer.

Out of the three albums by Cairo, I would place this one in the middle. I can recommend it to all who liked Conflict And Dreams, but please make sure you get the latter album first.

 Time Of Legends by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.54 | 71 ratings

Time Of Legends
Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Cosmic approach?

Three years after the excellent Conflict And Dreams album, Cairo returned with Time Of Legends. While this third album of theirs is a bit more diverse and varied, it is also less powerful and less memorable. With Conflict And Dreams, Cairo gave me the impression that they were screaming in my ears "Listen to us!! We are over the top and really very talented and our music is super great!!". With Time Of Legends they seem to want to tell us something much more modest: "You can listen to us if you want, we are quite alright". The music is still good here and it is an enjoyable listen, but certainly some of the passion and fire of Conflict And Dreams is sadly lost.

By some people a bit less of the Emerson Lake & Palmer-inspired bombast is probably considered a good thing, but in this case I think something important has gone amiss. That bombast was a large part of what made Conflict And Dreams so great. On the present album, they even give us a couple of quite understated almost New-Age like instrumental passages (though, one of which suddenly bursts into an intense Toccata-like passage). The vocals are also less passionate somehow.

After the release of this album, Cairo would disappear without a trace leaving the fans without any information of their whereabouts. Time will tell if they will ever make a comeback.

Time Of Legends remains a pretty good and pleasant album, but slightly disappointing after the powerful Conflict And Dreams.

 Conflict And Dreams by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.59 | 106 ratings

Conflict And Dreams
Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Angels and rage

Out of the classic Symphonic Prog bands of the 1970's, Genesis seems to be the one that has attracted the highest number of followers (most notably in the British Neo- Prog movement). King Crimson and Yes have their fair share of followers too, though there seems to be a lot less of them in comparison. Emerson Lake & Palmer have even fewer followers. Cairo has elements of several of these and other bands, but the influence of the latter band on the sound of Conflict And Dreams is undeniable. Mark Robertson's keyboard playing is very much in the style of Keith Emerson, both in playing style and in the actual keyboard sounds he uses. This is especially true of the Hammond organ, but the synthesizers and the classical piano too readily bring Emerson to mind. The drumming of Jeff Brockman and the bass playing of Jamie Browne is also rather similar to that of Carl Palmer and Greg Lake respectively. But there the similarities with Emerson Lake & Palmer stop. The sound of Conflict And Dreams is indeed keyboard-dominated, but they also rely heavily on the (mostly electric) guitars of Alec Fuhrman, and the lead vocals of Bret Douglas are more Journey/Boston-like (but the backing vocals are more towards Yes). Cairo is thus more Rock than Emerson Lake & Palmer ever was. Traces of Kansas can also be heard.

Some say they can detect traces Dream Theater, but even though the success and fame of Dream Theater most probably helped a lot to pave the way for bands like Cairo, the Metal influences in Cairo's music are superficial at best. It is perhaps true that Cairo wear their influences on their sleeves, but it is unfair to dismiss them as an Emerson Lake & Palmer-clone or a "retro-Prog" act. Cairo utilizes a modern production and injects some modern influences into their brand of Symphonic Prog.

All members are clearly very talented and the actual material is strong and melodic. The albums consists of six tracks, four of which are over ten minutes in running length which creates lots of opportunities for great instrumental workouts without becoming directionless. All the songs are good, but Angels And Rage and Corridors are the absolute highlights for me. The album is very good as a whole, but I feel that the first half of the album is somewhat stronger than the second half. It was wise of them to put a short and relaxing instrumental after the 17 minute plus mastodon of Western Desert which helps tp keep the album varied. But despite this, with a total running time of over an hour, I must admit that the excitement tends to wear off a little bit towards the end of the final track. But once it is over, I desire to hear the album again which is the mark of a great album.

Highly recommended!

 Conflict And Dreams by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.59 | 106 ratings

Conflict And Dreams
Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Although largely unknown by the progressive rock community, Conflict and Dreams is certainly one of the better prog albums from the second half of the nineties'. Cairo was an impressive American band who took the very best of classic progressive rock, neo-prog, and even generous helpings of progressive metal; the end result being, of course, the magnificent Conflict and Dreams. This is their second full-length album, despite being my introduction to their music. After many thorough listens, I can only claim that this is a magnificent album that every fan of the genre should take a listen to; this is a truly underrated gem.

Cairo has been criticized for sounding too much like ELP by some reviewers, but I only hear occasional ELP references here - a few Hammond organ sections and synth passages undoubtedly bring Keith Emerson to mind, yet I tend to the think that Conflict and Dreams sounds much more modern, AOR-influenced, and heavy than these seventies' pioneers. In addition to the occasional ELP tendencies, I also hear traces of UK, Marillion, and IQ, and even some leanings towards Dream Theater and Rush. Cairo, while not a completely revolutionary band, did have a pretty original sound and their convincing style of epic-based songwriting really made Conflict and Dreams an excellent album. Five of the songs here exceed the eight minute mark, two of which reach above fifteen minutes. The album tends to feel a bit too long in some spots, and a bit of trimming around the edges could've made it even stronger; still, Cairo manages to make their music pretty accessible by including fantastic choruses in each of the tracks as well as some unforgettable instrumental portions. My favorite track here is probably the opening cut, "Angels and Rage" - a pretty accurate title for this song, indeed. This ten-minute track is filled with blistering instrumental portions, an unforgettable chorus, and plenty of key changes and fluid transitions. All of the other tracks are also pretty excellent, and I especially must give a nod to the seventeen-minute "Western Desert"; the keyboard playing in this track is jaw dropping, to say the least.

One of the best aspects of Conflict and Dreams is simply listening to how well these guys are capable of playing. These are absolute top-of-the-line musicians, and it's hard to not be amazed by the sheer complexity of many solos and riff patterns throughout the album. Keyboard player Mark Robertson often steals the show here, with his lush palette of sounds usually playing a dominant role in the music. Alec Fuhrman delivers quite a few excellent solos here, and he often reminds me of guitarists like Steve Rothery - definitely not a bad thing when it's coming from me! The Greg Lake-styled vocals of Bret Douglas are also pretty great, and I think his powerful and commanding singing style suits the music perfectly. The production leaves a bit to be desired, and it sounds a little dated by today's standards, but it's far from a major hindrance.

All in all, Conflict and Dreams is a very successful effort from Cairo that comes strongly recommended to all fans of classic progressive rock with a heavy dosing of neo-prog and progressive metal. It's a shame that this album is so unrecognized by the prog community; this really is one of the genre's more impressive albums from the late nineties'. 4 stars and a strong recommendation are warranted without hesitation.

 Cairo by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.37 | 96 ratings

Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by sussexbowler

3 stars If you fancy something which is a cross between eighties-style Yes, traditional ELP, with a bit of UK thrown in too, then this'll be your cup of tea.

Probably in the AOR segment of Prog, it has a tinny brilliance defining it. Probably not moody enough for my ears, as I prefer older Yes (Tales from Topographical is probably my favourite), and find ELP to be a bit too technical, though I like Brain Salad surgery.

The concept is probably let down by the vocalist, as I would imagine a John Anderson soundalike would have been preferable to see where the music truly stands in the scheme of things. The singing is okay, just a bit flat.

I can't quite understand why an extra bit of music needed to be ended to the end of 'Rufus at Avalon's gate', as it was going to end quite moodily with some church bells. Alas, not enough of an AOR-style ending perhaps. Pity.

Fast-paced, happy and very musically proficient throughout, if the aim of Cairo was to sound not dissimilar from the aforementioned bands, then the objective was very certainly achieved.

 Conflict And Dreams by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.59 | 106 ratings

Conflict And Dreams
Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by keyboardproger

4 stars Oh What a great album we have here, to every progressive rock fan in general and keyboard driven prog in particular! Some of the most exciting elements from Emerson Lake & Palmer sound are presented here, although with a more modern and agressive edge with the inclusion of electric guitar, sometimes vey cloud and heavy. But the beloved elements from ELP take a proeminent rule here, be in the bombast, be in the presence of the Hammond organ, played in the same vein as Mr Keith Emerson. The other band players also shine and the vocalist really delivers. It´s a real pity this band has dissapeared.
 Time Of Legends by CAIRO album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.54 | 71 ratings

Time Of Legends
Cairo Symphonic Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Last album to date from this US band. No news at all on their website on a potential follow-up, nor even any response to several messages from fans asking about their career. Lack of communication?

Songs are shorter here, more straight forward and of simple structure. Some of them are melodic like the opener "Underground" and the whole might sound well crafted; but it also lacks of variety and personality. "Yes" and "ELP" remain the major influences.

I also fully agree with Bogdan when he says that this album gives the impression of having been released in a rush, for the sake of it. The pastiche "Prophecy" is one of the best example. Pompous and insipid.

And it is not the folkish "Scottish Approach" or the transparent "You Are Not One" that are going to raise the level of this album; which is globally quite flat so far. Should I add that apart from featuring some solid drumming, "Cosmic Approach" has little to offer?

When I listen to the vocals from "Coming Home", I just say stop! Enough of this plagiarism ("Yes" in this case). This work totally lacks of inventiveness and it is just a collage of sounds from the past. To the bones.

If listening to a third tier ELP is your cup of tea, then (and only then) "The Fuse" is recommended. All in all, this album is not much worth IMHHO. Just cliché.

Two stars.

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition.

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