1. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
“The Power of Two was a joint-venture between Karmakanic and Agents of Mercy in 2009.” “Why would two forces in music work separately while it's more powerful to work together?” “In Autumn 2009 both bands went on tour in Europe and the USA playing two different repertoires performed by one single group.” “This live album has been recorded during the shows in the USA and represents the finest songs from both bands.” “And because Karmakanic drummer Zoltan could not join the US shows, Nick D'Virgillio (Spocks Beard) replaced him.” “He blended in perfectly, after rehearsing three hours of material in just 6 hours, and made it sound like they had been playing together for weeks” (JonasReingold‘s website, 2010).
2. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
1. The Fading Ghosts of Twilight (8:21) – Agents of Mercy’s opening track off their debut album. The opening piano is wonderful, as the band welcomes their fans to the performance. Beautiful song, well orchestrated. Almost a dream of walking through an other – worldly existence. Remembering “the things that make you smile.” “They’re getting hard to find somehow.” “Look for trails in old familiar faces.” “We stand alone.” “The ground which once was ours is now gone.” “The world is bigger than the both of us.” Almost a Robert Plant moment on the live version of Stairway to Heaven, “does anybody remember laughter?” Roine Stolt urges the audience to “Come on smile for me”.
The drums, keys, piano and vocals surround you with a melody that helps wrap you in this world of feeling in the same wonderful way the song open Agents of Mercy’s debut. Powerful lyrics and music that take you away from your earthly cares, if only for a while. “Sleepy fields of the unreal.” “High silver moon, land of the shadows in the fields.” “The tick tock of the clock, no sleep, and nothing’s real.” The piano closes with wonderful orchestration as the crowd rises with cheers.
2. Heroes and Beacons (10:00) – An Agents of Mercy song. Another beautiful piano opening after the introduction of the song title. A fan favorite, “ah you like this one don’t you.” The synth keys are wonderful supporting the piano as the song opens with these lyrics, “King and queen, lofty dream, waiting by the ocean.” “High or low, side by side, waiting for the tide.” “Staring back, into the deep, where the ocean floor is deeper.” “I can hear your voice of hope, echo across the ocean.” A very Fountain of Salmacis – like opening to this one. Memories of the best of the Foxtrot/Nursery Cryme era. Echoing the lost time that will never return. “The last lonely outpost, summer or winter.” “No miracles for people like us.” The bass, lead guitar, keys and drums create a melody of reminders as the supporting backing vocals surround the instrumentation with feeling. That wonderful Wind and Wuthering era keyboard solo which follows could have lasted forever for me, but it is followed by beautiful piano, before the refrain of vocals returns. The guitar solos and riffs lift the composition and the solid drumming keeps the pace flowing. The piano is a constant reminder of the acoustic flow of this song of nature and the past. “Turn your face to the sky.”
3. Jesus on the Barricades – (6:31) – Another Agents of Mercy song. Lalle Larsson’s piano solo at the beginning of this song is worth the price of the album alone. Then Jonas’ bass and soft drums join in for support. Nad’s vocals take over as the lyrics unfold, “Love is just a dream away.” “Life is just a fading day.” “Here I am so many questions without answers.” “Life is just a flick of light.” “Day is just a child of night.” The piano rolls on with the support of the bass and lead, with Nad’s vocals now growing louder as he demands answers. Beautiful melody with incredible vocals and instrumentation. The piano trails off into silence as Nad closes with “that’s right.”
4. Where Earth Meets the Sky (14:43) – A Karmakanic song off Wheel of Life. The roar of the crowd bears witness that this is a crowd favorite. The tingling piano opens as the drums, bass and lead roar through. Magnificent opening with that glorious piano. I have the Who’s The Boss in The Factory? album, but not this earlier work from Karmakanic. That will have to be remedied! This is wonderful and I understand why the crowd loves it. The fantastic keyboard, drum, bass, and piano instrumental which follows, is another highlight of this album. You want it to last forever. Then the vocals enter with these lines, “Here, where Earth meets the sky.” “Heaven is high and silence forever escapes.” “In my dreams I see the only/lonely world.” “I hear angels sing the age old song of freedom.” “And when I wake up, I know where my soul belongs.” The guitar bass, drums and piano capture the incredible emotion of these lines so well. “Time doesn’t matter at all.” “Summer and fall, variations of the same.” This epic song really captures that feeling so well.
Another great epic from Karmakanic brought to life on stage so well. Then we’re back into another magnificent musical interlude between drums, bass and that awesome piano. Almost a jazz improvisation. Very nice mood setter. Lalle’s solo is up in two songs, but he gets an early start here along with driving bass and drums. The piano and bass interweaving towards the end of this classic is amazing. Strong enough to sell another copy of Wheel of Life!
5. Do U Tango? (8:39) – Another Karmakanic song off Wheel of Life. Jazz based drums, piano, and bass as the tango rhythm begins. The bass is the standout along with the keys as this instrumental takes off with abandon. The guitar and synths wind this one into a faster building rhythm as you try to keep up with the pace. An instrumental on fire with sound full of variations, twists and turns. Then a cool drum solo as this one begins to rock the windows and foundation. Must have been cool live.
6. Lalle's Solo (5:46) - Lalle Larsson revs up the keys and that beautiful Lamb Lies Down on Broadway running piano cuts through the silence. He builds the sound slowly with a piano style drawn from the classical piano masters. Then a fun romp of wandering keys before he settles down to open the synthesizer part of his solo. The synthesizer screams to full power as we are reminded of some of the best from Tony Banks to Keith Emerson, all done in a classical almost Rick Wakeman style. You feel the majesty of the power of the sound surround you. But is over way too soon.
7. Eternally (10:01) – The story behind this song is tragic, but it is one of a kind, and my favorite off Karmakanic’s Who’s The Boss in the Factory? album. It sounds even better, performed with care in front of an audience of friends. The keys and bass that open the song create that sad and contemplative effect so well. This is a song of great feeling. A song of longing and regret. It is sad, but holds hope as it progresses. Probably not a dry eye in the audience as Goran sings the lyrics to this one. The lead guitar is more prominent in this live performance. The drums and building keys and bass really bring home the power of this epic. Goran’s vocals, the supporting keys and string sounds really pull at the heart and make this a perfect closer for the show. IMHO, the next song is a glimpse into the musical inspiration for this song. Eternally so reminded me of Afterglow the first time I heard it. Now with the two played back to back, I hear the power in their similarity more than ever.
8. Afterglow (6:36) – The encore is a fantastic rendition of the Genesis classic from Wind and Wuthering. They really cover the song well emphasizing the many important features of this incredible epic closer. Nad does a very good job of capturing the power of the lyrics. And to my ears, his vocals give us a preview of what this song might sound like if it was Peter Gabriel who sang the original, and not Phil Collins. The drums and keys live up to the original. The crowd roars with enthusiasm. The power of two cannot be matched by a single band alone.
3. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
With any live album or performance a band has the opportunity to find new fans by unveiling some of their greatest hits. When you put two bands together the bounty for the listener is even larger. I already was a fan of Karmakanic and the Flower Kings, so I had an interest in Agents of Mercy. The first three tracks on this CD are a great introduction to the power of the Agent’s music. I am already searching out their first album after hearing the power and emotion in the songs on this album. I already own one of Karmakanic’s albums but this was an introduction to another of one of their albums that I must also find and add to my collection. So this promo helped sell at least two other albums. If this happens to each person that buys this album, both bands will be doing very well.
The live performance of these classics really should help both of these bands realize their original goal of playing together to increase the power of their message and music.
4. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Yes, I have been listening to it since I received the promo. It is a wonderful afternoon or evening ‘pick me up’ that delivers the power and personality of these two bands.
Rating: 9/10 – Only wish there was more. Eight songs are not enough.
Reviewed by Prof on April 6th, 2010