1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“Looking out into the crowd of five thousand music fans at Sunken Gardens Theater in San Antonio, Texas it was impossible to see everyone due to the blinding stage lights. The excitement level was very high as we were about to go into our set opening for Bob Dylan. Having met Mr. Dylan earlier in the day during the sound check we were already on cloud nine and thankful for the opportunity that we had been awarded by winning battle of the bands contest sponsored by the promoter of the concert, Stone City Attractions. The newspaper review the next day would say that Dylan's band could have learned a few things about showmanship from Creed Taylor and the Travelers. Spending my early days in Austin, Texas in the 1970's allowed me to experience and witness a wide variety of exceptional musicians and musical trends; from the Cosmic Cowboy country scare to the electric blues revival of the Vaughan brothers. Concentrating mainly as a guitar player led me to playing with a variety of bands and musical styles throughout my career and working with talented songwriters whose songwriting crafts did not go unnoticed. One of the highlights of those days was opening for Bob Dylan in 1991 in front of 5000 people and getting great revues in the music press. All members of the group have extensive professional experience performing live for many years. The band plays original songs with a classic rock feel blending the sounds of soul music with the rhythms and chord structure of surf-rock. Recently honored by the Progressive Rock Hall of Fame, Lynn Stokes & Sol Surfers have crafted an original and intricate sound/vibe that is both melodic and ethereal. Songs from the CD, Terra Nocturne are being played on XM Radio channel Fine Tuning.” (Lynn Stokes.com, 2009).
2. 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?
Two words, Pink Floyd. After a while of listening to this album it will be hard to distinguish Lynn Stokes vocals from early Roger Waters, and his guitar from David Gilmour. Since Pink Floyd is not recording at least for the foreseeable future, and Roger Waters and David Gilmour have slowed their recording schedules it is great to know there is someone here to fill the void. The Sol Surfers music is so close to early Floyd it will be obvious to any Floyd they are the inspiration. The similarities between Stokes and Waters voices is incredible and the music sounds like classic Floyd with a bit more influence from Gilmour’s solo efforts. Not the biting political satire of Waters, but the slow cool precision of Gilmour’s music and the Wish You Were Here/Nobody Home sound of Waters vocals. Lynn’s My Space page lists Roger Waters and David Gilmour near the top of his inspirational artist list. If you like Pink Floyd’s Meddle, Obscured by Clouds, A Saucerful of Secrets, or Atom Heart Mother you will probably like this album.
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
They actually do try to deliver the message of “spiritual transformation and communion with the Creator”, through words, music, and the insert pictures in the packaging. However, for me it was not too heavy handed. The themes are generally about relaxation and getting in touch with your inner spirit which we could all use.
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
Since the music here is so close to Pink Floyd, the initial fear is that the music will copy what has already been recorded. Although some songs have elements of some of Pink Floyd’s music, there is enough improvisation and originality to distinguish this album from a Pink Floyd album. I also found some Alan Parsons influences throughout the album.
The first song, Sacred Moon’s Light opens with a flute and synths and then the thunderous sax blows in and you are taken away with the Floyd rhythm, just as you hear Lynn’s voice for the first time. It’s as if you have heard this for years. He really did a great job of getting off to a wonderful start. The sax is fantastic. I wish more people would use it in rock, like they did in the 70s. That is what made Pink Floyd so wonderful. The willingness to experiment and use multiple instruments. The flute takes over and you are caught up in the rhythm. Just wonderful.. One of my favorites on the album. Sax blending with flute, guitar and relaxing vocals. This one would have fit perfectly on Gilmour’s On an Island perfectly.
Terra Nocturne opens with piano and a wonderful guitar riff to separate the song from the wonderful album opener. The opening guitar riff is full of power and majesty.
The piano opening of Where Have You Gone reminds me of Japan’s Kitaro. The lyrics on this one are closer to the influence of Roger Waters. “Where have you gone. “, “I’ve been waiting all night long.” “You went off to war. I can’t remember what were you fighting for?” “It started with a lie, and for that I guess you’ll have to die.” Someone has died in war and there are more overtones of ecological deprivation of the planet in the next verse. The guitar is more reminiscent of Alan Parsons.
The Crossing opens with flute and acoustic guitar, and synths of wind swirling. Wonderful opening. Deeply relaxing. Then the slow drum march.
Let Go opens with synths and guitar and takes you for a ride similar Comfortably Numb or Shine on You Crazy Diamond. “So long, go on, be still, see there, just beyond the hill, go with the tide, to the other side, go on.”
Open Door reminds me of some Pink Floyd Division Bell songs as well as Kitaro’s Asia CD, opening with what sounds almost like Japanese drums. Then that Turn of a Friendly Card guitar and synth sound comes out, followed by sax. Enough to remind you without being repetitive. Original, yet harking back to the past to remind you how good it was.
American Dream arrives, well dreamily. Beautiful acoustic guitar with synths and the quiet vocals. “American scene, can you open your eyes?” “Born on a dream, rebellious and wise.” “To reach for the heavens and start their new lives.” “Is this the American Dream or a nightmare disguise?” Sax mixing perfectly with synths, acoustic guitars and piano. Just magical. My second favorite song on the album. It is an epic 12:30, journey of wonderful proportions.
Dream Sequence opens with an awesome piano accompanied by synths. Almost a Tubular Bells sounds, then vocal clips, wind and what sounds like a train, birds, children playing and crickets. The atmosphere is incredible and building, like rolling hills, in and out, like waves of emotion or rest. The slow strum of a guitar ends the piece. The song is like Pillow of Winds off PF’s Meddle.
Across the Barrier opens a little like Seamus off PF’s Meddle, without the dog of course. Then the powerful electric guitar takes over, with drum accompaniment. “Lift your body up and wipe away your tears.” You begin to hear the Vaughan Brothers influence on this song. More electric and almost like a Hendrix All Along the Watchtower feel at the beginning, then the metal driven guitar jam reminiscent of A Saucerful of Secrets and then finally ending with the alarm clock.
This album does not push the bar of progressive rock any further. In fact, it may take us back to a time when people had time to sit down, relax and enjoy a full hour of listening to their favorite album. In that way it succeeds magnificently. However, much of the material is similar to Floyd, Waters/Gilmour and Alan Parsons, so it does not open new horizons. As Lynn’s first album, I believe it was made to lay the foundation and build a following, to do allow the Sol Surfers to do even more experimental music in the future. It is an arrival album, full of critical acclaim that should help deliver a recording contract and allow this talented performer to expand the palette with the next and succeeding albums.
5. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Absolutely! I have been listening to this CD for three days straight now and enjoy every minute of it. It reminds the listener of a time when we had more time to sit back and enjoy an entire album and get into it completely. It is the type of album you need to relax with and let the music take you away and enjoy each note. I think it is a starting point for a talented group of musicians that have just begun to create.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Although I like the album allot I feel there is enough reminders of Pink Floyd and others to prevent his first album from being a monumental work to be compared with the seminal albums in progressive rock.
Reviewed by Prof on April 15th, 2009