How audacious of Roine Stolt and the boys to open with ping pong noises ala Gentle Giant and then an in-your-face instrumental? Title song “Retropolis” is excellent and perfectly conveys the Flower Kings sound on their second album, without the need for singing. The standard cohorts of Thomas Bodin on keyboards, Roine’s little bass-playing brother Michael, Jamie Salazar on drums and vocalist Hans Froberg (unfortunately, only on two cuts) are here.
It was around this period of their career that I first heard The Flower Kings. My initial thought was ‘Yes fronted by Greg Lake with Frank Zappa on guitar.’ There are some jazz flourishes here and there that like Zappa’s best work, connect ably and fully with the progressive rock aspects. Roine’s voice has the warm and more baritone than tenor feel of a Lake or John Wetton. I’m a sucker for Hans Froberg’s voice in the FKs as well and enjoy having him guest on two tracks here. He would later become a full time member of the group and is one of the premier vocalists in his field. He sounds great here, especially contributing to those big harmony choruses ala Yes.
To mention just a few of the great tunes here, “There Is More to This World” has a slightly off-kilter bounce and a grand majestic build to the finale. Bodin’s piano piece “Romancing the City” segues nicely into another interesting instrumental, “The Melting Pot.” Bodin also shines on his apparent ode to electronic music of the 70s “Retropolis By Night” and the playful “Flora Majora.” That latter cut also allows Stolt to release his inner Frank a bit more during an aggressive guitar solo, that later gets all David Gilmour. It’s sublime.
The best cuts for me are the rocking “The Judas Kiss” and an absolutely astounding “The Road Back Home.” I was singing this song to myself the other day and I kept thinking, “Where is that from? That is cool!” It will stick with you long after the next disc is in your player for sure.
I wouldn’t say that Retropolis is The Flower King’s best effort, that award goes to 2002’s Unfold the Future for me. I will say that this is a wonderful example of how Progressive Rock is surviving into the new millennium and beyond. Roine Stolt has been an integral part of this latest wave of progressive music, and Retropolis is yet another one of The Flower Kings great albums.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on August 18th, 2011