The history of this album is incredible. A guy named John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, who works as rock journalist and recently interested in progressive rock, has been able of composing a conceptual album based on the city of Brugge (Belgium), the northern Venice. Sounds amazing, doesn´t it?... well, wait and take a look at the guest musicians: Rick Wakeman (friend of Bollenberg), Jordan Rudess, Roine Stolt, Pär Lindh, Björn Johansson (co-composer of all the tracks), Heather Findlay and Brian Josh (Mostly Autumn) and a whole classic choir. I´m sorry I don´t know the whole background of this famous journalist, but it seems he has very important friends.
After the tribute-era, now it´s time for the rebirth of conceptual albums plenty of guests. To be sincere, when I knew that this album was to be released I feared it would be like "The Greatest Show on Earth" of Martin Darwill and Friends (the “friends” were members of Jadis, IQ, Wetton, etc...); lots of deluxe guests for a poor project. But "If only stones could speak", fortunately, is not the same, though this is not the album of the year.
Firstly, the music is like the solo work of Pär Lindh: music very baroque, full of church organs, harpsichords and medieval sounds. You can notice it when you listen to the first minutes of “If only stones could speak” (6:58), the opening track. And the players in this song are absolute newcomers: Wakeman playing mini-Moog, Rudess playing Kurzweil 2500 XS, and Lindh playing church organ and piano (and drums too!)... three virtuosos in the same track!!!. And they also play together in almost the rest of the album, so this is not the typical advertisement. Stolt only collaborates in a track, “Ursus Brugghia” (3:39), with an amazing guitar solo.
I´m not going to review in depth all the tracks because all of them have the same style. If you know Johansson´s work, imagine it together with the typical sound of Pär Lindh Project (Pär is the producer of the album, so you can imagine the great bass and keyboard sound), you´ll get an idea about how this album sounds. Medieval music with classic progressive style in an album plenty of first line stars. The tracks are not extremely brilliant but they´re extremely well played. Of course Bollenberg isn´t the best singer of the world (in fact he´s one of the worst I´ve ever listened to), but this is his project and I can imagine him having a great time singing in his dream come true. Another black point of the album is the song “The Story of Three” (8:50), based on an ancient history that took place in Spain (Valencia, Barcelona, Granada, Córdoba, Salamanca) and Belgium. The history is very beautiful, but I´m sorry... there are certain music styles that have to be played by certain people... and a guy named Johansson can´t play flamenco guitar as well as a guy named Bollenberg can´t play castanets as if they were born in Spain. The track is great but the “spanish parts” can be enjoyed by everybody but spanish listeners. I´m sorry but it sounds very bizarre.
All the songs, except the first and the last (bonus track titled “The Goodnight Knight” (9:20), is a travel guide for those who want to know the city of Brugge in a musical way. Of course I recommend this album because it´ll be enjoyed by lovers of classic and medieval symphonic rock and by Lindh´s fans too. But don´t try to find fresh sounds because there´s always a deja-vu feeling in every second of every track. Meat without substance.
Now I´m going to phone Martin Orford, John Wetton, Ian Anderson and Keith Emerson... perhaps they want to collaborate in a forthcoming The Algora Experience. I congratulate this journalist and his dream. By the way... look at the lines of the booklet: “Copying music is killing music. Don´t burn Cd-R of this album”.