Two years ago at the time of writing the review of Frogg Cafe's previous album “Creatures” I wrote the following headline: “Wake up prog-labels: Frogg Café plays original and progressive music!” I found it unbelievable that such a great album had to be released as independent release and didn't got the promotion it deserved. The good news is that Progrock Records not only has released the new Frogg Café album “Fortunate observer of time” but also take care of the band's back-catalogue.
Bill Ayasse - electric & acoustic violins, vocals, mandolin, percussion; Steve Uh - electric & acoustic guitar, keyboards, violin; Nick Lieto - lead vocals, keyboards, piano, trumpet, flugelhorn; Andrew Sussman - electric bass, cello, vocals; James Guarnieri - drums, percussion.
John Lieto - trombone; Steve Campanella - marimba; Ed Mann - marimba, vibes, percussion; Izzy Mergen - congas; Sharon Ayasse - flute; Marjorie Ayasse - vocals; Tim Roache - "shhh"
The band is still making innovative and contemporary progmusic with
some influences from the seventies. But the band has grown and sound
more mature. Frogg Café is developing
it's own identity. When I listen to the opening track “Eternal
optimist” (6:31) I
hear Frogg Café music and not a
band that sounds like ... That is the progression the band has made with
this album. This rock composition has a catchy vocal refrain. “Fortunate
observer of time” (7:04) is more jazz related with melodic
violin parts in the style of Jean-Luc Ponty.
The use of trumpet and flugelhorn is not very common in the progressive
world. That's one of the things that's make this band so special. “Reluctant
observer” (9:27) is
a great track with beautiful vocal harmonies. I would like to describe
it as a kind of Symphonic Jazz Fusion with a swing. Delicious violin
solo's and delicate use of the marimba. The duo solo of electric guitar
and violin is very nice. And a great complex ending. “No
regrets” (8:13) starts
hectic but soon a beautiful vocal melody line is accompanied with a delicate
and melodic violin. After this breath taking opening the band is
swinging with a jazzy trumpet solo and more Ponty like
violin parts. In the end the vocal melody returns one more time. “Resign” (1:05)
is a short intermezzo in which a delicate vocal line is only accompanied
by violin and mandolin. Then we get two wonderfully long tracks with
the always present Zappa influences. The
first is called “You're still sleeping” (10:43)
in which you can hear next to the Zappa influences
swinging jazz parts with a south American flavor. And off course
a beautiful violin solo. The second of those two long tracks is called “Abyss of dissension” (14:38).
In this piece is room for a long guitar solo. Another detail is the cooperation
of Zappa member Ed
Mann on marimba,
vibes and percussion. The spirit of Frank Zappa is
very present on this track. The album ends with the instrumental track “Release” (3:56).
A classical ending of this album with violin, cello and flute.
Frogg Café is performing like a chamber orchestra.
The band is still making innovative and contemporary progmusic. The band has grown and sound more mature. Frogg Café is developing it's own identity. I find this “Fortunate observer of time” more jazz fusion orientated then it's predecessor. You always will hear the progressive spirit of Frank Zappa sounding through the music of the Froggs. Lovers of the melodic jazz fusion of Jean-Luc Ponty (he was also a member of one of Zappa's bands!) will also love this album. I'm glad the band has been signed by Progrock Records. Frogg Café is one of the most innovative prog bands on this young and enthusiastic prog-label.