Flower King bassist Jonas Reingold says, “Jaco Pastorious lives in my heart every second of my life.” If you listen to this CD, I hope you love Jaco as much as Jonas loves Jaco because there are so many Jaco-inspired runs that you might want to abduct Jonas, tie him to a bed and call an exorcist.
This was my first Flower Kings album, so I had no preconceived notions about the band. Fans of so-called symphonic prog-rock will gravitate toward the main work on this imposing double-CD, “The Truth Will Set You Free”--a thirty-minute piece featuring ensemble performance with complex theme exposition and development, and convincingly holding at length with those themes. Jonas plays both fretted and fretless basses, resulting in straight progressive rock styles mixed in with funkier fusion sections with excellent results. The vocals have a pop quality and do well both as solo and in chorus. The lyrics are of a pseudo-Christian variety, which are thankfully vague enough to avoid sounding like insipid CCM evangelizing. The keyboardist performs well and manages to coax some rich and interesting sounds out of his rig. The only letdown is the guitar, which is competent, but nothing special. Also, they fall into the classic prog-rock trap: long after the theme has been developed to its limit, the song keeps going. In this case an extra eight minutes of largely unrelated material added as if they were gunning to break the thirty-minute mark. Even still, after a few listens the song is compelling, enjoyable and not the barefoot-on-tacks marathon than some extended pieces are.
The remainder of the disc is a hodgepodge of occasionally interesting rockers, ballads and a pair of truly useless space/noise jams, one called “Christianople”. In the first minute of this track, I snatched the jewel case, checked the running time and said, “Please tell me it’s not seven more minutes of this! (It was.) Other tracks include “The Devil’s Danceschool”, a direct rip…err…homage to Weather Report’s "Teen Town" (Told ya Jonas loves Jaco). Another extended piece, “Silent Inferno”, starts out with a grinding pseudo-metal groove and expands into jazz-inspired sections but again, instead of thoughtful arranging, it sounds more like a collection of ideas drawn randomly from a hat and assembled into a song. Several of the shorter works repeat themes from main track in an effort to tie the album into a cohesive whole, but this is done so sparsely that it is unconvincing.
The closing track, “Devil’s Playground” is the other symphonic work and is another high point with excellent vocal performances. It is not as tightly composed as the first track, but “Playground” features interesting forays into a free jazz section and even a playful Zappaesque melody. The lyrics are overtly Christian, and describe (I guess) a battle between Satan and the Virgin Mary waged in the mundane world:
"Swallowing the endless laughter
Cultivate the seven sins
Getting even altogether
Hiding from the Holy Mother
This is how you raise the Cain
This is what you teach our children
Back on duty, dog eat dog
Clueless in the Devil’s Playground"
The vocalist overenunciates in parts that remind me of David Bowie, but the song is fantastic and the finale with double-stops on the fretless is hauntingly gorgeous.
Many listeners will find golden nuggets amongst the shorter songs, but the two epic tracks alone make this disc worth the price of admission.