The fifth album from The Samurai of Prog, On We Sail is full of progressive music and lyrical journeys, this time on wild ocean, rivers and dangerous seas.
The core members of The Samurai of Prog are Marco Bernard, Kimmo Pörsti and Steve Unruh. What makes the band so wonderful is the abundance of additional talent that is added to their creative endeavours. Each album comprises a huge guest list featuring some of the world’s best progressive musicians, their inclusion adding perspective and atmosphere to the creative energy of each recording. This one is full of dynamic progressive rock familiar from the genre’s classic period and I hear music which harks back to the seminal groups that made it popular in the first place.
At the same time, there is an overarching theme of folk and nature, which reminds me of more recent releases from bands like Kaipa. Ed Unitsky’s artwork beautifully captures images and impressions redolent of the early days of prog rock. As always, he is keenly aware of the creativity in the music and provides artwork which captures the artists’ concept for each song together with the theme of the album. One of my favorite artists working within the progressive rock genre, Ed has created most of the Samurai’s album covers, each with loving and passionate care.
Unruh’s violin has influences from Kansas, and there is an energy and wildness – along with flute work – which brings Jethro Tull to mind, and Renaissance as well. The piano and keyboards reminds me of ELP, Genesis and even Alan Parsons’ signature themes. The deep bass brings back memories of the innovative talents of Chris Squire or Geddy Lee.
Kerry Shacklett from Presto Ballet guests on the opening and title track, for which he wrote the music. His keyboards took me back to Keith Emerson’s best sounds from early ELP, that rich organ fantastic to hear. The dancing keys later in the song are reminiscent, if you listen carefully, of some of the themes in Karn Evil 9. The mix of keyboards and Unruh’s violin give you a glimpse of what it might have sounded like if Emerson had worked creatively with Kansas. Shacklett’s Growing Up is another wonderful trip back in time, full of musical memorabilia. The lyrics even include “Pop Goes the Weasel”, but this time it is as if Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull were performing the childhood rhyme. There are bells and chimes which absolutely sound like something from an early Tull album, or at least Songs from the Wood.
A Jethro Tull influence is also felt in Elements of Life, Unruh’s violin and flute matched well with Octavio Stampalia’s keyboards and Rubén Álvarez’s acoustic and electric guitars to weave an excellent rushing river of sound, taking you down the course of its raging flow.
Michelle Young’s beautiful and mystical voice fills Theodora with Renaissance and Lord of the Rings themed magic, Luca Scherani’s keyboards providing a Kansas influence as Unruh’s violin joins in. In contrast, Ascension is a magical keyboard and electric guitar instrumental experience with Jaques Friedman supplying the unique electric chords and David Myers providing intricate and inspired keys, once again complemented by Unruh’s violin. Myers gets his own showcase on Over Again, full of Bösendorfer grand piano it’s the best instrumental on the album, but I am biased as I love the piano.
Ghost Written features two great friends, Mark Trueack and Sean Timms, both ex-Unitopia. Written by Timms with impressive lyrics from Unruh, who else would you select to sing but the raw talent of Trueack who provides inspired and emotionally driven vocals. “Sound it out loud, proudly, for all the world to hear!”, his voice helps to lift the narrative as Timms provides his signature Tony Banks inspired keyboard accents. The lyrics almost sound like a reconciliation song for Timms and Trueack, but Unruh’s violin, vocals and flute remain the central theme driving the entire soundscape.
Oliviero Lacagnina’s windmill-like keyboards and piano, coupled with flute and orchestration, open The Perfect Black, a wonderful and at times eerie instrumental, perfect for a high seas adventure. Flavio Cucchi’s acoustic guitar solos add wonderful flavors. Finally, Tigers is a tribute to life’s accomplishments and having a life fulfilled, while at the same time regretting some of the decisions taken. It is set to Moog Taurus pedals, provided by Roberto Vitelli, and excellent lead guitar by echolyn’s Brett Kull. Daniel Fäldt sings a song full of majestic synthesizers as well.
The lyrics and storyline for this fantastic water–themed adventure are perfect and tell some magical tales. Buy this album and enjoy a journey into the way progressive music used to sound at the height of its popularity.
01. On We Sail (6:21)
02. Elements of Life (7:55)
03. Theodora (5:56)
04. Ascension (5:19)
05. Ghost Written (9:41)
06. The Perfect Black (9:30)
07. Growing Up (5:42)
08. Over Again (4:06)
09. Tigers (10:35)
Total Time – 65:05
Marco Bernard – Bass
Kimmo Pörsti – Drums & Percussion, Backing Vocals
Steve Unruh – Lead Vocals, Flute, Violin, Additional Classical Guitar (track 6), Lyrics (tracks 1,2 & 5), Vocal Melodies (tracks 1 & 5)
Srdjan Brankovic – Electric Guitar (track 1)
Kerry Shacklett – Keyboards (tracks 1 & 7), Acoustic & Electric Guitar (track 7), Vocals (track 7), Music (tracks 1 & 7), Lyrics (track 7)
Rubén Álvarez – Electric & Acoustic Guitars (tracks 2 3 ), Guitar Solo (track 5)
Octavio Stampalia – Keyboards & Music (track 2)
Luca Scherani – Keyboards & Music (track 3)
Michelle Young – Vocals (track 3)
Jacques Friedman – Electric Guitar (track 4)
David Myers – Keyboards & Music (track 4), Grand Piano & Music (track 8)
Jacob Holm-Lupo – Electric Guitar (track 5)
Sean Timms – Keyboards & Music (track 5)
Mark Trueack – Vocals (track 5)
Flavio Cucchi – Classical Guitar (track 6)
Oliviero Lacagnina – Keyboards & Music (track 6)
Brett Kull – Electric Guitar (tracks 7 & 9)
Stefan Renström – Keyboards, Vocoder, Music & Lyrics (track 9)
Roberto Vitelli – Moog Taurus Pedals (track 9)
Daniel Fäldt – Vocals (track 9)
Kev Moore – Lyrics (track 3)
Pirkko Salhi – Lyrics (track 3)
Record Label: Seacrest Oy
Catalogue#: SCR 1017
Date of Release: 15th May 2017