Since their reformation in 2019, Roine Stolt and co have been pretty prolific (this is their fourth release) and the remarkable thing is that they sound as fresh and relevant as ever on another stunning album.
The first surprise with “Look At You Now” is the line-up with only four names as integral band members, with Roine handling some of the keyboards just like in the ‘The Flower King’ days. While there is no dedicated keyboard player Lalle Larsson does trade licks with Roine’s guitar on ‘Dr Ribedeaux’. Roine’s brother Michael is the bass player and also contributes to the famous Flower Kings chorus. (Hasse Fröberg is listed as the lead singer, as on ‘The Light in Your Eyes’). The prodigious Mirko Demaio is the drummer. A second surprise is the number of tracks, 13 in all, all fairly short by Flower Kings’ standards except for the near 12-minute title track. Contrast this with the double CD length of 2022’s “By Royal Decree”.
Opener ‘Beginner’s Eyes’ reminds me of the best of latter period YES and the album starts strongly, but I really sat up when I heard the instrumental ‘The Queen’ led off by nylon guitarist Jörgen Sälde, a ‘medieval’ instrumental in the grand tradition of FOCUS, but also with the unmistakeable mark of one of Roine’s big influences, PROCOL HARUM. I loved the passion in the lyrics of ‘Scars’ and the instrumental work (We do need more protest music with what’s going on in the world). We go down “the rabbit hole” in the excellent poignance of ‘Stronghold’, a gorgeous ballad with visceral organ, triggering an equally visceral guitar solo by Roine. The lead vocal is shared with Marjana Semkina of IAMTHEMORNING on the anthemic ‘Day of Peace’ with marching snare drum by Mirko (took me right back to “Shine on Brightly!”) Jannica Lund contributes backing vocals (as on 6 other tracks) on the contemplative symphonic title track, a reflection on previous sentiments perhaps.
The songs and instrumentals segue well giving the impression of a conceptual work and the production and instrumental work is exemplary, as usual, taking us back to the halcyon late 60s and early 70s in a modern angst-ridden context (“the darkness in your soul” referred to in ‘Stronghold’). “Look At You Now” is another memorable Flower Kings album to add to a, thankfully, growing list.
A full review will appear in the next issue of ACID DRAGON.