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The following reviews are from magazines, radio stations and individuals
Review 001 ~ Progressive rock trio, "Cairo’s third release "Time of Legends". should provide heaps and bounds of entertainment for those, who enjoy the multi-layered keyboard inventions of E.L.P, Yes, and many of the fabled 70’s and early 80’s British Canterbury scene aggregations. Here, the band garners assistance from guitarist Brian Hutchinson, bassist John Evans and others, as the outfit’s modus operandi consists of memorably melodic hooks intermingled with keyboardist Mark Robertson’s textured synth soundscapes, Bret Douglas’ buoyant vocals and drummer Jeff Brockman’s polyrhythmic fills and disciplined rhythmic structures. Overall, the musicians’ convey a luminous demeanor, brimming with cleverly arranged motifs and purposeful soloing amid a bevy of well-placed twists and turns to coincide with a series of impacting opuses and lyrically rich themes. Thus, the band’s tasteful concoction of previously applied concepts melded into a contemporary or novel sound and style makes for a thoroughly engaging listening experience. - Progressive rock lovers should find quite a bit to be revved up about with this craftily arranged and altogether compelling presentation. ~ Glenn Austerity, All Music Guide
Review 002 ~ One of those remarkable Symfo bands on the Magna Carta label next to Shadow Gallery is undoubtedly Cairo. They released their second album almost at the same time SG releases the perfect album 'Legacy', a feast for the Prog fans among us therefore. Why? "Time Of Legends" is also a maximum scoring album, that's why. 'Underground' introduces almost 48 minutes of fantastic music, original arrangements and high level musicianship. Instant love, from scratch...Singer Brett Douglas still sounds like a cross between Jon Anderson and James LaBrie, his voice fits brilliantly to the Cairo music, which leans strongly on the fabulous keyboards of Mark Robertson, completed by high skilled drummer Jeff Brockman bassist John Evans and guitarists Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchison. There are just no flaws detectable, so they couldn't have done a better job...The gentle and relaxing 'Scottish Highland', the strong 'The Prophecy' and the instrumental techno surprise 'Cosmic Approach', that easily can be used as a soundtrack for a sci-fi movie or TV series. Catchy and impressive at the same time. Ultimate display of Prog is the also instrumental 'The Fuse', Yes and Genesis fans will enjoy this one together with fans of Spock's Beard and Dream Theater, a best of both (old and new) worlds song. And the same goes for the whole album actually. ~ Winston Arntz
Review 003 ~ Cairo returns to the world of prog in a big way with their latest CD "Time of Legends". The band is now a three piece consisting of keyboardist Mark Robertson, vocalist Bret Douglas, and drummer Jeff Brockman. Once again, as in past CD ‘s, the band creates a CD that evokes a different time in progressive music. A very creative time when prog was in it’s prime. All the great bands we loved to listen to in the late 60’s, early 70’s. The pioneers of great symphonic keyboard rock would enjoy what Cairo has crafted with "Time of Legends". The seven tracks are all great examples of the music that has been refueling the resurgence of the prog rock scene today .The music is for lovers of those great keyboard –centric bands, you know the ones, the big three: Yes, Genesis, and ELP. Prog fans, it doesn’t get any better than this. The lush symphonic tapestries that are created are just fantastic to hear and enjoy over and over again. A handful of guest musicians - guitarists Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchison, and bassist John Evans - round out the instrumental delivery of Cairo. Please buy this CD, even if you’re not a lover of great keyboard prog. It’s just a finely crafted CD, created by a group of musicians that are at the top of their game and hopefully will continue to produce fine progressive rock. ~ Thomas Connolly
Review 004 ~ Formed at the suggestion of Magna Carta’s Mike Varney, Cairo have been through a number of changes over the years. While other members have come and gone, leaving the band in its current trio incarnation, drummer Jeff Brockman, vocalist Bret Douglas, and keyboardist Mark Robertson have stuck together for the long haul, producing what is no doubt the band’s best record yet, "Time Of Legends". Clocking in at well under an hour, the record proves that prog is alive, well, and growing in our new century. On it, Robertson, Douglas, and Brockman are joined by Brian Hutchison, Luis Maldonado (both on guitar) and John Evans (bass). And although Cairo have not yet done a major tour, it seems that some live gigs may be in their future and, given the quality of the new record, it seems unlikely that the guys will be sitting at home, counting headlights in the next few months. ~ JED BEARDEN
Review 005 ~ I have been a huge fan of the Flower King's and Spock's Beard's progressive rock stylings, and it is probably why I am enjoying this disc so much. I honestly haven't heard any Cairo before this, so I am pleasantly surprised to hear this band rocking so much. They have a great powerful classic prog-sound going on, reminiscent of classic Yes and ELP as mentioned above. This is truly some great prog-rock! Highly recommended!! ~ bjblair01
Review 006 ~ Just as NEARfest 2001 was about to commence this past June, albums were released by Cairo, Le Orme, and Nexus. Quite an overdose of prog bliss ensues, so let’s dig right in with a look at Cairo’s "Time of Legends". The band is currently operating as a trio with several guests, after guitarist Alec Fuhrman left the band last year…thankfully, they sound no worse the wear as a result. Keyboardist Mark Robertson, arguably the best Emersonian player around, continues to shine in many extended solos, while broadening (finally!!) his use of synthesizers. This is the single biggest progression in the Cairo sound, as synth effects voices, lead lines, pads, and strings appear throughout to augment Robertson’s brilliant organ work. The album has three instrumentals, a first for the band, with both subtle and sharply aggressive compositions coming from Robertson and drummer Jeff Brockman. Bret Douglas leans into a heavier Jon Anderson direction here, with the result that the band moves closer to Yes than ELP for a change, with a slightly more refined sound that should earn them more fans than ever before. Bravo to the guys for hanging in there and retooling after the loss of Fuhrman set them back a bit, and guest guitarists Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchinson feel like a perfect fit as the guitar is not a lost element for this band. No long epics here, but several in the 6-9 minute range, every track has a positive feeling and flow. My one regret, that standout instrumental ‘Cosmic Approach’ ended after only 4:20. Will Cairo finally be able to get out and do live dates? They should with such strong material to work with, as always, one of neoprog’s most underrated and gifted outfits produce another winner. ~ Marx’s Mark
Review 007 ~ Each Cairo album seems to be better than the one before. When you consider how strong their debut release was, this has to be no easy feat, but they have done it again. Time of Legends finds the group turning in a killer performance in the classic progressive rock style that they have made their own. True, the influences of such groups as Yes, ELP and Genesis are still here, but those are the tools of the style, and really hard to stray too far away from. Cairo have created their own sound from the seeds that those groups planted in the history of the progressive rock genre. Underground: Coming across with a very positive and traditional prog style, this cut is a great way to start the album. It feature sections that touch on the sounds of many classic prog bands ranging from Yes and Genesis to ELP. The Prophecy: Starting in somewhat hushed but chaotic tones, this one has a weird feel to the introduction - almost disquieting. As the main riff enters, it explodes in a frantic classic prog style that feels a lot like ELP at times. It continues in this instrumental fashion for quite a time, including a great keyboard solo. When the vocals finally enter, they are heralded by the cut dropping to a melodic balladic mode. This one builds up gradually from there. This is a very strong cut. It gets quite Yesish on the instrumental break with some very Howeish guitar work. Scottish Highland: Pretty, balladic keys begin this cut, and the mode gradually builds from there. It is a brief and enchanting instrumental. You Are The One: Very dramatic in its arrangement, this is a killer classic prog type of composition. It is a wonderful piece and features an awesome instrumental break that flows very well. Cosmic Approach: Beginning very quiet and slowly, this instrumental is another cut that really evokes the name ELP. The rhythmic textures on the track are quite unique. Coming Home: Coming in hard and triumphant, this cut really represents Cairo at their best. It drops to a slower dramatic segment for a time. This is another highlight of the album and another song that does wax a bit ELPish at times. It breaks into a rather unusual and quite powerful instrumental jam. As much as they pack into this one it feels much longer than its 7 or so minute length. The Fuse: Starting in a great up-tempo prog groove, this one just comes in smoking. It keeps right on jamming in a great retro sort of progressive rock groove. After a time, the cut stops and reinvents itself. In fact, this instrumental continues changing and evolving throughout its duration. ~ ©2001, Music Street Journal
Review 008 ~ The San Francisco-area progressive band returns with "Time of Legends", the quintet now reduced to a core trio of keyboardist Mark Robertson, vocalist Bret Douglas and drummer Jeff Brockman, and it is a stunner. Despite being heavily influenced by 70s progressive rock, Cairo manages to sound fresh while avoiding the current metallic/prog complexity of bands like Dream Theater, instead mixing the classic keyboard-dominated style of Tarkus/Trilogy-era ELP with a touch of Styx in their Equinox days. Robertson's playing is brilliant throughout, but the real star of the show is Douglas, one of the best vocalists in rock today. Whereas many of progressive's vocalists are, shall we say, quirky in both style and delivery, his clear, powerful and expressive voice gives the songs like the strong opener "Underground" and majestic "The Prophecy" an instant appeal. Gusting on bass is John Evans, while guitar duties are handled by Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchison, with Maldonado turning in some dazzlingly swift-yet-melodic soloing. Also of note is a beautiful keyboard piece, "Scottish Highland," which leads one to wish for an all-instrumental album from Robertson that would seem perfect for a label like Narada. Easily one of the best progressive albums of this or any recent year, and I'm not just saying that because the powerful closing track is called "The Fuse." ~ Geof O'Keefe
Review 009 ~ There are three men called "Cairo" that make a lot of noise on their new release "Time Of Legends". The group’s core is currently Mark Robertson (keyboards), Bret Douglas (vocals), and Jeff Brockman (drums). This is a heavy keyboard oriented group much like Yes; in fact the vocals are reminiscent of Jon Anderson’s airy inflections. There are additional studio musicians that you cannot take for granted like Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchinson that deserve a lot of credit for giving the groups sound a meatier and more engaging progressive sound. Guitarist Fuhrman and bass player Browne left the nest before this album was recorded. Although it is not essential to have a guitar backing the keyboards, it sure helps to make the music sound more authoritative and broad. I really cringe when I do this but here it goes…think of Styx meets Yes meets ELP and you have Cairo. I make mention of comparisons to other groups at times so folks that are unfamiliar with a group or artist can find some commonality, as much as I dislike doing that, its an effective way of explaining a groups sound. Songs like the epic instrumental "The Fuse"(9:02) and the stirring opus "The Prophecy" (10:15) do shun any comparisons. With tracks like that you get unencumbered musical progression landing the group smack dab in the middle of the best sounding prog-rocks groups in the world today. This is a really tight group that has its chops down, make no mistake about it. I think if they get a permanent lead guitarist in the vein of a Morse or Howe their sound would be cranked up another notch, quickly launching them into the prog-rock stratosphere. They are still an awe-inspiring group with a great sound regardless of that thought. You should not pass this one up. ~ MuzikMan (Associate Writer)
Review 010 ~ When one refers to a "Time of legends", one usually refers to the Middle Ages or the Greek Antiquity. It takes audacity to refer to our own time as a time of legends. Yet this is what Cairo accomplish. And they accomplish it beautifully! The music is beautiful and takes us on a journey. Right from the start, where the first track, "Underground", immediately starts with lyrics rather than a long instrumental which is often the case with this sort of album. Later on, as the instrumental does happen, a nice keyboard riff promises more to come. And it does. The music keeps moving in many surprising directions. "The Prophecy", the next song, does begin with a long instrumental. But it is in its proper place. A constantly evolving song, perhaps the most beautiful on the album. It is followed by the instrumental piece "Scottish Highland", which has a very misleading title. No bagpipes here. A very dreamy instrumental piece leading into "You are the One". A love song with lots of heartfelt emotion. "Cosmic Approach" is in a different direction altogether. It is reminiscent of 80's Simple Minds and other great original bands of that era. A welcome addition! "Coming Home" also keeps the sound of the late 70's, early 80's. Although it reminds one of Yes’ Drama. Which is certainly not a bad thing. Finally, "The Fuse" is back to the overall sound of the album. Lots of keyboard-driven riffs, leading to the end of the journey through a long instrumental. It’s nice to hear the sound of the old Hammond organ. Too few artists use this unique-sounding instrument anymore. Here it has a predominant place. Overall, a journey through A "Time of Legends" is a journey one will want to take again and again. ~ A-J Charron
Review 011 ~ For years, Bay Area prog combo Cairo have been plagued by comparisons to dinosaur act Emerson Lake & Palmer. While keyboardist Mark Robertson dominates the trio's sound, he's not nearly as concerned with showing off as ELP's Keith Emerson. He takes plenty of solos, sure, but he's overall much more interested in pushing the melody forward and providing texture than in flash for flash's sake. While Cairo have been prone to ELP-style bombast in the past (check out the apocalyptic potboiler "Angels and Rage," from 1998's Conflict and Dreams, for a lesson in vein-popping, eye-rolling anthemry), Robertson's newfound sense of restraint checks their more melodramatic instincts. Stripped down to a trio (Robertson, singer Bret Douglas and drummer Jeff Brockman, with guest guitarists), the band wisely scales back the theatrics and concentrates on tune enhancement. The results are surprisingly catchy, with winning melodies and dynamic arrangements carrying the day. The songs are still a bit lengthy, especially the 10-minute epic "The Prophecy," but they're essentially pop songs at heart. Even the nine-minute instrumental "The Fuse" works because of its insistent riffs, not Robertson's frenzied ivory-tickling. (The lush synth instrumental "Scottish Highlands" belongs on a Yanni record, however.) Hardcore prog snobs may disagree, but the shift from prog monsters to progressive pop tunesmiths suits Cairo well. ~ Michael Toland
Review 012 ~ Ahhhh!, Cairo, a band I once thought to be no more has arrived back on the scene with their best effort to date IMHO of course, I have enjoyed all of the bands releases, they have always put out a very interesting mix of derivative, bombastic, classical inspired progressive rock, taking from such bands as ELP, and Triumvirat. Here the band really steps out into an identity of their own, the vocals of Bret Douglas are much more mature than previous efforts, he has a voice for progrock no doubt, his great range and melodic sense bring meaning to the lyrical content of the music. Also Keyboardist Mark Robertson is one of very few players that can make the organ runs of Emerson and Wakeman or Fritz, he is deserving of comparable merit, he also lends to the atmosphere of the CD with an array of other keyboards of course, this CD is not a vehicle for his immense talents as the other 2 before this, now he is sounding comfortable in the role of being a part of this band rather than the star of it. Drummer Jeff Brockman also turns in a strong performance, I always felt his talents weren't always a featured part of the band, but he obviously has the talent to bring Cairo the level of other great progressive bands, much the same way Palmer, Cress, Peart have for their respective bands. The worst fear amongst followers of the band, was the absence of original member, guitarist Alex Fuhrman, rest assured, the two who have stepped in to fill the void are very capable and are equally strong players that also get the spotlight in adequate doses. Cairos "Time of Legends" is a jewel of contemporary progressive rock that should be in every progheads collection. ~ MJBrady
Review 013 ~ In recent years, there have been many new and exciting progressive bands appearing. Some have a true progressive vision and want to explore and expand upon the sounds and lyrical themes of older pioneering bands while ensuring their own unique stamp is there. Cairo is truly a pioneering band for the 90’s, while keeping faithful to the old prog sounds and standards. Rather than being a slick, commercialized version of modern prog like so many Marillion wannabees, Cairo takes an unabashedly progressive and aggressive approach, utilizing some of the classic ‘70’s prog stylings, yet with a very modern take on the sound. Cairo was one of the very first bands to appear on the Magna Carta label, making them a very important ingredient in that prog labels subsequent success.
The Cairo sound is generally very keyboard oriented, courtesy Mark Robertson. Mark’s sound is an amazing blend of key sounds old and new…sometimes a pounding Hammond organ, or sometimes a modern cinematic sound. His keyboard wizardry is punctuated by frequent bursts of blistering guitar leads and solos that seem to scream emotionally. Guitars are most often used in a lead style, rather than frequent rhythm guitars or riff driven musical segments. Of their three albums, Alec Fuhrman set the guitar style on their first two before having to leave the band for personal reasons. On their latest effort "Time of Legends", Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchison take over guitars with a similar style. Behind them are the powerful drums of Jeff Brockman. Jeff’s drums aren’t just a rhythm setting backdrop, but rather an intricate part of the overall composition. They’re often prominent in the mix and always mood provoking and interesting to listen to. Think of some of Patrick O’Hearn’s atmospheric drum style popping up during the ethereal moments of a progressive rock song! Jeff actually composes a great deal of the music with Mark. He is also responsible for the eye catching cover art on the first two releases. The futuristic computer images that adorn the covers seem synomonous with their music, much like Roger Dean’s images seem to go hand in hand with Yes’ music. Fronting this awesome sound is vocalist Bret Douglas. Bret’s unique and clear voice contributes greatly to their distinctive sound. Unlike the many Fish or Jon Anderson imitators out there, Bret’s voice is clearly his own. Though it’s normally very clean sounding, he’s capable of taking on an angry or aggressive tone for the heavier songs. One singer that came to mind when I first heard Cairo was GTR vocalist Max Bacon, but heavier and more intense with a more progressive style. Bret is the band’s lyricist as well, which is another component that makes Cairo special. The highly intelligent and thought provoking lyrics deal with love, world issues, communication, human emotions…no shortage of depth here for the listener who likes to think of lofty concepts whilst they progressively rock! It is this commitment to making people see a more positive point of view that makes Cairo a very special band. On the subject of using the music as a vehicle for communicating positive ideas, Bret says this: "I feel that lyrics need to sympathize with down, depressed feelings but ultimately lead toward positive goals. It takes a lot more strength and bravery to create good, lasting relationships and bridges between people than just to run around tearing things down and saying, "oh well, I don't care." It takes a lot of guts to care and to do something about it. You face lots of negative and cynical responses when trying to effect positive change, but I think it's necessary to keep trying." For bass, one Rob Fordyce, a friend of Bret from a prior band, played immaculately on the first CD. Though an excellent bassist, Rob left after the first album mostly due to the fact that he preferred to play a more funky style that wasn’t really Cairo.
Cairo compositions are typically constructed when one person comes up with a basic idea-it can be just a basic musical idea, or a more vocal/lyrical one. Next, Mark usually takes the original idea and shapes it with additional keyboard ideas. At that point, each member contributes their part(s) to the evolving and expanding piece. They don’t like to do any more overdubs than necessary. They like their studio performance to be the real thing, and they pride themselves on their ability to play what they write and record in the studio. Perhaps this live energy is why the sound gets so intense despite the clean studio production. In any event, the levels of intensity of the music can truly seem to take the listener to musical realms they didn’t know existed!
The roots of Cairo go back to…ancient Egypt! But as for the band’s roots, we only have to go back to early 90’s in the San Francisco Bay area…Jeff and Mark were introduced by one of the owners of the Magna Carta label. Jeff had some visionary production ideas and Mark was an experienced prog writer. The two decided to work together and form a group. Alec was the next to join, and in 1992, Bret and Rob. The combination of these talents seemed like a perfect fit.
The first song that Jeff and Mark wrote together was the song that opened their first CD, the fittingly titled ‘Conception’. At the time, this song was being called ‘Cairo’ due to it’s obvious Egyptian/Middle Eastern style. This sound reoccurs frequently in Cairo music, so when it came time to name the band, that song title seemed appealing. The name fits for other reasons: To Bret, the name applies because the actual city of Cairo has been a sort of crossroads of many different races and cultures. Like the city, Bret sees the music of Cairo as a sort of crossroads of many elements and nuances. Jeff likes to think of it as a sort of "Planet-Cairo" concept, which is reflected in the bands website.
The first Cairo CD was released in 1995. This wonderful self-titled CD showed Cairo’s creativeness and progressive versatility from the starting gun. The lengthy compositions range from about 8 minutes to over 20, with a myriad of musical moods and nuances packed into each song. The CD’s only short instrumental ‘Conception’ sets the energizing musical tone, which leads into ‘Season of the Heart.’ One of Bret’s favorites, this uplifting song has some of their softer moments in some respects, though it shows the bands exciting positive energy and tight jamming ability. ‘Silent Winter’ is a rhythmic powerhouse of a song, again demonstrating their aggressive, tight sound. Rob keeps an especially tight and driving bass line throughout this track. The final moments give way to a very spacey synth sequence, with Jeff’s percussive sounds accenting the piece; one of my favorite magical progressive moments! ‘Between the Lines’ begins with an explosion of tight Hammond and drums before kicking into the driving rhythm. This song deals with the idea of karma, and using your chances to heal things between yourself and others in time… Next is one of my favorite Cairo songs, ‘World Divided’. This song has a lot to say about the restless, violent state the world is in. Musically slowed down in tempo, but very commanding and intense with a powerful message. Bret’s soaring voice delivers the insightful lyrics with great power, in a very emotionally charged song. "Anger and hate are easy traps to get into. ‘The other guy’ is always so different from us as long as we choose ignorance and not facing our own responsibilities in confrontations. That's how wars happen," says Bret in describing the ideas presented in the song. ‘Ruins at Avalon’s Gate’ closes the album out with a lengthy 20+ minute epic, featuring a lot of complex arrangements and progressive chops. The lyrics express the frustrations at trying to communicate with someone, perhaps to solve a problem, who won’t meet you halfway.
The second offering came in early ’98, with an album called "Conflict and Dreams". This album offered all the musical trademarks as the last one, full of mysterious musical passages, but with a more precise direction in sound and style. Aside from being a bit heavier and mature sounding, it also seems more atmospheric and consistent than the first. Despite the increase in overall "heaviness", they still have the "old prog" style versus the newer "progressive metal" sound which pervades so many other newer bands. With one exception, songs run from about 8 to 15 minutes. These sonic journeys always have a lot of direction despite the length; the music is always going somewhere rather than aimless jamming. The subtle Middle Eastern sound is still present. Once again, the stunning CD art was done by Jeff, which added effective visuals to the trademark sound. Jamie Brown from Canada temporarily replaced Rob on bass for this CD.
The album opens with ‘Angels and Rage’, one of the albums more aggressive and even angry sounding songs; a distinctively darker mood than anything on the first CD. Bret explains this lyrically challenging song: "This illustrates the cyclic nature of our brains' cross talk. Notice the two contrasting voices: One starts out finding positive ways to look at potentially negative things but eventually gets freaked out as his world turns upside down on him. The other one starts with a negative attitude but comes around to a more positive view. Sometimes we have both of these people talking in our heads at once." Next is ‘Corridors’; one of my favorite Cairo songs. Musically and lyrically, the song has a lot of depth and scope. It deals with feelings of being trapped and not in control of your own life which can lead to depression or defeatist attitudes. "However, as the song continues, a new perspective based on inner choice and strength comes up and lights up what had seemed like a big, dark trap or maze," explains Bret. Indeed even the music of this masterpiece seems to end on a hopeful note, as Mark’s deep and floaty synths with Jeff’s percussive sounds gently fade away. ‘Western Desert’ is one of the album’s epic tracks-this one explodes into full Cairo style fury with a jam that could awaken the pharos! This song is a reflection on the city of Cairo itself, which as stated, is a city with a very unique and interesting history. ‘Image’ is the CD’s only short song; a beautiful piano piece by Mark, augmented by Alec’s soft acoustic guitar. Here, Cairo demonstrates their ability to express tender musical feelings. ‘Then You Were Gone’ picks the pace up again with a thoroughly intense, infectious, trademark rhythm. This song is a shining example of the Cairo sound. The intensity never lets up and is positively chilling to listen to. The words are metaphorical on many levels and reflect on obsessions and how they dominate our lives. ‘Valley of the Shadow’ is another epic length song. This piece is probably my favorite of their (extra) long songs. There are some truly intense moments in this song, including a breath-taking segment in which Bret’s voice takes on a deep intensity while his higher voice wails in the background. The keyboard and guitar interplay is amazing, as is the complex drum work. The song is packed with lots of musical ideas, as is often the case. Here, the lyrics take on a historical slant. This is one of Bret’s favorites. "It's a collaboration in the truest sense, plus I felt that the musical setting Mark and Jeff had created was perfect for the saga I wanted to "paint," called Song of Roland. It was an old French tale about one of Charlemagne's top war leaders who got set up to be massacred when a relative, another French soldier under Charlemagne, made a deal with the Saracen ruler in occupied Spain." Just as the epic track seems to end due to a moment of silence, it kicks into its final, dramatic fadeout….
Later that year, Bret was involved in another progressive album. Magellan’s mastermind Trent Gardner released a rather "Magellan-esque" CD called Explorer’s Club. Although Trent penned the masterpiece, it featured the talents of several musicians and vocalists. One of them was Bret, who effectively sang the first and longest track, ‘Fate Speaks’. He brought some of his own sound and melody in though obviously emulating Trent’s melodic vocal style. Bret later had a brief vocal appearance a few years later when Trent Gardner released a progressive rock opera Leonardo:The Absolute Man. (Bret played the part of King Louis.) It is possible that Bret and Trent may do another project in some capacity sometime down the road. Lets hope that collaboration comes to pass!
The band’s third musical statement would be considerably more stressful, however. Sadly, Alec Feurmann was not to participate this time. Alec decided to leave the band due to family and schedule constraints. Alec’s distinctive guitar style will be missed. However, the band is also excited by the arrival of session guitarists Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchison. John Evans contributed bass and some highly effective backing vocals for this album. The core of the writing was now in the hands of Mark, Jeff, and Bret. Luckily, the music still has most of the progressive trademarks established on the first two albums. Thus the band was able to recover from Alec’s departure and still produce an album that sounds like what fans would hope for. On that note, Alec released his first progressive solo album under the moniker of ‘A Cast of Thousands’ in early 2001. He wrote and sang the whole conceptual album, which was basically one long track. Quite a different sound from Cairo in that there is much more acoustic guitar sounds. Keys also are significantly less prominent than in Cairo, though the guitar solos are certainly typical of the lead style Alec employed with the band. Alec is also working on his second solo release. Fans can keep up to date on Alec’s personal website at www.amfmusic.com . Maybe the split did have some positive points as there are now two incredible musical offerings!
The third release was called "Time of Legends" and was well worth the wait. It definitely heralded some changes in the band, but was a real treat to those who fell in love with its predecessors. The cover was not done by Jeff this time, but rather featured a suprisingly ethereal looking image of a forest. The lyrics feature similar intellectual themes as the previous albums, perhaps even a bit deeper on some songs. Although Bret explained the lyrics of the first two albums for the purpose of this article as they are older songs, he preferred to not mention too much about the latest lyrics. Bret prefers to let the listener draw upon their own interpretation for these newer songs. (We’ll have to catch him when the next album comes out!) There are a number of different musical areas that Cairo has taken their sound this time. They also shot for a more concise musical direction on most of the tracks. This makes the album a bit easier for the newer fan to appreciate. Time of Legends still has the incredible and distinctive Cairo sound!
The album begins with the infectious ‘Underground’ and hits the listener right between the eyes from the opening second. Jeff, Mark, and Bret all start on the very first beat. It’s a nice break from a progressive cliché by having the singing start with the first second rather than the usual long "instrumental intro". As the song progresses, there is an ominous dark mood that creeps into the music and vocal melodies as the intensity grows. The song starts fairly straightforward, then basically "goes Cairo" about thirty seconds in! ‘The Prophesy’ is another triumph for the band! The opening instrumental segment is a devastating wall of Mark’s synth sounds that continues to build in intensity. Here is a song that fans can hope they get to experience live one day! This was almost the album’s opening track, but ‘Underground’ was chosen instead due to the fact that it begins with all three remaining musicians from the very first note. The lyrics leave the tale unresolved and the doors open for a possible part two someday! The inspiring ‘You Are the One’ shows a different side to Cairo in that is slowed down and more melodic. It is still very thickly arranged and very progressive. The moving guitar solo on this track is one of the best on the album, adding depth and emotion to the song. ‘Coming Home’ is also an inspiring tune. Bret’s vocals are incredibly powerful on this track. This was the last song with vocals on the album. The last actual track is a blazing instrumental that recalls some of the music from ‘Ruins at Avalon’s Gate’. It’s hard to believe a song could be a more climatic ending for the album than the last song, but it is! There are two other instrumental songs on the album which are solo pieces by Mark and Jeff. Mark’s is the beautiful ‘Scottish Highlands’. This gorgeous and image provoking keyboard piece is stunning. It also serves as a softer track on the album. Jeff’s solo song is the amazing ‘Cosmic Approach’. Jeff plays all the instruments on this track which is the musical equivalence of flying through deep space. A great headphone track! Both of these solo bits add a lot of color and variety to the album. It also makes you wonder what sort of solo material either of these gentlemen would produce.
Cairo or individual members have also appeared on some of the Magna Carta "tribute" CDs. They did their rendition of Yes’ ‘South Side of the Sky’. This featured a beautiful piano solo in the song midsection, giving a distinct Cairo flavor to the classic Yes tune. On the Genesis tribute Suppers Ready, they performed ‘Squonk’. Their contribution to Dark Side of the Moon tribute was ‘Breathe’. Mark also appeared on an ELP tribute as well as Steinway to Heaven, a collection of piano solo pieces. Jeff appeared on the Rush tribute CD, Working Man on a track with Trent Gardner.
Playing live has always been a problem for Cairo. The band had always intended to when it started out, but has been dogged by bad luck in trying to make this aspect of their dream a reality. Like many of todays modern prog bands, they face problems of working full time jobs (and being in Cairo is like having another full time job in itself…), personnel changes, band members having family commitments, and of course lacking funds. At this stage Cairo’s career, it is very difficult to come up with the necessary finances to do a tour far from their homes. However, things are shaping up! Cairo is currently scheduled to perform at Baja Prog 2002! This festival appearance will be Cairo’s first….hopefully of many more! You can bet that I’ll be looking forward to being there! In the meantime, the band claim that they have enough music composed for another album, so hopefully, this one wont be that long a wait. Jeff also keeps the band website www.cairoplanet.com updated constantly with news, video clips, and msgboard.See you at Baja-prog! ~ Steve Nicholas
Review 014 ~ Cairo is a progressive rock act whose seven track outing contains your standard prog rock elements, such as a predominant keyboard and Styx-like vocals. With a definitive influence by such bands as ELP and Kansas, this melodically superfluous trio can jam out with the best of them ("The Prophecy"). Even though it's a bit heavy handed and totally gratuitous, if you dig progressive rock that showcases the art of the rock jam, Cairo shouldn't disappoint ~ MikeSOS
Review 015 ~ Cairo was formed in San Francisco, CA, in the early '90s by Mark Robertson (keyboards, vocals), Alec Fuhrman (guitars, vocals), Jeff Brockman (drums, percussion), Rob Fordyce (bass), and Bret Douglas (lead vocals). The group self-produced their eponymous debut at their home studio, releasing it in 1994 on the Magna Carta label. The album showed a heavy ELP-influenced keyboard sound and high-pitched vocals that bore similarities to Yes's frontman, Jon Anderson. The band spent two years working on their sophomore effort, Conflict and Dreams, during which time Fordyce left the group. The band decided not to replace him, but worked with bassist Jamie Browne in recording the album, which was released in 1998. Although the sound of the record was not vastly different than their debut, it did show an increased complexity in sound and production. In 2000, Fuhrman left the band, but the band played on and issued Time of Legends in June 2001. Cairo has also performed material on various Magna Carta prog rock tribute albums. ~ Geoff Orens, All Music Guide
Review 016 ~ Cairo is often compared with bands like ELP & Triumvirat, mainly because of Mark Robertson's' wizardry at the keyboards, while these comparisons are more than validated, as he is in the same league as these players, Cairo's music has much more to offer than a simple glance at two of progressive rocks keyboard icons, in fact the rest of the band here is well worth mentioning as more than support players, guitarist Alec Fuhrman, accompanies Mark with duet styled counterpoint, and breaks off into his own territories with subtle and tasteful leads, his guitar is a very important sound to the Cairo style, as unlike ELP/Triumvirat, his guitar playing adds an extra punch and heaviness these bands do not have. Jeff Brockman, plays solid and creative drums, given the fact the music has epic, unwinding musical themes, he always has more than a generic beat to keep the percussive end of things on the exploratory side, he also lends a lot to Cairo's "Sound". Vocalist, Bret Douglas, has a great toned mid/high voice, his is the finishing touch on the bands identity as a unique voice for the progressive community. Jamie Browne, seemingly a charter member, turns in some solid bass performances, bringing a fluidity to the rich, textured music, he has great technique, and offers a very important complimentary melody to the already melody rich music. All in all, Cairo has won me over, I have heard all of their cds (3 at the time of this review), and they are all consistently good, the band has a wealth of creative juice flowing from the core members, both compositionally, and lyrically. So rather than typecast them as a n ELP/Triumvirat clone, Cairo has it's own identity, they are borrowing as much from bands like Yes, Genesis, and possibly Rush ,along with those others, and still give it their own twist. ~ MJ Brady
Review 017 ~ From the opening moments of "Underground" to the closing moments of "The Fuse" over forty minutes later, Cairo prove, on their latest release, "Time of Legends", that they’re a band capable of taking listeners to great heights. There are great individual talents at work here. There’s the born-to-sing-prog voice of Bret Douglas, the "I’ve got a room full of keyboards" sound of Mark Robertson and the balance of delicacy and savagery in Jeff Brockman’s drumming, but the fact is that all of them finally click here, on the band’s third record, to finally make the collective talent here obvious to a wider audience. Robertson is a kind of star on the record. He frequently makes you long for the days of side-long epics as he churns out increasingly cool organ and other sounds throughout, especially on the opening "Underground" but also on "Coming Home," where the band does their best Yes-meets Gabriel-era Genesis-meets Kansas in one of their most balls-out moments. But for all that apparent virtuosity, he also plays well with others: guest members Brian Hutchison and Luis Maldonado (guitars) are both given ample opportunity to shine and shine they do on the aforementioned tracks. Maldonado handles the solos with a surprising emotive quality and versatility, while Hutchison aides in laying down a bed of fantastic rhythm parts that compliment the keyboard-driven tracks. Douglas shines throughout, handling his duties with a fervor all-too-rare these days. His voice soars and sears everywhere it lands, though the ballad terrain of "You Are the One" to the concert-opening-worthy "Coming Home," he is clearly in command of his instrument. Still, there are occasional misfires. The production doesn’t allow Brockman’s drums to come to fore as much as they should, as there’s often too little sonic contrast between instruments. In the songwriting department "Cosmic Approach" veers toward video game soundtrack territory a few times and "Scottish Highland," although delicately beautiful, seems out of place sandwiched between the "The Prophecy" and "You Are the One". Still, the positives far outweigh the lowest moments on the record and, if nothing else, will allow listeners an opportunity to hear a band just on the edge of making the record of their career. ~ Jedd Beaudoin
Review 018 ~ San Francisco based Cairo were one of the first bands to be picked up by the American Magna Carta label of Mike Varney and Peter Morticelli. Their highly acclaimed self-titled debut album emerged in 1994 and only four years later a follow-up - "Conflict And Dreams" - was released. These albums were a genuine reflection of Cairo's approach to modern day progressive rock: a very traditional one, using more than one influence from 70's bands like Yes and ELP. Another three years later, Cairo's core has been reduced to a three-piece, consisting of keyboard player Mark Robertson, drummer Jeff Brockman and vocalist Bret Douglas, who recently lent his voice to Trent Gardner's Leonardo project. For the recordings of "Time Of Legends" - their third album - they had the support of guitarists Luis Maldonado and Brian Hutchison and bassist John Evans. The line-up may have reduced, but luckily Cairo have kept their traditional and recognizable sound on their third effort. Maybe their songs have even become a tad more accessible, but pieces like opener "Underground" show that they still are a progressive band in the truest sense of the word. "Time Of Legends" also is the first Cairo album of which I actually like the cover artwork. No spheres and pyramids this time, but four trees in an ice-cold snowy landscape. A welcome change in today's computerized and 3D world of cover design. Cairo is one of those bands that will always be faithful to the prog genre, so "Time Of Legends" is nothing new under the sun. Consequently this album can be blindly purchased by connoisseurs of the band. ~ Stijn Lambert
Review 019 ~ Just released! Cairo returns with a new disc containing some long and intricate tracks. Four of the six tracks are over ten minutes. The music is in a similar vein as their self titled first disc. They have some influence in the vocals from Yes combined with the technical and clean production notable on Magna Carta discs. The music is aggressive and busy but
Review 020 ~ CAIRO- "Conflict and Dreams" Opening with the powerhouse 'Angels and Rage' the mesmerizing pace hardly relents. Apart from the virtuousic talents of drummer Jeff Brockman and keysman Mark Robertson there is also a melodic side to their music (rooted in U.K.) with excellent vocals from Bret Douglas. Hammond organ is used extensively- check out' Western Desert'. A definite improvement on their 'Cairo' album- repays repeated listening. Recommended. ~ PHIL JACKSON
Review 021 ~ Highly energetic and powerful but still very complex would define Cairo's new album, "Conflict And Dreams", whish’s a step above their debut. Full of keyboard lines (Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson influenced) but yet with a rich and impressive guitar work, unusual time signatures, key changes, lots of instrumental sections and multiple vocal lines . The high points are "Western Desert" and "Valley of The Shadow" and the instrumental piece "Image" though the other songs are equally brilliant. Completely recommended for Progressive Rock fans and people who like good music. One of the best 98 albums. ~ Tetsu Hamanaka
Review 022 ~ Album of the month February 1998. We have been waiting for this album a quite long time, but finally here it is. I got the hand on a new Cairo sample and got to listen to it with great expectations. I am surprised as well. The bombastic sound that we can hear on Cairo’s debut album got more body on this new one 'Conflict and dreams'. In the first place it all seems to be a bit heavier, but there's a good balance between the songs. The Cairo-sound is still the same, bits of Yes, ELP, UK and so on makes us aware that this is a band that still counts. Strong vocals from Bret Douglas and magnificent guitarparts from Alec Fuhrman (he has a great sound) are the most remarkable contents. The music from the Magna Carta label is not always accessable for every ear, but Cairo has the capacity to grow to a much larger public. ~ © Symfo City ProgProductions
Review 023 ~ "Conflict and Dreams" emerged as the strongest effort yet from Magna Carta, the label that seeks to preserve and bring back progressive rock. The vocals are strong, the musicianship unflagging. The sound reminds one at times of such predecessors as Yes, ELP, Camel and early Genesis as well as second generation prog bands like Marillion. But while drawing on the past, Cairo retains its own identity, a melding of metal and melody. ~ Alan Jakeway
Review 024 ~ While I (and all of us) patiently await the new arrival (and the remasters) I find myself constantly looking for music that fills my needs. Camel, mentioning in a previous thread, has always been a favorite of mine and I, like others, own pretty much everything they've put out. Another thread here (Grid I think) mentioned a band called Cairo. Since I am always on the look out for new music I decided to give it a listen too. All I can say is... The CD I bought "Conflict and Dreams" blew me away.. and continues to blow me away every time I listen to it. It just keeps getting better and better. Mark (keyboards) and Alec (Guitar) truly augment one another and imho make this some of the best 'NEW' prog rock I've heard in over a decade!! They've listed Triumvirat as one of their influences and by listening to them its quite obvious. I'd have to say that 'Yes' probably played a big part in influencing them as well. I can't stress enough how great it was to hear that Keyboard sound and style again. I still listen to my triumvirat CDs regularly and now I have another couple of CD's that have made it into my regular lineup. So while you wait... Check out "Cairo - Conflict and Dreams" I do not think you will be disappointed. P.S. tough to pick a favorite song but I think I'm going to go with a song called Western Desert. At least for now :) ~ Jay
Review 025 ~ It's been awhile since I reviewed this band with the last release I did called "Conflict and Dreams". Cairo brings back the elements of Yes, Styx, Kansas, Boston and Genesis with layers of keyboards/synths and the B3 sound (Hammond). Lucious guitar work wrapped tightly around some impressive soundscapes and ambience they use with some kick-ass vocals by Bret Douglas who reminds me of NY's Labyrinth (now Unified Past) ex-vocalist, Steve Calovi. 7 tracks on here with one short and the rest hitting 5-7 minutes and longer. Cairo is now down to a trio but you'd never notice after listening to this truly remarkable CD with quality songs and great interludes and instrumentals here and there...unpredictable! One of them bands you have to pick up yourself and appreciate what they are doing. The best CD I've heard for this year and ranks right up there with Magna Carta's Steve Walsh release last year. ~ Prog Critic
Review 026 ~ There was a sound that ruled the radio waves during a good part of the seventies. It was the sound of rock-n-roll, only without the roll-- the blues influence boiled off and replaced by classical and progressive influences. It was a sound marked by Yes-influenced vocals, great walls of sound, washes of synthesizer, flashy guitar soloing. Think Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP, Gentle Giant, Kansas, Styx, Foreigner. It was the sound that punk rock blasted from our collective consciousness. But if any part of your teenage years happened to fall between 1973 and 1979, it is probably a sound that can still whisk you right back to that time, can still remind you of driving around your home town with your buddies, looking for someone to buy you beer or sell you a nickel bag. It is a sound that never really went away, because no matter how un-hip it may have become in the wake of punk, hair metal (!), and MTV synth-pop in the 80's, there are still legions of listeners who long to hear those grand pompous anthems. Magna Carta is a record label founded in 1989 to meet the needs of those fans. Two new releases on the Magna Carta label revel in that sound, giving it a fresh coat of paint and a contemporary sensibility for today's mall rats - and maybe yesterday's too. Cairo is a trio comprised of Keyboardist Mark Robertson, vocalist Bret Douglas, and drummer Jeff Brockman, and augmented on "Time of Legends" by two guest guitarists and a bass player. This is their third release, and as soon as vocalist Bret Douglas chimes in on the opening track, "Underground", you are reminded of Jon Anderson of Yes (and when the backing vocals kick in, of Yes cohorts Squire and Howe). Douglas cannot match Anderson's other-worldly, airy, mystic sound (no one can, not really) but he gets up there in that same register. Later in the song, the metallic keyboard break is straight from the Keith Emerson playbook of pyrotechnics. Ordinarily it might seem unfair to saddle a new artist with such overt, direct comparisons. But this is a band that flaunts its influences the way a Texas millionaire flaunts his second wife. The songs on "Time of Legends" are coated in a glossy sheen a half-inch thick, a wholly appropriate production technique for this kind of music. The album has its moments of glory; for example, the sweet guitar soloing in "Coming Home." But the interlude is immediately followed by keyboard bombast, and the moment is gone. "Scottish Highlands" is a wistful and pretty instrumental piece of whimsy with lead flute (or, I gather, synthesizer sounding like a flute) that ends, in the context of this album of long songs, far too quickly. In contrast to Cairo, Ice Age's "Liberation" harkens more to the oston/Styx/Kansas/Foreigner end of the prog spectrum (indeed Kansas is actually an artist on the Magna Carta roster.) As such, they are probably better classified as prog-metal than straight prog-- a distinction that has more subtlety to it than these two albums combined. On "Liberation" the guitars and keyboards are back in the mix, creating a more "band" than soloist sound. Still, there is flash and fury every place you look. Songs thunder, lumber, stop and start, change cadence, turn this way and that. How else to get through a nine minute opus without the free-form jam? The band has deliberately endeavored to avoid what singer/keyboardist Josh Pincus calls "part for part's sake", the athletic soloing that often typifies the prog sound. But indeed it is the virtuoso soloists who make the genre - Keith Emerson in ELP, the incandescent and multi-colored guitar stylings of Steve Howe in Yes, Steve Hillage in early Genesis. Without that stud soloist, it becomes more difficult for the music to draw the listener in, unless the songs have a pop-disco sheen (a la "Owner of a Lonely Heart" from the Howe-less Yes of the early 80's.) Perhaps that is why, more than anyone else, this record kept reminding me of Styx. There is a theme throughout "Liberation" (I'm giving them the benefit of a doubt by calling it a "theme" instead of a "concept.") Some of the liberation references are quite literal - the bracing opener "Lhasa Road (No Surrender)" is about Tibet - while others are of a more personal nature. Too often, though, the lyrics wander into that sword and sorcerers no man's land. As the album progresses, Ice Age move through all sorts of musical riffs and terrains; if you stick with it, some interesting flourishes will fly by. "Musical Cages" in particular was an instrumental highlight for me. Ultimately, though, there is something that feels "second generation" about both these albums. Bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and Tull may have pioneered this sound, but their early, landmark records still shared a common ground with some of the other more organic music forms of the day, with bands like Led Zeppelin, with traditional gaelic and folk forms. But it is damn near impossible to hear those roots in the albums by Cairo and Ice Age - the influences of their influences, if you will. (Yes, after all, covered the Byrds and the Beatles on their first album). Ultimately, these bands sound more like Starcastle, the great Yes imposters of the mid-70's, than they do Yes. They have the sound down cold - maybe just a little too cold. To be fair, perhaps I've just grown out of my prog-rock phase. And if I were just beginning that phase, I'd be inclined to go straight to the source: "In the Court of the Crimson King", "Aqualung", "Fragile", "Close to the Edge", "Trilogy", "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." (Crimson, Tull, Yes, Yes, ELP, Genesis respectively.)Yet I cannot help but think that for many people, the idea of a slightly new age, metal-tinged second-generation wave of disciples of these classic rock mainstays will strike a resonant chord. If you are one of those folks, then you'll definitely want to check these two bands out. Which you can do. ~ Josh Chasin
Review 027 ~ Cairo's "Conflict and Dreams" is another Progressive offering recently released by Magna Carta Records. I have to admit that it took me a bit longer to come around to this one than it did with "Royal Hunt", reviewed above. I find it unusual that I warmed so slowly to "Cairo", considering the fact that their music is much more in tune with the stuff I tend to gravitate toward. In fact, the opening track, "Angels and Rage," sounded so much like something Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis) might do, I actually went to the liner notes looking for a guest appearance! It wasn't Steve Hackett on this track however, it was "Cairo" guitarist Alec Fuhrman who delivers an absolutely stunning performance on "Conflict and Dreams," as do the rest of the band. Mark Robertson's keyboard work is nothing short of genius. Vocalist Bret Douglas has a clean and pure voice made for this type of music. Jeff Brockman's pure-progressive drumming is the glue that binds the whole thing together. Yes and E.L.P. fans should find "Cairo's" sound to be right up their alley. I was particularly taken in by the second track, "Corridors", which stands head to head with most anything by the aforementioned groups. Like many of the truly Progressive bands that have come before them, Cairo's compositions tend to be on the long side -- there are only six tracks on this album, each (with the exception of one) averaging well over ten minutes in length. This is okay however, because these long passages are pure listening pleasure. Lyrically, "Conflict and Dreams" falls a bit short for the casual listener. With the liner notes in hand, the words are intellectual and interesting, but I think I'm getting too old anymore to really analyze lyrical content the way I used to, because when added to the marvelous musical score, intellectual begins to push dangerously close to pretentious. I suppose if they dumbed the record down, it would lose some of its charm for the growing legion of "Cairo" fans, but for the rest of us who are just getting our feet wet, this isn't an album you quickly take to singing to on the way to work. It's not all-collegiate matter though; the final lyric to "Corridors" ("I'm walking through doorways - and I see a new horizon") is hooky as hell -- just try NOT to sing along! Don't take my critical treatment of the lyrics as a 'pass' signal on "Conflict and Dreams". Musically this is one of the most innovative albums I've heard in a very long time! Overall, with the two Progressive titles I've had the pleasure of reviewing this month, I have rediscovered my wayward love of this genre. Look for more on this and other bands in coming issues of AMAZE! ~ Robert Lewis
Review 028 ~ The first album of Cairo dates back to early 1995. At last they are back. The bass player is different than the one on the first album. I remember the band being called a very bombastic progressive band and this certainly has not changed. The band plays a very loud and full kind of progressive rock with space for both keys and guitars and even the bass is quite audible. In the first track Angels And Rage the band leaves no stone untouched, and works itself through the long and I must admit tiring composition (for the drummer at least). It seems at first that the band is more based on power than finesse and composition, but then you are mistaken. The melodies are nice although they get a little snowed-under. If you want comparisons than the only possible one I can make easily is Mastermind and through this to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The excellent vocals of Bret Douglas conform more to what the progmetal/AOR crowd will like, so the band has got an edge there. In the vocals one can hear a few "harmony" echoes from Yes. Notwithstanding the length of the first track (over ten minutes) and the repetitions within, the song is well structured and holds the attention. Corridors is up next. It opens with typically Emerson keyboards, bubbling over. For the rest it corresponds quite well with the previous track with some freaking in the middle and a majestic ending after which the song dribbles down to nothing. Western Desert is the longest one, but contains rather little in lyrics. After a high energy intro taking some four minutes we come to a rather bouncy vocal part. The music sounds quite familiar and has some dark overtones. The second part of the track contains a lot of guitar, but at the end the organ takes revenge and rightly so. Image is a short instrumental ditty and is the moment that we can all take a short breath to be immersed afterwards in the comparatively short Then You Were Gone. The song enjoys a great chorus. All in all a great track. We close down with Valley Of The Shadow. Not surprisingly this is a rather dark track, with some Emersonian classic stylings. The vocal harmonies are quite complex on this track that has an anthemic quality to it and again the resemblance to Mastermind is quite strong. The song ends on an optimistic note. Comparable to Mastermind and Emerson Lake Palmer with some AOR and progmetallic pointers and even a small dose of Yes this is "out of the roof" bombastic progressive rock with some nice melodies, decent compositions and good performance. ~ Jurriaan Hage
Review 029 ~ On their first album, the members of Cairo sounded like a hard rock/heavy metal band gone prog -- the progressive rock elements often felt forced and overdone. On "Conflict and Dreams" they showed surprising maturity, with both sides of their background now firmly integrated. Problems in song structures were also resolved. "Angels and Rage" is a model of dynamic, non-linear progressive rock song. Its chorus is a fine piece of stadium rock-meets-prog rock, with elements of Boston, Journey, and the Dream Theater coming to mind as one listens to Bret Douglas' powerful voice. The other highlight on this album is the 17-minute "Western Desert," an impressive showcase where keyboardist Mark Robertson and guitarist Alec Fuhrman play a game of tug-of-war, alternately stirring the piece into the direction of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer -- ELP wins the battle in the brilliant finale. Robertson throws more Emerson-inspired organ and piano episodes in "Then You Were Gone" and "Valley of the Shadow," the latter often sounding like a 1990s hard rock-tinged reworking of "Karl Evil 9, First Impression: Part I" -- exciting and gloriously pompous, except for the disappointing finale. The music is tightly written and performed. Given that gratuitous moments of virtuosity are an integral part of the genre, here they have the merit of fitting the music. Conflict and Dreams remains Cairo's best effort and, despite its lack of originality, one of the very good prog rock albums of the 1990s. ~ François Couture, All Music Guide
Review 030 ~ (Magna Carta 1998) Sometimes you learn lessons. I just learned that I have to pick out the debut album by CAIRO and dig it, because this new album "Conflict and dreams" is a true gem. Do you like 3, YES, RUSH, WORLD TRADE, THREAD, DREAM THEATER or the old prog Kings DIXIE DREGS? Well, without being even close to doing rip-offs CAIRO find a mix of all these bands in their songs and make them into journeys of great progressive heavy rock! And the band members are fantastic players, too: MARK ROBERTSON on keyboards & vox, ALEC FUHRMAN on guitars & box, JAMIE BROWN on bass, JEFF BROCKMAN on drums, and the surprisingly good vocalist BRET DOUGLAS. This CD contains 6 songs, and the playing time is over 65 minutes! Now, is that progressive or what? I found myself thinking "Hey, that was a real short tune!" when 'Then you were gone' ended – a song of 8 minutes and 25 seconds! Every one of the 6 songs tell its own story. 'Angels and rage' (10 min's 23 sec.) is the opener, sounding like a tougher 3 and some hints of YES and DREAM THEATER. Right from the start of this CD the band shows that they have not only a really good singer in BRET DOUGLAS, but also fine harmony vocals that MARC and ALEC provide along with BRET. This is truly a high quality band! They represent melodic progressive rock with both soft and heavy parts, and there are ways of arranging the music that makes you think of AOR bands! Fat and pompy keyboards, knife sharp harmony vocals and solos that simply blows you away! CAIRO also surprises you all the time, with odd rhythms or unexpected arrangements when you least expect it. All done with a great sound and never sounding too strange or complex. In 'Corridors' you think of both DIXIE DREGS, YES even a touch of EIGHT SECONDS. A fantastic and long tune again – 11 min's 56 sec. One strong thing about this band is that they keep something of a commercial touch to some ingredients, and mix it up with progressive music. Amazing. You discover new things for every time you listen to this CD, and the variation is very good. AOR fans should listen to this, and fans of 80's or 90's progressive rock/metal shouldn't miss out on this great album. BUY! Prod: Robertson, Brockman & Fuhrman. ~ Ola
Review 031 ~ It's rare these days to find new bands that experiment with long progressive rock songs while at the same time trying non-traditional approaches with their use of keyboards and electronics. Cairo does all this and more in their ambitious second release "Conflict and Dreams". The multi-layered synthesizer work by Mark Robertson is the highlight of this album. While I generally prefer a fat organ sound to those of a synthesizer, the emphasis here is on the latter, but it works out really well. The primary reason is because the elements of electronic noise, syncopation, and atonality are all intertwined. The music on this release is more avant garde than traditional progressive rock. The guitars and the rhythm section nicely complement the keyboard work. The vocals have their moments, and at times the arrangements remind me of a cross between Queen, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple (particularly when the Hammond organ is brought in). Cairo's music has what it takes to be one of the great sounds in progressive rock, and is definitely a must get for any fan of non-mainstream keyboard-driven rock music. ~ Ram Samudrala
Review 032 ~ "Conflict And Dreams" fell into my hands quite unexpectedly (I won't reveal how ;-) ), but what a lucky coincidence it was! It seems that Magna Carta is not exacly a "progmetal" label Cairo plays excellent, very technical music, but it is no metal at all. The technical abilities of the band's members amaze the listener at the first listening. Mark Robertson - the keyboard player, can easily compare Keith Emerson. Actually, he imitates his style very well, and his technical fireworks on Hammond organ are not only a pure display of abilities, but also a significant part of the music, pushing it a way forward. All Cairo instrumentalists are brilliant anyway, so it's not surprising that they produce a hell lot of notes per second, too many for many I suppose... but not for me! Cairo is a sparkling, bombastic progressive rock, in which there is still a lot of room for nice melodies - basically sung by the excellent singer Bret Douglas, but also coming from the depth of the music. The fact that the music is so varied, enable us to enjoy the complex instrumental parts, and interesting melodies just after that. The whole album will be an exciting experience for any fan of ELP, UK or contemporary Dream Theater-like bands. An outstanding album! ~ Polshaq
Review 033 ~ Cairo's second CD "Conflict And Dreams" furthers the San Francisco band's foray into the world of orchestral and progressive rock. Driven by virtuoso musicianship and conceptual songs, Cairo's lush arrangements, soaring melodies and sweet harmonies are as cinematic as they are evocative. Having spent the better part of two years composing and recording "Conflict And Dreams", the band members essentially were striving to surpass the level of musical craftsmanship which highlighted their self-titled debut album. Mark Robertson's stellar keyboard work is truly a highlight of "Conflict And Dreams" and he proves over and over again that he is one of the more remarkable keyboard players in the music world today. Melodic and expressive guitar work from Alec Fuhrman transform textures throughout the compositions as well as shifting the emotional range of the soundscape throughout the album. Jeff Brockman's powerful, yet tasteful, drumming propels the tracks while acting to hold the band together. Singer Bret Douglas has a vocal purity matched only by its power. "Conflict And Dreams" is a musical feast for lovers of bands such as Yes, Genesis and ELP. Cairo's artistic growth since the release of its first album is readily apparent as is the band's command of the recording medium. "Conflict And Dreams" was produced by band members Robertson, Brockman and Fuhrman. ~ Prog Critic
Review 034 ~ Cairo is an excellent, wonderfully-bombastic prog band from San Francisco, California, who have released two albums with the American-based prog & metal label Magna Carta. Luckily, Cairo eschews the usual Magna Carta "prog-metal" sound in favor of a more classic approach. The Dream Theater Fates Warning crowd would probably walk away disappointed. Their first self-titled album Cairo was released in 1994. On listening to the album a few influences become obviously clear, mainly ELP , Yes, and Kansas (at their most progressive). The heavy ELP-influence stems mostly from the keyboard and drum departments. Cairo's keyboardist, Mark Robertson sounds every bit as good as Emerson in his prime, and it is his bold, complex keyboard sound that dominates much of the album. Robertson uses everything from Hammond organs, to acoustic pianos, to modern synths, making for a colorful wash of sounds throughout the album. Drummer Jeff Brockman also proves to be a very accomplished and exciting player, really adding dynamics and drama to the bands compositions. Cairo also has an excellent vocalist in Bret Douglas, who has a high vocal range ala-Jon Anderson, and really delivers some emotional performances here. The bands use of three and four part vocal harmonies is also stunning! With all of these comparisons you probably think that I'm about to complain about a lack of originality. Not so! This band does manage to throw in enough of their own unique twists and nuances, that they do come away with their own identity. Guitarist Alec Fuhrman adds some eastern musical influences and violin-like passages that sound very fresh and original in their context. Bassist Rob Fordyce adds some nice melodic counterpoints in the arrangements. Some outstanding tracks include "Season Of the Heart", with a very rich Yes-inspired vocal arrangement, "Silent Winter" which features a great melodic structure coupled with a bombastic twisting/turning instrumental break, and "Between the Lines", which shows off Robertson's Hammond organ chops. A real treat for old prog fans is the 23-minute album closer "Ruins at Avalon's Gate", which combines influences from ELP's "Tarkus", with modern guitar sounds and emotional vocals. It also becomes obvious after multiple listens that this band has some very thoughtful and positive lyrics, a nice change from some of the "doom and gloom" prog out there! Between the release of their first and second album, Cairo contributed to Magna Carta's series of prog-rock "tribute" albums. They recorded a fine version of the Yes classic "South Side of the Sky" for the tribute album "Tales of Yesterday". Bret Douglas' makes a great showing for himself on "South Side", covering the vocal lines of Jon Anderson better than just about any else on that album! They also recorded well-executed versions of "Breathe" and "Squonk" for the respective Pink Floyd and Genesis tributes, although their version of the Pink Floyd classic adds little of Cairo's own unique flavor, and serves as more of a note for note re-creation of the original. Robertson later played on the ELP tribute Encores, Legend, and Paradox without his Cairo band mates, and Brockman likewise played on Magna Carta's ode to Rush, "Working Man". It was four years until Cairo released their second album, 1998's Conflict and Dreams. By this time, bassist Rob Fordyce had been replaced by studio-sideman Jamie Browne. Even though Browne is not an "official" member, he sure makes his presence felt on many tracks! Conflict and Dreams mostly continues in the vein of their debut, but with even more intensity and complexity! There is heavier sound on two on the tracks, "Angels and Rage" and "Western Desert", but luckily the band still avoids the plodding "crunch rock" pitfalls of most of their Magna Carta label mates. Tracks like the complex (yet highly melodic) "Corridors", and the emotionally gripping "Then You Were Gone", are some of the finest examples I've found of modern progressive rock at it's best. The album closer "Valley of the Shadow" mixes some tight vocal harmonies with an unpredictable melodic structure. The instrumental duet in the middle of this track, (between Brockman's jazzy drums, and Robertson on piano and organ) is a stunning example of this bands talent. Anyone who likes to put down the newer prog bands as being somehow less-complex and interesting than the "classic" bands (i.e. Yes, ELP, Camel), should really give this song a listen! Conflict and Dreams also furthered my opinion that, while Cairo may be influenced by Yes, & ELP (they admit this!), they are not by any means some uncreative clone of these bands. Anyone who likes the creative bombast of the classic prog bands, but doesn't mind some more modern influences in the mix as well, should check out Cairo. The band have a new album planned for release by the end of 2000, and they are still with Magna Carta records. Guitarist Alec Fuhrman has recently left the band, and no replacement has yet been named as of this writing.~ Jeff Matheus
Review 035 ~ A quintet, Cairo is Mark Robertson (keyboards), Jeff Brockman (drums, electronic percussion), Alec Fuhrman (guitar, vocals), Bret Douglas (vocals) and Rob Fordyce (bass, vocals). Cairo is the band's first release, a self-produced effort recorded in the band's own digital studio. With only six songs, each track is given plenty of development. The question is, is it necessary? Cairo, like Magellan and other "progressive metal" bands, take the ideology of '70s prog and update it with a '90s mentality. The disc opens with "Conception," a brief instrumental with a Middle Eastern theme reflective of the band's name. Created with digital keyboards and crunchy guitar, this song sets the mood for the entire album. Cairo's style embodies a certain degree of complexity (shifting time signatures and episodal compositions) mixed with commercial accessibility (catchy melodies and verse/chorus structure) and digital technology. Take "Season of the Heart" or "Silent Winter," for example. The choruses are catchy and easy to remember, if somewhat limpid in content. Douglas' tenor is clear and lucid, but lacks edge. Fuhrman's guitar solos are melodious and display enough chops to capture the attention of the guitar fan without succumbing to mindless displays of virtuosity and speed that plague bands like Dream Theater. Likewise the same with Robertson's keyboards, though the digital timbres are too generic and overused. The songs are structured similarly, with several verse and chorus passages, followed by long exchanges of guitar and keyboard solos (they need a more interaction, rather than "my turn, your turn"), then a return to vocals to close. This predictable formula lends a sameness throughout the entire album. Highlights are "Between the Lines," a driving piece that finds Robertson fingering the ivory keys of the Hammond organ, for some welcome analog sound. Here, and on the 23 minute "Ruins at Avalon's Gate," Robertson's embrace of Keith Emerson's organ style is fully evident. "Ruins at Avalon's Gate" is the album's highlight, with a good balance of technical virtuosity, melodic content and structural development. "Avalon's Gate" is in the grand tradition of ELP's "Tarkus," of which there are some similarities in melody and rhythm. I think the song runs on a little too long though, needing to be chopped by 5-8 minutes. ~ Mike Taylor
Review 036 ~ It's rare these days to find new bands that experiment with long progressive rock songs while at the same time trying non-traditional approaches with their use of keyboards and electronics. Cairo does all this and more in their ambitious second release Conflict and Dreams. The multi-layered synthesizer work by Mark Robertson is the highlight of this album. While I generally prefer a fat organ sound to those of a synthesizer, the emphasis here is on the latter, but it works out really well. The primary reason is because the elements of electronic noise, syncopation, and atonality are all intertwined. The music on this release is more avant garde than traditional progressive rock. The guitars and the rhythm section nicely complement the keyboard work. The vocals have their moments, and at times the arrangements remind me of a cross between Queen, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple (particularly when the Hammond organ is brought in). Cairo's music has what it takes to be one of the great sounds in progressive rock, and is definitely a must get for any fan of non-mainstream keyboard-driven rock music. ~ JP Fenton
Review 037 ~ I'm a great Cairo fan, since I discovered their first two albums two years ago, so I was really looking forward to the follow-up of 'Conflicts And Dreams'.
Review 038 ~ Nestled somewhere between art rock and symphonic prog, Cairo's self-titled release is a blend of melodious, synth-induced music accompanied by the rich voices of three singers. Implementing basic Hammond organ and grand piano movements into their material, their neo- progressive structure mirrored bands like Pendragon and IQ, constituting a crisp, refined sound. Certain instrumental stretches come off as elaborate and powerful throughout the album, but on the whole the material from this American band is typical of every other post-1990 progressive group. Some sharp keyboard treks and bombastic percussion is prevalent throughout the six tracks, especially on the lofty-sounding "Ruins At Avalon's Gate," a 22-minute finale that merges all of Cairo's instrumental elements into the most amicable portion of the album. Like most progressive music, the synthesizers and other accompanying keys take full precedent here, but the album slightly lacks in solidity and fails to breed any unique qualifications with respect to its genre. ~ Mike DeGagne, ~ All Music Guide
Review 039 ~ If you are a fan of Progressive Rock this CD will bring a smile to your face. This CD covers the best of ELP and Yes while updating those sounds through the technology of today. Time of Legends has a big sound of keyboards, soaring guitars and Carl Palmer like drumming. Don't hesitate to buy this CD! ~ A music fan from Marlton, New Jersey USA
Review 040 ~ Cairo really plays progressive rock! They combine all the best from good old classical-oriented prog guys with modern approach. And the result is great! It's a shame Cairo don't have as much attention from prog rock funs as some other groups do ( without serious reasons, I guess)! I'm saying this because I was disappointed a few times buying modern prog CDs after reading 5 starts reviews. However, in case of Cairo you won't disappointed! Don't miss this group! ~ Nessy
Review 041 ~ Cairo hit the mark on this one. Their sound and compositions reminds me of ELP's Tarkus or Yes Close to the Edge. I have been a fan of progressive rock since the seventies. It is nice to hear that the genre has not gone out of style but is being re-energized by new, fresh, competent groups. Magna Carta, you have given me a reason to buy music again. Thank you, and Cairo, keep releasing quality material like Conflict and Dreams. Absolutely outstanding. ~ A music fan from Columbus, Ohio
Review 042 ~ I'm a big fan of Magna Carta releases and I say this band did a good job on this album. Angel's and Rage is powerful! Good Job, guys! ~ A music fan from Illinois
Review 043 ~ This is an amazing album that brings back the sounds of Yes and ELP with stronger melodies and a metal 'edge.' Each song is quite long and takes time to develop, but none of them reach the point of pretentiousness. A must for Dream Theater fans. ~ A music fan from So Cal
~ Cairo's second musical journey is entitled
"Conflict & Dreams". And a musical journey it is… Like
their first CD, this one is full of exciting, aggressive, keyboard dominated
(albeit with many blistering guitar leads throughout) progressive rock. The
lineup is the same, with the exception of bass player Rob Fordyce who was
replaced by Jamie Brown.
If you liked the debut, you will surely like its successor. The style set forth on the first CD continues here. The lush production, the cinematic sound, the soaring melodious vocals, and the aggressive intensity are all back. However this CD has an additional musical maturity, and a lot more consistency throughout the album than the first one. The songs are again quite lengthy, including a couple very long "epics". There is also a lot more consistency in mood, which is sometimes a bit darker than the first. The opening track, 'Angels In Rage' sets the tone for the CD with its somewhat dark undertones. This song is also accompanied by some angry, frustrated lyrics…probably more so than the rest of the CD, which also offers some hope and positive direction despite the dark sound. The next song, 'Corridors' is also a lengthy composition, with many musical ideas packed into one song; a Cairo trade mark. Musically, this song is somewhat similar to the opening track, aggressive, though not as angry sounding. It is also goes through a lot more progressions as the song drives along, ending with an atmospheric, lush synth melody while Jeff Brockman's powerful drums accent the segment. 'Western Desert' is the albums longest piece. The song also doesn't have many lyrics for its length, making for a very complex composition. Lyrically, the song deals with the city and surrounding areas of Cairo and the changes the area has gone through over the years. One of the CD's highlights, this song is exiting and intense from the starting gun and never lets up. A far superior "epic" type song compared to 'Ruins at Avalon's Gate', the 20+min. epic from the debut CD, this song is much more consistent in sound and style and really sounds like it's going somewhere all the while. The pace slows down considerably on 'Image', Mark Robertson's beautiful piano composition accompanied by Alec Fuhrman's acoustic guitar…one of the few soft Cairo moments that shows they are capable of tenderness as well as heaviness. 'Then You Were Gone' is another album highlight, with a pounding relentless rhythm and intense vocals. This track truly shows how Cairo can keep a song musically intense without letting up on power or interesting musical ideas, this time for over eight minutes.
'Valley of the Shadow' closes the album off with another epic track. This song features a lot of interesting vocal arrangements by Bret Douglas, singing in a lower, intense voice while a higher one soars in the background, surrounded by the usual aggressive driving sound. Mark and Alec play some incredible leads during the instrumental segment of this song, which brings the CD to a dramatic close. Highly recommended if you like prog that is a bit keyboard dominated with a modern sound and excellent production. The lyrics (credited to Bret or Bret and Alec) are intelligent, thought provoking, and indicate a good perspective on the world around us, as did the last CD. This is a band that clearly tries to get the listener to think even the songs are challenging to listen to as they are so complex it takes many listens to get to know them. Highly recommended to fans of both old style prog and new. ~ Steve Nicholas
Review 045 ~ "Conflict and Dreams", Cairo's latest, is a tough album to judge lyrically. While it isn't immediately apparent, until one tries to make sense of the lyrics, this is a concept album of sorts. Not as linear as others reviewed here, but a concept album nonetheless, one that also deals with a crisis of faith. Or rather, faith in crisis. "Angels and Rage" examines the two sides of a coin - evil and good, darkness and light - and the conflict in choosing the right path, or finding the balance between the two. And while I thought the Middle Eastern imagery was equating Islamic faith with evil, actually, there is another way of reading these lyrics. Anyone who knows their history will be familiar with the Crusades of the 11th Century - well, they began in the 11th Century when Pope Urban...I digress. In the Crusades, one of the goals was to reclaim Jerusalem for Christianity. While that is a simplistic way of stating the issue, it should suffice. The conflict is laid out in the first song, as stated above. From there, the protagonist is thrown into chaos - "Corridors" - and emerges in the Middle East - actually Egypt. "Western Desert" literally evokes visions of the pyramids. Short of laying the whole metaphor out, suffice it to say, our protagonist becomes a soldier in the Crusades - "Valley Of The Shadow". While you might think that the track ends with the protagonist being triumphant - he has reclaimed Jerusalem for the Christians. He doesn't. I do want to back up a bit, because there isn't a true linear thread here, because in "Then You Were Gone," as he's looking for God, he's in Morocco. There isn't an explanation as to how he gets from Morocco (NW Africa) to the Pyrenees (between France/Spain), except that he's done a lot of walking (and jumped the Strait of Gibraltar). So, obviously, this is where the Dream part comes into play. Nevertheless, this is, of course, an extended metaphor for our current incursions into Iraq. Strangely, the view seemingly expressed here is that we have fallen out of grace because we have waged war. The last lyric here is "Dreams I've been fighting for, living for, don't shine anymore." All that said, what bothers me is that the album, except for a few vocal harmonies, seems to just go by and is forgotten. There is nothing here that sticks in the mind. Okay, the Emersonian Hammond passages do, but actually what they bring to mind are Emerson's own passages (think Tarkus). Their style takes much from Dream Theater, yet sounding like a smoother version. There are fewer sharp edges in Cairo's music. There is hollowness here, down mostly to the lyrics, or rather, the execution of the lyrics. Bret Douglas' delivery is light and airy, but seems incohesive. I want to like this, and instrumentally I do, but...this is nice as background music. The vocal harmony at the end of "Valley" is very Yes-like in its execution, and the only time they were brought to mind. There was a stronger influence on the debut Cairo. ~ Stephanie Sollow
Review 046 ~ Let me state right off the bat, if you don't like keyboard-driven music, you will not like this disc or this band. I personally love keyboards in my prog metal, and I am an avid fan of prog rock and neo-prog music as well. I am no stranger to keyboarded metal either, and most of my favorite prog metal discs have some sort of keyboarded sound to them. However, for some reason, I am having a hard time adjusting to the sound and feel of this new Cairo disc. In all reality, I liked the first Cairo disc, and I was anticipating something big from the Cairo camp this time out. The first problem I am having with this band, is how to describe them within a specific genre. Most musicians do not like their bands to be placed into a particular genre, and this is understandable due to the amount of people they are actually trying to reach. In reality, most music fans NEED and WANT bands to be placed into a genre, if not for comparison or classification of sound or style due to the limitations of text. When bands come along like Soundscape, Heaven's Cry, Ice Age, Cairo and others, it becomes even more difficult to describe the music even with placing them in a genre, because some bands, including the ones mentioned, just don't fit a particular genre or at least they don't resemble the common grounds that put all other bands into their respective categories. This is the case with Cairo. If I said that Cairo was prog metal, I would be way off base. Cairo is NOT metal, nor do they pretend to be. If I said that Cairo was Progressive Rock, you would immediately try to think of such bands as King Crimson, Yes, and the like. This would also be wrong, Cairo does not fit that mold either. So, what we now have, is something I would have to classify as a "modern" progressive rock, meaning that it's definitely lighter than metal, but not molded in the same manner as the standard 70's prog rock that we sometimes base our metal roots on. For the sake of argument, Cairo is definitely progressive, but it's only about as heavy as rock, so therefore please keep an open mind when I use these terms. THE STYLE: This is pretty much keyboard-driven, progressive rock, and if I could be so bold, I would like to say that Cairo resembles something of a melodic version of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I say this for the simple reason that the keyboard player has the same style and approach that Keith Emerson had back in the 70's, but obviously with a more, modern 90's sound. Mark Robertson, responsible for all of this keyboarded madness, is ultra-talented. There is no mistaking whose sound drives this band, and I re-emphasize that you must love a keyboard-driven sound to like this band. There are plenty of surprises on this disc, in terms of style and progression, and rarely, if ever, does the band stay put long enough to play a song that will leave you humming an hour later. As a matter of fact, I dare anyone to try to hum even a couple of bars of this music right after listening to it, it is that complicated at times. For some reason, through all of the complexities, the band manages to maintain a warm sound, only sometimes venturing into the coldness of unemotion on a few parts of their long songs. Which leads me to my next point; there are 6 songs on the disc, each averaging around 10 minutes plus in length. The shortest song clocks in at 8:25, after that the songs range from 10:23 all the way up to 17:08. I don't have a problem normally with song lengths be them short or long. However, a lot of the songs contain long, drawn out instrumentals, and lots of the time I get bored about halfway through the song. Also, it is almost difficult to figure out which song is which, because the songs change within themselves so often, it sounds like they've started a new song. The patience to sit through these long instrumentals is a must. My final point, is that the band uses quite a bit of speed in their songs, and it can be amazing to hear this band playing some of their complexities at the speed in which they do. There is no denying the talent of this band. A typical Magna Carta production. While clean and pretty, sometimes you get the feeling that something is being held back in the recording, be it the bass, the guitar, or the drums. In this case, and rightly so, the keyboards and the vocals stand way out in front of the sound. However, something feels lost here. Maybe the bottom end, maybe a bit more poundage on the drum kit would have been nice. All in all, it is a very good sound, and the band's many highlights are certainly showcased on this disc sound wise. It almost seems like there is no need for a guitar in this band, and the instrument is either used minimally, or the recording has it put back in the mix some. During the long instrumentals, the guitar sound comes through, but not with any sense of urgency or having the need to make a statement. I won't say too much about the band as individuals, because music played in this manner certainly requires a great deal of talent, but to be honest, it is hard to really pick apart any of the musicians on this band, as the focus is certainly on the keyboard player, but suffice it to say that each of these individuals is a master craftsman. To be playing songs this complex, for the amount of time in each song, takes a special person to keep up, and this band is as tight musically as it gets. I've already mentioned some similarities of the keyboard player's approach with Keith Emerson's approach, so you can appreciate through my words here what type of player he is. The singer, Bret Douglas, has a very pleasant sounding voice. He is a mid-range singer, and never strays from within his range. He fits the music well, and he doesn't overpower the music nor does he get overpowered by the music. My only complaint with him is that he sounds like he is holding back at times. There are parts of songs that I feel he should be a bit more forceful with his voice, but he remains pretty much in one range throughout the music. A minor complaint to an otherwise capable singer. Who does he should like ? If you remember the 80's soft rock band called TOTO, you will remember that they had 2 singers, one higher pitched and one lower pitched. Bret resembles the higher pitched singer for those of you that can remember back that far in time. Overall, this is a very competent disc. While not as heavy as I would like it, I wasn't expecting too much in the way of heaviness when I bought it. I also wasn't expecting such long, drawn out instrumentals on the disc either, and this is where I am getting turned off. Ironically, the shortest song on the disc, called "Then You Were Gone" which clocks in at 8:25, is my favorite on the disc. Not because of the short length, but because it is the most melodic and passionate. This is where the singer really shines and the band's feeling can be heard. Sure there are obligatory solos throughout the song, but the singer has equal time on this one and everything balances out well. The bottom line, it takes a lot of patience to appreciate what the band is doing on this disc. Musically they shine, but it feels that when they went shopping in the emotion dept, they didn't spend too much time browsing for the goods. If you like somewhat complex instrumental passages, and like to hear a lot of Hammond organ, then this disc is for you. While a good disc by any standard, it is certainly not for everyone, and can be a tedious journey to undertake from beginning to end. ~ Larry Daglieri
Review 047 ~ Maybe radio would prefer something away from the prog-metal sound, something a bit softer sounding like Cairo's self-titled debut. While Cairo are more akin to late-period Yes and early ELP - a comparison sure to keep them off radio - they are no stranger to the Dream Theater influence, either. This is especially evident on the third track "Silent Winter" - which is also the most hook laden of the six tracks. Not only have Cairo used Yes and ELP as their influence, they have used particular albums by these two bands - Yes's 90125 and ELP's Tarkus. Opening with a fanfare more in line with the conclusion of a composition, the all instrumental "Conception" starts off with a simple guitar riff, harmonizing with the keys. Drums are in there, too, but unlike some of their label mates, they don't dominate the mix. "Seasons of the Heart" begins energetically with bright keyboard trills that begin a minute and half long intro, which itself goes through a few transitions, before the song proper begins. Bret Douglas' vocals are thin here, contrasted with the instrumentation. He sounds, however, at turns, like Max Bacon and Jon Anderson. This particular track could easily have come off of 90125. In fact, there is something very late 80's" about Cairo - they could have been played next to Glass Tiger or Honeymoon Suite for example - "Seasons" is evidence alone. The progressive rock genre has been called many things, including pompous. Taking an objective view, the critics aren't necessarily wrong. While "Silent Winter" is a likable and listen able track, it very well could be called pompous. The main conceit is there in the title - the p.o.v character's life is like a "silent winter" without his lover. There is nothing here to indicate a deeper meaning, where the lost lady is mother Earth itself (cf. "Take It Back" - Pink Floyd or, without the metaphor, "Seasons End" - Marillion). So where does the ELP comparison come in? Well the keyboard based beginning of "Between The Lines" is nearly identical to ELP's "Eruption" (which leads off Tarkus). Perhaps it this ELP influence that gives this track a bit more punch, a bit more drive, than the earlier tracks. The last track, "Ruins at Avalon's Gate", continues the "Eruption" sound. Like Altura, this band would do well to break free of being so dependent on their influences. This is a pleasant album to listen to, if highly derivative. ~ Stephanie Sollow
Review 048 ~ "This new album by a young group of Californians serves notice that American progressive rock can hold its own against anyone, including the Brits and the Swedes who have churned out their fair share of winners in recent months. It also goes to show that the folks at Magna Carta have a pretty keen ear for progressive rock, adding this promising group to a growing (and glowing) stable of domestic talent boasting fellow Golden Staters Magellan. Cairo combines a powerful approach with melodic songwriting and finely crafted arrangements, showing maturity beyond its years. The opening track, an instrumental entitled 'Conception' is a clever little teaser sporting Middle Eastern thematics that will have you walking like an Egyptian. The next four songs more or less serve notice on the band's potential - strong melodies, plenty of room for instrumental flights of fancy, ok lyrics and pleasant singing by Bret Douglas. But in the final analysis all this is but a prelude to the album's tour-de-force, the 22-minute 'Ruins at Avalon's Gate.' It's a modern-day 'Tarkus,' full of twists and turns, starts and stops, and all that wonderful stuff that made us fall in love with prog-rock in the first place. The king of the hill on this disc is keyboardist Mark Robertson. Some have knocked him for being a bit too obvious with the Keith Emerson influence (witness the rollicking Hammond intro on 'Between The Lines,' and similar references within 'Ruins'). But that's ok by me. Anyone who can play like this is worth a listen, regardless of his source of inspiration. Criticisms? Not many. The band could perhaps work on developing a stronger sense of menace in its compositions, and concentrate on more compelling lyrical fare. But those things will come together with time. I only hope these guys realize they have a good thing going, and keep it together for the long haul." ~ John Collinge, Progression
Review 049 ~ This is an American band with a lot of traditional influences, mainly the old (seventies) Yes and Genesis. But they have been able to make an album (their second) that sounds very modern too. It's like coming home in a new house, refreshing but still cosy and warm (load of crap in words, I know, but the feeling is like that, believe me). The album is appr. 65 minutes long, but there are only six tracks on it. One is a short one (less than three minutes), so you can imagine the other five. These are long epic songs, full of instrumental intermezzo's and with a lot of atmosphere. The instruments are very traditional too, the guitars, bass, drums and vocals are accompanied by synths, hammond organs and a grand piano. The lyrics are very poetic, with a lot of "difficult" words (no airplay on nitwit radio, I garantee!) and are about feelings, emotions and filosophy. This is a band that definitely needs checking out when you like the more traditional sounds of the golden age of prog, the seventies... ~ Written by Wilfred de Bruijn
Review 050 ~ "Cairo" burst out of the gate on this, their debut CD, as if they are ready to become the standard bearer of classical, retro-prog. They have all the key ingredients in place: aggressive, busy keyboards, MOORS rock style vocals, surging guitar and a terrific rhythm section. The group likes its songs on the long side: bright and busy. They generate a tremendous amount of energy and seem to love playing together. Even so, they could use a little more variation in material and song lengths. Perhaps it's unfair to nit-pik such a strong debut." ~ DP, Music Uncovered
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