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Thread: FEATURED CD : Frogg Caf : Creatures

  1. #1
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    FEATURED CD : Frogg Caf : Creatures

    Credit for this featured CD : AncientChord

    Based on a CD received from the collection bequeathed to Progressive Ears by the late Chris Buckley (Winkersnuff)

    AncientChord's comments:



    I’ve been a progressive rock fan since its early days in the late 1960's. Plus I’ve had the great pleasure and fortune of seeing many artists in the genre in live performance. And music collecting of hundreds of artists within the genre and sub-genres has brought endless joy to my ears. With the advent of the internet, prog-rock websites have come and gone over the years. I've been blessed to discover so many artists I would never had known about if these sites didn't exist. On several of these websites the name Frogg Caf has popped up, but I never investigated the band at all. Well than changed when I received the "Creatures" album by the band. So I’ve listened and learned.

    “Creatures” is the second album that was released by the Long Island New York band in 2003. At that time the personnel included Nick Lieto-vocals, keyboards, trumpet and percussion. Frank Camiola (aka "chalkpie" here on PE) -electric and acoustic guitars, classical guitar, tenor banjo, string bass, keyboards and percussion. Bill Ayasse-electric and acoustic violin, viola, mandolin, octave mandolin, backing vocals and percussion. Andrew Sussman-electric bass. James Guarnieri-drums, percussion. They also included six guests that helped to round our the sound. It’s very hard to categorize because it’s got the kitchen sink thrown into it! I would tag it as Jazz Rock / Fusion, and Symphonic above all else. The album consists of five tracks, the last being the 21 minute epic ‘Waterfall Carnival.’ Track one ‘All This Time’ starts the album out with an upbeat sound that showcases the excellent musicianship of the band. To my ears it reminds me of Kansas. Next track is the album title ‘Creatures,’ which most definitely leans to the jazz rock / fusion side, with heavy influence from Frank Zappa. It also somewhat harkens the sounds of Happy The Man. The third track is ‘The Celestial Metal Can.’ This seems like a psychedelic / space rock improvisation that evolves into an interesting strange sound. This instrumental would be perfect in a Horror film score, as it’s fairly dark and melancholy. Track number four is ‘Gagutz,’ another instumental that’s deep in the jazz rock / fusion vein. Good work all around with violin that reminds one of The Mahavishnu Orchestra with a bit of the band Present, and the old Bruford band. Last is the epic track ‘Waterfall Carnival.’ This track starts with acoustic guitar and is quite symphonic. The tune eventually gets more upbeat as it progresses into the jazz rock / fusion vein once more. At about the 10 minute marks it dwells to a dark passage perfect for being in a haunted house. The tune then returns to the retro symphonic sound that began the track. The song concludes with an impressive display of Frogg Caf’s unique ability in mixing so many of prog rock sub-genres effortlessly and effectively.

    After spinning this disc around again for a second listen, I was struck with the realization of just how good this album is. I would rate it as **** or maybe a low *****. Highly enjoyable and now I must check out their entire discography!
    Regards,

    Duncan

  2. #2
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    Here is a review of the album I wrote many years ago:

    "Creatures" finds the Frogg Caf boys covering a ton of musical ground. The Zappa influence is once again apparent, but the band really delve into several musical styles at one point or another on the disc. I really like this CD a lot. I think that it showcases the incredible versatility of this band. There is really something here for every kind of prog fan. The album is both experimental and accessible at the same time which is something most bands of this genre find very difficult to pull off. The opening track "All This Time" showcases the band's Zappa influence, with very nice vocals. The title track "Creatures" reminds me of something Gentile Giant might do. "The Celestial Metal Can" is where the band showcases their experimental side on a tune that is almost avant in spots. "Gagutz" mines fusion territory the likes of which this band does so well. The final track the 21 plus minute "Waterfall Carnival" is pure symphonic progressive rock at its best. For me this is the highlight of the album and really works on several different levels. I got to see the band perform this live at NEARfest a few years ago and it was truly one of the highlights of the weekend for me. "Creatures" is an album that proves that this band can do pretty much anything they want and pull it off. People who enjoy a wide variety of musical styles should eat this one up.

  3. #3
    Insect Overlord Progatron's Avatar
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    Great stuff from a great band. I play Fortunate Observer the most, but Creatures is not far behind!
    Interviewer of reprobate ne'er-do-well musicians of the long-haired rock n' roll persuasion at: www.velvetthunder.co.uk and former scribe at Classic Rock Society. Only vaguely aware of anything other than music.

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  4. #4
    I translated the review I wrote in 2003 using Google-translate, so sorry for any strange words:

    The American Frogg Caf debuted in 2001 with an idiosyncratic progressive jazz rock record , but with Creatures now delivers an album that is much closer to pure symphonic rock. It is mainly Nick Lieto's keyboards that are responsible for this, because in contrast to the frequently used piano and organ and synthesizers of the first album, he now produces full symphonic sounds, regularly produced by the Mellotron. Of course the compositions are also responsible for this development. Compared to the debut, in which the diverse styles the band masters gave the songs a somewhat fragmentary character, the pieces now unfold in a more fluid way, with even the more than twenty minutes long Genesis-like Waterfall Carnival unpacking coherently and naturally. happens. This track, together with All This Time and the title track, forms the previously described new sound of FC, in which guitarist Frank Camiola of course occasionally displays his subtle jazz rock eruptions and the vocals and marimba evoke memories of Gentle Giant or Frank Zappa. Halfway through the album, however, The Celestial Metal Can and Gagutz prove why FC is a progressive progressive rock band (no pleonasm unfortunately!). The first is dedicated to Charles Ives, a revolutionary and influential composer, who already wrote ambient and minimalist symphonies in the early 20th century. The experimental tribute is entirely in style and links sounds to, among other things, a flute/string quartet. The transition to Gagutz is perfect, because it echoes the kind of neoclassical work of Isildurs Bane, mixed with progressive rock, including a dramatic choir-Mellotron a la Father Of Day, Father Of Night and a UK-esque violin solo. By including these daring instrumentals, you can say that Creatures is actually a richly orchestrated symphony in its own right, full of grandeur, drama, bombast and introversion, and as such captivating and successful.

  5. #5
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Thanks dudes!

  6. #6
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    I own Creatures - need to pull it out tonight!!
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  7. #7
    Member adap2it's Avatar
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    When Frogg Cafe released Creatures, Chris & I went to Montreal to see them play with Miriodor at a beautiful venue called Lion d' Or. We also were fortunate enough to see The Musical Box the night before. It was an excellent weekend of music! Here is a picture of Chris at the show. and a couple of FC
    P1010073 (2).jpgP1010106.jpgP1010110.jpg
    Dave Sr.

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  8. #8
    I saw Frogg Cafe at least twice. Once in a cameral setting at Prog House and the other time at some theater in NJ, when I think played with Happy the Man. Loved both performances. FC played before HtM but for me they were the highlight of that evening. Lost track of FC, can you Frank throw some light on the band's present status / situation?
    "Confusion Will Be My Epitaph"

  9. #9
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    ^ So Bateless Edge was the last album the band made and also that I was involved with, but personally I don't play live loud rock/prog anymore. Nick (trumpet) and I (string bass) have a jazz quartet going on probably 12-13 years or so now called The Blue in Green Quartet playing classic 50s and 60s bebop/hardbop, usually locally (we both live in the Hudson Valley). This group is still fairly active, although not recently due to the pandemic.

    The band recorded a follow-up album after Bateless that is supposedly like 80-90% finished, but for some reason it just hasn't gone past the finish line. This album didn't involve Steve (Uh) or myself, so its an album without guitar. I couldn't even tell you one track that is on it. But every time I ask the guys when its going to be finished, there's never a real reason . Most likely life getting in the way. Or school (we are all music teachers). But I'll ask again and see what the latest is and report back. Sussman also plays in an Americana type duo called Pluck and Rail, and apparently the 2nd album is finished and probably will be out in 2022. That's all I have for now!
    Last edited by chalkpie; 01-05-2022 at 08:43 PM.

  10. #10
    Creatures and Gagutz are awesome. Waterfall Carnival has some great moments but I find it overly long. I avoid the other two songs on this one.

  11. #11
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    I saw Pluck and Rail recently, at the NJ Proghouse's Fall Prog Camp, which was a fun event (and pretty safe because it was outdoors). However, not much of the music really did that much for me. That actually includes Pluck and Rail - it was just a little too folky for me. But Andy was a fun and entertaining frontman. They also did one or two covers that were fun, but I forget what.

    I sadly only got to see Frogg Cafe once, somewhere on Bleecker Street. It was a great show, and Frank was back with the band, at least for that show. That may have been a rare show with two guitarists, although I forget if they both played with the band at the actual same time. Anyway, I WISH I'd gotten to see them more, especially at NEARfest. I remember missing that weekend, and KNOWING how much the NEARfest crowd was going to dig Frogg Cafe! I do have several good live recordings and all the band's CDs. As one of the reviews above mentions, the band was remarkably able to be not just accessible, but lots of fun, while still being very complex.
    Primary procreation is accomplished

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    ^ So Bateless Edge was the last album the band made and also that I was involved with, but personally I don't play live loud rock/prog anymore. Nick (trumpet) and I (string bass) have a jazz quartet going on probably 12-13 years or so now called The Blue in Green Quartet playing classic 50s and 60s bebop/hardbop, usually locally (we both live in the Hudson Valley). This group is still fairly active, although not recently due to the pandemic.

    The band recorded a follow-up album after Bateless that is supposedly like 80-90% finished, but for some reason it just hasn't gone past the finish line. This album didn't involve Steve (Uh) or myself, so its an album without guitar. I couldn't even tell you one track that is on it. But every time I ask the guys when its going to be finished, there's never a real reason . Most likely life getting in the way. Or school (we are all music teachers). But I'll ask again and see what the latest is and report back. Sussman also plays in an Americana type duo called Pluck and Rail, and apparently the 2nd album is finished and probably will be out in 2022. That's all I have for now!
    It seems I have not lost much there as I already have all of the official albums. Anyway, thank you for detailed explanation. Hopefully the unfinished album will see the light of day ... some day By all means please let us know if you find out anything. It would be interesting to hear, although, no guitar part does not sound as a good idea ... but then who knows?
    "
    Out of curiosity and if you don't mind sharing, why don't you "play live loud rock/prog anymore"? Now is certainly not a good time but perhaps in the future?
    "Confusion Will Be My Epitaph"

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by JKL2000 View Post
    I saw Pluck and Rail recently, at the NJ Proghouse's Fall Prog Camp, which was a fun event (and pretty safe because it was outdoors). However, not much of the music really did that much for me. That actually includes Pluck and Rail - it was just a little too folky for me. But Andy was a fun and entertaining frontman. They also did one or two covers that were fun, but I forget what.

    I sadly only got to see Frogg Cafe once, somewhere on Bleecker Street. It was a great show, and Frank was back with the band, at least for that show. That may have been a rare show with two guitarists, although I forget if they both played with the band at the actual same time. Anyway, I WISH I'd gotten to see them more, especially at NEARfest. I remember missing that weekend, and KNOWING how much the NEARfest crowd was going to dig Frogg Cafe! I do have several good live recordings and all the band's CDs. As one of the reviews above mentions, the band was remarkably able to be not just accessible, but lots of fun, while still being very complex.
    Dammit, how could I have forgetten about the NEARFest performance?! It is then three times I saw the band in concerts after all. I blame getting old
    Thanks for reminding me of it
    "Confusion Will Be My Epitaph"

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    I always forget about how good these guys are!!!
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    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PCMusic View Post
    Out of curiosity and if you don't mind sharing, why don't you "play live loud rock/prog anymore"? Now is certainly not a good time but perhaps in the future?
    Around 2003 or so, I developed tinnitus and it scared the crap out of me in a big way (I am an orchestra teacher/orchestral musician), so I made the call to leave the band. All of the years of loud rehearsals and gigs in rock bands seemed to have caught up with me (and my ignorance of not protecting my hearing). I still have it and basically ignore it as much as possible, but in hindsight I think I made the right decision. That's pretty much it.

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    I'd never listened to this band before but adored the samples I heard and just placed an order for a hard copy. Looking forward to more time to digest it.

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    "Waterfall Carnival" is probably my favorite post-70s "side long" piece. I wish they had done more songs like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EBES View Post
    I'd never listened to this band before but adored the samples I heard and just placed an order for a hard copy. Looking forward to more time to digest it.
    They are well worth checking out. Great live too. I have been able to see them at NEARfest, ProgDAy and Progtoberfest and they were great every time.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Around 2003 or so, I developed tinnitus and it scared the crap out of me in a big way (I am an orchestra teacher/orchestral musician), so I made the call to leave the band. All of the years of loud rehearsals and gigs in rock bands seemed to have caught up with me (and my ignorance of not protecting my hearing). I still have it and basically ignore it as much as possible, but in hindsight I think I made the right decision. That's pretty much it.
    What a bummer and loss to prog community. Is it not curable condition, especially these days? Is there a chance it will go away?
    Thankfully it seems you manage to cope somehow with it.

    So I guess around the NEARFest performance you were already not a constant member of the band? Kind of recall you being there ... I may be wrong here - playing acoustic guitar?
    "Confusion Will Be My Epitaph"

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Thanks dudes!
    Well deserved, Frankie

    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Around 2003 or so, I developed tinnitus and it scared the crap out of me in a big way (I am an orchestra teacher/orchestral musician), so I made the call to leave the band. All of the years of loud rehearsals and gigs in rock bands seemed to have caught up with me (and my ignorance of not protecting my hearing). I still have it and basically ignore it as much as possible, but in hindsight I think I made the right decision. That's pretty much it.
    Yeah, i have it. All of the drumming in my early days without earplugs. It only takes one scare to teach you, if you're smart. I'm super careful with my hearing now.

    Especially at any Todd Rundgren show

    I'm glad you're careful. Looking forward to new music from you, man
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  21. #21
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PCMusic View Post
    ...Is it not curable condition, especially these days? Is there a chance it will go away?
    ...
    Not curable.

    Many research facilities have spent millions trying to figure it out over many decades - but they're nowhere near any sort of cure.

    Most people just live with it. Some need bio-feedback training to learn to deal with it. Some people wear hearing aids that pump sounds into the ears to mask the noise. A few (rare) people can't handle it, and have committed suicide.
    Regards,

    Duncan

  22. #22
    This is the album that drew me into Frogg Cafe, so obviously I like it, but it's probably my least favorite of their records overall. I've never really warmed to "Celestial Metal Can" (I'm not especially an Ives fan anyway), and while it's listenable, I find "Waterfall Carnivals" a little too polite and a bit aimless. It just never seems to gel for me, and it lacks the "fire" that would offset the pervasive "lushness."

    The other three tracks on Creatures are among my favorites in FC's catalog. So, as I say, I like the album, but I vastly prefer the debut, and my favorite, Fortunate Observer of Time, which I consider a minor masterpiece.

    I was fortunate to be an observer of many FC shows, and my band even shared a bill with them once in Arlington, MA. Great bunch of guys! I hope the new album eventually sees the light of day.

    Bill

  23. #23
    Subterranean Tapir Hobo Chang Ba's Avatar
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    Up until Bateless Edge, this was my favorite Frogg Cafe album. I do agree with Bill that Water Carnival is a bit aimless overall, but it doesn't effect my enjoyment of the album that much.

    Would love to see another album by them, one of the best bands from the 2000s (ish) period for me.
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  24. #24
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polypet View Post
    Well deserved, Frankie

    Yeah, i have it. All of the drumming in my early days without earplugs. It only takes one scare to teach you, if you're smart. I'm super careful with my hearing now.

    Especially at any Todd Rundgren show

    I'm glad you're careful. Looking forward to new music from you, man
    Cheers Kim, I appreciate that . I hope your condition isn't too terrible brother. I've always been worried for drummers....not sure how they deal with the bashing for that long without serious ramifications.

    Quote Originally Posted by PCMusic View Post
    What a bummer and loss to prog community. Is it not curable condition, especially these days? Is there a chance it will go away?
    Thankfully it seems you manage to cope somehow with it.

    So I guess around the NEARFest performance you were already not a constant member of the band? Kind of recall you being there ... I may be wrong here - playing acoustic guitar?
    Thanks, yeah I've learned to deal with it basically. I've had a few scary moments where I've really freaked out when it seems it has gotten worse but its been pretty steady. Also, yes I wasn't with FC anymore during NF '05, but I did perform "Waterfall" on acoustic at the end. I was drinking manhattans backstage to calm my nerves

    Quote Originally Posted by Soc Prof View Post
    "Waterfall Carnival" is probably my favorite post-70s "side long" piece. I wish they had done more songs like that.
    Wow, all I can say is I'm honored and thank you very much. I'm glad it connects with you. It was my feable attempt at a big prog epic! I actually found the chickenscratch manuscript paper I wrote it on...Ill try and post a few photos for fun.

  25. #25
    Member rickawakeman's Avatar
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    Fell in love with FC before the Nearfest gig, belonged to the Lilly Pad so have many live shows on disc to re-visit! Happily saw them again at the NJ Proghouse Homecoming Weekend. Great album from a great band

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