The singer/guitarist/keyboardist Serge Barbaro, born in France, breathes neo-prog and since the late 90s he can express his feelings completely in his project Skeem. That’s what he does here.
His approach is thorough and effective. The musician tells his graphic designer Mark Eaton that he is looking for a lyricist to provide words to the compositions he has written. Eaton, however, climbs into the pen himself and so the material gets more shape. Eventually Barbaro recruits a number of musicians, including two additional keyboardists, to record Skeem’s debut CD reviewed here.
The eight tracks, all clock about eight minutes, the album clearly shows Barbaro’s vision of the progressive rock genre. Skeem brings uncomplicated neo-prog with catchy melodies and flashy solos on guitar and keys. The music comes across as a slightly more accessible Jadis, mainly because of the Gary Chandler-like guitar playing, but the lead vocals also have that comparison. What gives it his unique touch is the combination with the female background vocals.
Opener Good To One Another immediately shows what an exuberant effect those vocals have. Skeem occasionally comes up with slightly more powerful chords which, in terms of intensity, grind against hard rock. The Last Word is a good example. A beautiful interlude towards Alan Parsons Project results in a delicious finale. This piece shows that Skeem has an excellent rhythm tandem. Bassist Bertrand Hulin-Bertaud and drummer Emma M are no strangers to the scene. Both played in the fusion band Priam.
Maarten Goossensen, a reviewer at Progwereld, makes the comparison with the vocals of Ruud Stoker and he also regularly refers to the band Timelock. I can only endorse it, especially when I hear the smooth Trustworthy Man. In addition, the song in the instrumental piece contains flashbacks to the solo album “From Ignorance To Ecstacy” by Tracy Hitchings. Influences from that corner of the spectrum are regularly displayed. For example, the beautiful ballad Chrysalides has a blissful finale in Pendragon style. Marvellous. How well played.
After two reasonable, but not noteworthy songs follows What A Night, a mid-tempo ballad with a well-timed solo on the acoustic guitar. Live Fast brings us to the end to this entertaining album. It undeniably has the allure of a closing track and in the meantime a nice Kansas-like piece is involved.
Some albums need time to become brilliant. Not this one. It was an instant bingo.
© Dick van der Heijde 2022