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Reviews: Small as a Ball2019-07-11T14:39:57+01:00

Reviews: Small as a Ball

Progression: Small as a Ball – Review (US)

usa USA – Small as a Ball

When you call your project “Music for Keyboards” you’re telling the world what you’re about. No need for anyone to expect blazing guitar solos. Such a name is also likely to call up the memories of the prominent keyboard players in rock history: Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and so on.

In the case of Lars Boutrup, Emerson and Wakeman are the two most obvious referents. In some ways, Small as a Ball brings to mind a more aggressive take on something like The Six Wives of Henry VIII, with some flavor from Ars Nova’s Transi or Goddess of Darkness. While some of it is keys-to-the-wall sympho, there are some moments of respite, where some mellower electronic sounds come in, skewing the sound a bit away from classic prog rock.

Many parts sound as if they could be performed live, while others are more clearly studio creations, requiring more than two hands at once to produce. At times, the tunes have a lanky groove to them, further distancing it from classic prog, almost like a cross between prog and something like Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Add in some more atmospheric moments with breathy pads, and you’ve got the range of this album. Fans of lead keyboards have a new man to add to their list, who luckily does more than just ape the sounds of his predecessors.

Reviewed by: Jon Davis
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Link to Progression – for review you need the fall 2015 edition 

October 9th, 2015|

Calles Rock Corner: Small as a Ball – Review (DK)

Denmark flag Denmark – Small as a Ball

Lars Boutrup var forholdsvis ukendt for mig indtil jeg læste hvilke bands han har spillet i. Her kan jeg bl.a. nævne Simcess, Evil Masquerade, Supernova og Sonic Tool Box (som jeg anmeldte her på siden sidste år). Som en lille ekstra bonus info kan det nævnes at Boutrup har komponeret musik til over 200 stumfilm i Danmark og Sverige. Nu er han ude med sit tredje album under navnet Lars Boutrup’s Music For Keyboards. Udover Lars på keyboard, organ og synthesizers, så består bandet af Frederik Sunesen på trommer og Niels W. Knudsen på bas. Det nye album har fået titlen Small As A Ball.

Albummet består af 8 instrumentale numre og stilen er klassisk progressiv rock. Der er både passager med rimelig knald på, men også flere passager i den mere stille ende. Så der er rimelig god variation i musikken. Jeg skal dog vænne mig til, at der ikke er vokal eller guitar i musikken. Ja – faktisk har jeg endnu ikke vænnet mig til det. Derfor er det lidt svært for mig at være ”over-the-top” positiv. Men skal jeg fremhæve nogle numre, så må det være skæring syv ”And The Boy Gets A Cigar” samt den flotte stille og meget drømmende ”Heaven Can Wait” og titelnummeret ”Small As A Ball”. Sidst nævnte hører til de mere rockede sange på albummet.

Small As A Ball er indspillet i House Studios og The Bunker Studio og så er det produceret af Lars selv. Han har også mixet numrene sammen med Robert O. Walker og Juruda Bendtsen. Mastering er fortaget af Flemming Hansson. Albummet er flot produceret og lyden er i top, hvilket er yderst vigtigt når vi taler musik inden for denne genre.

Så hvis du er til instrumental musik og progressiv rock, så bør du tjekke dette album ud. Musikken er utrolig velspillet og selve produktionen er som sagt helt i top.

Small As A Ball udkom den 31. august via Ex’cess Records.

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Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by: Calle

Link til Calles Rock Corner & anmeldelse

September 15th, 2015|

DPRP: Small as a Ball – Review (NL)

The netherlands The Netherlands – Small as  a Ball

Lars Boutrup is clearly a busy lad. In addition to supplying keyboards for other artists, and collaborating on projects such as Sonic Tool Box, Boutrup has just released his third album under the Lars Boutrup’s Music For Keyboards band name. The first eponymous album came out in 2005, although Boutrup has been active as a musician since 1979. He is, for the second straight release, joined by drummer Fredrik Sunesen and bass player Niels W. Knudsen.

While it might not be the catchiest of monikers – it would be a bugger on a festival poster – he’s obviously hoping that this upbeat music strikes more than a chord or two with progressive fans and keyboard aficionados alike.

It’s obvious from the first notes of this entirely instrumental disc, that the trio can play, and the musicianship is very tight throughout. It also firmly crosses into the progressive genre, with smoother passages followed by more aggressive sections, such as on Back to Horn, which floats along before taking off into heavier territory, before diverting into a more pop vein. Other tracks, such as Will We Dream About the Ball? tread more lightly, setting a brooding, atmospheric, late-night feel before meandering into a more jazzy realm.

Comparisons are tough. There are moments that hint of Anthony Phillips‘ catchy and uncharacteristic 1984 release, music by Jan Hammer or the underrated James Reynolds. Anyone familiar with the Innovative Communication label, and electronic bands in the vein of Mind Over MatterSoftware and Megabyte will find much to admire here, although Boutrup’s music is livelier and somewhat heavier and jazzier at times.

Possibly the one exception on offer here is And the Boy Gets a Cigar, which bounces along with a strong melody that wouldn’t have been out of place on Camel‘s Nod and a Wink album, which itself paid more than a passing doff-of-the-cap to early Genesis.

Anyone enthralled by keyboard-led bands will lap up the array of instruments, sounds and musical chops on display. Repeated listens definitely highlight the quality of playing, however, it’s hard to remember any of the melodies. It’s also, very importantly, missing some of the prog traits of variety.

Sure, there are different tempos and sounds, and Boutrup uses his instruments well and appropriately. But there’s a spark missing. There are times when it’s crying out to be changed around a little. For anyone looking for a little more depth, especially from an instrumental album, the sense of how much better this could have been is palpable.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed by Jim Cornall

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Link to DPRP & review

July 2nd, 2015|

Arlequins: Small as a Ball – Review (IT)

Italy flag Italy – Small as  a Ball

Ritorna in piena forma il simpatico tastierista danese Lars Boutrup con il suo terzo cd di progressive rock strumentale e sinfonico, con una formazione classica alla EL&P, oltre al fido amico e bravo batterista Fredrik Sunesen ritroviamo infatti Niels W. Knudsen al basso, ed ambizioni compositive che vanno un pochino più in là degli assalti sinfonici a noi tanto cari, anche se talvolta come guilty pleasures un po’ imbarazzanti, perché “Small As A Ball” inizia proprio nella maniera più classica e vintage possibile, Hammond in evidenza e potenza bombastica che ci fa pensare alle epiche scorribande sinfoniche di Gerard, Motoi Sakuraba oppure Pär Lindh: l’impronta live dell’iniziale ed ariosa title-track viene così stemperata lievemente e progressivamente nei successivi brani in cui si riaffacciano le contaminazioni più elettroniche di Boutrup, come nell’urbano sinfonismo di “Metro Scheme 69” che riecheggia atmosfere quasi alla Jean Michel Jarre oppure in pezzi come “Back To Horn”, dove si frammentano sonorità più moderne e digitali su una piacevole fantasia melodica post genesiana, una fusione di generi che si inoltra più o meno spericolatamente verso il groove funky degli arcani arrangiamenti per synths in “Fur Deine Kleider” oppure nella più austera sinfonia progressiva di “Will We Dream About The Ball?”.

La produzione dei suoni è piuttosto calda, ben calibrata, e ci permette di apprezzare al meglio le differenti timbriche e dinamiche degli strumenti.

Quello che più mi piace di Boutrup è il suo gusto per le orchestrazioni ad ampio respiro e l’abilità come arrangiatore sinfonico, le velleità di compositore classico non gli mancano, magari potrebbe provare a cimentarsi nella scrittura di qualche colonna sonora…

 Reviewed by Giovanni Carta

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Link to Arlequins & review

June 27th, 2015|

The Progression Rock: Small as a Ball – Review (CA)

Canada flag Canada – Small as a Ball

This is the third instrumental progressive rock album for Boutrup and by my estimation is a much rockier-prog affair that his previous release which emphasized his symphonic side.

These eight compositions, roughly forty-nine minutes of music, feature mostly Hammond organ or other keyboard driven tunes that put the “rock” in Progressive Rock. The music hearkens back to artists like Emerson Lake and Palmer or even other trios like Trace where the organ tends to take centre stage.

It’s quite amazing what musical gymnastics the threesome of bass, drums and keyboards can get up to. Most of these selections are in the six or seven minute range offering plenty of time for musical change-ups in time, tempo and dynamics. From growling Hammond organ to sinewy synthesizer lead-lines, the music is brash, dramatic and fun to listen too.

It’s interesting to note that Boutrup has composed music for more than 200 silent movies in Denmark and Sweden. This has certainly given him a cinematic sense in his musical composition. The songs tend to provide a wonderful musical backdrop to the visual images the listener creates, knowing when to create tension and knowing when to release it.

While this release may be somewhat rockier, it doesn’t avoid the symphonic side completely.

Something made quite clear on a track like “Metro Scheme 69”

[6:51]. I have to admit I like this punchier side of Lars Boutrup. While I enjoyed his previous The Symphonic Dream it seemed almost a little too slick to my ears, especially when compared to this release.

Small as a Ball is a little rougher and displays a more intense contrast in the musical composition.

I like this one a lot. Recommended to fans of keyboard driven progressive rock.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by: Jerry Lucky

Link to Progression Rock Files (Jerry Lucky) 

June 6th, 2015|

BetreutesProggen.de: Small as a Ball – Review (DE)

German flag Germany – Small as  a Ball

Lars Boutrup ist Däne. Und diese lügen ja bekanntlich nicht. Also darf man den Zusatz im Namen des Künstlers durchaus für bare Münze nehmen. Ja, dies ist Musik für Keyboards, beziehungsweise Musik für Keyboard-Fans. Boutrup bedient eine Vielzahl von Tasteninstrumenten, wobei gerade die Orgel eine sehr wichtige Rolle spielt. Bei „Small As A Ball“ handelt es sich bereits um das dritte Album unter diesem Namen, und er macht im Prinzip im Stile des Vorgängers „The Symphonic Dream“ weiter. Das Album enthält insgesamt acht Songs, deren Spielzeiten meist um die sechs bis sieben Minuten liegen und die typischen symphonischen Keyboard-Prog bieten, der auch mal von den Siebzigern beeinflusst klingt. Unterstützt wird der Däne durch die Rhythmusfraktion Fredrik Sunesen (drums, percussion) und Niels W. Knudsen (Bass), was gelegentlich für einen wuchtigen Sound sorgt. Beide waren auch schon auf dem Vorgänger zu hören. Meist sind die Songs im Mid-Tempo gehalten, markant sind besonders die Orgelsoli, doch auch am Synthesizer werden gelegentliche Flitzefinger-Soli eingestreut. Er versäumt es aber geschickter weise nicht, auch mal ruhigere Parts einzubauen, wie beispielsweise das sphärische Intro auf ‚Heaven Can Wait‘, auf das mit ‚Will We Dream About The Ball?‘ ein Highlight des Albums folgt, bei dem sphärische und bombastische Parts effektiv miteinander verknüpft werden. ‚And The Boy Gets A Cigar‘ ist ein typisches Beispiel für einen hymnischen Song, der auch mal an Soniq Theater denken lässt, doch im Gegensatz zum deutschen 1-Mann-Projekt ist hier ein echter Schlagzeuger am Werk und auch der Bassist hinterlässt in diesem Song deutliche Spuren. Man merkt dem Dänen an, dass er schon eine ganze Weile im Geschäft ist, das klingt alles sehr routiniert und durchdacht und sollte den Keyboard-Fans Spaß machen.Rating: 6 out of 10

Rating: 10 out of 15  

Reviewed by  Juergen Meurer 

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Link to BetreutesProggen.de & review

April 22nd, 2015|

Hallowed: Small as a Ball – Review (SE)

Sweden flag Sweden – Small as  a Ball

A new iteration of the Music For Keyboards thing, Small as a Ball is the title of this album with one of the Titans on the cover. Lars has taken help from the same musicians this time again, I liked the previous effort called The Symphonic Dream so it wasn’t without a little bit of interest I set to work on this new album that doesn’t really have a very good cover look.

Musically it continues in the same vein as the previous album, instrumental progressive rock music with lots of focus on the keyboards. The music is pretty grand and varied throughout the eight tracks that we are given and with no vocals they can make exciting passages and such things, they make music that would not benefit from the use of vocals. I think they paint pretty dramatic landscapes and bring out some excitement from the songs. Fans of Lars and his music will recognise this as I think it is in a way a pretty logical follow up to what we have heard before.

It is a good album no doubt about that, but I don’t think that it is as good as the latest effort. It lacks the magic of the previous effort; it could do with more dynamics and drama. I think there are a few smaller things that could have been slightly better as I think that this album lacks the little extra edge that the previous album had. But nevertheless it is an enjoyable album with good music and good feeling; I like it but not as much as I liked the previous album. Fans of Music For Keyboards will probably enjoy this and as will fans of progressive instrumental music – for you who answer to that description I am sure it is an interesting album to look closer to.

Best tracks are the first one and the last one, but the album in itself is quite good even though I know that Lars and his fellow musicians are capable of making better stuff. I think if I were to listen to any Music For Keyboards soon it would be The Symphonic Dream that would occupy my music player – Small as a Ball is good but does not quite reach the standards set before it.

Rating: 4 out of 7

Reviewed by Daniel Källmalm

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Link to Hallowed & review

April 10th, 2015|

Expose: Small as a Ball – Review (US)

usa USA – Small as a Ball

When you call your project “Music for Keyboards” you’re telling the world what you’re about. No need for anyone to expect blazing guitar solos. Such a name is also likely to call up the memories of the prominent keyboard players in rock history: Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and so on.

In the case of Lars Boutrup, Emerson and Wakeman are the two most obvious referents. In some ways, Small as a Ball brings to mind a more aggressive take on something like The Six Wives of Henry VIII, with some flavor from Ars Nova’s Transi or Goddess of Darkness. While some of it is keys-to-the-wall sympho, there are some moments of respite, where some mellower electronic sounds come in, skewing the sound a bit away from classic prog rock.

Many parts sound as if they could be performed live, while others are more clearly studio creations, requiring more than two hands at once to produce. At times, the tunes have a lanky groove to them, further distancing it from classic prog, almost like a cross between prog and something like Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Add in some more atmospheric moments with breathy pads, and you’ve got the range of this album. Fans of lead keyboards have a new man to add to their list, who luckily does more than just ape the sounds of his predecessors.

Small as a Ball cover thumb

Reviewed by: Jon Davis

Link to Expose & review

April 7th, 2015|

Progwereld: Small as a Ball – Review (NL)

The netherlands The Netherlands – Small as a Ball

“Small As A Ball” is het derde soloalbum van de getalenteerde Deense toetsenist Lars Boutrup. Tijdens het beluisteren van de cd besluit ik dat de recensie die ik ga schrijven een vrij korte zal zijn. Niet dat ik de plaat slecht vind, integendeel, ik ben juist erg gecharmeerd van de toetsenfratsen van de man. Mijn punt is dat het album enorm in het verlengde ligt van z’n voorganger “The Symphonic Dream” uit 2011, waardoor het schrijven van deze recensie onvermijdelijk een herhaling van zetten dreigt te gaan worden.

We zetten een en ander toch maar even op een rijtje. Boutrup is een buitengewoon kundig klavierridder die barst van de ervaring. Zo heeft de man al voor 200 stomme films de muziek gemaakt en tevens timmert hij hard aan de weg met de band Jeruda Music. Op zijn soloalbums gaat hij uit zijn dak in groovy instrumentale muziek  die hij volstopt met veel dampende orgelpartijen. Dankzij een gedreven ritmesectie  komt deze een beetje over als spacerock, maar in feite is de muziek dat niet,daarvoor staat Boutrup teveel met z’n voeten op aarde. Toch komt de term Spacerock niet zo maar uit de lucht vallen. Je hoort namelijk  veel herhalingen en weinig sfeerwisselingen. Voor zover het algemene plaatje.

Een groot verschil met het eerdere werk is dat “Small As A Ball” een stuk transparanter klinkt. Boutrup plamuurt de boel zogezegd minder dicht met strings. Hier profiteren zinderende nummers als Metro Cheme en Back To Horn enorm van en ook het progressieve Will We Dream About The Ball komt goed uit de verf. Op het album hoor je regelmatig een prettige melodie zoals in And The Boy Gets A Sigar en daarom is het jammer dat de cd met Story Harp een beetje slap afsluit.

Lars Boutrup gaat de wereld met “Small As A Ball” niet veroveren, maar ik heb ook absoluut niet het idee dat de plaat met die insteek is gemaakt. Ik heb er dan ook vrede mee dat het album in het verlengde ligt van zijn voorgangers. Niks meer en niks minder.

Reviewed by Dick van der Heijde

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Link to Progwereld Magazine & review

March 19th, 2015|

Sea of Tranquility: Small as a Ball – Review (US)

usa USA – Small as a Ball

Lars Boutrup is a Danish keyboardist/composer who has released three solo albums, his latest titled Small As A Ball. Boutrup (organ, keyboards, synthesizers) gets help from Fredrick Sunesen (drums, assorted percussion) and Niels W. Knudsen (bass).

On first listen I wasn’t sure if I was ‘getting’ this one but the more I listened the more it clicked. Now I can safely say this is an excellent slice of keyboard heavy symphonic rock.

The title track begins the disc with a big drum beat and heavy bass and keys. Raging organ follows eventually breaking into wild keyboard pyrotechnics. Even though Boutrup’s fingers are flying all over the place there is still room for a pretty good melody.

“Metro Scheme 69” has a Jean Michel Jarre feel starting with an ethereal/ambient mood. The repeating keyboard motif in the background serves to create another layer of sound. There is a nice flow here and if you like electronic music you should dig this.

Electronic tapestries of sound make “Back To Horn” another winner. The keyboard and synthesizer lines weave their way across the soundscape creating another delightfully progressive tune.

“Für Deine Kleider” is a spacier offering while the mellow “Heaven Can Wait” is a more ambient track with shimmering keyboards and gentle soundscapes.

“Will We Dream About The Ball?” has darker tones and raging swells of organ giving it an extra dimension of sound.

Despite the lack of guitar and vocals the songs are interesting and energetic. If you enjoy keyboard drenched progressive rock Small As A Ball will be well worth your time.

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Reviewed by: Jon Neudorf

Link to Sea of Tranquility & review

March 10th, 2015|

Artrock: Small as a Ball – Review (SE)

Sweden flag Sweden – Small as  a Ball

Lars Boutrup släpper här sitt tredje instrumentala album med progressive musik. Med som musiker återfinns även Fredrik Sunesen på slagverk och Niels W. Knutdsen på bas. Boutrup har genom åren arbetad med bands som Simcess, Big Bang, Evil Masquerade och Supernova.

Instrumentala plattor och i synnerhet keyboards dominerande är nog ett av det svåraste att ge sig på om man vill nå ut till den allmänna lyssnaren. Känner faktiskt bara till en som riktigt lyckats Jean-Michel Jarre även om det då är mer synthbaserat. Det finns naturligtvis låtar som sticker ut och tilltalar gemene man men att hålla intresset uppe på en hel fullängdare är desto svårare.

Hur lyckas nu Boutrup på nya albumet. Här finns en hel del stycken som tilltalar även om helhetsintrycket har en del kvar att ge . Skickligheten på instrumenten är klanderfri liksom arrangemangen, som älskare av symfonisk musik finns här ett antal spår som faller undertecknad i smaken. Här finns både stämningsfulla partier och melodiska stycken där man till och med kan ana rocktoner från Uriah Heep som i inledande spåret Small as a ball. På tredje stycket Back to horn känns en del takter vara influerade av Genesis och kanske Mike and the Mechanics. Kortaste stycket Heaven can wait svävar vi ut i det atmosfäriska vilket fortsätter på Will we dream about the ball?, båda låtarna känns här passa som filmmusik eller varför inte till dataspelen värld. Avslutande Story harp och en viss herre vid namn Jon Lord och hans sound lyser igenom ljudbilden.

Precis som jag skrev på Lars Boutrup’s första fullängdare saknar jag dock här lite tyngd i produktionen och nog skulle det inte skada med några vokala gästspel. Okej platta men krävs nog lite mer för att hålla intresset på topp för den allmänna lyssnaren.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Reviewed by Conny Myrberg

Small as a Ball cover thumb

Link to Artrock & review

March 1st, 2015|