The Flower Kings, STARDUST WE ARE (Insideout Music, 1997). Two disks, 20 tracks.
Every once in a while, I see some progger comment on the internet, “I don’t get The Flower Kings,” to which I always want to yell: “What’s not to get? Hippie prog love and lots and lots of it.”
Admittedly, I’m a huge fanboy when it comes to Roine Stolt and The Flower Kings. I’ve listened to them so much over the past two decades that there’s no way I could ever be objective when analyzing the band or its music. To me, every album by The Flower Kings is a small but mighty celebration of the goodness in the world. Each album represents a mood, a state of mind, a sense of being.
Twenty years ago this spring, the Flower Kings released its third proper album (its fourth, if you count Stolt’s THE FLOWER KING). While this third album, STARDUST WE ARE, only hints at the greatness to come in SPACE REVOLVER and PARADOX HOTEL, it is, in and of itself, a manifestation of romantic glory.
The Flower Kings never do anything halfway, but this is the band’s first double album, the first of many. This might seem like a big risk given that the band was still young. Yet, there’s no filler in the album. It holds together from the first track, “In the Eyes of the World,” to the twentieth and final track, “Stardust We Are.” Taken together, the two sides come in at 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 14 seconds of music!
Given the immaculate production, I can’t even imagine what the engineer and mixer went through to attain such sonic perfection sustained over this amount of time.
For better or worse, I’ve often wondered how religious Stolt is. Granted, there’s obvious evidence for his belief (often very hippie-ish) in some broad spirituality, but I’m also quite interested in his take on orthodox Christianity. Given his Swedishness, it would not at all be surprising to find a lot of Lutheranism there. But, especially in the early Flower King albums, there’s a lot (and I do mean a lot) of Catholic sacramentality and Franciscan mysticism in the lyrics as well.
Disk one is excellent, with styles jumping unexpectedly but expertly, track by track and, often, line by line. From symphonic prog to experimental to chaotic to jazz fusion, Stolt and his fellow Flower Kings explore every aspect of music from the previous four decades. If the album overall speaks of an orthodox Christian spirituality, track four, “Church of Your Heart,” is radically evangelical and individualistic.
The genius of The Flower Kings, though, resides and is made manifest on disk two of STARDUST WE ARE. From the opening church organ to the final soaring guitar and pastoral keyboards, disk two never takes a misstep. The lyrics, the compositions, the segues, and the flow are flawless.