Strawberry Fields - Rivers Gone Dry

Year of Release: 2009
Label: Metal Mind
Catalog Number: MMP CD 0652
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:44:00

When Poland's Collage split up, the members came back to music in various splinter groups - and even splinters of splinters -- sort of the opposite of a collage, as it happens. We know about Satellite and Believe. Enter into that list Strawberry Fields. And despite the name, they are not in anyway a Beatles or John Lennon tribute band. The musical fruit grown here is completely organic, without pesticides, growth hormones, or colour enhancers. It hardly needs them, as it's all quite deliciously ripe. So this, then, is my field notes on River's Gone Dry.

If you look at the ingredients, you'll find that the only difference between Strawberry Fields and Satellite is that instead of Robert we have Robin (actually Marta Kniewska), a female vocalist with a fabulous voice - warm, rich, silky-smooth. This brings in comparisons to Magenta, Caamora, White Willow, Renaissance, and host of other progressive rock groups similarly comprised. Although I also think Robin sounds a bit like Natalie Merchant. That means, aside from drummer Wotjek Szadkowski (who plays also widdly and atmospheric keyboards), we have the lovely guitar stylings of Sarhan Kubeisi, the throbbing bass work of Jarek Michalski, and some guest keyboard work from Krysz Palczewski.

In a way, Strawberry Fields picks up where Nostalgia left off (without the 70s-ness) -- or rather, the other way around, given the release dates of the two -- as it is the more accessible end of progressive rock. And yet, with Robin on vocals, there is more lightness to the arrangements without any sugar (or sugar substitutes). It seems so, at least. And yet, I don't want to imply that you can interchange the two; there's something different about the music and I think it's because it's designed to fit a different vocal style, tone? We still get guitar soloing, but the tone is sometimes a bit more distorted (on purpose), and, in some ways, warmer. Drums still set tracks in motion; not a four-count, but in interesting patterns, in overt and cover ways - maybe sparse (as on the beginning to "Your Story," and "Maybe") or dense (as on "River's Gone Dry").

Leaving aside all the food metaphors, I need you to know that I've been listening to this off and on for weeks, probably weeks that equal months. And I was struck immediately about how beautiful the album is, all of it. And how I haven't quite yet found my favorite track. I do like the dark throb of the title track, "River's Gone Dry," which also has an appealing little orchestral keyboard phrase that links each line of the chorus. Its a little moment and yet, along with the throb of drums and bass of the main, just gives this track a unique character. "Open Your Eyes" is equally dark - I keep thinking of liquid chocolate, but I think that's because of the colour palette of the booklet (or maybe it's just that association of chocolate covered strawberries?). But yes, these tonal colors on paper are the tonal colors of the music - browns, ambers, dark in the shadows. And those shadows are on "Open Your Eyes," the light of the chorus revealing bits of what lies there. It's a rockier tune when it gets really going.

"Your Story," which starts the album also sets the tone and mood for the whole album; which isn't surprising, as I think that what a lead off track does, and should do. But beyond this obvious fact, it tells you right away that you're going to like the morsels that follow as well. Vocals are very much in the forefront here, and throughout, which can't really be said for Satellite, as Amirian's vocals are usually a little more in the mix. With Strawberry Fields, this gives the album a more intimate feel. In this track, Kobeisi does some delicious note bending; just listen to stunning solo to conclude the track.

But, it could be that "Close," is my favorite. It mixes the silky (verses) with the ethereal (choruses), and yet not really wispy ethereal, but more? spacey, if you will. From the intimate to from somewhere heard but not seen? down to earth to "out there." Nice bit of organ work only adds to this latter, spacey feel. That's the best way I can describe it; Robin's vocals are altered with an effect that adds a certain harshness to the arrangement. And organ has a strong presence during these chorus passages.

After the title track there's "Feel," a silky track with such a liquid feel? and the sultry tango of "Moon," full of muted drums and tangy (and sometimes twangy) guitar ? I think each track is a gem. "Beautiful" is a track that so easily could be a staple on modern radio - it's a bit smooth jazzy and wouldn't seem out of place alongside Alicia Keys, maybe. Yes, it's more soft rock than prog rock, but that's ok in my book when it sounds this good. It's not saccharine, even as it comes across as sweet and upbeat. As you might expect, "Flow" which closes the album, is another silky smooth track, languid? tranquil.

Overall, just a stunning album that shimmers, caresses, and certainly impresses ? More filling than just a snack and without any filler, you should spend some time in this strawberry patch.

Your Story (5:51) / Close (5:33) / River's Gone Dry (6:53) / Fool (5:54) / Moon (3:50) / Beautiful (3:55) / Open Your Eyes (5:48) / Maybe (4:25) / Flow (7:31)

Wojtek Szadkowski - drums, keyboards, acoustic guitar
Robin (Marta Kniewska) - vocals
Sarhan Kubeisi - guitars
Jarek Michalski - bass


Krzyś Palczewski - occasional keyboards

Rivers Gone Dry (2009)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin PL

Added: August 25th 2010
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1428
Language: english


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