Upon  receiving the album in the mail  from Europe (Centertainment- thank  you!),  I  knew  that  the original  1991 CD release was a very   talked  about  album; this  release  includes that  album  (including singles versions) and   a  second  disc of  extras  and demos. 

Coda is  the brainchild of  keyboardist  and multiinstrumentalist, Erik De Vroomen. With a strong emphasis on melody, the band's  material is dramatic,  symphonic and atmospheric  which  focuses on  keyboards  (grand piano, mellotron, bass pedals, Hammond organ,  a bunch of digital  synths),   and some  sweet  guitar.   Though  listed in  the neo-prog  genre, the album  has  enough  of it's own style to firmly hold its own  as a pure prog  release.  The influences of early  Steve  Hackett, The Enid, Keith Emerson, Camel  and  hints of Marillion  abound.  On the demo  disc, I  even heard  a smidgeon of a Mike Oldfield influence.

The second disc contains   demo  versions of the SOP album  (recorded under the name- Sequoia) as well as the bands  second  second (and last) album, the even more ambitious 'What A Symphony.' Unfortunartely the band faded in obscurity, though in 1991 they  re-released  `Sounds of Passion' on CD.    In many ways the demos are quite similar to  the final work in composition  and lead play.  They seem   more sparse and less polished,  but the power and the atmosphere  remains  intact (and all the digital  synths  as well).  And for demos, the sound quality is quite good.  The demo of `What  a Symphony (parts 1 & 2), from the band's first  album   is excellent,    and makes me long to  find the band's final  release.  Even though  the demos are well made, they  are for the completeist Coda  fan. It  would've been  nice  to hear more unknown or newer pieces. Perhaps  this  release with entice  Mr. De Vroomen to record  again in band or solo form?

Now to the meat  and potatoes,  with the exception of the vocals, Coda is  by far, one of the best  prog  albums of the 80's.  The music is catchy, powerful, strong, beautiful,  emotional  and fluid. 

But  first  the bad. Now unlike a few reviewers, I did not  think that the vocals by Jack Witjes, on `Crazy Fool and Dreamer, and `Defended,'  were that  horrendous. I fact compared to some prog  crooners, I thought they  were fine. But there are  problems, most having to  do  with   language.  The lyrics are fine, but the  way Witjes pronounces certain words such  as-  cherishes and facts   are cringing. It  would have been  better if he had a dialogue coach or had gotten  an English   vocalist if they preferred those  lyrics.  Unfortunately, the worse part of the album is the first two minutes, with some very  embarrassing  narration, on par with the worst of the Eloy spoken word. The band would have been  wise to  edit it out.

The last few sentences didn't sound like  anything to  back up my view of Coda being one of  the   best  prog  albums of the 80's. did it?  Well,  some narrative and vocals aside,  this album is a thunderous roller coaster of progressive music   delight. Witjes' shortcomings as a linguist fail to shadow his mastery of the guitar.  Think Steve Hackett at his earliest  and best.  Besides the excellent bass and drums (and creative use of percussion) (Jacky Van Tongeren and Mark Eshus respectfully), the entire  album showcases  the artistry of Eric de Nroomen.  The  29 minute plus long  `Sounds of Passion' `suite.' is the highlight of the album.  Narration  aside, the first  half  has a pronounced neo prog/new age vibe, though composition-wise it's structure seems almost  classical. Suprises  such as  the nice use of  flutes and timpani enhance this overall feel.  The power of the suite comes to fruition during the 20  min. mark, with thunderous church organ and one of the most perfect prog  guitar solos  I have ever heard.  Add some grand piano and the 4th movement of  `Sounds of Passion,'  has  kicked it up a few notches into prog heaven.  De Vroomen's synth interplay  with  the electric guitar is simple and breathtaking.   Themes return  at the end to  bring the composition back  full circle.  Simple stated, this is an  amazing composition on par  with the best of classic progressive bands epic works.    Symphonic Proggers  with  eat this  up!  Just like bands such  as Eloy, Coda seems more powerful and confident  with their strength- instrumentals.

The two  vocal-based tracks are solid pieces  as well. Aside from mispronouncing some words, and some questionable intonation, the songs  are   strong  and Witjes' voice is  fine.  Witjes' guitar  plays a more pronounced roll on the two shortwe tracks  and he doesn't disappoint.   Oddly, the `Crazy Fool and Dreamer'  single remix - another bonus track  is 1 sec. shorter than the album version.  The  vocals  seem  to  have  a pronounced  reverb on the single version. 

One of the bonus tracks  features  bassist Jacky Van Tongeren, an engaging and lively bass solo.  It seems more like an exercise than  a song, but it showcases his talent. 
The second bonus song  `Central Station' take some of the SOP first movement and then takes it down  an interesting almost  surreal direction.

The album  art  by Fred Markus  works,  through it's  pastels showcases the softer side of the album.  It looks almost art  student in nature, but good  quality art  student  work. Nice interplay of subject matter.

The  CD  also  comes  with a  20 page CD booklet with photos, lyrics and notes. Bravo.

I have no idea why  SOP didn't  hit  big.  Sadly, reading the  liner notes, it seems  this  will be the only opportunity  to  ever listen  to  Coda, (no new material  (I hope Eric changes his  mind!!!)).  Regardless, all in all,  the 21st Anniversary  2cd release  is  a  easy choice as a winner and well worth  the purchase price.   If you  have the original CD (not easily  found), would you  pick this up as well?  I would say-  don't bother unless you  are a completeist, but if you  have  never heard  Coda, or simply enjpy killer Symph Prog?  I can not  recommend this CD for Symphonic progheads enough. The album  is an excellent musicl  mix of  poetry, beauty, power, grandioso, killer solos  and...  the sounds of passion.

9.5 out of  10  rating


Sounds of Passion (The album, the demos- 21st Anniversary  edition)
(review:  Lee Gaskins)