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FSB - 1987 I Love You Up To Here

ALBUM: I Love You Up To Here
YEAR: 1987


LINEUP: Rumen Boyadzhiev - synthesizer, mellotron, vocals, guitar, percussion * Konstantin Tsekov - piano, hammond, mellotron, clavinet, harpsichord, vocals * Peter Slavov - drums, percussion * Ivan Lechev - guitar * Ivaylo Kraychovski - bass * Boris Dinev - percussion * Angel Veznev - saxophone

TRACK LISTING: 01 I Love You Up To Here * 02 Antique Dealer * 03 Ice Labyrinth * 04 Ice Cream * 05 Station Of Parting * 06 Defending Myself * 07 In The Middle * 08 Let Sleeping Dogs Lie * 09 Mama * 10 Answer


Rounding out the triplet of essential AOR from behind the iron curtain is FSB, Bulgaria's undisputed AOR legends. Formed initially as a studio project, hence the name Formation Studio Balkanton. That being a bit of a mouthful, FSB was the obvious logo reduction. They released some singles in the mid 70's and eventually got to record a debut album in 1978, quite prog influenced and even covering some Gentle Giant. They quickly rose to the forefront of Bulgarian rock in the following years, notching up hits and commanding serious concert attendances. Like their contemporaries Omega and Karat, FSB also ventured into other parts of Europe on tour, leaving a positive impression wherever they played. Having enjoyed immense success in the mid 80's, 1987 saw them deliver two studio albums. This one under review is the Bulgarian album, but Germany saw a release in English with apparently only a couple of tracks in common, this time the FSB was expanded to Free Sailing Band. A bizarre anomaly on the moniker, but still very much part of their discography and high on my shopping list! Now for the album they released behind the iron curtain, did they manage to maintain their high AOR standards?

The Songs
The title track ushers in some hi-tech tendencies from the outset, something FSB had dabbled with quite successfully in the 80's. The tempo is exactly where the listener needs to decide if it's a choppy midtempo or a mid ballad, could be either one depending on where you stand. What's not in dispute is the chorus though, very simple and direct with powerful vocals. They performed this on TV shows by way of promotion and ended up with a deserved AOR hit. Ivan Lechev's guitar intrusion at song's end needs a mention, soem technical melodic wizardry to stand alongside Van Halen or Bow Wow's Yamamoto. While discussing various Euro AOR albums in the past months I've found myself writing 'urgent uptempo AOR' a number of times, and 'Antique Dealer' demands it once again, skipping across the soundscape like Saga heading for LA to work with Toto. The expected spiky riffage and keyboard panorama are all delivered on time, the chorus fairly soaring into the heavens. I'm drinking a (coffee) toast to Eric at this point, for introducing me to FSB in the first place. 'Ice Labyrinth' brings out more of their prog past, crossing over into Saga territory. Remember 'Time's Up' from 'Worlds Apart'? This is the kind of atmosphere in place here, a synth dreamscape forming the foundation and quite relaxed tempo, but don't be fooled - this makes a powerful impact and the vocal attack is immense. Prog AOR crossover defined. 'Ice Cream' proves to be a bit frustrating, probably because I've never warmed to instrumentals. More so because it's a killer hook and I can hear the kind of AOR anthem they could've built around this piece, 'Station Of Parting' dispels any doubts though, an outright belter and another track that could define the prog AOR crossover sub genre. The first two minutes are dreamy, almost calling BJH's 'Caught In The Light' to mind. A timeless synth hook and explosion of hi-tech rhythm signals pure AOR though, not merely melodic or proficient, this is pretty special and I find mywself returning to it for repeat plays.

'Defending Myself' launches a bouncy tempo off the basis of another great hook, FSB seeming to have an endless supply of these. A bit less guitar on this one, but plenty of melody and momentum to keep the interest high, quality AOR yet again. 'In The Middle' reverts to the ballad format again, this time a bit less engaging after several listens, same goes for 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie', a bit of an awkward and staggered tempo, the melody less convincing. 'Mama' sets things right though, another of those irresistable FSB hooks emerges to supplement a determined midtempo AOR workout. Serious bass work on display, and a power surge of guitar and synth interplay in the chorus build up just sends this one over the top. Classy prog AOR, no other way to express it. 'Answer' ends the album on an almost acapella note, dreamy synth work the main accompaniment, again BJH's 'Caught In The Light' came to mind, a perfect way to set the listener down gently with a dark espresso, and the perfect excuse to simply return to track one and start again.

In Summary
'I Love You Up To Here' maintained FSB's success on the AOR front, and rightly so. Crammed with blueprint prog AOR crossover this album comes highly recommended. Together with Omega and Karat, truly the finest AOR to emerge from behind the iron curtain. More on FSB in the coming months.

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#1 | Eric on December 14 2013 21:16:23
The debut is one of the better Bulgarian prog albums in a very uncrowded field. Although almost a different band musically, this one is nice as well. Lee, are there two different sleeves for this one?
#2 | AOR Lee on December 15 2013 12:11:53
Don't think so Eric, this is the only cover I've seen for the Bulgarian release. The German release sung in English has a white cover with band photo, an almost completely different album in terms of tracklisting
#3 | Eric on December 15 2013 14:29:31
Ahh.. the white cover was the one I was thinking of. Another great behind the Iron Curtain review Lee.
#4 | AOR Lee on December 15 2013 15:52:22
Appreciated Eric, enjoying the 1983 mini album as well. Review very likely

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