When the first notes of Prospice hit, you know these guys have something to say, and they’re gonna sing it loud and proud. The Wings of Fire Orchestra’s second release, like their 2006 Bullfighter’s Ballet, launches off a central theme into the unexplored realms of rock and jazz as only a 30+-piece orchestra can. The first half of the album centers around the Robert Browning poem Prospice, a piece where the poet expresses his views on death. The second half is the four-part "Oh Busy Air", as well as some extra finale parts.
The massive size of this group just adds to its power. Between the vocals, chorus line and monster horn section, it’s hard to ignore. The orchestration lets each voice come through. Unlike a lot of rock orchestras, the vocals aren’t over bearing, and the horns play an important melodic, rather than harmonic, role. The bari sax and trombone lines especially show through on "Lying in the Fields Alone", "Delta Street" and the first part of "Oh Busy Air". They add the funky, jazzy feel that keeps the Wings of Fire Orchestra sounding unique.
Not to neglect the amazing vocals on this album, I have to say they remind me of every favorite band I grew up with. Think Queen meets Phish meets Motown. It’s the kind of sound that makes you feel like you are in a Broadway show. The choral sections bring a depth to the sound, but it’s Jeff Phlaumbaum’s over-arching, Freddie Mercury-esque voice that dominates the picture.
As with Bullfighter’s Ballet, there’s no real explanation for some parts of the album, such as the cover art. "Jockey Gun" gives us some hints, with the overdubbed horserace announcer and the Saturday-in-the-Park style keyboard. "Words of Change" combines gospel organ with clips from some contemporary and historical figure speeches. But in a lot of ways it’s hard to focus on the message being presented here because the music is so amazing. I feel that each listener should take this music for what it is and define it for themselves, rather than having someone tell them what it means.
This is the kind of music you can see being used to score a theatre production. But until someone wants to choreograph one (any takers?) you’ll just have to let your imagination run with this one. Every track is grooving, every line is tight, every note is hit just right and everyone in the room is likely dancing and singing along. If you haven’t experienced WoFO yet, now is the time.