Baja Prog—Live In Mexico '99

Album Review

Review and HTML © Russell W Elliot 1999
Images © 1999 Wydawnictwo Rock-Serwis
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Last updated: 20 December 1999
Quidam Baja Prog—Live in Mexico '99 - click to visit artist's website
Click on album cover to visit the band's website
Image © 1999 Wydawnictwo Rock-Serwis  

The third album and fourth commercial release from Polish symphonic progressive rock band Quidam is extracted from their tremendous live performance recorded at Baja Prog in March 1999. The band's earlier releases include a self-titled album sung entirely in Polish, an EP entitled "Moje Anioly" and both Polish lyric and English lyric versions of their latest studio album Sny Aniolów (Angels' Dreams) (review).

As with the other live albums by progressive bands (reviews: Landmarq, Pär Lindh Project and Iona) released as the milennium closes, Baja Prog—Live In Mexico '99 is technically superb. This is a tremendous album full of soaring female vocals and orchestrally arranged symphonic progressive rock music with a slight Celtic edge; it will certainly appeal to those that enjoy the music of Renaissance, Solstice, Capercaillie and Iona. Steve Hackett fans will especially enjoy the guitar playing.

Emilia Derkowska
Emilia Derkowska
Quidam's Lead Vocalist

Quidam is fronted by the lovely lead vocalist Emilia Derkowska. From the band's own website: "The first week of March 1999 saw the most attractive adventure in our relatively short musical career. By invitation of the annual "Baja Prog" festival, we took part in this year's event. During four days (from 3 to 6 March) the Teatro Del Estado hall in Mexicali filled with enthusiasts of music, which provokes to journeys through the depths of our imagination, music called art rock or progressive rock.

"We had the honour to close the festival, when all other participants (Arena of great Britain, Halloween of France, Tempano of Venezuela, Crucible and Ten Jinn of USA, Codice, Iconoclasta and Cast of Mexico and finally After Crying of Hungary) had their shows behind them. It wasn't easy to go out, especially after the excellent performance of After Crying. Luckily, the fantastic, multinational audience gave us a great reception, which, as we assume, is well audible on the record." Yes, it certainly is!

Two weeks before we received their live album, we were fortunate to view Quidam's Baja Prog show on video. A fantastic performance in every respect, powerful symphonic instrumentals are equally impressive as vocally and visually dramatic performances by Emilia Derkowska; Quidam is certainly in fine form. Quidam's lineup includes:

  • Emilia Derkowska (vocals)
  • Zbyszek Florek (keyboards)
  • Rafal Jermakow (drums, percussion)
  • Maciek Maciecz Meller (guitars)
  • Radek Scholl (bass guitar)

From Quidam's website: "This is an album dedicated to all our loyal fans from any part of the world, where our music had reached before. Many of them asked us to record and release a live album. Those who were lucky to see Quidam at a concert claim that having a direct contact with the audience, we perform much better than in studio. Those who didn't have such a chance, in this way would like to get a feeling of a direct meeting with the band. Now we are able to invite you! Let's imagine it's a late evening on March the 3rd, and in front of a big, red curtain emerges a figure with a flute ... Quidam."

Quidam Lineup
Back row: Zbyszek Florek, Maciek Meller, Jacek Zasada
Front row: Radek Scholl, Emilia Derkowska, Rafal Jermakow

The album is comprised of nine tracks with Emilia's stunning vocals sung both in English and Polish. She also chats to the audience in bits of Spanish and English throughout the recording. Screaming electric guitars, melodious keyboards and unique flute arrangements performed by Jacek Zasada contribute to Quidam's symphonic sound. Camel is honoured with Quidam's own rendition of "Rhayader/Rhayader Goes To Town" (also performed live on their EP) and a tribute to Genesis is made in the guitar solo taken from "Firth of Fifth" in their live performance of "Sanktuarium" ("Sanctuary"), originally recorded on their debut album. The Baja venue is honoured with an excerpt of "La Cucaracha" and "Cielito Lindo" within an especially melodic english lyric version of "Angels Of Mine." Quidam's cover of "Child In Time" (Ritchie Blackmore, et. al.) is the final track of the album.

A Mexican radio commercial for Baja Prog highlighting Quidam's performance (following After Crying) opens the album preceding a live performance of the instrumental "Przebudzenie" ("Awakening"), complete with the bird sound effects, from their second studio album. Quidam's characteristic flutes carry the track's melody which closes with a cuckoo.

The ambiance of the live venue is clear during the symphonic keyboard introduction of "Gleboka Rzeka (Deep River)" originally recorded on the band's debut album. As the song develops and Emilia's singing (in Polish) begins, the technically superb quality of the album begins to shine through—the vocals are mixed way up high with the perfect, crystalline quality of her voice shining through like a rising sun. Equally stunning symphonic instrumentals underscore the melody of this upbeat track. "Chocbym (If I Ever)," also sung in Polish is another vocally rich song yet is a slower track with more pronounced soaring guitar and especially symphonic keyboard parts. Vast audience appreciation is shown as the track concludes.

An epic length (18:17) medley of two tracks from their debut album, "Pione / Niespeinienie (I'm Burnin' / Unfulfilled)," is led by Jacek Zasada's flute solo and only light keyboard before Wakeman-esque keyboards and soaring guitar parts wake up the song in an almost-Bonanza sounding theme. The hooking melody of the powerful Polish vocal part that opens the song is very Eurovision. Symphonic instrumentals provide perfect underlayment for this Quidam classic. The melodies evident during the instrumental improvisations are echoed from one band member's part to the next and include a lovely flute solo, soaring guitar solos by Maciek Meller and further interplay with Florek's keyboards. Emilia has a lovely vocalise part in the middle of the song accompanied by piano and flute. The upbeat instrumental and serious vocal that conclude the song are especially notable and evidenced by wild audience appreciation.

A sensitive ballad from their second studio album, entitled "Jest Taki Samotny Dom (There Is Such A Lonely House)" is carried by a Emilia's soaring vocals and almost metal sounding guitars. The Camel tribute "Rhayader / Rhayader Goes To Town" is performed wonderfully with a bright flute melody carrying the song, like on the EP, and runs an epic 10:32. Guitar and keyboard effects perfectly compliment the arrangement and an excerpt from "Snow Goose" has been effectively integrated into the instrumental. A jazzy flute solo within the instrumental is especially noteworthy.

With stunning vocal parts, the song "Sanktuarium (Sanctuary)" originally recorded on Quidam's debut album, is filled with equally lovely instrumentals including flute, guitar and keyboard solos. As noted above, a guitar solo from the Genesis classic "Firth Of Fifth" has been captured in the arrangement. The most accessible track of the album, and the title track of Quidam's EP, "Angels Of Mine ("Moje Anioly") is sung in English with vocals clearly carrying the tune in every respect. Emilia's band introductions in English with a very strong Polish accent and a lively audience accompanied vocalise are highly memorable.

Performed as an encore, the epic "Child In Time" written by Ritchie Blackmore (with Roger Gillan, Ian Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice) closes the album. Here a Celtic-Jethro Tull crossover style flute solo is more characteristic of the band's debuit album and not terribly evident elsewhere in the live recording; this song has not been released previously by the group. Emilia's vocals soar to incredible heights as the song concludes.

While it's unlikely that many reading this review may have seen the performance live in Mexico with even fewer seeing it on video, some fans may have seen Quidam perform live elsewhere. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and technically perfect album and a wonderful tribute to the band's live performance at Baja Prog; a great place for a person to discover Quidam's music, the recording is worth a cross country journey—a must listen in every respect.

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