Mike Florio

Mike Florio

 Yorktown Heights, New York, USA

Classic & Progressive Rock Recording Artist, Keyboardist, Singer, Songwriter.

Band Press

Progression Magazine – Warren Barker

Keyboardist and vocalist Mike Florio has put together a fine product with Arisen, his first solo project. If you enjoy accesible, melodic '80s-vintage prog with hints of Kansas, Styx and Genesis, check this out.

Florio is a composer of electronic music for independent films and multimedia; he studied music formally but is an admitted rock musician at heart. His album is a testament to that with its potent blend of neo-prog and prog-metal. Florio has a good ear for arranging his vast assortment of keys, which he plays with a high degree of skill on these seven tracks.

Supported by a formidable cast on guitar, bass, and drums, Mike keeps things clean and punchy, alternating between passionate vocal sections and dramatic instrumental passages. Florio's voice also is a cut above; his clear, resonant sound fluid and effortless. The interplay between this native New Yorker's keyboards and Bill Thomas' guitar highlight the briskly moving compositions, tying the whole affair into an impressive package.

ProgGnosis – Eric Abrahamsen

I have almost given up on the current progressive scene. Mired in throwbacks to the ‘glory days’ of the early 70’s, progressive metal and a lack of strong releases in the last couple years have left me to search other avenues of music. Having said this, the AOR scene suffers from nearly the same problem to my ears. The plagiarism and hero worship of Bon Jovi, Journey and Poison has essentially brought any innovation in this movement to a screeching halt. Yes, occasionally both styles of music produce an excellent work, enough for me to stand up and take notice, but these days, they are too few and far between.

Enter Mike Florio. Arisen is a combination of both AOR and Progressive rock. Indeed, not a new concept. Styx and Kansas did it 30 plus years ago, much to the delight of fans and record company accountants alike, and there have been a few bands taking on this style in the years since with mixed results for the most part, but for this writer, Arisen is different.

Why? First and most importantly, it’s the songs. Each of the seven tracks are well written and executed. Mike Florio’s influences are hard to miss, but in each song I sense a genuine love for the style of music he is working in. This is not a nostalgia trip, nor should it be. Florio has added his own personality to the music and the listener is all the better for it. Hard to pick a favorite, but Bells for 1827, Media Ride and Paradise of Stone stand out for this listener.

Second, it’s the sound of the CD. Wonderful vocals from Mike, signing in a style that will bring to mind an era long gone for many younger listeners, but for myself, simply a reminder of how far the current music scene has lost the art of good vocals. This guy can sing! Honorable mention for Bill Thomas on guitar, Dave Bailey on bass and drummer Steve Golden. All three are outstanding on this disc, in particular Thomas’ guitar work leaving me to wonder where he’s been hiding?

For fans of Queen, Magnum, Trillion, Asia and other Gods of pomp rock, Arisen is a must have. For those that want to hear quality melodic progressive rock with a fresh approach, Arisen is a mere dollars down that you will not regret.

Here’s hoping we hear more of Mike Florio in the future!

Virtuosity – Dave Taylor

Virtuoso keyboards and great vocals plus top notch production equals best new artist of 2006!

This album gets my "Best New Artist" award hands down! Mike Florio is a talented vocalist and keyboardist who, after years of playing in clubs and other bands, has finally released his own solo album. Blessed with fantastic keyboard chops and a great voice, Florio weaves songs of richness and lyrical depth, oozing with subtle spirituality. Joined by Bill Thomas on guitars, Dave Bailey on bass, and Steve Golden on drums, these veteran players have crafted a potent progressive rock album. Its easy to compare Arisen to Kansas, as it mixes classic rock with progressive keyboard soloing in ways reminiscent of Point of Know Return, sans the violin, and Florio's soaring tenor sounds a bit like Steve Walsh before he got raspy. Standout tracks are Fractured, a song about how children are out of control in today's society, as echoed in the book of Isaiah; Media Ride, a discourse on how the media molds the minds of America, and Paradise of Stone, a driving prog rocker about the dichotomy between the natural man and the spiritual man as discussed by the Apostle Paul in First Corinthians. Florio uses his faith as a fulcrum to comment on society, without beating the listener over the head with dogma. He told me that he spends a lot of time contemplating deep spiritual things such as the incarnation, death and the gospel of resurrection, and that this album is an expression of those meditations.

Arisen is a well crafted and recorded progressive rock gem, and it is definitely a worthy purchase for any and all interested in spiritually flavored progressive rock. Fans of American prog bands like Kansas, Salem Hill, and Protokaw will love Arisen. As Paradise of Stone says, The natural man, the world he ponders, to understand where he is led, to rise from the dead!

Dutch Prog Rock Page – Christopher D Frick

Note: If you hated the '80s, and/or think the '80s made Prog look bad, skip this review.

That being said...if Kansas, Styx, and Genesis had done a collaboration in about 1976, this is what it would have sounded like. Mike, a keyboardist/pianist very much in the Kansas/Genesis vein and vocalist with much in common with Steve Walsh, is backed on this album by Bill Thomas on guitars, Dave Bailey on bass, and Steve Golden on drums. And from the first seconds of Bells For 1827, a song referencing (but not about) the death of Beethoven, Mike and Co. show they're not amateurs. The opening keyboards, no less bombastic than any epic of the '70s or our own time (Symphony X's The Odyssey particularly comes to mind), lead into the heart of this beautiful song, driven by intricate piano chords and reverb-drenched guitar. In just over seven minutes, Mike manages to capture and summarize every element that made Leftoverture a great album, all while sounding fresh and modern (and remarkable - the recording on Arisen is flawless).

Binary World calls to mind the height of Styx's career, and not only musically but lyrically gives a nod to Mr. Roboto ("My blood is oil supreme/Fuelling the soul of my new machine/Computer memory extreme/Storing the images of my dreams"). Fractured opens with a brief harpsichord figure a la Siberian Khatru before returning to the Styx feel, complete with organs, soaring vocals, and a killer guitar solo. And now that I've name-dropped several prominent bands and a handful of albums and songs from the mid and late '70s, I need to point out that sonically Arisen has more in common with 90125 than Close To The Edge. Mike's voice certainly falls between Steve Walsh and Dennis DeYoung, but the music itself has that happiness and thought that fell between progressive rock's oft-pretentious adolescence and it's oft-politically-active adulthood. It's what sets, say, 90125 apart from both Close To The Edge and Magnification.

Pretending and Media Ride continue the Kansas-meets-Styx feel, while Paradise Of Stone brings a less cheery and bright mood to the album. If anything, this song has much in common with the depressing ballads of loss of the later '80s. Like any good song, I can't put my finger on it exactly, but this song just has that less-cheery FEEL to it, even the guitars and keys sound like they may be trying to cover up some inner sadness. It's a nice change, and shows a little diversity in the album's stylistic leanings. Mike has a "formula," sure, but it works very well, and he moves the variables around enough to keep the album interesting.

Violent Moods, the closer, is quite possibly the most beautiful song on the album. The first four minutes are all Mike, with piano and keys dancing sensuously under his voice, followed by an instrumental section featuring some great keyboard work and a wonderfully fluid guitar solo. The mood on this track is similar to drifting upward through a bank of clouds, very light and airy but not exactly sunny.

So, Arisen is an album with a '70s soul and an '80s attitude. If that makes any sense, go buy this album, you'll enjoy every second of it. Mike Florio has mastered that art of making songs that are both musically interesting and emotionally involving, so listening to the music and drawing parallels unfortunately only tells half the story (as evidenced by my attempt at explanation above). If you enjoyed anything you heard on the radio between 1979 and 1990, this album will probably at least make you smile as you reminisce; and if you own much Kansas or Styx, Arisen will be a refreshing twist on some familiar themes. Happy listening.

Progressor – Vitaly Menshikov

Prolusion. Mike FLORIO is a singing keyboardist from the American state of New York, who has been composing music since the early '90s, yet didn't get the opportunity to realize his dream of releasing an album of his own songs for many years. Finally Mike's first brainchild, "Arisen", is available, and those interested can order it online from CD-Baby.

Analysis. Quite many new bands make their choice in favor of sophisticated progressive music, but not all of them are really prepared to do what they want to, having certain problems in writing the corresponding material and when performing it as well. The stuff under review isn't overly complex (and is sometimes instantly accessible), but is tastefully composed, carefully arranged and truly professionally executed. Generally, many would envy the coherency of joint actions that Mike Florio and his colleagues have achieved already on their first recording, although not everything went off smoothly in the department of originality. All seven of the tracks present contain lyrics, which are fully meaningful, on various topical themes, and are delivered with a deliberate passion. Mike is a comprehensively gifted musician, but his singing at times reminds me rather strongly of Steve Walsh's, particularly in the songs that are inspired by Kansas in general. These are Binary World, Media Ride and Paradise of Stone. The former two are a kind of symphonic hard-rockers much in the style typical of Kansas's "Power", while the latter is somewhat closer to the earlier, classic works of the American legend; at least it comes with much more keyboard-laden arrangements. In both progressiveness and beauty Pretending is quite comparable with the songs from Camel's "Stationary Traveler", combining a ballad-like approach in the vocal-based arrangements with the efficient variety of soloing parts in the instrumental sections. Along with those located at the album's poles Fractured is one of the most compelling tracks here, at least from a classic progressive standpoint. This is a suite miniature (as a Frenchman would say) and is indeed fractured in construction, but only in a figurative sense. While differentiating between themselves on the stylistically structural level, the piece's several sections are just one cohesive whole in its overall appearance, which combines both vintage and modern manifestations of symphonic Art-Rock, some Classical-like movements and intelligent Hard Rock. This time around Mike has frequent recourse to the sounds of clavier, though of course it's primarily due to the specific compositional approach that much of this track brings a distinctive Baroque sense. Bells for 1827 and Violent Moods are also full-blooded Prog, though this time out the music is even more strongly classically influenced. Both are notable for grandiose orchestral arrangements and are generally more diverse, especially the former, which is the only track here whose purely instrumental manoeuvres don't contain any repetitions.

Conclusion. "Arisen" is more than a merely solid debut effort and is a satisfying album in general, featuring plenty of memorable tunes. The only shortcoming I find here is that the primary soloing instruments, keyboards (mainly organ and piano) and electric guitar, much more often alternate with each other at the fore, rather than come into direct interaction. Nevertheless, most of the music is so tasty and charming that I can easily overlook this and the other few flaws. Recommended.

ProgNaut – Ron Fuchs

Arisen, the debut CD from keyboardist/ vocalist Mike Florio. It features seven songs that have been accumulated over the past seven years and written with a symphonic prog/AOR feel. The music reminds me of most of the earlier 80's progressive rock bands that crossed over into the AOR field. The instrumentation of this album is very straight forward but has enough of a symphonic flare to it to not be completely considered a AOR band. The band plays solid through-out the album, nothing overly that jumps out at you but wonderful to listen to again and again. Vocally Mike reminds me at times of Damian Wilson of Threshold, Landmarq and Ayreon fame.

If I had to categorize Mike Florio's music, I would put him in league with various bands and artists such as the more known Asia, solo John Wetton and Jadis and the lesser known Aethellis and Jaugernaut A.D. What sets Mike Florio apart from these bands is he combines old with new thus becoming one of the better artists in the modern progressive music history. So far this is one of my favorite releases 2006 since it has all the elements I look for in progressive rock.

Without a doubt, I would recommend Arisen to fans of the more melodic progressive rock as well as fans of the afore mentioned bands. I look forward to hearing more from him, so let's hope he gets the recognition and support he needs for many more recordings in the years to come.

Sea of Tranquility – Mark Popke

Arisen, the debut CD from keyboardist and vocalist Mike Florio, features seven songs that span several years - many of them spent in frustration either trying to start a band, join a band or keep a band together. Surprisingly, given the circumstances, the music on Arisen is neither angry nor depressing. In fact, Florio writes sweeping, feel-good keyboard leads, backed with a solid three-man band and his own down-to-earth, Eighties-style vocals. The music dances on that blurred edge between rock, pop and commercial prog in a “Billy Joel does Asia” sort of way.

Florio doesn’t waste time with love songs, instead offering cynicism on “Binary World” and “Media Ride,” and paraphrasing Biblical scripture on “Fractured” and “Paradise of Stone.” He is now concentrating on instrumental music; the man's web site devotes a section to film, video and multimedia work, as well as offers a monthly “Featured Track” in mp3 format. So if Arisen is his last statement as a singer/songwriter, at least it's honest, refreshing and undeniably musical.

Prog Planet – Tonny Larsen

Every once in a while something new comes around for us prog freaks to enjoy. Now in this occasion new, is not as such groundbreaking, but it is new in the sense of refreshing and very well composed and delivered. Arisen is the brainchild of Mike Florio, vocals, keyboard deluxe and composer of these fine tunes. And I must say I’m pleasantly surprised with the superb songs (and singing) that this album has to offer. Also, I must mention the 3 fabulous “partners in crime” Bill Thomas: guitar, Dave Bailey: bass, Steve Golden: drums, for they are supreme in every tune, backing up Mike.

I’m so glad that Mike (himself) approached me, otherwise I may not have heard of him before it was “too late”. By that I mean that this guy is one prog artist that we certainly will be hearing more of, no doubt about it! And I like to be up to date. He delivers a fine voice and some superb key play. And this album deserves to be in many a collection for prog fans that like their music beautiful and well constructed.

Try out: “Bells for1827” with the church-like intro and then Bill Thomas´ guitar shines, Mike´s voice breaks into the theme (not unlike an Ambrosia - theme...and that’s a superlative!) Mike´s beautiful voice sometimes reminds me of Todd Rundgren’s and at other times that of Saga´s singer (Michael Sadler) but mostly he sounds like Mike and thats a good thing!

I think that Arisen is a very well played, extremely well composed album! “Paradise of stone” is a great example of the music delivery I mentioned earlier. Everyone into fine prog/art rock deserves to hear this great album. It’s filled with superb music.

I simply have to give it top rating!! Hey you guys (Mike especially) this is top notch progressive/art rock music!! The production is superb, with every instrument and voice clear in the overall picture, and nicely balanced too.

Isn’t it great, that good surprises often come unexpected and from new (at least to me) artists, This surprise will stay in my CD player for a long time, that’s for sure. For every time I hear this gem something new pops up on my prog radar. So dear prog/art rock fan go on, spoil yourself buy this album. It might prove to be the best present, you gave yourself this year!

Warning! There are no growling, no speed metal guitars on this album, just beautiful music!

Angelic Warlord – Andrew Rockwell

Westchester county New York is the home to a very talented vocalist and keyboardist by the name of Mike Florio. Recognizing that music was his calling when he joined his first band at age 15, Florio went on to study music formally but always considered himself a rock musician at heart. Hence, he went on to spend several years playing in numerous local bands but, as a result of experiencing countless frustrations and disappointments, decided to put together his first solo album. The outcome is his 2006 full length debut Arisen, a very fine effort that is made up of compositions written over a period of time spanning many years.

What Arisen brings to the table is progressive rock with symphonic touches all the while reflecting an occasional classic rock or AOR leaning. The album can best be described as a compelling blend of Kansas and Styx that is certain to appeal to fans of Neal Morse, Tiles, Flagship and AD. While by no means metal, Arisen features enough guitar driven momentum to attract those who are into Shadow Gallery and Dream Theater as well.

The driving force behind the project is Florio who brings a smooth sounding, classic tenor voice that cannot help but invite a comparison to the likes of Steve Walsh (Kansas), Dennis DeYoung (Styx) and Paul Rarick (Tiles). And he demonstrates an equal amount of ability on keyboards, adding just the right amount of texture to the albums compositions without coming across overriding. In guitarist Bill Thomas, bassist Dave Bailey and Steve Golden, Florio has surrounded himself with a trio of very capable musicians. Thomas proves a particularly able guitarist, showcasing his abilities best on “Violent Moods”, “Fractured” and “Paradise Of Stone”.

Production values are of the polished and professional sounding variety, coming across crisp and clean and allowing for a near perfect separation of the instrumentation. The only constructive comment worth adding is that the lead vocals end up slightly forward in the mix but not to the point of being a detraction.

Florio’s lyrics are very well thought out in addressing topics ranging from our technology driven world, the corruption of youth, the news media and the perspective of the natural man.

Please note that while Arisen was released independently, it is available for purchase through CD Baby.

Sweeping and majestic, the epic progressive rock of “Bells For 1827” would not sound out of place on early Kansas albums such as Masque and Leftoverture. The song opens to a lengthy keyboard driven instrumental section that has a nice classical if not orchestral feel to it. Slowing to a piano upon reaching its first verse, “Bells For 1827” picks up in pace for its second prior to repeating the same pattern during its third and fourth verse. As the song builds, it culminates for an infectious chorus that is underlined by a trace of backing vocals. Kerry Livgren (Kansas, Proto-Kaw) is the first name that comes to mind when I hear the piano and keyboard interplay carrying a second extensive instrumental section.

“Binary World” is a good upbeat hard rocker that brings to mind Styx at its very best. A near perfect blend of edgy rhythm guitar and sweeping keyboards helps convey the song through its first minute and a half. Sustaining its guitar driven momentum during its first verse, “Binary World” achieves a hook-laden chorus that takes a close look at the technologically driven world we exist in:

Binary world, techno parasites
Binary world, digital delight
Binary world, electronic might
Binary world, now here’s my paradise

The album maintains its Styx-like feel with “Fractured”. The harpsichord that sets the song in motion gives way to a lengthy stretch of gritty lead guitar work from Bill Thomas. An organ makes its presence felt as “Fractured” smoothly moves through its first and second verse, the trenchant environment sustained as it attains a chorus giving rise to a strong symphonic feel. The harpsichord returns at the start of an instrumental section shored up by a compelling organ and lead guitar trade off. “Fractured” talks about the corruption of youth:

Another mindless passion
Children are the oppressors now
Another moral retraction
Looking for the thrill beyond reason
Celebrate sin with lust and torment
Ignorant child makes his descent

The progressive ballad “Pretending” gives rise to a haunting melody as it is carried forward by an exquisite blend of piano and keyboards. The keyboards continue to lead the way through a sweeping instrumental section until a nice blues flavored guitar solo steps to the forefront of the mix.

“Media Ride”, the albums shortest track at 3:38, brings a polished hard rocking feel that would sound right at home on AD’s Art Of The State. Several seconds of lead guitar initiates the song before it settles down to an even mid-tempo pace for its first verse, an edgy rhythm guitar entering the mix in time to back a chorus with a good groo

ProgScape – Bill Knispel

Mike Florio is a New York based keyboardist and singer releasing his first album in Arisen.

The album opens with “Bells for 1827,” a fairly upbeat track with oodles of great keyboard sounds, including some wonderfully deep organ tones and dexterous piano playing. Florio has a pleasing voice, even if it has an occasionally over-earnest delivery; he is committed to his songs, and it shows in his singing. “Binary World” follows on the album, with a heavy guitar opening and an overall sound somewhat reminiscent of post-Audio Visions era Kansas or other early 1980’s stadium rock bands. Florio’s keyboards continue to be a strong focal point, while his band (Bill Thomas/guitars, Dave Bailey/bass, Steve Golden/drums) are all solid performers. While it’s Mike Florio’s name on the cover, the material and the band sound like a single entity.

Bill Thomas’ guitar playing is a highlight on “Fractured,” especially in the opening instrumental section. The vocal sections, like previous tracks, follow a strongly arena rock influenced style, while the instrumental breaks show some serious musical chops. This stylistic disconnect between vocal and instrumental sections brings a higher degree of interest to the pieces, but it does lend to a less coherent feel to the album as a whole.

The album’s epic is the 9-minute “Paradise of Stone.” Opening majestically with understated organ supporting Thomas’ ascending guitar chords and Golden’s powerful drumming, the song then settles into a quieter piano and vocals section before building back up with layered vocals and bursts of guitars and drums punctuating the stillness. Bailey and Golden create a deep rhythmic foundation, allowing Thomas and Florio ample opportunity to shine with their individual solo sections.

Lyrically, Florio’s music is positive and somewhat seeking, occasionally critical of elements of modern society, and perhaps spiritual without being proselytizing.

Mike Florio’s Arisen would be of interest to fans of melodic progressive music, especially if their interests lead them to music on the outskirts of the scene like Styx or later-period Kansas. Melodic without being cloying, musical without being too precious or baroque, Arisen shows Florio to be a solid talent with quite a bit to offer.