A major figure in Sweden's rock history, guitarist/singer/composer Roine Stolt led two of his country's most successful progressive rock bands: Kaipa in the 1970s and the Flower Kings from the 1990s onward. His distinctive guitar style combined David Gilmour's debonair mid-tempo, Steve Howe's sharp edges, and Frank Zappa's virtuosity. His vision of a positive world governed by beauty (akin to Yes singer Jon Anderson) gave his music an aura that appealed to many progressive rock fans.
Born in Uppsala, Sweden, on September 5, 1956, Roine Stolt started playing bass in the late '60s in local rock cover bands. He quickly discovered the burgeoning British progressive rock scene and had switched to electric guitar by the summer of 1974 when, at age 17, he became the lead guitarist of the professional prog rock band Kaipa. This band recorded three albums for the Decca label (reissued on CD by Musea) and is still considered to be the most important Scandinavian prog act of the '70s.
Stolt left Kaipa in 1979 to form his own group, Fantasia, who recorded two albums and disbanded in 1983 after a second, more commercially oriented LP for Warner. Stolt then started to work as a session musician and record producer, drifting away from symphonic rock esthetics, something very obvious on his Hall & Oates-like 1985 solo album, Behind the Walls (his first performance as a lead singer) and The Lonely Heartbeat, released in 1989 under the name Stolt.
Witnessing the progressive rock revival of the 1990s, a movement that partly originated from Sweden with bands like Landberk and Anglagard, Roine Stolt was quick to come back to his ancient love. Recruiting ex-Jonas Hellborg drummer Jaime Salazar and ex-Samla Mammas Manna percussionist Hans Bruniusson, he released The Flower King in August 1994. Stimulated by the warm response, he enlisted brother Michael Stolt (bass, vocals) and longtime friend Tomas Bodin (keyboards) and formed the Flower Kings, which would remain his principal musical project for years to come. At the helm of the Flower Kings, Stolt experienced international fame as the band became, with the U.S.'s Spock's Beard, the best-selling '90s prog rock act. Albums were released at an incredible rate: six studio albums (including two two-CD sets) in the band's first six years of existence. Meanwhile, Stolt found time to record another solo album, Hydrophonia (this time an instrumental symphonic prog CD) and was part of the prog rock supergroup project Transatlantic, who released an album, SMPT:e, and toured in 2000. Flower King appeared a year later. ~ François Couture