Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Steve Andrew Robey
Let me be honest. When I was told which album I had to write about, I knew nothing about it. I somehow assumed it was an album from the 21st century, since these young whippersnappers from the group seem to have an undue admiration for these most dire years in musical history, and that’s including the centuries when the most interesting albums would have been called “The Greatest Horn Calls From Mesopotamia”. With that misconception in mind, when I listened to it I thought this was a modern band trying to faithfully imitate the 1970s.
So imagine when I looked for info and found that it was an actual album from 1972!
But after that bit sank in I found that my initial impression had not been altered. Yes, I stand by my word; this music is pleasant but incredibly derivative. About half of the tracks are cut in the mold of starry-eyed art rock with prog soundscapes (prototype: “A Winter’s Tale”), and the other half are acid rock a la Hendrix / Grateful Dead (prototype: “Joanne”). The guitar playing guy is good, that cannot be denied. The flute also adds to the palette but it seems always to be mixed as if the player was in another room.
Here and then pop up some motives that display some Japanese influence (mainly in the percussion, as the guitar inevitably ends up playing the usual psychedelic modal noodlings). That again that was kind of a schtick of the band from what I gather. The most blatant attempt in this vein might be “Lady of the Lake”, even if the guitars pay evident tribute to both Mick Taylor (“Moonlight Mile”) and Jimi Hendrix (“One Rainy Wish”), and its segue into the repetitive (in a good way) “Borne Under The Solar Wind”. There are also some good uses of the 12-string guitar and jazz-rock vampings in “May Queen”, probably the quintessential song of the album since it seems to be the one where more of the album’s earmarks coalesce (even if compositionally it’s quite simple).
And just when you had the impression of being listening to a very cohesive album… there comes “The Demon Trucker”. What the hell is this? A mix of glam and Southern Rock with flutes and bongos? I find it dumb, uninteresting, annoying, and at odds with the rest of the album.
Frankly I don’t get why Dave Thompson from the All Music Guide raves so much about that song.
So, to sum up: nice album, which I don’t mind when it’s on, but in my mind there is no reason to go searching for it. Time is a great filter, and the most remembered musical products of the 70s are their classic peaks and their most populist appealing hits. For an eclectic like me, these middling not-hit-but-not-great albums are best left for specialists and people who remember the times and might have a connection with them. Me, not belonging to either group, when I want to hear derivative music I prefer to see a show in a club or a bar. At least I’m supporting the local scene that way.
But don’t let that comment turn you away from the album if you can’t get enough of the British 70s art rock. It might just be what you were looking for, and I can’t deny that the melody of “Borne Under The Solar Wind” is running circles around my head right now.