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The most successful Rock/Classical crossover.
on January 19, 2004
"Prog. Rock" is often considered to be a crossover between classical and rock music. Certainly many of the best "prog" bands have leaned heavily on both genre's. Yes, ELP, Peter Gabriel's Genesis and solo work. This work falls in that genre, but with a significant diffrence.
For starters it is, if anything, more complex. It is more closely anchored in the classical side and borrows from a much broader range of classical styles. It certainly has some of rock's styles and sensibilities and particularly instrumentation. But to my ears it uses that to add power and precision and variety and depth of timbre to the classical compositions rather than, as with the others, using classical structures to add interest and variety and complexity to rock music.
To the best of my knowledge they have never toured the US and that is, frankly, America's loss. When I was in the UK I saw them about once a year and the experience was always a mixture of awe at their music and fun at their lighthearted attitude towards it. A bit like Ian Anderson's attitude to the Tull's music. They just seemed a little embarrassed about being so good and tried to cover their embarrassment with self deprecating humour.
In the Region of the Summer Stars was their first record and I still enjoy it the most of all their work. The original recording was a concept piece with the tracks representing various of the major arcana from the Tarot.
There's an incredible amount of variety and imagination involved in these tracks. The musicianship is phenominal and all the musicians were expected to be somewhat versatile. On stage there was a lot of moving around between instruments as, for instance, the drummer might leave his kit and play a simple backround line on keyboards while the bass player moved to a pair of concert cymbals to add the only piece of percussion required for that song.
This album is fully instrumental and is all the better for it. Robert-John-Godfrey's vocals are pretty weak and other albums that feature that are spoiled by it I think.
The CD remix has a couple of extra track on and a new intro. There's some good in that, though the new tracks aren't as strong as the base material and, more important, don't seem to fit well.
One disappointment is that I have the original on vinyl and have seen them live and there were some twin guitar features, cleverly orchestrated interwoven lines and effects, which seem to have been lost.
On the other hand, that's not nearly enough of a distraction to knock a point off it. I miss my annual Enid fix and I think it's wonderful that some Americans are starting to notice them.
If you like "prog rock", even just a little, you will love this album. If you're a purist that get's cranky at the merest hint of orchestration then avoid this like the plague.
PS. This album is probably the one that least literally sound like it includes an orchestra. None of them actually do. When it sounds like that it's usually because 3 or 4 members of the band are playing different keyboard parts. Back in the early days they used to stack up the keyboards a la Rick Wakeman and if you were standing in the right place it looked, at times, like one keyboard player with eight arms.
A truly magical experience.