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England - The Imperial Hotel CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.03 | 12 ratings

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3 stars This an interesting little gem if you can find it, a Prog 'epic' originally recorded in 1975 but not released until resurrected for a Japanese tour by the revived band in July 2006 [actually, a couple of dates at Club Citta in Tokyo!] and issued as a free handout to concert-goers to mark the occasion. England's only original album was released in 1977 - a melodic-symphonic classic - so this represents an earlier phase in the band's history. Compared to The Garden Shed album, this is a single track of pure Symphonic Prog, full of twists and turns, mood and tempo changes forming a very satisfying whole based on discrete interconnecting sections - musically more Supper's Ready than Close To The Edge though!

While its aspirations are clear, The Imperial Hotel is less sophisticated than the later album with some glaring shortcomings: songwriting is not strong enough, especially an ability to construct memorable melodies and hooks; the band members can play their instruments well enough, but in several places are let down by a weak arrangement or lack of decisive editing - the later album [recorded the following year] would show a quantum leap in basic grasp of song dynamics and construction; vocally, it doesn't hold a candle to the rich tapestries of harmony on The Garden Shed; though remastered in 2005, sound quality is no better than 'acceptable', sometimes being a little muddy especially in the bass [I believe the basslines are recent additions to the recording].

Despite its obvious flaws, this is an entertaining disc containing a wealth of ideas that provide an insight into England's early development, though a little over-ambitious and naive for a fledgling band to attempt such an adventurous project. Oh, and don't expect a blast of Mellotron - organ [presumably Hammond] is the all conquering keyboard here!

Joolz | 3/5 |


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